Legend of Sleepy Water

Manataka American Indian Council


 

CHEWAUKLA
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY WATER
By Sandra Long and Marcus Phillips


   Once long ago a chief who had been in poor health for many moons came to the sacred Valley of the Vapors hoping to find relief in the magic waters.  Seemingly, however, the thermal waters did not have sufficient power to cure his affliction.  After bathing in the pools, immersing himself in the hot mud, and enduring the sweat lodge, his condition did not improve.  Instead, his illness worsened, and his pain grew so severe that he could not sleep.

   One night, as the chief lay delirious in his tent, his beautiful daughter, weeping for his pain, came to him and took him by the hand.  She led him out of the valley in search of cool waters she had been told had strong magic to cure him.  After passing though a deep gorge [Gulpha Gorge] in the mountain, they followed a small stream until they reached a place where five cool, living springs burst forth from the rocky earth.  Here, the daughter filled a gourd and held it to her father's lips.  When he had drunk the cool, refreshing water, he fell into a deep, restful sleep.  When the old man awoke, his pain was gone and he was cured of the affliction.

   Out of gratitude to his lovely daughter, the chief gave her the name, Chewaukla, which meant "Sleepy Water," and the springs were known thereafter as Chewaukla Springs.  The sleepy water soon became famous for the relaxing effect it had on all who drank there.


  The picturesque Gulpha Gorge is the scene of many stories told by the Red Man, but one of the most interesting is connected with a cluster of cold springs on the north side of  Indian Mountain near a small stream that flows into Gulpha Creek.  These springs, which today are called Sleepy Water Springs, were once named after an Indian daughter whose father was cured of an affliction by drinking the sleep-inducing water.  In those days, the Indians built medicine lodges among the four or five springs and visited there while camping near the Valley of Peace to take the hot baths and participate in religious ceremonies.  As time went on, white settlers moved into the valley and the springs became commercialized. 

   In later years, according to a research article written in 1986 by local historian Bill Dever, the water was bottled and sold throughout the United States.  In the 1920s and 30s, extensive advertising by brochure and on the radio made "Sleepy Water" and Chewaukla Springs famous, and a song, "Sweet Chewaukla - The Land of Sleepy Water," was played by Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra.  The company logo showing the head of a beautiful Indian maiden was recognized nationwide in advertisements and on the bottles in which the water was distributed.

   During the 1930's, the springs were owned by Chicago investors who constructed an attractive complex of yellow brick buildings set in a landscaped park where tour buses often stopped to let their passengers drink from the fountain and wander about the grounds.  The main building, where the magnificent windows and a medallion showing the head the Indian maiden above the entrance.  On the side of the hill, two of the springs were displayed in lovely little brick gazebos decorated with quartz crystal and tile.  Today, these buildings are gone and the have disappeared underground; and weeds cover the romantic, rock-bordered paths.

SWEET CHEWAUKLA

THE LAND OF SLEEPY WATER
By Carman Lombardo
Published by Irving Berlin
Performed by Guy Lombardo

Where the dreamy waters sleep 'neath smiling skies in the west Sweet Chewaukla calls her sons and daughters home to rest.   So free from worldly care - - just peace and love is there.  Homeland dear, your voice I hear and I'm returning to you.

Sweet Chewaukla - - Land of Sleepy Water 
Take this weary wanderer - - home to your breast.
Sweet Chewaukla - - hold me in your arms there
Nestled in your charms there - - dear, let me rest.
Tom Toms calling - - moonbeams dancing on the water
Night shades falling bringing golden memory.
Sweet Chewaukla - - Land of Sleepy Water
Take this weary wanderer homeward to rest.

When the shadows come a'creepin' and the world is at rest
Then my thoughts go stealing homeward to the land I love best
A magic land of dreams is calling me it seems
Neath the setting sun to dwell beside a slumbering stream.

A secret, mystic cave hidden somewhere on West Mountain has been the home for many centuries of an old woman who lives there with her dog.

The old woman spends her time diligently weaving a beautiful rug from pine needles that she has collected in the forest. Her dog spends his time napping in a corner of the cave and watching his mistress through narrow slits in his eyes.

From time to time, the old woman lays down her rug and goes to stir the soup she keeps cooking in a clay pot over a fire at the mouth of the cave. When she does this, the dog creeps out of his corner and, taken the rug in his jaws, shakes it until he has unraveled a part of it.

When the old woman returns to her work, she patiently tries to restore the damaged rug and resumes her weaving, but soon she must again attend to the soup that boils in her pot. Each time she leaves the rug, the sly old dog again ravels as much or more than she has been able to complete at the last sitting.

Thus, down through the years, the two have continued their ritual of weaving, raveling, and reweaving, but the rug never grows any larger. This is a good thing, for if ever the rug is finished, the world as we know it will come to an end.

 


Credits: The "Legend of the Twin Springs" and "The Old Woman and the Cave" both by Sandra Long and Marcus Phillips are from the  "Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park" (1994).   


Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park

by Marcus Phillips and Sandra Long 

The Valley of the Vapors, Manataka -- The Place of Peace was never told as well before this excellent resource guide was written.  Well researched with dozens of references, this book contains the colorful history of Hot Springs and Indian legends of this sacred site. The Indian Folk Lore Atlas also serves as a tour guide with seven individual walking tours designed to take the visitor back in time to the actual locations where history was made.  This book is endorsed by the American Indian Center of Arkansas, the City of Hot Springs and the Garland County Historical Society.  Experts of the Caddo, Quapaw and Cherokee nations consulted on this book. A wonderful addition to any library.  Great for the coffee table. Dozens of maps and illustrations. 195 pp. Soft Cover.  $37.95 

 

 

 


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