Sunday, October 21, 2007


Indian Why Stories by Frank B. Linderman

Indian Why Stories
by Frank B. Linderman
THE great Northwest--that wonderful frontier
that called to itself a world's hardiest
spirits--is rapidly becoming a settled country;
and before the light of civilizing influences,
the blanket-Indian has trailed the buffalo over
the divide that time has set between the pioneer
and the crowd. With his passing we have lost
much of the aboriginal folk-lore, rich in its
fairy-like characters, and its relation to the
lives of a most warlike people.
There is a wide difference between folk-lore
of the so-called Old World and that of America.
Transmitted orally through countless generations,
the folk-stories of our ancestors show
many evidences of distortion and of change in
material particulars; but the Indian seems to
have been too fond of nature and too proud of
tradition to have forgotten or changed the
teachings of his forefathers. Childlike in simplicity,
beginning with creation itself, and
reaching to the whys and wherefores of nature's moods
and eccentricities, these tales impress
me as being well worth saving.
The Indian has always been a lover of nature
and a close observer of her many moods. The
habits of the birds and animals, the voices of
the winds and waters, the flickering of the
shadows, and the mystic radiance of the moonlight--
all appealed to him. Gradually, he formulated
within himself fanciful reasons for the
myriad manifestations of the Mighty Mother
and her many children; and a poet by instinct,
he framed odd stories with which to convey his
explanations to others. And these stories were
handed down from father to son, with little
variation, through countless generations, until
the white man slaughtered the buffalo, took to
himself the open country, and left the red man
little better than a beggar. But the tribal
story-teller has passed, and only here and there
is to be found a patriarch who loves the legends
of other days.
OLD-man, or Napa, as he is called by the
tribes of Blackfeet, is the strangest character
in Indian folk-lore. Sometimes he appears as
a god or creator, and again as a fool, a thief,
or a clown. But to the Indian, Napa is not the
Deity; he occupies a somewhat subordinate
position, possessing many attributes which have
sometimes caused him to be confounded with
Manitou, himself. In all of this there is a curious
echo of the teachings of the ancient Aryans,
whose belief it was that this earth was not the
direct handiwork of the Almighty, but of a
mere member of a hierarchy of subordinate gods.
The Indian possesses the highest veneration for
the Great God, who has become familiar to the
readers of Indian literature as Manitou. No
idle tales are told of Him, nor would any Indian
mention Him irreverently. But with Napa it
is entirely different; he appears entitled to no
reverence; he is a strange mixture of the fallible
human and the powerful under-god. He
made many mistakes; was seldom to be trusted;
and his works and pranks run from the sublime
to the ridiculous. In fact, there are many
stories in which Napa figures that will not
bear telling at all.
I propose to tell what I know of these legends,
keeping as near as possible to the Indian's
style of story-telling, and using only tales told
me by the older men of the Blackfeet, Chippewa,
and Cree tribes.
It was the moon when leaves were falling,
for Napa had finished painting them for their
dance with the North wind. Just over the
ragged mountain range the big moon hung in
an almost starless sky, and in shadowy outline
every peak lay upon the plain like a giant pattern.
Slowly the light spread and as slowly
the shadows stole away until the October moon
looked down on the great Indian camp--a hundred
lodges, each as perfect in design as the
tusks of a young silver-tip, and all looking
ghostly white in the still of the autumn night.
Back from the camp, keeping within the
ever-moving shadows, a buffalo-wolf skulked
to a hill overlooking the scene, where he stopped
to look and listen, his body silhouetted against
the sky. A dog howled occasionally, and the
weird sound of a tom-tom accompanying the
voice of a singer in the Indian village reached
the wolf's ears, but caused him no alarm; for
not until a great herd of ponies, under the eyes
of the night-herder, drifted too close, did he
steal away.
Near the centre of the camp was the big
painted lodge of War Eagle, the medicine-man,
and inside had gathered his grandchildren, to
whom he was telling the stories of the creation
and of the strange doings of Napa, the creator.
Being a friend of the old historian, I entered unhindered,
and with the children listened until
the hour grew late, and on the lodge-wall the
dying fire made warning shadows dance.
What a splendid lodge it was, and how
grand War Eagle looked leaning against
his back-rest in the firelight! From the tripod
that supported the back-rest were suspended
his weapons and his medicine-bundle,
each showing the wonderful skill of the maker.
The quiver that held the arrows was combined
with a case for the bow, and colored quills of
the porcupine had been deftly used to make it
a thing of beauty. All about the lodge hung
the strangely painted linings, and the firelight
added richness to both color and design.
War Eagle's hair was white, for he had known
many snows; but his eyes were keen and bright
as a boy's, as he gazed in pride at his grandchildren
across the lodge-fire. He was wise,
and had been in many battles, for his was a
warlike tribe. He knew all about the world
and the people in it. He was deeply religious,
and every Indian child loved him for his goodness
and brave deeds.
About the fire were Little Buffalo Calf, a
boy of eleven years; Eyes-in-the-Water, his
sister, a girl of nine; Fine Bow, a cousin of
these, aged ten, and Bluebird, his sister, who
was but eight years old.
Not a sound did the children make while
the old warrior filled his great pipe, and only
the snapping of the lodge-fire broke the stillness.
Solemnly War Eagle lit the tobacco
that had been mixed with the dried inner bark
of the red willow, and for several minutes
smoked in silence, while the children's eyes
grew large with expectancy. Finally he spoke:
"Napa, OLD-man, is very old indeed. He
made this world, and all that is on it. He
came out of the south, and travelled toward
the north, making the birds and animals as
he passed. He made the perfumes for the
winds to carry about, and he even made the
war-paint for the people to use. He was a
busy worker, but a great liar and thief, as I
shall show you after I have told you more
about him. It was OLD-man who taught the
beaver all his cunning. It was OLD-man who
told the bear to go to sleep when the snow grew
deep in winter, and it was he who made the
curlew's bill so long and crooked, although it
was not that way at first. OLD-man used to
live on this world with the animals and birds.
There was no other man or woman then, and
he was chief over all the animal-people and
the bird-people. He could speak the language
of the robin, knew the words of the
bear, and understood the sign-talk of the
beaver, too. He lived with the wolves, for
they are the great hunters. Even to-day we
make the same sign for a smart man as we
make for the wolf; so you see he taught them
much while he lived with them. OLD-man
made a great many mistakes in making things,
as I shall show you after a while; yet he worked
until he had everything good. But he often
made great mischief and taught many wicked
things. These I shall tell you about some
day. Everybody was afraid of OLD-man and
his tricks and lies--even the animal-people,
before he made men and women. He used to
visit the lodges of our people and make trouble
long ago, but he got so wicked that Manitou
grew angry at him, and one day in the month
of roses, he built a lodge for OLD-man and told
him that he must stay in it forever. Of course
he had to do that, and nobody knows where
the lodge was built, nor in what country, but
that is why we never see him as our grandfathers
did, long, long ago.
"What I shall tell you now happened when
the world was young. It was a fine summer
day, and OLD-man was travelling in the
forest. He was going north and straight as
an arrow--looking at nothing, hearing nothing.
No one knows what he was after, to
this day. The birds and forest-people spoke
politely to him as he passed but he answered
none of them. The Pine-squirrel, who is always
trying to find out other people's business,
asked him where he was going, but OLD-man
wouldn't tell him. The woodpecker hammered
on a dead tree to make him look that way,
but he wouldn't. The Elk-people and the Deerpeople
saw him pass, and all said that he
must be up to some mischief or he would stop
and talk a while. The pine-trees murmured,
and the bushes whispered their greeting, but
he kept his eyes straight ahead and went on
"The sun was low when OLD-man heard a
groan" (here War Eagle groaned to show the
children how it sounded), "and turning about
he saw a warrior lying bruised and bleeding
near a spring of cold water. OLD-man knelt
beside the man and asked: 'Is there war in this
country? '
"'Yes,' answered the man. 'This whole
day long we have fought to kill a Person, but
we have all been killed, I am afraid.'
"'That is strange,' said OLD-man; 'how can
one Person kill so many men? Who is this
Person, tell me his name!' but the man didn't
answer--he was dead. When OLD-man saw
that life had left the wounded man, he drank
from the spring, and went on toward the north,
but before long he heard a noise as of men
fighting, and he stopped to look and listen.
Finally he saw the bushes bend and sway near
a creek that flowed through the forest. He
crawled toward the spot, and peering through
the brush saw a great Person near a pile of
dead men, with his back against a pine-tree.
The Person was full of arrows, and he was
pulling them from his ugly body. Calmly the
Person broke the shafts of the arrows, tossed
them aside, and stopped the blood flow with
a brush of his hairy hand. His head was
large and fierce-looking, and his eyes were
small and wicked. His great body was larger
than that of a buffalo-bull and covered with
scars of many battles.
"OLD-man went to the creek, and with his
buffalo-horn cup brought some water to the
Person, asking as he approached:
"'Who are you, Person? Tell me, so I
can make you a fine present, for you are great
in war.'
"'I am Bad Sickness,' replied the Person.
'Tribes I have met remember me and always
will, for their bravest warriors are afraid when I
make war upon them. I come in the night or
I visit their camps in daylight. It is always the
same; they are frightened and I kill them easily.'
" 'Ho!' said OLD-man, 'tell me how to make
Bad Sickness, for I often go to war myself.'
He lied; for he was never in a battle in his life.
The Person shook his ugly head and then OLDman
" 'If you will tell me how to make Bad Sickness
I will make you small and handsome.
When you are big, as you now are, it is very
hard to make a living; but when you are small,
little food will make you fat. Your living
will be easy because I will make your food
grow everywhere.'
"'Good,' said the Person, 'I will do it;
you must kill the fawns of the deer and the
calves of the elk when they first begin to live.
When you have killed enough of them you
must make a robe of their skins. Whenever
you wear that robe and sing--"now you sicken,
now you sicken," the sickness will come--
that is all there is to it. '
"'Good,' said OLD-man, 'now lie down to
sleep and I will do as I promised.'
"The Person went to sleep and OLD-man
breathed upon him until he grew so tiny that
he laughed to see how small he had made him.
Then he took out his paint sack and striped
the Person's back with black and yellow. It
looked bright and handsome and he waked the
Person, who was now a tiny animal with a
bushy tail to make him pretty.
"'Now,' said OLD-man, 'you are the Chipmunk,
and must always wear those striped
clothes. All of your children and their children,
must wear them, too.'
"After the Chipmunk had looked at himself,
and thanked OLD-man for his new clothes,
he wanted to know how he could make his
living, and OLD-man told him what to eat, and
said he must cache the pine-nuts when the
leaves turned yellow, so he would not have
to work in the winter time.
"'You are a cousin to the Pine-squirrel,'
said OLD-man, 'and you will hunt and hide
as he does. You will be spry and your living will
be easy to make if you do as I have told you.'
"He taught the Chipmunk his language
and his signs, showed him where to live, and
then left him, going on toward the north again.
He kept looking for the cow-elk and doe-deer,
and it was not long before he had killed enough
of their young to make the robe as the Person
told him, for they were plentiful before the
white man came to live on the world. He
found a shady place near a creek, and there
made the robe that would make Bad Sickness
whenever he sang the queer song, but
the robe was plain, and brown in color. He
didn't like the looks of it. Suddenly he thought
how nice the back of the Chipmunk looked
after he had striped it with his paints. He
got out his old paint sack and with the same
colors made the robe look very much like
the clothes of the Chipmunk. He was proud
of the work, and liked the new robe better;
but being lazy, he wanted to save himself
work, so he sent the South-wind to tell all
the doe-deer and the cow-elk to come to him.
They came as soon as they received the message,
for they were afraid of OLD-man and
always tried to please him. When they had
all reached the place where OLD-man was he
said to them:
"'Do you see this robe?'
"'Yes, we see it,' they replied.
"'Well, I have made it from the skins of
your children, and then painted it to look
like the Chipmunk's back, for I like the looks
of that Person's clothes. I shall need many
more of these robes during my life; and every
time I make one, I don't want to have to spend
my time painting it; so from now on and forever
your children shall be born in spotted
clothes. I want it to be that way to save me
work. On all the fawns there must be spots
of white like this (here he pointed to the spots
on Bad Sickness's robe) and on all of the elkcalves
the spots shall not be so white and
shall be in rows and look rather yellow.' Again
he showed them his robe, that they might see
just what he wanted.
"'Remember,' he said, 'after this I don't
want to see any of your children running about
wearing plain clothing, because that
would mean more painting for me. Now go away,
and remember what I have said, lest I make
you sick. '
"The cow-elk and the doe-deer were glad
to know that their children's clothes would
be beautiful, and they went away to their
little ones who were hidden in the tall grass,
where the wolves and mountain-lions would
have a hard time finding them; for you know
that in the tracks of the fawn there is no scent,
and the wolf cannot trail him when he is alone.
That is the way Manitou takes care of the
weak, and all of the forest-people know about
it, too.
"Now you know why the Chipmunk's back
is striped, and why the fawn and elk-calf wear
their pretty clothes.
"I hear the owls, and it is time for all young
men who will some day be great warriors to
go to bed, and for all young women to seek
rest, lest beauty go away forever. Ho!"
Another night had come, and I made
my way toward War Eagle's lodge. In
the bright moonlight the dead leaves of the
quaking-aspen fluttered down whenever the
wind shook the trees; and over the village
great flocks of ducks and geese and swan passed
in a never-ending procession, calling to each
other in strange tones as they sped away toward
the waters that never freeze.
In the lodge War Eagle waited for his grandchildren,
and when they had entered, happily,
he laid aside his pipe and said:
"The Duck-people are travelling to-night
just as they have done since the world was
young. They are going away from winter
because they cannot make a living when ice
covers the rivers.
"You have seen the Duck-people often.
You have noticed that they wear fine clothes
but you do not know how they got them; so
I will tell you to-night.
"It was in the fall when leaves are yellow
that it happened, and long, long ago. The
Duck-people had gathered to go away, just as
they are doing now. The buck-deer was coming
down from the high ridges to visit friends
in the lowlands along the streams as they have
always done. On a lake OLD-man saw the
Duck-people getting ready to go away, and
at that time they all looked alike; that is, they
all wore the same colored clothes. The loons
and the geese and the ducks were there and
playing in the sunlight. The loons were laughing
loudly and the diving was fast and merry
to see. On the hill where OLD-man stood there
was a great deal of moss, and he began to tear
it from the ground and roll it into a great ball.
When he had gathered all he needed he shouldered
the load and started for the shore of
the lake, staggering under the weight of the
great burden. Finally the Duck-people saw
him coming with his load of moss and began
to swim away from the shore.
"'Wait, my brothers!' he called, 'I have a
big load here, and I am going to give you
people a dance. Come and help me get things
ready. '
"'Don't you do it,' said the gray goose to
the others; 'that's OLD-man and he is up to
something bad, I am sure.'
"So the loon called to OLD-man and said
they wouldn't help him at all.
"Right near the water OLD-man dropped his
ball of moss and then cut twenty long poles.
With the poles he built a lodge which he covered
with the moss, leaving a doorway facing the
lake. Inside the lodge he built a fire and
when it grew bright he cried:
"'Say, brothers, why should you treat me
this way when I am here to give you a big
dance? Come into the lodge,' but they
wouldn't do that. Finally OLD-man began to
sing a song in the duck-talk, and keep time
with his drum. The Duck-people liked the
music, and swam a little nearer to the shore,
watching for trouble all the time, but OLDman
sang so sweetly that pretty soon they
waddled up to the lodge and went inside.
The loon stopped near the door, for he believed
that what the gray goose had said was
true, and that OLD-man was up to some mischief.
The gray goose, too, was careful to
stay close to the door but the ducks reached
all about the fire. Politely, OLDman
passed the pipe, and they all smoked with him because
it is wrong not to smoke in a person's
lodge if the pipe is offered, and the Duckpeople
knew that.
"'Well,' said Old-man, 'this is going to be
the Blind-dance, but you will have to be painted
"'Brother Mallard, name the colors--tell
how you want me to paint you.'
"'Well,' replied the mallard drake, 'paint
my head green, and put a white circle around
my throat, like a necklace. Besides that, I
want a brown breast and yellow legs: but I
don't want my wife painted that way.'
"OLD-man painted him just as he asked,
and his wife, too. Then the teal and the
wood-duck (it took a long time to paint the
wood-duck) and the spoonbill and the bluebill
and the canvasback and the goose and
the brant and the loon--all chose their paint.
OLD-man painted them all just as they wanted
him to, and kept singing all the time. They
looked very pretty in the firelight, for it was
night before the painting was done.
"'Now,' said OLD-man, 'as this is the Blinddance,
when I beat upon my drum you must
all shut your eyes tight and circle around the
fire as I sing. Every one that peeks will have
sore eyes forever.'
"Then the Duck-people shut their eyes and
OLD-man began to sing: 'Now you come, ducks,
now you come--tum-tum, tum; tum-tum,
"Around the fire they came with their eyes
still shut, and as fast as they reached OLD-man,
the rascal would seize them, and wring their
necks. Ho! things were going fine for OLDman,
but the loon peeked a little, and saw
what was going on; several others heard the
fluttering and opened their eyes, too. The
loon cried out, 'He's killing us--let us fly,'
and they did that. There was a great squawking
and quacking and fluttering as the Duckpeople
escaped from the lodge. Ho! but OLDman
was angry, and he kicked the back of
the loon-duck, and that is why his feet turn
from his body when he walks or tries to stand.
Yes, that is why he is a cripple to-day.
"And all of the Duck-people that peeked
that night at the dance still have sore eyes--
just as OLD-man told them they would have.
Of course they hurt and smart no more but
they stay red to pay for peeking, and always
will. You have seen the mallard and the
rest of the Duck-people. You can see that
the colors OLD-man painted so long ago are
still bright and handsome, and they will stay
that way forever and forever. Ho!"
Autumn nights on the upper Missouri
river in Montana are indescribably beautiful,
and under their spell imagination is a
constant companion to him who lives in wilderness,
lending strange, weird echoes to the
voice of man or wolf, and unnatural shapes
in shadow to commonplace forms.
The moon had not yet climbed the distant
mountain range to look down on the humbler
lands when I started for War Eagle's lodge; and
dimming the stars in its course, the milkyway
stretched across the jewelled sky. "The
wolf's trail," the Indians call this filmy streak
that foretells fair weather, and to-night it
promised much, for it seemed plainer and
brighter than ever before.
"How--how!" greeted War Eagle, making
the sign for me to be seated near him, as I
entered his lodge. Then he passed me his
pipe and together we smoked until the children
Entering quietly, they seated themselves in
exactly the same positions they had occupied
on the previous evenings, and patiently waited
in silence. Finally War Eagle laid the pipe
away and said: "Ho! Little Buffalo Calf,
throw a big stick on the fire and I will tell
you why the Kingfisher wears a war-bonnet."
The boy did as he was bidden. The sparks
jumped toward the smoke-hole and the blaze
lighted up the lodge until it was bright as daytime,
when War Eagle continued:
"You have often seen Kingfisher at his fishing
along the rivers, I know; and you have
heard him laugh in his queer way, for he laughs
a good deal when he flies. That same laugh
nearly cost him his life once, as you will see.
I am sure none could see the Kingfisher without
noticing his great head-dress, but not many
know how he came by it because it happened
so long ago that most men have forgotten.
"It was one day in the winter-time when
OLD-man and the Wolf were hunting. The
snow covered the land and ice was on all of the
rivers. It was so cold that OLD-man wrapped
his robe close about himself and his breath
showed white in the air. Of course the Wolf
was not cold; wolves never get cold as men
do. Both OLD-man and the Wolf were hungry
for they had travelled far and had killed no
meat. OLD-man was complaining and grumbling,
for his heart is not very good. It is
never well to grumble when we are doing our
best, because it will do no good and makes us
weak in our hearts. When our hearts are
weak our heads sicken and our strength goes
away. Yes, it is bad to grumble.
"When the sun was getting low OLD-man
and the Wolf came to a great river. On the
ice that covered the water, they saw four fat
Otters playing.
"'There is meat,' said the Wolf; 'wait here
and I will try to catch one of those fellows.'
"'No!--No!' cried OLD-man, 'do not run
after the Otter on the ice, because there are
air-holes in all ice that covers rivers, and you
may fall in the water and die.' OLD-man
didn't care much if the Wolf did drown. He
was afraid to be left alone and hungry in the
snow--that was all.
"'Ho!' said the Wolf, 'I am swift of foot
and my teeth are white and sharp. What
chance has an Otter against me? Yes, I will
go,' and he did.
"Away ran the Otters with the Wolf after
them, while OLD-man stood on the bank and
shivered with fright and cold. Of course the
Wolf was faster than the Otter, but he was
running on the ice, remember, and slipping
a good deal. Nearer and nearer ran the Wolf.
In fact he was just about to seize an Otter,
when SPLASH!--into an air-hole all the
Otters went. Ho ! the Wolf was going so fast
he couldn't stop, and SWOW! into the airhole
he went like a badger after mice, and the
current carried him under the ice. The Otters
knew that hole was there. That was their
country and they were running to reach that
same hole all the time, but the Wolf didn't
know that.
"Old-man saw it all and began to cry and
wail as women do. Ho! but he made a great
fuss. He ran along the bank of the river,
stumbling in the snowdrifts, and crying like
a woman whose child is dead; but it was because
he didn't want to be left in that country
alone that he cried--not because he
loved his brother, the Wolf. On and on he
ran until he came to a place where the water
was too swift to freeze, and there he waited and
watched for the Wolf to come out from under
the ice, crying and wailing and making an
awful noise, for a man.
"Well--right there is where the thing happened.
You see, Kingfisher can't fish through
the ice and he knows it, too; so he always
finds places like the one OLD-man found. He
was there that day, sitting on the limb of a
birch-tree, watching for fishes, and when OLDman
came near to Kingfisher's tree, crying
like an old woman, it tickled the Fisher so
much that he laughed that queer, chattering
"OLD-man heard him and--Ho! but he was
angry. He looked about to see who was
laughing at him and that made Kingfisher
laugh again, longer and louder than before.
This time OLD-man saw him and SWOW! he
threw his war-club at Kingfisher; tried to kill
the bird for laughing. Kingfisher ducked so
quickly that OLD-man's club just grazed the
feathers on his head, making them stand up
"'There,' said OLD-man, 'I'll teach you to
laugh at me when I'm sad. Your feathers are
standing up on the top of your head now
and they will stay that way, too. As long
as you live you must wear a head-dress, to
pay for your laughing, and all your children
must do the same.
"This was long, long ago, but the Kingfishers
have not forgotten, and they all wear
war-bonnets, and always will as long as there
are Kingfishers.
"Now I will say good night, and when
the sun sleeps again I will tell you why the
curlew's bill is so long and crooked. Ho!"
When we reached War Eagle's lodge
we stopped near the door, for the old
fellow was singing--singing some old, sad
song of younger days and keeping time with
his tom-tom. Somehow the music made me
sad and not until it had ceased, did we enter.
"How! How!"--he greeted us, with no trace
of the sadness in his voice that I detected
in his song.
"You have come here to-night to learn why
the Curlew's bill is so long and crooked. I
will tell you, as I promised, but first I must
In silence we waited until the pipe was laid
aside, then War Eagle began:
"By this time you know that OLD-man was
not always wise, even if he did make the
world, and all that is on it. He often got into
trouble but something always happened to get
him out of it. What I shall tell you now
will show you that it is not well to try to do
things just because others do them. They
may be right for others, and wrong for us, but
OLD-man didn't understand that, you see.
"One day he saw some mice playing and
went near to watch them. It was springtime,
and the frost was just coming out of
the ground. A big flat rock was sticking
out of a bank near a creek, and the sun had
melted the frost from the earth about it, loosening
it, so that it was about to fall. The Chief-
Mouse would sing a song, while all the other
mice danced, and then the chief would cry
'now!' and all the mice would run past the
big rock. On the other side, the Chief-Mouse
would sing again, and then say 'now!'--back
they would come--right under the dangerous
rock. Sometimes little bits of dirt would
crumble and fall near the rock. as though
warning the mice that the rock was going to
fall, but they paid no attention to the warning,
and kept at their playing. Finally OLDman
"'Say, Chief-Mouse, I want to try that.
I want to play that game. I am a good runner.
"He wasn't, you know, but he thought he
could run. That is often where we make
great mistakes--when we try to do things
we were not intended to do.
"'No--no!' cried the Chief-Mouse, as OLDman
prepared to make the race past the rock.
'No!--No!--you will shake the ground.
You are too heavy, and the rock may fall and
kill you. My people are light of foot and
fast. We are having a good time, but if you
should try to do as we are doing you might
get hurt, and that would spoil our fun.'
"'Ho!' said OLD-man, 'stand back! I'll
show you what a runner I am.'
"He ran like a grizzly bear, and shook the
ground with his weight. Swow!--came the
great rock on top of OLD-man and held him
fast in the mud. My! how he screamed and
called for aid. All the Mice-people ran away
to find help. It was a long time before the
Mice-people found anybody, but they finally
found the Coyote, and told him what had
happened. Coyote didn't like OLD-man very
much, but he said he would go and see what
he could do, and he did. The Mice-people
showed him the way, and when they all reached
the spot--there was OLD-man deep in the
mud, with the big rock on his back. He was
angry and was saying things people should not
say, for they do no good and make the mind
"Coyote said: 'Keep still, you big baby.
Quit kicking about so. You are splashing
mud in my eyes. How can I see with my eyes
full of mud? Tell me that. I am going to
try to help you out of your trouble.' He
tried but OLD-man insulted Coyote. and called
him a name that is not good, so the Coyote
said, 'Well, stay there,' and went away.
"Again OLD-man began to call for helpers,
and the Curlew, who was flying over, saw the
trouble, and came down to the ground to help.
In those days Curlew had a short, stubby bill,
and he thought that he could break the rock
by pecking it. He pecked and pecked away
without making any headway, till OLD-man
grew angry at him, as he did at the Coyote.
The harder the Curlew worked, the worse OLDman
scolded him. OLD-man lost his temper
altogether, you see, which is a bad thing to do,
for we lose our friends with it, often. Temper
is like a bad dog about a lodge--no friends
will come to see us when he is about.
"Curlew did his best but finally said: 'I'll
go and try to find somebody else to help you.
I guess I am too small and weak. I shall come
back to you.' He was standing close to OLDman
when he spoke, and OLD-man reached out
and grabbed the Curlew by the bill. Curlew
began to scream--oh, my--oh, my--oh,
my--as you still hear them in the air when it
is morning. OLD-man hung onto the bill and
finally pulled it out long and slim, and bent
it downward, as it is to-day. Then he let go
and laughed at the Curlew.
"'You are a queer-looking bird now. That
is a homely bill, but you shall always wear it
and so shall all of your children, as long as
there are Curlews in the world.'
"I have forgotten who it was that got OLDman
out of his trouble, but it seems to me it
was the bear. Anyhow he did get out somehow,
and lived to make trouble, until Manitou
grew tired of him.
"There are good things that OLD-man did
and to-morrow night, if you will come early,
I will tell you how OLD-man made the world
over after the water made its war on the land,
scaring all the animal-people and the birdpeople.
I will also tell you how he made
the first man and the first woman and who
they were. But now the grouse is fast asleep;
nobody is stirring but those who were made to
see in the dark, like the owl and the wolf.-- Ho!"
The sun was just sinking behind the hills
when we started for War Eagle's lodge.
"To-morrow will be a fine day," said Otherperson,
"for grandfather says that a red sky
is always the sun's promise of fine weather,
and the sun cannot lie."
"Yes," said Bluebird, "and he said that
when this moon was new it travelled well
south for this time of year and its points were
up. That means fine, warm weather."
"I wish I knew as much as grandfather,"
said Fine-bow with pride.
The pipe was laid aside at once upon our
entering the lodge and the old warrior said:
"I have told you that OLD-man taught the
animals and the birds all they know. He
made them and therefore knew just what
each would have to understand in order to
make his living. They have never forgotten
anything he told them--even to this day.
Their grandfathers told the young ones what
they had been told, just as I am telling you
the things you should know. Be like the
birds and animals--tell your children and
grandchildren what I have told you, that
our people may always know how things were
made, and why strange things are true.
"Yes--OLD-man taught the Beaver how to
build his dams to make the water deeper;
taught the Squirrel to plant the pine-nut so
that another tree might grow and have nuts
for his children; told the Bear to go to sleep
in the winter, when the snow made hard travelling
for his short legs--told him to sleep, and
promised him that he would need no meat
while he slept. All winter long the Bear
sleeps and eats nothing, because OLDman
told him that he could. He sleeps so much in the
winter that he spends most of his time in
summer hunting.
"It was OLD-man who showed the Owl how
to hunt at night and it was OLD-man that
taught the Weasel all his wonderful ways--
his bloodthirsty ways--for the Weasel is
the bravest of the animal-people, considering
his size. He taught the Beaver one strange
thing that you have noticed, and that is to
lay sticks on the creek-bottoms, so that they
will stay there as long as he wants them to.
"Whenever the animal-people got into
trouble they always sought OLD-man and told
him about it. All were busy working and
making a living, when one day it commenced
to rain. That was nothing, of course, but it
didn't stop as it had always done before. No,
it kept right on raining until the rivers overran
their banks, and the water chased the
Weasel out of his hole in the ground. Yes,
and it found the Rabbit's hiding-place and
made him leave it. It crept into the lodge
of the Wolf at night and frightened his wife
and children. It poured into the den of the
Bear among the rocks and he had to move. It
crawled under the logs in the forest and
found the Mice-people. Out it went to the
plains and chased them out of their homes in
the buffalo skulls. At last the Beavers' dams
broke under the strain and that made everything
worse. It was bad--very bad, indeed.
Everybody except the fish-people were frightened
and all went to find OLD-man that they
might tell him what had happened. Finally
they found his fire, far up on a timbered bench,
and they said that they wanted a council
right away.
"It was a strange sight to see the Eagle
sitting next to the Grouse; the Rabbit sitting
close to the Lynx; the Mouse right under the
very nose of the Bobcat, and the tiny Humming-
bird talking to the Hawk in a whisper,
as though they had always been great friends.
All about OLD-man's fire they sat and whispered
or talked in signs. Even the Deer spoke to
the Mountain-lion, and the Antelope told the
Wolf that he was glad to see him, because fear
had made them all friends.
"The whispering and the sign-making stopped
when OLD-man raised his hand-like that"
(here War Eagle raised his hand with the palm
outward)--"and asked them what was troubling
"The Bear spoke first, of course, and told
how the water had made him move his camp.
He said all the animal-people were moving
their homes, and he was afraid they would be
unable to find good camping-places, because
of the water. Then the Beaver spoke, because
he is wise and all the forest-people know
it. He said his dams would not hold back the
water that came against them; that the whole
world was a lake, and that he thought they
were on an island. He said he could live in
the water longer than most people, but that
as far as he could see they would all die except,
perhaps, the fish-people, who stayed in the
water all the time, anyhow. He said he
couldn't think of a thing to do--then he
sat down and the sign-talking and whispering
commenced again.
"OLD-man smoked a long time--smoked
and thought hard. Finally he grabbed his
magic stone axe, and began to sing his warsong.
Then the rest knew he had made up his
mind and knew what he would do. Swow!
he struck a mighty pine-tree a blow, and it
fell down. Swow! down went another and
another, until he had ten times ten of the
longest, straightest, and largest trees in all
the world lying side by side before him. Then
OLD-man chopped off the limbs, and with the aid
of magic rolled the great logs tight together.
With withes of willow that he told the Beaver
to cut for him, he bound the logs fast together
until they were all as one. It was a monstrous
raft that OLD-man had built, as he sang his song
in the darkness. At last he cried, 'Ho! everybody
hurry and sit on this raft I have made';
and they did hurry.
"It was not long till the water had reached
the logs; then it crept in between them, and
finally it went on past the raft and off into the
forest, looking for more trouble.
"By and by the raft began to groan, and the
willow withes squeaked and cried out as though
ghost-people were crying in the night. That
was when the great logs began to tremble as
the water lifted them from the ground. Rain
was falling--night was there, and fear made
cowards of the bravest on the raft. All through
the forest there were bad noises--noises that
make the heart cold--as the raft bumped against
great trees rising from the earth that they
were leaving forever.
"Higher and higher went the raft; higher
than the bushes; higher than the limbs on the
trees; higher than the Woodpecker's nest;
higher than the tree tops, and even higher
than the mountains. Then the world was no
more, for the water had whipped the land in
the war it made against it.
"Day came, and still the rain was falling.
Night returned, and yet the rain came down.
For many days and nights they drifted in the
falling rain; whirling and twisting about while
the water played with the great raft, as a Bear
would play with a Mouse. It was bad, and
they were all afraid--even OLD-man himself
was scared.
"At last the sun came but there was no
land. All was water. The water was the
world. It reached even to the sky and touched
it all about the edges. All were hungry, and
some of them were grumbling, too. There
are always grumblers when there is great
trouble, but they are not the ones who become
great chiefs--ever.
"OLD-man sat in the middle of the raft and
thought. He knew that something must be
done, but he didn't know what. Finally he
said: 'Ho! Chipmunk, bring me the Spotted
Loon. Tell him I want him.'
"The Chipmunk found the Spotted Loon
and told him that OLD-man wanted him, so the
Loon went to where OLD-man sat. When he
got there, OLD-man said:
"'Spotted Loon you are a great diver. Nobody
can dive as you can. I made you that
way and I know. If you will dive and swim
down to the world I think you might bring me
some of the dirt that it is made of--then
I am sure I can make another world.'
"'It is too deep, this water,' replied the
Loon, 'I am afraid I shall drown.'
"'Well, what if you do?' said OLD-man. 'I
gave you life, and if you lose it this way I
will return it to you. You shall live again!'
"'All right, OLD-man,' he answered, 'I am
willing to try'; so he waddled to the edge of the
raft. He is a poor walker--the Loon, and
you know I told you why. It was all because
OLD-man kicked him in the back the night he
painted all the Duck-people.
"Down went the Spotted Loon, and long
he stayed beneath the water. All waited and
watched, and longed for good luck, but when
he came to the top he was dead. Everybody
groaned--all felt badly, I can tell you, as
OLD-man laid the dead Loon on the logs. The
Loon's wife was crying, but OLD-man told her to
shut up and she did.
"Then OLD-man blew his own breath into
the Loon's bill, and he came back to life.
"'What did you see, Brother Loon?' asked
OLD-man, while everybody crowded as close
as he could.
"'Nothing but water,' answered the Loon,
'we shall all die here, I cannot reach the world
by swimming. My heart stops working.'
"There were many brave ones on the raft,
and the Otter tried to reach the world by
diving; and the Beaver, and the Gray Goose,
and the Gray Goose's wife; but all died in
trying, and all were given a new life by OLDman.
Things were bad and getting worse.
Everybody was cross, and all wondered what
OLD-man would do next, when somebody laughed.
"All turned to see what there could be to
laugh at, at such a time, and OLD-man turned
about just in time to see the Muskrat bid
good-by to his wife--that was what they
were laughing at. But he paid no attention
to OLD-man or the rest, and slipped from the
raft to the water. Flip!--his tail cut the
water like a knife, and he was gone. Some
laughed again, but all wondered at his daring,
and waited with little hope in their hearts;
for the Muskrat wasn't very great, they
"He was gone longer than the Loon, longer
than the Beaver, longer than the Otter or
the Gray Goose or his wife, but when he
came to the surface of the water he was
"OLD-man brought Muskrat back to life,
and asked him what he had seen on his journey.
Muskrat said: 'I saw trees, OLD-man, but I
died before I got to them.'
"OLD-man told him he was brave. He said
his people should forever be great if he succeeded
in bringing some dirt to the raft; so
just as soon as the Muskrat was rested he
dove again.
"When he came up he was dead, but clinched
in his tiny hand OLD-man found some dirt--
not much, but a little. A second time OLD-man
gave the Muskrat his breath, and told him
that he must go once more, and bring dirt.
He said there was not quite enough in the first
lot, so after resting a while the Muskrat tried
a third time and a third time he died, but
brought up a little more dirt.
"Everybody on the raft was anxious now,
and they were all crowding about OLD-man;
but he told them to stand back, and they did.
Then he blew his breath in Muskrat's mouth
a third time, and a third time he lived and
joined his wife.
"OLD-man then dried the dirt in his hands,
rubbing it slowly and singing a queer song.
Finally it was dry; then he settled the hand that
held the dirt in the water slowly, until the
water touched the dirt. The dry dirt began to
whirl about and then OLD-man blew upon it.
Hard he blew and waved his hands, and the
dirt began to grow in size right before their
eyes. OLD-man kept blowing and waving his
hands until the dirt became real land, and the
trees began to grow. So large it grew that
none could see across it. Then he stopped
his blowing and sang some more. Everybody wanted
to get off the raft, but OLD-man said 'no.'
"'Come here, Wolf,' he said, and the Wolf
came to him.
"'You are swift of foot and brave. Run
around this land I have made, that I may
know how large it is.'
"The Wolf started, and it took him half a
year to get back to the raft. He was very
poor from much running, too, but OLD-man
said the world wasn't big enough yet so he
blew some more, and again sent the Wolf out
to run around the land. He never came back
--no, the OLD-man had made it so big that the
Wolf died of old age before he got back to the
raft. Then all the people went out upon the
land to make their living, and they were
happy, there, too.
"After they had been on the land for a long
time OLD-man said: 'Now I shall make a man
and a woman, for I am lonesome living with
you people. He took two or three handfuls
of mud from the world he had made, and
moulded both a man and a woman. Then he
set them side by side and breathed upon them.
They lived!--and he made them very strong
and healthy--very beautiful to look upon.
Chippewas, he called these people, and they
lived happily on that world until a white man
saw an Eagle sailing over the land and came to
look about. He stole the woman--that white
man did; and that is where all the tribes came
from that we know to-day. None are pure of
blood but the two humans he made of clay,
and their own children. And they are the
"That is a long story and now you must
hurry to bed. To-morrow night I will tell
you another story--Ho!"
Muskrat and his grandmother were
gathering wood for the camp the next
morning, when they came to an old buffalo
skull. The plains were dotted with these relics
of the chase, for already the hide-hunting
white man had played havoc with the great
herds of buffalo. This skull was in a grove
of cottonwood-trees near the river, and as
they approached two Mice scampered into
it to hide. Muskrat, in great glee, secured a
stick and was about to turn the skull over
and kill the Mice, when his grandmother
said: "No, our people never kill Mice. Your
grandfather will tell you why if you ask him.
The Mice-people are our friends and we treat
them as such. Even small people can be good
friends, you know--remember that."
All the day the boy wondered why the Micepeople
should not be harmed; and just at dark
he came for me to accompany him to War
Eagle's lodge. On the way he told me what
his grandmother had said, and that he intended
to ask for the reason, as soon as we arrived.
We found the other children already there,
and almost before we had seated ourselves,
Muskrat asked:
"Grandfather, why must we never kill the
Mice-people? Grandmother said that you
"Yes," replied War Eagle, "I do know
and you must know. Therefore I shall tell
you all to-night why the Mice-people must
be let alone and allowed to do as they please,
for we owe them much; much more than we
can ever pay. Yes--they are great people,
as you will see.
" It happened long, long ago, when there
were few men and women on the world. OLDman
was chief of all then, and the animalpeople
and the bird-people were greater than
our people, because we had not been on earth
long and were not wise.
"There was much quarrelling among the
animals and the birds. You see the Bear
wanted to be chief, under OLD-man, and so
did the Beaver. Almost every night they
would have a council and quarrel over it.
Beside the Bear and Beaver, there were other
animals, and also birds, that thought they had
the right to be chief. They couldn't agree and
the quarrelling grew worse as time went on.
Some said the greatest thief should be chosen.
Others thought the wisest one should be the
leader; while some said the swiftest traveller
was the one they wanted. So it went on and
on until they were most all enemies instead of
friends, and you could hear them quarrelling
almost every night, until OLD-man came along
that way.
"He heard about the trouble. I forget
who told him, but I think it was the Rabbit.
Anyhow he visited the council where the
quarrelling was going on and listened to what
each one had to say. It took until almost
daylight, too. He listened to it all--every
bit. When they had finished talking and the
quarrelling commenced as usual, he said, 'stop!'
and they did stop.
"Then he said to them: 'I will settle this
thing right here and right now, so that there
will be no more rows over it, forever.'
"He opened his paint sack and took from
it a small, polished bone. This he held up in
the firelight, so that they might all see it, and
he said:
"'This will settle the quarrel. You all see
this bone in my right hand, don't you?'
"'Yes,' they replied.
"'Well, now you watch the bone and my
hands, too, for they are quick and cunning.'
"OLD-man began to sing the gambling song
and to slip the bone from one hand to the other
so rapidly and smoothly that they were all
puzzled. Finally he stopped singing and held
out his hands--both shut tight, and both
with their backs up.
"'Which of my hands holds the bone now?'
he asked them.
"Some said it was in the right hand and
others claimed that it was the left hand that
held it. OLD-man asked the Bear to name the
hand that held the bone, and the Bear did;
but when OLD-man opened that hand it was
empty--the bone was not there. Then everybody
laughed at the Bear. OLD-man smiled
a little and began to sing and again pass the
"'Beaver, you are smart; name the hand
that holds the bone this time.'
"The Beaver said: 'It's in your right hand.
I saw you put it there.'
"OLD-man opened that hand right before
the Beaver's eyes, but the bone wasn't there,
and again everybody laughed--especially the
"'Now, you see,' said OLD-man, 'that this
is not so easy as it looks, but I am going to
teach you all to play the game; and when you
have all learned it, you must play it until you
find out who is the cleverest at the playing.
Whoever that is, he shall be chief under me,
"Some were awkward and said they didn't
care much who was chief, but most all of them
learned to play pretty well. First the Bear
and the Beaver tried it, but the Beaver beat
the Bear easily and held the bone for ever so
long. Finally the Buffalo beat the Beaver
and started to play with the Mouse. Of
course the Mouse had small hands and was
quicker than the Buffalo--quicker to see the
bone. The Buffalo tried hard for he didn't
want the Mouse to be chief but it didn't do
him any good; for the Mouse won in the end.
"It was a fair game and the Mouse was
chief under the agreement. He looked quite
small among the rest but he walked right
out to the centre of the council and said:
"'Listen, brothers--what is mine to keep
is mine to give away. I am too small to be
your chief and I know it. I am not warlike.
I want to live in peace with my wife and family.
I know nothing of war. I get my living
easily. I don't like to have enemies. I am
going to give my right to be chief to the man
that OLD-man has made like himself.'
"That settled it. That made the man chief
forever, and that is why he is greater than the
animals and the birds. That is why we never
kill the Mice-people.
"You saw the Mice run into the buffalo
skull, of course. There is where they have
lived and brought up their families ever since
the night the Mouse beat the Buffalo playing
the bone game. Yes--the Mice-people always
make their nests in the heads of the
dead Buffalo-people, ever since that night.
"Our people play the same game, even today.
See," and War Eagle took from his
paint sack a small, polished bone. Then he
sang just as OLD-man did so long ago. He
let the children try to guess the hand that
held the bone, as the animal-people did that
fateful night; but, like the animals, they always
guessed wrong. Laughingly War Eagle
"Now go to your beds and come to see me
to-morrow night. Ho!"
It was rather late when we left War Eagle's
lodge after having learned why the Indians
never kill the Mice-people; and the milky
way was white and plain, dimming the stars
with its mist. The children all stopped to
say good night to little Sees-in-the-dark, a
brand-new baby sister of Bluebird's; then
they all went to bed.
The next day the boys played at war, just
as white boys do; and the girls played with
dolls dressed in buckskin clothes, until it grew
tiresome, when they visited relatives until
it came time for us all to go to their grandfather's
lodge. He was smoking when we
entered, but soon laid aside the pipe and said:
"You know that the otter skin is big medicine,
no doubt. You have noticed that our
warriors wear it sometimes and you know
that we all think it very lucky to wear the
skin of the Otter. But you don't know how
it came to be great; so I shall tell you.
"One time, long before my grandfather was
born, a young-man of our tribe was unlucky
in everything. No woman wanted to marry
him, because he couldn't kill enough meat to
keep her in food and clothes. Whenever he
went hunting, his bow always broke or he
would lose his lance. If these things didn't
happen, his horse would fall and hurt him.
Everybody talked about him and his bad
luck, and although he was fine-looking, he
had no close friends, because of his ill fortune.
He tried to dream and get his medicine but
no dream would come. He grew sour and
people were sorry for him all the time. Finally
his name was changed to 'The Unlucky-one,'
which sounds bad to the ear. He used to
wander about alone a good deal, and one
morning he saw an old woman gathering wood
by the side of a River. The Unlucky-one
was about to pass the old woman when she
stopped him and asked:
"'Why are you so sad in your handsome
face? Why is that sorry look in your fine
"'Because,' replied the young-man, 'I am
the Unlucky-one. Everything goes wrong with
me, always. I don't want to live any longer,
for my heart is growing wicked.'
"'Come with me,' said the old woman,
and he followed her until she told him to sit
down. Then she said: 'Listen to me. First
you must learn a song to sing, and this is it.'
Then she sang a queer song over and over
again until the young-man had learned it
"'Now do what I tell you, and your heart
shall be glad some day.' She drew from
her robe a pair of moccasins and a small sack
of dried meat. 'Here,' she said, 'put these
moccasins on your feet and take this sack of
meat for food, for you must travel far. Go
on down this river until you come to a great
beaver village. Their lodges will be large and
fine-looking and you will know the village by
the great size of the lodges. When you get
to the place, you must stand still for a long
time, and then sing the song I taught you.
When you have finished the singing, a great
white Beaver, chief of all the Beavers in the
world, will come to you. He is wise and can
tell you what to do to change your luck. After
that I cannot help you; but do what the white
Beaver tells you, without asking why. Now
go, and be brave!'
"The young-man started at once. Long
his steps were, for he was young and strong.
Far he travelled down the river--saw many
beaver villages, too, but he did not stop, because
the lodges were not big, as the old woman
told him they would be in the right village.
His feet grew tired for he travelled day and
night without resting, but his heart was brave
and he believed what the old woman had told him.
"It was late on the third day when he came
to a mighty beaver village and here the lodges
were greater than any he had ever seen before.
In the centre of the camp was a monstrous
lodge built of great sticks and towering above
the rest. All about, the ground was neat
and clean and bare as your hand. The Unlucky-
one knew this was the white Beaver's
lodge--knew that at last he had found the
chief of all the Beavers in the world; so he
stood still for a long time, and then sang that
"Soon a great white Beaver--white as
the snows of winter--came to him and asked:
'Why do you sing that song, my brother?
What do you want of me? I have never
heard a man sing that song before. You
must be in trouble.'
"'I am the Unlucky-one, ' the young-man
replied. 'I can do nothing well. I can find
no woman who will marry me. In the hunt
my bow will often break or my lance is poor.
My medicine is bad and I cannot dream.
The people do not love me, and they pity me
as they do a sick child.'
"'I am sorry for you, ' said the white Beaver
--chief of all the Beavers in the world--'but
you must find my brother the Coyote, who
knows where OLD-man's lodge is. The Coyote
will do your bidding if you sing that song
when you see him. Take this stick with you,
because you will have a long journey, and
with the stick you may cross any river and
not drown, if you keep it always in your hand.
That is all I can do for you, myself.'
"On down the river the Unlucky-one
travelled and the sun was low in the west on
the fourth day, when he saw the Coyote on
a hillside near by. After looking at Coyote
for a long time, the young-man commenced
to sing the song the old woman had taught
him. When he had finished the singing, the
Coyote came up close and asked:
"'What is the matter? Why do you sing
that song? I never heard a man sing it before.
What is it you want of me?'
"Then the Unlucky-one told the Coyote
what he had told the white Beaver, and showed
the stick the Beaver-chief had given him,
to prove it.
"'I am hungry, too,' said the Unlucky-one,
'for I have eaten all the dried meat the old
woman gave me.'
"'Wait here,' said the Coyote, 'my brother
the Wolf has just killed a fat Doe, and perhaps
he will give me a little of the meat when
I tell him about you and your troubles.'
"Away went the Coyote to beg for meat,
and while he was gone the young-man bathed
his tired feet in a cool creek. Soon the Coyote
came back with meat, and young-man built
a fire and ate some of it, even before it was
warm, for he was starving. When he had
finished the Coyote said:
"'Now I shall take you to OLD-man's lodge,
"They started, even though it was getting
dark. Long they travelled without stopping
--over plains and mountains--through great
forests and across rivers, until they came to a
cave in the rough rocks on the side of a mighty
"'In there,' said the Coyote, 'you will find
OLD-man and he can tell you what you want
to know.'
"The Unlucky-one stood before the black
hole in the rocks for a long time, because he
was afraid; but when he turned to speak to
the Coyote he found himself to be alone. The
Coyote had gone about his own business--
had silently slipped away in the night.
"Slowly and carefully the young-man began
to creep into the cave, feeling his way
in the darkness. His heart was beating like
a tom-tom at a dance. Finally he saw a fire
away back in the cave.
"The shadows danced about the stone sides
of the cave as men say the ghosts do; and
they frightened him. But looking, he saw a
man sitting on the far side of the fire. The
man's hair was like the snow and very long.
His face was wrinkled with the seams left by
many years of life and he was naked in the
firelight that played about him.
"Slowly the young-man stood upon his feet
and began to walk toward the fire with great
fear in his heart. When he had reached the
place where the firelight fell upon him, the
OLD-man looked up and said:
"'How, young-man, I am OLD-man. Why
did you come here? What is it you want?'
"Then the Unlucky-one told OLD-man just
what he had told the old woman and the white
Beaver and the Coyote, and showed the stick
the Beaver had given him, to prove it.
"'Smoke,' said OLD-man, and passed the
pipe to his visitor. After they had smoked
OLD-man said:
"'I will tell you what to do. On the top of
this great mountain there live many ghostpeople
and their chief is a great Owl. This
Owl is the only one who knows how you can
change your luck, and he will tell you if you
are not afraid. Take this arrow and go among
those people, without fear. Show them you
are unarmed as soon as they see you. Now
"Out into the night went the Unlucky-one
and on up the mountain. The way was rough
and the wind blew from the north, chilling his
limbs and stinging his face, but on he went
toward the mountain-top, where the stormclouds
sleep and the winter always stays.
Drifts of snow were piled all about, and the
wind gathered it up and hurled it at the youngman
as though it were angry at him. The
clouds waked and gathered around him, making
the night darker and the world lonelier than
before, but on the very top of the mountain
he stopped and tried to look through the
clouds. Then he heard strange singing all
about him; but for a long time there was no
singer in sight. Finally the clouds parted
and he saw a great circle of ghost-people with
large and ugly heads. They were seated on
the icy ground and on the drifts of snow and
on the rocks, singing a warlike song that made
the heart of the young-man stand still, in
dread. In the centre of the circle there sat
a mighty Owl--their chief. Ho!--when the
ghost-people saw the Unlucky-one they rushed
at him with many lances and would have killed
him but the Owl-chief cried, 'Stop!'
"The young-man folded his arms and said:
'I am unarmed--come and see how a Blackfoot
dies. I am not afraid of you.'
"'Ho!' said the Owl-chief, 'we kill no unarmed
man. Sit down, my son, and tell me
what you want. Why do you come here?
You must be in trouble. You must smoke
with me.'
"The Unlucky-one told the Owl-chief just
what he had told the old woman and the Beaver
and the Coyote and OLD-man, and showed the
stick that the white Beaver had given him
and the arrow that OLD-man had given to
him to prove it.
"'Good,' said the Owl-chief, 'I can help
you, but first you must help yourself. Take
this bow. It is a medicine-bow; then you
will have a bow that will not break and an
arrow that is good and straight. Now go
down this mountain until you come to a
river. It will be dark when you reach this
river, but you will know the way. There
will be a great cottonwood-tree on the bank
of the stream where you first come to the
water. At this tree, you must turn down the
stream and keep on travelling without rest,
until you hear a splashing in the water near
you. When you hear the splashing, you must
shoot this arrow at the sound. Shoot quickly,
for if you do not you can never have any good
luck. If you do as I have told you the splasher
will be killed and you must then take his hide
and wear it always. The skin that the splasher
wears will make you a lucky man. It will
make anybody lucky and you may tell your
people that it is so.
"'Now go, for it is nearly day and we must
"The young-man took his bow and arrow
and the stick the white Beaver had given him
and started on his journey. All the day he
travelled, and far into the night. At last he
came to a river and on the bank he saw the
great cottonwood-tree, just as the ghost Owl
had told him. At the tree the young-man
turned down the stream and in the dark easily
found his way along the bank. Very soon he
heard a great splashing in the water near him,
and--zipp--he let the arrow go at the
sound--then all was still again. He stood
and looked and listened, but for a long time
could see nothing--hear nothing.
"Then the moon came out from under a
cloud and just where her light struck the
river, he saw some animal floating--dead.
With the magic stick the young-man walked
out on the water, seized the animal by the
legs and drew it ashore. It was an Otter,
and the young-man took his hide, right there.
"A Wolf waited in the brush for the body
of the Otter, and the young-man gave it to
him willingly, because he remembered the
meat the Wolf had given the Coyote. As
soon as the young-man had skinned the Otter
he threw the hide over his shoulder and started
for his own country with a light heart, but
at the first good place he made a camp, and
slept. That night he dreamed and all was
well with him.
"After days of travel he found his tribe
again, and told what had happened. He became
a great hunter and a great chief among
us. He married the most beautiful woman in
the tribe and was good to her always. They
had many children, and we remember his
name as one that was great in war. That is
Firelight--what a charm it adds to
story-telling. How its moods seem to
keep pace with situations pictured by the
oracle, offering shadows when dread is abroad,
and light when a pleasing climax is reached;
for interest undoubtedly tends the blaze, while
sympathy contributes or withholds fuel, according
to its dictates.
The lodge was alight when I approached
and I could hear the children singing in a
happy mood, but upon entering, the singing
ceased and embarrassed smiles on the young
faces greeted me; nor could I coax a continuation
of the song.
Seated beside War Eagle was a very old
Indian whose name was Red Robe, and as
soon as I was seated. the host explained that
he was an honored guest; that he was a Sioux
and a friend of long standing. Then War
Eagle lighted the pipe, passing it to the distinguished
friend, who in turn passed it to
me, after first offering it to the Sun, the father,
and the Earth, the mother of all that is.
In a lodge of the Blackfeet the pipe must
never be passed across the doorway. To do
so would insult the host and bring bad luck
to all who assembled. Therefore if there be
a large number of guests ranged about the
lodge, the pipe is passed first to the left from
guest to guest until it reaches the door, when
it goes back, unsmoked, to the host, to be
refilled ere it is passed to those on his right
Briefly War Eagle explained my presence
to Red Robe and said:
"Once the Moon made the Sun a pair of
leggings. Such beautiful work had never been
seen before. They were worked with the colored
quills of the Porcupine and were covered
with strange signs, which none but the Sun
and the Moon could read. No man ever saw
such leggings as they were, and it took the
Moon many snows to make them. Yes, they
were wonderful leggings and the Sun always
wore them on fine days, for they were bright
to look upon.
"Every night when the Sun went to sleep
in his lodge away in the west, he used the
leggings for a pillow, because there was a
thief in the world, even then. That thief and
rascal was OLD-man, and of course the Sun
knew all about him. That is why he always
put his fine leggings under his head when
he slept. When he worked he almost always
wore them, as I have told you, so that there
was no danger of losing them in the daytime;
but the Sun was careful of his leggings when
night came and he slept.
"You wouldn't think that a person would
be so foolish as to steal from the Sun, but
one night OLD-man--who is the only person
who ever knew just where the Sun's lodge
was--crept near enough to look in, and
saw the leggings under the Sun's head.
"We have all travelled a great deal but
no man ever found the Sun's lodge. No
man knows in what country it is. Of course
we know it is located somewhere west of here,
for we see him going that way every afternoon,
but OLD-man knew everything--except
that he could not fool the Sun.
"Yes--OLD-man looked into the lodge of
the Sun and saw the leggings there--saw
the Sun, too, and the Sun was asleep. He
made up his mind that he would steal the
leggings so he crept through the door of the
lodge. There was no one at home but the
Sun, for the Moon has work to do at night
just as the children, the Stars, do, so he thought
he could slip the leggings from under the
sleeper's head and get away.
"He got down on his hands and knees to
walk like the Bear-people and crept into the
lodge, but in the black darkness he put his
knee upon a dry stick near the Sun's bed.
The stick snapped under his weight with so
great a noise that the Sun turned over and
snorted, scaring OLD-man so badly that he
couldn't move for a minute. His heart was
not strong--wickedness makes every heart
weaker--and after making sure that the Sun
had not seen him, he crept silently out of the
lodge and ran away.
"On the top of a hill OLD-man stopped to
look and listen, but all was still; so he sat down
and thought.
"'I'll get them to-morrow night when he
sleeps again'; he said to himself. 'I need
those leggings myself, and I'm going to get
them, because they will make me handsome
as the Sun.'
"He watched the Moon come home to camp
and saw the Sun go to work, but he did not
go very far away because he wanted to be
near the lodge when night came again.
"It was not long to wait, for all the OLDman
had to do was to make mischief, and only
those who have work to do measure time.
He was close to the lodge when the Moon
came out, and there he waited until the Sun
went inside. From the bushes OLD-man saw
the Sun take off his leggings and his eyes
glittered with greed as he saw their owner
fold them and put them under his head as
he had always done. Then he waited a
while before creeping closer. Little by little
the old rascal crawled toward the lodge,
till finally his head was inside the door. Then
he waited a long, long time, even after the
Sun was snoring.
"The strange noises of the night bothered
him, for he knew he was doing wrong, and
when a Loon cried on a lake near by, he shivered
as with cold, but finally crept to the sleeper's
side. Cautiously his fingers felt about the
precious leggings until he knew just how they
could best be removed without waking the
Sun. His breath was short and his heart was
beating as a war-drum beats, in the black dark
of the lodge. Sweat--cold sweat, that great
fear always brings to the weak-hearted--was
dripping from his body, and once he thought
that he would wait for another night, but
greed whispered again, and listening to its
voice, he stole the leggings from under the
Sun's head.
"Carefully he crept out of the lodge, looking
over his shoulder as he went through the
door. Then he ran away as fast as he could
go. Over hills and valleys, across rivers and
creeks, toward the east. He wasted much
breath laughing at his smartness as he ran,
and soon he grew tired.
"'Ho!' he said to himself, 'I am far enough
now and I shall sleep. It's easy to steal from
the Sun--just as easy as stealing from the
Bear or the Beaver.'
"He folded the leggings and put them under
his head as the Sun had done, and went to
sleep. He had a dream and it waked him with
a start. Bad deeds bring bad dreams to us
all. OLD-man sat up and there was the Sun
looking right in his face and laughing. He
was frightened and ran away, leaving the
leggings behind him.
"Laughingly the Sun put on the leggings
and went on toward the west, for he is always
busy. He thought he would see OLDman
no more, but it takes more than one
lesson to teach a fool to be wise, and OLDman
hid in the timber until the Sun had
travelled out of sight. Then he ran westward
and hid himself near the Sun's lodge again,
intending to wait for the night and steal the
leggings a second time.
"He was much afraid this time, but as soon
as the Sun was asleep he crept to the lodge
and peeked inside. Here he stopped and looked
about, for he was afraid the Sun would hear
his heart beating. Finally he started toward
the Sun's bed and just then a great white
Owl flew from off the lodge poles, and this
scared him more, for that is very bad luck
and he knew it; but he kept on creeping until
he could almost touch the Sun.
"All about the lodge were beautiful linings,
tanned and painted by the Moon, and the
queer signs on them made the old coward
tremble. He heard a night-bird call outside
and he thought it would surely wake the Sun;
so he hastened to the bed and with cunning
fingers stole the leggings, as he had done the
night before, without waking the great sleeper.
Then he crept out of the lodge, talking bravely
to himself as cowards do when they are afraid.
"'Now,' he said to himself, 'I shall run
faster and farther than before. I shall not
stop running while the night lasts, and I
shall stay in the mountains all the time when
the Sun is at work in the daytime!'
"Away he went--running as the Buffalo
runs--straight ahead, looking at nothing,
hearing nothing, stopping at nothing. When
day began to break OLD-man was far from
the Sun's lodge and he hid himself in a deep
gulch among some bushes that grew there.
He listened a long time before he dared to go
to sleep, but finally he did. He was tired
from his great run and slept soundly and for a
long time, but when he opened his eyes--
there was the Sun looking straight at him,
and this time he was scowling. OLD-man
started to run away but the Sun grabbed
him and threw him down upon his back.
My! but the Sun was angry, and he said:
"'OLD-man, you are a clever thief but a
mighty fool as well, for you steal from me and
expect to hide away. Twice you have stolen
the leggings my wife made for me, and twice
I have found you easily. Don't you know
that the whole world is my lodge and that
you can never get outside of it, if you run
your foolish legs off? Don't you know that
I light all of my lodge every day and search
it carefully? Don't you know that nothing
can hide from me and live? I shall not harm
you this time, but I warn you now, that if
you ever steal from me again, I will hurt you
badly. Now go, and don't let me catch you
stealing again!'
"Away went OLD-man, and on toward the
west went the busy Sun. That is all.
"Now go to bed; for I would talk of other
things with my friend, who knows of war as
I do. Ho! "
Not so many miles away from the village,
the great mountain range so divides
the streams that are born there, that their
waters are offered as tribute to the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. In this wonderful
range the Indians believe the winds are
made, and that they battle for supremacy
over Gunsight Pass. I have heard an old
story, too, that is said to have been generally
believed by the Blackfeet, in which a monster
bull-elk that lives in Gunsight Pass lords it
over the winds. This elk creates the North
wind by "flapping" one of his ears, and the
South wind by the same use of his other. I
am inclined to believe that the winds are
made in that Pass, myself, for there they are
seldom at rest, especially at this season of
the year.
To-night the wind was blowing from the
north, and filmy white clouds were driven
across the face of the nearly full moon, momentarily
veiling her light. Lodge poles
creaked and strained at every heavy gust,
and sparks from the fires inside the lodges
sped down the wind, to fade and die.
In his lodge War Eagle waited for us, and
when we entered he greeted us warmly, but
failed to mention the gale. "I have been
waiting," he said. "You are late and the
story I shall tell you is longer than many of
the others." Without further delay the storytelling
"Once OLD-man came upon a lodge in the
forest. It was a fine one, and painted with
strange signs. Smoke was curling from the
top, and thus he knew that the person who
lived there was at home. Without calling
or speaking, he entered the lodge and saw a
man sitting by the fire smoking his pipe. The
man didn't speak, nor did he offer his pipe
to OLD-man, as our people do when they are
glad to see visitors. He didn't even look at
his guest, but OLD-man has no good manners
at all. He couldn't see that he wasn't wanted,
as he looked about the man's lodge and made
himself at home. The linings were beautiful
and were painted with fine skill. The lodge
was clean and the fire was bright, but there
was no woman about.
"Leaning against a fine back-rest, OLD-man
filled his own pipe and lighted it with a coal
from the man's fire. Then he began to smoke
and look around, wondering why the man
acted so queerly. He saw a star that shone
down through the smoke-hole, and the tops
of several trees that were near the lodge. Then
he saw a woman--way up in a tree top and
right over the lodge. She looked young and
beautiful and tall.
"'Whose woman is that up there in the
tree top?' asked OLD-man.
"'She's your woman if you can catch her
and will marry her,' growled the man; 'but
you will have to live here and help me make
a living.'
"'I'll try to catch her, and if I do I will
marry her and stay here, for I am a great
hunter and can easily kill what meat we want,'
said Old-man.
"He went out of the lodge and climbed the
tree after the woman. She screamed, but he
caught her and held her, although she scratched
him badly. He carried her into the lodge
and there renewed his promise to stay there
always. The man married them, and they
were happy for four days, but on the fifth
morning OLD-man was gone--gone with all
the dried meat in the lodge--the thief.
"When they were sure that the rascal had
run away the woman began to cry, but not
so the man. He got his bow and arrows
and left the lodge in anger. There was snow
on the ground and the man took the track
of OLD-man, intending to catch and kill him.
"The track was fresh and the man started
on a run, for he was a good hunter and as
fast as a Deer. Of course he gained on OLDman,
who was a much slower traveller; and
the Sun was not very high when the old thief
stopped on a hilltop to look back. He saw
the man coming fast.
"'This will never do,' he said to himself.
'That queer person will catch me. I know
what I shall do; I shall turn myself into a
dead Bull-Elk and lie down. Then he will pass
me and I can go where I please.'
"He took off his moccasins and said to
them: 'Moccasins, go on toward the west.
Keep going and making plain tracks in the
snow toward the big-water where the Sun
sleeps. The queer-one will follow you, and
when you pass out of the snowy country,
you can lose him. Go quickly for he is close
upon us.'
"The moccasins ran away as OLD-man wanted
them to, and they made plain tracks in the
snow leading away toward the big-water. OLDman
turned into a dead Bull-Elk and stretched
himself near the tracks the moccasins had
"Up the hill came the man, his breath short
from running. He saw the dead Elk, and
thought it might be OLD-man playing a trick.
He was about to shoot an arrow into the dead
Elk to make sure; but just as he was about to
let the arrow go, he saw the tracks the moccasins
had made. Of course he thought the
moccasins were on OLD-man's feet, and that
the carcass was really that of a dead Elk. He
was badly fooled and took the tracks again.
On and on he went, following the moccasins
over hills and rivers. Faster than before went
the man, and still faster travelled the empty
moccasins, the trail growing dimmer and dimmer
as the daylight faded. All day long,
and all of the night the man followed the
tracks without rest or food, and just at daybreak
he came to the shore of the big-water.
There, right by the water's edge, stood the
empty moccasins, side by side.
"The man turned and looked back. His
eyes were red and his legs were trembling.
'Caw--caw, caw,' he heard a Crow say. Right
over his head he saw the black bird and knew
him, too.
"'Ho! OLD-man, you were in that dead
Bull-Elk. You fooled me, and now you are a
Crow. You think you will escape me, do you?
Well, you will not; for I, too, know magic,
and am wise.'
"With a stick the man drew a cricle in the
sand. Then he stood within the ring and
sang a song. OLD-man was worried and
watched the strange doings from the air overhead.
Inside the circle the man began to
whirl about so rapidly that he faded from
sight, and from the centre of the circle there
came an Eagle. Straight at the Crow flew the
Eagle, and away toward the mountains sped
the Crow, in fright.
"The Crow knew that the Eagle would catch
him, so that as soon as he reached the trees
on the mountains he turned himself into a
Wren and sought the small bushes under the
tall trees. The Eagle saw the change, and
at once began turning over and over in the
air. When he had reached the ground, instead
of an Eagle a Sparrow-hawk chased the
Wren. Now the chase was fast indeed, for no
place could the Wren find in which to hide
from the Sparrow-hawk. Through the brush,
into trees, among the weeds and grass, flew
the Wren with the Hawk close behind. Once
the Sparrow-hawk picked a feather from the
Wren's tail--so close was he to his victim.
It was nearly over with the Wren, when he
suddenly came to a park along a river's side.
In this park were a hundred lodges of our
people, and before a fine lodge there sat the
daughter of the chief. It was growing dark
and chilly, but still she sat there looking at
the river. The Sparrow-hawk was striking at
the Wren with his beak and talons, when the
Wren saw the young-woman and flew straight
to her. So swift he flew that the young-woman
didn't see him at all, but she felt something
strike her hand, and when she looked she
saw a bone ring on her finger. This frightened
her, and she ran inside the lodge, where the
fire kept the shadows from coming. OLDman
had changed into the ring, of course,
and the Sparrow-hawk didn't dare to go into
the lodge; so he stopped outside and listened.
This is what he heard OLD-man say:
"'Don't be frightened, young-woman, I
am neither a Wren nor a ring. I am OLD-man
and that Sparrow-hawk has chased me all the
day and for nothing. I have never done him
harm, and he bothers me without reason.'
"'Liar--forked-tongue,' cried the Sparrowhawk.
'Believe him not, young-woman. He
has done wrong. He is wicked and I am not
a Sparrow-hawk, but conscience. Like an arrow
I travel, straight and fast. When he
lies or steals from his friends I follow him.
I talk all the time and he hears me, but lies to
himself, and says he does not hear. You
know who I am, young-woman, I am what
talks inside a person.'
"OLD-man heard what the Sparrow-hawk
said, and he was ashamed for once in his life.
He crawled out of the lodge. Into the shadows
he ran away--away into the night, and the
darkness--away from himself!
"You see," said War Eagle, as he reached
for his pipe," OLD-man knew that he had done
wrong, and his heart troubled him, just as
yours will bother you if you do not listen to
the voice that speaks within yourselves. Whenever
that voice says a thing is wicked, it is
wicked--no matter who says it is not. Yes
--it is very hard for a man to hide from himself.
The next afternoon Muskrat and Fine
Bow went hunting. They hid themselves
in some brush which grew beside an
old game trail that followed the river, and
there waited for a chance deer.
Chickadees hopped and called, "chick-a-dede-
de" in the willows and wild-rose bushes that
grew near their hiding-place; and the gentle
little birds with their pretty coats were often
within a few inches of the hands of the young
hunters. In perfect silence they watched and
admired these little friends, while glance or
smile conveyed their appreciation of the birdvisits
to each other.
The wind was coming down the stream, and
therefore the eyes of the boys seldom left the
trail in that direction; for from that quarter
an approaching deer would be unwarned by
the ever-busy breeze. A rabbit came hopping
down the game trail in believed perfect security,
passing so close to Fine Bow that he
could not resist the desire to strike at him with
an arrow. Both boys were obliged to cover
their mouths with their open hands to keep
from laughing aloud at the surprise and speed
shown by the frightened bunny, as he scurried
around a bend in the trail, with his white,
pudgy tail bobbing rapidly.
They had scarcely regained their composure
and silence when, "snap!" went a dry
stick. The sharp sound sent a thrill through
the hearts of the boys, and instantly they
became rigidly watchful. Not a leaf could
move on the ground now--not a bush might
bend or a bird pass and escape being seen by
the four sharp eyes that peered from the brush
in the direction indicated by the sound of
the breaking stick. Two hearts beat loudly
as Fine Bow fitted his arrow to the bowstring.
Tense and expectant they waited--yes, it
was a deer--a buck, too, and he was coming
down the trail, alert and watchful--down
the trail that he had often travelled and knew
so well. Yes, he had followed his mother
along that trail when he was but a spotted
fawn--now he wore antlers, and was master
of his own ways. On he came--nearly to the
brush that hid the hunters, when, throwing
his beautiful head high in the air, he stopped,
turning his side a trifle.
Zipp--went the arrow and, kicking out
behind, away went the buck, crashing through
willows and alders that grew in his way, until
he was out of sight. Then all was still, save
the chick-a-de-de-de, chick-a-de-de-de, that
came constantly from the bushes about them.
Out from the cover came the hunters, and
with ready bow they followed along the trail.
Yes--there was blood on a log, and more
on the dead leaves. The arrow had found its
mark and they must go slowly in their trailing,
lest they lose the meat. For two hours they
followed the wounded animal, and at last
came upon him in a willow thicket--sick
unto death, for the arrow was deep in his
paunch. His sufferings were ended by another
arrow, and the chase was done.
With their knives the boys dressed the buck,
and then went back to the camp to tell the
women where the meat could be found--just
as the men do. It was their first deer; and
pride shone in their faces as they told their
grandfather that night in the lodge.
"That is good," War Eagle replied, as the
boys finished telling of their success. "That
is good, if your mother needed the meat, but
it is wrong to kill when you have plenty, lest
Manitou be angry. There is always enough,
but none to waste, and the hunter who kills
more than he needs is wicked. To-night I shall
tell you what happened to OLD-man when he did
that. Yes, and he got into trouble over it.
"One day in the fall when the leaves were
yellow, and the Deer-people were dressed in
their blue robes--when the Geese and Duckpeople
were travelling to the country where
water does not freeze, and where flowers never
die, OLD-man was travelling on the plains.
"Near sundown he saw two Buffalo-Bulls
feeding on a steep hillside; but he had no
bow and arrow with him. He was hungry,
and began to think of some way to kill one
of the Bulls for meat. Very soon he thought
out a plan, for he is cunning always.
"He ran around the hill out of sight of the
Bulls, and there made two men out of grass
and sage-brush. They were dummies, of
course, but he made them to look just like real
men, and then armed each with a wooden
knife of great length. Then he set them in
the position of fighting; made them look as
though they were about to fight each other
with the knives. When he had them both
fixed to suit, he ran back to the place where
the Buffalo were calling:
"'Ho! brothers, wait for me--do not run
away. There are two fine men on the other
side of this hill, and they are quarrelling.
They will surely fight unless we stop them.
It all started over you two Bulls, too. One
of the men says you are fat and fine, and the
other claims you are poor and skinny. Don't
let our brothers fight over such a foolish thing
as that. It would be wicked. Now I can
decide it, if you will let me feel all over you
to see if you are fat or poor. Then I will go
back to the men and settle the trouble by telling
them the truth. Stand still and let me feel
your sides--quick, lest the fight begin while
I am away.'
"'All right,' said the Bulls, 'but don't you
tickle us.' Then OLD-man walked up close
and commenced to feel about the Bulls' sides;
but his heart was bad. From his robe he
slipped his great knife, and slyly felt about
till he found the spot where the heart beats,
and then stabbed the knife into the place,
clear up to the hilt.
"Both of the Bulls died right away, and
OLD-man laughed at the trick he had played
upon them. Then he gave a knife to both of
his hands, and said:
"'Get to work, both of you! Skin these
Bulls while I sit here and boss you.'
"Both hands commenced to skin the Buffalo,
but the right hand was much the swifter
worker. It gained upon the left hand rapidly,
and this made the left hand angry. Finally the
left hand called the right hand 'dog-face.'
That is the very worst thing you can call a
person in our language, you know, and of
course it made the right hand angry. So
crazy and angry was the right hand that it
stabbed the left hand, and then they began to
fight in earnest.
"Both cut and slashed till blood covered
the animals they were skinning. All this fighting
hurt OLD-man badly, of course, and he
commenced to cry, as women do sometimes.
This stopped the fight; but still OLD-man cried,
till, drying his tears, he saw a Red Fox sitting
near the Bulls, watching him. 'Hi, there, you
--go away from there ! If you want meat
you go and kill it, as I did.'
"Red Fox laughed--'Ha!--Ha!--Ha!--
foolish OLD-man--Ha!--ha!' Then he ran
away and told the other Foxes and the Wolves
and the Coyotes about OLD-man's meat. Told
them that his own hands couldn't get along
with themselves and that it would be easy
to steal it from him.
"They all followed the Red Fox back to
the place where OLD-man was, and there they
ate all of the meat--every bit, and polished
the bones.
"OLD-man couldn't stop them, because he
was hurt, you see; but it all came about through
lying and killing more meat than he needed.
Yes--he lied and that is bad, but his hands
got to quarrelling between themselves, and
family quarrels are always bad. Do not lie;
do not quarrel. It is bad. Ho!"
I was awakened by the voice of the campcrier,
and although it was yet dark I listened
to his message.
The camp was to move. All were to go to
the mouth of the Maria's--"The River That
Scolds at the Other"--the Indians call this
stream, that disturbs the waters of the Missouri
with its swifter flood.
On through the camp the crier rode, and
behind him the lodge-fires glowed in answer
to his call. The village was awake, and soon
the thunder of hundreds of hoofs told me that
the pony-bands were being driven into camp,
where the faithful were being roped for the
journey. Fires flickered in the now fading
darkness, and down came the lodges as though
wizard hands had touched them. Before the
sun had come to light the world, we were
on our way to "The River That Scolds at the
Not a cloud was in the sky, and the wind
was still. The sun came and touched the
plains and hilltops with the light that makes
all wild things glad. Here and there a jackrabbit
scurried away, often followed by a
pack of dogs, and sometimes, though not often,
they were overtaken and devoured on the
spot. Bands of graceful antelope bounded out
of our way, stopping on a knoll to watch the
strange procession with wondering eyes, and
once we saw a dust-cloud raised by a moving
herd of buffalo, in the distance.
So the day wore on, the scene constantly
changing as we travelled. Wolves and coyotes
looked at us from almost every knoll and hilltop;
and sage-hens sneaked to cover among
the patches of sage-brush, scarcely ten feet
away from our ponies. Toward sundown we
reached a grove of cottonwoods near the mouth
of the Maria's, and in an incredibly short
space of time the lodges took form. Soon,
from out the tops of a hundred camps, smoke
was curling just as though the lodges had
been there always, and would forever remain.
As soon as supper was over I found the
children, and together we sought War Eagle's
lodge. He was in a happy mood and insisted
upon smoking two pipes before commencing
his story-telling. At last he said:
"To-night I shall tell you why the Nighthawk
wears fine clothes. My grandfather told
me about it when I was young. I am sure
you have seen the Night-hawk sailing over
you, dipping and making that strange noise.
Of course there is a reason for it.
"OLD-man was travelling one day in the
springtime; but the weather was fine for that
time of year. He stopped often and spoke to
the bird-people and to the animal-people, for
he was in good humor that day. He talked
pleasantly with the trees, and his heart grew
tender. That is, he had good thoughts; and
of course they made him happy. Finally he
felt tired and sat down to rest on a big, round
stone--the kind of stone our white friend
there calls a bowlder. Here he rested for a
while, but the stone was cold, and he felt it
through his robe; so he said:
"'Stone, you seem cold to-day. You may
have my robe. I have hundreds of robes in
my camp, and I don't need this one at all.'
That was a lie he told about having so many
robes. All he had was the one he wore.
"He spread his robe over the stone, and
then started down the hill, naked, for it was
really a fine day. But storms hide in the
mountains, and are never far away when it is
springtime. Soon it began to snow--then
the wind blew from the north with a good
strength behind it. OLD-man said:
"'Well, I guess I do need that robe myself,
after all. That stone never did anything for
me anyhow. Nobody is ever good to a stone.
I'll just go back and get my robe.'
"Back he went and found the stone. Then
he pulled the robe away, and wrapped it about
himself. Ho! but that made the stone angry
--Ho! OLD-man started to run down the
hill, and the stone ran after him. Ho! it
was a funny race they made, over the grass,
over smaller stones, and over logs that lay
in the way, but OLD-man managed to keep
ahead until he stubbed his toe on a big
sage-brush, and fell--swow!
"'Now I have you!' cried the stone--'now
I'll kill you, too! Now I will teach you to
give presents and then take them away,'
and the stone rolled right on top of OLD-man,
and sat on his back.
"It was a big stone, you see, and OLD-man
couldn't move it at all. He tried to throw
off the stone but failed. He squirmed and
twisted--no use--the stone held him fast.
He called the stone some names that are not
good; but that never helps any. At last he
began to call:
"'Help!--Help!--Help!' but nobody
heard him except the Night-hawk, and he
told the OLD-man that he would help him all
he could; so he flew away up in the air--so
far that he looked like a black speck. Then
he came down straight and struck that rock
an awful blow--'swow!'--and broke it in
two pieces. Indeed he did. The blow was
so great that it spoiled the Night-hawk's bill,
forever--made it queer in shape, and jammed
his head, so that it is queer, too. But he
broke the rock, and OLD-man stood upon his
"'Thank you, Brother Night-hawk, ' said OLDman,
'now I will do something for you. I
am going to make you different from other
birds--make you so people will always notice
"You know that when you break a rock
the powdered stone is white, like snow; and
there is always some of the white powder
whenever you break a rock, by pounding it.
Well, Old-man took some of the fine powdered
stone and shook it on the Night-hawk's wings
in spots and stripes--made the great white
stripes you have seen on his wings, and told
him that no other bird could have such marks
on his clothes.
"All the Night-hawk's children dress the
same way now; and they always will as long
as there are Night-hawks. Of course their
clothes make them proud; and that is why they
keep at flying over people's heads--soaring
and dipping and turning all the time, to show
off their pretty wings.
"That is all for to-night. Muskrat, tell
your father I would run Buffalo with him tomorrow--
Have you ever seen the plains in the
morning--a June morning, when the
spurred lark soars and sings--when the plover
calls, and the curlew pipes his shriller notes
to the rising sun? Then is there music, indeed,
for no bird outsings the spurred lark;
and thanks to OLD-man he is not wanting in
numbers, either. The plains are wonderful
then--more wonderful than they are at this
season of the year; but at all times they beckon
and hold one as in a spell, especially when
they are backed or bordered by a snow-capped
mountain range. Looking toward the east
they are boundless, but on their western edge
superb mountains rear themselves.
All over this vast country the Indians
roamed, following the great buffalo herds as
did the wolves, and making their living with
the bow and lance, since the horse came to
them. In the very old days the "piskun"
was used, and buffalo were enticed to follow
a fantastically dressed man toward a cliff, far
enough to get the herd moving in that direction,
when the "buffalo-man" gained cover,
and hidden Indians raised from their hiding
places behind the animals, and drove them
over the cliff, where they were killed in large
Not until Cortez came with his cavalry from
Spain, were there horses on this continent, and
then generations passed ere the plains tribes
possessed this valuable animal, that so materially
changed their lives. Dogs dragged
the Indian's travois or packed his household
goods in the days before the horse came, and
for hundreds--perhaps thousands of years,
these people had no other means of transporting
their goods and chattels. As the Indian
is slow to forget or change the ways of his
father, we should pause before we brand him
as wholly improvident, I think.
He has always been a family-man, has the
Indian, and small children had to be carried, as
well as his camp equipage. Wolf-dogs had
to be fed, too, in some way, thus adding to his
burden; for it took a great many to make it
possible for him to travel at all.
When the night came and we visited War
Eagle, we found he had other company--so
we waited until their visit was ended before
settling ourselves to hear the story that he
might tell us.
"The Crows have stolen some of our best
horses," said War Eagle, as soon as the other
guests had gone. "That is all right--we
shall get them back, and more, too. The
Crows have only borrowed those horses and
will pay for their use with others of their own.
To-night I shall tell you why the Mountain
lion is so long and thin and why he wears
hair that looks singed. I shall also tell you
why that person's nose is black, because it
is part of the story.
"A long time ago the Mountain-lion was
a short, thick-set person. I am sure you
didn't guess that. He was always a great
thief like OLD-man, but once he went too far,
as you shall see.
"One day OLD-man was on a hilltop, and
saw smoke curling up through the trees, away
off on the far side of a gulch. 'Ho!' he said,
'I wonder who builds fires except me. I guess
I will go and find out.'
"He crossed the gulch and crept carefully
toward the smoke. When he got quite near
where the fire was, he stopped and listened.
He heard some loud laughing but could not
see who it was that felt so glad and gay.
Finally he crawled closer and peeked through
the brush toward the fire. Then he saw some
Squirrel-people, and they were playing some
sort of game. They were running and laughing,
and having a big time, too. What do
you think they were doing? They were running
about the fire--all chasing one Squirrel.
As soon as the Squirrel was caught, they would
bury him in the ashes near the fire until he
cried; then they would dig him out in a hurry.
Then another Squirrel would take the lead
and run until he was caught, as the other
had been. In turn the captive would submit
to being buried, and so on--while the
racing and laughing continued. They never
left the buried one in the ashes after he cried,
but always kept their promise and dug him
out, right away.
"'Say, let me play, won't you?' asked
OLD-man. But the Squirrel-people all ran
away, and he had a hard time getting them
to return to the fire.
"'You can't play this game,' replied the
Chief-Squirrel, after they had returned to the
"'Yes, I can,' declared OLD-man, 'and you
may bury me first, but be sure to dig me out
when I cry, and not let me burn, for those
ashes are hot near the fire.'
"'All right,' said the Chief-Squirrel, 'we
will let you play. Lie down,'--and OLDMan
did lie down near the fire. Then the
Squirrels began to laugh and bury OLD-man
in the ashes, as they did their own kind. In
no time at all OLD-man cried: 'Ouch!--you
are burning me--quick!--dig me out.'
"True to their promise, the Squirrel-people
dug OLD-man out of the ashes, and laughed
at him because he cried so quickly.
"'Now, it is my turn to cover the captive,'
said OLD-man, 'and as there are so many of
you, I have a scheme that will make the game
funnier and shorter. All of you lie down at
once in a row. Then I will cover you all at
one time. When you cry--I will dig you
out right away and the game will be over.'
"They didn't know OLD-man very well; so
they said, 'all right,' and then they all laid
down in a row about the fire.
"OLD-man buried them all in the ashes--
then he threw some more wood on the fire
and went away and left them. Every Squirrel
there was in the world was buried in the ashes
except one woman Squirrel, and she told OLDman
she couldn't play and had to go home.
If she hadn't gone, there might not be any
Squirrels in this world right now. Yes, it
is lucky that she went home.
"For a minute or so OLD-man watched the
fire as it grew hotter, and then went down to
a creek where willows grew and made himself
a great plate by weaving them together.
When he had finished making the plate, he
returned to the fire, and it had burned low
again. He laughed at his wicked work, and
a Raven, flying over just then, called him
'forked-tongue,' or liar, but he didn't mind
that at all. OLD-man cut a long stick and
began to dig out the Squirrel-people. One
by one he fished them out of the hot ashes;
and they were roasted fine and were ready to
eat. As he fished them out he counted them,
and laid them on the willow plate he had
made. When he had dug out the last one,
he took the plate to the creek and there sat
down to eat the Squirrels, for he was hungry,
as usual. OLD-man is a big eater, but he
couldn't eat all of the Squirrels at once, and
while eating he fell asleep with the great plate
in his lap.
"Nobody knows how long it was that he
slept, but when he waked his plate of Squirrels
was gone--gone completely. He looked behind
him; he looked about him; but the plate
was surely gone. Ho! But he was angry.
He stamped about in the brush and called
aloud to those who might hear him; but nobody
answered, and then he started to look
for the thief. OLD-man has sharp eyes, and he
found the trail in the grass where somebody
had passed while he slept. 'Ho!' he said,
'the Mountain-lion has stolen my Squirrels.
I see his footprints; see where he has mashed
the grass as he walked with those soft feet
of his; but I shall find him, for I made him
and know all his ways.'
"OLD-man got down on his hands and knees
to walk as the Bear-people do, just as he did
that night in the Sun's lodge, and followed
the trail of the Mountain-lion over the hills
and through the swamps. At last he came
to a place where the grass was all bent down,
and there he found his willow plate, but it
was empty. That was the place where the
Mountain-lion had stopped to eat the rest
of the Squirrels, you know; but he didn't stay
there long because he expected that OLD-man
would try to follow him.
"The Mountain-lion had eaten so much
that he was sleepy and, after travelling a while
after he had eaten the Squirrels, he thought
he would rest. He hadn't intended to go
to sleep; but he crawled upon a big stone near
the foot of a hill and sat down where he could
see a long way. Here his eyes began to wink,
and his head began to nod, and finally he
"Without stopping once, OLD-man kept on
the trail. That is what counts--sticking right
to the thing you are doing--and just before
sundown OLD-man saw the sleeping Lion. Carefully,
lest he wake the sleeper, OLD-man crept
close, being particular not to move a stone or
break a twig; for the Mountain-lion is much
faster than men are, you see; and if OLD-man
had wakened the Lion, he would never have
caught him again, perhaps. Little by little
he crept to the stone where the Mountainlion
was dreaming, and at last grabbed him
by the tail. It wasn't much of a tail then,
but enough for OLD-man to hold to. Ho!
The Lion was scared and begged hard, saying:
"'Spare me, OLD-man. You were full and
I was hungry. I had to have something to
eat; had to get my living. Please let me go
and do not hurt me.' Ho! OLD-man was
angry--more angry than he was when he
waked and found that he had been robbed,
because he had travelled so far on his hands
and knees.
"'I'll show you. I'll teach you. I'll fix
you, right now. Steal from me, will you?
Steal from the man that made you, you nightprowling
"OLD-man put his foot behind the Mountain-
lion's head, and, still holding the tail,
pulled hard and long, stretching the Lion
out to great length. He squalled and cried,
but OLD-man kept pulling until he nearly
broke the Mountain-lion in two pieces--
until he couldn't stretch him any more. Then
OLD-man put his foot on the Mountain-lion's
back, and, still holding the tail, stretched
that out until the tail was nearly as long as
the body.
"'There, you thief--now you are too long
and lean to get fat, and you shall always look
just like that. Your children shall all grow
to look the same way, just to pay you for your
stealing from the man that made you. Come
on with me'; and he dragged the poor Lion
back to the place where the fire was, and
there rolled him in the hot ashes, singeing his
robe till it looked a great deal like burnt
hair. Then OLD-man stuck the Lion's nose
against the burnt logs and blackened it some
--that is why his face looks as it does to-day.
"The Mountain-lion was lame and sore,
but OLD-man scolded him some more and
told him that it would take lots more food to
keep him after that, and that he would have
to work harder to get his living, to pay for
what he had done. Then he said, 'go now,
and remember all the Mountain-lions that ever
live shall look just as you do.' And they
do, too!
"That is the story--that is why the Mountain-
lion is so long and lean, but he is no
bigger thief than OLD-man, nor does he tell any
more lies. Ho!"
There had been a sudden change in the
weather. A cold rain was falling, and the
night comes early when the clouds hang low.
The children loved a bright fire, and
to-night War Eagle's lodge was light as day.
Away off on the plains a wolf was howling, and
the rain pattered upon the lodge as though
it never intended to quit. It was a splendid
night for story-telling, and War Eagle filled and
lighted the great stone pipe, while the children
made themselves comfortable about the fire.
A spark sprang from the burning sticks, and
fell upon Fine Bow's bare leg. They all laughed
heartily at the boy's antics to rid himself of
the burning coal; and as soon as the laughing
ceased War Eagle laid aside the pipe. An
Indian's pipe is large to look at, but holds
little tobacco.
"See your shadows on the lodge wall?"
asked the old warrior. The children said they
saw them, and he continued:
"Some day I will tell you a story about them,
and how they drew the arrows of our enemies,
but to-night I am going to tell you of the great
"It was long before there were men and
women on the world, but my grandfather told
me what I shall now tell you.
"The gray light that hides the night-stars
was creeping through the forests, and the
wind the Sun sends to warn the people of his
coming was among the fir tops. Flowers, on
slender stems, bent their heads out of respect
for the herald-wind's Master, and from the
dead top of a pine-tree the Yellowhammer
beat upon his drum and called 'the Sun is
awake--all hail the Sun!'
"Then the bush-birds began to sing the song
of the morning, and from alders the Robins
joined, until all live things were awakened by
the great music. Where the tall ferns grew,
the Doe waked her Fawns, and taught them
to do homage to the Great Light. In the
creeks, where the water was still and clear,
and where throughout the day, like a delicate
damaskeen, the shadows of leaves that overhang
would lie, the Speckled Trout broke the
surface of the pool in his gladness of the coming
day. Pine-squirrels chattered gayly, and
loudly proclaimed what the wind had told;
and all the shadows were preparing for a great
journey to the Sand Hills, where the ghostpeople
"Under a great spruce-tree--where the
ground was soft and dry, OLD-man slept. The
joy that thrilled creation disturbed him not,
although the Sun was near. The bird-people
looked at the sleeper in wonder, but the Pine
squirrel climbed the great spruce-tree with a
pine-cone in his mouth. Quickly he ran out
on the limb that spread over OLD-man, and
dropped the cone on the sleeper's face. Then
he scolded OLD-man, saying: 'Get up--get
up--lazy one--lazy one--get up--get up.'
"Rubbing his eyes in anger, OLD-man sat
up and saw the Sun coming--his hunting leggings
slipping through the thickets--setting
them afire, till all the Deer and Elk ran out
and sought new places to hide.
"'Ho, Sun!' called OLD-man, 'those are mighty
leggings you wear. No wonder you are a great
hunter. Your leggings set fire to all the thickets,
and by the light you can easily see the
Deer and Elk; they cannot hide. Ho! Give
them to me and I shall then be the great hunter
and never be hungry.'
"'Good,' said the Sun, 'take them, and let
me see you wear my leggings.'
"OLD-man was glad in his heart, for he was
lazy, and now he thought he could kill the
game without much work, and that he could
be a great hunter--as great as the Sun. He
put on the leggings and at once began to hunt
the thickets, for he was hungry. Very soon
the leggings began to burn his legs. The faster
he travelled the hotter they grew, until in pain
he cried out to the Sun to come and take back
his leggings; but the Sun would not hear him.
On and on OLD-man ran. Faster and faster he
flew through the country, setting fire to the
brush and grass as he passed. Finally he came
to a great river, and jumped in. Sizzzzzzz--
the water said, when OLD-man's legs touched it.
It cried out, as it does when it is sprinkled upon
hot stones in the sweat-lodge, for the leggings
were very hot. But standing in the cool water
OLD-man took off the leggings and threw them
out upon the shore, where the Sun found them
later in the day.
"The Sun's clothes were too big for OLDman,
and his work too great.
"We should never ask to do the things which
Manitou did not intend us to do. If we keep
this always in mind we shall never get into
"Be yourselves always. That is what Mantou
intended. Never blame the Wolf for what
he does. He was made to do such things.
Now I want you to go to your fathers' lodges
and sleep. To-morrow night I will tell you
why there are so many snakes in the world.
The rain had passed; the moon looked
down from a clear sky, and the bushes
and dead grass smelled wet, after the heavy
storm. A cottontail ran into a clump of
wild-rose bushes near War Eagle's lodge, and
some dogs were close behind the frightened
animal, as he gained cover. Little Buffalo Calf
threw a stone into the bushes, scaring the
rabbit from his hiding-place, and away went
bunny, followed by the yelping pack. We
stood and listened until the noise of the chase
died away, and then went into the lodge, where
we were greeted, as usual, by War Eagle.
To-night he smoked; but with greater ceremony,
and I suspected that it had something
to do with the forthcoming story. Finally he
"You have seen many Snakes, I suppose?"
"Yes," replied the children, "we have seen
a great many. In the summer we see them
every day."
"Well," continued the story-teller, "once
there was only one Snake on the whole world,
and he was a big one, I tell you. He was pretty
to look at, and was painted with all the colors
we know. This snake was proud of his clothes
and had a wicked heart. Most Snakes are
wicked, because they are his relations.
"Now, I have not told you all about it yet,
nor will I tell you to-night, but the Moon is
the Sun's wife, and some day I shall tell you
that story, but to-night I am telling you about
the Snakes.
"You know that the Sun goes early to bed,
and that the Moon most always leaves before
he gets to the lodge. Sometimes this is not so,
but that is part of another story.
"This big Snake used to crawl up a high hill
and watch the Moon in the sky. He was in
love with her, and she knew it; but she paid
no attention to him. She liked his looks, for
his clothes were fine, and he was always slick
and smooth. This went on for a long time,
but she never talked to him at all. The Snake
thought maybe the hill wasn't high enough, so
he found a higher one, and watched the Moon
pass, from the top. Every night he climbed
this high hill and motioned to her. She began
to pay more attention to the big Snake, and
one morning early, she loafed at her work a
little, and spoke to him. He was flattered,
and so was she, because he said many nice
things to her, but she went on to the Sun's
lodge, and left the Snake.
"The next morning very early she saw the
Snake again, and this time she stopped a long
time--so long that the Sun had started out
from the lodge before she reached home. He
wondered what kept her so long, and became
suspicious of the Snake. He made up his
mind to watch, and try to catch them together.
So every morning the Sun left the lodge a little
earlier than before; and one morning, just as
he climbed a mountain, he saw the big Snake
talking to the Moon. That made him angry,
and you can't blame him, because his wife
was spending her time loafing with a Snake.
"She ran away; ran to the Sun's lodge and
left the Snake on the hill. In no time the
Sun had grabbed him. My, the Sun was
angry! The big Snake begged, and promised
never to speak to the Moon again, but the Sun
had him; and he smashed him into thousands
of little pieces, all of different colors from the
different parts of his painted body. The little
pieces each turned into a little snake, just as you
see them now, but they were all too small for
the Moon to notice after that. That is how so
many Snakes came into the world; and that is
why they are all small, nowadays.
"Our people do not like the Snake-people
very well, but we know that they were made
to do something on this world, and that they
do it, or they wouldn't live here.
"That was a short story, but to-morrow night
I will tell you why the Deer-people have no
gall on their livers; and why the Antelopepeople
do not wear dew-claws, for you should
know that there are no other animals with
cloven hoofs that are like them in this.
"I am tired to-night, and I will ask that
you go to your lodges, that I may sleep, for I
am getting old. Ho!"
Bright and early the next morning the
children were playing on the bank of "The
River That Scolds the Other," when Fine Bow
"Let us find a Deer's foot, and the foot of
an Antelope and look at them, for to-night
grandfather will tell us why the Deer has the
dew-claws, and why the Antelope has none."
"Yes, and let us ask mother if the Deer has
no gall on its liver. Maybe she can show both
the liver of a Deer and that of an Antelope;
then we can see for ourselves," said Bluebird.
So they began to look about where the hides
had been grained for tanning; and sure enough,
there were the feet of both the antelope and
the deer. On the deer's feet, or legs, they
found the dew-claws, but on the antelope there
were none. This made them all anxious to
know why these animals, so nearly alike, should
differ in this way.
Bluebird's mother passed the children on her
way to the river for water, and the little girl
asked: "Say, mother, does the Deer have gall
on his liver?"
"No, my child, but the Antelope does; and
your grandfather will tell you why if you ask
That night in the lodge War Eagle placed
before his grandchildren the leg of a deer and
the leg of an antelope, as well as the liver of a
deer and the liver of an antelope.
"See for yourselves that this thing is true,
before I tell you why it is so, and how it happened."
"We see," they replied, "and to-day we found
that these strange things are true, but we don't
know why, grandfather."
"Of course you don't know why. Nobody
knows that until he is told, and now I shall tell
you, so you will always know, and tell your
children, that they, too, may know.
"It was long, long ago, of course. All these
things happened long ago when the world was
young, as you are now. It was on a summer
morning, and the Deer was travelling across
the plains country to reach the mountains on
the far-off side, where he had relatives. He
grew thirsty, for it was very warm, and stopped
to drink from a water-hole on the plains. When
he had finished drinking he looked up, and there
was his own cousin, the Antelope, drinking near
"'Good morning, cousin,' said the Deer.
'It is a warm morning and water tastes good,
doesn't it?'
"'Yes,' replied the Antelope, 'it is warm
to-day, but I can beat you running, just the
"'Ha-ha!' laughed the Deer--'you beat me
running? Why, you can't run half as fast as
I can, but if you want to run a race let us bet
something. What shall it be?'
"'I will bet you my gall-sack,' replied the
"'Good,' said the Deer, 'but let us run toward
that range of mountains, for I am going
that way, anyhow, to see my relations.'
"'All right,' said the Antelope. 'All ready,
and here we go.'
"Away they ran toward the far-off range.
All the way the Antelope was far ahead of the
Deer; and just at the foot of the mountains
he stopped to wait for him to catch up.
"Both were out of breath from running, but
both declared they had done their best, and the
Deer, being beaten, gave the Antelope his sack
of gall.
"'This ground is too flat for me,' said the
Deer. 'Come up the hillside where the gulches
cut the country, and rocks are in our way,
and I will show you how to run. I can't run
on flat ground. It's too easy for me.'
another race with you on your own ground, and
I think I can beat you there, too.'
"Together they climbed the hill until they
reached a rough country, when the Deer
"'This is my kind of country. Let us run a
race here. Whoever gets ahead and stays
there, must keep on running until the other
calls on him to stop.'
"'That suits me,' replied the Antelope, 'but
what shall we bet this time? I don't want to
waste my breath for nothing. I'll tell you--
let us bet our dew-claws.'
"'Good. I'll bet you my dew-claws against
your own, that I can beat you again. Are you
all ready?--Go!'
"Away they went over logs, over stones and
across great gulches that cut the hills in two.
On and on they ran, with the Deer far ahead
of the Antelope. Both were getting tired,
when the Antelope called:
"'Hi, there--you! Stop, you can beat me.
I give up.'
"So the Deer stopped and waited until the
Antelope came up to him, and they both laughed
over the fun, but the Antelope had to give the
Deer his dew-claws, and now he goes without
himself. The Deer wears dew-claws and always
will, because of that race, but on his liver there
is no gall, while the Antelope carries a gallsack
like the other animals with cloven hoofs.
"That is all of that story, but it is too late
to tell you another to-night. If you will come
to-morrow evening, I will tell you of some trouble
that OLD-man got into once. He deserved it,
for he was wicked, as you shall see. Ho!"
The Indian believes that all things live
again; that all were created by one and
the same power; that nothing was created in
vain; and that in the life beyond the grave he
will know all things that he knew here. In
that other world he expects to make his living
easier, and not suffer from hunger or cold;
therefore, all things that die must go to his
heaven, in order that he may be supplied with
the necessities of life.
The sun is not the Indian's God, but a personification
of the Deity; His greatest manifestation;
His light.
The Indian believes that to each of His creations
God gave some peculiar power, and that
the possessors of these special favors are His
lieutenants and keepers of the several special
attributes; such as wisdom, cunning, speed,
and the knowledge of healing wounds. These
wonderful gifts, he knew, were bestowed as
favors by a common God, and therefore he revered
these powers, and, without jealousy, paid
tribute thereto.
The bear was great in war, because before
the horse came, he would sometimes charge the
camps and kill or wound many people. Although
many arrows were sent into his huge
carcass, he seldom died. Hence the Indian was
sure that the bear could heal his wounds.
That the bear possessed a great knowledge of
roots and berries, the Indian knew, for he often
saw him digging the one and stripping the others
from the bushes. The buffalo, the beaver,
the wolf, and the eagle--each possessed strange
powers that commanded the Indian's admiration
and respect, as did many other things in
If about to go to war, the Indian did not
ask his God for aid--oh, no. He realized that
God made his enemy, too; and that if He desired
that enemy's destruction, it would be accomplished
without man's aid. So the Indian
sang his song to the bear, prayed to the bear,
and thus invoked aid from a brute, and not his
God, when he sought to destroy his fellows.
Whenever the Indian addressed the Great
God, his prayer was for life, and life alone. He
is the most religious man I have ever known,
as well as the most superstitious; and there are
stories dealing with his religious faith that are
startling, indeed.
"It is the wrong time of year to talk about
berries," said War Eagle, that night in the
lodge, "but I shall tell you why your mothers
whip the buffalo-berries from the bushes. OLDman
was the one who started it, and our people
have followed his example ever since. Ho!
OLD-man made a fool of himself that day.
"It was the time when buffalo-berries are
red and ripe. All of the bushes along the rivers
were loaded with them, and our people were
about to gather what they needed, when OLDman
changed things, as far as the gathering
was concerned.
"He was travelling along a river, and hungry,
as he always was. Standing on the bank of
that river, he saw great clusters of red, ripe
buffalo-berries in the water. They were larger
than any berries he had ever seen, and he
"'I guess I will get those berries. They look
fine, and I need them. Besides, some of the
people will see them and get them, if I don't.'
"He jumped into the water; looked for the
berries; but they were not there. For a time
Old-man stood in the river and looked for the
berries, but they were gone.
"After a while he climbed out on the bank
again, and when the water got smooth once
more there were the berries--the same berries,
in the same spot in the water.
"'Ho!--that is a funny thing. I wonder
where they hid that time. I must have those
berries!' he said to himself.
"In he went again--splashing the water like
a Grizzly Bear. He looked about him and the
berries were gone again. The water was rippling
about him, but there were no berries at
all. He felt on the bottom of the river but
they were not there.
"'Well,' he said, 'I will climb out and
watch to see where they come from; then I
shall grab them when I hit the water next
"He did that; but he couldn't tell where
the berries came from. As soon as the water
settled and became smooth--there were the
berries--the same as before. Ho!--OLD-man
was wild; he was angry, I tell you. And in he
went flat on his stomach! He made an awful
splash and mussed the water greatly; but there
were no berries.
"'I know what I shall do. I will stay right
here and wait for those berries; that is what
I shall do'; and he did.
"He thought maybe somebody was looking
at him and would laugh, so he glanced along
the bank. And there, right over the water, he
saw the same bunch of berries on some tall
bushes. Don't you see? OLD-man saw the
shadow of the berry-bunch; not the berries.
He saw the red shadow-berries on the water;
that was all, and he was such a fool he didn't
know they were not real.
"Well, now he was angry in truth. Now he
was ready for war. He climbed out on the
bank again and cut a club. Then he went at
the buffalo-berry bushes and pounded them till
all of the red berries fell upon the ground--
till the branches were bare of berries.
"'There,' he said, 'that's what you get for
making a fool of the man who made you. You
shall be beaten every year as long as you live,
to pay for what you have done; you and your
children, too.'
"That is how it all came about, and that is
why your mothers whip the buffalo-berry bushes
and then pick the berries from the ground.
I am sure that the plains Indian never made
nor used the stone arrow-head. I have
heard white men say that they had seen Indians
use them; but I have never found an Indian
that ever used them himself, or knew of
their having been used by his people. Thirty
years ago I knew Indians, intimately, who were
nearly a hundred years old, who told me that
the stone arrow-head had never been in use in
their day, nor had their fathers used them in
their own time. Indians find these arrowpoints
just as they find the stone mauls and
hammers, which I have seen them use thousands
of times, but they do not make them any
more than they make the stone mauls and
hammers. In the old days, both the head of
the lance and the point of the arrow were of
bone; even knives were of bone, but some other
people surely made the arrow-points that are
scattered throughout the United States and
Europe, I am told.
One night I asked War Eagle if he had ever
known the use, by Indians, of the stone arrowhead,
and he said he had not. He told me that
just across the Canadian line there was a small
lake, surrounded by trees, wherein there was an
island covered with long reeds and grass. All
about the edge of this island were willows that
grew nearly to the water, but intervening there
was a narrow beach of stones. Here, he said,
the stone arrow-heads had been made by little
ghost-people who lived there, and he assured
me that he had often seen these strange little
beings when he was a small boy. Whenever
his people were camped by this lake the old
folks waked the children at daybreak to see the
inhabitants of this strange island; and always
when a noise was made, or the sun came up,
the little people hid away. Often he had seen
their heads above the grass and tiny willows,
and his grandfather had told him that all the
stone arrow-heads had been made on that
island, and in war had been shot all over the
world, by magic bows.
"No," he said, "I shall not lie to you, my
friend. I never saw those little people shoot
an arrow, but there are so many arrows there,
and so many pieces of broken ones, that it
proves that my grandfather was right in what
he told me. Besides, nobody could ever sleep
on that island."
I have heard a legend wherein OLD-man, in
the beginning, killed an animal for the people
to eat, and then instructed them to use the ribs
of the dead brute to make knives and arrowpoints.
I have seen lance-heads, made from
shank bones, that were so highly polished that
they resembled pearl, and I have in my possession
bone arrow-points such as were used long
ago. Indians do not readily forget their tribal
history, and I have photographed a war-bonnet,
made of twisted buffalo hair, that was manufactured
before the present owner's people had,
or ever saw, the horse. The owner of this
bonnet has told me that the stone arrow-head
was never used by Indians, and that he knew
that ghost-people made and used them when
the world was young.
The bow of the plains Indian was from thirtysix
to forty-four inches long, and made from
the wood of the choke-cherry tree. Sometimes
bows were made from the service (or sarvice)
berry bush, and this bush furnished the best
material for arrows. I have seen hickory bows
among the plains Indians, too, and these were
longer and always straight, instead of being
fashioned like Cupid's weapon. These hickory
bows came from the East, of course, and through
trading, reached the plains country. I have
also seen bows covered with the skins of the
bull-snake, or wound with sinew, and bows
have been made from the horns of the elk, in the
early days, after a long course of preparation.
Before Lewis and Clark crossed this vast
country, the Blackfeet had traded with the
Hudson Bay Company, and steel knives and
lance-heads, bearing the names of English
makers, still remain to testify to the relations
existing, in those days, between those famous
traders and men of the Piegan, Blood, and
Blackfoot tribes, although it took many years
for traders on our own side of the line to gain
their friendship. Indeed, trappers and traders
blamed the Hudson Bay Company for the feeling
of hatred held by the three tribes of Blackfeet
for the "Americans"; and there is no doubt
that they were right to some extent, although
the killing of the Blackfoot warrior by Captain
Lewis in 1805 may have been largely to blame
for the trouble. Certain it is that for many
years after the killing, the Blackfeet kept
traders and trappers on the dodge unless they
were Hudson Bay men, and in 1810 drove the
"American" trappers and traders from their
fort at Three-Forks.
It was early when we gathered in War Eagle's
lodge, the children and I, but the story-telling
began at once.
"Now I shall tell you a story that will show
you how little OLD-man cared for the welfare of
others," said War Eagle.
"It happened in the fall, this thing I shall
tell you, and the day was warm and bright.
OLD-man and his brother the Red Fox were travelling
together for company. They were on a
hillside when OLD-Man said: 'I am hungry.
Can you not kill a Rabbit or something for us
to eat? The way is long, and I am getting
old, you know. You are swift of foot and
cunning, and there are Rabbits among these
"'Ever since morning came I have watched
for food, but the moon must be wrong or something,
for I see nothing that is good to eat,'
replied the Fox. 'Besides that, my medicine is
bad and my heart is weak. You are great, and
I have heard you can do most anything. Many
snows have known your footprints, and the
snows make us all wise. I think you are the
one to help, not I.'
"'Listen, brother,' said OLD-man, 'I have
neither bow nor lance--nothing to use in hunting.
Your weapons are ever with you--your
great nose and your sharp teeth. Just as we
came up this hill I saw two great Buffalo-Bulls.
You were not looking, but I saw them, and if
you will do as I want you to we shall have
plenty of meat. This is my scheme; I shall
pull out all of your hair, leaving your body
white and smooth, like that of the fish. I shall
leave only the white hair that grows on the tip
of your tail, and that will make you funny to
look at. Then you are to go before the Bulls
and commence to dance and act foolish. Of
course the Bulls will laugh at you, and as soon
as they get to laughing you must act sillier
than ever. That will make them laugh so hard
that they will fall down and laugh on the
ground. When they fall, I shall come upon
them with my knife and kill them. Will you
do as I suggest, brother, or will you starve?'
"'What! Pull out my hair? I shall freeze
with no hair on my body, OLD-man. No--I
will not suffer you to pull my hair out when the
winter is so near,' cried the Fox.
"'Ho! It is vanity, my brother, not fear
of freezing. If you will do this we shall have
meat for the winter, and a fire to keep us warm.
See, the wind is in the south and warm. There
is no danger of freezing. Come, let me do it,'
replied OLD-man.
"'Well--if you are sure that I won't freeze,
all right,' said the Fox, 'but I'll bet I'll be
"So Old-man pulled out all of the Fox's hair,
leaving only the white tip that grew near the
end of his tail. Poor little Red Fox shivered
in the warm breeze that OLD-man told about,
and kept telling OLD-man that the hair-pulling
hurt badly. Finally OLD-man finished the job
and laughed at the Fox, saying: 'Why, you make
me laugh, too. Now go and dance before the
Bulls, and I shall watch and be ready for my
part of the scheme.'
"Around the hill went the poor Red Fox and
found the Bulls. Then he began to dance before
them as OLD-man had told him. The Bulls
took one look at the hairless Fox and began to
laugh. My! How they did laugh, and then
the Red Fox stood upon his hind legs and
danced some more; acted sillier, as OLD-man
had told him. Louder and louder laughed the
Bulls, until they fell to the ground with their
breath short from the laughing. The Red Fox
kept at his antics lest the Bulls get up before
OLD-man reached them; but soon he saw him
coming, with a knife in his hand.
"Running up to the Bulls, OLD-man plunged
his knife into their hearts, and they died.
Into the ground ran their blood, and then OLDman
laughed and said: 'Ho, I am the smart
one. I am the real hunter. I depend on my
head for meat--ha!--ha!-ha!'
"Then OLD-man began to dress and skin the
Bulls, and he worked hard and long. In fact
it was nearly night when he got the work all
"Poor little Red Fox had stood there all the
time, and OLD-man never noticed that the wind
had changed and was coming from the north.
Yes, poor Red Fox stood there and spoke no
word; said nothing at all, even when OLD-man
had finished.
"'Hi, there, you! what's the matter with
you? Are you sorry that we have meat? Say,
answer me!'
"But the Red Fox was frozen stiff--was
dead. Yes, the north wind had killed him
while OLD-man worked at the skinning. The Fox
had been caught by the north wind naked,
and was dead. OLD-man built a fire and warmed
his hands; that was all he cared for the Red
Fox, and that is all he cared for anybody. He
might have known that no person could stand
the north wind without a robe; but as long
as he was warm himself--that was all he
"That is all of that story. To-morrow night
I shall tell you why the birch-tree wears those
slashes in its bark. That was some of OLDman's
work, too. Ho!"
The white man has never understood the
Indian, and the example set the Western
tribes of the plains by our white brethren has
not been such as to inspire the red man with
either confidence or respect for our laws or our
religion. The fighting trapper, the border bandit,
the horse-thief and rustler, in whose stomach
legitimately acquired beef would cause colic--
were the Indians' first acquaintances who wore
a white skin, and he did not know that they
were not of the best type. Being outlaws in
every sense, these men sought shelter from the
Indian in the wilderness; and he learned of
their ways about his lodge-fire, or in battle,
often provoked by the white ruffian in the hope
of gain. They lied to the Indian--these first
white acquaintances, and in after-years, the
great Government of the United States lied and
lied again, until he has come to believe that
there is no truth in the white man's heart.
And I don't blame him.
The Indian is a charitable man. I don't believe
he ever refused food and shelter or abused
a visitor. He has never been a bigot, and concedes
to every other man the right to his own
beliefs. Further than that, the Indian believes
that every man's religion and belief is right
and proper for that man's self.
It was blowing a gale and snow was being
driven in fine flakes across the plains when we
went to the lodge for a story. Every minute
the weather was growing colder, and an early
fall storm of severity was upon us. The wind
seemed to add to the good nature of our host
as he filled and passed me the pipe.
"This is the night I was to tell you about the
Birch-Tree, and the wind will help to make
you understand," said War Eagle after we had
finished smoking.
"Of course," he continued, " this all happened
in the summer-time when the weather was
warm, very warm. Sometimes, you know,
there are great winds in the summer, too.
"It was a hot day, and OLD-man was trying
to sleep, but the heat made him sick. He wandered
to a hilltop for air; but there was no
air. Then he went down to the river and
found no relief. He travelled to the timberlands,
and there the heat was great, although
he found plenty of shade. The travelling made
him warmer, of course, but he wouldn't stay
"By and by he called to the winds to blow,
and they commenced. First they didn't blow
very hard, because they were afraid they might
make OLD-man angry, but he kept crying:
"'Blow harder--harder--harder! Blow
worse than ever you blew before, and send this
heat away from the world.'
"So, of course, the winds did blow harder--
harder than they ever had blown before.
"'Bend and break, Fir-Tree!' cried OLD-man,
and the Fir-Tree did bend and break. 'Bend
and break, Pine-Tree!' and the Pine-Tree did
bend and break. 'Bend and break, Spruce-
Tree!' and the Spruce-Tree did bend and break.
'Bend and break, O Birch-Tree!' and the
Birch-Tree did bend, but it wouldn't break--
no, sir!--it wouldn't break!
"'Ho! Birch-Tree, won't you mind me?
Bend and break! I tell you,' but all the Birch-
Tree would do was to bend.
"It bent to the ground; it bent double to
please OLD-man, but it would not break.
"'Blow harder, wind!' cried OLD-man, 'blow
harder and break the Birch-Tree.' The wind
tried to blow harder, but it couldn't, and that
made the thing worse, because OLD-man was so
angry he went crazy. 'Break! I tell you--
break!' screamed OLD-man to the Birch-Tree.
"'I won't break,' replied the Birch; 'I shall
never break for any wind. I will bend, but I
shall never, never break.'
"'You won't, hey?' cried OLD-man, and he
rushed at the Birch-Tree with his hunting-knife.
He grabbed the top of the Birch because it was
touching the ground, and began slashing the
bark of the Birch-Tree with the knife. All up
and down the trunk of the tree OLD-man slashed,
until the Birch was covered with the knife
"'There! that is for not minding me. That
will do you good! As long as time lasts you
shall always look like that, Birch-Tree; always
be marked as one who will not mind its maker.
Yes, and all the Birch-Trees in the world shall
have the same marks forever.' They do, too.
You have seen them and have wondered why
the Birch-Tree is so queerly marked. Now you
"That is all--Ho!"
All night the storm raged, and in the
morning the plains were white with snow.
The sun came and the light was blinding, but
the hunters were abroad early, as usual.
That day the children came to my camp,
and I told them several stories that appeal to
white children. They were deeply interested,
and asked many questions. Not until the
hunters returned did my visitors leave.
That night War Eagle told us of the mistakes
of OLD-man. He said:
"OLD-man made a great many mistakes in
making things in the world, but he worked until
he had everything good. I told you at the
beginning that OLD-man made mistakes, but I
didn't tell you what they were, so now I shall
tell you.
"One of the things he did that was wrong,
was to make the Big-Horn to live on the plains.
Yes, he made him on the plains and turned him
loose, to make his living there. Of course the
Big-Horn couldn't run on the plains, and OLDman
wondered what was wrong. Finally, he
said: 'Come here, Big-Horn!' and the Big-
Horn came to him. OLD-man stuck his arm
through the circle his horns made, and dragged
the Big-Horn far up into the mountains. There
he set him free again, and sat down to watch
him. Ho! It made OLD-man dizzy to watch
the Big-Horn run about on the ragged cliffs.
He saw at once that this was the country the
Big-Horn liked, and he left him there. Yes,
he left him there forever, and there he stays,
seldom coming down to the lower country.
"While OLD-man was waiting to see what the
Big-Horn would do in the high mountains, he
made an Antelope and set him free with the
Big-Horn. Ho! But the Antelope stumbled
and fell down among the rocks. He couldn't
man called to the Antelope to come back to
him, and the Antelope did come to him. Then
he called to the Big-Horn, and said:
"'You are all right, I guess, but this one
isn't, and I'll have to take him somewhere else.'
"He dragged the Antelope down to the
prairie country, and set him free there. Then
he watched him a minute; that was as long as
the Antelope was in sight, for he was afraid
OLD-man might take him back to the mountains.
"He said: 'I guess that fellow was made for
the plains, all right, so I'll leave him there';
and he did. That is why the Antelope always
stays on the plains, even to-day. He likes it
"That wasn't a very long story; sometime
when you get older I will tell you some different
stories, but that will be all for this time,
I guess. Ho!"
Each tribe has its own stories. Most of
them deal with the same subjects, differing
only in immaterial particulars.
Instead of squirrels in the timber, the Blackfeet
are sure they were prairie-dogs that OLDman
roasted that time when he made the
mountain-lion long and lean. The Chippewas
and Crees insist that they were squirrels that
were cooked and eaten, but one tribe is essentially
a forest-people and the other lives on
the plains--hence the difference.
Some tribes will not wear the feathers of the
owl, nor will they have anything to do with
that bird, while others use his feathers freely.
The forest Indian wears the soft-soled moccasin,
while his brother of the plains covers the
bottoms of his footwear with rawhide, because
of the cactus and prickly-pear, most likely.
The door of the lodge of the forest Indian
reaches to the ground, but the plains Indian
makes his lodge skin to reach all about the circle
at the bottom, because of the wind.
One night in War Eagle's lodge, Otherperson
asked: "Why don't the Bear have a
tail, grandfather?"
War Eagle laughed and said: "Our people
do not know why, but we believe he was made
that way at the beginning, although I have
heard men of other tribes say that the Bear
lost his tail while fishing.
"I don't know how true it is, but I have been
told that a long time ago the Bear was fishing
in the winter, and the Fox asked him if he had
any luck.
"'No,' replied the Bear, 'I can't catch a
"'Well,' said the Fox, 'if you will stick your
long tail down through this hole in the ice,
and sit very still, I am sure you will catch a
"So the Bear stuck his tail through the hole
in the ice, and the Fox told him to sit still, till
he called him; then the Fox went off, pretending
to hunt along the bank. It was mighty cold
weather, and the water froze all about the
Bear's tail, yet he sat still, waiting for the Fox
to call him. Yes, the Bear sat so still and so
long that his tail was frozen in the ice, but he
didn't know it. When the Fox thought it was
time, he called:
"'Hey, Bear, come here quick--quick! I
have a Rabbit in this hole, and I want you to
help me dig him out.' Ho! The Bear tried
to get up, but he couldn't.
"'Hey, Bear, come here--there are two
Rabbits in this hole,' called the Fox.
"The Bear pulled so hard to get away from
the ice, that he broke his tail off short to his
body. Then the Fox ran away laughing at the
"I hardly believe that story, but once I
heard an old man who visited my father from
the country far east of here, tell it. I remembered
it. But I can't say that I know it is
true, as I can the others.
"When I told you the story of how OLD-man
made the world over, after the water had made
its war upon it, I told you how the first man
and woman were made. There is another
story of how the first man found his wife, and
I will tell you that.
"After OLD-man had made a man to look
like himself, he left him to live with the Wolves,
and went away. The man had a hard time of
it, with no clothes to keep him warm, and no
wife to help him, so he went out looking for
"It took the man a long time to find OLDman's
lodge, but as soon as he got there he
went right in and said:
"'OLD-man, you have made me and left me
to live with the Wolf-people. I don't like
them at all. They give me scraps of meat to
eat and won't build a fire. They have wives,
but I don't want a Wolf-woman. I think you
should take better care of me.'
"'Well,' replied OLD-man, 'I was just waiting
for you to come to see me. I have things fixed
for you. You go down this river until you come
to a steep hillside. There you will see a lodge.
Then I will leave you to do the rest. Go!'
"The man started and travelled all that
day. When night came he camped and ate
some berries that grew near the river. The
next morning he started down the river again,
looking for the steep hillside and the lodge.
Just before sundown, the man saw a fine lodge
near a steep hillside, and he knew that was
the lodge he was looking for; so he crossed the
river and went into the lodge.
"Sitting by the fire inside, was a woman.
She was dressed in buckskin clothes, and was
cooking some meat that smelled good to the
man, but when she saw him without any
clothes, she pushed him out of the lodge, and
dropped the door.
"Things didn't look very good to that man,
I tell you, but to get even with the woman, he
went up on the steep hillside and commenced
to roll big rocks down upon her lodge. He kept
this up until one of the largest rocks knocked
down the lodge, and the woman ran out, crying.
"When the man heard the woman crying,
it made him sorry and he ran down the hill to
her. She sat down on the ground, and the
man ran to where she was and said:
"'I am sorry I made you cry, woman. I will
help you fix your lodge. I will stay with you,
if you will only let me.'
"That pleased the woman, and she showed
the man how to fix up the lodge and gather
some wood for the fire. Then she let him come
inside and eat. Finally, she made him some clothes,
and they got along very well, after that.
"That is how the man found his wife--Ho!"
As soon as manhood is attained, the young
Indian must secure his "charm," or "medicine."
After a sweat-bath, he retires to some
lonely spot, and there, for four days and nights,
if necessary, he remains in solitude. During
this time he eats nothing; drinks nothing; but
spends his time invoking the Great Mystery for
the boon of a long life. In this state of mind,
he at last sleeps, perhaps dreams. If a dream
does not come to him, he abandons the task for
a time, and later on will take another sweatbath
and try again. Sometimes dangerous
cliffs, or other equally uncomfortable places,
are selected for dreaming, because the surrounding
terrors impress themselves upon the mind,
and even in slumber add to the vividness of
At last the dream comes, and in it some bird
or animal appears as a helper to the dreamer,
in trouble. Then he seeks that bird or animal;
kills a specimen; and if a bird, he stuffs its skin
with moss and forever keeps it near him. If
an animal, instead of a bird, appears in the
dream, the Indian takes his hide, claws, or teeth;
and throughout his life never leaves it behind
him, unless in another dream a greater charm
is offered. If this happens, he discards the old
"medicine" for the new; but such cases are rare.
Sometimes the Indian will deck his "medicine-
bundle" with fanciful trinkets and quillwork
At other times the "bundle" is kept
forever out of the sight of all uninterested persons,
and is altogether unadorned. But "medicine"
is necessary; without it, the Indian is
afraid of his shadow.
An old chief, who had been in many battles,
once told me his great dream, withholding the
name of the animal or bird that appeared therein
and became his "medicine."
He said that when he was a boy of twelve
years, his father, who was chief of his tribe,
told him that it was time that he tried to dream.
After his sweat-bath, the boy followed his
father without speaking, because the postulant
must not converse or associate with other
humans between the taking of the bath and
the finished attempt to dream. On and on
into the dark forest the father led, followed by
the naked boy, till at last the father stopped
on a high hill, at the foot of a giant pine-tree.
By signs the father told the boy to climb the
tree and to get into an eagle's nest that was on
the topmost boughs. Then the old man went
away, in order that the boy might reach the
nest without coming too close to his human
Obediently the boy climbed the tree and sat
upon the eagle's nest on the top. "I could see
very far from that nest," he told me. "The
day was warm and I hoped to dream that night,
but the wind rocked the tree top, and the
darkness made me so much afraid that I did
not sleep.
"On the fourth night there came a terrible
thunder-storm, with lightning and much wind.
The great pine groaned and shook until I was
sure it must fall. All about it, equally strong
trees went down with loud crashings, and in the
dark there were many awful sounds--sounds
that I sometimes hear yet. Rain came, and I
grew cold and more afraid. I had eaten nothing,
of course, and I was weak--so weak and
tired, that at last I slept, in the nest. I dreamed;
yes, it was a wonderful dream that came to me,
and it has most all come to pass. Part is yet
to come. But come it surely will.
"First I saw my own people in three wars.
Then I saw the Buffalo disappear in a hole in
the ground, followed by many of my people.
Then I saw the whole world at war, and many
flags of white men were in this land of ours. It
was a terrible war, and the fighting and the blood
made me sick in my dream. Then, last of all,
I saw a 'person' coming--coming across what
seemed the plains. There were deep shadows
all about him as he approached. This 'person'
kept beckoning me to come to him, and at last
I did go to him.
"'Do you know who I am,' he asked me.
"'No, "person," I do not know you. Who
are you, and where is your country?'
"'If you will listen to me, boy, you shall be
a great chief and your people shall love you.
If you do not listen, then I shall turn against
you. My name is "Reason."'
"As the 'person' spoke this last, he struck
the ground with a stick he carried, and the blow
set the grass afire. I have always tried to know
that 'person.' I think I know him wherever he
may be, and in any camp. He has helped me
all my life, and I shall never turn against him
That was the old chief's dream and now a
word about the sweat-bath. A small lodge is
made of willows, by bending them and sticking
the ends in the ground. A completed sweatlodge
is shaped like an inverted bowl, and in
the centre is a small hole in the ground. The
lodge is covered with robes, bark, and dirt, or
anything that will make it reasonably tight.
Then a fire is built outside and near the sweatlodge
in which stones are heated. When the
stones are ready, the bather crawls inside the
sweat-lodge, and an assistant rolls the hot
stones from the fire, and into the lodge. They
are then rolled into the hole in the lodge and
sprinkled with water. One cannot imagine a
hotter vapor bath than this system produces,
and when the bather has satisfied himself inside,
he darts from the sweat-lodge into the river,
winter or summer. This treatment killed thousands
of Indians when the smallpox was brought
to them from Saint Louis, in the early days.
That night in the lodge War Eagle told a
queer yarn. I shall modify it somewhat, but in
our own sacred history there is a similar tale,
well known to all. He said:
"Once, a long time ago, two 'thunders' were
travelling in the air. They came over a village
of our people, and there stopped to look
"In this village there was one fine, painted
lodge, and in it there was an old man, an aged
woman, and a beautiful young woman with
wonderful hair. Of course the 'thunders' could
look through the lodge skin and see all that
was inside. One of them said to the other:
'Let us marry that young woman, and never
tell her about it.'
"'All right,' replied the other 'thunder.' 'I
am willing, for she is the finest young woman
in all the village. She is good in her heart,
and she is honest.'
"So they married her, without telling her
about it, and she became the mother of twin
boys. When these boys were born, they sat
up and told their mother and the other people
that they were not people, but were 'thunders,'
and that they would grow up quickly.
"'When we shall have been on earth a while,
we shall marry, and stay until we each have
four sons of our own, then we shall go away
and again become "thunders,"' they said.
"It all came to pass, just as they said it would.
When they had married good women and each
had four sons, they told the people one day
that it was time for them to go away forever.
"There was much sorrow among the people,
for the twins were good men and taught many
good things which we have never forgotten, but
everybody knew it had to be as they said.
While they lived with us, these twins could
heal the sick and tell just what was going to
happen on earth.
"One day at noon the twins dressed themselves
in their finest clothes and went out to a
park in the forest. All the people followed
them and saw them lie down on the ground in
the park. The people stayed in the timber
that grew about the edge of the park, and
watched them until clouds and mists gathered
about and hid them from view.
"It thundered loudly and the winds blew;
trees fell down; and when the mists and clouds
cleared away, they were gone--gone forever.
But the people have never forgotten them, and
my grandfather, who is in the ground near
Rocker, was a descendant from one of the sons
of the 'thunders.' Ho!"
It was evening in the bad-lands, and the red
sun had slipped behind the far-off hills.
The sundown breeze bent the grasses in the
coulees and curled tiny dust-clouds on the
barren knolls. Down in a gulch a clear, cool
creek dallied its way toward the Missouri, where
its water, bitter as gall, would be lost in the
great stream. Here, where Nature forbids
man to work his will, and where the she wolf
dens and kills to feed her litter, an aged Indian
stood near the scattered bones of two great
buffalo-bulls. Time had bleached the skulls
and whitened the old warrior's hair, but in the
solitude he spoke to the bones as to a boyhood
"Ho! Buffalo, the years are long since you
died, and your tribe, like mine, was even then
shrinking fast, but you did not know it; would
not believe it; though the signs did not lie.
My father and his father knew your people,
and when one night you went away, we thought
you did but hide and would soon come back.
The snows have come and gone many times
since then, and still your people stay away.
The young-men say that the great herds have
gone to the Sand Hills, and that my father still
has meat. They have told me that the white
man, in his greed, has killed--and not for
meat--all the Buffalo that our people knew.
They have said that the great herds that made
the ground tremble as they ran were slain in
a few short years by those who needed not.
Can this be true, when ever since there was a
world, our people killed your kind, and still
left herds that grew in numbers until they
often blocked the rivers when they passed?
Our people killed your kind that they themselves
might live, but never did they go to war
against you. Tell me, do your people hide. or
are the young-men speaking truth, and have
your people gone with mine to Sand Hill shadows
to come back no more?"
"Ho! red man--my people all have gone.
The young-men tell the truth and all my tribe
have gone to feed among the shadow-hills, and
your father still has meat. My people suffer
from his arrows and his lance, yet there the
herds increase as they did here, until the white
man came and made his war upon us without
cause or need. I was one of the last to die, and
with my brother here fled to this forbidding
country that I might hide; but one day when
the snow was on the world, a white murderer
followed on our trail, and with his noisy weapon
sent our spirits to join the great shadow-herds.
Meat? No, he took no meat, but from our
quivering flesh he tore away the robes that
Napa gave to make us warm, and left us for
the Wolves. That night they came, and quarrelling,
fighting, snapping 'mong themselves,
left but our bones to greet the morning sun.
These bones the Coyotes and the weaker ones
did drag and scrape, and scrape again, until
the last of flesh or muscle disappeared. Then
the winds came and sang--and all was done."

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