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Myths and Legends of the Sioux
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
OF THE SIOUX
MRS. MARIE L. MCLAUGHLIN
In loving memory of my mother,
MARY GRAHAM BUISSON,
at whose knee most of the stories
contained in this little volume
were told to me, this book is affec- tionately dedicated
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Forgotten Ear of Corn
The Little Mice
The Pet Rabbit
The Pet Donkey
The Rabbit and the Elk
The Rabbit and the Grouse Girls
The Faithful Lovers
The Artichoke and the Muskrat
The Rabbit, and the Bear with the Flint Body Story of the Lost Wife
The Raccoon and the Crawfish
Legend of Standing Rock
Story of the Peace Pipe
A Bashful Courtship
The Simpleton’s Wisdom
Little Brave and the Medicine Woman The Bound Children
The Signs of Corn
Story of the Rabbits
How the Rabbit Lost His Tail
Unktomi and the Arrowheads
The Bear and the Rabbit Hunt Buffalo The Brave Who Went on the Warpath Alone and Won the Name of the Lone Warrior
The Sioux Who Married the Crow Chief’s Daughter
The Boy and the Turtles
The Hermit, or the Gift of Corn
The Mysterious Butte
The Wonderful Turtle
The Man and the Oak
Story of the Two Young Friends
The Story of the Pet Crow
The “Wasna” (Pemmican Man) and the Unktomi (Spider) The Resuscitation of the Only Daughter
The Story of the Pet Crane
Story of Pretty Feathered Forehead
The Four Brothers or Inyanhoksila (Stone Boy) The Unktomi (Spider), Two Widows and the Red Plums
In publishing these “Myths of the Sioux,” I deem it proper to state that I am of one-fourth Sioux blood. My maternal grandfather, Captain Duncan Graham, a Scotchman by birth, who had seen service in the British Army, was one of a party of Scotch Highlanders who in 1811 arrived in the British Northwest by way of York Factory, Hudson Bay, to found what was known as the Selkirk Colony, near Lake Winnipeg, now within the province of Manitoba, Canada. Soon after his arrival at Lake Winnipeg he proceeded up the Red River of the North and the western fork thereof to its source, and thence down the Minnesota River to Mendota, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, where he located. My grandmother, Ha-za-ho-ta-win, was a full-blood of the Medawakanton Band of the Sioux Tribe of Indians. My father, Joseph Buisson, born near Montreal, Canada, was connected with the American Fur Company, with headquarters at Mendota, Minnesota, which point was for many years the chief distributing depot of the American Fur Company, from which the Indian trade conducted by that company on the upper Mississippi was directed.
I was born December 8, 1842, at Wabasha, Minnesota, then Indian country, and resided thereat until fourteen years of age, when I was sent to school at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
I was married to Major James McLaughlin at Mendota, Minnesota, January 28, 1864, and resided in Minnesota until July 1, 1871, when I accompanied my husband to Devils Lake Agency, North Dakota, then Dakota Territory, where I remained ten years in most friendly relations with the Indians of that agency. My husband was Indian agent at Devils Lake Agency, and in 1881 was transferred to Standing Rock, on the Missouri River, then a very important agency, to take charge of the Sioux who had then but recently surrendered to the military authorities, and been brought by steamboat from various points on the upper Missouri, to be permanently located on the Standing Rock reservation.
Having been born and reared in an Indian community, I at an early age acquired a thorough knowledge of the Sioux language, and having lived on Indian reservations for the past forty years in a position which brought me very near to the Indians, whose confidence I possessed, I have, therefore, had exceptional opportunities of learning the legends and folk-lore of the Sioux.
The stories contained in this little volume were told me by the older men and women of the Sioux, of which I made careful notes as related, knowing that, if not recorded, these fairy tales would be lost to posterity by the passing of the primitive Indian.
The notes of a song or a strain of music coming to us through the night not only give us pleasure by the melody they bring, but also give us knowledge of the character of the singer or of the instrument from which they proceed. There is something in the music which unerringly tells us of its source. I believe musicians call it the “timbre” of the sound. It is independent of, and different from, both pitch and rhythm; it is the texture of the music itself.
The “timbre” of a people’s stories tells of the qualities of that people’s heart. It is the texture of the thought, independent of its form or fashioning, which tells the quality of the mind from which it springs.
In the “timbre” of these stories of the Sioux, told in the lodges and at the camp fires of the past, and by the firesides of the Dakotas of today, we recognize the very texture of the thought of a simple, grave, and sincere people, living in intimate contact and friendship with the big out-of-doors that we call Nature; a race not yet understanding all things, not proud and boastful, but honest and childlike and fair; a simple, sincere, and gravely thoughtful people, willing to believe that there may be in even the everyday things of life something not yet fully understood; a race that can, without any loss of native dignity, gravely consider the simplest things, seeking to fathom their meaning and to learn their lesson–equally without vain-glorious boasting and trifling cynicism; an earnest, thoughtful, dignified, but simple and primitive people.
To the children of any race these stories can not fail to give pleasure by their vivid imaging of the simple things and creatures of the great out-of-doors and the epics of their doings. They will also give an intimate insight into the mentality of an interesting race at a most interesting stage of development, which is now fast receding into the mists of the past.
MARIE L. McLAUGHLIN (Mrs. James McLaughlin). McLaughlin, S. D., May 1, 1913.
THE FORGOTTEN EAR OF CORN
An Arikara woman was once gathering corn from the field to store away for winter use. She passed from stalk to stalk, tearing off the ears and dropping them into her folded robe. When all was gathered she started to go, when she heard a faint voice, like a child’s, weeping and calling:
“Oh, do not leave me! Do not go away without me.”
The woman was astonished. “What child can that be?” she asked herself. “What babe can be lost in the cornfield?”
She set down her robe in which she had tied up her corn, and went back to search; but she found nothing.
As she started away she heard the voice again:
“Oh, do not leave me. Do not go away without me.”
She searched for a long time. At last in one corner of the field, hidden under the leaves of the stalks, she found one little ear of corn. This it was that had been crying, and this is why all Indian women have since garnered their corn crop very carefully, so that the succulent food product should not even to the last small nubbin be neglected or wasted, and thus displease the Great Mystery.
THE LITTLE MICE
Once upon a time a prairie mouse busied herself all fall storing away a cache of beans. Every morning she was out early with her empty cast-off snake skin, which she filled with ground beans and dragged home with her teeth.
The little mouse had a cousin who was fond of dancing and talk, but who did not like to work. She was not careful to get her cache of beans and the season was already well gone before she thought to bestir herself. When she came to realize her need, she found she had no packing bag. So she went to her hardworking cousin and said:
“Cousin, I have no beans stored for winter and the season is nearly gone. But I have no snake skin to gather the beans in. Will you lend me one?”
“But why have you no packing bag? Where were you in the moon when the snakes cast off their skins?”
“I was here.”
“What were you doing?”
“I was busy talking and dancing.”
“And now you are punished,” said the other. “It is always so with lazy, careless people. But I will let you have the snake skin. And now go, and by hard work and industry, try to recover your wasted time.”
THE PET RABBIT
A little girl owned a pet rabbit which she loved dearly. She carried it on her back like a babe, made for it a little pair of moccasins, and at night shared with it her own robe.
Now the little girl had a cousin who loved her very dearly and wished to do her honor; so her cousin said to herself:
“I love my little cousin well and will ask her to let me carry her pet rabbit around;” (for thus do Indian women when they wish to honor a friend; they ask permission to carry about the friend’s babe).
She then went to the little girl and said:
“Cousin, let me carry your pet rabbit about on my back. Thus shall I show you how I love you.”
Her mother, too, said to her: “Oh no, do not let our little grandchild go away from our tepee.”
But the cousin answered: “Oh, do let me carry it. I do so want to show my cousin honor.” At last they let her go away with the pet rabbit on her back.
When the little girl’s cousin came home to her tepee, some rough boys who were playing about began to make sport of her. To tease the little girl they threw stones and sticks at the pet rabbit. At last a stick struck the little rabbit upon the head and killed it.
When her pet was brought home dead, the little rabbit’s adopted mother wept bitterly. She cut off her hair for mourning and all her little girl friends wailed with her. Her mother, too, mourned with them.
“Alas!” they cried, “alas, for the little rabbit. He was always kind and gentle. Now your child is dead and you will be lonesome.”
The little girl’s mother called in her little friends and made a great mourning feast for the little rabbit. As he lay in the tepee his adopted mother’s little friends brought many precious things and covered his body. At the feast were given away robes and kettles and blankets and knives and great wealth in honor of the little rabbit. Him they wrapped in a robe with his little moccasins on and buried him in a high place upon a scaffold.
THE PET DONKEY
There was a chief’s daughter once who had a great many relations so that everybody knew she belonged to a great family.
When she grew up she married and there were born to her twin sons. This caused great rejoicing in her father’s camp, and all the village women came to see the babes. She was very happy.
As the babes grew older, their grandmother made for them two saddle bags and brought out a donkey.
“My two grandchildren,” said the old lady, “shall ride as is becoming to children having so many relations. Here is this donkey. He is patient and surefooted. He shall carry the babes in the saddle bags, one on either side of his back.”
It happened one day that the chief’s daughter and her husband were making ready to go on a camping journey. The father, who was quite proud of his children, brought out his finest pony, and put the saddle bags on the pony’s back.
“There,” he said, “my sons shall ride on the pony, not on a donkey; let the donkey carry the pots and kettles.”
So his wife loaded the donkey with the household things. She tied the tepee poles into two great bundles, one on either side of the donkey’s back; across them she put the travois net and threw into it the pots and kettles and laid the skin tent across the donkey’s back.
But no sooner done than the donkey began to rear and bray and kick. He broke the tent poles and kicked the pots and kettles into bits and tore the skin tent. The more he was beaten the more he kicked.
At last they told the grandmother. She laughed. “Did I not tell you the donkey was for the children,” she cried. “He knows the babies are the chief’s children. Think you he will be dishonored with pots and kettles?” and she fetched the children and slung them over the donkey’s back, when he became at once quiet again.
The camping party left the village and went on their journey. But the next day as they passed by a place overgrown with bushes, a band of enemies rushed out, lashing their ponies and sounding their war whoop. All was excitement. The men bent their bows and seized their lances. After a long battle the enemy fled. But when the camping party came together again–where were the donkey and the two babes? No one knew. For a long time they searched, but in vain. At last they turned to go back to the village, the father mournful, the mother wailing. When they came to the grandmother’s tepee, there stood the good donkey with the two babes in the saddle bags.
THE RABBIT AND THE ELK
The little rabbit lived with his old grandmother, who needed a new dress. “I will go out and trap a deer or an elk for you,” he said. “Then you shall have a new dress.”
When he went out hunting he laid down his bow in the path while he looked at his snares. An elk coming by saw the bow.
“I will play a joke on the rabbit,” said the elk to himself. “I will make him think I have been caught in his bow string.” He then put one foot on the string and lay down as if dead.
By and by the rabbit returned. When he saw the elk he was filled with joy and ran home crying: “Grandmother, I have trapped a fine elk. You shall have a new dress from his skin. Throw the old one in the fire!”
This the old grandmother did.
The elk now sprang to his feet laughing. “Ho, friend rabbit,” he called, “You thought to trap me; now I have mocked you.” And he ran away into the thicket.
The rabbit who had come back to skin the elk now ran home again. “Grandmother, don’t throw your dress in the fire,” he cried. But it was too late. The old dress was burned.
THE RABBIT AND THE GROUSE GIRLS
The rabbit once went out on the prairie in winter time. On the side of a hill away from the wind he found a great company of girls all with grey and speckled blankets over their backs. They were the grouse girls and they were coasting down hill on a board. When the rabbit saw them, he called out:
“Oh, maidens, that is not a good way to coast down hill. Let me get you a fine skin with bangles on it that tinkle as you slide.” And away he ran to the tepee and brought a skin bag. It had red stripes on it and bangles that tinkled. “Come and get inside,” he said to the grouse girls. “Oh, no, we are afraid,” they answered. “Don’t be afraid, I can’t hurt you. Come, one of you,” said the rabbit. Then as each hung back he added coaxingly: “If each is afraid alone, come all together. I can’t hurt you all.”
And so he coaxed the whole flock into the bag. This done, the rabbit closed the mouth of the bag, slung it over his back and came home. “Grandmother,” said he, as he came to the tepee, “here is a bag full of game. Watch it while I go for willow sticks to make spits.”
But as soon as the rabbit had gone out of the tent, the grouse girls began to cry out:
“Grandmother, let us out.”
“Who are you?” asked the old woman.
“Your dear grandchildren,” they answered.
“But how came you in the bag?” asked the old woman.
“Oh, our cousin was jesting with us. He coaxed us in the bag for a joke. Please let us out.”
“Certainly, dear grandchildren, I will let you out,” said the old woman as she untied the bag: and lo, the grouse flock with achuck-a-chuck-achuck flew up, knocking over the old grandmother and flew out of the square smoke opening of the winter lodge. The old woman caught only one grouse as it flew up and held it, grasping a leg with each hand.
When the rabbit came home with the spits she called out to him:
“Grandson, come quick. They got out but I have caught two.”
When he saw what had happened he was quite angry, yet could not keep from laughing.
“Grandmother, you have but one grouse,” he cried, and it is a very skinny one at that.”
THE FAITHFUL LOVERS
There once lived a chief’s daughter who had many relations. All the young men in the village wanted to have her for wife, and were all eager to fill her skin bucket when she went to the brook for water.
There was a young man in the village who was industrious and a good hunter; but he was poor and of a mean family. He loved the maiden and when she went for water, he threw his robe over her head while he whispered in her ear:
“Be my wife. I have little but I am young and strong. I will treat you well, for I love you.”
For a long time the maiden did not answer, but one day she whispered back.
“Yes, you may ask my father’s leave to marry me. But first you must do something noble. I belong to a great family and have many relations. You must go on a war party and bring back the scalp of an enemy.”
The young man answered modestly, “I will try to do as you bid me. I am only a hunter, not a warrior. Whether I shall be brave or not I do not know. But I will try to take a scalp for your sake.”
So he made a war party of seven, himself and six other young men. They wandered through the enemy’s country, hoping to get a chance to strike a blow. But none came, for they found no one of the enemy.
“Our medicine is unfavorable,” said their leader at last. “We shall have to return home.”
Before they started they sat down to smoke and rest beside a beautiful lake at the foot of a green knoll that rose from its shore. The knoll was covered with green grass and somehow as they looked at it they had a feeling that there was something about it that was mysterious or uncanny.
But there was a young man in the party named the jester, for he was venturesome and full of fun. Gazing at the knoll he said: “Let’s run and jump on its top.”
“No,” said the young lover, “it looks mysterious. Sit still and finish your smoke.”
“Oh, come on, who’s afraid,” said the jester, laughing. “Come on you–come on!” and springing to his feet he ran up the side of the knoll.
Four of the young men followed. Having reached the top of the knoll all five began to jump and stamp about in sport, calling, “Come on, come on,” to the others. Suddenly they stopped–the knoll had begun to move toward the water. It was a gigantic turtle. The five men cried out in alarm and tried to run–too late! Their feet by some power were held fast to the monster’s back.
“Help us–drag us away,” they cried; but the others could do nothing. In a few moments the waves had closed over them.
The other two men, the lover and his friend, went on, but with heavy hearts, for they had forebodings of evil. After some days, they came to a river. Worn with fatigue the lover threw himself down on the bank.
“I will sleep awhile,” he said, “for I am wearied and worn out.”
“And I will go down to the water and see if I can chance upon a dead fish. At this time of the year the high water may have left one stranded on the seashore,” said his friend.
And as he had said, he found a fish which he cleaned, and then called to the lover.
“Come and eat the fish with me. I have cleaned it and made a fire and it is now cooking.”
“No, you eat it; let me rest,” said the lover.
“Oh, come on.”
“No, let me rest.”
“But you are my friend. I will not eat unless you share it with me.”
“Very well,” said the lover, “I will eat the fish with you, but you must first make me a promise. If I eat the fish, you must promise, pledge yourself, to fetch me all the water that I can drink.”
“I promise,” said the other, and the two ate the fish out of their war-kettle. For there had been but one kettle for the party.
When they had eaten, the kettle was rinsed out and the lover’s friend brought it back full of water. This the lover drank at a draught.
“Bring me more,” he said.
Again his friend filled the kettle at the river and again the lover drank it dry.
“More!” he cried.
“Oh, I am tired. Cannot you go to the river and drink your fill from the stream?” asked his friend.
“Remember your promise.”
“Yes, but I am weary. Go now and drink.”
“Ek-hey, I feared it would be so. Now trouble is coming upon us,” said the lover sadly. He walked to the river, sprang in, and lying down in the water with his head toward land, drank greedily. By and by he called to his friend.
“Come hither, you who have been my sworn friend. See what comes of your broken promise.”
The friend came and was amazed to see that the lover was now a fish from his feet to his middle.
Sick at heart he ran off a little way and threw himself upon the ground in grief. By and by he returned. The lover was now a fish to his neck.
“Cannot I cut off the part and restore you by a sweat bath?” the friend asked.
“No, it is too late. But tell the chief’s daughter that I loved her to the last and that I die for her sake. Take this belt and give it to her. She gave it to me as a pledge of her love for me,” and he being then turned to a great fish, swam to the middle of the river and there remained, only his great fin remaining above the water.
The friend went home and told his story. There was great mourning over the death of the five young men, and for the lost lover. In the river the great fish remained, its fin just above the surface, and was called by the Indians “Fish that Bars,” because it bar’d navigation. Canoes had to be portaged at great labor around the obstruction.
The chief’s daughter mourned for her lover as for a husband, nor would she be comforted. “He was lost for love of me, and I shall remain as his widow,” she wailed.
In her mother’s tepee she sat, with her head covered with her robe, silent, working, working. “What is my daughter doing,” her mother asked. But the maiden did not reply.
The days lengthened into moons until a year had passed. And then the maiden arose. In her hands were beautiful articles of clothing, enough for three men. There were three pairs of moccasins, three pairs of leggings, three belts, three shirts, three head dresses with beautiful feathers, and sweet smelling tobacco.
“Make a new canoe of bark,” she said, which was made for her.
Into the canoe she stepped and floated slowly down the river toward the great fish.
“Come back my daughter,” her mother cried in agony. “Come back. The great fish will eat you.”
She answered nothing. Her canoe came to the place where the great fin arose and stopped, its prow grating on the monster’s back. The maiden stepped out boldly. One by one she laid her presents on the fish’s back, scattering the feathers and tobacco over his broad spine.
“Oh, fish,” she cried, “Oh, fish, you who were my lover, I shall not forget you. Because you were lost for love of me, I shall never marry. All my life I shall remain a widow. Take these presents. And now leave the river, and let the waters run free, so my people may once more descend in their canoes.”
She stepped into her canoe and waited. Slowly the great fish sank, his broad fin disappeared, and the waters of the St. Croix (Stillwater) were free.
THE ARTICHOKE AND THE MUSKRAT
On the shore of a lake stood an artichoke with its green leaves waving in the sun. Very proud of itself it was, and well satisfied with the world. In the lake below lived a muskrat in his tepee, and in the evening as the sun set he would come out upon the shore and wander over the bank. One evening he came near the place where the artichoke stood.
“Ho, friend,” he said, “you seem rather proud of yourself. Who are you?” “I am the artichoke,” answered the other, “and I have many handsome cousins. But who are you?”
“I am the muskrat, and I, too, belong to a large family. I live in the water. I don’t stand all day in one place like a stone.”
“If I stand in one place all day,” retorted the artichoke, “at least I don’t swim around in stagnant water, and build my lodge in the mud.”
“You are jealous of my fine fur,” sneered the muskrat. “I may build my lodge in the mud, but I always have a clean coat. But you are half buried in the ground, and when men dig you up, you are never clean.”
“And your fine coat always smells of musk,” jeered the artichoke.
“That is true,” said the muskrat. “But men think well of me, nevertheless. They trap me for the fine sinew in my tail; and handsome young women bite off my tail with their white teeth and make it into thread.”
“That’s nothing,” laughed the artichoke. “Handsome young warriors, painted and splendid with feathers, dig me up, brush me off with their shapely hands and eat me without even taking the trouble to wash me off.”
THE RABBIT AND THE BEAR WITH THE
The Rabbit and his grandmother were in dire straits, because the rabbit was out of arrows. The fall hunt would soon be on and his quiver was all but empty. Arrow sticks he could cut in plenty, but he had nothing with which to make arrowheads.
“You must make some flint arrowheads,” said his grandmother. “Then you will be able to kill game.”
“Where shall I get the flint?” asked the rabbit.
“From the old bear chief,” said his old grandmother. For at that time all the flint in the world was in the bear’s body.
So the rabbit set out for the village of the Bears. It was winter time and the lodges of the bears were set under the shelter of a hill where the cold wind would not blow on them and where they had shelter among the trees and bushes.
He came at one end of the village to a hut where lived an old woman. He pushed open the door and entered. Everybody who came for flint always stopped there because it was the first lodge on the edge of the village. Strangers were therefore not unusual in the old woman’s hut, and she welcomed the rabbit. She gave him a seat and at night he lay with his feet to the fire.
The next morning the rabbit went to the lodge of the bear chief. They sat together awhile and smoked. At last the bear chief spoke.
“What do you want, my grandson?”
“I have come for some flint to make arrows,” answered the rabbit.
The bear chief grunted, and laid aside his pipe. Leaning back he pulled off his robe and, sure enough, one half of his body was flesh and the other half hard flint.
“Bring a stone hammer and give it to our guest,” he bade his wife. Then as the rabbit took the hammer he said: “Do not strike too hard.”
“Grandfather, I shall be careful,” said the rabbit. With a stroke he struck off a little flake of flint from the bear’s body.
“Ni-sko-ke-cha? So big?” he asked.
“Harder, grandson; strike off bigger pieces,” said the bear.
The rabbit struck a little harder.
“Ni-sko-ke-cha? So big?” he asked.
The bear grew impatient. “No, no, strike off bigger pieces. I can’t be here all day. Tanka kaksa wo! Break off a big piece.”
The rabbit struck again–hard! “Ni-sko-ke-cha?” he cried, as the hammer fell. But even as he spoke the bear’s body broke in two, the flesh part fell away and only the flint part remained. Like a flash the rabbit darted out of the hut.
There was a great outcry in the village. Openmouthed, all the bears gave chase. But as he ran the rabbit cried: “Wa-hin-han-yo (snow, snow) Ota-po, Ota-po–lots more, lots more,” and a great storm of snow swept down from the sky.
The rabbit, light of foot, bounded over the top of the snow. The bears sunk in and floundered about helpless. Seeing this, the rabbit turned back and killed them one by one with his club. That is why we now have so few bears.
STORY OF THE LOST WIFE
A Dakota girl married a man who promised to treat her kindly, but he did not keep his word. He was unreasonable, fault-finding, and often beat her. Frantic with his cruelty, she ran away. The whole village turned out to search for her, but no trace of the missing wife was to be found.
Meanwhile, the fleeing woman had wandered about all that day and the next night. The next day she met a man, who asked her who she was. She did not know it, but he was not really a man, but the chief of the wolves.
“Come with me,” he said, and he led her to a large village. She was amazed to see here many wolves–gray and black, timber wolves and coyotes. It seemed as if all the wolves in the world were there.
The wolf chief led the young woman to a great tepee and invited her in. He asked her what she ate for food.
“Buffalo meat,” she answered.
He called two coyotes and bade them bring what the young woman wanted. They bounded away and soon returned with the shoulder of a fresh-killed buffalo calf.
“How do you prepare it for eating?” asked the wolf chief.
“By boiling,” answered the young woman.
Again he called the two coyotes. Away they bounded and soon brought into the tent a small bundle. In it were punk, flint and steel–stolen, it may be, from some camp of men.
“How do you make the meat ready?” asked the wolf chief.
“I cut it into slices,” answered the young woman.
The coyotes were called and in a short time fetched in a knife in its sheath. The young woman cut up the calf’s shoulder into slices and ate it.
Thus she lived for a year, all the wolves being very kind to her. At the end of that time the wolf chief said to her:
“Your people are going off on a buffalo hunt. Tomorrow at noon they will be here. You must then go out and meet them or they will fall on us and kill us.”
The next day at about noon the young woman went to the top of a neighboring knoll. Coming toward her were some young men riding on their ponies. She stood up and held her hands so that they could see her. They wondered who she was, and when they were close by gazed at her closely.
“A year ago we lost a young woman; if you are she, where have you been,” they asked.
“I have been in the wolves’ village. Do not harm them,” she answered.
“We will ride back and tell the people,” they said. “Tomorrow again at noon, we shall meet you.”
The young woman went back to the wolf village, and the next day went again to a neighboring knoll, though to a different one. Soon she saw the camp coming in a long line over the prairie. First were the warriors, then the women and tents.
The young woman’s father and mother were overjoyed to see her. But when they came near her the young woman fainted, for she could not now bear the smell of human kind. When she came to herself she said:
“You must go on a buffalo hunt, my father and all the hunters. Tomorrow you must come again, bringing with you the tongues and choice pieces of the kill.”
This he promised to do; and all the men of the camp mounted their ponies and they had a great hunt. The next day they returned with their ponies laden with the buffalo meat. The young woman bade them pile the meat in a great heap between two hills which she pointed out to them. There was so much meat that the tops of the two hills were bridged level between by the meat pile. In the center of the pile the young woman planted a pole with a red flag. She then began to howl like a wolf, loudly.
In a moment the earth seemed covered with wolves. They fell greedily on the meat pile and in a short time had eaten the last scrap.
The young woman then joined her own people.
Her husband wanted her to come and live with him again. For a long time she refused. However, at last they became reconciled.
THE RACCOON AND THE CRAWFISH
Sharp and cunning is the raccoon, say the Indians, by whom he is named Spotted Face.
A crawfish one evening wandered along a river bank, looking for something dead to feast upon. A raccoon was also out looking for something to eat. He spied the crawfish and formed a plan to catch him.
He lay down on the bank and feigned to be dead. By and by the crawfish came near by. “Ho,” he thought, “here is a feast indeed; but is he really dead. I will go near and pinch him with my claws and find out.”
So he went near and pinched the raccoon on the nose and then on his soft paws. The raccoon never moved. The crawfish then pinched him on the ribs and tickled him so that the raccoon could hardly keep from laughing. The crawfish at last left him. “The raccoon is surely dead,” he thought. And he hurried back to the crawfish village and reported his find to the chief.
All the villagers were called to go down to the feast. The chief bade the warriors and young men to paint their faces and dress in their gayest for a dance.
So they marched in a long line–first the warriors, with their weapons in hand, then the women with their babies and children–to the place where the raccoon lay. They formed a great circle about him and danced, singing:
“We shall have a great feast
“On the spotted-faced beast, with soft smooth paws:
“He is dead!
“He is dead!
“We shall dance!
“We shall have a good time;
“We shall feast on his flesh.”
But as they danced, the raccoon suddenly sprang to his feet.
“Who is that you say you are going to eat? He has a spotted face, has he? He has soft, smooth paws, has he? I’ll break your ugly backs. I’ll break your rough bones. I’ll crunch your ugly, rough paws.” And he rushed among the crawfish, killing them by scores. The crawfish warriors fought bravely and the women ran screaming, all to no purpose. They did not feast on the raccoon; the raccoon feasted on them!
LEGEND OF STANDING ROCK
A Dakota had married an Arikara woman, and by her had one child. By and by he took another wife. The first wife was jealous and pouted. When time came for the village to break camp she refused to move from her place on the tent floor. The tent was taken down but she sat on the ground with her babe on her back The rest of the camp with her husband went on.
At noon her husband halted the line. “Go back to your sister-in-law,” he said to his two brothers. “Tell her to come on and we will await you here. But hasten, for I fear she may grow desperate and kill herself.”
The two rode off and arrived at their former camping place in the evening. The woman still sat on the ground. The elder spoke:
“Sister-in-law, get up. We have come for you. The camp awaits you.”
She did not answer, and he put out his hand and touched her head. She had turned to stone!
The two brothers lashed their ponies and came back to camp. They told their story, but were not believed. “The woman has killed herself and my brothers will not tell me,” said the husband. However, the whole village broke camp and came back to the place where they had left the woman. Sure enough, she sat there still, a block of stone.
The Indians were greatly excited. They chose out a handsome pony, made a new travois and placed the stone in the carrying net. Pony and travois were both beautifully painted and decorated with streamers and colors. The stone was thought “wakan” (holy),
and was given a place of honor in the center of the camp. Whenever the camp moved the stone and travois were taken along. Thus the stone woman was carried for years, and finally brought to Standing Rock Agency, and now rests upon a brick pedestal in front of the Agency office. From this stone Standing Rock Agency derives its name.
STORY OF THE PEACE PIPE
Two young men were out strolling one night talking of love affairs. They passed around a hill and came to a little ravine or coulee. Suddenly they saw coming up from the ravine a beautiful woman. She was painted and her dress was of the very finest material.
“What a beautiful girl!” said one of the young men. “Already I love her. I will steal her and make her my wife.”
“No,” said the other. “Don’t harm her. She may be holy.”
The young woman approached and held out a pipe which she first offered to the sky, then to the earth and then advanced, holding it out in her extended hands.
“I know what you young men have been saying; one of you is good; the other is wicked,” she said.
She laid down the pipe on the ground and at once became a buffalo cow. The cow pawed the ground, stuck her tail straight out behind her and then lifted the pipe from the ground again in her hoofs; immediately she became a young woman again.
“I am come to give you this gift,” she said. “It is the peace pipe. Hereafter all treaties and ceremonies shall be performed after smoking it. It shall bring peaceful thoughts into your minds. You shall offer it to the Great Mystery and to mother earth.”
The two young men ran to the village and told what they had seen and heard. All the village came out where the young woman was.
She repeated to them what she had already told the young men and added:
“When you set free the ghost (the spirit of deceased persons) you must have a white buffalo cow skin.”
She gave the pipe to the medicine men of the village, turned again to a buffalo cow and fled away to the land of buffaloes.
A BASHFUL COURTSHIP
A young man lived with his grandmother. He was a good hunter and wished to marry. He knew a girl who was a good moccasin maker, but she belonged to a great family. He wondered how he could win her.
One day she passed the tent on her way to get water at the river. His grandmother was at work in the tepee with a pair of old worn-out sloppy moccasins. The young man sprang to his feet. “Quick, grandmother–let me have those old sloppy moccasins you have on your feet!” he cried.
“My old moccasins, what do you want of them?” cried the astonished woman.
“Never mind! Quick! I can’t stop to talk,” answered the grandson as he caught up the old moccasins the old lady had doffed, and put them on. He threw a robe over his shoulders, slipped through the door, and hastened to the watering place. The girl had just arrived with her bucket.
“Let me fill your bucket for you,” said the young man.
“Oh, no, I can do it.”
“Oh, let me, I can go in the mud. You surely don’t want to soil your moccasins,” and taking the bucket he slipped in the mud, taking care to push his sloppy old moccasins out so the girl could see them. She giggled outright.
“My, what old moccasins you have,” she cried.
“Yes, I have nobody to make me a new pair,” he answered.
“Why don’t you get your grandmother to make you a new pair?”
“She’s old and blind and can’t make them any longer. That’s why I want you,” he answered.
“Oh, you’re fooling me. You aren’t speaking the truth.”
“Yes, I am. If you don’t believe–come with me now!“
The girl looked down; so did the youth. At last he said softly:
“Well, which is it? Shall I take up your bucket, or will you go with me?”
And she answered, still more softly: “I guess I’ll go with you!”
The girl’s aunt came down to the river, wondering what kept her niece so long. In the mud she found two pairs of moccasin tracks close together; at the edge of the water stood an empty keg.
THE SIMPLETON’S WISDOM
There was a man and his wife who had one daughter. Mother and daughter were deeply attached to one another, and when the latter died the mother was disconsolate. She cut off her hair, cut gashes in her cheeks and sat before the corpse with her robe drawn over her head, mourning for her dead. Nor would she let them touch the body to take it to a burying scaffold. She had a knife in her hand, and if anyone offered to come near the body the mother would wail:
“I am weary of life. I do not care to live. I will stab myself with this knife and join my daughter in the land of spirits.”
Her husband and relatives tried to get the knife from her, but could not. They feared to use force lest she kill herself. They came together to see what they could do.
“We must get the knife away from her,” they said.
At last they called a boy, a kind of simpleton, yet with a good deal of natural shrewdness. He was an orphan and very poor. His moccasins were out at the sole and he was dressed in wei-zi (coarse buffalo skin, smoked).
“Go to the tepee of the mourning mother,” they told the simpleton, “and in some way contrive to make her laugh and forget her grief. Then try to get the knife away from her.”
The boy went to the tent and sat down at the door as if waiting to be given something. The corpse lay in the place of honor where the dead girl had slept in life. The body was wrapped in a rich robe and wrapped about with ropes. Friends had covered it with rich offerings out of respect to the dead.
As the mother sat on the ground with her head covered she did not at first see the boy, who sat silent. But when his reserve had worn away a little he began at first lightly, then more heavily, to drum on the floor with his hands. After a while he began to sing a comic song. Louder and louder he sang until carried away with his own singing he sprang up and began to dance, at the same time gesturing and making all manner of contortions with his body, still singing the comic song. As he approached the corpse he waved his hands over it in blessing. The mother put her head out of the blanket and when she saw the poor simpleton with his strange grimaces trying to do honor to the corpse by his solemn waving, and at the same time keeping up his comic song, she burst out laughing. Then she reached over and handed her knife to the simpleton.
“Take this knife,” she said. “You have taught me to forget my grief. If while I mourn for the dead I can still be mirthful, there is no reason for me to despair. I no longer care to die. I will live for my husband.”
The simpleton left the tepee and brought the knife to the astonished husband and relatives.
“How did you get it? Did you force it away from her, or did you steal it?” they said.
“She gave it to me. How could I force it from her or steal it when she held it in her hand, blade uppermost? I sang and danced for her and she burst out laughing. Then she gave it to me,” he answered.
When the old men of the village heard the orphan’s story they were very silent. It was a strange thing for a lad to dance in a tepee where there was mourning. It was stranger that a mother should laugh in a tepee before the corpse of her dead daughter. The old men gathered at last in a council. They sat a long time without saying anything, for they did not want to decide hastily. The pipe was filled and passed many times. At last an old man spoke.
“We have a hard question. A mother has laughed before the corpse of her daughter, and many think she has done foolishly, but I think the woman did wisely. The lad was simple and of no training, and we cannot expect him to know how to do as well as one with good home and parents to teach him. Besides, he did the best that he knew. He danced to make the mother forget her grief, and he tried to honor the corpse by waving over it his hands.”
“The mother did right to laugh, for when one does try to do us good, even if what he does causes us discomfort, we should always remember rather the motive than the deed. And besides, the simpleton’s dancing saved the woman’s life, for she gave up her knife. In this, too, she did well, for it is always better to live for the living than to die for the dead.”
A LITTLE BRAVE AND THE MEDICINE
A village of Indians moved out of winter camp and pitched their tents in a circle on high land overlooking a lake. A little way down the declivity was a grave. Choke cherries had grown up, hiding the grave from view. But as the ground had sunk somewhat, the grave was marked by a slight hollow.
One of the villagers going out to hunt took a short cut through the choke cherry bushes. As he pushed them aside he saw the hollow grave, but thought it was a washout made by the rains. But as he essayed to step over it, to his great surprise he stumbled and fell. Made curious by his mishap, he drew back and tried again; but again he fell. When he came back to the village he told the old men what had happened to him. They remembered then that a long time before there had been buried there a medicine woman or conjurer. Doubtless it was her medicine that made him stumble.
The story of the villager’s adventure spread thru the camp and made many curious to see the grave. Among others were six little boys who were, however, rather timid, for they were in great awe of the dead medicine woman. But they had a little playmate named Brave, a mischievous little rogue, whose hair was always unkempt and tossed about and who was never quiet for a moment.
“Let us ask Brave to go with us,” they said; and they went in a body to see him.
“All right,” said Brave; “I will go with you. But I have something to do first. You go on around the hill that way, and I will
hasten around this way, and meet you a little later near the grave.”
So the six little boys went on as bidden until they came to a place near the grave. There they halted.
“Where is Brave?” they asked.
Now Brave, full of mischief, had thought to play a jest on his little friends. As soon as they were well out of sight he had sped around the hill to the shore of the lake and sticking his hands in the mud had rubbed it over his face, plastered it in his hair, and soiled his hands until he looked like a new risen corpse with the flesh rotting from his bones. He then went and lay down in the grave and awaited the boys.
When the six little boys came they were more timid than ever when they did not find Brave; but they feared to go back to the village without seeing the grave, for fear the old men would call them cowards.
So they slowly approached the grave and one of them timidly called out:
“Please, grandmother, we won’t disturb your grave. We only want to see where you lie. Don’t be angry.”
At once a thin quavering voice, like an old woman’s, called out:
“Han, han, takoja, hechetuya, hechetuya! Yes, yes, that’s right, that’s right.”
The boys were frightened out of their senses, believing the old woman had come to life.
“Oh, grandmother,” they gasped, “don’t hurt us; please don’t, we’ll go.”
Just then Brave raised his muddy face and hands up thru the choke cherry bushes. With the oozy mud dripping from his features he looked like some very witch just raised from the grave. The boys screamed outright. One fainted. The rest ran yelling up the hill to the village, where each broke at once for his mother’s tepee.
As all the tents in a Dakota camping circle face the center, the boys as they came tearing into camp were in plain view from the tepees. Hearing the screaming, every woman in camp ran to her tepee door to see what had happened. Just then little Brave, as badly scared as the rest, came rushing in after them, his hair on end and covered with mud and crying out, all forgetful of his appearance:
“It’s me, it’s me!”
The women yelped and bolted in terror from the village. Brave dashed into his mother’s tepee, scaring her out of her wits. Dropping pots and kettles, she tumbled out of the tent to run screaming with the rest. Nor would a single villager come near poor little Brave until he had gone down to the lake and washed himself.
THE BOUND CHILDREN
There once lived a widow with two children–the elder a daughter and the younger a son. The widow went in mourning for her husband a long time. She cut off her hair, let her dress lie untidy on her body and kept her face unpainted and unwashed.
There lived in the same village a great chief. He had one son just come old enough to marry. The chief had it known that he wished his son to take a wife, and all of the young women in the village were eager to marry the young man. However, he was pleased with none of them.
Now the widow thought, “I am tired of mourning for my husband and caring for my children. Perhaps if I lay aside my mourning and paint myself red, the chief’s son may marry me.”
So she slipped away from her two children, stole down to the river and made a bathing place thru the ice. When she had washed away all signs of mourning, she painted and decked herself and went to the chief’s tepee. When his son saw her, he loved her, and a feast was made in honor of her wedding.
When the widow’s daughter found herself forsaken, she wept bitterly. After a day or two she took her little brother in her arms and went to the tepee of an old woman who lived at one end of the village. The old woman’s tumble down tepee was of bark and her dress and clothing was of old smoke-dried tent cover. But she was kind to the two waifs and took them in willingly.
The little girl was eager to find her mother. The old woman said to her: “I suspect your mother has painted her face red. Do not try to find her. If the chief’s son marries her she will not want to be burdened with you.”
The old woman was right. The girl went down to the river, and sure enough found a hole cut in the ice and about it lay the filth that the mother had washed from her body. The girl gathered up the filth and went on. By and by she came to a second hole in the ice. Here too was filth, but not so much as at the previous place. At the third hole the ice was clean.
The girl knew now that her mother had painted her face red. She went at once to the chief’s tepee, raised the door flap and went in. There sat her mother with the chief’s son at their wedding feast.
The girl walked up to her mother and hurled the filth in her mother’s face.
“There,” she cried, “you who forsake your helpless children and forget your husband, take that!”
And at once her mother became a hideous old woman.
The girl then went back to the lodge of the old woman, leaving the camp in an uproar. The chief soon sent some young warriors to seize the girl and her brother, and they were brought to his tent. He was furious with anger.
“Let the children be bound with lariats wrapped about their bodies and let them be left to starve. Our camp will move on,” he said. The chief’s son did not put away his wife, hoping she might be cured in some way and grow young again.
Everybody in camp now got ready to move; but the old woman came close to the girl and said:
“In my old tepee I have dug a hole and buried a pot with punk and steel and flint and packs of dried meat. They will tie you up like a corpse. But before we go I will come with a knife and pretend to stab you, but I will really cut the rope that binds you so that you can unwind it from your body as soon as the camp is out of sight and hearing.”
And so, before the camp started, the old woman came to the place where the two children were bound. She had in her hand a knife bound to the end of a stick which she used as a lance. She stood over the children and cried aloud:
“You wicked girl, who have shamed your own mother, you deserve all the punishment that is given you. But after all I do not want to let you lie and starve. Far better kill you at once and have done with it!” and with her stick she stabbed many times, as if to kill, but she was really cutting the rope.
The camp moved on; but the children lay on the ground until noon the next day. Then they began to squirm about. Soon the girl was free, and she then set loose her little brother. They went at once to the old woman’s hut where they found the flint and steel and the packs of dried meat.
The girl made her brother a bow and arrows and with these he killed birds and other small game.
The boy grew up a great hunter. They became rich. They built three great tepees, in one of which were stored rows upon rows of parfleche bags of dried meat.
One day as the brother went out to hunt, he met a handsome young stranger who greeted him and said to him:
“I know you are a good hunter, for I have been watching you; your sister, too, is industrious. Let me have her for a wife. Then you and I will be brothers and hunt together.”
The girl’s brother went home and told her what the young stranger had said.
“Brother, I do not care to marry,” she answered. “I am now happy with you.”
“But you will be yet happier married,” he answered, “and the young stranger is of no mean family, as one can see by his dress and manners.”
“Very well, I will do as you wish,” she said. So the stranger came into the tepee and was the girl’s husband.
One day as they were in their tent, a crow flew overhead, calling out loudly,
They who forsook the children have no meat.”
The girl and her husband and brother looked up at one another.
“What can it mean?” they asked. “Let us send for Unktomi (the spider). He is a good judge and he will know.”
“And I will get ready a good dinner for him, for Unktomi is always hungry,” added the young wife.
When Unktomi came, his yellow mouth opened with delight at the fine feast spread for him. After he had eaten he was told what the crow had said.
“The crow means,” said Unktomi, “that the villagers and chief who bound and deserted you are in sad plight. They have hardly anything to eat and are starving.”
When the girl heard this she made a bundle of choicest meat and called the crow.
“Take this to the starving villagers,” she bade him.
He took the bundle in his beak, flew away to the starving village and dropped the bundle before the chief’s tepee. The chief came out and the crow called loudly:
The children who were forsaken have much meat; those who forsook them have none.”
“What can he mean,” cried the astonished villagers.
“Let us send for Unktomi,” said one, “he is a great judge; he will tell us.”
They divided the bundle of meat among the starving people, saving the biggest piece for Unktomi.
When Unktomi had come and eaten, the villagers told him of the crow and asked what the bird’s words meant.
“He means,” said Unktomi, “that the two children whom you forsook have tepees full of dried meat enough for all the village.”
The villagers were filled with astonishment at this news. To find whether or not it was true, the chief called seven young men and sent them out to see. They came to the three tepees and there met the girl’s brother and husband just going out to hunt (which they did now only for sport).
The girl’s brother invited the seven young men into the third or sacred lodge, and after they had smoked a pipe and knocked out the ashes on a buffalo bone the brother gave them meat to eat, which the seven devoured greedily. The next day he loaded all seven with packs of meat, saying:
“Take this meat to the villagers and lead them hither.”
While they awaited the return of the young men with the villagers, the girl made two bundles of meat, one of the best and choicest pieces, and the other of liver, very dry and hard to eat. After a few days the camp arrived. The young woman’s mother opened the door and ran in crying: “Oh, my dear daughter, how glad I am to see you.” But the daughter received her coldly and gave her the bundle of dried liver to eat. But when the old woman who had saved the children’s lives came in, the young girl received her gladly, called her grandmother, and gave her the package of choice meat with marrow.
Then the whole village camped and ate of the stores of meat all the winter until spring came; and withal they were so many, there was such abundance of stores that there was still much left.
THE SIGNS OF CORN
When corn is to be planted by the Indians, it is the work of the women folk to see to the sorting and cleaning of the best seed. It is also the women’s work to see to the planting. (This was in olden times.)
After the best seed has been selected, the planter measures the corn, lays down a layer of hay, then a layer of corn. Over this corn they sprinkle warm water and cover it with another layer of hay, then bind hay about the bundle and hang it up in a spot where the warm rays of the sun can strike it.
While the corn is hanging in the sun, the ground is being prepared to receive it. Having finished the task of preparing the ground, the woman takes down her seed corn which has by this time sprouted. Then she proceeds to plant the corn.
Before she plants the first hill, she extends her hoe heavenwards and asks the Great Spirit to bless her work, that she may have a good yield. After her prayer she takes four kernels and plants one at the north, one at the south, one at the east and one at the west sides of the first hill. This is asking the Great Spirit to give summer rain and sunshine to bring forth a good crop.
For different growths of the corn, the women have an interpretation as to the character of the one who planted it.
1st. Where the corn grows in straight rows and the cob is full of kernels to the end, this signifies that the planter of this corn is of an exemplary character, and is very truthful and thoughtful.
2nd. If the rows on the ears of corn are irregular and broken, the planter is considered careless and unthoughtful. Also disorderly and slovenly about her house and person.
3rd. When an ear of corn bears a few scattering kernels with spaces producing no corn, it is said that is a good sign that the planter will live to a ripe old age. So old will they be that like the corn, their teeth will be few and far between.
4th. When a stalk bears a great many nubbins, or small ears growing around the large one, it is a sign that the planter is from a large and respectable family.
After the corn is gathered, it is boiled into sweet corn and made into hominy; parched and mixed with buffalo tallow and rolled into round balls, and used at feasts, or carried by the warriors on the warpath as food.
When there has been a good crop of corn, an ear is always tied at the top of the medicine pole, of the sun dance, in thanks to the Great Spirit for his goodness to them in sending a bountiful crop.
STORY OF THE RABBITS
The Rabbit nation were very much depressed in spirits on account of being run over by all other nations. They, being very obedient to their chief, obeyed all his orders to the letter. One of his orders was, that upon the approach of any other nation that they should follow the example of their chief and run up among the rocks and down into their burrows, and not show themselves until the strangers had passed.
This they always did. Even the chirp of a little cricket would send them all scampering to their dens.
One day they held a great council, and after talking over everything for some time, finally left it to their medicine man to decide. The medicine man arose and said:
“My friends, we are of no use on this earth. There isn’t a nation on earth that fears us, and we are so timid that we cannot defend ourselves, so the best thing for us to do is to rid the earth of our nation, by all going over to the big lake and drowning ourselves.”
This they decided to do; so going to the lake they were about to jump in, when they heard a splashing in the water. Looking, they saw a lot of frogs jumping into the lake.
“We will not drown ourselves,” said the medicine man, “we have found a nation who are afraid of us. It is the frog nation.” Had it not been for the frogs we would have had no rabbits, as the whole nation would have drowned themselves and the rabbit race would have been extinct.
HOW THE RABBIT LOST HIS TAIL
Once upon a time there were two brothers, one a great Genie and the other a rabbit. Like all genie, the older could change himself into any kind of an animal, bird, fish, cloud, thunder and lightning, or in fact anything that he desired.
The younger brother (the rabbit) was very mischievous and was continually getting into all kinds of trouble. His older brother was kept busy getting Rabbit out of all kinds of scrapes.
When Rabbit had attained his full growth he wanted to travel around and see something of the world. When he told his brother what he intended to do, the brother said: “Now, Rabbit, you are Witkotko (mischievous), so be very careful, and keep out of trouble as much as possible. In case you get into any serious trouble, and can’t get out by yourself, just call on me for assistance, and no matter where you are, I will come to you.”
Rabbit started out and the first day he came to a very high house, outside of which stood a very high pine tree. So high was the tree that Rabbit could hardly see the top. Outside the door, on an enormous stool, sat a very large giant fast asleep. Rabbit (having his bow and arrows with him) strung up his bow, and, taking an arrow from his quiver, said:
“I want to see how big this man is, so I guess I will wake him up.” So saying he moved over to one side and took good aim, and shot the giant upon the nose. This stung like fire and awoke the giant, who jumped up, crying: “Who had the audacity to shoot me on the nose?” “I did,” said Rabbit.
The giant, hearing a voice, looked all around, but saw nothing, until he looked down at the corner of the house, and there sat a rabbit.
“I had hiccoughs this morning and thought that I was going to have a good big meal, and here is nothing but a toothful.”
“I guess you won’t make a toothful of me,” said Rabbit, “I am as strong as you, though I am little.” “We will see,” said the giant. He went into the house and came out, bringing a hammer that weighed many tons.
“Now, Mr. Rabbit, we will see who can throw this hammer over the top of that tree.” “Get something harder to do,” said Rabbit.
“Well, we will try this first,” said the giant. With that he grasped the hammer in both hands, swung it three times around his head and sent it spinning thru the air. Up, up, it went, skimming the top of the tree, and came down, shaking the ground and burying itself deep into the earth.
“Now,” said the giant, “if you don’t accomplish this same feat, I am going to swallow you at one mouthful.” Rabbit said, “I always sing to my brother before I attempt things like this.” So he commenced singing and calling his brother. “Cinye! Cinye!” (brother, brother) he sang. The giant grew nervous, and said: “Boy, why do you call your brother?”
Pointing to a small black cloud that was approaching very swiftly, Rabbit said: “That is my brother; he can destroy you, your house, and pine tree in one breath.”
“Stop him and you can go free,” said the giant. Rabbit waved his paws and the cloud disappeared.
From this place Rabbit continued on his trip towards the west. The next day, while passing thru a deep forest, he thought he heard some one moaning, as though in pain. He stopped and listened; soon the wind blew and the moaning grew louder. Following the direction from whence came the sound, he soon discovered a man stripped of his clothing, and caught between two limbs of a tall elm tree. When the wind blew the limbs would rub together and squeeze the man, who would give forth the mournful groans.
“My, you have a fine place up there. Let us change. You can come down and I will take your place.” (Now this man had been placed up there for punishment, by Rabbit’s brother, and he could not get down unless some one came along and proposed to take his place on the tree). “Very well,” said the man. “Take off your clothes and come up. I will fasten you in the limbs and you can have all the fun you want.”
Rabbit disrobed and climbed up. The man placed him between the limbs and slid down the tree. He hurriedly got into Rabbit’s clothes, and just as he had completed his toilet, the wind blew very hard. Rabbit was nearly crazy with pain, and screamed and cried. Then he began to cry “Cinye, Cinye” (brother, brother). “Call your brother as much as you like, he can never find me.” So saying the man disappeared in the forest.
Scarcely had he disappeared, when the brother arrived, and seeing Rabbit in the tree, said: “Which way did he go?” Rabbit pointed the direction taken by the man. The brother flew over the top of the trees, soon found the man and brought him back, making him take his old place between the limbs, and causing a heavy wind to blow and continue all afternoon and night, for punishment to the man for having placed his brother up there.
After Rabbit got his clothes back on, his brother gave him a good scolding, and wound up by saying: “I want you to be more careful in the future. I have plenty of work to keep me as busy as I want to be, and I can’t be stopping every little while to be making trips to get you out of some foolish scrape. It was only yesterday that I came five hundred miles to help you from the giant, and today I have had to come a thousand miles, so be more careful from this on.”
Several days after this the Rabbit was traveling along the banks of a small river, when he came to a small clearing in the woods, and in the center of the clearing stood a nice little log hut. Rabbit was wondering who could be living here when the door slowly opened and an old man appeared in the doorway, bearing a tripe water pail in his right hand. In his left hand he held a string which was fastened to the inside of the house. He kept hold of the string and came slowly down to the river. When he got to the water he stooped down and dipped the pail into it and returned to the house, still holding the string for guidance.
Soon he reappeared holding on to another string, and, following this one, went to a large pile of wood and returned to the house with it. Rabbit wanted to see if the old man would come out again, but he came out no more. Seeing smoke ascending from the mud chimney, he thought he would go over and see what the old man was doing. He knocked at the door, and a weak voice bade him enter. He noticed that the old man was cooking dinner.
“Hello Tunkasina (grandfather), you must have a nice time, living here alone. I see that you have everything handy. You can get wood and water, and that is all you have to do. How do you get your provisions?”
“The wolves bring my meat, the mice my rice and ground beans, and the birds bring me the cherry leaves for my tea. Yet it is a hard life, as I am all alone most of the time and have no one to talk to, and besides, I am blind.”
“Say, grandfather,” said Rabbit, “let us change places. I think I would like to live here.”
“If we exchange clothes,” said the other, “you will become old and blind, while I will assume your youth and good looks.” (Now, this old man was placed here for punishment by Rabbit’s brother. He had killed his wife, so the genie made him old and blind, and he would remain so until some one came who would exchange places with him).
“I don’t care for youth and good looks,” said Rabbit, “let us make the change.”
They changed clothes, and Rabbit became old and blind, whilst the old man became young and handsome.
“Well, I must go,” said the man. He went out and cutting the strings close to the door, ran off laughing. “You will get enough of your living alone, you crazy boy,” and saying this he ran into the woods.
Rabbit thought he would like to get some fresh water and try the string paths so that he would get accustomed to it. He bumped around the room and finally found the tripe water bucket. He took hold of the string and started out. When he had gotten a short distance from the door he came to the end of the string so suddenly, that he lost the end which he had in his hand, and he wandered about, bumping against the trees, and tangling himself up in plum bushes and thorns, scratching his face and hands so badly that the blood ran from them. Then it was that he commenced again to cry, “Cinye! Cinye!” (brother, brother). Soon his brother arrived, and asked which way the old man had gone.
“I don’t know,” said Rabbit, “I couldn’t see which path he took, as I was blind.”
The genie called the birds, and they came flying from every direction. As fast as they arrived the brother asked them if they had seen the man whom he had placed here for punishment, but none had seen him. The owl came last, and when asked if he had seen the man, he said “hoo-hoo.” “The man who lived here,” said the brother. “Last night I was hunting mice in the woods south of here and I saw a man sleeping beneath a plum tree. I thought it was your brother, Rabbit, so I didn’t awaken him,” said the owl.
“Good for you, owl,” said the brother, “for this good news, you shall hereafter roam around only at night, and I will fix your eyes, so the darker the night the better you will be able to see. You will always have the fine cool nights to hunt your food. You other birds can hunt your food during the hot daylight.” (Since then the owl has been the night bird).
The brother flew to the woods and brought the man back and cut the strings short, and said to him: “Now you can get a taste of what you gave my brother.”
To Rabbit he said: “I ought not to have helped you this time. Any one who is so crazy as to change places with a blind man should be left without help, so be careful, as I am getting tired of your foolishness, and will not help you again if you do anything as foolish as you did this time.”
Rabbit started to return to his home. When he had nearly completed his journey he came to a little creek, and being thirsty took a good long drink. While he was drinking he heard a noise as though a wolf or cat was scratching the earth. Looking up to a hill which overhung the creek, he saw four wolves, with their tails intertwined, pulling with all their might. As Rabbit came up to them one pulled loose, and Rabbit saw that his tail was broken.
“Let me pull tails with you. My tail is long and strong,” said Rabbit, and the wolves assenting, Rabbit interlocked his long tail with those of the three wolves and commenced pulling and the wolves pulled so hard that they pulled Rabbit’s tail off at the second joint. The wolves disappeared.
“Cinye! Cinye! (Brother, brother.) I have lost my tail,” cried Rabbit. The genie came and seeing his brother Rabbit’s tail missing, said: “You look better without a tail anyway.”
From that time on rabbits have had no tails.
UNKTOMI AND THE ARROWHEADS
There were once upon a time two young men who were very great friends, and were constantly together. One was a very thoughtful young man, the other very impulsive, who never stopped to think before he committed an act.
One day these two friends were walking along, telling each other of their experiences in love making. They ascended a high hill, and on reaching the top, heard a ticking noise as if small stones or pebbles were being struck together.
Looking around they discovered a large spider sitting in the midst of a great many flint arrowheads. The spider was busily engaged making the flint rocks into arrow heads. They looked at the spider, but he never moved, but continued hammering away on a piece of flint which he had nearly completed into another arrowhead.
“Let’s hit him,” said the thoughtless one. “No,” said the other, “he is not harming any one; in fact, he is doing a great good, as he is making the flint arrowheads which we use to point our arrows.”
“Oh, you are afraid,” said the first young man. “He can’t harm you. just watch me hit him.” So saying, he picked up an arrowhead and throwing it at “Unktomi,” hit him on the side. As Unktomi rolled over on his side, got up and stood looking at them, the young man laughed and said: “Well, let us be going, as your grandfather, “Unktomi,” doesn’t seem to like our company.” They started down the hill, when suddenly the one who had hit Unktomi took a severe fit of coughing. He coughed and coughed, and finally small particles of blood came from his mouth. The blood kept coming thicker and in great gushes. Finally it came so thick and fast that the man could not get his breath and fell upon the ground dead.
The thoughtful young man, seeing that his friend was no more, hurried to the village and reported what had happened. The relatives and friends hurried to the hill, and sure enough, there lay the thoughtless young man still and cold in death. They held a council and sent for the chief of the Unktomi tribe. When he heard what had happened, he told the council that he could do nothing to his Unktomi, as it had only defended itself.
Said he: “My friends, seeing that your tribe was running short of arrowheads, I set a great many of my tribe to work making flint arrowheads for you. When my men are thus engaged they do not wish to be disturbed, and your young man not only disturbed my man, but grossly insulted him by striking him with one of the arrowheads which he had worked so hard to make. My man could not sit and take this insult, so as the young man walked away the Unktomi shot him with a very tiny arrowhead. This produced a hemorrhage, which caused his death. So now, my friends, if you will fill and pass the peace pipe, we will part good friends and my tribe shall always furnish you with plenty of flint arrowheads.” So saying, Unktomi Tanka finished his peace smoke and returned to his tribe.
Ever after that, when the Indians heard a ticking in the grass, they would go out of their way to get around the sound, saying, Unktomi is making arrowheads; we must not disturb him.
Thus it was that Unktomi Tanka (Big Spider) had the respect of this tribe, and was never after disturbed in his work of making arrowheads.
THE BEAR AND THE RABBIT HUNT
Once upon a time there lived as neighbors, a bear and a rabbit. The rabbit was a good shot, and the bear being very clumsy could not use the arrow to good advantage. The bear was very unkind to the rabbit. Every morning, the bear would call over to the rabbit and say: “Take your bow and arrows and come with me to the other side of the hill. A large herd of buffalo are grazing there, and I want you to shoot some of them for me, as my children are crying for meat.”
The rabbit, fearing to arouse the bear’s anger by refusing, consented, and went with the bear, and shot enough buffalo to satisfy the hungry family. Indeed, he shot and killed so many that there was lots of meat left after the bear and his family had loaded themselves, and packed all they could carry home. The bear being very gluttonous, and not wanting the rabbit to get any of the meat, said: “Rabbit, you come along home with us and we will return and get the remainder of the meat.”
The poor rabbit could not even taste the blood from the butchering, as the bear would throw earth on the blood and dry it up. Poor Rabbit would have to go home hungry after his hard day’s work.
The bear was the father of five children. The youngest boy was very kind to the rabbit. The mother bear, knowing that her youngest was a very hearty eater, always gave him an extra large piece of meat. What the baby bear did not eat, he would take outside with him and pretend to play ball with it, kicking it toward the rabbit’s house, and when he got close to the door he would give the meat such a great kick, that it would fly into the rabbit’s house, and in this way poor Rabbit would get his meal unknown to the papa bear.
Baby bear never forgot his friend Rabbit. Papa bear often wondered why his baby would go outside after each meal. He grew suspicious and asked the baby where he had been. “Oh, I always play ball outside, around the house, and when I get tired playing I eat up my meat ball and then come in.”
The baby bear was too cunning to let papa bear know that he was keeping his friend rabbit from starving to death. Nevertheless, papa bear suspected baby and said: “Baby, I think you go over to the rabbit’s after every meal.”
The four older brothers were very handsome, but baby bear was a little puny fellow, whose coat couldn’t keep out much cold, as it was short and shaggy, and of a dirty brown color. The three older brothers were very unkind to baby bear, but the fourth one always took baby’s part, and was always kind to his baby brother.
Rabbit was getting tired of being ordered and bullied around by papa bear. He puzzled his brain to scheme some way of getting even with Mr. Bear for abusing him so much. He studied all night long, but no scheme worth trying presented itself. Early one morning Mr. Bear presented himself at Rabbit’s door.
“Say, Rabbit, my meat is all used up, and there is a fine herd of buffalo grazing on the hillside. Get your bow and arrows and come with me. I want you to shoot some of them for me.”
“Very well,” said Rabbit, and he went and killed six buffalo for Bear. Bear got busy butchering and poor Rabbit, thinking he would get a chance to lick up one mouthful of blood, stayed very close to the bear while he was cutting up the meat. The bear was very watchful lest the rabbit get something to eat. Despite bear’s watchfulness, a small clot of blood rolled past and behind the bear’s feet. At once Rabbit seized the clot and hid it in his bosom. By the time Rabbit got home, the blood clot was hardened from the warmth of his body, so, being hungry, it put Mr. Rabbit out of sorts to think that after all his trouble he could not eat the blood.
Very badly disappointed, he lay down on his floor and gazed up into the chimney hole. Disgusted with the way things had turned out, he grabbed up the blood clot and threw it up through the hole. Scarcely had it hit the ground when he heard the voice of a baby crying, “Ate! Ate!” (father, father). He went outside and there he found a big baby boy. He took the baby into his house and threw him out through the hole again. This time the boy was large enough to say “Ate, Ate, he-cun-sin-lo.” (Father, father, don’t do that). But nevertheless, he threw him up and out again. On going out the third time, there stood a handsome youth smiling at him. Rabbit at once adopted the youth and took him into his house, seating him in the seat of honor (which is directly opposite the entrance), and saying: “My son, I want you to be a good, honest, straightforward man. Now, I have in my possession a fine outfit, and you, my son, shall wear it.”
Suiting his action to his words, he drew out a bag from a hollow tree and on opening it, drew out a fine buckskin shirt (tanned white as snow), worked with porcupine quills. Also a pair of red leggings worked with beads. Moccasins worked with colored hair. A fine otter skin robe. White weasel skins to intertwine with his beautiful long black locks. A magnificent center eagle feather. A rawhide covered bow, accompanied by a quiver full of flint arrowheads.
The rabbit, having dressed his son in all the latest finery, sat back and gazed long and lovingly at his handsome son. Instinctively Rabbit felt that his son had been sent him for the purpose of being instrumental in the downfall of Mr. Bear. Events will show.
The morning following the arrival of Rabbit’s son, Mr. Bear again presents himself at the door, crying out: “You lazy, ugly rabbit, get up and come out here. I want you to shoot some more buffalo for me.”
“Who is this, who speaks so insultingly to you, father?” asked the son.
“It is a bear who lives near here, and makes me kill buffalo for his family, and he won’t let me take even one little drop of blood from the killing, and consequently, my son, I have nothing in my house for you to eat.”
The young man was anxious to meet Mr. Bear but Rabbit advised him to wait a little until he and Bear had gone to the hunt. So the son obeyed, and when he thought it time that the killing was done, he started out and arrived on the scene just as Mr. Bear was about to proceed with his butchering.
Seeing a strange shadow on the ground beside him, Mr. Bear looked up and gazed into the fearless eyes of rabbit’s handsome son.
“Who is this?” asked Mr. Bear of poor little Rabbit.
“I don’t know,” answered Rabbit.
“Who are you?” asked the bear of Rabbit’s son. “Where did you come from?”
The rabbit’s son not replying, the bear spoke thus to him: “Get out of here, and get out quick, too.”
At this speech the rabbit’s son became angered, and fastened an arrow to his bow and drove the arrow through the bear’s heart. Then he turned on Mrs. Bear and served her likewise. During the melee, Rabbit shouted: “My son, my son, don’t kill the two