The coyote, like his brother the wolf, was a spiritual being.
In the beginning the coyote left his homeland in the Americas and traveled eastward across the ocean in the direction of the rising sun.
In distant lands, he acquired a bride and with her had a great number of children.
These children were Indians, the forefathers of the great tribes that were to inhabit the North and South American continents.
Preparing to return home, the coyote put them all in a wosa, a woven willow basket jug with a cork.
Before his journey, he was instructed not to open the jug until he reached his country in the Rockies and the Great Basin.
Being a sly and curious person, and hearing singing and the beating of drums within the wosa, the coyote thought it would not hurt to take a peek when he arrived back on the eastern coast of the American continent.
But when he opened the jug, the children inside jumped out and scattered in all directions across North and South America.
By the time he got the cap back on, the only two persons who remained in the wosa were the western Shoshone and the Paiute. These he brought home with him.
When he reached the Great Basin, he opened the jug, and out fell the last two children.
They, at once, began to fight.
The coyote kicked them apart and said to them,
"You two are my children. Even though the rest got away, you two will be able to fight against the best and beat them."
Thus, the western Shoshone and Paiutes, or the Newe and Numa peoples, who now live in California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Oregon, began as allies and populated the Great Basin.
- Source : A History of the Shoshone-Paiutes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation,
by Whitney McKinney, the Institute of the American West and Howe Brothers, 1983
A gust of wind
This story has many variations. The following version is notable because Stone Boy, (Brule legend) sometimes conceived when his mother swallows a pebble, appears in creation legends from several Plains tribes.
Before there was a man, two women, an old one and her daughter, were the only humans on earth. The old woman had not needed a man in order to conceive.
Ahki, the earth, also was like a woman - female - but not as she is now, because trees and many animals had not yet been made.
Well, the young woman, the daughter, took her basket out one day to go berrying. She had gathered enough and was returning home when a sudden gust of wind lifted her buckskin dress up high, baring her body.
Geesis, the sun, shone on that spot for a short moment and entered the body of the young woman, though she hardly noticed it.
She was aware of the gust of wind but paid no attention.
Time passed. The young woman said to the old one:
"I don't know what's wrong with me, but something is."
More time passed. The young woman's belly grew bigger, and she said:
"Something is moving inside me. What can it be?"
"When you were going berrying, did you meet anyone?" The old woman asked.
"I met nobody. The only thing that happened was a big gust of wind which lifted my buckskin dress. the sun was shining."
The old woman said:
"I think you're going to have a child. Geesis, the sun, is the only one who could have done it, so you will be the mother of a sun child."
The young woman gave birth to two boys, both *manitos*, - supernaturals. They were the first human males on this earth - Geesis's sons, sons of the sun.
The young mother made cradleboards and put the twins in these, hanging them up or carrying them on her back, but never letting the babies touch the earth.
Why didn't she? Did the Old Woman tell her not to? Nobody knows.
If she had put the cradleboards on the ground, the babies would have walked upright from the moment of their birth, like deer babies. but because their mother would not let them touch earth for some months, it now takes human babies a year or so to walk. It was that young woman's fault.
One of the twins was Stone Boy, a rock. He said:
"Put me in the fire and heat me up until I glow red hot."
They did, and he said:
"Now pour cold water over me."
They did this also. That was the first sweat bath.
The other boy, named Wene-boozhoo, looked like all human boys. He became mighty and could do anything; he even talked to the animals and gave them their names.
- Told by David Red Bird in New York City, 1974.
(David Baker Red Bird is a young Green Bay Indian with a great sense of humour. He is a well-known singer and musician.)
Apache Chief punishes his wife
The Yellow House People were traveling. They stopped by a lake, and to reach the deep water they put down a buffalo head to step on. The chief's wife, who was a good-looking woman, picked up her basket and went to fetch some water.
When she came to the lake she looked at the head and said,
"My father, what a handsome man you were! I would like to have seen you alive. What a pity you're being trampled in this mud!"
As she finished speaking, up sprang a big white buffalo. He said,
"I'm the man you speak of. I am White Buffalo Chief. I want to take you with me. Sit on my head between my horns!"
She left her water basket right there, and climbed up.
The sun was going down, and the chief's wife did not come home.
"Something has happened," he said. "I should go and see."
When he got to the lake, he found the basket, and looking around, saw his wife's track and the track of a big buffalo leading to the east. He said,
"The buffalo head has taken my wife!"
He went back to his camp and for many days made arrows. When he had enough, he set out to find his wife.
As he walked, he nearly stepped on the house of Spider Old Woman. She said,
"Sho! sho! sho! My grandchild, don't step on me! Grandchild, you are Apache-Chief-Living-Happily; what are you doing around here?"
"Grandmother, I am looking for my wife. Buffalo Chief took her away. Can you help me?"
"He is a powerful person, but I will give you medicine. Go now to Gopher Old Woman."
He went along, and on the plain he came to Gopher's house. Said Gopher Old Woman,
"What are you doing around here? You are Apache-Chief-Living-Happily. Why are you here?"
"Yes, grandmother, I was living happily when my wife went to get water. Buffalo stole her. I am going after her, and I would like to ask you for help."
Gopher Old Woman said,
"My grandson, your wife now has as husband a powerful man. He is White Buffalo Chief. She is the tribe's female in- law, and when they go to sleep, she is in the middle and they lie close around her. Her dress is trimmed with elk teeth, and it makes such a noise that it will be difficult to get her out. You go to the edge of where they lie, and I will do the rest."
Apache Chief came to the buffalo territory and hid to watch them. White Buffalo Chief had the stolen wife dancing, and the buffalo sang:
Ya he a he
Ya he iya he
Ya he e ya
He ya hina he
Hina ye ne
He mah ne!
The Apache crept near the dance and spat out the medicine Spider Old Woman had given, and all the buffalo went sleep.
Gopher Old Woman burrowed underground to the girl's ear and said,
"I have come for you. Apache-Chief-Living-Happily is waiting outside the herd."
The girl said,
"My present husband is a powerful man. My dress is made of elk teeth, and it makes such a noise that it will wake my husband."
Gopher told her to gather the dress up under her arms. Then Gopher led the way, and they slipped through the group of sleeping buffalo.
Her husband was waiting.
"I have come for you," he said, "You are my wife and I want to take you back."
And she told him they must hurry to a safe place.
The plain was large. As they came to three cottonwood trees, they could feel the earth trembling. White Buffalo had waked up and was shouting to his clan,
"Someone took my wife!"
The herd followed the track toward the trees.
Apache Chief said to the first cottonwood,
"Brother, the buffalo are coming. I want you to hide us."
The tree said, "Go to your next brother! I am old and soft."
He went to the next tree.
"Brother, the buffalo are coming. I want you to hide us!"
The tree said, "Go to your next brother."
He went to the third tree, a young tree with one branch.
"Apache Chief," it said, "come up into my branches and I will help you."
After they were safely up, the wife said she had to urinate. Apache Chief folded up his buffalo hide and told her to urinate on it, but her water leaked through.
The buffalo were passing, the dust was rising, and the earth was trembling. In the rear of the pack were a shabby old buffalo and a small one. As they came under the tree, the little buffalo said,
"Grandfather, I can smell the water of our daughter-in-law."
They looked up and saw the man and woman in the tree.
The old buffalo said, "Grandchild, you are fast. Run on and tell the first one you reach, and each will tell the next one."
Soon the whole herd had turned back. Each one in succession butted the tree, and Apache Chief tried to shoot them.
Then White Buffalo Chief took a running start and crashed against the tree. The young cottonwood was nearly down, and Apache Chief could not kill White Buffalo Chief.
Crow was calling above them, "Kaw, kaw, kaw!"
Apache Chief said angrily to Crow,
"Why are you calling out when I am in such a bad way?"
"I came to tell you to shoot him in the anus. That's where his life is."
So the Apache Chief shot White Buffalo Chief in the anus and killed him.
He and his wife came from the tree, and he started to butcher the buffalo beside a little fire. The tears ran down her cheek.
"Are you crying because I'm butchering White Buffalo?"
"No, I'm crying from the smoke."
Apache Chief kept on butchering. He looked at her again and said, "You are crying!"
"No, it's just the smoke."
He stared at her.
"You are crying! After all our trouble, you still want this man! Now you die with him!"
And he took his bow and arrow and shot her.
"I am Apache Chief, chief of a roaming tribe," he said. "I will wander over these plains watching the earth, and if any woman leaves her husband, what I have done to my wife may be done to her."
- Based on a tale recorded by Elsie Clews Parsons in 1940.
Like other tales told in pueblos near Taos, New Mexico, this Tiwa story features Apache characters. Taos, because of its proximity to the Plains area, had a close relation to the tribes of that region, and they have shared many elements in their culture, this story being one of them. The Yellow House people refer to people who settled toward the East, nearer the sun.
Buffalo and Eagle Wing
Native American Lore
A long time ago there were no stones on the earth. The mountains, hills, and valleys were not rough, and it was easy to walk on the ground swiftly. There were no small trees at that time either. All the bushes and trees were tall and straight and were at equal distances. So a man could travel through a forest without having to make a path.
At that time, a large buffalo roamed over the land. From the water, he had obtained his spirit power--the power to change anything into some other form. He would have that power as long as he only drank from a certain pool.
In his wanderings, Buffalo often travelled across a high mountain. He liked this mountain so much that one day he asked it,
"Would you like to be changed into something else?"
"Yes," replied the mountain. "I would like to be changed into something nobody would want to climb over."
"All right," said Buffalo. "I will change you into something hard that I will call 'stone.' You will be so hard that no one will want to break you and so smooth that no one will want to climb you."
So Buffalo changed the mountain into a large stone.
"And I give you the power to change yourself into anything else as long as you do not break yourself."
Only buffaloes lived in this part of the land. No people lived here. On the other side of the mountain lived men who were cruel and killed animals. The buffaloes knew about them and stayed as far away from them as possible.
But one day Buffalo thought he would like to see these men. He hoped to make friends with them and persuade them not to kill buffaloes. So he went over the mountain and travelled along a stream until he came to a lodge.
There lived an old woman and her grandson. The little boy liked Buffalo, and Buffalo liked the little boy and his grandmother.
He said to them, "I have the power to change you into any form you wish. What would you like most to be?"
"I want always to be with my grandson. I want to be changed into anything that will make it possible for me to be with him, wherever he goes."
"I will take you to the home of the buffaloes," said their guest. "I will ask them to teach the boy to become a swift runner. I will ask the water to change the grandmother into something, so that you two can always be together."
So Buffalo, the grandmother, and the little boy went over the mountain to the land of the buffaloes. "We will teach you to run swiftly," they told the boy, "if you will promise to keep your people from hunting and killing buffaloes."
"I promise," said the boy.
The buffaloes taught him to run so fast that not one of them could keep up with him. The old grandmother could follow him wherever he went, for she had been changed into Wind.
The boy stayed with the buffaloes until he became a man. Then they let him go back to his people, reminding him of his promise. Because he was such a swift runner, he became a leader of the hunters. They called him Eagle Wing. One day the chief called Eagle Wing to him and said to him,
"My son, I want you to take the hunters to the buffalo country. We have never been able to kill buffaloes because they run so very fast. But you too can run fast. If you will kill some buffaloes and bring home the meat and the skins, I will adopt you as my son. And when I die, you will become chief of the tribe."
Eagle Wing wanted so much to become chief that he pushed from his mind his promise to the buffaloes. He started out with the hunters, but he climbed the mountain so fast that they were soon left far behind. On the other side of the mountain, he saw a herd of buffaloes. They started to run in fright, but Eagle Wing followed them and killed most of them. Buffalo, the great one who got his power from the water, was away from home at the time of the hunt. On his way back he grew so thirsty that he drank from some water on the other side of the mountain not from his special pool.
When he reached home and saw what the hunter had done, he became very angry. He tried to turn the men into grass, but he could not. Because he had drunk from another pool, he had lost his power to transform. Buffalo went to the big stone that had once been a mountain.
"What can you do to punish the hunter for what he has done?" he asked Stone.
"I will ask the trees to tangle themselves so that it will be difficult for men to travel through them," answered Stone. "I will break myself into many pieces and scatter myself all over the land.
Then the swift runner and his followers cannot run over me without hurting their feet."
"That will punish them," agreed Buffalo.
So Stone broke itself into many pieces and scattered itself all over the land. Whenever the swift runner, Eagle Wing, and his followers tried to run over the mountain, stones cut their feet. Bushes scratched and bruised their bodies.
That is how Eagle Wing was punished for not keeping his promise to Buffalo.
The Cherokee are one of the very few Indian tribes who conceive of the sun as female. This version is unusual for the Cherokee because it refers to the sun as "he".
Earth is floating on the waters like a big island, hanging from four rawhide ropes fastened at the top of the sacred four directions. The ropes are tied to the ceiling of the sky, which is made of hard rock crystal. When the ropes break, this world will come tumbling down, and all living things will fall with it and die.
Then everything will be as if the earth had never existed, for water will cover it. Maybe the white man will bring this about.
Well, in the beginning also, water covered everything. Though living creatures existed, their home was up there, above the rainbow, and it was crowded.
"We are all jammed together," the animals said. "We need more room."
Wondering what was under the water, they sent Water Beetle to look around. Water Beetle skimmed over the surface but couldn't find any solid footing, so he dived down to the bottom and brought up a little dab of soft mud. Magically the mud spread out in the four directions and became this island we are living on - this earth.
Someone Powerful then fastened it to the sky ceiling with cords.
In the beginning the earth was flat, soft, and moist. All the animals were eager to live on it, and they kept sending down birds to see if the mud had dried and hardened enough to take their weight. But the birds all flew back and said that there was still no spot they could perch on.
Then the animals sent Grandfather Buzzard down. He flew very close and saw that the earth was still soft, but when he glided low over what would become Cherokee country, he found that the mud was getting harder.
By that time Buzzard was tired and dragging. When he flapped his wings down, they made a valley where they touched the earth; when he swept them up, they made a mountain.
The animals watching from above the rainbow said,
"If he keeps on, there will be only mountains," and they made him come back. That's why we have so many mountains in Cherokee land.
At last the earth was hard and dry enough, and the animals descended. They couldn't see very well because they had no sun or moon, and someone said,
"Let's grab Sun from up there behind the rainbow! Let's get him down too!"
Pulling Sun down, they told him,
"Here's a road for you," and showed him the way to go - from east to west. Now they had light, but it was much too hot, because Sun was too close to the earth.
The crawfish had his back sticking out of a stream, and Sun burned it red. His meat was spoiled forever, and the people still won't eat crawfish.
Everyone asked the sorcerers, the shamans, to put Sun higher. They pushed him up as high as a man, but it was still too hot. So they pushed him farther, but it wasn't far enough.
They tried four times, and when they had Sun up to the height of four men, he was just hot enough. Everyone was satisfied, so they left him there.
Before making humans, Someone Powerful had created plants and animals and had told them to stay awake and watch for seven days and seven nights. (This is just what young men do today when they fast and prepare for a ceremony.)
But most of the plants and animals couldn't manage it; some fell asleep after one day, some after two days, some after three.
Among the animals, only the owl and the mountain lion were still awake after seven days and seven nights. That's why they were given the gift of seeing in the dark so that they can hunt at night.
Among the trees and other plants, only the cedar, pine, holly, and laurel were still awake on the eighth morning.
Someone Powerful said to them:
"Because you watched and kept awake as long as you had been told, you will not lose your hair in the winter."
So these plants stay green all the time.
After creating plants and animals, Someone Powerful made a man and his sister.
The man poked her with a fish (!!!) and told her to give birth.
After seven days she had a baby, and after seven more days she had another, and every seven days another came.
The humans increased so quickly that Someone Powerful, thinking there would soon be no more room on this earth, arranged things so that a woman could have only one child every year. And that's how it was.
Now, there is still another world under the one we live on. You can reach it by going down a spring, or a water hole; but you need underworld people to be your scouts and guide you.
The world under our earth is exactly like ours, except that it's winter down there when it's summer up here. We can see that easily, because spring water is warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer.
- Told at a Cherokee treaty council meeting in New York City, 1975.
How the Old Man Made People
Native American Lore
Long ago, when the world was new, there was no one living in it at all, except the Old Man, Na-pe, and his sometimes-friend and sometimes-enemy A-pe'si, the Coyote, and a few buffalo. There were no other people and noother animals.
But the Old Man changed all that.
He changed it first because he was lonely, and then because he was lazy; and maybe be shouldn't have, but anyway, he did. And this was the way of it.
Na-pe was sitting by his fire one day, trying to think of some way to amuse himself. He had plenty to eat--a whole young buffalo; no need to go hunting. He had a lodge; no work to do; and a fire. He was comfortable, but he wasn't contented.
His only companion, A-pe'si the Coyote, was off somewhere on some scheme of his own, and anyway he had quarrelled with A-pe'si, and they were on bad terms; so even if he had been there, Old Man would still have been lonely.
He poked some sticks in the fire, threw a rock or two in the river, lit his pipe, and walked around. . . then sat down, and thought how nice it would be to have someone to smoke with, and to talk to.
"Another one, like me," he thought. And he poked some more sticks in the fire, and threw somemore rocks in the river. Then he thought, "Why not? I am the Old Man! I can make anything I want to. Why shouldn't I make another like me, and have a companion?"
And he promptly went to work. First, he found a little still pool of water, and looked at his reflection carefully, so as to know just what he wanted to make. Then he counted his bones as best he could, and felt the shape of them.
Next, he went and got some clay, modelled a lot of bones, and baked them in his fire. When they were all baked, he took them out and looked at them.
Some of them were very good, but others were crooked, or too thin, or had broken in the baking. These he put aside in a little heap. Then he began to assemble the best of the clay bones into a figure of a man. He tied them all together with buffalo sinews, and smoothed them all carefully with buffalo fat. He padded them with clay mixed with buffaloblood, and stretched over the whole thing skin taken from the inside of the buffalo.
Then he sat down and lit his pipe again. He looked at the man he had made rather critically. It wasn't exactly what he had wanted, but still it was better than nothing.
"I will make some more," said Na-pe. He picked the new man up and blew smoke into his eyes, nose, and mouth, and the figure came to life. Na-pe sat him down by the fire, and handed him the pipe. Then he went to get more clay.
All day long Na-pe worked, making men. It took a long time, because some of the bones in each lot weren't good, and he must discard them and make others. But at last he got seveal men, all sitting by the fire and passing the pipe around. Na-pe sat down with them, and was very happy.
He left the heap of discarded bones where they were, at the doorway of his lodge. So Na-pe and the men lived in his camp, and the men learned to hunt, and Na-pe had company, someone to smoke with, and they were all quite contented.
But the heap of left-over bones was a nuisance. Every time one of the men went in or out of Na-pe's lodge, they tripped over the bones. The wind blew through them at night, making a dreadful noise. The bones frequently tumbled over, making more of a disturbance.
Na-pe intended to throw them in the river, but he was a bit lazy, and never got around to it. So the left-overbones stayed where they were.
By this time A-pe'si, the Coyote, was back from wherever he had been. He went around the camp, looking the men over, and being very superior, saying that he didn't think much of Na-pe's handiwork.
He was also critical of the heap of bones at the door of the lodge.
"I should think you would do something with them--make them into men," said A-pe'si, the Coyote.
"All right, I will," said Na-pe. "Only they aren't very good. It will be difficult to make men out of them!"
"Oh, I'll help, I'll help!" said A-pe'si. "With my cleverness, we will make something much better than these poor creatures of yours!"
So the two of them set to work. The discarded bones, clicking and tattling, were sorted out, and tied together. Then Na-pe mixed the clay and the buffalo blood to cover them.
He fully intended to make the bones into men, but A-pe'si the Coyote kept interfering; consequently, when the job was done, the finished product was quite different.
Na-pe surveyed it dubiously, but he blew the smoke into its eyes and nose and mouth, as he had with the men. And the woman came to life.
A-pe'si and Na-pe made the rest of the bones into women, and as they finished each one they put them all together, and the women immediately began to talk to each other.
A-pe'si was very pleased with what he had done. "When I made my men," said Na-pe, "I set them down by the fire to smoke."
And even to this day, if you have one group of men, and another of women, the men will want to sit by the fire and smoke. But the women talk.
And whether it is because they were made out of the left-over bones that clicked and rattled, or whether it is because A-pe'si, the Coyote --who is a noisy creature himself--had a part in their making, no one can say.
Creation of First Man and First Woman
The first people came up through three worlds and settled in the fourth world. They had been driven from each successive world because they had quarreled with one another and committed adultery. In previous worlds they no other people like themselves, but in the fourth world they found the Kisani or Pueblo people.
The surface of the fourth world was mixed black and white, and the sky was mostly blue and black. There were no sun, no moon, no stars, but there four great snow-covered peaks on the horizon in each of the cardinal directions.
Late in the autumn they heard in the east the distant sound of a great voice calling. They listened and waited, and soon heard the voice nearer and louder than before. Once more they listened and heard it louder still, very near. A moment later four mysterious beings appeared. These were White Body, god of this world; Blue Body, the sprinkler; Yellow Body; and Black Body, the god of fire.
Using signs but without speaking, the gods tried to instruct the people, but they were not understood. When the gods had gone, the people discussed their mysterious visit and tried without success to figure out the signs. The gods appeared on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through signs, but their efforts came to nothing.
On the fourth day when the other gods departed, Black Body remained behind and spoke to the people in their own language: "You do not seem to understand our signs, so I must tell you what they mean. We want to make people who look more like us. You have bodies like ours, but you have the teeth, the feet, and the claws of beasts and insects. The new humans will have hands and feet like ours. Also, you are unclean; you smell bad. We will come back in twelve days. Be clean when we return."
On the morning of the twelfth day the people washed themselves well. Then the women dried their skin with yellow cornmeal, the men with white cornmeal. Soon they heard the distant call, shouted four times, of the approaching gods. When the gods appeared, Blue Body and Black Body each carried a sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, each completely covered with grains.
The gods laid one buckskin on the ground with the head to the west, and on this they placed the two ears of corn with their tips to the east. Over the corn they spread the other buckskin with its head to the east. Under the white ear they put the feather of a white eagle; under the yellow ear the feather of a yellow eagle. Then they told the people to stand back and allow the wind to enter. Between the skins the white wind blew from the east and the yellow wind from the west. While the wind was blowing, eight of the gods, the Mirage People, came and walked around the objects on the ground four times. As they walked, the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded from the buckskins, were seen to move. When the Mirage People had finished their walk, the upper buckskin was lifted. The ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman lay in their place.
The white ear of corn had become the man, the yellow ear the woman, First Man and First Woman. It was the wind that gave them life, and it is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow, we die.
The gods had the people build an enclosure of brushwood, and when it was finished, First Man and First Woman went in. The gods told them, "Live together now as husband and wife."
At the end of four days, First Woman gave birth to hermaphrodite twins. In four more days she gave birth to a boy and a girl, who grew to maturity in four days and lived with one another as husband and wife. In all, First Man and First Woman had five pairs of twins, and all except the first became couples who had children.
In four days after the last twins were born, the gods came again and took First Man and First Woman away to the eastern mountain, dwelling place of the gods. the couple stayed there for four days, and when they returned, all their children were taken to the eastern mountain for four days. The gods may have taught them the awful secrets of witchcraft. Witches always use masks,and after they returned, they would occasionally put on masks and pray for the good things they needed - abundant rain and abundant crops.
Witches also marry people who are too closely related to them, which is what First Man and First Woman's children had done. After they had been to the eastern mountain, however, the brothers and sisters separated. Keeping their first marriages secret, the brothers now married women of the Mirage People and the sisters married men of the Mirage People. But they never told anyone, even their new families, the mysteries they had learned from the gods. Every four days the women bore children, who grew to maturity in four days,then married, and in their turn had children every four days. In this way many children of First Man and First Woman filled the land with people.
- Based on a legend reported by Washington Matthews in 1897.
It is very common in origin stories around the world for the first people to be hermaphrodites or bisexuals. Religious scholars have been trying for years to find an explanation, but have not yet succeeded.
| The First Totem Pole |
Once there was a chief who had never had a dance. All the other chiefs had big dances, but Wakiash none. Therefore Wakiash was unhappy.
He thought for a long while about the dance. Then he went up into the mountains to fast. Four days he fasted. On the fourth day he fell asleep. Then something fell on his breast. It was a green frog.
Then Wakiash waked up. He looked about to see where he was. Frog said,
"You are on Raven's back. Raven will fly around the world with you."
So Raven flew. Raven flew all around the world. Raven showed Wakiash everything in the world.
On the fourth day, Raven flew past a house with a totem pole in front of it. Wakiash could hear singing in the house. Wakiash wished he could take the totem pole and the house with him.
Now Frog knew what Wakiash was thinking. Frog told Raven. Raven stopped and Frog told Wakiash to hide behind the door.
"When they dance, jump out into the room."
The people in the house began to dance. They were animal people. But they could not sing or dance. One said,
"Something is the matter. Someone is near us."
"Let one who can run faster than the flames go around the house and see."
So Mouse went. Mouse could go anywhere, even into a box. Now Mouse looked like a woman; she had taken off her animal clothes. Mouse ran out, but Wakiash caught her.
"Wait. I will give you something."
So he gave her a piece of mountain goat's fat. Wakiash said to Mouse,
"I want the totem pole and the house. I want the dances and the songs."
"Wait until I come again."
Mouse went back into the house. She said,
"I could find nobody."
So the animal people tried again to dance. They tried three times. Each time, Chief sent Mouse out to see if some one was near. Each time, Mouse talked with Wakiash.
The third time Mouse said,
"When they begin to dance, jump into the room."
So the animal people began to dance. Then Wakiash sprang into the room. The dancers were ashamed. They had taken off their animal clothes and looked like men. So the animal people were silent.
Then Mouse said,
"What does this man want?"
Now Wakiash wanted the totem pole and the house. He wanted the dances and the songs. Mouse knew what Wakiash was thinking. Mouse told the animal people.
"Let the man sit down. We will show him how to dance."
So they danced. Then Chief asked Wakiash what kind of a dance he would like to choose. They were using masks for the dance. Wakiash wanted the Echo mask, and the Little Man mask, -- the little man who talks, talks, and quarrels with others. Mouse told the people what Wakiash was thinking.
Then Chief said,
"You can take the totem pole and the house also. You can take the masks and dances, for one dance."
Then Chief folded up the house very small. He put it in a dancer's headdress. Chief said,
"When you reach home, throw down this bundle. The house will unfold and you can give a dance."
Then Wakiash went back to Raven. Wakiash climbed on Raven's back and went to sleep.
When he awoke, Raven and Frog were gone. Wakiash was alone. It was night and the tribe was asleep.
Then Wakiash threw down the bundle. Behold! the house and totem pole were there. The whale painted on the house was blowing. The animals on the totem pole were making noises.
At once the tribe woke up. They came to see Wakiash. Wakiash found he had been gone four years instead of four days.
Then Wakiash gave a great dance. He taught the people the songs. Echo came to the dance. He repeated all the sounds they made. When they finished the dance, behold! the house was gone. It went back to the animal people. Thus all the chiefs were ashamed because Wakiash had the best dance.
Then Wakiash made out of wood a house and another totem pole. They called it Kalakuyuwish, "the pole that holds up the sky."
- Source : "Neshoba"
| How The Sioux (Lakota) Came To Be |
This story was told to me by a Santee grandmother.
A long time ago, a really long time when the world was still freshly made, Unktehi the water monster fought the people and caused a great flood. Perhaps the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, was angry with us for some reason. Maybe he let Unktehi win out because he wanted to make a better kind of human being.
Well, the waters got higher and higher. Finally everything was flooded except the hill next to the place where the sacred red pipestone quarry lies today. The people climbed up there to save themselves, but it was no use. The water swept over that hill. Waves tumbled the rocks and pinnacles, smashing them down on the people. Everyone was killed, and all the blood jelled, making one big pool.
The blood turned to pipestone and created the pipestone quarry, the grave of those ancient ones. That's why the pipe, made of that red rock, is so sacred to us. Its red bowl is the flesh and blood of our ancestors, its stem is the backbone of those people long dead, the smoke rising from it is their breath. I tell you, that pipe, that *chanunpa*, comes alive when used in a ceremony; you can feel power flowing from it.
Unktehi, the big water monster, was also turned to stone. Maybe Tunkshila, the Grandfather Spirit, punished her for making the flood. Her bones are in the Badlands now. Her back forms a long high ridge, and you can see her vertebrae sticking out in a great row of red and yellow rocks. I have seen them. It scared me when I was on that ridge, for I felt Unktehi. She was moving beneath me, wanting to topple me.
Well, when all the people were killed so many generations ago, one girl survived, a beautiful girl. It happened this way: When the water swept over the hill where they tried to seek refuge, a big spotted eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, swept down and let her grab hold of his feet. With her hanging on, he flew to the top of a tall tree which stood on the highest stone pinnacle in the Black Hills. That was the eagle's home. It became the only spot not covered with water.
If the people had gotten up there, they would have survived, but it was a needle-like rock as smooth and steep as the skyscrapers you got now in the big cities. My grandfather told me that maybe the rock was not in the Black Hills; maybe it was the Devil's Tower, as white men call it , that place in Wyoming.
Both places are sacred. Wanblee kept that beautiful girl with him and made her his wife. There was a closer connection then between people and animals, so he could do it. The eagle's wife became pregnant and bore him twins, a boy and a girl. She was happy, and said:
"Now we will have people again. *Washtay*, it is good."
The children were born right there, on top of that cliff. When the waters finally subsided, Wanblee helped the children and their mother down from his rock and put them on the earth, telling them: Be a nation, become a great Nation – the Lakota Oyate."
The boy and girl grew up. He was the only man on earth, she the only woman of child-bearing age. They married; they had children. A nation was born.
So we are descended from the eagle. We are an eagle nation. That is good, something to be proud of, because the eagle is the wisest of birds. He is the Great Spirit's messenger; he is a great warrior. That is why we always wore the eagle plume, and still wear it. We are a great nation.
It is I, Lame Deer, who said this.
- Told by Lame Deer in Winner, South Dakota, in 1969.
When the World was Young
When the world was young, Old Man and Old Woman Coyote were walking around.
"Let us decide how things will be," Old Man Coyote Said.
"That would be good," said Old Woman Coyote. "How shall we do it?"
"It was my idea so I'll have the first say" said Old Man Coyote.
"That is fine ," said Old Woman Coyote ."Just as long as I have the last say."
So for a while they walked around looking at things. Finally Old Man Coyote said something.
"The men will be the hunters. Any time they want to shoot an animal they will call it and it will come."
"I too think men should be the hunters," said Old Woman Coyote. "But if the animals come so easily then life will be too easy for the people. The animals shall run away and hide. This will make it harder for the hunters but it will make them smarter and stronger."
"You have the last say," said Old Man Coyote.
They walked around some more and again Old Man Coyote said something.
"I've been thinking about how people will look. They will have eyes on one side of their face and their mouth on the other. Their mouths will go up and down. They will have ten fingers on each hand."
"I too think that people should have their eyes and their mouth on their faces, but their eyes will be at the top of their face and their mouth at the bottom and they will be across from each other." Said Old Woman Coyote "and I agree they should have fingers, but ten on each hand will be too awkward. They will have 5 fingers on each hand."
"You have the last say," said Old Man Coyote.
They continued to walk and finally they were by the river when Old Man Coyote spoke.
"Let us decide about life and death. I will do it this way. I will throw this buffalo chip into the river. If it floats then when people die they will come back to life after 4 days and live forever."
Old Man Coyote threw the chip in and it floated.
"I too think we should decide this way," Old Woman Coyote said. "But I we will use a stone instead of a buffalo chip. I will throw this stone in the river. If it floats then people will come back in 4 days and live forever. If it sinks then people will not come back to life after they die."
Old Woman Coyote thre the stone in the river and it sank.
"That is the way it should be," Old Woman Coyote said. "If people lived forever the Earth would get to crowded and there would not be enough food. This way people will learn compassion."
Old Man Coyote said nothing.
Some time passed. Old Woman Coyote had a child. She and Old Man Coyote loved the child a lot and they were happy.
One day, the child becme ill and died. Then Old Woman Coyote went to Old Man Coyote.
"Let us have our say again about death," she said.
But Old Man Coyote shook his head." NO, you had the last say."
Ghost of the White Deer
A brave, young warrior for the Chickasaw Nation fell in love with the daughter of a chief. The chief did not like the young man, who was called Blue Jay. So the chief invented a price for the bride that he was sure that Blue Jay could not pay.
" Bring me the hide of the White Deer, : said the chief.
The Chickasaws believed that animals that were all white were magical.
"The price for my daughter is one white deer."
Then the chief laughed. The chief knew that an all white deer, an albino, was very rare and would be very hard to find. White deerskin was the best material to use in a wedding dress, and the best white deer skin came from the albino deer.
Blue Jay went to his beloved, whose name was Bright Moon.
"I will return with your bride price in one moon, and we will be married. This I promise you."
Taking his best bow and his sharpest arrows Blue Jay began to hunt.
Three weeks went by, and Blue Jay was often hungry, lonely, and scratched by briars.
Then, one night during a full moon, Blue Jay saw a white deer that seemed to drift through the moonlight.
When the deer was very close to where Blue Jay hid, he shot his sharpest arrow. The arrow sank deep into the deers heart.
But instead of sinking to his knees to die, the deer began to run. And instead of running away, the deer began to run toward Blue Jay, his red eyes glowing, his horns sharp and menacing.
A month passed and Blue Jay did not return as he had promised Bright Moon.
As the months dragged by, the tribe decided that he would never return.
But Bright Moon never took any other young man as a husband, for she had a secret.
When the moon was shinning as brightly as her name, Bright Moon would often see the white deer in the smoke of the campfire, running, with an arrow in his heart. She lived hoping the deer would finally fall, and Blue Jay would return.
To this day the white deer is sacred to the Chickasaw People, and the white deerskin is still the favorite material for the wedding dress.
- Source : ~BamaRiver~
from the Chickasaw People of Oklahoma
| White Buffalo Calf|
Told by Stormwalker
White Buffalo Calf is Born.
Many of you may already know the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, but for those who do not , Let me tell you a story.
Two thousand years ago while out hunting one day in the Black Hills, two hunters saw a beautiful maiden. One of the hunters has lust and evil thoughts about the maiden, the other dropped to his knees to pray. A black cloud came down on the first and soon he was nothing but dust.
The maid then spoke to the other one, saying she was sent from the Creator with gifts for the people. She told him to return home and wait , she would be there in four days. On the fourth day a cloud settled in the village , and she stepped out of the cloud with a bundle in her hand. She stayed with the people four days teaching them seven scared ceremonies, which are still done today. One being the Scared Pipe Ceremony. Before leaving she promised to return some day as a White Buffalo Calf.
According to Legend there would be four different calves born, each one changing colors four times, each one the sire would die soon after birth. When the fourth one would came, She would begin to bring balance and harmony back to the races of man. The healing of our Mother Earth would also begin.
The chances of a white calf being born are eight million to one. The first was born in 1933, with the sire dyeing. The fourth was born on Sept. 17, 1999. It was born in Northern Michigan. All to date have changed colors, sires have died, this fourth one is strong and healthy, bringing with it the final chapter to a legend.
The time has come for the people to unite in balance and once again walk in harmony with each other as well as with the Mother Earth and the Creator.
An Eagle Story
by D'Arcy Rheault
Elder Michael Thrasher once told me that the eagle feather has two sides.
If the feather had only one side then Eagle could not fly.
On one side we find mind/intellect, body/movement and spirit/emotion.
Once these are balanced a person is balanced.
On the other side there is institution/education (and not just Western style education), process (the movement on one's path) and ceremony.
Once these are balanced then a person's life is balanced.
When the two sides of the feather are balanced then we have proper behaviour.
Funny thing is.......Eagle doesn't care if its feathers have two sides.... It just opens its wings and flies up to Creator.
Grandmother Spider steals the sun
In the beginning there was only blackness, and nobody could see anything. People kept bumping into each other and groping blindly.
They said: "What this world needs is light."
Fox said he knew some people on the other side of the world who had plenty of light, but they were too greedy to share it with others.
Possum said he would be glad to steal a little of it.
"I have a bushy tail," he said. "I can hide the light inside all that fur."
Then he set out for the other side of the world.
There he found the sun hanging in a tree and lighting everything up. He sneaked over to the sun, picked out a tiny piece of light, and stuffed it into his tail. But the light was hot and burned all the fur off. The people discovered his theft and took back the light, and ever since, Possum's tail has been bald. "Let me try," said Buzzard. "I know better than to hide a piece of stolen light in my tail. "I'll put it on my head." He flew to the other side of the world and, diving straight into the sun, seized it in his claws. He put it on his head, but it burned his head feathers off. The people grabbed the sun away from him, and ever since that time Buzzard's head has remained bald. Then Grandmother Spider said, "Let me try!" First she made a thick-walled pot out of clay. Next she spun a web reaching all the way to the other side of the world. She was so small that none of the people there noticed her coming. Quickly Grandmother Spider snatched up the sun, put it in the bowl of clay, and scrambled back home along one of the strands of her web. Now her side of the world had light, and everyone rejoiced. Spider Woman brought not only the sun to the Cherokee, but fire with it. And besides that, she taught the Cherokee people the art of pottery making.
- From a tale reported by James Mooney in the 1890s.
Legends of the Dreamcatcher
Two legends on the same theme;
one of unknown origin; one from Lakota.
The Legend of the Dreamcatcher
"A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother.
Each day, Nokomis watched the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in.
"Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing at the spider.
He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered, "don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?" asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life.
He said to her, "For many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift."
He smiled his special spider smile and moved away, spinning as he went.
Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window.
"See how I spin?" he said. "See and learn, for each web will snare bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web."
Legend of the Dream catcher
Long ago when the world was young, an old lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision.
In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.
As he spoke Iktomi, the spider, took the elders willow hoop which had feathers, horse hairs, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life....how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants,completing the cycle.
"In each time of life there are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the great spirit and all of his wonderful teachings."
Iktomi gave the web to the Lakota elder and said,
"See, the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the center of the cirlce. If you believe in the great spirit, the web will catch your good dreams and ideas - - and the bad ones will go through the hole. Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people's ideas, dreams and visions."
The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Lakota's use the dreamcatcher as the web of their life.It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.
The good of their dreams is captured in the web of life and carried with them...but the evil in their dreams escapes through the center hole, and are no longer part of them.
- Source : - Stormrider, Lakota-Blackfeet
Shooting the Red Eagle
Comanche, as told by Zitkala-sa
A man in buckskins sat upon the top of a little hillock. The setting sun shone bright upon a strong bow in his hand. His face was turned toward the round camp ground at the foot of the hill. He had walked a long journey hither. He was waiting for the chieftain's men to spy him.
Soon four strong men ran forth from the center wigwam toward the hillock, where sat the man with the long bow.
"He is the avenger come to shoot the red eagle," cried the runners to each other as they bent forward swinging their elbows together.
They reached the side of the stranger, but he did not heed them. Proud and silent he gazed upon the cone-shaped wigwams beneath him. Spreading a handsomely decorated buffalo robe before the man, two of the warriors lifted him by each shoulder and placed him gently on it.
Then the four men took, each, a corner of the blanket and carried the stranger, with long proud steps, toward the chieftain's teepee.
Ready to greet the stranger, the tall chieftain stood at the entrance way.
"How, you are the avenger with the magic arrow!" said he, extending to him a smooth soft hand.
"How, great chieftain!" replied the man, holding long the chieftain's hand.
Entering the teepee, the chieftain motioned the young man to the right side of the doorway, while he sat down opposite him with a center fire burning between them. Wordless, like a bashful Indian maid, the avenger ate in silence the food set before him on the ground in front of his crossed shins.
When he had finished his meal he handed the empty bowl to the chieftain's wife, saying,
"Mother-in-law, here is your dish!"
"Han, my son!" answered the woman, taking the bowl.
With the magic arrow in his quiver the stranger felt not in the least too presuming in addressing the woman as his mother-in-law.
Complaining of fatigue, he covered his face with his blanket and soon within the chieftain's teepee he lay fast asleep.
"The young man is not handsome after all!" whispered the woman in her husband's ear.
"Ah, but after he has killed the red eagle he will seem handsome enough!" answered the chieftain.
That night the star men in their burial procession in the sky reached the low northern horizon, before the center fires within the teepees had flickered out.
The ringing laughter, which had floated up through the smoke lapels, was now hushed, and only the distant howling of wolves broke the quiet of the village.
But the lull between midnight and dawn was short indeed. Very early the oval-shaped door-flaps were thrust aside and many brown faces peered out of the wigwams toward the top of the highest bluff.
Now the sun rose up out of the east. The red painted avenger stood ready within the camp ground for the flying of the red eagle. He appeared, that terrible bird! He hovered over the round village as if he could pounce down upon it and devour the whole tribe.
When the first arrow shot up into the sky the anxious watchers thrust a hand quickly over their half-uttered "hinnu!" The second and the third arrows flew upward but missed by a wide space the red eagle soaring with lazy indifference over the little man with the long bow.
All his arrows he spent in vain.
"Ah! my blanket brushed my elbow and shifted the course of my arrow!" said the stranger as the people gathered around him.
During this happening, a woman on horseback halted her pony at the chieftain's teepee. It was no other than a young woman who cut loose a tree-bound captive!
While she told the story the chieftain listened with downcast face.
"I passed him on my way. He is near!" she ended.
Indignant at the bold impostor, the wrathful eyes of the chieftain snapped fire like red cinders in the night time. His lips were closed. At length to the woman he said:
"How, you have done me a good deed."
Then with quick decision he gave command to a fleet horseman to meet the avenger.
"Clothe him in these my best buckskins," said he, pointing to a bundle within the wigwam.
In the meanwhile strong men seized Iktomi, the bowsman, and dragged him by his long hair to the hilltop.
There upon a mock-pillared grave they bound him hand and feet. Grown-ups and children sneered and hooted at Iktomi's disgrace. For a half-day he lay there, the laughing-stock of the people.
Upon the arrival of the real avenger, Iktomi was released and chased away beyond the outer limits of the camp ground.
On the following morning at daybreak, peeped the people out of half-open door-flaps.
There again in the midst of the large camp ground was a man in beaded buckskins. In his hand was a strong bow and red-tipped arrow. Again the big red eagle appeared on the edge of the bluff. He plumed his feathers and flapped his huge wings.
The young man crouched low to the ground. He placed the arrow on the bow, drawing a poisoned flint for the eagle.
The bird rose into the air. He moved his outspread wings one, two, three times and lo! the eagle tumbled from the great height and fell heavily to the earth. An arrow stuck in his breast!
He was dead!
So quick was the hand of the avenger, so sure his sight, that no one had seen the arrow fly from his long bent bow.
In awe and amazement the village was dumb. And when the avenger, plucking a red eagle feather, placed it in his black hair, a loud shout of the people went up to the sky.
Then hither and thither ran singing men and women making a great feast for the avenger.
Thus he won the beautiful Indian princess who never tired of telling to her children the story of the big red eagle. This comes from "Old Indian Days" - Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman), 1858-1939
Winona, The Child-Woman
Sioux traditions and culture
Braver than the bravest,
You sought honors at death's door;
Could you not remember
One who weeps at home --
Could you not remember me?
Braver than the bravest,
You sought honors more than love;
Dear, I weep, yet I am not a coward;
My heart weeps for thee --
My heart weeps when I remember thee!
-- Sioux Love Song
The sky is blue overhead, peeping through window-like openings in a roof of green leaves. Right between a great pine and a birch tree their soft doeskin shawls are spread, and there sit two Sioux maidens amid their fineries -- variously colored porcupine quills for embroidery laid upon sheets of thin birch-bark, and moccasin tops worked in colors like autumn leaves.
It is Winona and her friend Miniyata.
They have arrived at the period during which the young girl is carefully secluded from her brothers and cousins and future lovers, and retires, as it were, into the nunnery of the woods, behind a veil of thick foliage. Thus she is expected to develop fully her womanly qualities.
In meditation and solitude, entirely alone or with a chosen companion of her own sex and age, she gains a secret strength, as she studies the art of womanhood from nature herself.
Winona has the robust beauty of the wild lily of the prairie, pure and strong in her deep colors of yellow and scarlet against the savage plain and horizon, basking in the open sun like a child, yet soft and woman-like, with drooping head when observed.
Both girls are beautifully robed in loose gowns of soft doeskin, girded about the waist with the usual very wide leather belt.
"Come, let us practice our sacred dance," says one to the other.
Each crowns her glossy head with a wreath of wild flowers, and they dance with slow steps around the white birch, singing meanwhile the sacred songs.
Now upon the lake that stretches blue to the eastward there appears a distant canoe, a mere speck, no bigger than a bird far off against the shining sky.
"See the lifting of the paddles!" exclaims Winona.
"Like the leaping of a trout upon the water!" suggests Miniyata.
"I hope they will not discover us, yet I would like to know who they are," remarks the other, innocently.
The birch canoe approaches swiftly, with two young men plying the light cedar paddles. The girls now settle down to their needlework, quite as if they had never laughed or danced or woven garlands, bending over their embroidery in perfect silence. Surely they would not wish to attract attention, for the two sturdy young warriors have already landed.
They pick up the canoe and lay it well up on the bank, out of sight. Then one procures a strong pole. They lift a buck deer from the canoe -- not a mark upon it, save for the bullet wound; the deer looks as if it were sleeping! They tie the hind legs together and the forelegs also and carry it between them on the pole.
Quickly and cleverly they do all this; and now they start forward and come unexpectedly upon the maidens' retreat! They pause for an instant in mute apology, but the girls smile their forgiveness, and the youths hurry on toward the village.
Winona has attended her first maidens' feast and is considered eligible to marriage. She may receive young men, but not in public or in a social way, for such was not the custom of the Sioux. When he speaks, she need not answer him unless she chooses.
The Indian woman in her quiet way preserves the dignity of the home. From our standpoint the white man is a law-breaker! The "Great Mystery," we say, does not adorn the woman above the man. His law is spreading horns, or flowing mane, or gorgeous plumage for the male; the female he made plain, but comely, modest and gentle.
She is the foundation of man's dignity and honor. Upon her rests the life of the home and of the family. I have often thought that there is much in this philosophy of an untutored people. Had her husband remained long enough in one place, the Indian woman, I believe, would have developed no mean civilization and culture of her own.
It was no disgrace to the chief's daughter in the old days to work with her hands. Indeed, their standard of worth was the willingness to work, but not for the sake of accumulation, only in order to give.
Winona has learned to prepare skins, to remove the hair and tan the skin of a deer so that it may be made into moccasins within three days. She has a bone tool for each stage of the conversion of the stiff raw-hide into velvety leather. She has been taught the art of painting tents and raw-hide cases, and the manufacture of garments of all kinds.
Generosity is a trait that is highly developed in the Sioux woman. She makes many moccasins and other articles of clothing for her male relatives, or for any who are not well provided. She loves to see her brother the best dressed among the young men, and the moccasins especially of a young brave are the pride of his woman-kind. Her own person is neatly attired, but ordinarily with great simplicity. Her doeskin gown has wide, flowing sleeves; the neck is low, but not so low as is the evening dress of society.
Her moccasins are plain; her leggins close-fitting and not as high as her brother's. She parts her smooth, jet-black hair in the middle and plaits it in two. In the old days she used to do it in one plait wound around with wampum. Her ornaments, sparingly worn, are beads, elks' teeth, and a touch of red paint. No feathers are worn by the woman, unless in a sacred dance. She is supposed to be always occupied with some feminine pursuit or engaged in some social affair, which also is strictly feminine as a rule.
Even her language is peculiar to her sex, some words being used by women only, while others have a feminine termination. There is an etiquette of sitting and standing, which is strictly observed. The woman must never raise her knees or cross her feet when seated. She seats herself on the ground sidewise, with both feet under her.
Notwithstanding her modesty and undemonstrative ways, there is no lack of mirth and relaxation for Winona among her girl companions.
In summer, swimming and playing in the water is a favorite amusement. She even imitates with the soles of her feet the peculiar, resonant sound that the beaver makes with her large, flat tail upon the surface of the water. She is a graceful swimmer, keeping the feet together and waving them backward and forward like the tail of a fish.
Nearly all her games are different from those of the men. She has a sport of wand-throwing which develops fine muscles of the shoulder and back. The wands are about eight feet long, and taper gradually from an inch and a half to half an inch in diameter. Some of them are artistically made, with heads of bone and horn, so that it is remarkable to what a distance they may be made to slide over the ground. In the feminine game of ball, which is something like "shinny," the ball is driven with curved sticks between two goals. It is played with from two or three to a hundred on a side, and a game between two bands or villages is a picturesque event.
A common indoor diversion is the "deer's foot" game, played with six deer hoofs on a string, ending in a bone or steel awl. The object is to throw it in such a way as to catch one or more hoofs on the point of the awl, a feat which requires no little dexterity. Another is played with marked plum-stones in a bowl, which are thrown like dice and count according to the side that is turned uppermost.
Winona's wooing is a typical one. As with any other people, love-making is more or less in vogue at all times of the year, but more especially at midsummer, during the characteristic reunions and festivities of that season. The young men go about usually in pairs, and the maidens do likewise. They may meet by chance at any time of day, in the woods or at the spring, but oftenest seek to do so after dark, just outside the teepee. The girl has her companion, and he has his, for the sake of propriety or protection. The conversation is carried on in a whisper, so that even these chaperones do not hear.
At the sound of the drum on summer evenings, dances are begun within the circular rows of teepees, but without the circle the young men promenade in pairs. Each provides himself with the plaintive flute and plays the simple cadences of his people, while his person is completely covered with his fine robe, so that he cannot be recognized by the passerby. At every pause in the melody he gives his yodel-like love-call, to which the girls respond with their musical, sing-song laughter.
Matosapa has loved Winona since the time he saw her at the lakeside in her parlor among the pines. But he has not had much opportunity to speak until on such a night, after the dances are over. There is no outside fire; but a dim light from within the skin teepees sheds a mellow glow over the camp, mingling with the light of a young moon. Thus these lovers go about like ghosts. Matosapa has already circled the teepees with his inseparable brother-friend, Brave Elk.
"Friend, do me an honor to-night!" he exclaims, at last. "Open this first door for me, since this will be the first time I shall speak to a woman!"
"Ah," suggests Brave Elk, "I hope you have selected a girl whose grandmother has no cross dogs!"
"The prize that is won at great risk is usually valued most," replies Matosapa.
"Ho, kola! I shall touch the door-flap as softly as the swallow alights upon her nest. But I warn you, do not let your heart beat too loudly, for the old woman's ears are still good!"
So, joking and laughing, they proceed toward a large buffalo tent with a horse's tail suspended from the highest pole to indicate the rank of the owner. They have ceased to blow the flute some paces back, and walk noiselessly as a panther in quest of a doe.
Brave Elk opens the door. Matosapa enters the tent. As was the wont of the Sioux, the well-born maid has a little teepee within a teepee -- a private apartment of her own. He passes the sleeping family to this inner shrine. There he gently wakens Winona with proper apologies. This is not unusual or strange to her innocence, for it was the custom of the people. He sits at the door, while his friend waits outside, and tells his love in a whisper.
To this she does not reply at once; even if she loves him, it is proper that she should be silent. The lover does not know whether he is favorably received or not, upon this his first visit. He must now seek her outside upon every favorable occasion. No gifts are offered at this stage of the affair; the trafficking in ponies and "buying" a wife is entirely a modern custom.
Matosapa has improved every opportunity, until Winona has at last shyly admitted her willingness to listen. For a whole year he has been compelled at intervals to repeat the story of his love. Through the autumn hunting of the buffalo and the long, cold winter he often presents her kinsfolk with his game.
At the next midsummer the parents on both sides are made acquainted with the betrothal, and they at once begin preparations for the coming wedding. Provisions and delicacies of all kinds are laid aside for a feast. Matosapa's sisters and his girl cousins are told of the approaching event, and they too prepare for it, since it is their duty to dress or adorn the bride with garments made by their own hands.
With the Sioux of the old days, the great natural crises of human life, marriage and birth, were considered sacred and hedged about with great privacy. Therefore the union is publicly celebrated after and not before its consummation. Suddenly the young couple disappear. They go out into the wilderness together, and spend some days or weeks away from the camp. This is their honeymoon, away from all curious or prying eyes. In due time they quietly return, he to his home and she to hers, and now at last the marriage is announced and invitations are given to the feast.
The bride is ceremoniously delivered to her husband's people, together with presents of rich clothing collected from all her clan, which she afterward distributes among her new relations. Winona is carried in a travois handsomely decorated, and is received with equal ceremony. For several days following she is dressed and painted by the female relatives of the groom, each in her turn, while in both clans the wedding feast is celebrated.
To illustrate womanly nobility of nature, let me tell the story of Dowanhotaninwin, Her-Singing-Heard. The maiden was deprived of both father and mother when scarcely ten years old, by an attack of the Sacs and Foxes while they were on a hunting expedition. Left alone with her grandmother, she was carefully reared and trained by this sage of the wild life.
Nature had given her more than her share of attractiveness, and she was womanly and winning as she was handsome. Yet she remained unmarried for nearly thirty years -- a most unusual thing among us; and although she had worthy suitors in every branch of the Sioux nation, she quietly refused every offer.
Certain warriors who had distinguished themselves against the particular tribe who had made her an orphan, persistently sought her hand in marriage, but failed utterly. One summer the Sioux and the Sacs and Foxes were brought together under a flag of truce by the Commissioners of the Great White Father, for the purpose of making a treaty with them. During the short period of friendly intercourse and social dance and feast, a noble warrior of the enemy's tribe courted Dowanhotaninwin.
Several of her old lovers were vying with one another to win her at the same time, that she might have inter-tribal celebration of her wedding. Behold! the maiden accepted the foe of her childhood -- one of those who had cruelly deprived her of her parents! By night she fled to the Sac and Fox camp with her lover. It seemed at first an insult to the Sioux, and there was almost an outbreak among the young men of the tribe, who were barely restrained by their respect for the Commissioners of the Great Father. But her aged grandfather explained the matter publicly in this fashion:
"Young men, hear ye! Your hearts are strong; let them not be troubled by the act of a young woman of your tribe! This has been her secret wish since she became a woman. She deprecates all tribal warfare. Her young heart never forgot its early sorrow; yet she has never blamed the Sacs and Foxes or held them responsible for the deed. She blames rather the customs of war among us. She believes in the formation of a blood brotherhood strong enough to prevent all this cruel and useless enmity. This was her high purpose, and to this end she reserved her hand. Forgive her, forgive her, I pray!"
In the morning there was a great commotion. The herald of the Sacs and Foxes entered the Sioux camp, attired in ceremonial garb and bearing in one hand an American flag and in the other a peace-pipe. He made the rounds singing a peace song, and delivering to all an invitation to attend the wedding feast of Dowanhotaninwin and their chief's son. Thus all was well. The simplicity, high purpose, and bravery of the girl won the hearts of the two tribes, and as long as she lived she was able to keep the peace between them. - Source : - "Neshoba"
Water Sprit's Gift of Horses
In the days before horses a poor orphan boy lived among the Blackfeet. Because he was so poor he knew that he could never obtain the things he wanted without the secret power of the gods.
One day he left his camp to seek a vision that would tell him what he must do. He slept alone on a high mountain, he prayed near some great rocks, he fasted beside a river, but no vision came to him, no voice spoke to him. He traveled beyond the Sweetgrass Hills to a large lake, and because no sign of any kind had come to him he bowed down and wept.
In that lake lived a powerful Water Spirit, a very old man, and he heard the crying of the poor orphan boy.
The Water Spirit sent his young son to find the boy and ask why he was crying. The son went to the weeping boy and told him that his father who lived in the lake wished to see him.
"But how can I go to him if he lives under the lake?" the poor boy asked.
"Hold on to my shoulders and close your eyes," replied the Water Spirit's son. "Don't look until I tell you to do so."
They started into the water. As they moved along, the Water Spirit's son said to the boy:
"My father will offer you your choice of the animals in this lake. When he does so, be sure to choose the oldest mallard of the ducks and all its young ones."
As soon as they reached the underwater lodge of the Water Spirit, the son told the boy to open his eyes. He did so, and found himself standing before an old man with long white hair.
"Sit beside me," the Water Spirit said, and then asked;
"My boy, why do you come to this lake crying ?"
"I am a poor orphan," the boy replied. "I left my camp to search for secret powers so that I may be able to make my way in the world."
"Perhaps I can help you, " the Water Spirit said.
"You have seen all the animals in this lake. They are mine to give to whom I wish. What is your choice ?"
Remembering the advice of the Water Spirit's son, the boy replied: "I should thank you for the oldest mallard of the ducks and all its young ones."
"Don't take that one," the Water Spirit said, shaking his head. "It is old and of no value."
But the boy insisted. Four times he asked for the mallard, and then the Water Spirit smiled and said:
"You are a wise young man. When you leave my lodge my son will take you to the edge of the lake. After it is dark he will catch the mallard for you. But when you leave the lake, don't look back!"
The boy did as he was told. The Water Spirit's son gathered some marsh grass from the edge of the lake and braided it into a rope. With this rope he caught the old mallard and led it ashore. He placed the rope in the boy's hand and told him to walk on, but not to look back until sunrise.
As the boy walked on toward his camp in the darkness, he heard the duck's feathers flapping on the ground. Later he could no longer hear that sound. Instead he heard the sound of heavy feet pounding on the earth behind him, and from time to time the strange cry of an animal. The braided marsh grass turned into a rawhide rope in his hand.
But he did not look back until dawn. At daybreak he turned around and saw a strange animal at the end of the rope, a horse. A voice told him to mount the animal and he did so, using the rawhide rope as a bridle. By the time he reached camp, he saw many other horses following him.
The people of the camp were frightened by these strange animals, but the boy told them to have no fear. He dismounted and gave everybody horses from the herd that had followed him. There were plenty for everyone, and he had a large number left over for himself.
Until that time, the people had only dogs for carrying their packs and dragging their travois. The boy now showed them how to use the horses for packing, how to break them for riding, and he also gave the horse its Blackfeet name, elk dog.
One day the men asked him:
"These elk dogs, would they be of any use in hunting buffalo ?"
"Yes, let me show you," the boy replied, and as soon as they were mounted he led them out to a buffalo herd where he showed them how to chase buffalo on horseback. He also showed them how to make bridles, saddles, hackamores, whips and other gear for their horses.
Once when they came to a river, the men asked him:
"These elk dogs, are they of any use to us in water ?"
He replied: "That is where they are best. I got them from the water." And he showed them how to use horses in crossing streams.
When the boy grew older, his people made him a chief, and since that time,every Blackfeet chief has owned many horses
THE SPIRIT OF CREATION
Long time ago, before there were humans , the Great Spirit were asleep. He slept through millions of years, and the world didn't exist, all was dark and silent.
But, one time The Great Spirit woke up from a dream...he dreamt about a place he could be happy in all the dark unlimitable space. He dreamt about mountains, rivers, lakes, great plains and thousands of living creatures to fill it. The Great Spirit then created the cosmos...putting up planets, stars and everything that belonged....and he created earth, a blue shining diamond among the myriads of other galaxies and suns in the universe. He made the star called sun, and a drabant to regulate the tide , called the moon, and he let them work together to provide life on earth. After a while he saw that his creation was good, and rested for some time, dozing off...
A new dream arrived, a strange figure came walking through the dream and spoke to The Great Spirit..."- I am Man, your image on earth", he said, "- I want to run in Your forests, catch fish in your oceans, sleep under your stars and sing songs to honor You!". The Great Spirit was so touched by this dream , that He woke up and created Man at once. He called him "Human" and gave him everything he wanted, took great care of him, like Human took good care of The Great Spirit's creation.
This is how the world began, from the dreams of The Creator, and His hands. If you dream, you may dream about the first man, and know that he was called Human, a Native Son of The Great Spirit and Mother Earth.
This I dreamt during my dreamwalk one night. I can still hear the song honoring The Great Spirit, even thou someone wrongfully called God a white man's creator and put a white man's face on Him. This is the rightful Spirit, and the native is the first born Human among humans.
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