Near Bruce in Brookings County, South Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Legend of the Separation of the Lakes
The Legend of Tetonkaha
See the narrow waterway between two peninsulas? How do you think it was formed?
A poem written by Professor A.B. Crane offers one explanation. He tells of an American Indian chief who pledged his 16 year old daughter to the man who was the first to paddle across the lake at midnight. Two young men accepted the challenge; one was noble, one cruel. Before beginning to paddle, the cruel fellow damaged the other's boat. The young woman, wanting to be pledged to the noble man, brought her canoe for him to use. As the noble brave paddled across the big lake, the lake split into two lakes, forming the narrow waterway you see before you. With the advantage of paddling the direct route through the narrow waterway, the noble man won the race and the young maiden.
Although the two lakes were actually formed by uneven glacial deposits, Crane's poem is part of South Dakota lore.
By Professor A.B. Crane (1864-?)
It happened long ago;
Between the budding of the flowers,
The blowing of the snow,
It tells of Princess Shining Star
A Sioux chief's only child
That close beside its singing waves
Had lived and loved and smiled.
Just where was Lake Tetonkaha!
Soft cradled in the land
Now called, 'The Valley of the Sioux'
The 'home-lodge of their band'
Beside it clustered teepees.
And Indian children played
Under the elms and oaken trees,
That gave the sheltering shade.
Its wigwams held no lighter--
No fairer form than hers
And ne'er a night knew blacker sheen
Than her long tresses poured!
No surer step, no lighter tread,
Bound the shore along;
And bird ne'er sang a sweeter note
Than rippled in her song.
And so she dwelt. And sixteen times
The lake had turned to stone;
And sixteen springs the flowers she loved
Had budded, and had blown;
And sixteen times her dark eyes watched
The summer star skies glow;
And sixteen times Dakota's plains
Had wrapped themselves in snow!
Then came one wondrous gala night
When towers their beacons glare!
When every crafty warrior bold
For their grim chief Tetonkaha
Had herald, near and far,
That on this chosen, "council night,"
He pledged sweet Shining Star!
Each warrior claimed an equal right
A true-born Sioux's own chance
To win by craft, or manhood's might,
The Princess' favoring glance!
But there would be a final test
A trail of speed or nerve
That bound the lovely Shining Star
"To him the 'Spirits' served."
That night the peace pipe circled,
Their men of magic wrought;
And every mystic Indian sign
By hopeful braves was sought.
But three-hearts beat the faster
Of all, "two" warriors stood
Three, side by side
The boast and pride
Of old Tetonkaha's moods.
Like a mighty muscled man of bronze
Young Minnetonka towered;
And like some crouching giant
Morose Wahpeta lowered:
And Minnetonka won his fame
By might and kingly deeds.
And sly Wahpeta nourished his
By stealth and cruel greeds.
My braves: when Midnight's spirit bends
To bid our land goodnight,
Your way across this water take--
In craft that suits you quite: --
And he who first shall reach the goal--
The shade wrapped, farthest shore,
Shall claim the Princess Shining Star;
As his for ever more.
O madly danced the chanting ones;
And swiftly sped the braves;
And soft and wild the Spirits sang
Still list'ning in their caves!
(Hark! Sly Wahpeta bends in haste
His rival's boat above;
But only watchful spirits
Knew the motive of his move!)
Now out upon the flame-lit lake--
The long bark boats were sent.
But one there was that useless laid
While gay companions went.
And there the paddles--stout and strong--
That Love's great strength would bend;
And wasting moments; crying loud
Its sobbing requiem!
Through quivering shadows sprang in view
A slender floating thing,
Flying in power and ecstasy;
As beats a skylark's wing--
"O come, my brave: --oh sweet and clear
That call rang! "Warrior: here!"
And paddling her loved canoe,
The Shining Star appeared.
A flash of forms! Swift as a dart
That love boat raced the lake:
And kneeling on the silent sands
A maiden, for whose sake
Two strong arms speed her loved canoe,
A man's heart beat its rhyme!
To, foremost, touch its welcome goal
In time! "Princess; In time!!"
There's little to tell farther:
The legend is so old
And times without number
Its story has been told--
Yet there is proof; they tell me
The fact (a thing full queer)
That in the hour of midnight,
The spirits left: --wouldst hear?
As sped that racing love-boat
The lapping waves did part:
Lifting, above their comrades,
A bit of earth's green heart:
That lovely faithful Shining Star
Might follow one so dear;
Might--on the meed-crowned, othershore, --
The love's sweet glory snare!
Lo, where one lake had nestled--
In oaken trees fringed round--
Two lakes were laid! (Love's Pathway
Between them still is found!)
There silvery Lake Tetonkaha
Lies smiling to this day!
It's severed waters--Oakwood Lake;
I've heard its people say!
Erected 2008 by the Lee and Karen Family Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Native Americans • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 44° 27.286′ N, 97° 0.146′ W. Marker is near Bruce, South Dakota, in Brookings County. Marker is on Oakwood Drive. Located in Oakwood Lakes State Park, at the Princess Shining Star Overlook. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20247 South Oakwood Shoreline Drive, Bruce SD 57220, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. 'Ol Spot Mortimer's Cabin (approx. 0.6 miles away); Praise in the Park (approx. 0.7 miles away); Significant Site (approx. 0.7 miles away); Oakwood Lakes Burial Mounds (approx. 0.8 miles away); Oakwood Lakes State Park (approx. 1.2 miles away); Sutton Home Site (approx. 2 miles away); Oakwood (approx. 2.9 miles away); Brookings County (approx. 9.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bruce.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 21, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 18, 2021. This page has been viewed 138 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on August 18, 2021. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.