Indian Boyhood, by [OHIYESA] Charles Eastman
Part 2 out of 4
others took refuge in tall trees.
We loved to play in the water. When we had
no ponies, we often had swimming matches of our
own and sometimes made rafts with which we
crossed lakes and rivers. It was a common
thing to "duck" a young or timid boy or to
carry him into deep water to struggle as best
I remember a perilous ride with a companion on
an unmanageable log, when we were both less than
seven years old. The older boys had put us on
this uncertain bark and pushed us out into the
swift current of the river. I cannot speak for my
comrade in distress, but I can say now that I would
rather ride on a swift bronco any day than try to
stay on and steady a short log in a river.
I never knew how we managed to prevent a shipwreck
on that voyage and to reach the shore.
We had many curious wild pets. There were
young foxes, bears, wolves, raccoons, fawns, buffalo
calves and birds of all kinds, tamed by various
boys. My pets were different at different times, but
I particularly remember one. I once had a grizzly
bear for a pet and so far as he and I were concerned,
our relations were charming and very close. But I
hardly know whether he made more enemies for me
or I for him. It was his habit to treat every boy
unmercifully who injured me. He was despised
for his conduct in my interest and I was hated on
account of his interference.
II: My Playmates
CHATANNA was the brother with
whom I passed much of my early
childhood. From the time that
I was old enough to play with
boys, this brother was my close
companion. He was a handsome
boy, and an affectionate comrade. We played
together, slept together and ate together; and as
Chatanna was three years the older, I naturally
looked up to him as to a superior.
Oesedah was a beautiful little character. She
was my cousin, and four years younger than my-
self. Perhaps none of my early playmates are
more vividly remembered than is this little
The name given her by a noted medicine-man
was Makah-oesetopah-win. It means The-four-
corners-of-the-earth. As she was rather small,
the abbreviation with a diminutive termination
was considered more appropriate, hence Oesedah
became her common name.
Although she had a very good mother, Un-
cheedah was her efficient teacher and chaperon
Such knowledge as my grandmother deemed suit-
able to a maiden was duly impressed upon her
susceptible mind. When I was not in the woods
with Chatanna, Oesedah was my companion at
home; and when I returned from my play at
evening, she would have a hundred questions
ready for me to answer. Some of these were
questions concerning our every-day life, and
others were more difficult problems which had
suddenly dawned upon her active little mind.
Whatever had occurred to interest her during the
day was immediately repeated for my benefit.
There were certain questions upon which Oese-
dah held me to be authority, and asked with the
hope of increasing her little store of knowledge.
I have often heard her declare to her girl compan-
ions: "I know it is true; Ohiyesa said so!"
Uncheedah was partly responsible for this, for
when any questions came up which lay within the
sphere of man's observation, she would say:
"Ohiyesa ought to know that: he is a man--
I am not! You had better ask him."
The truth was that she had herself explained to
me many of the subjects under discussion.
I was occasionally referred to little Oesedah in
the same manner, and I always accepted her child-
ish elucidations of any matter upon which I had
been advised to consult her, because I knew the
source of her wisdom. In this simple way we
were made to be teachers of one another.
Very often we discussed some topic before our
common instructor, or answered her questions to-
gether, in order to show which had the readier
"To what tribe does the lizard belong?" inquired
Uncheedah, upon one of these occasions.
"To the four-legged tribe," I shouted.
Oesedah, with her usual quickness, flashed out
"It belongs to the creeping tribe."
The Indians divided all animals into four gen-
eral classes: 1st, those that walk upon four legs;
2nd, those that fly; 3rd, those that swim with fins;
4th, those that creep.
Of course I endeavored to support my assertion
that the lizard belongs where I had placed it, be-.
cause he has four distinct legs which propel him
everywhere, on the ground or in the water. But my
opponent claimed that the creature under dispute
does not walk, but creeps. My strongest argument
was that it had legs; but Oesedah insisted that its
body touches the ground as it moves. As a last
resort, I volunteered to go find one, and demon-
strate the point in question.
The lizard having been brought, we smoothed
off the ground and strewed ashes on it so that we
could see the track. Then I raised the question:
"What constitutes creeping, and what constitutes
Uncheedah was the judge, and she stated, with-
out any hesitation, that an animal must stand clear
of the ground on the support of its legs, and walk
with the body above the legs, and not in contact
with the ground, in order to be termed a walker;
while a creeper is one that, regardless of its legs, if
it has them, drags its body upon the ground. Upon
hearing the judge's decision, I yielded at once to
At another time, when I was engaged in a sim-
ilar discussion with my brother Chatanna, Oesedah
came to my rescue. Our grandmother had asked
"What bird shows most judgment in caring for
Chatanna at once exclaimed:
"The eagle!" but I held my peace for a mo-
ment, because I was confused--so many birds came
into my mind at once. I finally declared:
"It is the oriole!"
Chatanna was asked to state all the evidence that
he had in support of the eagle's good sense in
rearing its young. He proceeded with an air of
"The eagle is the wisest of all birds. Its nest
is made in the safest possible place, upon a high
and inaccessible cliff. It provides its young with
an abundance of fresh meat. They have the fresh-
est of air. They are brought up under the spell
of the grandest scenes, and inspired with lofty
feelings and bravery. They see that all other be-
ings live beneath them, and that they are the chil-
dren of the King of Birds. A young eagle shows
the spirit of a warrior while still in the nest.
"Being exposed to the inclemency of the weather
the young eaglets are hardy. They are accustomed
to hear the mutterings of the Thunder Bird and
the sighings of the Great Mystery. Why, the lit-
tle eagles cannot help being as noble as they are,
because their parents selected for them so lofty
and inspiring a home! How happy they must be
when they find themselves above the clouds, and
behold the zigzag flashes of lightning all about
them! It must be nice to taste a piece of fresh
meat up in their cool home, in the burning sum-
mer-time! Then when they drop down the bones
of the game they feed upon, wolves and vultures
gather beneath them, feeding upon their refuse.
That alone would show them their chieftainship
over all the other birds. Isn't that so, grand-
mother?" Thus triumphantly he concluded his
I was staggered at first by the noble speech of
Chatannna, but I soon recovered from its effects.
The little Oesedah came to my aid by saying:
"Wait until Ohiyesa tells of the loveliness of the
beautiful Oriole's home!" This timely remark
gave me courage and I began:
"My grandmother, who was it said that a
mother who has a gentle and sweet voice will have
children of a good disposition? I think the oriole
is that kind of a parent. It provides both sun-
shine and shadow for its young. Its nest is sus-
pended from the prettiest bough of the most grace-
ful tree, where it is rocked by the gentle winds;
and the one we found yesterday was beautifully
lined with soft things, both deep and warm, so that
the little featherless birdies cannot suffer from the
cold and wet."
Here Chatanna interrupted me to exclaim:
"That is just like the white people--who cares for
them? The eagle teaches its young to be ac-
customed to hardships, like young warriors!"
Ohiyesa was provoked; he reproached his
brother and appealed to the judge, saying that he
had not finished yet.
"But you would not have lived, Chatanna, if
you had been exposed like that when you were
a baby! The oriole shows wisdom in providing
for its children a good, comfortable home! A
home upon a high rock would not be pleasant--
it would be cold! We climbed a mountain once,
and it was cold there; and who would care to stay
in such a place when it storms? What wisdom is
there in having a pile of rough sticks upon a bare
rock, surrounded with ill-smelling bones of animals,
for a home? Also, my uncle says that the eaglets
seem always to be on the point of starvation. You
have heard that whoever lives on game killed
by some one else is compared to an eagle. Isn't
that so, grandmother?
"The oriole suspends its nest from the lower
side of a horizontal bough so that no enemy can
approach it. It enjoys peace and beauty and
Oesedah was at Ohiyesa's side during the dis-
cussion, and occasionally whispered into his ear.
Uncheedah decided this time in favor of Ohiyesa.
We were once very short of provisions in the
winter time. My uncle, our only means of sup-
port, was sick; and besides, we were separated
from the rest of the tribe and in a region where
there was little game of any kind. Oesedah had
a pet squirrel, and as soon as we began to econo-
mize our food had given portions of her allow-
ance to her pet.
At last we were reduced very much, and the
prospect of obtaining anything soon being gloomy,
my grandmother reluctantly suggested that the
squirrel should be killed for food. Thereupon
my little cousin cried, and said:
"Why cannot we all die alike wanting? The
squirrel's life is as dear to him as ours to us," and
clung to it. Fortunately, relief came in time to
save her pet.
Oesedah lived with us for a portion of the year,
and as there were no other girls in the family she
played much alone, and had many imaginary com-
panions. At one time there was a small willow
tree which she visited regularly, holding long con-
versations, a part of which she would afterward
repeat to me. She said the willow tree was her
husband, whom some magic had compelled to
take that form; but no grown person was ever
allowed to share her secret.
When I was about eight years old I had for a
playmate the adopted son of a Sioux, who was a
white captive. This boy was quite a noted per-
sonage, although he was then only about ten or
eleven years of age. When I first became ac-
quainted with him we were on the upper Mis-
souri river. I learned from him that he had been
taken on the plains, and that both of his parents
He was at first sad and lonely, but soon found
plenty of consolation in his new home. The
name of his adopted father was "Keeps-the-
Spotted-Ponies." He was known to have
an unusual number of the pretty calico ponies;
indeed, he had a passion for accumulating prop-
erty in the shape of ponies, painted tents, dec-
orated saddles and all sorts of finery. He
had lost his only son; but the little pale-face
became the adopted brother of two handsome
young women, his daughters. This made him
quite popular among the young warriors. He
was not slow to adopt the Indian customs, and he
acquired the Sioux language in a short time.
I well remember hearing of his first experience
of war. He was not more than sixteen when he
joined a war-party against the Gros-Ventres and
Mandans. My uncle reported that he was very
brave until he was wounded in the ankle; then he
begged with tears to be taken back to a safe place.
Fortunately for him, his adopted father came to the
rescue, and saved him at the risk of his own life.
He was called the "pale-face Indian." His hair
grew very long and he lavished paint on his face
and hair so that no one might suspect that he was
a white man.
One day this boy was playing a gambling game
with one of the Sioux warriors. He was an ex-
pert gambler, and won everything from the Indian.
At a certain point a dispute arose. The Indian
was very angry, for he discovered that his fellow-
player had deliberately cheated him. The Indians
were strictly honest in those days, even in their
The boy declared that he had merely performed
a trick for the benefit of his friend, but it nearly
cost him his life. The indignant warrior had
already drawn his bow-string with the intention of
shooting the captive, but a third person intervened
and saved the boy's life. He at once explained his
trick; and in order to show himself an honorable
gambler, gave back all the articles that he had won
from his opponent. In the midst of the confusion,
old "Keeps-the-Spotted-Ponies" came rushing
through the crowd in a state of great excitement.
He thought his pale-face son had been killed.
When he saw how matters stood, he gave the ag-
grieved warrior a pony, "in order," as he said,
"that there may be no shadow between him and
One spring my uncle took Chatanna to the
Canadian trading-post on the Assiniboine river,
where he went to trade off his furs for ammunition
and other commodities. When he came back, my
brother was not with him!
At first my fears were even worse than the re-
ality. The facts were these: A Canadian with
whom my uncle had traded much had six daugh-
ters and no son; and when he saw this handsome
and intelligent little fellow, he at once offered to
"I have no boy in my family," said he, "and
I will deal with him as with a son. I am always
in these regions trading; so you can see him two
or three times in a year."
He further assured my uncle that the possession
of the boy would greatly strengthen their friend-
ship. The matter was finally agreed upon. At
first Chatanna was unwilling, but as we were taught
to follow the advice of our parents and guardians,
he was obliged to yield.
This was a severe blow to me, and for a long
time I could not be consoled. Uncheedah was
fully in sympathy with my distress. She argued
that the white man's education was not desirable
for her boys; in fact, she urged her son so strongly
to go back after Chatanna that he promised on
his next visit to the post to bring him home
But the trader was a shrewd man. He immedi-
ately moved to another part of the country; and I
never saw my Chatanna, the companion of my
childhood, again! We learned afterward that he
grew up and was married; but one day he lost his
way in a blizzard and was frozen to death.
My little cousin and I went to school together
in later years; but she could not endure the con-
finement of the school-room. Although appar-
ently very happy, she suffered greatly from the
change to an indoor life, as have many of our peo-
ple, and died six months after our return to
the United States.
III: The Boy Hunter
IT will be no exaggeration to say
that the life of the Indian hunter
was a life of fascination. From
the moment that he lost sight of
his rude home in the midst of the
forest, his untutored mind lost it-
self in the myriad beauties and forces of nature.
Yet he never forgot his personal danger from some
lurking foe or savage beast, however absorbing
was his passion for the chase.
The Indian youth was a born hunter. Every
motion, every step expressed an inborn dignity
and, at the same time, a depth of native caution.
His moccasined foot fell like the velvet paw of a
cat--noiselessly; his glittering black eyes scanned
every object that appeared within their view. Not
a bird, not even a chipmunk, escaped their pierc-
I was scarcely over three years old when I stood
one morning just outside our buffalo-skin teepee,
with my little bow and arrows in my hand, and
gazed up among the trees. Suddenly the instinct
to chase and kill seized me powerfully. Just then
a bird flew over my head and then another caught
my eye, as it balanced itself upon a swaying
bough. Everything else was forgotten and in
that moment I had taken my first step as a
There was almost as much difference between
the Indian boys who were brought up on the open
prairies and those of the woods, as between city
and country boys. The hunting of the prairie boys
was limited and their knowledge of natural history
imperfect. They were, as a rule, good riders, but
in all-round physical development much inferior
to the red men of the forest.
Our hunting varied with the season of the year,
and the nature of the country which was for the
time our home. Our chief weapon was the bow
and arrows, and perhaps, if we were lucky, a knife
was possessed by some one in the crowd. In the
olden times, knives and hatchets were made from
bone and sharp stones.
For fire we used a flint with a spongy piece of
dry wood and a stone to strike with. Another way
of starting fire was for several of the boys to sit
down in a circle and rub two pieces of dry, spongy
wood together, one after another, until the wood
We hunted in company a great deal, though it
was a common thing for a boy to set out for the
woods quite alone, and he usually enjoyed himself
fully as much. Our game consisted mainly of
small birds, rabbits, squirrels and grouse. Fish-
ing, too, occupied much of our time. We hardly
ever passed a creek or a pond without searching
for some signs of fish. When fish were present,
we always managed to get some. Fish-lines were
made of wild hemp, sinew or horse-hair. We
either caught fish with lines, snared or speared
them, or shot them with bow and arrows. In the
fall we charmed them up to the surface by gently
tickling them with a stick and quickly threw them
out. We have sometimes dammed the brooks and
driven the larger fish into a willow basket made
for that purpose.
It was part of our hunting to find new and
strange things in the woods. We examined the
slightest sign of life; and if a bird had scratched
the leaves off the ground, or a bear dragged up a
root for his morning meal, we stopped to specu-
late on the time it was done. If we saw a large
old tree with some scratches on its bark, we con-
cluded that a bear or some raccoons must be living
there. In that case we did not go any nearer than
was necessary, but later reported the incident at
home. An old deer-track would at once bring on
a warm discussion as to whether it was the track
of a buck or a doe. Generally, at noon, we met
and compared our game, noting at the same time
the peculiar characteristics of everything we had
killed. It was not merely a hunt, for we combined
with it the study of animal life. We also kept
strict account of our game, and thus learned who
were the best shots among the boys.
I am sorry to say that we were merciless toward
the birds. We often took their eggs and their
young ones. My brother Chatanna and I once
had a disagreeable adventure while bird-hunting.
We were accustomed to catch in our hands young
ducks and geese during the summer, and while do-
ing this we happened to find a crane's nest. Of
course, we were delighted with our good luck.
But, as it was already midsummer, the young
cranes--two in number--were rather large and
they were a little way from the nest; we also ob-
served that the two old cranes were in a swampy
place near by; but, as it was moulting-time, we
did not suppose that they would venture on dry
land. So we proceeded to chase the young birds;
but they were fleet runners and it took us some
time to come up with them.
Meanwhile, the parent birds had heard the cries
of their little ones and come to their rescue. They
were chasing us, while we followed the birds. It
was really a perilous encounter! Our strong
bows finally gained the victory in a hand-to-hand
struggle with the angry cranes; but after that we
hardly ever hunted a crane's nest. Almost all birds
make some resistance when their eggs or young
are taken, but they will seldom attack man fear-
We used to climb large trees for birds of all
kinds; but we never undertook to get young owls
unless they were on the ground. The hooting
owl especially is a dangerous bird to attack under
I was once trying to catch a yellow-winged wood-
pecker in its nest when my arm became twisted
and lodged in the deep hole so that I could not
get it out without the aid of a knife; but we were
a long way from home and my only companion
was a deaf mute cousin of mine. I was about fifty
feet up in the tree, in a very uncomfortable posi-
tion, but I had to wait there for more than an hour
before he brought me the knife with which I fin-
ally released myself.
Our devices for trapping small animals were
rude, but they were often successful. For instance,
we used to gather up a peck or so of large, sharp-
pointed burrs and scatter them in the rabbit's fur-
row-like path. In the morning, we would find
the little fellow sitting quietly in his tracks, unable
to move, for the burrs stuck to his feet.
Another way of snaring rabbits and grouse was
the following: We made nooses of twisted horse-
hair, which we tied very firmly to the top of a
limber young tree, then bent the latter down to
the track and fastened the whole with a slip-knot,
after adjusting the noose. When the rabbit runs
his head through the noose, he pulls the slip-knot
and is quickly carried up by the spring of the
young tree. This is a good plan, for the rabbit
is out of harm's way as he swings high in the air.
Perhaps the most enjoyable of all was the chip-
munk hunt. We killed these animals at any time
of year, but the special time to hunt them was in
March. After the first thaw, the chipmunks bur-
row a hole through the snow crust and make
their first appearance for the season. Sometimes
as many as fifty will come together and hold a
social reunion. These gatherings occur early in
the morning, from daybreak to about nine o'clock.
We boys learned this, among other secrets of
nature, and got our blunt-headed arrows together
in good season for the chipmunk expedition.
We generally went in groups of six to a dozen
or fifteen, to see which would get the most. On
the evening before, we selected several boys who
could imitate the chipmunk's call with wild oat-
straws and each of these provided himself with a
supply of straws.
The crust will hold the boys nicely at this time
of the year. Bright and early, they all come to-
gether at the appointed place, from which each
group starts out in a different direction, agreeing
to meet somewhere at a given position of the sun.
My first experience of this kind is still well re-
membered. It was a fine crisp March morning,
and the sun had not yet shown himself among the
distant tree-tops as we hurried along through the
ghostly wood. Presently we arrived at a place
where there were many signs of the animals. Then
each of us selected a tree and took up his position
behind it. The chipmunk caller sat upon a log
as motionless as he could, and began to call.
Soon we heard the patter of little feet on the
hard snow; then we saw the chipmunks approach-
ing from all directions. Some stopped and ran
experimentally up a tree or a log, as if uncertain of
the exact direction of the call; others chased one
In a few minutes, the chipmunk-caller was be-
sieged with them. Some ran all over his person,
others under him and still others ran up the tree
against which he was sitting. Each boy remained
immovable until their leader gave the signal; then
a great shout arose, and the chipmunks in their
flight all ran up the different trees.
Now the shooting-match began. The little
creatures seemed to realize their hopeless posi-
tion; they would try again and again to come
down the trees and flee away from the deadly aim
of the youthful hunters. But they were shot down
very fast; and whenever several of them rushed
toward the ground, the little red-skin hugged the
tree and yelled frantically to scare them up again.
Each boy shoots always against the trunk of the
tree, so that the arrow may bound back to him every
time; otherwise, when he had shot away all of
them, he would be helpless, and another, who had
cleared his own tree, would come and take away
his game, so there was warm competition. Some-
times a desperate chipmunk would jump from the
top of the tree in order to escape, which was con-
sidered a joke on the boy who lost it and a triumph
for the brave little animal. At last all were killed
or gone, and then we went on to another place,
keeping up the sport until the sun came out and
the chipmunks refused to answer the call.
When we went out on the prairies we had a dif-
ferent and less lively kind of sport. We used to
snare with horse-hair and bow-strings all the small
ground animals, including the prairie-dog. We
both snared and shot them. Once a little boy set
a snare for one, and lay flat on the ground a little
way from the hole, holding the end of the string.
Presently he felt something move and pulled in a
huge rattlesnake; and to this day, his name is
"Caught-the-Rattlesnake." Very often a boy got
a new name in some such manner. At another
time, we were playing in the woods and found a
fawn's track. We followed and caught it while
asleep; but in the struggle to get away, it kicked
one boy, who is still called "Kicked-by-the-Fawn."
It became a necessary part of our education to
learn to prepare a meal while out hunting. It is
a fact that most Indians will eat the liver and some
other portions of large animals raw, but they do
not eat fish or birds uncooked. Neither will they
eat a frog, or an eel. On our boyish hunts, we
often went on until we found ourselves a long way
from our camp, when we would kindle a fire and
roast a part of our game.
Generally we broiled our meat over the coals on
a stick. We roasted some of it over the open fire.
But the best way to cook fish and birds is in the
ashes, under a big fire. We take the fish fresh from
the creek or lake, have a good fire on the sand, dig
in the sandy ashes and bury it deep. The same
thing is done in case of a bird, only we wet the
feathers first. When it is done, the scales or feath-
ers and skin are stripped off whole, and the deli-
cious meat retains all its juices and flavor. We
pulled it off as we ate, leaving the bones undis-
Our people had also a method of boiling with-
out pots or kettles. A large piece of tripe was
thoroughly washed and the ends tied, then sus-
pended between four stakes driven into the ground
and filled with cold water. The meat was then placed
in this novel receptacle and boiled by means of the
addition of red-hot stones.
Chatanna was a good hunter. He called the doe
and fawn beautifully by using a thin leaf of birch-
bark between two flattened sticks. One morning
we found the tracks of a doe and fawn who had
passed within the hour, for the light dew was
brushed from the grass.
"What shall we do?" I asked. "Shall we go
back to the teepee and tell uncle to bring his
"No, no!" exclaimed Chatanna. "Did not our
people kill deer and buffalo long ago without guns?
We will entice her into this open space, and, while
she stands bewildered, I can throw my lasso line
over her head."
He had called only a few seconds when the fawn
emerged from the thick woods and stood before us,
prettier than a picture. Then I uttered the call,
and she threw her tobacco-leaf-like ears toward me,
while Chatanna threw his lasso. She gave one
scream and launched forth into the air, almost
throwing the boy hunter to the ground. Again
and again she flung herself desperately into the air,
but at last we led her to the nearest tree and tied
"Now," said he, "go and get our pets and see
what they will do."
At that time he had a good-sized black bear
partly tamed, while I had a young red fox and my
faithful Ohitika or Brave. I untied Chagoo, the
bear, and Wanahon, the fox, while Ohitika got up
and welcomed me by wagging his tail in a dig-
"Come," I said, "all three of you. I think we
have something you would all like to see."
They seemed to understand me, for Chagoo be-
gan to pull his rope with both paws, while Wana-
hon undertook the task of digging up by the roots
the sapling to which I had tied him.
Before we got to the open spot, we already heard
Ohitika's joyous bark, and the two wild pets be-
gan to run, and pulled me along through the un-
derbrush. Chagoo soon assumed the utmost pre-
caution and walked as if he had splinters in his
soles, while Wanahon kept his nose down low and
sneaked through the trees.
Out into the open glade we came, and there, be-
fore the three rogues, stood the little innocent fawn.
She visibly trembled at the sight of the motley
group. The two human rogues looked to her, I
presume, just as bad as the other three. Chagoo
regarded her with a mixture of curiosity and defi-
ance, while Wanahon stood as if rooted to the
ground, evidently planning how to get at her. But
Ohitika (Brave), generous Ohitika, his occasional
barking was only in jest. He did not care to
touch the helpless thing.
Suddenly the fawn sprang high into the air and
then dropped her pretty head on the ground.
"Ohiyesa, the fawn is dead," cried Chatanna.
"I wanted to keep her."
"It is a shame;" I chimed in.
We five guilty ones came and stood around her
helpless form. We all looked very sorry; even
Chagoo's eyes showed repentance and regret. As
for Ohitika, he gave two great sighs and then be-
took himself to a respectful distance. Chatanna
had two big tears gradually swamping his long,
black eye-lashes; and I thought it was time to
hide my face, for I did not want him to look at
Hakadah's First Offering
"HAKADAH, coowah!" was the sonorous call that came from a
large teepee in the midst of the Indian encampment. In answer
to the summons there emerged from the woods, which were
only a few steps away, a boy, accompanied by a
splendid black dog. There was little in the ap-
pearance of the little fellow to distinguish him
from the other Sioux boys.
He hastened to the tent from which he had
been summoned, carrying in his hands a bow and
arrows gorgeously painted, while the small birds
and squirrels that he had killed with these weap-
ons dangled from his belt.
Within the tent sat two old women, one on
each side of the fire. Uncheedah was the boy's
grandmother, who had brought up the mother-
less child. Wahchewin was only a caller, but she
had been invited to remain and assist in the first
personal offering of Hakadah to the "Great Mys-
This was a matter which had, for several days,
pretty much monopolized Uncheedah's mind. It
was her custom to see to this when each of her
children attained the age of eight summers. They
had all been celebrated as warriors and hunters
among their tribe, and she had not hesitated to
claim for herself a good share of the honors they
had achieved, because she had brought them early
to the notice of the "Great Mystery."
She believed that her influence had helped to
regulate and develop the characters of her sons to
the height of savage nobility and strength of man-
It had been whispered through the teepee vil-
lage that Uncheedah intended to give a feast in
honor of her grandchild's first sacrificial offering.
This was mere speculation, however, for the clear-
sighted old woman had determined to keep this
part of the matter secret until the offering should
be completed, believing that the "Great Myste-
ry" should be met in silence and dignity.
The boy came rushing into the lodge, followed
by his dog Ohitika who was wagging his tail pro-
miscuously, as if to say: "Master and I are really
Hakadah breathlessly gave a descriptive narra-
tive of the killing of each bird and squirrel as he
pulled them off his belt and threw them before
"This blunt-headed arrow," said he, "actually
had eyes this morning. Before the squirrel can
dodge around the tree it strikes him in the head,
and, as he falls to the ground, my Ohitika is upon
He knelt upon one knee as he talked, his black
eyes shining like evening stars.
"Sit down here," said Uncheedah to the boy;
"I have something to say to you. You see that
you are now almost a man. Observe the game
you have brought me! It will not be long be-
fore you will leave me, for a warrior must seek
opportunities to make him great among his people.
"You must endeavor to equal your father. and
grandfather," she went on. "They were warriors
and feast-makers. But it is not the poor hunter
who makes many feasts. Do you not remember
the 'Legend of the Feast-Maker,' who gave
forty feasts in twelve moons? And have you for-
gotten the story of the warrior who sought the
will of the Great Mystery? To-day you will
make your first offering to him."
The concluding sentence fairly dilated the eyes
of the young hunter, for he felt that a great event
was about to occur, in which he would be the
principal actor. But Uncheedah resumed her
"You must give up one of your belongings--
whichever is dearest to you--for this is to be a
This somewhat confused the boy; not that he
was selfish, but rather uncertain as to what would
be the most appropriate thing to give. Then,
too, he supposed that his grandmother referred
to his ornaments and playthings only. So he
"I can give up my best bow and arrows, and
all the paints I have, and--and my bear's claws
"Are these the things dearest to you?" she
"Not the bow and arrows, but the paints will
be very hard to get, for there are no white people
near; and the necklace--it is not easy to get
one like it again. I will also give up my otter-
skin head-dress, if you think that is not
"But think, my boy, you have not yet men-
tioned the thing that will be a pleasant offering to
the Great Mystery."
The boy looked into the woman's face with a
"I have nothing else as good as those things I
have named, grandmother, unless it is my spotted
pony; and I am sure that the Great Mystery will
not require a little boy to make him so large a
gift. Besides, my uncle gave three otter-skins
and five eagle-feathers for him and I promised to
keep him a long while, if the Blackfeet or the
Crows do not steal him."
Uncheedah was not fully satisfied with the boy's
free offerings. Perhaps it had not occurred to him
what she really wanted. But Uncheedah knew
where his affection was vested. His faithful dog,
his pet and companion--Hakadah was almost in-
separable from the loving beast.
She was sure that it would be difficult to obtain
his consent to sacrifice the animal, but she ven-
tured upon a final appeal.
"You must remember," she said, "that in this
offering you will call upon him who looks at you
from every creation. In the wind you hear him
whisper to you. He gives his war-whoop in the
thunder. He watches you by day with his eye,
the sun; at night, he gazes upon your sleeping
countenance through the moon. In short, it is
the Mystery of Mysteries, who controls all things.
to whom you will make your first offering. By
this act, you will ask him to grant to you what he
has granted to few men. I know you wish to be
a great warrior and hunter. I am not prepared to
see my Hakadah show any cowardice, for the love
of possessions is a woman's trait and not a brave's."
During this speech, the boy had been complete-
ly aroused to the spirit of manliness, and in his
excitement was willing to give up anything he had
--even his pony! But he was unmindful of his
friend and companion, Ohitika, the dog! So,
scarcely had Uncheedah finished speaking, when
he almost shouted:
"Grandmother, I will give up any of my pos-
sessions for the offering to the Great Mystery!
You may select what you think will be most pleas-
ing to him."
There were two silent spectators of this little
dialogue. One was Wahchewin; the other was
Ohitika. The woman had been invited to stay,
although only a neighbor. The dog, by force of
habit, had taken up his usual position by the side
of his master when they entered the teepee. With-
out moving a muscle, save those of his eyes, he
had been a very close observer of what passed.
Had the dog but moved once to attract the at-
tention of his little friend, he might have been
dissuaded from that impetuous exclamation:
"Grandmother, I will give up any of my posses-
It was hard for Uncheedah to tell the boy that
he must part with his dog, but she was equal to
"Hakadah," she proceeded cautiously, "you
are a young brave. I know, though young, your
heart is strong and your courage is great. You
will be pleased to give up the dearest thing you
have for your first offering. You must give up
Ohitika. He is brave; and you, too, are brave.
He will not fear death; you will bear his loss brave-
ly. Come--here are four bundles of paints and
a filled pipe--let us go to the place."
When the last words were uttered, Hakadah did
not seem to hear them. He was simply unable to
speak. To a civilized eye, he would have ap-
peared at that moment like a little copper statue.
His bright black eyes were fast melting in floods
of tears, when he caught his grandmother's eye
and recollected her oft-repeated adage: "Tears
for woman and the war-whoop for man to drown
He swallowed two or three big mouthfuls of
heart-ache and the little warrior was master of the
"Grandmother, my Brave will have to die! Let
me tie together two of the prettiest tails of the
squirrels that he and I killed this morning, to show
to the Great Mystery what a hunter he has been.
Let me paint him myself."
This request Uncheedah could not refuse
and she left the pair alone for a few minutes,
while she went to ask Wacoota to execute Ohi-
Every Indian boy knows that, when a warrior
is about to meet death, he must sing a death dirge.
Hakadah thought of his Ohitika as a person who
would meet his death without a struggle, so he began
to sing a dirge for him, at the same time hugging
him tight to himself. As if he were a human be-
ing, he whispered in his ear:
"Be brave, my Ohitika! I shall remember
you the first time I am upon the war-path in the
At last he heard Uncheedah talking with a man
outside the teepee, so he quickly took up his
paints. Ohitika was a jet-black dog, with a silver
tip on the end of his tail and on his nose, beside
one white paw and a white star upon a protuber-
ance between his ears. Hakadah knew that a man
who prepares for death usually paints with red and
black. Nature had partially provided Ohitika in
this respect, so that only red was required and this
Hakadah supplied generously.
Then he took off a piece of red cloth and tied it
around the dog's neck; to this he fastened two of
the squirrels' tails and a wing from the oriole they
had killed that morning.
Just then it occurred to him that good warriors
always mourn for their departed friends and
the usual mourning was black paint. He loosened
his black braided locks, ground a dead coal, mixed
it with bear's oil and rubbed it on his entire face.
During this time every hole in the tent was oc-
cupied with an eye. Among the lookers-on was
his grandmother. She was very near relenting.
Had she not feared the wrath of the Great Mys-
tery, she would have been happy to call out to the
boy: "Keep your dear dog, my child!"
As it was, Hakadah came out of the teepee with
his face looking like an eclipsed moon, leading his
beautiful dog, who was even handsomer than ever
with the red touches on his specks of white.
It was now Uncheedah's turn to struggle with
the storm and burden in her soul. But the boy
was emboldened by the people's admiration of his
bravery, and did not shed a tear. As soon as she
was able to speak, the loving grandmother said:
"No, my young brave, not so! You must not
mourn for your first offering. Wash your face
and then we will go."
The boy obeyed, submitted Ohitika to Wacoota
with a smile, and walked off with his grandmother
They followed a well-beaten foot-path leading
along the bank of the Assiniboine river, through
a beautiful grove of oak, and finally around and
under a very high cliff. The murmuring of the
river came up from just below. On the opposite
side was a perpendicular white cliff, from which ex-
tended back a gradual slope of land, clothed with
the majestic mountain oak. The scene was im-
pressive and wild.
Wahchewin had paused without a word when
the little party reached the edge of the cliff. It
had been arranged between her and Uncheedah
that she should wait there for Wacoota, who was
to bring as far as that the portion of the offering
with which he had been entrusted.
The boy and his grandmother descended the
bank, following a tortuous foot-path until they
reached the water's edge. Then they proceeded
to the mouth of an immense cave, some fifty feet
above the river, under the cliff. A little stream
of limpid water trickled down from a spring with-
in the cave. The little watercourse served as a
sort of natural staircase for the visitors. A cool,
pleasant atmosphere exhaled from the mouth of
the cavern. Really it was a shrine of nature and
it is not strange that it was so regarded by the
A feeling of awe and reverence came to the boy.
"It is the home of the Great Mystery," he
thought to himself; and the impressiveness of
his surroundings made him forget his sorrow.
Very soon Wahchewin came with some diffi-
culty to the steps. She placed the body of Ohi-
tika upon the ground in a life-like position and
again left the two alone.
As soon as she disappeared from view, Unchee-
dah, with all solemnity and reverence, unfast-
ened the leather strings that held the four small
bundles of paints and one of tobacco, while the
filled pipe was laid beside the dead Ohitika.
She scattered paints and tobacco all about.
Again they stood a few moments silently; then she
drew a deep breath and began her prayer to the
"0, Great Mystery, we hear thy voice in the
rushing waters below us! We hear thy whisper
in the great oaks above! Our spirits are refreshed
with thy breath from within this cave. 0, hear
our prayer! Behold this little boy and bless him!
Make him a warrior and a hunter as great as thou
didst make his father and grandfather."
And with this prayer the little warrior had com-
pleted his first offering.
I: A Visit to Smoky Day
SMOKY DAY was widely known
among us as a preserver of history
and legend. He was a living
book of the traditions and his-
tory of his people. Among his ef-
fects were bundles of small sticks,
notched and painted. One bundle contained the
number of his own years. Another was composed
of sticks representing the important events of his-
tory, each of which was marked with the number
of years since that particular event occurred. For
instance, there was the year when so many stars
fell from the sky, with the number of years since
it happened cut into the wood. Another recorded
the appearance of a comet; and from these
heavenly wonders the great national catastrophes
and victories were reckoned.
But I will try to repeat some of his favorite
narratives as I heard them from his own lips. I
went to him one day with a piece of tobacco and
an eagle-feather; not to buy his MSS., but
hoping for the privilege of hearing him tell of
some of the brave deeds of our people in remote
The tall and large old man greeted me with his
usual courtesy and thanked me for my present.
As I recall the meeting, I well remember his un-
usual stature, his slow speech and gracious man-
"Ah, Ohiyesa!" said he, "my young warrior
--for such you will be some day! I know this
by your seeking to hear of the great deeds of your
ancestors. That is a good sign, and I love to re-
peat these stories to one who is destined to be a
brave man. I do not wish to lull you to sleep with
sweet words; but I know the conduct of your pa-
ternal ancestors. They have been and are still
among the bravest of our tribe. To prove this, I
will relate what happened in your paternal grand-
father's family, twenty years ago.
"Two of his brothers were murdered by a jeal-
ous young man of their own band. The deed
was committed without just cause; therefore all
the braves were agreed to punish the murderer
with death. When your grandfather was ap-
proached with this suggestion, he replied that he
and the remaining brothers could not condescend
to spill the blood of such a wretch, but that the
others might do whatever they thought just with
the young man. These men were foremost among
the warriors of the Sioux, and no one questioned
their courage; yet when this calamity was brought
upon them by a villain, they refused to touch him!
This, my boy, is a test of true bravery. Self-pos-
session and self-control at such a moment is proof
of a strong heart.
"You have heard of Jingling Thunder the
elder, whose brave deeds are well known to the
Villagers of the Lakes. He sought honor 'in the
gates of the enemy,' as we often say. The Great
Mystery was especially kind to him, because he
"Many winters ago there was a great battle, in
which Jingling Thunder won his first honors. It
was forty winters before the falling of many stars,
which event occurred twenty winters after the
coming of the black-robed white priest; and that
was fourteen winters before the annihilation by
our people of thirty lodges of the Sac and Fox
Indians. I well remember the latter event--it
was just fifty winters ago. However, I will count
my sticks again."
So saying, Smoky Day produced his bundle of
variously colored sticks, about five inches long.
He counted and gave them to me to verify his
"But you," he resumed, "do not care to re-
member the winters that have passed. You are
young, and care only for the event and the
deed. It was very many years ago that this
thing happened that I am about to tell you,
and yet our people speak of it with as much
enthusiasm as if it were only yesterday. Our
heroes are always kept alive in the minds of the
"Our people lived then on the east bank of the
Mississippi, a little south of where Imnejah-skah,
or White Cliff (St. Paul, Minnesota), now stands.
After they left Mille Lacs they founded several
villages, but finally settled in this spot, whence
the tribes have gradually dispersed. Here a
battle occurred which surpassed all others in
history. It lasted one whole day--the Sacs
and Foxes and the Dakotas against the Ojib-
"An invitation in the usual form of a filled pipe
was brought to the Sioux by a brave of the Sac
and Fox tribe, to make a general attack upon their
common enemy. The Dakota braves quickly
signified their willingness in the same manner, and
it having been agreed to meet upon the St. Croix
river, preparations were immediately begun to
despatch a large war-party.
"Among our people there were many tried war-
riors whose names were known, and every youth of
a suitable age was desirous of emulating them. As
these young novices issued from every camp and
almost every teepee, their mothers, sisters, grand-
fathers and grandmothers were singing for them
the 'strong-heart' songs. An old woman, liv-
ing with her only grandchild, the remnant of a
once large band who had all been killed at
three different times by different parties of
the Ojibways, was conspicuous among the singers.
"Everyone who heard, cast toward her a sym-
pathetic glance, for it was well known that she and
her grandson constituted the remnant of a band
of Sioux, and that her song indicated that her pre-
cious child had attained the age of a warrior, and
was now about to join the war-party, and to seek
a just revenge for the annihilation of his family.
This was Jingling Thunder, also familiarly known
as 'The Little Last.' He was seen to carry with
him some family relics in the shape of war-clubs
"The aged woman's song was something like this:
"Go, my brave Jingling Thunder!
Upon the silvery path
Behold that glittering track--
"And yet, my child, remember
How pitiful to live
Survivor of the young!
'Stablish our name and kin!"
"The Sacs and Foxes were very daring and
confident upon this occasion. They proposed to
the Sioux that they should engage alone with the
enemy at first, and let us see how their braves can
fight! To this our people assented, and they as-
sembled upon the hills to watch the struggle be-
tween their allies and the Ojibways. It seemed to
be an equal fight, and for a time no one could tell
how the contest would end. Young Jingling
Thunder was an impatient spectator, and it was
*The Milky Way--believed by the Dakotas to be the road
travelled by the spirits of departed braves.
hard to keep him from rushing forward to meet
"At last a great shout went up, and the Sacs
and Foxes were seen to be retreating with heavy
loss. Then the Sioux took the field, and were fast
winning the day, when fresh reinforcements came
from the north for the Ojibways. Up to this time
Jingling Thunder had been among the foremost
in the battle, and had engaged in several close en-
counters. But this fresh attack of the Ojibways
was unexpected, and the Sioux were somewhat
tired. Besides, they had told the Sacs and Foxes
to sit upon the hills and rest their weary limbs
and take lessons from their friends the Sioux;
therefore no aid was looked for from any quarter.
"A great Ojibway chief made a fierce onslaught
on the Dakotas. This man Jingling Thunder
now rushed forward to meet. The Ojibway
boastfully shouted to his warriors that he had met
a tender fawn and would reserve to himself the
honor of destroying it. Jingling Thunder, on his
side, exclaimed that he had met the aged bear of
whom he had heard so much, but that he would
need no assistance to overcome him.
"The powerful man flashed his tomahawk
in the air over the youthful warrior's head, but
the brave sprang aside as quick as lightning,
and in the same instant speared his enemy to the
heart. As the Ojibway chief gave a gasping yell
and fell in death, his people lost courage; while
the success of the brave Jingling Thunder
strengthened the hearts of the Sioux, for they im-
mediately followed up their advantage and drove
the enemy out of their territory.
"This was the beginning of Jingling Thunder's
career as a warrior. He afterwards performed even
greater acts of valor. He became the ancestor
of a famous band of the Sioux, of whom your own
father, Ohiyesa, was a member. You have doubt-
less heard his name in connection with many great
events. Yet he was a patient man, and was never
known to quarrel with one of his own nation."
That night I lay awake a long time commit-
ting to memory the tradition I had heard, and the
next day I boasted to my playmate, Little Rain-
bow, about my first lesson from the old story-
teller. To this he replied:
"I would rather have Weyuhah for my teacher.
I think he remembers more than any of the others.
When Weyuhah tells about a battle you can see it
yourself; you can even hear the war-whoop," he
went on with much enthusiasm.
"That is what his friends say of him; but those
who are not his friends say that he brings many
warriors into the battle who were not there," I an-
swered indignantly, for I could not admit that old
Smoky Day could have a rival.
Before I went to him again Uncheedah had
thoughtfully prepared a nice venison roast for
the teacher, and I was proud to take him some-
thing good to eat before beginning his story.
"How," was his greeting, "so you have begun
already, Ohiyesa? Your family were ever feast-
makers as well as warriors."
Having done justice to the tender meat, he
wiped his knife by sticking it into the ground
several times, and put it away in its sheath, after
which he cheerfully recommenced:
"It came to pass not many winters ago that
Wakinyan-tonka, the great medicine man, had a
vision; whereupon a war-party set out for the
Ojibway country. There were three brothers of
your family among them, all of whom were noted
for valor and the chase.
"Seven battles were fought in succession before
they turned to come back. They had secured a
number of the enemy's birch canoes, and the whole
party came floating down the Mississippi, joyous
and happy because of their success.
"But one night the war-chief announced that
there was misfortune at hand. The next day no
one was willing to lead the fleet. The youngest
of the three brothers finally declared that he did
not fear death, for it comes when least expected
and he volunteered to take the lead.
"It happened that this young man had left a
pretty maiden behind him, whose choice needle-
work adorned his quiver. He was very hand-
some as well as brave.
"At daybreak the canoes were again launched
upon the bosom of the great river. All was quiet
--a few birds beginning to sing. Just as the sun
peeped through the eastern tree-tops a great war-
cry came forth from the near shores, and there
was a rain of arrows. The birchen canoes were
pierced, and in the excitement many were cap-
"The Sioux were at a disadvantage. There was
no shelter. Their bow-strings and the feathers
on their arrows were wet. The bold Ojibways
saw their advantage and pressed closer and closer;
but our men fought desperately, half in and half
out of the water, until the enemy was forced at
last to retreat. Nevertheless that was a sad day
for the Wahpeton Sioux; but saddest of all was
"Morning Star, her lover, who led the canoe
fleet that morning, was among the slain. For two
days the Sioux braves searched in the water for
their dead, but his body was not recovered.
"At home, meanwhile, the people had been
alarmed by ill omens. Winona, eldest daughter of
the great chief, one day entered her birch canoe
alone and paddled up the Mississippi, gazing now
into the,water around her, now into the blue sky
above. She thought she heard some young men
giving courtship calls in the distance, just as they
do at night when approaching the teepee of the
beloved; and she knew the voice of Morning
Star well! Surely she could distinguish his call
among the others! Therefore she listened yet
more intently, and looked skyward as her light
canoe glided gently up stream.
"Ah, poor Winona! She saw only six sand-
hill cranes, looking no larger than mosquitoes, as
they flew in circles high up in the sky, going east
where all spirits go. Something said to her:
'Those are the spirits of some of the Sioux braves,
and Morning Star is among them!' Her eye
followed the birds as they traveled in a chain of
"Suddenly she glanced downward. 'What is
this?' she screamed in despair. It was Morn-
ing Star's body, floating down the river; his
quiver, worked by her own hands and now
dyed with his blood, lay upon the surface of
"'Ah, Great Mystery! why do you punish a
poor girl so? Let me go with the spirit of Morn-
"It was evening. The pale moon arose in the
east and the stars were bright. At this very hour
the news of the disaster was brought home by a
returning scout, and the village was plunged in
grief, but Winona's spirit had flown away. No
one ever saw her again.
"This is enough for to-day, my boy. You
may come again to-morrow."
II: The Stone Boy
"Ho, mita koda!" (welcome, friend!)
was Smoky Day's greeting, as I
entered his lodge on the third
day. "I hope you did not dream
of a watery combat with the Ojib-
ways, after the history I repeated
to you yesterday," the old sage continued, with a
complaisant smile playing upon his face.
"No," I said, meekly, "but, on the other hand,
I have wished that the sun might travel a little
faster, so that I could come for another story."
"Well, this time I will tell you one of the kind
we call myths or fairy stories. They are about men
and women who do wonderful things--things that
ordinary people cannot do at all. Sometimes they
are not exactly human beings, for they partake of
the nature of men and beasts, or of men and gods.
I tell you this beforehand, so that you may not ask
any questions, or be puzzled by the inconsistency
of the actors in these old stories.
"Once there were ten brothers who lived with
their only sister, a young maiden of sixteen sum-
mers. She was very skilful at her embroidery, and
her brothers all had beautifully worked quivers and
bows embossed with porcupine quills. They loved
and were kind to her, and the maiden in her turn
loved her brothers dearly, and was content with
her position as their housekeeper. They were
great hunters, and scarcely ever remained at
home during the day, but when they returned
at evening they would relate to her all their
"One night they came home one by one with
their game, as usual, all but the eldest, who did not
return. It was supposed by the other brothers that
he had pursued a deer too far from the lodge, or
perhaps shot more game than he could well carry;
but the sister had a presentiment that something
dreadful had befallen him. She was partially con-
soled by the second brother, who offered to find
the lost one in the morning.
"Accordingly, he went in search of him, while
the rest set out on the hunt as usual. Toward
evening all had returned safely, save the brother
who went in search of the absent. Again, the next
older brother went to look for the others, and he
too returned no more. All the young men disap-
peared one by one in this manner, leaving their
"The maiden's sorrow was very great. She wan-
dered everywhere, weeping and looking for her
brothers, but found no trace of them. One day she
was walking beside a beautiful little stream, whose
clear waters went laughing and singing on their way.
She could see the gleaming pebbles at the bottom,
and one in particular seemed so lovely to her
tear-bedimmed eyes, that she stooped and picked
it up, dropping it within her skin garment
into her bosom. For the first time since her
misfortunes she had forgotten herself and her
"At last she went home, much happier than
she had been, though she could not have told the
reason why. On the following day she sought again
the place where she had found the pebble, and this
time she fell asleep on the banks of the stream,
When she awoke, there lay a beautiful babe in her
"She took it up and kissed it many times. And
the child was a boy, but it was heavy like a stone,
so she called him a 'Little Stone Boy.' The maiden
cried no more, for she was very happy with her
baby. The child was unusually knowing, and
walked almost from its birth.
"One day Stone Boy discovered the bow and
arrows of one of his uncles, and desired to have
them; but his mother cried, and said:
"'Wait, my son, until you are a young man.'
"She made him some little ones, and with these
he soon learned to hunt, and killed small game
enough to support them both. When he had
grown to be a big boy, he insisted upon knowing
whose were the ten bows that still hung upon the
walls of his mother's lodge.
"At last she was obliged to tell him the sad
story of her loss.
"'Mother, I shall go in search of my uncles,'
exclaimed the Stone Boy.
"'But you will be lost like them,' she replied,
'and then I shall die of grief.'
"'No, I shall not be lost. I shall bring your
ten brothers back to you. Look, I will give you
a sign. I will take a pillow, and place it upon end.
Watch this, for as long as I am living the
pillow will stay as I put it. Mother, give me
some food and some moccasins with which to
"Taking the bow of one of his uncles, with its
quiver full of arrows, the Stone Boy departed. As
he journeyed through the forest he spoke to every
animal he met, asking for news of his lost uncles.
Sometimes he called to them at the top of his
voice. Once he thought he heard an answer, so
he walked in the direction of the sound. But it
was only a great grizzly bear who had wantonly
mimicked the boy's call. Then Stone Boy was
"'Was it you who answered my call, you long-
face?' he exclaimed.
"Upon this the latter growled and said:
"'You had better be careful how you address
me, or you may be sorry for what you say!'
"'Who cares for you, you red-eyes, you ugly
thing!' the boy replied; whereupon the grizzly
immediately set upon him.
"But the boy's flesh became as hard as stone,
and the bear's great teeth and claws made no im-
pression upon it. Then he was so dreadfully
heavy; and he kept laughing all the time as if he
were being tickled, which greatly aggravated the
bear. Finally Stone Boy pushed him aside and
sent an arrow to his heart.
"He walked on for some distance until he
came to a huge fallen pine tree, which had evi-
dently been killed by lightning. The ground
near by bore marks of a struggle, and Stone Boy
picked up several arrows exactly like those of his
uncles, which he himself carried.
"While he was examining these things, he
heard a sound like that of a whirlwind, far up in
the heavens. He looked up and saw a black
speck which grew rapidly larger until it became a
dense cloud. Out of it came a flash and then a
thunderbolt. The boy was obliged to wink; and
when he opened his eyes, behold! a stately man
stood before him and challenged him to single
"Stone Boy accepted the challenge and they
grappled with one another. The man from the
clouds was gigantic in stature and very powerful.
But Stone Boy was both strong and unnaturally
heavy and hard to hold. The great warrior from
the sky sweated from his exertions, and there
came a heavy shower. Again and again the
lightnings flashed about them as the two strug-
gled there. At last Stone Boy threw his oppo-
nent, who lay motionless. There was a murmur-
ing sound throughout the heavens and the clouds
rolled swiftly away.
"'Now,' thought the hero, 'this man must have
slain all my uncles. I shall go to his home and find
out what has become of them.' With this he un-
fastened from the dead man's scalp-lock a beauti-
ful bit of scarlet down. He breathed gently upon
it, and as it floated upward he followed into the
"Away went Stone Boy to the country of the
Thunder Birds. It was a beautiful land, with
lakes, rivers, plains and mountains. The young
adventurer found himself looking down from the
top of a high mountain, and the country appeared
to be very populous, for he saw lodges all about
him as far as the eye could reach. He particu-
larly noticed a majestic tree which towered above
all the others, and in its bushy top bore an enor-
mous nest. Stone Boy descended from the moun-
tain and soon arrived at the foot of the tree; but
there were no limbs except those at the top and it
was so tall that he did not attempt to climb it.
He simply took out his bit of down, breathed upon
it and floated gently upward.
"When he was able to look into the nest he saw
there innumerable eggs of various sizes, and all of
a remarkable red color. He was nothing but a
boy after all, and had all a boy's curiosity and reck-
lessness. As he was handling the eggs carelessly,
his notice was attracted to a sudden confusion in
the little village below. All of the people seemed
to be running toward the tree. He mischievously
threw an egg at them, and in the instant that it
broke he saw one of the men drop dead. Then
all began to cry out pitifully, 'Give me my heart!'
"'Ah,' exclaimed Stone Boy, exulting,' so these
are the hearts of the people who destroyed my
uncles! I shall break them all!'
"And he really did break all of the eggs but
four small ones which he took in his hand. Then
he descended the tree, and wandered among the
silent and deserted lodges in search of some trace
of his lost uncles. He found four little boys, the
sole survivors of their race, and these he com-
manded to tell him where their bones were laid.
"They showed him the spot where a heap of
bones was bleaching on the ground. Then he
bade one of the boys bring wood, a second water,
a third stones, and the fourth he sent to cut willow
wands for the sweat lodge. They obeyed, and
Stone Boy built the lodge, made a fire, heated the
stones and collected within the lodge all the bones
of his ten uncles.
"As he poured the water upon the hot stones
faint sounds could be heard from within the magic
bath. These changed to the murmuring of voices,
and finally to the singing of medicine songs.
Stone Boy opened the door and his ten uncles came
forth in the flesh, thanking him and blessing him
for restoring them to life. Only the little finger
of the youngest uncle was missing. Stone Boy
now heartlessly broke the four remaining eggs, and
took the little finger of the largest boy to supply
the missing bone.
"They all returned to earth again and Stone
Boy conducted his uncles to his mother's lodge.
She had never slept during his entire absence, but
watched incessantly the pillow upon which her boy
was wont to rest his head, and by which she was
to know of his safety. Going a little in advance
of the others, he suddenly rushed forward into her
teepee, exclaiming: 'Mother, your ten brothers
are coming--prepare a feast!'
"For some time after this they all lived happily
together. Stone Boy occupied himself with soli-
tary hunting. He was particularly fond of hunt-
ing the fiercer wild animals. He killed them wan-
tonly and brought home only the ears, teeth and
claws as his spoil, and with these he played as he
laughingly recounted his exploits. His mother and
uncles protested, and begged him at least to spare
the lives of those animals held sacred by the Da-
kotas, but Stone Boy relied upon his supernatural
powers to protect him from harm.
"One evening, however, he was noticeably silent
and upon being pressed to give the reason, replied
"'For some days past I have heard the animals
talking of a conspiracy against us. I was going
west the other morning when I heard a crier an-
nouncing a general war upon Stone Boy and his
people. The crier was a Buffalo, going at full
speed from west to east. Again, I heard the Beaver
conversing with the Musk-rat, and both said that
their services were already promised to overflow
the lakes and rivers and cause a destructive flood.
I heard, also, the little Swallow holding a secret
council with all the birds of the air. He said that
he had been appointed a messenger to the Thunder
Birds, and that at a certain signal the doors of the
sky would be opened and rains descend to drown
Stone Boy. Old Badger and the Grizzly Bear
are appointed to burrow underneath our fortifica-
"'However, I am not at all afraid for myself,
but I am anxious for you, Mother, and for my
"'Ugh!' grunted all the uncles, 'we told you
that you would get into trouble by killing so
many of our sacred animals for your own amuse-
"'But,' continued Stone Boy, 'I shall make a
good resistance, and I expect you all to help me.'
"Accordingly they all worked under his direc-
tion in preparing for the defence. First of all, he
threw a pebble into the air, and behold a great
rocky wall around their teepee. A second, third,
fourth and fifth pebble became other walls with-
out the first. From the sixth and seventh were
formed two stone lodges, one upon the other.
The uncles. meantime, made numbers of bows and
quivers full of arrows, which were ranged at con-
venient distances along the tops of the walls. His
mother prepared great quantities of food and made
many moccasins for her boy, who declared that
he would defend the fortress alone.
"At last they saw the army of beasts advancing,
each tribe by itself and commanded by a leader of
extraordinary size. The onset was terrific. They
flung themselves against the high walls with sav-
age cries, while the badgers and other burrowing
animals ceaselessly worked to undermine them.
Stone Boy aimed his sharp arrows with such
deadly effect that his enemies fell by thousands.
So great was their loss that the dead bodies of the
animals formed a barrier higher than the first, and
the armies retired in confusion.
"But reinforcements were at hand. The rain
fell in torrents; the beavers had dammed all the
rivers and there was a great flood. The besieged
all retreated into the innermost lodge, but the
water poured in through the burrows made by the
badgers and gophers, and rose until Stone Boy's
mother and his ten uncles were all drowned.
Stone Boy himself could not be entirely destroyed,
but he was overcome by his enemies and left
half buried in the earth, condemned never to
walk again, and there we find him to this day.
"This was because he abused his strength, and
destroyed for mere amusement the lives of the
creatures given him for use only."
Evening in the Lodge
I: Evening in the Lodge
I HAD been skating on that part
of the lake where there was an
overflow, and came home some-
what cold. I cannot say just
how cold it was, but it must have
been intensely so, for the trees
were cracking all about me like pistol shots. I
did not mind, because I was wrapped up in my
buffalo robe with the hair inside, and a wide
leather belt held it about my loins. My skates
were nothing more than strips of basswood bark
bound upon my feet.
I had taken off my frozen moccasins and put on
dry ones in their places.
"Where have you been and what have you
been doing?" Uncheedah asked as she placed
before me some roast venison in a wooden bowl.
"Did you see any tracks of moose or bear ?"
"No, grandmother, I have only been playing
at the lower end of the lake. I have something to
ask you," I said, eating my dinner and supper to-
gether with all the relish of a hungry boy who has
been skating in the cold for half a day.
"I found this feather, grandmother, and I
could not make out what tribe wear feathers
in that shape."
"Ugh, I am not a man; you had better ask
your uncle. Besides, you should know it yourself
by this time. You are now old enough to think
about eagle feathers."
I felt mortified by this reminder of my ignor-
ance. It seemed a reflection on me that I was not
ambitious enough to have found all such matters
"Uncle, you will tell me, won't you?" I said,
in an appealing tone.
"I am surprised, my boy, that you should fail
to recognize this feather. It is a Cree medicine
feather, and not a warrior's."
"Then," I said, with much embarrassment,
you had better tell me again, uncle, the lan-
guage of the feathers. I have really forgotten it all."
The day was now gone; the moon had risen;
but the cold had not lessened, for the trunks
of the trees were still snapping all around our tee-
pee, which was lighted and warmed by the im-
mense logs which Uncheedah's industry had pro-
vided. My uncle, White Foot-print, now under-
took to explain to me the significance of the
"The eagle is the most war-like bird," he be-
gan, "and the most kingly of all birds; besides,
his feathers are unlike any others, and these are
the reasons why they are used by our people to
signify deeds of bravery.
"It is not true that when a man wears a feather
bonnet, each one of the feathers represents the kill-
ing of a foe or even a coup. When a man wears
an eagle feather upright upon his head, he is sup-
posed to have counted one of four coups upon his
"Well, then, a coup does not mean the killing
of an enemy?"
"No, it is the after-stroke or touching of the
body after he falls. It is so ordered, because often-
times the touching of an enemy is much more dif-
ficult to accomplish than the shooting of one from
a distance. It requires a strong heart to face the
whole body of the enemy, in order to count the
coup on the fallen one, who lies under cover of his
kinsmen's fire. Many a brave man has been lost
in the attempt.
"When a warrior approaches his foe, dead
or alive, he calls upon the other warriors to wit-
ness by saying: 'I, Fearless Bear, your brave,
again perform the brave deed of counting the
first (or second or third or fourth) coup upon the
body of the bravest of your enemies.' Naturally,
those who are present will see the act and be able
to testify to it. When they return, the heralds,
as you know, announce publicly all such deeds of
valor, which then become a part of the man's war
record. Any brave who would wear the eagle's
feather must give proof of his right to do so.
"When a brave is wounded in the same battle
where he counted his coup, he wears the feather
hanging downward. When he is wounded, but
makes no count, he trims his feather and in that
case, it need not be an eagle feather. All other
feathers are merely ornaments. When a warrior
wears a feather with a round mark, it means that
he slew his enemy. When the mark is cut into
the feather and painted red, it means that he took
"A brave who has been successful in ten bat-
tles is entitled to a war-bonnet; and if he is a rec-
ognized leader, he is permitted to wear one with
long, trailing plumes. Also those who have
counted many coups may tip the ends of the feath-
ers with bits of white or colored down. Some-
times the eagle feather is tipped with a strip of
weasel skin; that means the wearer had the honor
of killing, scalping and counting the first coup upon
the enemy all at the same time.
"This feather you have found was worn by a
Cree--it is indiscriminately painted. All other
feathers worn by the common Indians mean noth-
ing," he added.
"Tell me, uncle, whether it would be proper
for me to wear any feathers at all if I have never
gone upon the war-path."
"You could wear any other kind of feathers,
but not an eagle's," replied my uncle, "although
sometimes one is worn on great occasions by the
child of a noted man, to indicate the father's dig-
nity and position."
The fire had gone down somewhat, so I pushed
the embers together and wrapped my robe more
closely about me. Now and then the ice on the
lake would burst with a loud report like thunder.
Uncheedah was busy re-stringing one of uncle's
old snow-shoes. There were two different kinds
that he wore; one with a straight toe and long;
the other shorter and with an upturned toe. She
had one of the shoes fastened toe down, between
sticks driven into the ground, while she put in
some new strings and tightened the others. Aunt
Four Stars was beading a new pair of moccasins.
Wabeda, the dog, the companion of my boy-
hood days, was in trouble because he insisted upon
bringing his extra bone into the teepee, while
Uncheedah was determined that he should not.
I sympathized with him, because I saw the matter
as he did. If he should bury it in the snow out-
side, I knew Shunktokecha (the coyote) would
surely steal it. I knew just how anxious Wabeda
was about his bone. It was a fat bone--I mean
a bone of a fat deer; and all Indians know how
much better they are than the other kind.
Wabeda always hated to see a good thing go to
waste. His eyes spoke words to me, for he and I
had been friends for a long time. When I was
afraid of anything in the woods, he would get in
front of me at once and gently wag his tail. He
always made it a point to look directly in my face.
His kind, large eyes gave me a thousand assur-
ances. When I was perplexed, he would hang
about me until he understood the situation.
Many times I believed he saved my life by utter-
ing the dog word in time.
Most animals, even the dangerous grizzly, do not
care to be seen when the two-legged kind and his
dog are about. When I feared a surprise by a bear
or a grey wolf, I would say to Wabeda: "Now,
my dog, give your war-whoop:" and immediately
he would sit up on his haunches and bark "to beat
the band" as you white boys say. When a bear
or wolf heard the noise, he would be apt to
Sometimes I helped Wabeda and gave a war-
whoop of my own. This drove the deer away
as well, but it relieved my mind.
When he appealed to me on this occasion, there-
fore, I said: "Come, my dog, let us bury your
bone so that no Shunktokecha will take it."
He appeared satisfied with my suggestion, so we
went out together.
We dug in the snow and buried our bone
wrapped up in a piece of old blanket, partly
burned; then we covered it up again with snow.
We knew that the coyote would not touch any-
thing burnt. I did not put it up a tree because
Wabeda always objected to that, and I made it a
point to consult his wishes whenever I could.
I came in and Wabeda followed me with two
Back to Full Books