Sunday Snippet: Mary WeHaKee Revisited
Tomorrow – Monday, January 9th – is the first WeHaKee Moon fo 2012! As is tradition, we encourage members of the WeHaKee community to don their WeHaKee wear to proudly let the world know about your connection to this wonderful place!
With the WeHaKee Moon in mind, we wanted to share some recent information that came our way. Mary Paynter, OP, has spent several years seeking the meaning of the name Wehake Labatte. She recently experienced success while working with researchers in the Souix language from Minnesota. The information she has brought to us is quite interesting and changes some of our assumed knowledge regarding this young girl for who the camp is named. We hope you will take a moment to see what Sr. Mary has has graciously shared with us:
The name is spelled ‘Wihake’ in the modern Dakota spelling system. It is not a given name (like Mary), but a kin name for a girl who is the youngest (or the fifth) in a family. In the same way ‘Winona’ is a kin name for a first-born daughter. Her family would have called her ‘Wihake’ by this ‘nickname’ but other people would not.
Wihake was born into a tragic period of U.S. history. She was born in 1862, the year of the “Minnesota Uprising,” a time when the Santee Sioux of southern Minnesota were facing starvation and whose rebellion was brutally put down by the U.S. government. Later, her mother, a widow, brought the little girl, just seven years old, to our Sisters in Faribault, asking them to educate and care for her at their Academy.
What did the Sisters think? Probably they recalled the legacy of Father Samuel – his care for widows and orphans – and his enduring concern for the Native peoples whom he had come to love and respect in his earliest ministry. The Sisters also recognized the probability of conflict among the white settlers of the area who felt a deep-seated antagonism toward the Sioux, and so they decided, with the mother’s permission, that moving her from the area would be best for the child.
The annals of St. Clara convent, for October 13, 1869, record the following:
“Sister Alberta Duffy returned from Faribault bringing little Wehake Labatte, whose mother is a Sioux and whose father, a Frenchman, was killed in the late Indian uprising. Wehake’s mother came to the Sisters in Faribault, telling her sad story, and Sister Alberta’s great heart was so touched that she brought the little girl to St. Clara to be educated.”
Wihake’s remarkable gifts were nurtured and soon her name appeared in the St. Clara records as ranking “First” or “Second” in her class achievements, especially in music – piano and harp. But by 1878, Wihake had fallen ill, and the Sisters sent to Faribault for her mother. With the mother, the Sisters kept vigil by her bedside until June 14, 1878, when Wihake, just sixteen years old, died at St. Clara, and was the second or third person buried in the new cemetery at Sinsinawa. One of the Academy students of that time recalled the sad funeral procession – “Of course, we all cried in sympathy with her [Wihake’s mother], for everyone loved her.”