Sunday, October 07, 2007


The Moon for Drying Rice

We're now in that part of the year when the months have boring names. September, October, November, and December mean simply seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months, recalling a time when the Roman calendar started in March. The Latin numbers seven, eight, nine, and ten are septem, octo, novem, and decem.

Some modern nature writers have felt the tug of a calendar beginning in March. Edwin Way Teale's A Walk Through the Year and Hal Borland's Sundial of the Seasons both have entries for every day of the year. The former starts with March 21, the latter with March 22. On the other hand, Teale's Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist's Year starts conventionally with January 1.

In the Dakota Indian calendar, we're now in the Moon for Drying Rice. I take the following list of Dakota seasons and months from Janet D. Spector, What This Awl Means: Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1993), p. 66. Her list in turn relies on Stephen Riggs, A Dakota-English Dictionary (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1890 = vol. 7 of Contributions to North American Ethnology, ed. James Owen Dorsey), pp. 564-565, and Philander Prescott, "Contributions to the History, Customs, and Opinions of the Dacota Tribe," in Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, ed. Henry Schoolcraft, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, Grambo, 1852), pp. 168-199 (at 177).

Waniyetu (WINTER)
    Witehi wi—the Hard or Severe Moon (January)
    Wicata wi—the Raccoon Moon (February)
    Istawicayazan wi—the Moon of Sore Eyes (March)

    Magaokata wi—the Moon When Geese Lay Eggs (April)
    Watopapi wi—The Moon When Streams Are Again Navigable (also April)
    Wozupi wi—the Moon for Planting (May)
    Wazustecasa wi—the Moon When Strawberries are Red and When Corn Is Hoed (June)

Mdoketu (SUMMER)
    Canpasa wi—the Moon When Chokecherries Are Ripe and Geese Shed Their Feathers (also, Wasunpa wi) (July)
    Wasuton wi—the Moon When Corn Is Gathered, or the Harvest Moon (August)
    Psinhnaketu wi—the Moon When Rice Is Laid Up to Dry (September)

Ptanyetu (FALL)
    Wazupi wi—the Moon for Drying Rice (October)
    Takiyuha wi—the Moon When Deer Rut (November)
    Tahecapsun wi—the Moon When Deer Shed Their Horns (December)

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