Manataka American Indian Council








Manataka, Place of Peace –


Myth or Reality?


National Park Service Hate Campaign - Part III

by Linda VanBibber


If you have not visited Hot Springs National Park and taken the ride up to the top of the observation tower on Hot Springs Mountain, you may have never heard of Manataka.  Unless you are a First Nations native.   But Ma-na-ta-ka has earned a mention in the National Parks Service ‘fact or fiction’ part of the display in the tower.  It is here that the stories of the Grandfathers who told of this place are challenged.

According to the Grandfathers, Manataka has always been the “Place of Peace” for all people in the Americas. The area was a place of cultural exchange and trade for all native peoples – a great melting pot of American Indian culture. The Valley of the Vapors was neutral territory unclaimed by any tribe.  


We are told that the Great Spirit decreed that all who visited here must ay down their weapons and bath as brothers in the Nówâ-sa-lon (Breath of Healing) hot waters. Even tribes who were hostile to each other acknowledged the truce while in the Place of Peace.  In spite of the Parks Service claim that there is no evidence that the waters were used by the natives, all people came for the healing and pleasure of  the 47 hot springs that spewed from the sides of the Mountain.  A visit to the remaining uncapped spring on “Bath House Row” in Hot Springs can give you some idea of the vapors that would be created by 47 springs on Manataka Mountain.   Sitting near the pool of deliciously hot water you can figure out for yourself if you need further evidence.   It draws the people like the lap of a mother.


No one was allowed to enter the ‘Valley of Vapors’ carrying a weapon into the sacred area of the valley.  No fighting or discord was allowed.  Should anyone violate these laws, they were taken outside the valley and severely punished.   The Lady of the Rainbow presided over the valley.  She appeared in white buckskin, holding one eagle feather in each hand. She stood on the mountain overseeing the peace.


If quarrels arose, a vision of the Rainbow Woman could be seen at twilight rising in the vapors of the highest pool as a warning to the offending person.  If the guilty one did not listen to this warning, the Lady of the Rainbow came to him and dropped one feather at his feet.  This told him that it would be wiser to fly away than to disturb the peace again.  If this warning was not heeded, she dropped the second feather as a sign to his family and others to remove the offender from the valley by whatever means necessary.   


There is a trail on Manataka Mountain called ‘Dead Chief’s Trail’. It is said that this Chief did not heed the warnings of the Lady and disappeared without a trace on this trail.


The Grandfathers also tell us that tribal leaders prayed and made peace offerings to the Creator, the Great Manataka Mountain and each other.  They danced and sang around huge campfires in the narrow valley situated between the Manataka Mountain (Hot Springs Mountain) and her sister mountain, today called North Mountain. 


Her other sister mountain, today called Indian Mountain stood guardian to her east.  Daughters of the First Nations gathered rare medicinal herbs found in great abundance in a large area Trade items were also exchanged on blankets spread out in dozens of camps just outside the sacred valley surrounding. Their sons found precious clear crystals, gold, silver, pyrite, and whetstones. Trade items were also exchanged on blankets spread out in dozens of camps just outside the sacred valley.


Spiritual elders also brought gifts from their tribes to Manataka.  Some gifts were intended to establish friendships and diplomacy between various tribes; others were personal gifts between long-time friends.  Other more precious gifts were ceremonial offerings for the sacred mountain.  


Our Grandfathers say that gifts were place in the caves on Manataka Mountain.  You can’t visit the caves.  They have all been closed in the process of rerouting the water of the hot springs so that their healing energy could be sold to the public.


But the caves, “Myth” according to the National Park Service, are another irrefutable geological feature of Manataka Mountain.  It is said by the Grandfathers that seven holy caves were on the sacred mountain. 


We are told by the grandfathers that the center cave is made of magnificent shining crystal encoded with messages from the star people.  Inside the crystal cave are seven shields and seven crystal cones set on a crystal altar, each containing a secret message. No one ever approached the this sacred crystal cave, as it was said to have been the work place of the star people (angels?) and the resting place of many spirits.   


The cave located to the left of the crystal cave was used by the 'Keepers of Manataka', the Tula Indians, who lived in surrounding areas and for other tribes living nearby such as the Caddo, Quapaw, Osage, Tunica, and Pawnee. 


To the right of the center crystal cave was a ceremonial cave reserved for gifts for the other inhabitants of this land - the animals, birds, fish, insects, plants, stones and the elements.  The southern-most cave, nearest the surface of the ground, once held the Manataka Stone, or as referred to by the National Park Service, the "Calendar Stone" brought by people from the south.  The Calendar Stone was removed after the Civil War by workmen digging on the mountain to capture the sacred waters of the hot springs, Nowasalon, and build ornate bathhouses for the rich. 


An ancient clay doll was recovered from the northern cave some time in the early 1900's by workmen and is currently on loan to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.   The people of the North laid gifts in the northern-most cave; people of the South laid their gifts in the Southern-most cave.  Two other caves were used by the people from the west and east for offering ceremonies. 


Each of the seven caves disappeared a various times after the invasion began in the 1500's, either at the hand of the invaders or by natural or supernatural causes.  The caves have disappeared, but the story of Manataka will not disappear.   The Manataka American Indian Council is dedicating to  preserving the sacred history of the Place of Peace.  The Peace of the Rainbow Woman is still felt there.   The next time you’re in Hot Springs, drop by.