Blackfoot Lodge Tales
George Bird Grinnell
Part 2 out of 6
told her where her father's lodge was. The girl went to it, but when she
went in, her parents would not receive her. She had tried to overtake them
for the sake of her little brother, who was growing thin and weak because
he had not nursed; and now her mother was afraid to have her stay with
them. She even went and told the chief that her children had come back. Now
when the chief heard that these two children had come back, he was angry;
and he ordered that the next day they should be tied to a post in the camp,
and that the people should move on and leave them here. "Then," he said,
"they cannot follow us."
The old woman who had pitied the children, when she heard what the chief
had ordered, made up a bundle of dried meat, and hid it in the grass near
the camp. Then she called her dog to her,--a little curly dog. She said to
"Now listen. To-morrow when we are ready to start, I will call you to come
to me, but you must pay no attention to what I say. Run off, and pretend to
be chasing squirrels. I will try to catch you, and if I do so, I will
pretend to whip you; but do not follow me. Stay behind, and when the camp
has passed out of sight, chew off the strings that bind those children; and
when you have done this, show them where I have hidden that food. Then you
can follow the camp and catch up to us." The dog stood before the old
woman, and listened to all that she said, turning his head from side to
side, as if paying close attention.
Next morning it was done as the chief had said. The children were tied to
the tree with raw hide strings, and the people tore down all the lodges and
moved off. The old woman called her dog to follow her, but he was digging
at a gopher hole and would not come. Then she went up to him and struck at
him hard with her whip, but he dodged and ran away, and then stood looking
at her. Then the old woman got very mad and cursed him, but he paid no
attention; and finally she left him, and followed the camp. When the
people had all passed out of sight, the dog went to the children, and
gnawed the strings which tied them, until he had bitten them through. So
the children were free.
Then the dog was glad, and danced about and barked and ran round and
round. Pretty soon he came up to the little girl, and looked up in her
face, and then started away, trotting. Every little while he would stop
and look back. The girl thought he wanted her to follow him. She did so,
and he took her to where the bundle of dried meat was, and showed it to
her. Then, when he had done this, he jumped up on her, and licked the
baby's face, and then started off, running as hard as he could along the
trail of the camp, never stopping to look back. The girl did not follow
him. She now knew that it was no use to go to the camp again. Their
parents would not receive them, and the chief would perhaps order them to
She went on her way, carrying her little brother and the bundle of dried
meat. She travelled for many days, and at last came to a place where she
thought she would stop. Here she built a little lodge of poles and brush,
and stayed there. One night she had a dream, and an old woman came to her
in the dream, and said to her, "To-morrow take your little brother, and tie
him to one of the lodge poles, and the next day tie him to another, and so
every day tie him to one of the poles, until you have gone all around the
lodge and have tied him to each pole. Then you will be helped, and will no
more have bad luck."
When the girl awoke in the morning, she remembered what the dream had told
her, and she bound her little brother to one of the lodge poles; and each
day after this she tied him to one of the poles. Each day he grew larger,
until, when she had gone all around the lodge, he was grown to be a fine
Now the girl was glad, and proud of her young brother who was so large and
noble-looking. He was quiet, not speaking much, and sometimes for days he
would not say anything. He seemed to be thinking all the time. One morning
he told the girl that he had a dream and that he wished her to help him
build a pis'kun. She was afraid to ask him about the dream, for she thought
if she asked questions he might not like it. So she just said she was ready
to do what he wished. They built the pis'kun, and when it was finished, the
boy said to his sister: "The buffalo are to come to us, and you are not to
see them. When the time comes, you are to cover your head and to hold your
face close to the ground; and do not lift your head nor look, until I throw
a piece of kidney to you." The girl said, "It shall be as you say."
When the time came, the boy told her where to go; and she went to the
place, a little way from the lodge, not far from the corral, and sat down
on the ground, and covered her head, holding her face close to the
earth. After she had sat there a little while, she heard the sound of
animals running, and she was excited and curious, and raised her head to
look; but all she saw was her brother, standing near, looking at
her. Before he could speak, she said to him: "I thought I heard buffalo
coming, and because I was anxious for food, I forgot my promise and
looked. Forgive me this time, and I will try again." Again she bent her
face to the ground, and covered her head.
Soon she heard again the sound of animals running, at first a long way off,
and then coming nearer and nearer, until at last they seemed close, and she
thought they were going to run over her. She sprang up in fright and looked
about, but there was nothing to be seen but her brother, looking sadly at
her. She went close to him and said: "Pity me. I was afraid, for I thought
the buffalo were going to run over me." He said: "This is the last time. If
again you look, we will starve; but if you do not look, we will always have
plenty, and will never be without meat." The girl looked at him, and said,
"I will try hard this time, and even if those animals run right over me, I
will not look until you throw the kidney to me." Again she covered her
head, pressing her face against the earth and putting her hands against her
ears, so that she might not hear. Suddenly, sooner than she thought, she
felt the blow from the meat thrown at her, and, springing up, she seized
the kidney and began to eat it. Not far away was her brother, bending over
a fat cow; and, going up to him, she helped him with the butchering. After
that was done, she kindled a fire and cooked the best parts of the meat,
and they ate and were satisfied.
The boy became a great hunter. He made fine arrows that went faster than a
bird could fly, and when he was hunting, he watched all the animals and all
the birds, and learned their ways, and how to imitate them when they
called. While he was hunting, the girl dressed buffalo hides and the skins
of deer and other animals. She made a fine new lodge, and the boy painted
it with figures of all the birds and the animals he had killed.
One day, when the girl was bringing water, she saw a little way off a
person coming. When she went in the lodge, she told her brother, and he
went out to meet the stranger. He found that he was friendly and was
hunting, but had had bad luck and killed nothing. He was starving and in
despair, when he saw this lone lodge and made up his mind to go to it. As
he came near it, he began to be afraid, and to wonder if the people who
lived there were enemies or ghosts; but he thought, "I may as well die here
as starve," so he went boldly to it. The strange person was very much
surprised to see this handsome young man with the kind face, who could
speak his own language. The boy took him into the lodge, and the girl put
food before him. After he had eaten, he told his story, saying that the
game had left them, and that many of his people were dying of hunger. As
he talked, the girl listened; and at last she remembered the man, and knew
that he belonged to her camp. She asked him questions, and he talked about
all the people in the camp, and even spoke of the old woman who owned the
dog. The boy advised the stranger, after he had rested, to return to his
camp, and tell the people to move up to this place, that here they would
find plenty of game. After he had gone, the boy and his sister talked of
these things. The girl had often told him what she had suffered, what the
chief had said and done, and how their own parents had turned against her,
and that the only person whose heart had been good to her was this old
woman. As the young man heard all this again, he was angry at his parents
and the chief, but he felt great kindness for the old woman and her
dog. When he learned that those bad people were living, he made up his mind
that they should suffer and die.
When the strange person reached his own camp, he told the people how well
he had been treated by these two persons, and that they wished him to bring
the whole camp to where they were, and that there they should have plenty.
This made great joy in the camp, and all got ready to move. When they
reached the lost children's camp, they found everything as the stranger had
said. The brother gave a feast; and to those whom he liked he gave many
presents, but to the old woman and the dog he gave the best presents of
all. To the chief nothing at all was given, and this made him very much
ashamed. To the parents no food was given, but the boy tied a bone to the
lodge poles above the fire, and told the parents to eat from it without
touching it with their hands. They were very hungry, and tried to eat from
this bone; and as they were stretching out their necks to reach it--for it
was above them--the boy cut off their heads with his knife. This frightened
all the people, the chief most of all; but the boy told them how it all
was, and how he and his sister had survived.
When he had finished speaking, the chief said he was sorry for what he had
done, and he proposed to his people that this young man should be made
their chief. They were glad to do this. The boy was made the chief, and
lived long to rule the people in that camp.
MIK-A'PI--RED OLD MAN
It was in the valley of "It fell on them" Creek, near the mountains,
that the Pik[)u]n'i were camped when Mik-a'pi went to war. It was far back,
in the days of stone knives, long before the white people had come. This
was the way it happened.
[Footnote 1: Armells Creek in Northern Montana is called
_Et-tsis-ki-ots-op_, "It fell on them." A longtime ago a number of
Blackfeet women were digging in a bank near this creek for the red clay
which they use for paint, when the bank gave way and fell on them, burying
and killing them.]
Early in the morning a band of buffalo were seen in the foot-hills of the
mountains, and some hunters went out to get meat. Carefully they crawled
along up the coulees and drew near to the herd; and, when they had come
close to them, they began to shoot, and their arrows pierced many fat
cows. But even while they were thus shooting, they were surprised by a war
party of Snakes, and they began to run back toward the camp. There was one
hunter, named Fox-eye, who was very brave. He called to the others to stop,
saying: "They are many and we are few, but the Snakes are not brave. Let us
stop and fight them." But the other hunters would not listen. "We have no
shields," they said, "nor our war medicine. There are many of the
enemy. Why should we foolishly die?"
They hurried on to camp, but Fox-eye would not turn back. He drew his
arrows from the quiver, and prepared to fight. But, even as he placed an
arrow, a Snake had crawled up by his side, unseen. In the still air, the
Piegan heard the sharp twang of a bow string, but, before he could turn his
head, the long, fine-pointed arrow pierced him through and through. The bow
and arrows dropped from his hands, he swayed, and then fell forward on the
grass, dead. But now the warriors came pouring from the camp to aid
him. Too late! The Snakes quickly scalped their fallen enemy, scattered up
the mountain, and were lost to sight.
Now Fox-eye had two wives, and their father and mother and all their near
relations were dead. All Fox-eye's relatives, too, had long since gone to
the Sand Hills. So these poor widows had no one to avenge them, and they
mourned deeply for the husband so suddenly taken from them. Through the
long days they sat on a near hill and mourned, and their mourning was very
[Footnote 1: Sand Hills: the shadow land; place of ghosts; the Blackfoot
There was a young warrior named Mik-a'pi. Every morning he was awakened by
the crying of these poor widows, and through the day his heart was touched
by their wailing. Even when he went to rest, their mournful cries reached
him through the darkness, and he could not sleep. So he sent his mother to
them. "Tell them," he said, "that I wish to speak to them." When they had
entered, they sat close by the door-way, and covered their heads.
"_Kyi!"_ said Mik-a'pi. "For days and nights I have heard your mourning,
and I too have silently mourned. My heart has been very sad. Your husband
was my near friend, and now he is dead and no relations are left to avenge
him. So now, I say, I will take the load from your hearts. I will avenge
him. I will go to war and take many scalps, and when I return, they shall
be yours. You shall paint your faces black, and we will all rejoice that
Fox-eye is avenged."
When the people heard that Mik-a'pi was going to war, many warriors wished
to join him, but he refused them; and when he had taken a medicine sweat,
and got a medicine-pipe man to make medicine for him during his absence, he
started from the camp one evening, just after sunset. It is only the
foolish warrior who travels in the day; for other war parties may be out,
or some camp-watcher sitting on a hill may see him from far off, and lay
plans to destroy him. Mik-a'pi was not one of these. He was brave but
cautious, and he had strong medicine. Some say that he was related to the
ghosts, and that they helped him. Having now started to war against the
Snakes, he travelled in hidden places, and at sunrise would climb a hill
and look carefully in all directions, and during the long day would lie
there, and watch, and take short sleeps.
Now, when Mik-a'pi had come to the Great Falls (of the Missouri), a heavy
rain set in; and, seeing a hole in the rocks, he crawled in and lay down in
the farther end to sleep. The rain did not cease, and when night came he
could not travel because of the darkness and storm; so he lay down to sleep
again. But soon he heard something coming into the cave toward him, and
then he felt a hand laid on his breast, and he put out his hand and touched
a person. Then Mik-a'pi put the palm of his hand on the person's breast and
jerked it to and fro, and then he touched the person with the point of his
finger, which, in the sign language, means, "Who are you?"
The strange person then took Mik-a'pi's hand, and made him feel of his own
right hand. The thumb and all the fingers were closed except the
forefinger, which was extended; and when Mik-a'pi touched it the person
moved his hand forward with a zigzag motion, which means "Snake." Then
Mik-a'pi was glad. Here had come to him one of the tribe he was
seeking. But he thought it best to wait for daylight before attacking
him. So, when the Snake in signs asked him who he was, he replied, by
making the sign for paddling a canoe, that he was a Pend d'Oreille, or
River person. For he knew that the Snakes and the Pend d'Oreilles were at
Then they both lay down to sleep, but Mik-a'pi did not sleep. Through the
long night he watched for the first dim light, so that he might kill his
enemy. The Snake slept soundly; and just at daybreak Mik-a'pi quietly
strung his bow, fitted an arrow, and, taking aim, sent the thin shaft
through his enemy's heart. The Snake quivered, half rose up, and with a
groan fell back dead. Then Mik-a'pi took his scalp and his bow and arrows,
and also his bundle of moccasins; and as daylight had come, he went out of
the cave and looked all about. No one was in sight. Probably the Snake,
like himself, had gone alone to war. But, ever cautious, he travelled only
a short distance, and waited for night before going on. The rain had ceased
and the day was warm. He took a piece of dried meat and back fat from his
pouch and ate them, and, after drinking from the river, he climbed up on a
high rock wall and slept.
Now in his dream he fought with a strange people, and was wounded. He felt
blood trickling from his wounds, and when he awoke, he knew that he had
been warned to turn back. The signs also were bad. He saw an eagle rising
with a snake, which dropped from its claws and escaped. The setting sun,
too, was painted,--a sure warning to people that danger is near. But, in
spite of all these things, Mik-a'pi determined to go on. He thought of the
poor widows mourning and waiting for revenge. He thought of the glad
welcome of the people, if he should return with many scalps; and he thought
also of two young sisters, whom he wanted to marry. Surely, if he could
return and bring the proofs of brave deeds, their parents would be glad to
give them to him.
[Footnote 1: Sun dogs.]
It was nearly night. The sun had already disappeared behind the
sharp-pointed gray peaks. In the fading light the far-stretching prairie
was turning dark. In a valley, sparsely timbered with quaking aspens and
cotton-woods, stood a large camp. For a long distance up and down the river
rose the smoke of many lodges. Seated on a little hill overlooking the
valley, was a single person. With his robe drawn tightly around him, he sat
there motionless, looking down on the prairie and valley below.
Slowly and silently something was crawling through the grass toward
him. But he heard nothing. Still he gazed eastward, seeking to discover any
enemy who might be approaching. Still the dark object crawled slowly
onward. Now it was so close to him that it could almost touch him. The
person thought he heard a sound, and started to turn round. Too late! Too
late! A strong arm grasped him about the neck and covered his mouth. A long
jagged knife was thrust into his breast again and again, and he died
without a cry. Strange that in all that great camp no one should have seen
Still extended on the ground, the dark figure removed the scalp. Slowly he
crawled back down the hill, and was lost in the gathering darkness. It was
Mik-a'pi, and he had another Snake scalp tied to his belt. His heart was
glad, yet he was not satisfied. Some nights had passed since the bad signs
had warned him, yet he had succeeded. "One more," he said. "One more scalp
I must have, and then I will go back." So he went far up on the mountain,
and hid in some thick pines and slept. When daylight came, he could see
smoke rise as the women started their fires. He also saw many people rush
up on the hill, where the dead watcher lay. He was too far off to hear
their angry shouts and mournful cries, but he sung to himself a song of war
and was happy.
Once more the sun went to his lodge behind the mountains, and as darkness
came Mik-a'pi slowly descended the mountain and approached the camp. This
was the time of danger. Behind each bush, or hidden in a bunch of the tall
rye grass, some person might be watching to warn the camp of an approaching
enemy. Slowly and like a snake, he crawled around the outskirts of the
camp, listening and looking. He heard a cough and saw a movement of a
bush. There was a Snake. Could he kill him and yet escape? He was close
to him now. So he sat and waited, considering how to act. For a long time
he sat there waiting. The moon rose and travelled high in the sky. The
Seven Persons slowly swung around, and pointed downward. It was the
middle of the night. Then the person in the bush stood up and stretched out
his arms and yawned, for he was tired of watching, and thought that no
danger was near; but as he stood thus, an arrow pierced his breast. He gave
a loud yell and tried to run, but another arrow struck him and he fell.
[Footnote 1: The constellation of the Great Bear.]
At the sound the warriors rushed forth from the lodges and the outskirts of
the camp; but as they came, Mik-a'pi tore the scalp from his fallen enemy,
and started to run toward the river. Close behind him followed the Snakes.
Arrows whizzed about him. One pierced his arm. He plucked it out. Another
struck his leg, and he fell. Then a great shout arose from the
Snakes. Their enemy was down. Now they would be revenged for two lately
taken lives. But where Mik-a'pi fell was the verge of a high rock wall;
below rushed the deep river, and even as they shouted, he rolled from the
wall, and disappeared in the dark water far below. In vain they searched
the shores and bars. They did not find him.
Mik-a'pi had sunk deep in the water. The current was swift, and when at
last he rose to the surface, he was far below his pursuers. The arrow in
his leg pained him, and with difficulty he crawled out on a
sand-bar. Luckily the arrow was lance-shaped instead of barbed, so he
managed to draw it out. Near by on the bar was a dry pine log, lodged there
by the high spring water. This he managed to roll into the stream; and,
partly resting on it, he again drifted down with the current. All night he
floated down the river, and when morning came he was far from the camp of
the Snakes. Benumbed with cold and stiff from the arrow wounds, he was glad
to crawl out on the bank, and lie down in the warm sunshine. Soon he slept.
The sun was already in the middle when he awoke. His wounds were swollen
and painful; yet he hobbled on for a time, until the pain became so great
he could go no further, and he sat down, tired and discouraged.
"True the signs," he said. "How crazy I was to go against them! Useless now
my bravery, for here I must stay and die. The widows will still mourn; and
in their old age who will take care of my father and my mother? Pity me
now, oh Sun! Help me, oh great Above Medicine Person! Look down on your
wounded and suffering child. Help me to survive!"
What was that crackling in the brush near by? Was it the Snakes on his
trail? Mik-a'pi strung his bow and drew out his arrows. No; it was not a
Snake. It was a bear. There he stood, a big grizzly bear, looking down at
the wounded man. "What does my brother here?" he said. "Why does he pray
"Look at my leg," said Mik-a'pi, "swollen and sore. Look at my wounded
arm. I can hardly draw the bow. Far the home of my people, and my strength
is gone. Surely here I must die, for I cannot travel and I have no food."
"Now courage, my brother," said the bear. "Now not faint heart, my brother,
for I will help you, and you shall survive."
When he had said this, he lifted Mik-a'pi and carried him to a place of
thick mud; and here he took great handfuls of the mud and plastered the
wounds, and he sung a medicine song while putting on the mud. Then he
carried Mik-a'pi to a place where were many sarvis berries, and broke off
great branches of the fruit, and gave them to him, saying, "Eat, my
brother, eat!" and he broke off more branches, full of large ripe berries,
for him; but already Mik-a'pi was satisfied and could eat no more. Then
said the bear, "Lie down, now, on my back, and hold tight by my hair, and
we will travel on." And when Mik-a'pi had got on and was ready, he started
off on a long swinging trot.
[Footnote 1: The bear's paws are called _O-kits-iks,_ the term also for a
person's hands. The animal itself is regarded as almost human.]
All through the night he travelled on without stopping. When morning came,
they rested awhile, and ate more berries; and again the bear plastered his
wounds with mud. In this way they travelled on, until, on the fourth day,
they came close to the lodges of the Pik[)u]n'i; and the people saw them
coming and wondered.
"Get off, my brother, get off," said the bear. "There are your people. I
must leave you." And without another word, he turned and went off up the
All the people came out to meet the warrior, and they carried him to the
lodge of his father. He untied the three scalps from his belt and gave them
to the widows, saying: "You are revenged. I wipe away your tears." And
every one rejoiced. All his female relations went through the camp,
shouting his name and singing, and every one prepared for the scalp dance.
First came the widows. Their faces were painted black, and they carried the
scalps tied on poles. Then came the medicine men, with their medicine pipes
unwrapped; then the bands of the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_, all dressed in war
costume; then came the old men; and last the women and children. They all
sang the war song and danced. They went all through the village in single
file, stopping here and there to dance, and Mik-a'pi sat outside the lodge,
and saw all the people dance by him. He forgot his pain and was proud, and
although he could not dance, he sang with them.
Soon they made the Medicine Lodge, and, first of all the warriors, Mik-a'pi
was chosen to cut the raw-hide which binds the poles, and as he cut the
strands, he counted the _coups_ he had made. He told of the enemies he had
killed, and all the people shouted his name and praised him. The father of
those two young sisters gave them to him. He was glad to have such a
son-in-law. Long lived Mik-a'pi. Of all the great chiefs who have lived and
died, he was the greatest. He did many other great and daring things. It
must be true, as the old men have said, that he was helped by the ghosts,
for no one can do such things without help from those fearful and unknown
HEAVY COLLAR AND THE GHOST WOMAN
The Blood camp was on Old Man's River, where Fort McLeod now stands. A
party of seven men started to war toward the Cypress Hills. Heavy Collar
was the leader. They went around the Cypress Mountains, but found no
enemies and started back toward their camp. On their homeward way, Heavy
Collar used to take the lead. He would go out far ahead on the high hills,
and look over the country, acting as scout for the party. At length they
came to the south branch of the Saskatchewan River, above Seven Persons'
Creek. In those days there were many war parties about, and this party
travelled concealed as much as possible in the coulees and low places.
As they were following up the river, they saw at a distance three old bulls
lying down close to a cut bank. Heavy Collar left his party, and went out
to kill one of these bulls, and when he had come close to them, he shot one
and killed it right there. He cut it up, and, as he was hungry, he went
down into a ravine below him, to roast a piece of meat; for he had left his
party a long way behind, and night was now coming on. As he was roasting
the meat, he thought,--for he was very tired,--"It is a pity I did not
bring one of my young men with me. He could go up on that hill and get some
hair from that bull's head, and I could wipe out my gun." While he sat
there thinking this, and talking to himself, a bunch of this hair came over
him through the air, and fell on the ground right in front of him. When
this happened, it frightened him a little; for he thought that perhaps some
of his enemies were close by, and had thrown the bunch of hair at
him. After a little while, he took the hair, and cleaned his gun and loaded
it, and then sat and watched for a time. He was uneasy, and at length
decided that he would go on further up the river, to see what he could
discover. He went on, up the stream, until he came to the mouth of the
St. Mary's River. It was now very late in the night, and he was very tired,
so he crept into a large bunch of rye-grass to hide and sleep for the
The summer before this, the Blackfeet _(Sik-si-kau)_ had been camped on
this bottom, and a woman had been killed in this same patch of rye-grass
where Heavy Collar had lain down to rest. He did not know this, but still
he seemed to be troubled that night. He could not sleep. He could always
hear something, but what it was he could not make out. He tried to go to
sleep, but as soon as he dozed off he kept thinking he heard something in
the distance. He spent the night there, and in the morning when it became
light, there he saw right beside him the skeleton of the woman who had been
killed the summer before.
That morning he went on, following up the stream to Belly River. All day
long as he was travelling, he kept thinking about his having slept by this
woman's bones. It troubled him. He could not forget it. At the same time he
was very tired, because he had walked so far and had slept so little. As
night came on, he crossed over to an island, and determined to camp for the
night. At the upper end of the island was a large tree that had drifted
down and lodged, and in a fork of this tree he built his fire, and got in a
crotch of one of the forks, and sat with his back to the fire, warming
himself, but all the time he was thinking about the woman he had slept
beside the night before. As he sat there, all at once he heard over beyond
the tree, on the other side of the fire, a sound as if something were being
dragged toward him along the ground. It sounded as if a piece of a lodge
were being dragged over the grass. It came closer and closer.
Heavy Collar was scared. He was afraid to turn his head and look back to
see what it was that was coming. He heard the noise come up to the tree in
which his fire was built, and then it stopped, and all at once he heard
some one whistling a tune. He turned around and looked toward the sound,
and there, sitting on the other fork of the tree, right opposite to him,
was the pile of bones by which he had slept, only now all together in the
shape of a skeleton. This ghost had on it a lodge covering. The string,
which is tied to the pole, was fastened about the ghost's neck; the wings
of the lodge stood out on either side of its head, and behind it the lodge
could be seen, stretched out and fading away into the darkness. The ghost
sat on the old dead limb and whistled its tune, and as it whistled, it
swung its legs in time to the tune.
When Heavy Collar saw this, his heart almost melted away. At length he
mustered up courage, and said: "Oh ghost, go away, and do not trouble me. I
am very tired; I want to rest." The ghost paid no attention to him, but
kept on whistling, swinging its legs in time to the tune. Four times he
prayed to her, saying: "Oh ghost, take pity on me! Go away and leave me
alone. I am tired; I want to rest." The more he prayed, the more the ghost
whistled and seemed pleased, swinging her legs, and turning her head from
side to side, sometimes looking down at him, and sometimes up at the stars,
and all the time whistling.
When he saw that she took no notice of what he said, Heavy Collar got angry
at heart, and said, "Well, ghost, you do not listen to my prayers, and I
shall have to shoot you to drive you away." With that he seized his gun,
and throwing it to his shoulder, shot right at the ghost. When he shot at
her, she fell over backward into the darkness, screaming out: "Oh Heavy
Collar, you have shot me, you have killed me! You dog, Heavy Collar! there
is no place on this earth where you can go that I will not find you; no
place where you can hide that I will not come."
As she fell back and said this, Heavy Collar sprang to his feet, and ran
away as fast as he could. She called after him: "I have been killed once,
and now you are trying to kill me again. Oh Heavy Collar!" As he ran away,
he could still hear her angry words following him, until at last they died
away in the distance. He ran all night long, and whenever he stopped to
breathe and listen, he seemed to hear in the distance the echoes of her
voice. All he could hear was, "Oh Heavy Collar!" and then he would rush
away again. He ran until he was all tired out, and by this time it was
daylight. He was now quite a long way below Fort McLeod. He was very
sleepy, but dared not lie down, for he remembered that the ghost had said
that she would follow him. He kept walking on for some time, and then sat
down to rest, and at once fell asleep.
Before he had left his party, Heavy Collar had said to his young men: "Now
remember, if any one of us should get separated from the party, let him
always travel to the Belly River Buttes. There will be our meeting-place."
When their leader did not return to them, the party started across the
country and went toward the Belly River Buttes. Heavy Collar had followed
the river up, and had gone a long distance out of his way; and when he
awoke from his sleep he too started straight for the Belly River Buttes, as
he had said he would.
When his party reached the Buttes, one of them went up on top of the hill
to watch. After a time, as he looked down the river, he saw two persons
coming, and as they came nearer, he saw that one of them was Heavy Collar,
and by his side was a woman. The watcher called up the rest of the party,
and said to them: "Here comes our chief. He has had luck. He is bringing a
woman with him. If he brings her into camp, we will take her away from
him." And they all laughed. They supposed that he had captured her. They
went down to the camp, and sat about the fire, looking at the two people
coming, and laughing among themselves at the idea of their chief bringing
in a woman. When the two persons had come close, they could see that Heavy
Collar was walking fast, and the woman would walk by his side a little way,
trying to keep up, and then would fall behind, and then trot along to catch
up to him again. Just before the pair reached camp there was a deep ravine
that they had to cross. They went down into this side by side, and then
Heavy Collar came up out of it alone, and came on into the camp.
When he got there, all the young men began to laugh at him and to call out,
"Heavy Collar, where is your woman?" He looked at them for a moment, and
then said: "Why, I have no woman. I do not understand what you are talking
about." One of them said: "Oh, he has hidden her in that ravine. He was
afraid to bring her into camp." Another said, "Where did you capture her,
and what tribe does she belong to?" Heavy Collar looked from one to
another, and said: "I think you are all crazy. I have taken no woman. What
do you mean?" The young man said: "Why, that woman that you had with you
just now: where did you get her, and where did you leave her? Is she down
in the coulee? We all saw her, and it is no use to deny that she was with
you. Come now, where is she?" When they said this, Heavy Collar's heart
grew very heavy, for he knew that it must have been the ghost woman; and he
told them the story. Some of the young men could not believe this, and they
ran down to the ravine, where they had last seen the woman. There they saw
in the soft dirt the tracks made by Heavy Collar, when he went down into
the ravine, but there were no other tracks near his, where they had seen
the woman walking. When they found that it was a ghost that had come along
with Heavy Collar, they resolved to go back to their main camp. The party
had been out so long that their moccasins were all worn out, and some of
them were footsore, so that they could not travel fast, but at last they
came to the cut banks, and there found their camp--seven lodges.
That night, after they had reached camp, they were inviting each other to
feasts. It was getting pretty late in the night, and the moon was shining
brightly, when one of the Bloods called out for Heavy Collar to come and
eat with him. Heavy Collar shouted, "Yes, I will be there pretty soon." He
got up and went out of the lodge, and went a little way from it, and sat
down. While he was sitting there, a big bear walked out of the brush close
to him. Heavy Collar felt around him for a stone to throw at the bear, so
as to scare it away, for he thought it had not seen him. As he was feeling
about, his hand came upon a piece of bone, and he threw this over at the
bear, and hit it. Then the bear spoke, and said: "Well, well, well, Heavy
Collar; you have killed me once, and now here you are hitting me. Where is
there a place in this world where you can hide from me? I will find you, I
don't care where you may go." When Heavy Collar heard this, he knew it was
the ghost woman, and he jumped up and ran toward his lodge, calling out,
"Run, run! a ghost bear is upon us!"
All the people in the camp ran to his lodge, so that it was crowded full of
people. There was a big fire in the lodge, and the wind was blowing hard
from the west. Men, women, and children were huddled together in the lodge,
and were very much afraid of the ghost. They could hear her walking toward
the lodge, grumbling, and saying: "I will kill all these dogs. Not one of
them shall get away." The sounds kept coming closer and closer, until they
were right at the lodge door. Then she said, "I will smoke you to death."
And as she said this, she moved the poles, so that the wings of the lodge
turned toward the west, and the wind could blow in freely through the smoke
hole. All this time she was threatening terrible things against them. The
lodge began to get full of smoke, and the children were crying, and all
were in great distress--almost suffocating. So they said, "Let us lift one
man up here inside, and let him try to fix the ears, so that the lodge will
get clear of smoke." They raised a man up, and he was standing on the
shoulders of the others, and, blinded and half strangled by the smoke, was
trying to turn the wings. While he was doing this, the ghost suddenly hit
the lodge a blow, and said, "_Un_!" and this scared the people who were
holding the man, and they jumped and let him go, and he fell down. Then the
people were in despair, and said, "It is no use; she is resolved to smoke
us to death." All the time the smoke was getting thicker in the lodge.
Heavy Collar said: "Is it possible that she can destroy us? Is there no one
here who has some strong dream power that can overcome this ghost?"
His mother said: "I will try to do something. I am older than any of you,
and I will see what I can do." So she got down her medicine bundle and
painted herself, and got out a pipe and filled it and lighted it, and stuck
the stem out through the lodge door, and sat there and began to pray to the
ghost woman. She said: "Oh ghost, take pity on us, and go away. We have
never wronged you, but you are troubling us and frightening our
children. Accept what I offer you, and leave us alone."
A voice came from behind the lodge and said: "No, no, no; you dogs, I will
not listen to you. Every one of you must die."
The old woman repeated her prayer: "Ghost, take pity on us. Accept this
smoke and go away."
Then the ghost said: "How can you expect me to smoke, when I am way back
here? Bring that pipe out here. I have no long bill to reach round the
lodge." So the old woman went out of the lodge door, and reached out the
stem of the pipe as far as she could reach around toward the back of the
lodge. The ghost said: "No, I do not wish to go around there to where you
have that pipe. If you want me to smoke it, you must bring it here." The
old woman went around the lodge toward her, and the ghost woman began to
back away, and said, "No, I do not smoke that kind of a pipe." And when the
ghost started away, the old woman followed her, and she could not help
She called out, "Oh my children, the ghost is carrying me off!" Heavy
Collar rushed out, and called to the others, "Come, and help me take my
mother from the ghost." He grasped his mother about the waist and held her,
and another man took him by the waist, and another him, until they were all
strung out, one behind the other, and all following the old woman, who was
following the ghost woman, who was walking away.
All at once the old woman let go of the pipe, and fell over dead. The ghost
disappeared, and they were troubled no more by the ghost woman.
There was once a man who had two bad wives. They had no shame. The man
thought if he moved away where there were no other people, he might teach
these women to become good, so he moved his lodge away off on the prairie.
Near where they camped was a high butte, and every evening about sundown,
the man would go up on top of it, and look all over the country to see
where the buffalo were feeding, and if any enemies were approaching. There
was a buffalo skull on the hill, which he used to sit on.
"This is very lonesome," said one woman to the other, one day. "We have no
one to talk with nor to visit."
"Let us kill our husband," said the other. "Then we will go back to our
relations and have a good time."
Early in the morning, the man went out to hunt, and as soon as he was out
of sight, his wives went up on top of the butte. There they dug a deep pit,
and covered it over with light sticks, grass, and dirt, and placed the
buffalo skull on top.
In the afternoon they saw their husband coming home, loaded down with meat
he had killed. So they hurried to cook for him. After eating, he went up on
the butte and sat down on the skull. The slender sticks gave way, and he
fell into the pit. His wives were watching him, and when they saw him
disappear, they took down the lodge, packed everything on the dog travois,
and moved off, going toward the main camp. When they got near it, so that
the people could hear them, they began to cry and mourn.
"Why is this?" they were asked. "Why are you mourning? Where is your
"He is dead," they replied. "Five days ago he went out to hunt, and he
never came back." And they cried and mourned again.
When the man fell into the pit, he was hurt. After a while he tried to get
out, but he was so badly bruised he could not climb up. A wolf, travelling
along, came to the pit and saw him, and pitied him. _Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!
Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!_ he howled, and when the other wolves heard him they all
came running to see what was the matter. There came also many coyotes,
badgers, and kit-foxes.
"In this hole," said the wolf, "is my find. Here is a fallen-in man. Let us
dig him out, and we will have him for our brother."
They all thought the wolf spoke well, and began to dig. In a little while
they had a hole close to the man. Then the wolf who found him said, "Hold
on; I want to speak a few words to you." All the animals listening, he
continued, "We will all have this man for our brother, but I found him, so
I think he ought to live with us big wolves." All the others said that this
was well; so the wolf went into the hole, and tearing down the rest of the
dirt, dragged the almost dead man out. They gave him a kidney to eat, and
when he was able to walk a little, the big wolves took him to their
home. Here there was a very old blind wolf, who had powerful medicine. He
cured the man, and made his head and hands look like those of a wolf. The
rest of his body was not changed.
In those days the people used to make holes in the pis'kun walls and set
snares, and when wolves and other animals came to steal meat, they were
caught by the neck. One night the wolves all went down to the pis'kun to
steal meat, and when they got close to it, the man-wolf said: "Stand here a
little while. I will go down and fix the places, so you will not be
caught." He went on and sprung all the snares; then he went back and called
the wolves and others,--the coyotes, badgers, and foxes,--and they all went
in the pis'kun and feasted, and took meat to carry home.
In the morning the people were surprised to find the meat gone, and their
nooses all drawn out. They wondered how it could have been done. For many
nights the nooses were drawn and the meat stolen; but once, when the wolves
went there to steal, they found only the meat of a scabby bull, and the
man-wolf was angry, and cried out: "Bad-you-give-us-o-o-o!
The people heard him, and said: "It is a man-wolf who has done all this. We
will catch him." So they put pemmican and nice back fat in the pis'kun, and
many hid close by. After dark the wolves came again, and when the man-wolf
saw the good food, he ran to it and began eating. Then the people all
rushed in and caught him with ropes and took him to a lodge. When they got
inside to the light of the fire, they knew at once who it was. They said,
"This is the man who was lost."
"No," said the man, "I was not lost. My wives tried to kill me. They dug a
deep hole, and I fell into it, and I was hurt so badly that I could not get
out; but the wolves took pity on me and helped me, or I would have died
When the people heard this, they were angry, and they told the man to do
"You say well," he replied. "I give those women to the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi;_
they know what to do."
After that night the two women were never seen again.
THE FAST RUNNERS
Once, long ago, the antelope and the deer met on the prairie. At this time
both of them had galls and both dew claws. They began to talk together, and
each was telling the other what he could do. Each one told how fast he
could run, and before long they were disputing as to which could run the
faster. Neither would allow that the other could beat him, so they agreed
that they would have a race to decide which was the swifter, and they bet
their galls on the race. When they ran, the antelope proved the faster
runner, and beat the deer and took his gall.
Then the deer said: "Yes, you have beaten me on the prairie, but that is
not where I live. I only go out there sometimes to feed, or when I am
travelling around. We ought to have another race in the timber. That is my
home, and there I can run faster than you can."
The antelope felt very big because he had beaten the deer in the race, and
he thought wherever they might be, he could run faster than the deer. So he
agreed to race in the timber, and on this race they bet their dew claws.
They ran through the thick timber, among the brush and over fallen logs,
and this time the antelope ran slowly, because he was not used to this kind
of travelling, and the deer easily beat him, and took his dew claws.
Since then the deer has had no gall, and the antelope no dew claws.
[NOTE. A version of the first portion of this story is current among the
Pawnees, and has been printed in Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk Tales.]
TWO WAR TRAILS
Many years ago there lived in the Blood camp a boy named Screech Owl
(A'-tsi-tsi). He was rather a lonely boy, and did not care to go with other
boys. He liked better to be by himself. Often he would go off alone, and
stay out all night away from the camp. He used to pray to all kinds of
birds and animals that he saw, and ask them to take pity on him and help
him, saying that he wanted to be a warrior. He never used paint. He was a
fine looking young man, and he thought it was foolish to use paint to make
oneself good looking.
When Screech Owl was about fourteen years old, a large party of Blackfeet
were starting to war against the Crees and the Assinaboines. The young man
said to his father: "Father, with this war party many of my cousins are
going. I think that now I am old enough to go to war, and I would like to
join them." His father said, "My son, I am willing; you may go." So he
joined the party.
His father gave his son his own war horse, a black horse with a white spot
on its side--a very fast horse. He offered him arms, but the boy refused
them all, except a little trapping axe. He said, "I think this hatchet will
be all that I shall need." Just as they were about to start, his father
gave the boy his own war headdress. This was not a war bonnet, but a plume
made of small feathers, the feathers of thunder birds, for the thunder bird
was his father's medicine. He said to the boy, "Now, my son, when you go
into battle, put this plume in your head, and wear it as I have worn it."
The party started and travelled north-east, and at length they came to
where Fort Pitt now stands, on the Saskatchewan River. When they had got
down below Fort Pitt, they saw three riders, going out hunting. These men
had not seen the war party. The Blackfeet started around the men, so as to
head them off when they should run. When they saw the men, the Screech Owl
got off his horse, and took off all his clothes, and put on his father's
war plume, and began to ride around, singing his father's war song. The
older warriors were getting ready for the attack, and when they saw this
young boy acting in this way, they thought he was making fun of the older
men, and they said: "Here, look at this boy! Has he no shame? He had better
stay behind." When they got on their horses, they told him to stay behind,
and they charged the Crees. But the boy, instead of staying behind, charged
with them, and took the lead, for he had the best horse of all. He, a boy,
was leading the war party, and still singing his war song.
The three Crees began to run, and the boy kept gaining on them. They did
not want to separate, they kept together; and as the boy was getting closer
and closer, the last one turned in his saddle and shot at the Screech Owl,
but missed him. As the Cree fired, the boy whipped up his horse, and rode
up beside the Cree and struck him with his little trapping axe, and knocked
him off his horse. He paid no attention to the man that he had struck, but
rode on to the next Cree. As he came up with him, the Cree raised his gun
and fired, but just as he did so, the Blackfoot dropped down on the other
side of his horse, and the ball passed over him. He straightened up on his
horse, rode up by the Cree, and as he passed, knocked him off his horse
with his axe. When he knocked the second Cree off his horse, the Blackfeet,
who were following, whooped in triumph and to encourage him, shouting,
"_A-wah-heh'_" (Take courage). The boy was still singing his father's war
By this time, the main body of the Blackfeet were catching up with him. He
whipped his horse on both sides, and rode on after the third Cree, who was
also whipping his horse as hard as he could, and trying to get
away. Meantime, some of the Blackfeet had stopped to count _coup_ on and
scalp the two dead Crees, and to catch the two ponies. Screech Owl at last
got near to the third Cree, who kept aiming his gun at him. The boy did not
want to get too close, until the Cree had fired his gun, but he was gaining
a little, and all the time was throwing himself from side to side on his
horse, so as to make it harder for the Cree to hit him. When he had nearly
overtaken the enemy, the Cree turned, raised his gun and fired; but the boy
had thrown himself down behind his horse, and again the ball passed over
him. He raised himself up on his horse, and rushed on the Cree, and struck
him in the side of the body with his axe, and then again, and with the
second blow, he knocked him off his horse.
The boy rode on a little further, stopped, and jumped off his horse, while
the rest of the Blackfeet had come up and were killing the fallen man. He
stood off to one side and watched them count _coup_ on and scalp the dead.
The Blackfeet were much surprised at what the young man had done. After a
little while, the leader decided that they would go back to the camp from
which they had come. When he had returned from this war journey this young
man's name was changed from A'-tsi-tsi to E-k[=u]s'-kini (Low Horn). This
was his first war path.
From that time on the name of E-k[=u]s'-kini was often heard as that of one
doing some great deed.
E-k[=u]s'-kini started on his last war trail from the Black-foot crossing
_(Su-yoh-pah'-wah-ku)_. He led a party of six Sarcees. He was the seventh
On the second day out, they came to the Red Deer's River. When they reached
this river, they found it very high, so they built a raft to cross on. They
camped on the other side. In crossing, most of their powder got wet. The
next morning, when they awoke, E-k[=u]s'-kini said: "Well, trouble is
coming for us. We had better go back from here. We started on a wrong
day. I saw in my sleep our bodies lying on the prairie, dead." Some of the
young men said: "Oh well, we have started, we had better go on. Perhaps it
is only a mistake. Let us go on and try to take some horses anyhow."
E-k[=u]s'-kini said: "Yes, that is very true. To go home is all
foolishness; but remember that it is by your wish that we are going on."
He wanted to go back, not on his own account, but for the sake of his young
men--to save his followers.
From there they went on and made another camp, and the next morning he said
to his young men: "Now I am sure. I have seen it for certain. Trouble is
before us." They camped two nights at this place and dried some of their
powder, but most of it was caked and spoilt. He said to his young men:
"Here, let us use some sense about this. We have no ammunition. We cannot
defend ourselves. Let us turn back from here." So they started across the
country for their camp.
They crossed the Red Deer's River, and there camped again. The next morning
E-k[=u]s'-kini said: "I feel very uneasy to-day. Two of you go ahead on the
trail and keep a close lookout. I am afraid that to-day we are going to see
our enemy." Two of the young men went ahead, and when they had climbed to
the top of a ridge and looked over it on to Sarvis Berry (Saskatoon) Creek,
they came back and told E-k[=u]s'-kini that they had seen a large camp of
people over there, and that they thought it was the Piegans, Bloods,
Blackfeet, and Sarcees, who had all moved over there together. Saskatoon
Creek was about twenty miles from the Blackfoot camp. He said: "No, it
cannot be our people. They said nothing about moving over here; it must be
a war party. It is only a few days since we left, and there was then no
talk of their leaving that camp. It cannot be they." The two young men
said: "Yes, they are our people. There are too many of them for a war
party. We think that the whole camp is there." They discussed this for some
little time, E-k[=u]s'-kini insisting that it could not be the Blackfoot
camp, while the young men felt sure that it was. These two men said, "Well,
we are going on into the camp now." Low Horn said: "Well, you may go. Tell
my father that I will come into the camp to-night. I do not like to go in
in the daytime, when I am not bringing back anything with me."
It was now late in the afternoon, and the two young men went ahead toward
the camp, travelling on slowly. A little after sundown, they came down the
hill on to the flat of the river, and saw there the camp. They walked down
toward it, to the edge of the stream, and there met two women, who had come
down after water. The men spoke to them in Sarcee, and said, "Where is the
Sarcee camp?" The women did not understand them, so they spoke again, and
asked the same question in Blackfoot. Then these two women called out in
the Cree language, "Here are two Blackfeet, who have come here and are
talking to us." When these men heard the women talk Cree, and saw what a
mistake they had made, they turned and ran away up the creek. They ran up
above camp a short distance, to a place where a few willow bushes were
hanging over the stream, and pushing through these, they hid under the
bank, and the willows above concealed them. The people in the camp came
rushing out, and men ran up the creek, and down, and looked everywhere for
the two enemies, but could find nothing of them.
Now when these people were running in all directions, hunting for these two
men, E-k[=u]s'-kini was coming down the valley slowly with the four other
Sarcees. He saw some Indians coming toward him, and supposed that they were
some of his own people, coming to meet him, with horses for him to ride. At
length, when they were close to him, and E-k[=u]s'-kini could see that they
were the enemy, and were taking the covers off their guns, he jumped to one
side and stood alone and began to sing his war song. He called out,
"Children of the Crees, if you have come to try my manhood, do your best."
In a moment or two he was surrounded, and they were shooting at him from
all directions. He called out again, "People, you can't kill me here, but
I will take my body to your camp, and there you shall kill me." So he
advanced, fighting his way toward the Cree camp, but before he started, he
killed two of the Crees there. His enemies kept coming up and clustering
about him: some were on foot and some on horseback. They were thick about
him on all sides, and they could not shoot much at him, for fear of killing
their own people on the other side.
One of the Sarcees fell. E-k[=u]s'-kini said to his men, "_A-wah-heh'_"
(Take courage). "These people cannot kill us here. Where that patch of
choke-cherry brush is, in the very centre of their camp, we will go and
take our stand." Another Sarcee fell, and now there were only three of
them. E-k[=u]s'-kini said to his remaining men: "Go straight to that patch
of brush, and I will fight the enemy off in front and at the sides, and so
will keep the way open for you. These people cannot kill us here. There are
too many of their own people. If we can get to that brush, we will hurt
them badly." All this time they were killing enemies, fighting bravely, and
singing their war songs. At last they gained the patch of brush, and then
with their knives they began to dig holes in the ground, and to throw up a
In the Cree camp was K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s (Round), the chief of the
Crees, who could talk Blackfoot well. He called out: "E-k[=u]s'-kini, there
is a little ravine running out of that brush patch, which puts into the
hills. Crawl out through that, and try to get away. It is not guarded."
E-k[=u]s'-kini replied: "No, Children of the Crees, I will not go. You must
remember that it is E-k[=u]s'-kini that you are fighting with--a man who
has done much harm to your people. I am glad that I am here. I am sorry for
only one thing; that is, that my ammunition is going to run out. To-morrow
you may kill me."
All night long the fight was kept up, the enemy shooting all the time, and
all night long E-k[=u]s'-kini sang his death song. K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s
called to him several times: "E-k[=u]s'-kini, you had better do what I tell
you. Try to get away." But he shouted back, "No," and laughed at them. He
said: "You have killed all my men. I am here alone, but you cannot kill
me." K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s, the chief, said: "Well, if you are there at
daylight in the morning, I will go into that brush and will catch you with
my hands. I will be the man who will put an end to you." E-k[=u]s'-kini
said: "K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s, do not try to do that. If you do, you shall
surely die." The patch of brush in which he had hidden had now been all
shot away, cut off by the bullets of the enemy.
When day came, E-k[=u]s'-kini called out: "Eh, K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s, it
is broad daylight now. I have run out of ammunition. I have not another
grain of powder in my horn. Now come and take me in your hands, as you
said you would." K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s answered: "Yes, I said that I was
the one who was going to catch you this morning. Now I am coming."
He took off all his clothes, and alone rushed for the
breastworks. E-k[=u]s'-kini's ammunition was all gone, but he still had one
load in his gun, and his dagger. K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s came on with his
gun at his shoulder, and E-k[=u]s'-kini sat there with his gun in his hand,
looking at the man who was coming toward him with the cocked gun pointed at
him. He was singing his death song. As K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s got up close,
and just as he was about to fire, E-k[=u]s'-kini threw up his gun and
fired, and the ball knocked off the Cree chiefs forefinger, and going on,
entered his right eye and came out at the temple, knocking the eye
out. K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s went down, and his gun flew a long way.
When K[)o]m-in'-[)a]-k[=u]s fell, the whole camp shouted the war whoop, and
cried out, "This is his last shot," and they all charged on him. They knew
that he had no more ammunition.
The head warrior of the Crees was named Bunch of Lodges. He was the first
man to jump inside the breastworks. As he sprang inside, E-k[=u]s'-kini
met him, and thrust his dagger through him, and killed him on the spot.
Then, as the enemy threw themselves on him, and he began to feel the knives
stuck into him from all sides, he gave a war whoop and laughed, and said,
"Only now I begin to think that I am fighting." All the time he was cutting
and stabbing, jumping backward and forward, and all the time laughing. When
he was dead, there were fifteen dead Crees lying about the
earthworks. E-k[=u]s'-kini body was cut into small pieces and scattered all
over the country, so that he might not come to life again.
That morning, before it was daylight, the two Sarcees who had hidden in the
willows left their hiding-place and made their way to the Blackfoot
camp. When they got there, they told that when they had left the Cree camp
E-k[=u]s'kini was surrounded, and the firing was terrible. When
E-k[=u]s'-kini's father heard this, he got on his horse and rode through
the camp, calling out: "My boy is surrounded; let us turn out and go to
help him. I have no doubt they are many tens to one, but he is powerful,
and he may be fighting yet." No time was lost in getting ready, and soon a
large party started for the Cree camp. When they came to the battle-ground,
the camp had been moved a long time. The old man looked about, trying to
gather up his son's body, but it was found only in small pieces, and not
more than half of it could be gathered up.
After the fight was over, the Crees started on down to go to their own
country. One day six Crees were travelling along on foot, scouting far
ahead. As they were going down into a little ravine, a grizzly bear jumped
up in front of them and ran after them. The bear overtook, and tore up,
five of them, one after another. The sixth got away, and came home to
camp. The Crees and the Blackfeet believe that this was the spirit of
E-k[=u]s'-kini, for thus he comes back. They think that he is still on the
earth, but in a different shape.
E-k[=u]s'-kini was killed about forty years ago. When he was killed, he was
still a boy, not married, only about twenty-four years old.
STORIES OF ANCIENT TIMES
ORIGIN OF THE MEDICINE LODGE
In the earliest times there was no war. All the tribes were at peace. In
those days there was a man who had a daughter, a very beautiful girl. Many
young men wanted to marry her, but every time she was asked, she only shook
her head and said she did not want a husband.
"How is this?" asked her father. "Some of these young men are rich,
handsome, and brave."
"Why should I marry?" replied the girl. "I have a rich father and
mother. Our lodge is good. The parfleches are never empty. There are plenty
of tanned robes and soft furs for winter. Why worry me, then?"
The Raven Bearers held a dance; they all dressed carefully and wore their
ornaments, and each one tried to dance the best. Afterwards some of them
asked for this girl, but still she said no. Then the Bulls, the Kit-foxes,
and others of the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_ held their dances, and all those who
were rich, many great warriors, asked this man for his daughter, but to
every one of them she said no. Then her father was angry, and said: "Why,
now, this way? All the best men have asked for you, and still you say no. I
believe you have a secret lover."
"Ah!" said her mother. "What shame for us should a child be born and our
daughter still unmarried!" "Father! mother!" replied the girl, "pity me. I
have no secret lover, but now hear the truth. That Above Person, the Sun,
told me, 'Do not marry any of those men, for you are mine; thus you shall
be happy, and live to great age'; and again he said, 'Take heed. You must
not marry. You are mine.'"
"Ah!" replied her father. "It must always be as he says." And they talked
no more about it.
There was a poor young man, very poor. His father, mother, all his
relations, had gone to the Sand Hills. He had no lodge, no wife to tan his
robes or sew his moccasins. He stopped in one lodge to-day, and to-morrow
he ate and slept in another; thus he lived. He was a good-looking young
man, except that on his cheek he had a scar, and his clothes were always
old and poor.
After those dances some of the young men met this poor Scarface, and they
laughed at him, and said: "Why don't you ask that girl to marry you? You
are so rich and handsome!" Scarface did not laugh; he replied: "Ah! I will
do as you say. I will go and ask her." All the young men thought this was
funny. They laughed a great deal. But Scarface went down by the river. He
waited by the river, where the women came to get water, and by and by the
girl came along. "Girl," he said, "wait. I want to speak with you. Not as a
designing person do I ask you, but openly where the Sun looks down, and all
"Speak then," said the girl.
"I have seen the days," continued the young man "You have refused those who
are young, and rich, and brave. Now, to-day, they laughed and said to me,
'Why do you not ask her?' I am poor, very poor. I have no lodge, no food,
no clothes, no robes and warm furs. I have no relations; all have gone to
the Sand Hills; yet, now, to-day, I ask you, take pity, be my wife."
The girl hid her face in her robe and brushed the ground with the point of
her moccasin, back and forth, back and forth; for she was thinking. After a
time she said: "True. I have refused all those rich young men, yet now the
poor one asks me, and I am glad. I will be your wife, and my people will be
happy. You are poor, but it does not matter. My father will give you
dogs. My mother will make us a lodge. My people will give us robes and
furs. You will be poor no longer."
Then the young man was happy, and he started to kiss her, but she held him
back, and said: "Wait! The Sun has spoken to me. He says I may not marry;
that I belong to him. He says if I listen to him, I shall live to great
age. But now I say: Go to the Sun. Tell him, 'She whom you spoke with
heeds your words. She has never done wrong, but now she wants to marry. I
want her for my wife.' Ask him to take that scar from your face. That will
be his sign. I will know he is pleased. But if he refuses, or if you fail
to find his lodge, then do not return to me."
"Oh!" cried the young man, "at first your words were good. I was glad. But
now it is dark. My heart is dead. Where is that far-off lodge? where the
trail, which no one yet has travelled?"
"Take courage, take courage!" said the girl; and she went to her lodge.
Scarface was very sad. He sat down and covered his head with his robe and
tried to think what to do. After a while he got up, and went to an old
woman who had been kind to him. "Pity me," he said. "I am very poor. I am
going away now on a long journey. Make me some moccasins."
"Where are you going?" asked the old woman. "There is no war; we are very
"I do not know where I shall go," replied Scarface. "I am in trouble, but I
cannot tell you now what it is."
So the old woman made him some moccasins, seven pairs, with parfleche
soles, and also she gave him a sack of food,--pemmican of berries, pounded
meat, and dried back fat; for this old woman had a good heart. She liked
the young man.
All alone, and with a sad heart, he climbed the bluffs and stopped to take
a last look at the camp. He wondered if he would ever see his sweetheart
and the people again. "_ Hai'-yu!_ Pity me, O Sun," he prayed, and turning,
he started to find the trail.
For many days he travelled on, over great prairies, along timbered rivers
and among the mountains, and every day his sack of food grew lighter; but
he saved it as much as he could, and ate berries, and roots, and sometimes
he killed an animal of some kind. One night he stopped by the home of a
wolf. "_Hai-yah!_" said that one; "what is my brother doing so far from
"Ah!" replied Scarface, "I seek the place where the Sun lives; I am sent to
speak with him."
"I have travelled far," said the wolf. "I know all the prairies, the
valleys, and the mountains, but I have never seen the Sun's home. Wait; I
know one who is very wise. Ask the bear. He may tell you."
The next day the man travelled on again, stopping now and then to pick a
few berries, and when night came he arrived at the bear's lodge.
"Where is your home?" asked the bear. "Why are you travelling alone, my
"Help me! Pity me!" replied the young man; "because of her words I seek
the Sun. I go to ask him for her."
[Footnote 1: A Blackfoot often talks of what this or that person said,
without mentioning names.]
"I know not where he stops," replied the bear. "I have travelled by many
rivers, and I know the mountains, yet I have never seen his lodge. There is
some one beyond, that striped-face, who is very smart. Go and ask him."
The badger was in his hole. Stooping over, the young man shouted: "Oh,
cunning striped-face! Oh, generous animal! I wish to speak with you."
"What do you want?" said the badger, poking his head out of the hole.
"I want to find the Sun's home," replied Scarface. "I want to speak with
"I do not know where he lives," replied the badger. "I never travel very
far. Over there in the timber is a wolverine. He is always travelling
around, and is of much knowledge. Maybe he can tell you."
Then Scarface went to the woods and looked all around for the wolverine,
but could not find him. So he sat down to rest "_Hai'-yu! Hai'-yu!_" he
cried. "Wolverine, take pity on me. My food is gone, my moccasins worn out.
Now I must die."
"What is it, my brother?" he heard, and looking around, he saw the animal
"She whom I would marry," said Scarface, "belongs to the Sun; I am trying
to find where he lives, to ask him for her."
"Ah!" said the wolverine. "I know where he lives. Wait; it is nearly
night. To-morrow I will show you the trail to the big water. He lives on
the other side of it."
Early in the morning, the wolverine showed him the trail, and Scarface
followed it until he came to the water's edge. He looked out over it, and
his heart almost stopped. Never before had any one seen such a big
water. The other side could not be seen, and there was no end to
it. Scarface sat down on the shore. His food was all gone, his moccasins
worn out. His heart was sick. "I cannot cross this big water," he said. "I
cannot return to the people. Here, by this water, I shall die."
Not so. His Helpers were there. Two swans came swimming up to the
shore. "Why have you come here?" they asked him. "What are you doing? It is
very far to the place where your people live."
"I am here," replied Scarface, "to die. Far away, in my country, is a
beautiful girl. I want to marry her, but she belongs to the Sun. So I
started to find him and ask for her. I have travelled many days. My food is
gone. I cannot go back. I cannot cross this big water, so I am going to
"No," said the swans; "it shall not be so. Across this water is the home of
that Above Person. Get on our backs, and we will take you there."
Scarface quickly arose. He felt strong again. He waded out into the water
and lay down on the swans' backs, and they started off. Very deep and black
is that fearful water. Strange people live there, mighty animals which
often seize and drown a person. The swans carried him safely, and took him
to the other side. Here was a broad hard trail leading back from the
"_Kyi_" said the swans. "You are now close to the Sun's lodge. Follow that
trail, and you will soon see it."
Scarface started up the trail, and pretty soon he came to some beautiful
things, lying in it. There was a war shirt, a shield, and a bow and
arrows. He had never seen such pretty weapons; but he did not touch
them. He walked carefully around them, and travelled on. A little way
further on, he met a young man, the handsomest person he had ever seen. His
hair was very long, and he wore clothing made of strange skins. His
moccasins were sewn with bright colored feathers. The young man said to
him, "Did you see some weapons lying on the trail?"
"Yes," replied Scarface; "I saw them."
"But did you not touch them?" asked the young man.
"No; I thought some one had left them there, so I did not take them."
"You are not a thief," said the young man. "What is your name?"
"Where are you going?"
"To the Sun."
"My name," said the young man, "is A-pi-su'-ahts. The Sun is my father;
come, I will take you to our lodge. My father is not now at home, but he
will come in at night."
[Footnote 1: Early Riser, i.e. The Morning Star.]
Soon they came to the lodge. It was very large and handsome; strange
medicine animals were painted on it. Behind, on a tripod, were strange
weapons and beautiful clothes--the Sun's. Scarface was ashamed to go in,
but Morning Star said, "Do not be afraid, my friend; we are glad you have
They entered. One person was sitting there, Ko-ko-mik'-e-is, the Sun's
wife, Morning Star's mother. She spoke to Scarface kindly, and gave him
something to eat. "Why have you come so far from your people?" she asked.
[Footnote 2: Night red light, the Moon.]
Then Scarface told her about the beautiful girl he wanted to marry. "She
belongs to the Sun," he said. "I have come to ask him for her."
When it was time for the Sun to come home, the Moon hid Scarface under a
pile of robes. As soon as the Sun got to the doorway, he stopped, and said,
"I smell a person."
"Yes, father," said Morning Star; "a good young man has come to see you. I
know he is good, for he found some of my things on the trail and did not
Then Scarface came out from under the robes, and the Sun entered and sat
down. "I am glad you have come to our lodge," he said. "Stay with us as
long as you think best. My son is lonesome sometimes; be his friend."
The next day the Moon called Scarface out of the lodge, and said to him:
"Go with Morning Star where you please, but never hunt near that big water;
do not let him go there. It is the home of great birds which have long
sharp bills; they kill people. I have had many sons, but these birds have
killed them all. Morning Star is the only one left."
So Scarface stayed there a long time and hunted with Morning Star. One day
they came near the water, and saw the big birds.
"Come," said Morning Star; "let us go and kill those birds."
"No, no!" replied Scarface; "we must not go there. Those are very terrible
birds; they will kill us."
Morning Star would not listen. He ran towards the water, and Scarface
followed. He knew that he must kill the birds and save the boy. If not, the
Sun would be angry and might kill him. He ran ahead and met the birds,
which were coming towards him to fight, and killed every one of them with
his spear: not one was left. Then the young men cut off their heads, and
carried them home. Morning Star's mother was glad when they told her what
they had done, and showed her the birds' heads. She cried, and called
Scarface "my son." When the Sun came home at night, she told him about it,
and he too was glad. "My son," he said to Scarface, "I will not forget what
you have this day done for me. Tell me now, what can I do for you?"
"_Hai'-yu_" replied Scarface. "_Hai'-yu_, pity me. I am here to ask you for
that girl. I want to marry her. I asked her, and she was glad; but she says
you own her, that you told her not to marry."
"What you say is true," said the Sun. "I have watched the days, so I know
it. Now, then, I give her to you; she is yours. I am glad she has been
wise. I know she has never done wrong. The Sun pities good women. They
shall live a long time. So shall their husbands and children. Now you will
soon go home. Let me tell you something. Be wise and listen: I am the only
chief. Everything is mine. I made the earth, the mountains, prairies,
rivers, and forests. I made the people and all the animals. This is why I
say I alone am the chief. I can never die. True, the winter makes me old
and weak, but every summer I grow young again."
Then said the Sun: "What one of all animals is smartest? The raven is, for
he always finds food. He is never hungry. Which one of all the animals is
most _Nat-o'-ye_? The buffalo is. Of all animals, I like him best. He
is for the people. He is your food and your shelter. What part of his body
is sacred? The tongue is. That is mine. What else is sacred? Berries
are. They are mine too. Come with me and see the world." He took Scarface
to the edge of the sky, and they looked down and saw it. It is round and
flat, and all around the edge is the jumping-off place [or walls straight
down]. Then said the Sun: "When any man is sick or in danger, his wife may
promise to build me a lodge, if he recovers. If the woman is pure and true,
then I will be pleased and help the man. But if she is bad, if she lies,
then I will be angry. You shall build the lodge like the world, round, with
walls, but first you must build a sweat house of a hundred sticks. It shall
be like the sky [a hemisphere], and half of it shall be painted red. That
is me. The other half you will paint black. That is the night."
[Footnote 1: This word may be translated as "of the Sun," "having Sun
power," or more properly, something sacred.]
Further said the Sun: "Which is the best, the heart or the brain? The brain
is. The heart often lies, the brain never." Then he told Scarface
everything about making the Medicine Lodge, and when he had finished, he
rubbed a powerful medicine on his face, and the scar disappeared. Then he
gave him two raven feathers, saying: "These are the sign for the girl, that
I give her to you. They must always be worn by the husband of the woman who
builds a Medicine Lodge."
The young man was now ready to return home. Morning Star and the Sun gave
him many beautiful presents. The Moon cried and kissed him, and called him
"my son." Then the Sun showed him the short trail. It was the Wolf Road
(Milky Way). He followed it, and soon reached the ground.
It was a very hot day. All the lodge skins were raised, and the people sat
in the shade. There was a chief, a very generous man, and all day long
people kept coming to his lodge to feast and smoke with him. Early in the
morning this chief saw a person sitting out on a butte near by, close
wrapped in his robe. The chief's friends came and went, the sun reached the
middle, and passed on, down towards the mountains. Still this person did
not move. When it was almost night, the chief said: "Why does that person
sit there so long? The heat has been strong, but he has never eaten nor
drunk. He may be a stranger; go and ask him in."
So some young men went up to him, and said: "Why do you sit here in the
great heat all day? Come to the shade of the lodges. The chief asks you to
feast with him."
Then the person arose and threw off his robe, and they were surprised. He
wore beautiful clothes. His bow, shield, and other weapons were of strange
make. But they knew his face, although the scar was gone, and they ran
ahead, shouting, "The scarface poor young man has come. He is poor no
longer. The scar on his face is gone."
All the people rushed out to see him. "Where have you been?" they
asked. "Where did you get all these pretty things?" He did not
answer. There in the crowd stood that young woman; and taking the two raven
feathers from his head, he gave them to her, and said: "The trail was very
long, and I nearly died, but by those Helpers, I found his lodge. He is
glad. He sends these feathers to you. They are the sign."
Great was her gladness then. They were married, and made the first Medicine
Lodge, as the Sun had said. The Sun was glad. He gave them great age. They
were never sick. When they were very old, one morning, their children said:
"Awake! Rise and eat." They did not move. In the night, in sleep, without
pain, their shadows had departed for the Sand Hills.
ORIGIN OF THE I-KUN-UH'-KAH-TSI
THE BULL BAND
[Footnote 1: An account of the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_, with a list of its
different bands or societies and their duties, will be found in the chapter
on Social Organization.]
The people had built a great pis'kun, very high and strong, so that no
buffalo could escape; but somehow the buffalo would not jump over the
cliff. When driven toward it, they would run nearly to the edge, and then,
swerving to the right or left, they would go down the sloping hills and
cross the valley in safety. So the people were hungry, and began to starve.
One morning, early, a young woman went to get water, and she saw a herd of
buffalo feeding on the prairie, right on the edge of the cliff above the
pis'kun. "Oh!" she cried out, "if you will only jump off into the pis'kun,
I will marry one of you." This she said for fun, not meaning it, and great
was her wonder when she saw the buffalo come jumping, tumbling, falling
over the cliff.
Now the young woman was scared, for a big bull with one bound cleared the
pis'kun walls and came toward her. "Come," he said, taking hold of her
arm. "No, no!" she replied pulling back. "But you said if the buffalo would
jump over, you would marry one; see, the pis'kun is filled." And without
more talk he led her up over the bluff, and out on to the prairie.
When the people had finished killing the buffalo and cutting up the meat,
they missed this young woman, and her relations were very sad, because they
could not find her. Then her father took his bow and quiver, and said, "I
will go and find her." And he went up over the bluff and out on the
After he had travelled some distance he came to a wallow, and a little way
off saw a herd of buffalo. While sitting by the wallow,--for he was
tired--and thinking what he should do, a magpie came and lit near him. "Ha!
_Ma-me-at-si-kim-i"_ he said, "you are a beautiful bird; help me. Look
everywhere as you travel about, and if you see my daughter, tell her, 'Your
father waits by the wallow.'" The magpie flew over by the herd of buffalo,
and seeing the young woman, he lit on the ground near her, and commenced
picking around, turning his head this way and that way, and, when close to
her, he said, "Your father waits by the wallow." "Sh-h-h! sh-h-h!" replied
the girl, in a whisper, looking around scared, for her bull husband was
sleeping near by. "Don't speak so loud. Go back and tell him to wait."
"Your daughter is over there with the buffalo. She says 'wait!'" said the
magpie, when he had flown back to the man.
By and by the bull awoke, and said to his wife, "Go and get me some water."
Then the woman was glad, and taking a horn from his head she went to the
wallow. "Oh, why did you come?" she said to her father. "You will surely be
"I came to take my daughter home; come, let us hurry."
"No, no!" she replied; "not now. They would chase us and kill us. Wait till
he sleeps again, and I will try to get away," and, filling the horn with
water, she went back.
The bull drank a swallow of the water. "Ha!" said he, "a person is close by
"No one," replied the woman; but her heart rose up.
The bull drank a little more, and then he stood up and bellowed, "_Bu-u-u!
m-m-ah-oo!"_ Oh, fearful sound! Up rose the bulls, raised their short tails
and shook them, tossed their great heads, and bellowed back. Then they
pawed the dirt, rushed about here and there, and coming to the wallow,
found that poor man. There they trampled him with their great hoofs, hooked
him and trampled him again, and soon not even a small piece of his body
could be seen.
Then his daughter cried, "_Oh! ah! Ni-nah-ah! Oh! ah! Ni-nah-ah!_" (My
father! My father!) "Ah!" said her bull husband, "you mourn for your
father. You see now how it is with us. We have seen our mothers, fathers,
many of our relations, hurled over the rocky walls, and killed for food by
your people. But I will pity you. I will give you one chance. If you can
bring your father to life, you and he can go back to your people."
Then the woman said to the magpie: "Pity me. Help me now; go and seek in
the trampled mud; try and find a little piece of my father's body, and
bring it to me."
The magpie flew to the place. He looked in every hole, and tore up the mud
with his sharp nose. At last he found something white; he picked the mud
from around it, and then pulling hard, he brought out a joint of the
backbone, and flew with it back to the woman.
She placed it on the ground, covered it with her robe, and then
sang. Removing the robe, there lay her father's body as if just dead. Once
more she covered it with the robe and sang, and when she took away the
robe, he was breathing, and then he stood up. The buffalo were surprised;
the magpie was glad, and flew round and round, making a great noise.
"We have seen strange things this day," said her bull husband. "He whom we
trampled to death, even into small pieces, is alive again. The people's
medicine is very strong. Now, before you go, we will teach you our dance
and our song. You must not forget them." When the dance was over, the
bull said: "Go now to your home, and do not forget what you have
seen. Teach it to the people. The medicine shall be a bull's head and a
robe. All the persons who are to be 'Bulls' shall wear them when they
[Footnote 1: Here the narrator repeated the song and showed the dance. As
is fitting to the dance of such great beasts, the air is slow and solemn,
and the step ponderous and deliberate.]
Great was the joy of the people, when the man returned with his
daughter. He called a council of the chiefs, and told them all that had
happened. Then the chiefs chose certain young men, and this man taught them
the dance and song of the bulls, and told them what the medicine should
be. This was the beginning of the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_.
THE OTHER BANDS
For a long time the buffalo had not been seen. The pis'kun was useless, and
the hunters could find no food for the people. Then a man who had two
wives, a daughter, and two sons, said: "I shall not stop here to
die. To-morrow we will move toward the mountains, where we shall perhaps
find deer and elk, sheep and antelope, or, if not, at least we shall find
plenty of beaver and birds. Thus we shall survive."
When morning came, they packed the travois, lashed them on the dogs, and
then moved out. It was yet winter, and they travelled slowly. They were
weak, and could go but a little way in a day. The fourth night came, and
they sat in their lodge, very tired and hungry. No one spoke, for those who
are hungry do not care for words. Suddenly the dogs began to bark, and
soon, pushing aside the door-curtain, a young man entered.
"_O'kyi!_" said the old man, and he motioned the stranger to a
They looked at this person with surprise and fear, for there was a black
wind which had melted the snow, and covered the prairie with water, yet
this person's leggings and moccasins were dry. They sat in silence a long
[Footnote 1: The "Chinook."]
Then said he: "Why is this? Why do you not give me some food?"
"Ah!" replied the old man, "you behold those who are truly poor. We have no
food. For many days the buffalo did not come in sight, and we shot deer and
other animals which people eat, and when all these had been killed, we
began to starve. Then said I, 'We will not stay here to starve to death';
and we started for the mountains. This is the fourth night of our travels."
"Ah!" said the young man. "Then your travels are ended. Close by here, we
are camped by our pis'kun. Many buffalo have been run in, and our
parfleches are filled with dried meat. Wait; I will go and bring you some."
As soon as he went out, they began to talk about this strange person. They
were very much afraid of him, and did not know what to do. The children
began to cry, and the women were trying to quiet them, when the young man
returned, bringing some meat and three _pis-tsi-ko'-an._
[Footnote 2: Unborn buffalo calves.]
"_Kyi!_" said he. "To-morrow move over to our lodges. Do not be afraid. No
matter what strange things you see, do not fear. All will be your
friends. Now, one thing I caution you about. In this be careful. If you
should find an arrow lying about, in the pis'kun, or outside, no matter
where, do not touch it; neither you, nor your wives nor children." Having
said this, he went out.
Then the old man took his pipe and smoked and prayed, saying: "Hear now,
Sun! Listen, Above People. Listen, Under Water People. Now you have taken
pity. Now you have given us food. We are going to those strange ones, who
walk through water with dry moccasins. Protect us among those to-be-feared
people. Let us survive. Man, woman, child, give us long life; give us long
Once more the smell of roasting meat. The children played. They talked and
laughed who had so long been silent. They ate plenty and lay down and
Early in the morning, as soon as the sun rose, they took down their lodge,
packed up, and started for the strange camp. They found it was a wonderful
place. There by the pis'kun, and far up and down the valley were the lodges
of meat-eaters. They could not see them all, but close by they saw the
lodges of the Bear band, the Fox band, and the Badger band. The father of
the young man who had given them meat was chief of the Wolf band, and by
that band they pitched their lodge. Ah! That was a happy place. Food there
was plenty. All day people shouted out for feasts, and everywhere was heard
the sound of drums and song and dancing.
The new-comers went to the pis'kun for meat, and one of the children found
an arrow lying on the ground. It was a beautiful arrow, the stone point
long and sharp, the shaft round and straight. All around the people were
busy; no one was looking. The boy picked up the arrow and hid it under his
robe. Then there was a fearful noise. All the animals howled and growled,
and ran toward him. But the chief Wolf said: "Hold! We will let him go this
time; for he is young yet, and not of good sense." So they let him go.
When night came, some one shouted out for a feast, saying:
"_Wo'-ka-hit! Wo'-ka-hit! Mah-kwe'-i-ke-tum-ok-ah-wah-hit.
Ke-t[)u]k'-ka-p[)u]k'-si-pim."_ ("Listen! Listen! Wolf, you are to
feast. Enter with your friend.") "We are asked," said the chief Wolf to his
new friend, and together they went to the lodge.
Within, the fire burned brightly, and many men were already there, the old
and wise of the Raven band. Hanging behind the seats were the writings
of many deeds. Food was placed before them,--pemmican of berries and dried
back fat; and when they had eaten, a pipe was lighted. Then spoke the
Raven chief: "Now, Wolf, I am going to give our new friend a present. What
[Footnote 1: That is, the painting on cowskin of the various battles and
adventures in which the owner of the lodge had taken part.]
"It is as you say," replied the Wolf. "Our new friend will be glad."
Then the Raven chief took from the long parfleche sack a slender stick,
beautifully dressed with many colored feathers; and on the end of it was
fastened the skin of a raven, head, wings, feet, and all. "We," he said,
"are the _Mas-to-pah'-ta-kiks_ (Raven carriers, or those who bear the
Raven). Of all the above animals, of all the flyers, where is one so smart?
None. The Raven's eyes are sharp. His wings are strong. He is a great
hunter and never hungry. Far, far off on the prairie he sees his food, and
deep hidden in the pines it does not escape his eye. Now the song and the
When he had finished singing and dancing, he gave the stick to the man, and
said: "Take it with you, and when you have returned to your people, you
shall say: Now there are already the Bulls, and he who is the Raven chief
says: 'There shall be more, there shall be the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_, so that
the people may survive, and of them shall be the Raven carriers.' You will
call a council of the chiefs and wise old men, and they will choose the
persons. Teach them the song and the dance, and give them the medicine. It
shall be theirs forever."
Soon they heard another person shouting for a feast, and, going, they
entered the lodge of the _Sin-o-pah_ chief. Here, too, were the old men
assembled. After they had eaten of that set before them, the chief said:
"Those among whom you are newly arrived are generous. They do not look at
their possessions, but give to the stranger and pity the poor. The Kit-fox
is a little animal, but what one is smarter? None. His hair is like the
dead prairie grass. His eyes are sharp, his feet noiseless, his brain
cunning. His ears receive the far-off sound. Here is our medicine, take
it." And he gave the stick. It was long, crooked at one end, wound with
fur, and tied here and there to it were eagle feathers. At the end was a
fox's skin. Again the chief said: "Hear our song. Do not forget it; and the
dance, too, you must remember. When you get home, teach them to the
Again they heard the feast shout, and he who called was the Bear chief. Now
when they had smoked, the chief said: "What say you, friend Wolf? Shall we
give our new friend something?"
"As you say," replied the Wolf. "It is yours to give."
Then said the Bear: "There are many animals, and some of them are
powerful. But the Bear is the strongest and bravest of all. He fears
nothing, and is always ready to fight." Then he put on a necklace of bear
claws, a belt of bear fur, and around his head a band of the fur; and sang
and danced. When he had finished, he gave them to the man, saying: "Teach
the people our song and dance, and give them this medicine. It is
It was now very late. The Seven Persons had arrived at midnight, yet again
they heard the feast shout from the far end of camp. In this lodge the men
were painted with streaks of red and their hair was all brushed to one
side. After the feast the chief said: "We are different from all the
others here. We are called the _Mut-siks_ We are death. We know not
fear. Even if our enemies are in number like the grass, we do not turn
away, but fight and conquer. Bows are good weapons. Spears are better, but
our weapon is the knife." Then the chief sang and danced, and afterwards he
gave the Wolf's friend the medicine. It was a long knife, and many scalps
were tied on the handle. "This," he said, "is for the _I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi_."
[Footnote 1: Brave, courageous.]
Once more they were called to a feast and entered the Badger chief's
lodge. He taught the man the Badger song and dance and gave him the
medicine. It was a large rattle, ornamented with beaver claws and bright
feathers. They smoked two pipes in the Badger's lodge, and then went home
Early next day, the man and his family took down their lodge, and prepared
to move camp. Many women came and made them presents of dried meat,
pemmican, and berries. They were given so much they could not take it all
with them. It was many days before they joined the main camp, for the
people, too, had moved to the south after buffalo. As soon as the lodge was
pitched, the man called all the chiefs to come and feast, and he told them
all he had seen, and showed them the medicines. The chiefs chose certain
young men for the different bands, and this man taught them the songs and
dances, and gave each band their medicine.
ORIGIN OF THE MEDICINE PIPE
Thunder--you have heard him, he is everywhere. He roars in the mountains,
he shouts far out on the prairie. He strikes the high rocks, and they fall
to pieces. He hits a tree, and it is broken in slivers. He strikes the
people, and they die. He is bad. He does not like the towering cliff, the
standing tree, or living man. He likes to strike and crush them to the
ground. Yes! yes! Of all he is most powerful; he is the one most
strong. But I have not told you the worst: he sometimes steals women.
Long ago, almost in the beginning, a man and his wife were sitting in their
lodge, when Thunder came and struck them. The man was not killed. At first
he was as if dead, but after a while he lived again, and rising looked
about him. His wife was not there. "Oh, well," he thought, "she has gone to
get some water or wood," and he sat a while; but when the sun had
under-disappeared, he went out and inquired about her of the people. No one
had seen her. He searched throughout the camp, but did not find her. Then
he knew that Thunder had stolen her, and he went out on the hills alone and
When morning came, he rose and wandered far away, and he asked all the
animals he met if they knew where Thunder lived. They laughed, and would
not answer. The Wolf said: "Do you think we would seek the home of the only
one we fear? He is our only danger. From all others we can run away; but
from him there is no running. He strikes, and there we lie. Turn back! go
home! Do not look for the dwelling-place of that dreadful one." But the man
kept on, and travelled far away. Now he came to a lodge,--a queer lodge,
for it was made of stone; just like any other lodge, only it was made of
stone. Here lived the Raven chief. The man entered.
"Welcome, my friend," said the chief of Ravens. "Sit down, sit down." And
food was placed before him.
Then, when he had finished eating, the Raven said, "Why have you come?"
"Thunder has stolen my wife," replied the man. "I seek his dwelling-place
that I may find her."
"Would you dare enter the lodge of that dreadful person?" asked the
Raven. "He lives close by here. His lodge is of stone, like this; and
hanging there, within, are eyes,--the eyes of those he has killed or
stolen. He has taken out their eyes and hung them in his lodge. Now, then,
dare you enter there?"
"No," replied the man. "I am afraid. What man could look at such dreadful
things and live?"
"No person can," said the Raven. "There is but one old Thunder fears. There
is but one he cannot kill. It is I, it is the Ravens. Now I will give you
medicine, and he shall not harm you. You shall enter there, and seek among
those eyes your wife's; and if you find them, tell that Thunder why you
came, and make him give them to you. Here, now, is a raven's wing. Just
point it at him, and he will start back quick; but if that fail, take
this. It is an arrow, and the shaft is made of elk-horn. Take this, I say,
and shoot it through the lodge."
"Why make a fool of me?" the poor man asked. "My heart is sad. I am
crying." And he covered his head with his robe, and wept.
"Oh," said the Raven, "you do not believe me. Come out, come out, and I
will make you believe." When they stood outside, the Raven asked, "Is the
home of your people far?"
"A great distance," said the man.
"Can you tell how many days you have travelled?"
"No," he replied, "my heart is sad. I did not count the days. The berries
have grown and ripened since I left."
"Can you see your camp from here?" asked the Raven.
The man did not speak. Then the Raven rubbed some medicine on his eyes and
said, "Look!" The man looked, and saw the camp. It was close. He saw the
people. He saw the smoke rising from the lodges.
"Now you will believe," said the Raven. "Take now the arrow and the wing,
and go and get your wife."
So the man took these things, and went to the Thunder's lodge. He entered
and sat down by the door-way. The Thunder sat within and looked at him with
awful eyes. But the man looked above, and saw those many pairs of eyes.
Among them were those of his wife.
"Why have you come?" said the Thunder in a fearful voice.
"I seek my wife," the man replied, "whom you have stolen. There hang her
"No man can enter my lodge and live," said the Thunder; and he rose to
strike him. Then the man pointed the raven wing at the Thunder, and he fell
back on his couch and shivered. But he soon recovered, and rose again. Then
the man fitted the elk-horn arrow to his bow, and shot it through the lodge
of rock; right through that lodge of rock it pierced a jagged hole, and let
the sunlight in.
"Hold," said the Thunder. "Stop; you are the stronger. Yours the great
medicine. You shall have your wife. Take down her eyes." Then the man cut
the string that held them, and immediately his wife stood beside him.
"Now," said the Thunder, "you know me. I am of great power. I live here in
summer, but when winter comes, I go far south. I go south with the
birds. Here is my pipe. It is medicine. Take it, and keep it. Now, when I
first come in the spring, you shall fill and light this pipe, and you shall
pray to me, you and the people. For I bring the rain which makes the
berries large and ripe. I bring the rain which makes all things grow, and
for this you shall pray to me, you and all the people."
Thus the people got the first medicine pipe. It was long ago.
THE BEAVER MEDICINE
This story goes back many years, to a time before the Indians went to war
against each other. Then there was peace among all the tribes. They met,
and did not kill each other. They had no guns and they had no horses. When
two tribes met, the head chiefs would take each a stick and touch each
other. Each had counted a _coup_ on the other, and they then went back to
their camps. It was more a friendly than a hostile ceremony.
Oftentimes, when a party of young men had gone to a strange camp, and had
done this to those whom they had visited, they would come back to their
homes and would tell the girls whom they loved that they had counted a
_coup_ on this certain tribe of people. After the return of such a party,
the young women would have a dance. Each one would wear clothing like that
of the man she loved, and as she danced, she would count a _coup_, saying
that she herself had done the deed which her young lover had really done.
Such was the custom of the people.
There was a chief in a camp who had three wives, all very pretty women. He
used to say to these women, whenever a dance was called: "Why do not you go
out and dance too? Perhaps you have some one in the camp that you love, and
for whom you would like to count a _coup_" Then the women would say, "No,
we do not wish to join the dance; we have no lovers."
There was in the camp a poor young man, whose name was Api-kunni. He had no
relations, and no one to tan robes or furs for him, and he was always badly
clad and in rags. Whenever he got some clothing, he wore it as long as it
would hold together. This young man loved the youngest wife of the chief,
and she loved him. But her parents were not rich, and they could not give
her to Api-k[)u]nni, and when the chief wanted her for a wife, they gave
her to him. Sometimes Api-k[)u]nni and this girl used to meet and talk
together, and he used to caution her, saying, "Now be careful that you do
not tell any one that you see me." She would say, "No, there is no danger;
I will not let it be known."
One evening, a dance was called for the young women to dance, and the chief
said to his wives: "Now, women, you had better go to this dance. If any of
you have persons whom you love, you might as well go and dance for them."
Two of them said: "No, we will not go. There is no one that we love." But
the third said, "Well, I think I will go and dance." The chief said to her,
"Well, go then; your lover will surely dress you up for the dance."
The girl went to where Api-k[)u]nni as living in an old woman's lodge, very
poorly furnished, and told him what she was going to do, and asked him to
dress her for the dance. He said to her: "Oh, you have wronged me by coming
here, and by going to the dance. I told you to keep it a secret." The girl
said: "Well, never mind; no one will know your dress. Fix me up, and I will
go and join the dance anyway." "Why," said Api-k[)u]nni, "I never have been
to war. I have never counted any _coups_. You will go and dance and will
have nothing to say. The people will laugh at you." But when he found that
the girl wanted to go, he painted her forehead with red clay, and tied a
goose skin, which he had, about her head, and lent her his badly tanned
robe, which in spots was hard like a parfleche. He said to her, "If you
will go to the dance, say, when it comes your turn to speak, that when the
water in the creeks gets warm, you are going to war, and are going to count
a _coup_ on some people."
The woman went to the dance, and joined in it. All the people were laughing
at her on account of her strange dress,--a goose skin around her head, and
a badly tanned robe about her. The people in the dance asked her: "Well,
what are you dancing for? What can you tell?" The woman said, "I am dancing
here to-day, and when the water in the streams gets warm next spring, I am
going to war; and then I will tell you what I have done to any people." The
chief was standing present, and when he learned who it was that his young
wife loved, he was much ashamed and went to his lodge.
When the dance was over, this young woman went to the lodge of the poor
young man to give back his dress to him. Now, while she had been gone,
Api-k[)u]nni had been thinking over all these things, and he was very much
ashamed. He took his robe and his goose skin and went away. He was so
ashamed that he went away at once, travelling off over the prairie, not
caring where he went, and crying all the time. As he wandered away, he came
to a lake, and at the foot of this lake was a beaver dam, and by the dam a
beaver house. He walked out on the dam and on to the beaver house. There he
stopped and sat down, and in his shame cried the rest of the day, and at
last he fell asleep on the beaver house.
While he slept, he dreamed that a beaver came to him--a very large
beaver--and said: "My poor young man, come into my house. I pity you, and
will give you something that will help you." So Api-k[)u]nni got up, and
followed the beaver into the house. When he was in the house, he awoke, and
saw sitting opposite him a large white beaver, almost as big as a man. He
thought to himself, "This must be the chief of all the beavers, white
because very old." The beaver was singing a song. It was a very strange
song, and he sang it a long time. Then he said to Api-k[)u]nni, "My son,
why are you mourning?" and the young man told him everything that had
happened, and how he had been shamed. Then the beaver said: "My son, stay
here this winter with me. I will provide for you. When the time comes, and
you have learned our songs and our ways, I will let you go. For a time make
this your home." So Api-k)u]nni stayed there with the beaver, and the
beaver taught him many strange things. All this happened in the fall.
Now the chief in the camp missed this poor young man, and he asked the
people where he had gone. No one knew. They said that the last that had
been seen of him he was travelling toward the lake where the beaver dam
Api-k[)u]nni had a friend, another poor young man named Wolf Tail, and
after a while, Wolf Tail started out to look for his friend. He went toward
this lake, looking everywhere, and calling out his name. When he came to
the beaver house, he kicked on the top and called, "Oh, my brother, are you
here?" Api-k[)u]nni answered him, and said: "Yes, I am here. I was brought
in while I was asleep, and I cannot give you the secret of the door, for I
do not know it myself." Wolf Tail said to him, "Brother, when the weather
gets warm a party is going to start from camp to war." Api-k[)u]nni said:
"Go home and try to get together all the moccasins you can, but do not tell
them that I am here. I am ashamed to go back to the camp. When the party
starts, come this way and bring me the moccasins, and we two will start
from here." He also said: "I am very thin. The beaver food here does not
agree with me. We are living on the bark of willows." Wolf Tail went back
to the camp and gathered together all the moccasins that he could, as he
had been asked to do.
When the spring came, and the grass began to start, the war party set
out. At this time the beaver talked to Apikunni a long time, and told him
many things. He dived down into the water, and brought up a long stick of
aspen wood, cut off from it a piece as long as a man's arm, trimmed the
twigs off it, and gave it to the young man. "Keep this," the beaver said,
"and when you go to war take it with you." The beaver also gave him a
little sack of medicine, and told him what he must do.
When the party started out, Wolf Tail came to the beaver house, bringing
the moccasins, and his friend came out of the house. They started in the
direction the party had taken and travelled with them, but off to one
side. When they stopped at night, the two young men camped by themselves.
They travelled for many days, until they came to Bow River, and found that
it was very high. On the other side of the river, they saw the lodges of a
camp. In this camp a man was making a speech, and Api-k[)u]nni said to his
friend, "Oh, my brother, I am going to kill that man to-day, so that my
sweetheart may count _coup_ on him." These two were at a little distance
from the main party, above them on the river. The people in the camp had
seen the Blackfeet, and some had come down to the river. When Api-kunni had
said this to Wolf Tail, he took his clothes off and began to sing the song
the beaver had taught him. This was the song:--
I am like an island,
For on an island I got my power.
In battle I live
While people fall away from me.
While he sang this, he had in his hand the stick which the beaver had given
him. This was his only weapon.
He ran to the bank, jumped in and dived, and came up in the middle of the
river, and started to swim across. The rest of the Blackfeet saw one of
their number swimming across the river, and they said to each other: "Who
is that? Why did not some one stop him?" While he was swimming across, the
man who had been making the speech saw him and went down to meet him. He
said: "Who can this man be, swimming across the river? He is a stranger. I
will go down and meet him, and kill him." As the boy was getting close to
the shore, the man waded out in the stream up to his waist, and raised his
knife to stab the swimmer. When Api-k[)u]nni got near him, he dived under
the water and came up close to the man, and thrust the beaver stick through
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