The Three Minnehahas
The Minnehaha Walk is an easy all-weather track sheltered by moss strewn podocarp forest and a wealth of ferns. It follows the path of a small stream, is well graded and wheelchair accessible. It takes about 20 minutes return to walk, and the trailhead is only fifty metres south of the Fox Glacier Village on State highway 6. At night take a flashlight and look out for a glow worm fairyland.
Roughly translated into English, Minnehaha means ‘Babbling Brook.’ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the epic poem The Song of Hiawatha in 1855. He told the story of a fictional American Indian warrior Hiawatha, and his bride Minnehaha. In the poem, soon after their wedding there was a harsh winter. Starvation and disease struck their village and Minnehaha died. One of the most memorable verses is 'The Famine' which tells the story of her death and Hiawatha's grief.
Historic references have been made to a second Minnehaha, a real life Native American Indian woman. She was an eighteen year old Sioux Indian and daughter of the celebrated chief Sitting Bear. She caused a massive scandal when she fell in love with a lieutenant in the United States Army at Fort Sully. She died of a broken heart after she was forbidden to see her man.
The nickname ‘Minnehaha’ was given to Mrs Elizabeth Wallace Simpson. In 1936, the Duke of Windsor abdicated his throne and the title King Edward VIII of the British Empire in the name of his love for Mrs Simpson. In England, the scandal of a King marrying a twice-divorced American woman, with two living ex-husbands caused “great consternation.” In America, Time Magazine named her “Woman of the Year,” the first person of the “fairer sex” to hold this title.
While courting in England, Edward and ‘Minnehaha’ met for their “illicit trysts” out of the public’s eye. A secluded walkway so close to town would have been the perfect place to meet in secret, with only the moonlight, and the glow worms to distract them. So, take a peaceful walk on the wild side and imagine what it would be like to be one of the three Minnehahas.