Blackfoot Lodge Tales
George Bird Grinnell
Part 1 out of 6
Juliet Sutherland, Thomas Hutchinson and PG Distributed Proofreaders
Blackfoot Lodge Tales
_The Story of a Prairie People_
GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL
INDIANS AND THEIR STORIES
_STORIES OF ADVENTURE_
THE PEACE WITH THE SNAKES
THE LOST WOMAN
ADVENTURES OF BULL TURNS ROUND
THE BAD WIFE
THE LOST CHILDREN
MIK-A'PI--RED OLD MAN
HEAVY COLLAR AND THE GHOST WOMAN
THE FAST RUNNERS
TWO WAR TRAILS
_STORIES OF ANCIENT TIMES_
ORIGIN OF THE I-KUN-UH'-KAH-TSI
ORIGIN OF THE MEDICINE PIPE
THE BEAVER MEDICINE
THE BUFFALO ROCK
ORIGIN OF THE WORM PIPE
THE GHOSTS' BUFFALO
_STORIES OF OLD MAN_
THE BLACKFOOT GENESIS
THE DOG AND THE STICK
THE WONDERFUL BIRD
THE BAD WEAPONS
OLD MAN DOCTORS
THE THEFT FROM THE SUN
OLD MAN AND THE LYNX
_THE STORY OF THE THREE TRIBES_.
THE PAST AND THE PRESENT
DAILY LIFE AND CUSTOMS
HOW THE BLACKFOOT LIVED
THE BLACKFOOT IN WAR
MEDICINE PIPES AND HEALING
THE BLACKFOOT OF TO-DAY
BLACKFOOT LODGE TALES
We were sitting about the fire in the lodge on Two Medicine. Double Runner,
Small Leggings, Mad Wolf, and the Little Blackfoot were smoking and
talking, and I was writing in my note-book. As I put aside the book, and
reached out my hand for the pipe, Double Runner bent over and picked up a
scrap of printed paper, which had fallen to the ground. He looked at it for
a moment without speaking, and then, holding it up and calling me by name,
"_Pi-nut-u-ye is-tsim-okan,_ this is education. Here is the difference
between you and me, between the Indians and the white people. You know what
this means. I do not. If I did know, I should be as smart as you. If all
my people knew, the white people would not always get the best of us."
"_Nisah_ (elder brother), your words are true. Therefore you ought to see
that your children go to school, so that they may get the white man's
knowledge. When they are men, they will have to trade with the white
people; and if they know nothing, they can never get rich. The times have
changed. It will never again be as it was when you and I were young."
"You say well, _Pi-nut-u-ye is-tsim-okan,_ I have seen the days; and I know
it is so. The old things are passing away, and the children of my children
will be like white people. None of them will know how it used to be in
their father's days unless they read the things which we have told you, and
which you are all the time writing down in your books."
"They are all written down, _Nisah_, the story of the three tribes,
Sik-si-kau, Kainah, and Pik[)u]ni."
INDIANS AND THEIR STORIES
The most shameful chapter of American history is that in which is recorded
the account of our dealings with the Indians. The story of our government's
intercourse with this race is an unbroken narrative of injustice, fraud,
and robbery. Our people have disregarded honesty and truth whenever they
have come in contact with the Indian, and he has had no rights because he
has never had the power to enforce any.
Protests against governmental swindling of these savages have been made
again and again, but such remonstrances attract no general
attention. Almost every one is ready to acknowledge that in the past the
Indians have been shamefully robbed, but it appears to be believed that
this no longer takes place. This is a great mistake. We treat them now much
as we have always treated them. Within two years, I have been present on a
reservation where government commissioners, by means of threats, by bribes
given to chiefs, and by casting fraudulently the votes of absentees,
succeeded after months of effort in securing votes enough to warrant them
in asserting that a tribe of Indians, entirely wild and totally ignorant of
farming, had consented to sell their lands, and to settle down each upon
160 acres of the most utterly arid and barren land to be found on the North
American continent. The fraud perpetrated on this tribe was as gross as
could be practised by one set of men upon another. In a similar way the
Southern Utes were recently induced to consent to give up their reservation
Americans are a conscientious people, yet they take no interest in these
frauds. They have the Anglo-Saxon spirit of fair play, which sympathizes
with weakness, yet no protest is made against the oppression which the
Indian suffers. They are generous; a famine in Ireland, Japan, or Russia
arouses the sympathy and calls forth the bounty of the nation, yet they
give no heed to the distress of the Indians, who are in the very midst of
them. They do not realize that Indians are human beings like themselves.
For this state of things there must be a reason, and this reason is to be
found, I believe, in the fact that practically no one has any personal
knowledge of the Indian race. The few who are acquainted with them are
neither writers nor public speakers, and for the most part would find it
easier to break a horse than to write a letter. If the general public knows
little of this race, those who legislate about them are equally
ignorant. From the congressional page who distributes the copies of a
pending bill, up through the representatives and senators who vote for it,
to the president whose signature makes the measure a law, all are entirely
unacquainted with this people or their needs.
Many stories about Indians have been written, some of which are interesting
and some, perhaps, true. All, however, have been written by civilized
people, and have thus of necessity been misleading. The reason for this is
plain. The white person who gives his idea of a story of Indian life
inevitably looks at things from the civilized point of view, and assigns to
the Indian such motives and feelings as govern the civilized man. But often
the feelings which lead an Indian to perform a particular action are not
those which would induce a white man to do the same thing, or if they are,
the train of reasoning which led up to the Indian's motive is not the
reasoning of the white man.
In a volume about the Pawnees, I endeavored to show how Indians think
and feel by letting some of them tell their own stories in their own
fashion, and thus explain in their own way how they look at the every-day
occurrences of their life, what motives govern them, and how they reason.
[Footnote 1: Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk-Tales.]
In the present volume, I treat of another race of Indians in precisely the
same way. I give the Blackfoot stories as they have been told to me by the
Indians themselves, not elaborating nor adding to them. In all cases except
one they were written down as they fell from the lips of the storyteller.
Sometimes I have transposed a sentence or two, or have added a few words of
explanation; but the stories as here given are told in the words of the
original narrators as nearly as it is possible to render those words into
the simplest every-day English. These are Indians' stories, pictures of
Indian life drawn by Indian artists, and showing this life from the
Indian's point of view. Those who read these stories will have the
narratives just as they came to me from the lips of the Indians themselves;
and from the tales they can get a true notion of the real man who is
speaking. He is not the Indian of the newspapers, nor of the novel, nor of
the Eastern sentimentalist, nor of the Western boomer, but the real Indian
as he is in his daily life among his own people, his friends, where he is
not embarrassed by the presence of strangers, nor trying to produce
effects, but is himself--the true, natural man.
And when you are talking with your Indian friend, as you sit beside him and
smoke with him on the bare prairie during a halt in the day's march, or at
night lie at length about your lonely camp fire in the mountains, or form
one of a circle of feasters in his home lodge, you get very near to
nature. Some of the sentiments which he expresses may horrify your
civilized mind, but they are not unlike those which your own small boy
might utter. The Indian talks of blood and wounds and death in a
commonplace, matter-of-fact way that may startle you. But these things used
to be a part of his daily life; and even to-day you may sometimes hear a
dried-up, palsied survivor of the ancient wars cackle out his shrill laugh
when he tells as a merry jest, a bloodcurdling story of the torture he
inflicted on some enemy in the long ago.
I have elsewhere expressed my views on Indian character, the conclusions
founded on an acquaintance with this race extending over more than twenty
years, during which time I have met many tribes, with some of whom I have
lived on terms of the closest intimacy.
The Indian is a man, not very different from his white brother, except that
he is undeveloped. In his natural state he is kind and affectionate in his
family, is hospitable, honest and straightforward with his fellows,--a true
friend. If you are his guest, the best he has is at your disposal; if the
camp is starving, you will still have set before you your share of what
food there may be in the lodge. For his friend he will die, if need be. He
is glad to perform acts of kindness for those he likes. While travelling in
the heats of summer over long, waterless stretches of prairie, I have had
an Indian, who saw me suffering from thirst, leave me, without mentioning
his errand, and ride thirty miles to fetch me a canteen of cool water.
The Indian is intensely religious. No people pray more earnestly nor more
frequently. This is especially true of all Indians of the Plains.
The Indian has the mind and feelings of a child with the stature of a man;
and if this is clearly understood and considered, it will readily account
for much of the bad that we hear about him, and for many of the evil traits
which are commonly attributed to him. Civilized and educated, the Indian of
the better class is not less intelligent than the average white man, and he
has every capacity for becoming a good citizen.
This is the view held not only by myself, but by all of the many old
frontiersmen that I have known, who have had occasion to live much among
Indians, and by most experienced army officers. It was the view held by my
friend and schoolmate, the lamented Lieutenant Casey, whose good work in
transforming the fierce Northern Cheyennes into United States soldiers is
well known among all officers of the army, and whose sad death by an Indian
bullet has not yet, I believe, been forgotten by the public.
It is proper that something should be said as to how this book came to be
About ten years ago, Mr. J.W. Schultz of Montana, who was then living in
the Blackfoot camp, contributed to the columns of the _Forest and Stream_,
under the title "Life among the Blackfeet," a series of sketches of that
people. These papers seemed to me of unusual interest, and worthy a record
in a form more permanent than the columns of a newspaper; but no
opportunity was then presented for filling in the outlines given in them.
Shortly after this, I visited the Pi-k[)u]n-i tribe of the Black-feet, and
I have spent more or less time in their camps every year since. I have
learned to know well all their principal men, besides many of the Bloods
and the Blackfeet, and have devoted much time and effort to the work of
accumulating from their old men and best warriors the facts bearing on the
history, customs, and oral literature of the tribe, which are presented in
In 1889 my book on the Pawnees was published, and seemed to arouse so much
interest in Indian life, from the Indian's standpoint, that I wrote to
Mr. Schultz, urging him, as I had often done before, to put his
observations in shape for publication, and offered to edit his work, and to
see it through the press. Mr. Schultz was unwilling to undertake this task,
and begged me to use all the material which I had gathered, and whatever he
could supply, in the preparation of a book about the Blackfeet.
A portion of the material contained in these pages was originally made
public by Mr. Schultz, and he was thus the discoverer of the literature of
the Blackfeet. My own investigations have made me familiar with all the
stories here recorded, from original sources, but some of them he first
published in the columns of the _Forest and Stream_. For this work he is
entitled to great credit, for it is most unusual to find any one living the
rough life beyond the frontier, and mingling in daily intercourse with
Indians, who has the intelligence to study their traditions, history, and
customs, and the industry to reduce his observations to writing.
Besides the invaluable assistance given me by Mr. Schultz, I acknowledge
with gratitude the kindly aid of Miss Cora M. Ross, one of the school
teachers at the Blackfoot agency, who has furnished me with a version of
the story of the origin of the Medicine Lodge; and of Mrs. Thomas Dawson,
who gave me help on the story of the Lost Children. William Jackson, an
educated half-breed, who did good service from 1874 to 1879, scouting under
Generals Custer and Miles, and William Russell, half-breed, at one time
government interpreter at the agency, have both given me valuable
assistance. The latter has always placed himself at my service, when I
needed an interpreter, while Mr. Jackson has been at great pains to assist
me in securing several tales which I might not otherwise have obtained, and
has helped me in many ways. The veteran prairie man, Mr. Hugh Monroe, and
his son, John Monroe, have also given me much information. Most of the
stories I owe to Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegans of pure race. Some of these
men have died within the past few years, among them the kindly and
venerable Red Eagle; Almost-a-Dog, a noble old man who was regarded with
respect and affection by Indians and whites; and that matchless orator,
Four Bears. Others, still living, to whom I owe thanks, are Wolf Calf, Big
Nose, Heavy Runner, Young Bear Chief, Wolf Tail, Rabid Wolf, Running
Rabbit, White Calf, All-are-his-Children, Double Runner, Lone Medicine
Person, and many others.
The stories here given cover a wide range of subjects, but are fair
examples of the oral literature of the Blackfeet. They deal with religion,
the origin of things, the performances of medicine men, the bravery and
single-heartedness of warriors.
It will be observed that in more than one case two stories begin in the
same way, and for a few paragraphs are told in language which is almost
identical. In like manner it is often to be noted that in different stories
the same incidents occur. This is all natural enough, when it is remembered
that the range of the Indians' experiences is very narrow. The incidents
of camp life, of hunting and war excursions, do not offer a very wide
variety of conditions; and of course the stories of the people deal chiefly
with matters with which they are familiar. They are based on the every-day
life of the narrators.
The reader of these Blackfoot stories will not fail to notice many curious
resemblances to tales told among other distant and different peoples. Their
similarity to those current among the Ojibwas, and other Eastern Algonquin
tribes, is sufficiently obvious and altogether to be expected, nor is it at
all remarkable that we should find, among the Blackfeet, tales identical
with those told by tribes of different stock far to the south; but it is a
little startling to see in the story of the Worm Pipe a close parallel to
the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In another of the stories is an
incident which might have been taken bodily from the Odyssey.
Well-equipped students of general folk-lore will find in these tales much
to interest them, and to such may be left the task of commenting on this
STORIES OF ADVENTURE
THE PEACE WITH THE SNAKES
In those days there was a Piegan chief named Owl Bear. He was a great
chief, very brave and generous. One night he had a dream: he saw many dead
bodies of the enemy lying about, scalped, and he knew that he must go to
war. So he called out for a feast, and after the people had eaten, he
"I had a strong dream last night. I went to war against the Snakes, and
killed many of their warriors. So the signs are good, and I feel that I
must go. Let us have a big party now, and I will be the leader. We will
start to-morrow night."
Then he told two old men to go out in the camp and shout the news, so that
all might know. A big party was made up. Two hundred men, they say, went
with this chief to war. The first night they travelled only a little way,
for they were not used to walking, and soon got tired.
In the morning the chief got up early and went and made a sacrifice, and
when he came back to the others, some said, "Come now, tell us your dream
of this night."
"I dreamed good," said Owl Bear. "I had a good dream. We will have good
But many others said they had bad dreams. They saw blood running from their
Night came, and the party started on, travelling south, and keeping near
the foot-hills; and when daylight came, they stopped in thick pine woods
and built war lodges. They put up poles as for a lodge, and covered them
very thick with pine boughs, so they could build fires and cook, and no one
would see the light and smoke; and they all ate some of the food they
carried, and then went to sleep.
Again the chief had a good dream, but the others all had bad dreams, and
some talked about turning back; but Owl Bear laughed at them, and when
night came, all started on. So they travelled for some nights, and all
kept dreaming bad except the chief. He always had good dreams. One day
after a sleep, a person again asked Owl Bear if he dreamed good. "Yes," he
replied. "I have again dreamed of good luck."
"We still dream bad," the person said, "and now some of us are going to
turn back. We will go no further, for bad luck is surely ahead." "Go back!
go back!" said Owl Bear. "I think you are cowards; I want no cowards with
me." They did not speak again. Many of them turned around, and started
north, toward home.
Two more days' travel. Owl Bear and his warriors went on, and then another
party turned back, for they still had bad dreams. All the men now left with
him were his relations. All the others had turned back.
They travelled on, and travelled on, always having bad dreams, until they
came close to the Elk River. Then the oldest relation said, "Come, my
chief, let us all turn back. We still have bad dreams. We cannot have good
[Footnote 1: Yellowstone River.]
"No," replied Owl Bear, "I will not turn back."
Then they were going to seize him and tie his hands, for they had talked of
this before. They thought to tie him and make him go back with them. Then
the chief got very angry. He put an arrow on his bow, and said: "Do not
touch me. You are my relations; but if any of you try to tie me, I will
kill you. Now I am ashamed. My relations are cowards and will turn back. I
have told you I have always dreamed good, and that we would have good luck.
Now I don't care; I am covered with shame. I am going now to the Snake camp
and will give them my body. I am ashamed. Go! go! and when you get home put
on women's dresses. You are no longer men."
They said no more. They turned back homeward, and the chief was all
alone. His heart was very sad as he travelled on, and he was much ashamed,
for his relations had left him.
Night was coming on. The sun had set and rain was beginning to fall. Owl
Bear looked around for some place where he could sleep dry. Close by he saw
a hole in the rocks. He got down on his hands and knees and crept in. Here
it was very dark. He could see nothing, so he crept very slowly, feeling as
he went. All at once his hand touched something strange. He felt of it. It
was a person's foot, and there was a moccasin on it. He stopped, and sat
still. Then he felt a little further. Yes, it was a person's leg. He could
feel the cowskin legging. Now he did not know what to do. He thought
perhaps it was a dead person; and again, he thought it might be one of his
relations, who had become ashamed and turned back after him.
Pretty soon he put his hand on the leg again and felt along up. He touched
the person's belly. It was warm. He felt of the breast, and could feel it
rise and fall as the breath came and went; and the heart was beating
fast. Still the person did not move. Maybe he was afraid. Perhaps he
thought that was a ghost feeling of him.
Owl Bear now knew this person was not dead. He thought he would try if he
could learn who the man was, for he was not afraid. His heart was sad. His
people and his relations had left him, and he had made up his mind to give
his body to the Snakes. So he began and felt all over the man,--of his
face, hair, robe, leggings, belt, weapons; and by and by he stopped feeling
of him. He could not tell whether it was one of his people or not.
Pretty soon the strange person sat up and felt all over Owl Bear; and when
he had finished, he took the Piegan's hand and opened it and held it up,
waving it from side to side, saying by signs, "Who are you?"
Owl Bear put his closed hand against the person's cheek and rubbed it; he
said in signs, "Piegan!" and then he asked the person who he was. A finger
was placed against his breast and moved across it _zigzag_. It was the sign
"_Hai yah_!" thought Owl Bear, "a Snake, my enemy." For a long time he sat
still, thinking. By and by he drew his knife from his belt and placed it in
the Snake's hand, and signed, "Kill me!" He waited. He thought soon his
heart would be cut. He wanted to die. Why live? His people had left him.
Then the Snake took Owl Bear's hand and put a knife in it and motioned that
Owl Bear should cut his heart, but the Piegan would not do it. He lay down,
and the Snake lay down beside him. Maybe they slept. Likely not.
So the night went and morning came. It was light, and they crawled out of
the cave, and talked a long time together by signs. Owl Bear told the Snake
where he had come from, how his party had dreamed bad and left him, and
that he was going alone to give his body to the Snakes.
Then the Snake said: "_I_ was going to war, too. I was going against the
Piegans. Now I am done. Are you a chief?"
"I am the head chief," replied Owl Bear. "I lead. All the others follow."
"I am the same as you," said the Snake. "I am the chief. I like you. You
are brave. You gave me your knife to kill you with. How is your heart?
Shall the Snakes and the Piegans make peace?"
"Your words are good," replied Owl Bear. "I am glad."
"How many nights will it take you to go home and come back here with your
people?" asked the Snake.
Owl Bear thought and counted. "In twenty-five nights," he replied, "the
Piegans will camp down by that creek."
"My trail," said the Snake, "goes across the mountains. I will try to be
here in twenty-five nights, but I will camp with my people just behind that
first mountain. When you get here with the Piegans, come with one of your
wives and stay all night with me. In the morning the Snakes will move and
put up their lodges beside the Piegans."
"As you say," replied the chief, "so it shall be done." Then they built a
fire and cooked some meat and ate together.
"I am ashamed to go home," said Owl Bear. "I have taken no horses, no
scalps. Let me cut off your side locks?"
"Take them," said the Snake.
Owl Bear cut off the chiefs braids close to his head, and then the Snake
cut off the Piegan's braids. Then they exchanged clothes and weapons and
started out, the Piegan north, the Snake south.
"Owl Bear has come! Owl Bear has come!" the people were shouting.
The warriors rushed to his lodge. _Whish_! how quickly it was filled!
Hundreds stood outside, waiting to hear the news.
For a long time the chief did not speak. He was still angry with his
people. An old man was talking, telling the news of the camp. Owl Bear did
not look at him. He ate some food and rested. Many were in the lodge who
had started to war with him. They were now ashamed. They did not speak,
either, but kept looking at the fire. After a long time the chief said: "I
travelled on alone. I met a Snake. I took his scalp and clothes, and his
weapons. See, here is his scalp!" And he held up the two braids of hair.
No one spoke, but the chief saw them nudge each other and smile a little;
and soon they went out and said to one another: "What a lie! That is not an
enemy's scalp; there is no flesh on it He has robbed some dead person."
Some one told the chief what they said, but he only laughed and replied:--
"_I_ do not care. They were too much afraid even to go on and rob a dead
person. They should wear women's dresses."
Near sunset, Owl Bear called for a horse, and rode all through camp so
every one could hear, shouting out: "Listen! listen! To-morrow we move
camp. We travel south. The Piegans and Snakes are going to make peace. If
any one refuses to go, I will kill him. All must go."
Then an old medicine man came up to him and said: "_Kyi_, Owl Bear! listen
to me. Why talk like this? You know we are not afraid of the Snakes. Have
we not fought them and driven them out of this country? Do you think we are
afraid to go and meet them? No. We will go and make peace with them as you
say, and if they want to fight, we will fight. Now you are angry with those
who started to war with you. Don't be angry. Dreams belong to the Sun. He
gave them to us, so that we can see ahead and know what will happen. The
Piegans are not cowards. Their dreams told them to turn back. So do not be
angry with them any more."
"There is truth in what you say, old man," replied Owl Bear; "I will take
In those days the Piegans were a great tribe. When they travelled, if you
were with the head ones, you could not see the last ones, they were so far
back. They had more horses than they could count, so they used fresh horses
every day and travelled very fast. On the twenty-fourth day they reached
the place where Owl Bear had told the Snake they would camp, and put up
their lodges along the creek. Soon some young men came in, and said they
had seen some fresh horse trails up toward the mountain.
"It must be the Snakes," said the chief; "they have already arrived,
although there is yet one night." So he called one of his wives, and
getting on their horses they set out to find the Snake camp. They took the
trail up over the mountain, and soon came in sight of the lodges. It was a
big camp. Every open place in the valley was covered with lodges, and the
hills were dotted with horses; for the Snakes had a great many more horses
than the Piegans.
Some of the Snakes saw the Piegans coming, and they ran to the chief,
saying: "Two strangers are in sight, coming this way. What shall be done?"
"Do not harm them," replied the chief. "They are friends of mine. I have
been expecting them." Then the Snakes wondered, for the chief had told them
nothing about his war trip.
Now when Owl Bear had come to the camp, he asked in signs for the chiefs
lodge, and they pointed him to one in the middle. It was small and old. The
Piegan got off his horse, and the Snake chief came out and hugged him and
kissed him, and said: "I am glad you have come to-day to my lodge. So are
my people. You are tired. Enter my lodge and we will eat." So they went
inside and many of the Snakes came in, and they had a great feast.
Then the Snake chief told his people how he had met the Piegan, and how
brave he was, and that now they were going to make a great peace; and he
sent some men to tell the people, so that they would be ready to move camp
in the morning. Evening came. Everywhere people were shouting out for
feasts, and the chief took Owl Bear to them. It was very late when they
returned. Then the Snake had one of his wives make a bed at the back of the
lodge; and when it was ready he said: "Now, my friend, there is your
bed. This is now your lodge; also the woman who made the bed, she is now
your wife; also everything in this lodge is yours. The parfleches, saddles,
food, robes, bowls, everything is yours. I give them to you because you are
my friend and a brave man."
"You give me too much," replied Owl Bear. "I am ashamed, but I take your
words. I have nothing with me but one wife. She is yours."
Next morning camp was broken early. The horses were driven in, and the
Snake chief gave Owl Bear his whole band,--two hundred head, all large,
All were now ready, and the chiefs started ahead. Close behind them were
all the warriors, hundreds and hundreds, and last came the women and
children, and the young men driving the loose horses. As they came in sight
of the Piegan camp, all the warriors started out to meet them, dressed in
their war costumes and singing the great war song. There was no wind, and
the sound came across the valley and up the hill like the noise of
thunder. Then the Snakes began to sing, and thus the two parties advanced.
At last they met. The Piegans turned and rode beside them, and so they came
to the camp. Then they got off their horses and kissed each other. Every
Piegan asked a Snake into his lodge to eat and rest, and the Snake women
put up their lodges beside the Piegan lodges. So the great peace was made.
In Owl Bear's lodge there was a great feast, and when they had finished he
said to his people: "Here is the man whose scalp I took. Did I say I killed
him? No. I gave him my knife and told him to kill me. He would not do it;
and he gave me his knife, but I would not kill him. So we talked together
what we should do, and now we have made peace. And now (turning to the
Snake) this is your lodge, also all the things in it. My horses, too, I
give you. All are yours."
So it was. The Piegan took the Snake's wife, lodge, and horses, and the
Snake took the Piegan's, and they camped side by side. All the people
camped together, and feasted each other and made presents. So the peace was
For many days they camped side by side. The young men kept hunting, and the
women were always busy drying meat and tanning robes and cowskins. Buffalo
were always close, and after a while the people had all the meat and robes
they could carry. Then, one day, the Snake chief said to Owl Bear: "Now, my
friend, we have camped a long time together, and I am glad we have made
peace. We have dug a hole in the ground, and in it we have put our anger
and covered it up, so there is no more war between us. And now I think it
time to go. To-morrow morning the Snakes break camp and go back south."
"Your words are good," replied Owl Bear. "I too am glad we have made this
peace. You say you must go south, and I feel lonesome. I would like you to
go with us so we could camp together a long time, but as you say, so it
shall be done. To-morrow you will start south. I too shall break camp, for
I would be lonesome here without you; and the Piegans will start in the
The lodges were being taken down and packed. The men sat about the
fireplaces, taking a last smoke together.
They were now great friends. Many Snakes had married Piegan women, and many
Piegans had married Snake women. At last all was ready. The great chiefs
mounted their horses and started out, and soon both parties were strung out
on the trail.
Some young men, however, stayed behind to gamble a while. It was yet early
in the morning, and by riding fast it would not take them long to catch up
with their camps. All day they kept playing; and sometimes the Piegans
would win, and sometimes the Snakes.
It was now almost sunset. "Let us have one horse race," they said, "and we
will stop." Each side had a good horse, and they ran their best; but they
came in so close together it could not be told who won. The Snakes claimed
that their horse won, and the Piegans would not allow it. So they got
angry and began to quarrel, and pretty soon they began to fight and to
shoot at each other, and some were killed.
Since that time the Snakes and Piegans have never been at peace.
THE LOST WOMAN
A long time ago the Blackfeet were camped on Backfat Creek. There was in
the camp a man who had but one wife, and he thought a great deal of her. He
never wanted to have two wives. As time passed they had a child, a little
girl. Along toward the end of the summer, this man's wife wanted to get
some berries, and she asked her husband to take her to a certain place
where berries grew, so that she could get some. The man said to his wife:
"At this time of the year, I do not like to go to that place to pick
berries. There are always Snake or Crow war parties travelling about
there." The woman wanted very much to go, and she coaxed her husband about
it a great deal; and at last he said he would go, and they started, and
many women followed them.
When they came to where the berries grew, the man said to his wife: "There
are the berries down in that ravine. You may go down there and pick them,
and I will go up on this hill and stand guard. If I see any one coming, I
will call out to you, and you must all get on your horses and run." So the
women went down to pick berries.
The man went up on the hill and sat down and looked over the country. After
a little time, he looked down into another ravine not far off, and saw that
it was full of horsemen coming. They started to gallop up towards him, and
he called out in a loud voice, "Run, run, the enemy is rushing on us." The
women started to run, and he jumped on his horse and followed them. The
enemy rushed after them, and he drew his bow and arrows, and got ready to
fight and defend the women. After they had gone a little way, the enemy had
gained so much that they were shooting at the Blackfeet with their arrows,
and the man was riding back and forth behind the women, and whipping up the
horses, now of one, now of another, to make them go faster. The enemy kept
getting closer, and at last they were so near that they were beginning to
thrust at him with their lances, and he was dodging them and throwing
himself down, now on one side of his horse, and then on the other.
At length he found that he could no longer defend all the women, so he made
up his mind to leave those that had the slowest horses to the mercy of the
enemy, while he would go on with those that had the faster ones. When he
found that he must leave the women, he was excited and rode on ahead; but
as he passed, he heard some one call out to him, "Don't leave me," and he
looked to one side, and saw that he was leaving his wife. When he heard his
wife call out thus to him, he said to her: "There is no life for me
here. You are a fine-looking woman. They will not kill you, but there is no
life for me." She answered: "No, take pity on me. Do not leave me. My horse
is giving out. Let us both get on one horse and then, if we are caught, we
will die together." When he heard this, his heart was touched and he said:
"No, wife, I will not leave you. Run up beside my horse and jump on behind
me." The enemy were now so near that they had killed or captured some of
the women, and they had come up close enough to the man so that they got
ready to hit at him with their war clubs. His horse was now wounded in
places with arrows, but it was a good, strong, fast horse.
His wife rode up close to him, and jumped on his horse behind him. When he
started to run with her, the enemy had come up on either side of him, and
some were behind him, but they were afraid to shoot their arrows for fear
of hitting their own people, so they struck at the man with their war
clubs. But they did not want to kill the woman, and they did not hurt
him. They reached out with their hands to try to pull the woman off the
horse; but she had put her arms around her husband and held on tight, and
they could not get her off, but they tore her clothing off her. As she held
her husband, he could not use his arrows, and could not fight to defend
himself. His horse was now going very slowly, and all the enemy had caught
up to them, and were all around them.
The man said to his wife: "Never mind, let them take you: they will not
kill you. You are too handsome a woman for them to kill you." His wife
said, "No, it is no harm for us both to die together." When he saw that his
wife would not get off the horse and that he could not fight, he said to
her: "Here, look out! You are crowding me on to the neck of the horse. Sit
further back." He began to edge himself back, and at last, when he got his
wife pretty far back on the horse, he gave a great push and shoved her off
behind. When she fell off, his horse had more speed and began to run away
from the enemy, and he would shoot back his arrows; and now, when they
would ride up to strike him with their hatchets, he would shoot them and
kill them, and they began to be afraid of him, and to edge away from
him. His horse was very long-winded; and now, as he was drawing away from
the enemy, there were only two who were yet able to keep up with him. The
rest were being left behind, and they stopped, and went back to where the
others had killed or captured the women; and now only two men were
After a little while, the Blackfoot jumped off his horse to fight on foot,
and the two enemies rode up on either side of him, but a long way off, and
jumped off their horses. When he saw the two on either side of him, he took
a sheaf of arrows in his hand and began to rush, first toward the one on
the right, and then toward the one on the left. As he did this, he saw that
one of the men, when he ran toward him and threatened to shoot, would draw
away from him, while the other would stand still. Then he knew that one of
them was a coward and the other a brave man. But all the time they were
closing in on him. When he saw that they were closing in on him, he made a
rush at the brave man. This one was shooting arrows all the time; but the
Blackfoot did not shoot until he got close to him, and then he shot an
arrow into him and ran up to him and hit him with his stone axe and killed
him. Then he turned to the cowardly one and ran at him. The man turned to
run, but the Blackfoot caught him and hit him with his axe and killed him.
After he had killed them, he scalped them and took their arrows, their
horses, and the stone knives that they had. Then he went home, and when he
rode into the camp he was crying over the loss of his wife. When he came to
his lodge and got off his horse, his friends went up to him and asked what
was the matter. He told them how all the women had been killed, and how he
had been pursued by two enemies, and had fought with them and killed them
both, and he showed them the arrows and the horses and the scalps. He told
the women's relations that they had all been killed; and all were in great
sorrow, and crying over the loss of their friends.
The next morning they held a council, and it was decided that a party
should go out and see where the battle had been, and find out what had
become of the women. When they got to the place, they found all the women
there dead, except this man's wife. Her they could not find. They also
found the two Indians that the man had said that he had killed, and,
besides, many others that he had killed when he was running away.
When he got back to the camp, this Blackfoot picked up his child and put it
on his back, and walked round the camp mourning and crying, and the child
crying, for four days and four nights, until he was exhausted and worn out,
and then he fell asleep. When the rest of the people saw him walking about
mourning, and that he would not eat nor drink, their hearts were very sore,
and they felt very sorry for him and for the child, for he was a man
greatly thought of by the people.
While he lay there asleep, the chief of the camp came to him and woke him,
and said: "Well, friend, what have you decided on? What is your mind? What
are you going to do?" The man answered: "My child is lonely. It will not
eat. It is crying for its mother. It will not notice any one. I am going
to look for my wife." The chief said, "I cannot say anything." He went
about to all the lodges and told the people that this man was going away to
seek his wife.
Now there was in the camp a strong medicine man, who was not married and
would not marry at all. He had said, "When I had my dream, it told me that
I must never have a wife." The man who had lost his wife had a very
beautiful sister, who had never married. She was very proud and very
handsome. Many men had wanted to marry her, but she would not have anything
to do with any man. The medicine man secretly loved this handsome girl, the
sister of the poor man. When he heard of this poor man's misfortune, the
medicine man was in great sorrow, and cried over it. He sent word to the
poor man, saying: "Go and tell this man that I have promised never to take
a wife, but that if he will give me his beautiful sister, he need not go to
look for his wife. I will send my secret helper in search of her."
When the young girl heard what this medicine man had said, she sent word to
him, saying, "Yes, if you bring my brother's wife home, and I see her
sitting here by his side, I will marry you, but not before." But she did
not mean what she said. She intended to deceive him in some way, and not to
marry him at all. When the girl sent this message to him, the medicine man
sent for her and her brother to come to his lodge. When they had come, he
spoke to the poor man and said, "If I bring your wife here, are you willing
to give me your sister for my wife?" The poor man answered, "Yes." But the
young girl kept quiet in his presence, and had nothing to say. Then the
medicine man said to them: "Go. To-night in the middle of the night you
will hear me sing." He sent everybody out of his lodge, and said to the
people: "I will close the door of my lodge, and I do not want any one to
come in to-night, nor to look through the door. A spirit will come to me
to-night." He made the people know, by a sign put out before the door of
his lodge, that no one must enter it, until such time as he was through
making his medicine. Then he built a fire, and began to get out all his
medicine. He unwrapped his bundle and took out his pipe and his rattles and
his other things. After a time, the fire burned down until it was only
coals and his lodge was dark, and on the fire he threw sweet-scented herbs,
sweet grass, and sweet pine, so as to draw his dream-helper to him.
Now in the middle of the night he was in the lodge singing, when suddenly
the people heard a strange voice in the lodge say: "Well, my chief, I have
come. What is it?" The medicine man said, "I want you to help me." The
voice said, "Yes, I know it, and I know what you want me to do." The
medicine man asked, "What is it?" The voice said, "You want me to go and
get a woman." The medicine man answered: "That is what I want. I want you
to go and get a woman--the lost woman." The voice said to him, "Did I not
tell you never to call me, unless you were in great need of my help?" The
medicine man answered, "Yes, but that girl that was never going to be
married is going to be given to me through your help." Then the voice
said, "Oh!" and it was silent for a little while. Then it went on and said:
"Well, we have a good feeling for you, and you have been a long time not
married; so we will help you to get that girl, and you will have her. Yes,
we have great pity on you. We will go and look for this woman, and will try
to find her, but I cannot promise you that we will bring her; but we will
try. We will go, and in four nights I will be back here again at this same
time, and I think that I can bring the woman; but I will not promise. While
I am gone, I will let you know how I get on. Now I am going away." And
then the people heard in the lodge a sound like a strong wind, and nothing
more. He was gone.
Some people went and told the sister what the medicine man and the voice
had been saying, and the girl was very down-hearted, and cried over the
idea that she must be married, and that she had been forced into it in this
When the dream person went away, he came late at night to the camp of the
Snakes, the enemy. The woman who had been captured was always crying over
the loss of her man and her child. She had another husband now. The man who
had captured her had taken her for his wife. As she was lying there, in her
husband's lodge, crying for sorrow for her loss, the dream person came to
her. Her husband was asleep. The dream-helper touched her and pushed her a
little, and she looked up and saw a person standing by her side; but she
did not know who it was. The person whispered in her ear, "Get up, I want
to take you home." She began to edge away from her husband, and at length
got up, and all the time the person was moving toward the door. She
followed him out, and saw him walk away from the lodge, and she went
after. The person kept ahead, and the woman followed him, and they went
away, travelling very fast. After they had travelled some distance, she
called out to the dream person to stop, for she was getting tired. Then the
person stopped, and when he saw the woman sitting, he would sit down, but
he would not talk to her.
As they travelled on, the woman, when she got tired, would sit down, and
because she was very tired, she would fall asleep; and when she awoke and
looked up, she always saw the person walking away from her, and she would
get up and follow him. When day came, the shape would be far ahead of her,
but at night it would keep closer. When she spoke to this person, the
woman would call him "young man." At one time she said to him, "Young man,
my moccasins are all worn out, and my feet are getting very sore, and I am
very tired and hungry." When she had said this, she sat down and fell
asleep, and as she was falling asleep, she saw the person going away from
her. He went back to the lodge of the medicine man.
During this night the camp heard the medicine man singing his song, and
they knew that the dream person must be back again, or that his chief must
be calling him. The medicine man had unwrapped his bundle, and had taken
out all his things, and again had a fire of coals, on which he burned sweet
pine and sweet grass. Those who were listening heard a voice say: "Well, my
chief, I am back again, and I am here to tell you something. I am bringing
the woman you sent me after. She is very hungry and has no moccasins. Get
me those things, and I will take them back to her." The medicine man went
out of the lodge, and called to the poor man, who was mourning for his
wife, that he wanted to see him. The man came, carrying the child on his
back, to hear what the medicine man had to say. He said to him: "Get some
moccasins and something to eat for your wife. I want to send them to
her. She is coming." The poor man went to his sister, and told her to give
him some moccasins and some pemmican. She made a bundle of these things,
and the man took them to the medicine man, who gave them to the dream
person; and again he disappeared out of the lodge like a wind.
When the woman awoke in the morning and started to get up, she hit her face
against a bundle lying by her, and when she opened it, she found in it
moccasins and some pemmican; and she put on the moccasins and ate, and
while she was putting on the moccasins and eating, she looked over to where
she had last seen the person, and he was sitting there with his back toward
her. She could never see his face. When she had finished eating, he got up
and went on, and she rose and followed. They went on, and the woman
thought, "Now I have travelled two days and two nights with this young man,
and I wonder what kind of a man he is. He seems to take no notice of me."
So she made up her mind to walk fast and to try to overtake him, and see
what sort of a man he was. She started to do so, but however fast she
walked, it made no difference. She could not overtake him. Whether she
walked fast, or whether she walked slow, he was always the same distance
from her. They travelled on until night, and then she lay down again and
fell asleep. She dreamed that the young man had left her again.
The dream person had really left her, and had gone back to the medicine
man's lodge, and said to him: "Well, my chief, I am back again. I am
bringing the woman. You must tell this poor man to get on his horse, and
ride back toward Milk River (the Teton). Let him go in among the high hills
on this side of the Muddy, and let him wait there until daylight, and look
toward the hills of Milk River; and after the sun is up a little way, he
will see a band of antelope running toward him, along the trail that the
Blackfeet travel. It will be his wife who has frightened these
antelope. Let him wait there for a while, and he will see a person
coming. This will be his wife. Then let him go to meet her, for she has no
moccasins. She will be glad to see him, for she is crying all the time."
The medicine man told the poor man this, and he got on his horse and
started, as he had been told. He could not believe that it was true. But he
went. At last he got to the place, and a little while after the sun had
risen, as he was lying on a hill looking toward the hills of the Milk
River, he saw a band of antelope running toward him, as he had been told he
would see. He lay there for a long time, but saw nothing else come in
sight; and finally he got angry and thought that what had been told him was
a lie, and he got up to mount his horse and ride back. Just then he saw,
away down, far off on the prairie, a small black speck, but he did not
think it was moving, it was so far off,--barely to be seen. He thought
maybe it was a rock. He lay down again and took sight on the speck by a
straw of grass in front of him, and looked for a long time, and after a
while he saw the speck pass the straw, and then he knew it was
something. He got on his horse and started to ride up and find out what it
was, riding way around it, through the hills and ravines, so that he would
not be seen. He rode up in a ravine behind it, pretty near to it, and then
he could see it was a person on foot. He got out his bow and arrows and
held them ready to use, and then started to ride up to it. He rode toward
the person, and at last he got near enough to see that it was his
wife. When he saw this, he could not help crying; and as he rode up, the
woman looked back, and knew first the horse, and then her husband, and she
was so glad that she fell down and knew nothing.
After she had come to herself and they had talked together, they got on the
horse and rode off toward camp. When he came over the hill in sight of
camp, all the people began to say, "Here comes the man"; and at last they
could see from a distance that he had some one on the horse behind him, and
they knew that it must be his wife, and they were glad to see him bringing
her back, for he was a man thought a great deal of, and everybody liked him
and liked his wife and the way he was kind to her.
Then the handsome girl was given to the medicine man and became his wife.
ADVENTURES OF BULL TURNS ROUND
Once the camp moved, but one lodge stayed. It belonged to Wolf Tail; and
Wolf Tail's younger brother, Bull Turns Round, lived with him. Now their
father loved both his sons, but he loved the younger one most, and when he
went away with the big camp, he said to Wolf Tail: "Take care of your young
brother; he is not yet a strong person. Watch him that nothing befall him."
One day Wolf Tail was out hunting, and Bull Turns Round sat in front of the
lodge making arrows, and a beautiful strange bird lit on the ground before
him. Then cried one of Wolf Tail's wives, "Oh, brother, shoot that little
bird." "Don't bother me, sister," he replied, "I am making arrows." Again
the woman said, "Oh, brother, shoot that bird for me." Then Bull Turns
Round fitted an arrow to his bow and shot the bird, and the woman went and
picked it up and stroked her face with it, and her face swelled up so big
that her eyes and nose could not be seen. But when Bull Turns Round had
shot the bird, he went off hunting and did not know what had happened to
the woman's face.
Now when Wolf Tail came home and saw his wife's face, he said, "What is the
matter?" and his wife replied: "Your brother has pounded me so that I
cannot see. Go now and kill him." But Wolf Tail said, "No, I love my
brother; I cannot kill him." Then his wife cried and said: "I know you do
not love me; you are glad your brother has beaten me. If you loved me, you
would go and kill him."
Then Wolf Tail went out and looked for his brother, and when he had found
him, he said: "Come, let us get some feathers. I know where there is an
eagle's nest;" and he took him to a high cliff, which overhung the river,
and on the edge of this cliff was a dead tree, in the top of which the
eagles had built their nest. Then said Wolf Tail, "Climb up, brother, and
kill the eagles;" and when Bull Turns Round had climbed nearly to the top,
Wolf Tail called out, "I am going to push the tree over the cliff, and you
will be killed."
"Oh, brother! oh, brother! pity me; do not kill me," said Bull Turns Round.
"Why did you beat my wife's face so?" said Wolf Tail.
"I didn't," cried the boy; "I don't know what you are talking about."
"You lie," said Wolf Tail, and he pushed the tree over the cliff. He looked
over and saw his brother fall into the water, and he did not come up
again. Then Wolf Tail went home and took down his lodge, and went to the
main camp. When his father saw him coming with only his wives, he said to
him, "Where is your young brother?" And Wolf Tail replied: "He went hunting
and did not come back. We waited four days for him. I think the bears must
have killed him."
Now when Bull Turns Round fell into the river, he was stunned, and the
water carried him a long way down the stream and finally lodged him on a
sand shoal. Near this shoal was a lodge of Under Water People
(_S[=u]'-y[=e]-t[)u]p'-pi_), an old man, his wife, and two daughters. This
old man was very rich: he had great flocks of geese, swans, ducks, and
other water-fowl, and a big herd of buffalo which were tame. These buffalo
always fed near by, and the old man called them every evening to come and
drink. But he and his family ate none of these. Their only food was the
[Footnote 1: Blackfoot--_Est'-st[)u]k-ki_, suck-bite; from _Est-ah-tope_,
suck, and _I-sik-st[)u]k-ki_, bite.]
Now the old man's daughters were swimming about in the evening, and they
found Bull Turns Round lying on the shoal, dead, and they went home and
told their father, and begged him to bring the person to life, and give him
to them for a husband. "Go, my daughters," he said, "and make four sweat
lodges, and I will bring the person." He went and got Bull Turns Round, and
when the sweat lodges were finished, the old man took him into one of them,
and when he had sprinkled water on the hot rocks, he scraped a great
quantity of sand off Bull Turns Round. Then he took him into another lodge
and did the same thing, and when he had taken him into the fourth sweat
lodge and scraped all the sand off him, Bull Turns Round came to life, and
the old man led him out and gave him to his daughters. And the old man gave
his son-in-law a new lodge and bows and arrows, and many good presents.
Then the women cooked some bloodsuckers, and gave them to their husband,
but when he smelled of them he could not eat, and he threw them in the
fire. Then his wives asked him what he would eat. "Buffalo," he replied,
"is the only meat for men."
"Oh, father!" cried the girls, running to the old man's lodge, "our husband
will not eat our food. He says buffalo is the only meat for men."
"Go then, my daughters," said the old man, "and tell your husband to kill a
buffalo, but do not take nor break any bones, for I will make it alive
again." Then the old man called the buffalo to come and drink, and Bull
Turns Round shot a fat cow and took all the meat. And when he had roasted
the tongue, he gave each of his wives a small piece of it, and they liked
it, and they roasted and ate plenty of the meat.
One day Bull Turns Round went to the old man and said, "I mourn for my
"How did you come to be dead on the sand shoal?" asked the old man. Then
Bull Turns Round told what his brother had done to him.
"Take this piece of sinew," said the old man. "Go and see your father. When
you throw this sinew on the fire, your brother and his wife will roll, and
twist up and die." Then the old man gave him a herd of buffalo, and many
dogs to pack the lodge, and other things; and Bull Turns Round took his
wives, and went to find his father.
One day, just after sunset, they came in sight of the big camp, and they
went and pitched the lodge on the top of a very high butte; and the buffalo
fed close by, and there were so many of them that they covered the whole
Now the people were starving, and some had died, for they had no
buffalo. In the morning, early, a man arose whose son had starved to death,
and when he went out and saw this lodge on the top of the hill, and all the
buffalo feeding by it, he cried out in a loud voice; and the people all
came out and looked at it, and they were afraid, for they thought it was
_St[=o]n'-i-t[)a]p-i_. Then said the man whose son had died: "I am no
longer glad to live. I will go up to this lodge, and find out what this
is." Now when he said this, all the men grasped their bows and arrows and
followed him, and when they went up the hill, the buffalo just moved out of
their path and kept on feeding; and just as they came to the lodge, Bull
Turns Round came out, and all the people said, "Here is the one whom we
thought the bears had killed." Wolf Tail ran up, and said, "Oh, brother,
you are not dead. You went to get feathers, but we thought you had been
killed." Then Bull Turns Round called his brother into the lodge, and he
threw the sinew on the fire; and Wolf Tail, and his wife, who was standing
outside, twisted up and died.
[Footnote 1: There is no word in English which corresponds to this. It is
used when speaking of things wonderful or supernatural.]
Then Bull Turns Round told his father all that had happened to him; and
when he learned that the people were starving, he filled his mouth with
feathers and blew them out, and the buffalo ran off in every direction, and
he said to the people, "There is food, go chase it." Then the people were
very glad, and they came each one and gave him a present. They gave him
war shirts, bows and arrows, shields, spears, white robes, and many curious
Long ago, down where Two Medicine and Badger Creeks come together, there
lived an old man. He had but one wife and two daughters. One day there came
to his camp a young man who was very brave and a great hunter. The old man
said: "Ah! I will have this young man to help me. I will give him my
daughters for wives." So he gave him his daughters. He also gave this
son-in-law all his wealth, keeping for himself only a little lodge, in
which he lived with his old wife. The son-in-law lived in a lodge that was
big and fine.
At first the son-in-law was very good to the old people. Whenever he
killed anything, he gave them part of the meat, and furnished plenty of
robes and skins for their bedding and clothing. But after a while he began
to be very mean to them.
Now the son-in-law kept the buffalo hidden under a big log jam in the
river. Whenever he wanted to kill anything, he would have the old man go to
help him; and the old man would stamp on the log jam and frighten the
buffalo, and when they ran out, the young man would shoot one or two, never
killing wastefully. But often he gave the old people nothing to eat, and
they were hungry all the time, and began to grow thin and weak.
One morning, the young man called his father-in-law to go down to the log
jam and hunt with him. They started, and the young man killed a fat buffalo
cow. Then he said to the old man, "Hurry back now, and tell your children
to get the dogs and carry this meat home, then you can have something to
eat." And the old man did as he had been ordered, thinking to himself:
"Now, at last, my son-in-law has taken pity on me. He will give me part of
this meat." When he returned with the dogs, they skinned the cow, cut up
the meat and packed it on the dog travois, and went home. Then the young
man had his wives unload it, and told his father-in-law to go home. He did
not give him even a piece of liver. Neither would the older daughter give
her parents anything to eat, but the younger took pity on the old people
and stole a piece of meat, and when she got a chance threw it into the
lodge to the old people. The son-in-law told his wives not to give the old
people anything to eat. The only way they got food was when the younger
woman would throw them a piece of meat unseen by her husband and sister.
Another morning, the son-in-law got up early, and went and kicked on the
old man's lodge to wake him, and called him to get up and help him, to go
and pound on the log jam to drive out the buffalo, so that he could kill
some. When the old man pounded on the jam, a buffalo ran out, and the
son-in-law shot it, but only wounded it. It ran away, but at last fell down
and died. The old man followed it, and came to where it had lost a big clot
of blood from its wound. When he came to where this clot of blood was lying
on the ground, he stumbled and fell, and spilled his arrows out of his
quiver; and while he was picking them up, he picked up also the clot of
blood, and hid it in his quiver. "What are you picking up?" called out the
son-in-law. "Nothing," said the old man; "I just fell down and spilled my
arrows, and am putting them back." "Curse you, old man," said the
son-in-law, "you are lazy and useless. Go back and tell your children to
come with the dogs and get this dead buffalo." He also took away his bow
and arrows from the old man.
The old man went home and told his daughters, and then went over to his own
lodge, and said to his wife: "Hurry now, and put the kettle on the fire. I
have brought home something from the butchering." "Ah!" said the old woman,
"has our son-in-law been generous, and given us something nice?" "No,"
answered the old man; "hurry up and put the kettle on." When the water
began to boil, the old man tipped his quiver up over the kettle, and
immediately there came from the pot a noise as of a child crying, as if it
were being hurt, burnt or scalded. They looked in the kettle, and saw there
a little boy, and they quickly took it out of the water. They were very
much surprised. The old woman made a lashing to put the child in, and then
they talked about it. They decided that if the son-in-law knew that it was
a boy, he would kill it, so they resolved to tell their daughters that the
baby was a girl. Then he would be glad, for he would think that after a
while he would have it for a wife. They named the child K[)u]t-o'-yis (Clot
The son-in-law and his wives came home, and after a while he heard the
child crying. He told his youngest wife to go and find out whether that
baby was a boy or a girl; if it was a boy, to tell them to kill it. She
came back and told them that it was a girl. He did not believe this, and
sent his oldest wife to find out the truth of the matter. When she came
back and told him the same thing, he believed that it was really a
girl. Then he was glad, for he thought that when the child had grown up he
would have another wife. He said to his youngest wife, "Take some pemmican
over to your mother; not much, just enough so that there will be plenty of
milk for the child."
Now on the fourth day the child spoke, and said, "Lash me in turn to each
one of these lodge poles, and when I get to the last one, I will fall out
of my lashing and be grown up." The old woman did so, and as she lashed
him to each lodge pole he could be seen to grow, and finally when they
lashed him to the last pole, he was a man. After K[)u]t-o'-yis had looked
about the inside of the lodge, he looked out through a hole in the lodge
covering, and then, turning round, he said to the old people: "How is it
there is nothing to eat in this lodge? I see plenty of food over by the
other lodge." "Hush up," said the old woman, "you will be heard. That is
our son-in-law. He does not give us anything at all to eat." "Well," said
K[)u]t-o'-yis, "where is your pis'kun?" The old woman said, "It is down by
the river. We pound on it and the buffalo come out."
Then the old man told him how his son-in-law abused him. "He has taken my
weapons from me, and even my dogs; and for many days we have had nothing to
eat, except now and then a small piece of meat our daughter steals for us."
"Father," said K[)u]t-o'-yis, "have you no arrows?" "No, my son," he
replied; "but I have yet four stone points."
"Go out then and get some wood," said K[)u]t-o'-yis. "We will make a bow
and arrows. In the morning we will go down and kill something to eat."
Early in the morning K[)u]t-o'-yis woke the old man, and said, "Come, we
will go down now and kill when the buffalo come out." When they had reached
the river, the old man said: "Here is the place to stand and shoot. I will
go down and drive them out." As he pounded on the jam, a fat cow ran out,
and K[)u]t-o'-yis killed it.
Meantime the son-in-law had gone out, and as usual knocked on the old man's
lodge, and called to him to get up and go down to help him kill. The old
woman called to him that her husband had already gone down. This made the
son-in-law very angry. He said: "I have a good mind to kill you right now,
old woman. I guess I will by and by."
The son-in-law went on down to the jam, and as he drew near, he saw the old
man bending over, skinning a buffalo. "Old man," said he, "stand up and
look all around you. Look well, for it will be your last look." Now when
he had seen the son-in-law coming, K[)u]t-o'-yis had lain down and hidden
himself behind the buffalo's carcass. He told the old man to say to his
son-in-law, "You had better take your last look, for I am going to kill
you, right now." The old man said this. "Ah!" said the son-in-law, "you
make me angrier still, by talking back to me." He put an arrow to his bow
and shot at the old man, but did not hit him. K[)u]t-o'-yis told the old
man to pick up the arrow and shoot it back at him, and he did so. Now they
shot at each other four times, and then the old man said to K[)u]t-o'-yis:
"I am afraid now. Get up and help me." So K[)u]t-o'-yis got up on his feet
and said: "Here, what are you doing? I think you have been badly treating
this old man for a long time."
Then the son-in-law smiled pleasantly, for he was afraid of
K[)u]t-o'-yis. "Oh, no," he said, "no one thinks more of this old man than
I do. I have always taken great pity on him."
Then K[)u]t-o'-yis said: "You lie. I am going to kill you now." He shot him
four times, and the man died. Then K[)u]t-o'-yis told the old man to go and
bring down the daughter who had acted badly toward him. He did so, and
K[)u]t-o'-yis killed her. Then he went up to the lodges and said to the
younger woman, "Perhaps you loved your husband." "Yes," she said, "I love
him." So he killed her, too. Then he said to the old people: "Go over there
now, and live in that lodge. There is plenty there to eat, and when it is
gone I will kill more. As for myself, I will make a journey around
about. Where are there any people? In what direction?" "Well," said the old
man, "up above here on Badger Creek and Two Medicine, where the pis'kun is,
there are some people."
K[)u]t-o'-yis went up to where the pis'kun was, and saw there many lodges
of people. In the centre of the camp was a large lodge, with a figure of a
bear painted on it. He did not go into this lodge, but went into a very
small one near by, where two old women lived; and when he went in, he asked
them for something to eat. They set before him some lean dried meat and
some belly fat. "How is this?" he asked. "Here is a pis'kun with plenty of
fat meat and back fat. Why do you not give me some of that?" "Hush," said
the old women. "In that big lodge near by, lives a big bear and his wives
and children. He takes all those nice things and leaves us nothing. He is
the chief of this place."
Early in the morning, K[)u]t-o'-yis told the old women to get their dog
travois, and harness it, and go over to the pis'kun, and that he was going
to kill for them some fat meat. He reached there just about the time the
buffalo were being driven in, and shot a cow, which looked very scabby, but
was really very fat. Then he helped the old women to butcher, and when they
had taken the meat to camp, he said to them, "Now take all the choice fat
pieces, and hang them up so that those who live in the bear lodge will
They did this, and pretty soon the old chief bear said to his children: "Go
out now, and look around. The people have finished killing by this
time. See where the nicest pieces are, and bring in some nice back fat." A
young bear went out of the lodge, stood up and looked around, and when it
saw this meat close by, at the old women's lodge, it went over and began to
pull it down. "Hold on there," said K[)u]t-o'-yis. "What are you doing
here, taking the old women's meat?" and he hit him over the head with a
stick that he had. The young bear ran home crying, and said to his father,
"A young man has hit me on the head." Then all the bears, the father and
mother, and uncles and aunts, and all the relations, were very angry, and
all rushed out toward the old women's lodge.
K[)u]t-o'-yis killed them all, except one little child bear, a female,
which escaped. "Well," said K[)u]t-o'-yis, "you can go and breed bears, so
there will be more."
Then said K[)u]t-o'-yis to the old women: "Now, grand-mothers, where are
there any more people? I want to travel around and see them." The old women
said: "The nearest ones are at the point of rocks (on Sun River). There is
a pis'kun there." So K[)u]t-o'-yis travelled off toward this place, and
when he reached the camp, he entered an old woman's lodge.
The old woman set before him a plate of bad food. "How is this?" he
asked. "Have you nothing better than this to set before a stranger? You
have a pis'kun down there, and must get plenty of fat meat. Give me some
pemmican." "We cannot do that," the old woman replied, "because there is a
big snake here, who is chief of the camp. He not only takes the best
pieces, but often he eats a handsome young woman, when he sees one." When
K[)u]t-o'-yis heard this he was angry, and went over and entered the
snake's lodge. The women were cooking up some sarvis berries. He picked up
the dish, and ate the berries, and threw the dish out of the door. Then he
went over to where the snake was lying asleep, pricked him with his knife,
and said: "Here, get up. I have come to see you." This made the snake
angry. He partly raised himself up and began to rattle, when K[)u]t-o'-yis
cut him into pieces with his knife. Then he turned around and killed all
his wives and children, except one little female snake, which escaped by
crawling into a crack in the rocks. "Oh, well," said K[)u]t-o'-yis, "you
can go and breed young snakes, so there will be more. The people will not
be afraid of little snakes." K[)u]t-o'-yis said to the old woman, "Now you
go into this snake's lodge and take it for yourself, and everything that is
Then he asked them where there were some more people. They told him that
there were some people down the river, and some up in the mountains. But
they said: "Do not go there, for it is bad, because Ai-sin'-o-ko-ki (Wind
Sucker) lives there. He will kill you." It pleased K[)u]t-o'-yis to know
that there was such a person, and he went to the mountains. When he got to
the place where Wind Sucker lived, he looked into his mouth, and could see
many dead people there,--some skeletons and some just dead. He went in, and
there he saw a fearful sight. The ground was white as snow with the bones
of those who had died. There were bodies with flesh on them; some were just
dead, and some still living. He spoke to a living person, and asked, "What
is that hanging down above us?" The person answered that it was Wind
Sucker's heart. Then said K[)u]t-o'-yis: "You who still draw a little
breath, try to shake your heads (in time to the song), and those who are
still able to move, get up and dance. Take courage now, we are going to
have the ghost dance." So K[)u]t-o'-yis bound his knife, point upward, to
the top of his head and began to dance, singing the ghost song, and all the
others danced with him; and as he danced up and down, the point of the
knife cut Wind Sucker's heart and killed him. K[)u]t-o'-yis took his knife
and cut through Wind Sucker's ribs, and freed those who were able to crawl
out, and said to those who could still travel to go and tell their people
that they should come here for the ones who were still alive but unable to
Then he asked some of these people: "Where are there any other people? I
want to visit all the people." They said to him: "There is a camp to the
westward up the river, but you must not take the left-hand trail going up,
because on that trail lives a woman, a handsome woman, who invites men to
wrestle with her and then kills them. You must avoid her." This was what
K[)u]t-o'-yis was looking for. This was his business in the world, to kill
off all the bad things. So he asked the people just where this woman lived,
and asked where it was best to go to avoid her. He did this, because he did
not wish the people to know that he wanted to meet her.
He started on his way, and at length saw this woman standing by the
trail. She called out to him, "Come here, young man, come here; I want to
wrestle with you." "No," replied the young man, "I am in a hurry. I cannot
stop." But the woman called again, "No, no, come now and wrestle once with
me." When she had called him four times, K[)u]t-o'-yis went up to her. Now
on the ground, where this woman wrestled with people, she had placed many
broken and sharp flints, partly hiding them by the grass. They seized each
other, and began to wrestle over these broken flints, but K[)u]t-o'-yis
looked at the ground and did not step on them. He watched his chance, and
suddenly gave the woman a wrench, and threw her down on a large sharp
flint, which cut her in two; and the parts of her body fell asunder.
Then K[)u]t-o'-yis went on, and after a while came to where a woman kept a
sliding place; and at the far end of it there was a rope, which would trip
people up, and when they were tripped, they would fall over a high cliff
into deep water, where a great fish would eat them. When this woman saw him
coming, she cried out, "Come over here, young man, and slide with me."
"No," he replied, "I am in a hurry." She kept calling him, and when she
had called the fourth time, he went over to slide with her. "This sliding,"
said the woman, "is a very pleasant pastime." "Ah!" said K[)u]t-o'-yis, "I
will look at it." He looked at the place, and, looking carefully, he saw
the hidden rope. So he started to slide, and took out his knife, and when
he reached the rope, which the woman had raised, he cut it, and when it
parted, the woman fell over backward into the water, and was eaten up by
the big fish.
Again he went on, and after a while he came to a big camp. This was the
place of a man-eater. K[)u]t-o'-yis called a little girl he saw near by,
and said to her: "Child, I am going into that lodge to let that man-eater
kill and eat me. Watch close, therefore, and when you can get hold of one
of my bones, take it out and call all the dogs, and when they have all come
up to you, throw it down and cry out, 'K[)u]t-o'-yis, the dogs are eating
Then K[)u]t-o'-yis entered the lodge, and when the man-eater saw him, he
cried out, "_O'ki, O'ki,"_ and seemed glad to see him, for he was a fat
young man. The man-eater took a large knife, and went up to K[)u]t-o'-yis,
and cut his throat, and put him into a great stone kettle to cook. When the
meat was cooked, he drew the kettle from the fire, and ate the body, limb
by limb, until it was all eaten up.
Then the little girl, who was watching, came up to him, and said, "Pity me,
man-eater, my mother is hungry and asks you for those bones." So the old
man bunched them up together and handed them to her. She took them out, and
called all the dogs to her, and threw the bones down to the dogs, crying
out, "Look out, K[)u]t-o'-yis; the dogs are eating you!" and when she said
that, K[)u]t-o'-yis arose from the pile of bones.
Again he went into the lodge, and when the man-eater saw him, he cried out,
"How, how, how! the fat young man has survived," and seemed
surprised. Again he took his knife and cut K[)u]t-o'-yis' throat, and threw
him into the kettle. Again, when the meat was cooked, he ate it up, and
again the little girl asked for the bones, which he gave her; and, taking
them out, she threw them to the dogs, crying, "K[)u]t-o'-yis, the dogs are
eating you!" and K[)u]t-o'-yis again arose from the bones.
When the man-eater had cooked him four times, he again went into the lodge,
and, seizing the man-eater, he threw him into the boiling kettle, and his
wives and children too, and boiled them to death.
The man-eater was the seventh and last of the bad animals and people who
were destroyed by K[)u]t-o'-yis.
THE BAD WIFE
There was once a man who had but one wife. He was not a chief, but a very
brave warrior. He was rich, too, so he could have had plenty of wives if he
wished; but he loved his wife very much, and did not want any more. He was
very good to this woman. She always wore the best clothes that could be
found. If any other woman had a fine buckskin dress, or something very
pretty, the man would buy it for her.
It was summer. The berries were ripe, and the woman kept saying to her
husband, "Let us go and pick some berries for winter." "No," replied the
man. "It is dangerous now. The enemy is travelling all around." But still
the woman kept teasing him to go. So one day he told her to get ready. Some
other women went, too. They all went on horseback, for the berries were a
long way from camp. When they got to the place, the man told the women to
keep near their horses all the time. He would go up on a butte near by and
watch. "Be careful," he said. "Keep by your horses, and if you see me
signal, throw away your berries, get on your horses and ride towards camp
as fast as you can."
They had not picked many berries before the man saw a war party coming. He
signalled the women, and got on his horse and rode towards them. It
happened that this man and his wife both had good horses, but the others,
all old women, rode slow old travois horses, and the enemy soon overtook
and killed them. Many kept on after the two on good horses, and after a
while the woman's horse began to get tired; so she asked her husband to let
her ride on his horse with him. The woman got up behind him, and they went
on again. The horse was a very powerful one, and for a while went very
fast; but two persons make a heavy load, and soon the enemy began to gain
on them. The man was now in a bad plight; the enemy were overtaking him,
and the woman holding him bound his arms so that he could not use his bow.
"Get off," he said to her. "The enemy will not kill you. You are too young
and pretty. Some one of them will take you, and I will get a big party of
our people and rescue you."
"No, no," cried the woman; "let us die here together."
"Why die?" cried the man. "We are yet young, and may live a long time
together. If you don't get off, they will soon catch us and kill me, and
then they will take you anyhow. Get off, and in only a short time I will
get you back."
"No, no," again cried the woman; "I will die here with you."
"Crazy person!" cried the man, and with a quick jerk he threw the woman
As he said, the enemy did not kill her. The first one who came up counted
_coup_ and took her. The man, now that his horse was lightened, easily ran
away from the war party, and got safe to camp.
Then there was great mourning. The relatives of the old women who had been
killed, cut their hair and cried. The man, too, cut off his hair and
mourned. He knew that his wife was not killed, but he felt very badly
because he was separated from her. He painted himself black, and walked all
through the camp, crying. His wife had many relations, and some of them
went to the man and said: "We pity you very much. We mourn, too, for our
sister. But come. Take courage. We will go with you, and try to get her
"It is good," replied the man. "I feel as if I should die, stopping
uselessly here. Let us start soon."
That evening they got ready, and at daylight started out on foot. There
were seven of them in all. The husband, five middle-aged men, the woman's
relations, and a young man, her own young brother. He was a very pretty
boy. His hair was longer than any other person's in camp.
They soon found the trail of the war party, and followed it for some
days. At last they came to the Big River, and there, on the other side,
they saw many lodges. They crept down a coulee into the valley, and hid in
a small piece of timber just opposite the camp. Toward evening the man
said: "_Kyi_, my brothers. To-night I will swim across and look all through
the camp for my wife. If I do not find her, I will cache and look again
to-morrow evening. But if I do not return before daylight of the second
night, then you will know I am killed. Then you will do as you think best.
Maybe you will want to take revenge. Maybe you will go right back
home. That will be as your hearts feel."
[Footnote 1: Missouri River.]
As soon as it was dark, he swam across the river and went all about through
the camp, peeping in through the doorways of the lodges, but he did not see
his wife. Still, he knew she must be there. He had followed the trail of
the party to this place. They had not killed her on the way. He kept
looking in at the lodges until it was late, and the people let the fires go
out and went to bed. Then the man went down to where the women got their
water from the river. Everywhere along the stream was a cut bank, but in
one place a path of steps had been made down to the water's edge. Near this
path, he dug a hole in the bank and crawled into it, closing up the
entrance, except one small hole, through which he could look, and watch the
people who came to the river.
As soon as it was daylight, the women began to come for water. _Tum, tum,
tum, tum_, he could hear their footsteps as they came down the path, and he
looked eagerly at every one. All day long the people came and went,--the
young and old; and the children played about near him. He saw many strange
people that day. It was now almost sunset, and he began to think that he
would not see his wife there. _Tum, tum, tum, tum_, another woman came
down the steps, and stopped at the water's edge. Her dress was strange, but
he thought he knew the form. She turned her head and looked down the river,
and he saw her face. It was his wife. He pushed away the dirt, crawled
out, went to her and kissed her. "_Kyi_," he said, "hurry, and let us swim
across the river. Five of your relations and your own young brother are
waiting for us in that piece of timber."
"Wait," replied his wife. "These people have given me a great many pretty
things. Let me go back. When it is night I will gather them up, steal a
horse, and cross over to you."
"No, no," cried the man. "Let the pretty things go; come, let us cross at
"Pity me," said the woman. "Let me go and get my things. I will surely come
to-night. I speak the truth."
"How do you speak the truth?" asked her husband.
[Footnote 1: Blackfoot--_Tsa-ki-an-ist-o-man-i?_ i.e., How you like truth?]
"That my relations there across the river may be safe and live long, I
speak the truth."
"Go then," said the man, "and get your things. I will cross the river now."
He went up on the bank and walked down the river, keeping his face
hidden. No one noticed him, or if they did, they thought he belonged to the
camp. As soon as he had passed the first bend, he swam across the river,
and soon joined his relations.
"I have seen my wife," he said to them. "She will come over as soon as it
is dark. I let her go back to get some things that were given her."
"You are crazy," said one of the men, "very crazy. She already loves this
new man she has, or she would not have wanted to go back."
"Stop that," said the husband; "do not talk bad of her. She will surely
The woman went back to her lodge with the water, and, sitting down near the
fireplace, she began to act very strangely. She took up pieces of charred
wood, dirt, and ashes in her hands and ate them, and made queer noises.
"What is it?" asked the man who had taken her for a wife. "What is the
matter with you?" He spoke in signs.
The woman also spoke in signs. She answered him: "The Sun told me that
there are seven persons across the river in that piece of timber. Five of
them are middle-aged, another is a young boy with very long hair, another
is a man who mourns. His hair is cut short."
The Snake did not know what to do, so he called in some chiefs and old men
to advise with him. They thought that the woman might be very strong
medicine. At all events, it would be a good thing to go and look. So the
news was shouted out, and in a short time all the warriors had mounted
their best horses, and started across the river. It was then almost dark,
so they surrounded the piece of timber, and waited for morning to begin the
"_Kyi_," said one of the woman's relations to her husband. "Did I not
speak the truth? You see now what that woman has done for us."
At daylight the poor husband strung his bow, took a handful of arrows from
his quiver, and said: "This is my fault. I have brought you to this. It is
right that I should die first," and he started to go out of the timber.
"Wait," said the eldest relative. "It shall not be so. I am the first to
go. I cannot stay back to see my brother die. You shall go out last." So he
jumped out of the brush, and began shooting his arrows, but was soon
"My brother is too far on the road alone," cried another relation, and
he jumped out and fought, too. What use, one against so many? The Snakes
soon had his scalp.
[Footnote 1: Meaning that his brother's spirit, or shadow, was travelling
alone the road to the Sand Hills, and that he must overtake him.]
So they went out, one after another, and at last the husband was alone. He
rushed out very brave, and shot his arrows as fast as he could. "Hold!"
cried the Snake man to his people. "Do not kill him; catch him. This is the
one my wife said to bring back alive. See! his hair is cut short." So, when
the man had shot away all his arrows, they seized and tied him, and, taking
the scalps of the others, returned to camp.
They took the prisoner into the lodge where his wife was. His hands were
tied behind his back, and they tied his feet, too. He could not move.
As soon as the man saw his wife, he cried. He was not afraid. He did not
care now how soon he died. He cried because he was thinking of all the
trouble and death this woman had caused. "What have I done to you," he
asked his wife, "that you should treat me this way? Did I not always use
you well? I never struck you. I never made you work hard."
"What does he say?" asked the Snake man.
"He says," replied the woman, "that when you are done smoking, you must
knock the ashes and fire out of your pipe on his breast."
The Snake was not a bad-hearted man, but he thought now that this woman had
strong medicine, that she had Sun power; so he thought that everything must
be done as she said. When the man had finished smoking, he emptied the pipe
on the Piegan's breast, and the fire burned him badly.
Then the poor man cried again, not from the pain, but to think what a bad
heart this woman had. Again he spoke to her. "You cannot be a person," he
said. "I think you are some fearful animal, changed to look like a woman."
"What is he saying now?" asked the Snake.
"He wants some boiling water poured on his head," replied the woman.
"It shall be as he says," said the Snake; and he had his women heat some
water. When it was ready, one of them poured a little of it here and there
on the captive's head and shoulders. Wherever the hot water touched, the
hair came out and the skin peeled off. The pain was so bad that the Piegan
nearly fainted. When he revived, he said to his wife: "Pity me. I have
suffered enough. Let them kill me now. Let me hurry to join those who are
already travelling to the Sand Hills."
The woman turned to the Snake chief, and said, "The man says that he wants
you to give him to the Sun."
"It is good," said the Snake. "To-morrow we move camp. Before we leave
here, we will give him to the Sun."
There was an old woman in this camp who lived all alone, in a little lodge
of her own. She had some friends and relations, but she said she liked to
live by herself. She had heard that a Piegan had been captured, and went to
the lodge where he was. When she saw them pour the boiling water on him,
she cried and felt badly. This old woman had a very good heart. She went
home and lay down by her dog, and kept crying, she felt so sorry for this
poor man. Pretty soon she heard people shouting out the orders of the
chief. They said: "Listen! listen! To-morrow we move camp. Get ready now
and pack up everything. Before we go, the Piegan man will be given to the
Then the old woman knew what to do. She tied a piece of buckskin around her
dog's mouth, so he could not bark, and then she took him way out in the
timber and tied him where he could not be seen. She also filled a small
sack with pemmican, dried meat, and berries, and put it near the dog.
In the morning the people rose early. They smoothed a cotton-wood tree, by
taking off the bark, and painted it black. Then they stood the Piegan up
against it, and fastened him there with a great many ropes. When they had
tied him so he could not move, they painted his face black, and the chief
Snake made a prayer, and gave him to the Sun.
Every one was now busy getting ready to move camp. This old woman had lost
her dog, and kept calling out for him and looking all around. "_Tsis'-i!_"
she cried. "_Tsis'-i!_ Come here. Knock the dog on the head! Wait till I
find him, and I'll break his neck."
[Footnote 1: A Blackfoot curse.]
The people were now all packed up, and some had already started on the
trail. "Don't wait for me," the old woman said. "Go on, I'll look again for
my dog, and catch up with you."
When all were gone, the old woman went and untied her dog, and then, going
up to where the Piegan was tied, she cut the ropes, and he was free. But
already the man was very weak, and he fell down on the ground. She rubbed
his limbs, and pretty soon he felt better. The old woman was so sorry for
him that she cried again, and kissed him. Then the man cried, too. He was
so glad that some one pitied him. By and by he ate some of the food the old
woman had given him, and felt strong again. He said to her in signs: "I am
not done. I shall go back home now, but I will come again. I will bring all
the Piegans with me, and we will have revenge."
"You say well," signed the old woman.
"Help me," again said the man. "If, on the road you are travelling, this
camp should separate, mark the trail my wife takes with a stick. You, too,
follow the party she goes with, and always put your lodge at the far end of
the village. When I return with my people, I will enter your lodge, and
tell you what to do."
"I take your speech," replied the old woman. "As you say, so it shall be."
Then she kissed him again, and started on after her people. The man went to
the river, swam across, and started for the North.
Why are the people crying? Why is all this mourning? Ah! the poor man has
returned home, and told how those who went with him were killed. He has
told them the whole story. They are getting ready for war. Every one able
to fight is going with this man back to the Snakes. Only a few will be
left to guard the camp. The mother of that bad woman is going, too. She has
sharpened her axe, and told what she will do when she sees her
daughter. All are ready. The best horses have been caught up and saddled,
and the war party has started,--hundreds and hundreds of warriors. They are
strung out over the prairie as far as you can see.
When they got to the Missouri River, the poor man showed them where the
lodge in which they had tortured him had stood. He took them to see the
tree, where he had been bound. The black paint was still on it.
From here, they went slowly. Some young men were sent far ahead to
scout. The second day, they came back to the main body, and said they had
found a camping place just deserted, and that there the trail forked. The
poor man then went ahead, and at the forks he found a willow twig stuck in
the ground, pointing to the left hand trail. When the others came up, he
said to them: "Take care of my horse now, and travel slowly. I will go
ahead on foot and find the camp. It must be close. I will go and see that
old woman, and find out how things are."
Some men did not want him to do this; they said that the old woman might
tell about him, and then they could not surprise the camp.
"No," replied the man. "It will not be so. That old woman is almost the
same as my mother. I know she will help us."
He went ahead carefully, and near sunset saw the camp. When it was dark,
he crept near it and entered the old woman's lodge. She had placed it
behind, and a little way off from, the others. When he went in the old
woman was asleep, but the fire was still burning a little. He touched her,
and she jumped up and started to scream; but he put his hand on her mouth,
and when she saw who it was she laughed and kissed him. "The Piegans have
come," he told her. "We are going to have revenge on this camp to-night. Is
my wife here?"
"Still here," replied the old woman. "She is chief now. They think her
medicine very strong."
"Tell your friends and relations," said the Piegan, "that you have had a
dream, and that they must move into the brush yonder. Have them stay there
with you, and they will not be hurt. I am going now to get my people."
It was very late in the night. Most of the Snakes were in bed and
asleep. All at once the camp was surrounded with warriors, shouting the war
cry and shooting, stabbing, and knocking people on the head as fast as they
came out of the lodges.
That Piegan woman cried out: "Don't hurt me. I am a Piegan. Are any of my
"Many of your relations are here," some one said. "They will protect you."
Some young men seized and tied her, as her husband had said to do. They had
hard work to keep her mother from killing her. "_Hai yah_!" the old woman
cried. "There is my Snake woman daughter. Let me split her head open."
The fight was soon over. The Piegans killed the people almost as fast as
they came out of their lodges. Some few escaped in the darkness. When the
fight was over, the young warriors gathered up a great pile of lodge poles
and brush, and set fire to it. Then the poor man tore the dress off his bad
wife, tied the scalp of her dead Snake man around her neck, and told her to
dance the scalp dance in the fire. She cried and hung back, calling out for
pity. The people only laughed and pushed her into the fire. She would run
through it, and then those on the other side would push her back. So they
kept her running through the fire, until she fell down and died.
The old Snake woman had come out of the brush with her relations. Because
she had been so good, the Piegans gave her, and those with her, one-half of
all the horses and valuable things they had taken. "_Kyi!_" said the Piegan
chief. "That is all for you, because you helped this poor man. To-morrow
morning we start back North. If your heart is that way, go too and live
with us." So these Snakes joined the Piegans and lived with them until they
died, and their children married with the Piegans, and at last they were no
longer Snake people.
[Footnote 1: When the Hudson's Bay Company first established a fort at
Edmonton, a daughter of one of these Snakes married a white employee of the
company, named, in Blackfoot, _O-wai_, Egg.]
THE LOST CHILDREN
Once a camp of people stopped on the bank of a river. There were but a few
lodges of them. One day the little children in the camp crossed the river
to play on the other side. For some time they stayed near the bank, and
then they went up over a little hill, and found a bed of sand and gravel;
and there they played for a long time.
There were eleven of these children. Two of them were daughters of the
chief of the camp, and the smaller of these wanted the best of
everything. If any child found a pretty stone, she would try to take it for
herself. The other children did not like this, and they began to tease the
little girl, and to take her things away from her. Then she got angry and
began to cry, and the more she cried, the more the children teased her; so
at last she and her sister left the others, and went back to the camp.
When they got there, they told their father what the other children had
done to them, and this made the chief very angry. He thought for a little
while, and then got up and went out of the lodge, and called aloud, so that
everybody might hear, saying: "Listen! listen! Your children have teased my
child and made her cry. Now we will move away, and leave them behind. If
they come back before we get started, they shall be killed. If they follow
us and overtake the camp, they shall be killed. If the father and mother of
any one of them take them into their lodge, I will kill that father and
mother. Hurry now, hurry and pack up, so that we can go. Everybody tear
down the lodges, as quickly as you can."
When the people heard this, they felt very sorry, but they had to do as the
chief said; so they tore down the lodges, and quickly packed the dog
travois, and started off. They packed in such a hurry that they left many
little things lying in camp,--knives and awls, bone needles and moccasins.
The little children played about in the sand for a long time, but at last
they began to get hungry; and one little girl said to the others, "I will
go back to the camp, and get some dried meat and bring it here, so that we
may eat." And she started to go to the camp. When she came to the top of
the hill and looked across the river, she saw that there were no lodges
there, and did not know what to think of it. She called down to the
children, and said, "The camp has gone"; but they did not believe her, and
went on playing. She kept on calling, and at last some of them came to her,
and then all, and saw that it was as she had said. They went down to the
river, and crossed it, and went to where the lodges had stood. When they
got there, they saw on the ground the things that had been left out in
packing; and as each child saw and knew something that had belonged to its
own parents, it cried and sang a little song, saying: "Mother, here is your
bone needle; why did you leave your children?" "Father, here is your arrow;
why did you leave your children?" It was very mournful, and they all cried.
There was among them a little girl who had on her back her baby brother,
whom she loved dearly. He was very young, a nursing child, and already he
was hungry and beginning to fret. This little girl said to the others: "We
do not know why they have gone, but we know they have gone. We must follow
the trail of the camp, and try to catch up with them." So the children
started to follow the camp. They travelled on all day; and just at night
they saw, near the trail, a little lodge. They had heard the people talk of
a bad old woman who killed and ate persons, and some of the children
thought that this old woman might live here; and they were afraid to go to
the lodge. Others said: "Perhaps some person lives here who has a good
heart. We are very tired and very hungry and have nothing to eat and no
place to keep warm. Let us go to this lodge."
They went to it; and when they went in, they saw sitting by the fire an old
woman. She spoke kindly to them, and asked them where they were travelling;
and they told her that the camp had moved on and left them, and that they
were trying to find their people, that they had nothing to eat, and were
tired and hungry. The old woman fed them, and told them to sleep here
to-night, and to-morrow they could go on and find their people. "The camp,"
she said, "passed here to-day when the sun was low. They have not gone
far. To-morrow you will overtake them." She spread some robes on the ground
and said: "Now lie here and sleep. Lie side by side with your heads toward
the fire, and when morning comes, you can go on your journey." The
children lay down and soon slept.
In the middle of the night, the old woman got up, and built a big fire, and
put on it a big stone kettle, full of water. Then she took a big knife,
and, commencing at one end of the row, began to cut off the heads of the
children, and to throw them into the pot. The little girl with the baby
brother lay at the other end of the row, and while the old woman was doing
this, she awoke and saw what was taking place. When the old woman came near
to her, she jumped up and began to beg that she would not kill her. "I am
strong," she said. "I will work hard for you. I can bring your wood and
water, and tan your skins. Do not kill my little brother and me. Take pity
on us and save us alive. Everybody has left us, but do you have pity. You
shall see how quickly I will work, how you will always have plenty of
wood. I can work quickly and well." The old woman thought for a little
while, then she said: "Well, I will let you live for a time, anyhow. You
shall sleep safely to-night."
The next day, early, the little girl took her brother on her back, and went
out and gathered a big pile of wood, and brought it to the lodge before the
old woman was awake. When she got up, she called to the girl, "Go to the
river and get a bucket of water." The girl put her brother on her back, and
took the bucket to go. The old woman said to her: "Why do you carry that
child everywhere? Leave him here." The girl said: "Not so. He is always
with me, and if I leave him he will cry and make a great noise, and you
will not like that." The old woman grumbled, but the girl went on down to
When she got there, just as she was going to fill her bucket, she saw
standing by her a great bull. It was a mountain buffalo, one of those who
live in the timber; and the long hair of its head was all full of pine
needles and sticks and branches, and matted together. (It was a
_Su'ye-st[)u]'mik_, a water bull.) When the girl saw him, she prayed him to
take her across the river, and so to save her and her little brother from
the bad old woman. The bull said, "I will take you across, but first you
must take some of the sticks out of my head." The girl begged him to start
at once; but the bull said, "No, first take the sticks out of my head." The
girl began to do it, but before she had done much, she heard the old woman
calling to her to bring the water. The girl called back, "I am trying to
get the water clear," and went on fixing the buffalo's head. The old woman
called again, saying, "Hurry, hurry with that water." The girl answered,
"Wait, I am washing my little brother." Pretty soon the old woman called
out, "If you don't bring that water, I will kill you and your brother." By
this time the girl had most of the sticks out of the bull's head, and he
told her to get on his back, and went into the water and swam with her
across the river. As he reached the other bank, the girl could see the old
woman coming from her lodge down to the river with a big stick in her hand.
When the bull reached the bank, the girl jumped off his back and started
off on the trail of the camp. The bull swam back again to the other side of
the river, and there stood the old woman. This bull was a sort of servant
of the old woman. She said to him: "Why did you take those children across
the river? Take me on your back now and carry me across quickly, so that I
can catch them." The bull said, "First take these sticks out of my head."
"No," said the old woman; "first take me across, then I will take the
sticks out." The bull repeated, "First take the sticks out of my head, then
I will take you across." This made the old woman very mad, and she hit him
with the stick she had in her hand; but when she saw that he would not go,
she began to pull the sticks out of his head very roughly, tearing out
great handfuls of hair, and every moment ordering him to go, and
threatening what she would do to him when she got back. At last the bull
took her on his back, and began to swim across with her, but he did not
swim fast enough to please her, so she began to pound him with her club to
make him go faster; and when the bull got to the middle of the river, he
rolled over on his side, and the old woman slipped off, and was carried
down the river and drowned.
The girl followed the trail of the camp for several days, feeding on
berries and roots that she dug; and at last one night after dark she
overtook the camp. She went into the lodge of an old woman, who was camped
off at one side, and the old woman pitied her and gave her some food, and
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