Indian Why Stories
Frank B. Linderman
Part 1 out of 3
SPARKS FROM WAR EAGLE'S
FRANK B. LINDERMAN
[CO SKEE SEE CO COT]
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK TO MY FRIEND
CHARLES M. RUSSELL
THE COWBOY ARTIST
GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL
THE INDIAN'S FRIEND
AND TO ALL OTHERS WHO HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED OLD MONTANA
FOR I HOLD THEM ALL AS KIN
WHO HAVE BUILDED FIRES WHERE NATURE
WEARS NO MAKE-UP ON HER SKIN
THE great Northwest--that wonderful fron-
tier that called to itself a world's hardiest
spirits--is rapidly becoming a settled country;
and before the light of civilizing influences,
the blanket-Indian has trailed the buffalo over
the divide that time has set between the pioneer
and the crowd. With his passing we have lost
much of the aboriginal folk-lore, rich in its
fairy-like characters, and its relation to the
lives of a most warlike people.
There is a wide difference between folk-lore
of the so-called Old World and that of America.
Transmitted orally through countless genera-
tions, the folk-stories of our ancestors show
many evidences of distortion and of change in
material particulars; but the Indian seems to
have been too fond of nature and too proud of
tradition to have forgotten or changed the
teachings of his forefathers. Childlike in sim-
plicity, beginning with creation itself, and
reaching to the whys and wherefores of nature's moods
and eccentricities, these tales impress
me as being well worth saving.
The Indian has always been a lover of nature
and a close observer of her many moods. The
habits of the birds and animals, the voices of
the winds and waters, the flickering of the
shadows, and the mystic radiance of the moon-
light--all appealed to him. Gradually, he for-
mulated within himself fanciful reasons for the
myriad manifestations of the Mighty Mother
and her many children; and a poet by instinct,
he framed odd stories with which to convey his
explanations to others. And these stories were
handed down from father to son, with little
variation, through countless generations, until
the white man slaughtered the buffalo, took to
himself the open country, and left the red man
little better than a beggar. But the tribal
story-teller has passed, and only here and there
is to be found a patriarch who loves the legends
of other days.
OLD-man, or Napa, as he is called by the
tribes of Blackfeet, is the strangest character
in Indian folk-lore. Sometimes he appears as
a god or creator, and again as a fool, a thief,
or a clown. But to the Indian, Napa is not the
Deity; he occupies a somewhat subordinate
position, possessing many attributes which have
sometimes caused him to be confounded with
Manitou, himself. In all of this there is a curi-
ous echo of the teachings of the ancient Aryans,
whose belief it was that this earth was not the
direct handiwork of the Almighty, but of a
mere member of a hierarchy of subordinate gods.
The Indian possesses the highest veneration for
the Great God, who has become familiar to the
readers of Indian literature as Manitou. No
idle tales are told of Him, nor would any Indian
mention Him irreverently. But with Napa it
is entirely different; he appears entitled to no
reverence; he is a strange mixture of the fal-
lible human and the powerful under-god. He
made many mistakes; was seldom to be trusted;
and his works and pranks run from the sub-
lime to the ridiculous. In fact, there are many
stories in which Napa figures that will not
bear telling at all.
I propose to tell what I know of these legends,
keeping as near as possible to the Indian's
style of story-telling, and using only tales told
me by the older men of the Blackfeet, Chip-
pewa, and Cree tribes.
WHY THE CHIPMUNK'S BACK IS STRIPED
HOW THE DUCKS GOT THEIR FINE FEATHERS
WHY THE KINGFISHER ALWAYS WEARS A WAR-BONNET
WHY THE CURLEW S BILL IS LONG AND CROOKED
OLD-MAN REMARKS THE WORLD
WHY BLACKFEET NEVER KILL MICE
HOW THE OTTER SKIN BECAME GREAT MEDICINE
OLD-MAN STEALS THE SUN'S LEGGINGS
OLD-MAN AND HIS CONSCIENCE
WHY THE NIGHT-HAWK'S WINGS ARE BEAUTIFUL
WHY THE MOUNTAIN-LION IS LONG AND LEAN
THE MOON AND THE GREAT SNAKE
WHY THE DEER HAS NO GALL
WHY INDIANS WHIP THE BUFFALO-BERRIES FROM THE BUSHES
OLD-MAN AND THE FOX
WHY THE BIRCH-TREE WEARS THE SLASHES IN ITS BARK
MISTAKES OF OLD-MAN
HOW THE MAN FOUND HIS MATE
It was the moon when leaves were falling,
for Napa had finished painting them for their
dance with the North wind. Just over the
ragged mountain range the big moon hung in
an almost starless sky, and in shadowy outline
every peak lay upon the plain like a giant pat-
tern. Slowly the light spread and as slowly
the shadows stole away until the October moon
looked down on the great Indian camp--a hun-
dred lodges, each as perfect in design as the
tusks of a young silver-tip, and all looking
ghostly white in the still of the autumn night.
Back from the camp, keeping within the
ever-moving shadows, a buffalo-wolf skulked
to a hill overlooking the scene, where he stopped
to look and listen, his body silhouetted against
the sky. A dog howled occasionally, and the
weird sound of a tom-tom accompanying the
voice of a singer in the Indian village reached
the wolf's ears, but caused him no alarm; for
not until a great herd of ponies, under the eyes
of the night-herder, drifted too close, did he
Near the centre of the camp was the big
painted lodge of War Eagle, the medicine-man,
and inside had gathered his grandchildren, to
whom he was telling the stories of the creation
and of the strange doings of Napa, the creator.
Being a friend of the old historian, I entered un-
hindered, and with the children listened until
the hour grew late, and on the lodge-wall the
dying fire made warning shadows dance.
WHY THE CHIPMUNK'S BACK IS STRIPED
What a splendid lodge it was, and how
grand War Eagle looked leaning against
his back-rest in the firelight! From the tri-
pod that supported the back-rest were sus-
pended his weapons and his medicine-bundle,
each showing the wonderful skill of the maker.
The quiver that held the arrows was combined
with a case for the bow, and colored quills of
the porcupine had been deftly used to make it
a thing of beauty. All about the lodge hung
the strangely painted linings, and the fire-
light added richness to both color and design.
War Eagle's hair was white, for he had known
many snows; but his eyes were keen and bright
as a boy's, as he gazed in pride at his grand-
children across the lodge-fire. He was wise,
and had been in many battles, for his was a
warlike tribe. He knew all about the world
and the people in it. He was deeply religious,
and every Indian child loved him for his good-
ness and brave deeds.
About the fire were Little Buffalo Calf, a
boy of eleven years; Eyes-in-the-Water, his
sister, a girl of nine; Fine Bow, a cousin of
these, aged ten, and Bluebird, his sister, who
was but eight years old.
Not a sound did the children make while
the old warrior filled his great pipe, and only
the snapping of the lodge-fire broke the still-
ness. Solemnly War Eagle lit the tobacco
that had been mixed with the dried inner bark
of the red willow, and for several minutes
smoked in silence, while the children's eyes
grew large with expectancy. Finally he spoke:
"Napa, OLD-man, is very old indeed. He
made this world, and all that is on it. He
came out of the south, and travelled toward
the north, making the birds and animals as
he passed. He made the perfumes for the
winds to carry about, and he even made the
war-paint for the people to use. He was a
busy worker, but a great liar and thief, as I
shall show you after I have told you more
about him. It was OLD-man who taught the
beaver all his cunning. It was OLD-man who
told the bear to go to sleep when the snow grew
deep in winter, and it was he who made the
curlew's bill so long and crooked, although it
was not that way at first. OLD-man used to
live on this world with the animals and birds.
There was no other man or woman then, and
he was chief over all the animal-people and
the bird-people. He could speak the lan-
guage of the robin, knew the words of the
bear, and understood the sign-talk of the
beaver, too. He lived with the wolves, for
they are the great hunters. Even to-day we
make the same sign for a smart man as we
make for the wolf; so you see he taught them
much while he lived with them. OLD-man
made a great many mistakes in making things,
as I shall show you after a while; yet he worked
until he had everything good. But he often
made great mischief and taught many wicked
things. These I shall tell you about some
day. Everybody was afraid of OLD-man and
his tricks and lies--even the animal-people,
before he made men and women. He used to
visit the lodges of our people and make trouble
long ago, but he got so wicked that Manitou
grew angry at him, and one day in the month
of roses, he built a lodge for OLD-man and told
him that he must stay in it forever. Of course
he had to do that, and nobody knows where
the lodge was built, nor in what country, but
that is why we never see him as our grand-
fathers did, long, long ago.
"What I shall tell you now happened when
the world was young. It was a fine sum-
mer day, and OLD-man was travelling in the
forest. He was going north and straight as
an arrow--looking at nothing, hearing noth-
ing. No one knows what he was after, to
this day. The birds and forest-people spoke
politely to him as he passed but he answered
none of them. The Pine-squirrel, who is al-
ways trying to find out other people's business,
asked him where he was going, but OLD-man
wouldn't tell him. The woodpecker hammered
on a dead tree to make him look that way,
but he wouldn't. The Elk-people and the Deer-
people saw him pass, and all said that he
must be up to some mischief or he would stop
and talk a while. The pine-trees murmured,
and the bushes whispered their greeting, but
he kept his eyes straight ahead and went on
"The sun was low when OLD-man heard a
groan" (here War Eagle groaned to show the
children how it sounded), "and turning about
he saw a warrior lying bruised and bleeding
near a spring of cold water. OLD-man knelt
beside the man and asked: 'Is there war in this
"'Yes,' answered the man. 'This whole
day long we have fought to kill a Person, but
we have all been killed, I am afraid.'
"'That is strange,' said OLD-man; 'how can
one Person kill so many men? Who is this
Person, tell me his name!' but the man didn't
answer--he was dead. When OLD-man saw
that life had left the wounded man, he drank
from the spring, and went on toward the north,
but before long he heard a noise as of men
fighting, and he stopped to look and listen.
Finally he saw the bushes bend and sway near
a creek that flowed through the forest. He
crawled toward the spot, and peering through
the brush saw a great Person near a pile of
dead men, with his back against a pine-tree.
The Person was full of arrows, and he was
pulling them from his ugly body. Calmly the
Person broke the shafts of the arrows, tossed
them aside, and stopped the blood flow with
a brush of his hairy hand. His head was
large and fierce-looking, and his eyes were
small and wicked. His great body was larger
than that of a buffalo-bull and covered with
scars of many battles.
"OLD-man went to the creek, and with his
buffalo-horn cup brought some water to the
Person, asking as he approached:
"'Who are you, Person? Tell me, so I
can make you a fine present, for you are great
"'I am Bad Sickness,' replied the Person.
'Tribes I have met remember me and always
will, for their bravest warriors are afraid when I
make war upon them. I come in the night or
I visit their camps in daylight. It is always the
same; they are frightened and I kill them easily.'
" 'Ho!' said OLD-man, 'tell me how to make
Bad Sickness, for I often go to war myself.'
He lied; for he was never in a battle in his life.
The Person shook his ugly head and then OLD-
" 'If you will tell me how to make Bad Sick-
ness I will make you small and handsome.
When you are big, as you now are, it is very
hard to make a living; but when you are small,
little food will make you fat. Your living
will be easy because I will make your food
"'Good,' said the Person, 'I will do it;
you must kill the fawns of the deer and the
calves of the elk when they first begin to live.
When you have killed enough of them you
must make a robe of their skins. Whenever
you wear that robe and sing--"now you sicken,
now you sicken," the sickness will come--
that is all there is to it. '
"'Good,' said OLD-man, 'now lie down to
sleep and I will do as I promised.'
"The Person went to sleep and OLD-man
breathed upon him until he grew so tiny that
he laughed to see how small he had made him.
Then he took out his paint sack and striped
the Person's back with black and yellow. It
looked bright and handsome and he waked the
Person, who was now a tiny animal with a
bushy tail to make him pretty.
"'Now,' said OLD-man, 'you are the Chip-
munk, and must always wear those striped
clothes. All of your children and their chil-
dren, must wear them, too.'
"After the Chipmunk had looked at him-
self, and thanked OLD-man for his new clothes,
he wanted to know how he could make his
living, and OLD-man told him what to eat, and
said he must cache the pine-nuts when the
leaves turned yellow, so he would not have
to work in the winter time.
"'You are a cousin to the Pine-squirrel,'
said OLD-man, 'and you will hunt and hide
as he does. You will be spry and your living will
be easy to make if you do as I have told you.'
"He taught the Chipmunk his language
and his signs, showed him where to live, and
then left him, going on toward the north again.
He kept looking for the cow-elk and doe-deer,
and it was not long before he had killed enough
of their young to make the robe as the Person
told him, for they were plentiful before the
white man came to live on the world. He
found a shady place near a creek, and there
made the robe that would make Bad Sick-
ness whenever he sang the queer song, but
the robe was plain, and brown in color. He
didn't like the looks of it. Suddenly he thought
how nice the back of the Chipmunk looked
after he had striped it with his paints. He
got out his old paint sack and with the same
colors made the robe look very much like
the clothes of the Chipmunk. He was proud
of the work, and liked the new robe better;
but being lazy, he wanted to save himself
work, so he sent the South-wind to tell all
the doe-deer and the cow-elk to come to him.
They came as soon as they received the mes-
sage, for they were afraid of OLD-man and
always tried to please him. When they had
all reached the place where OLD-man was he
said to them:
"'Do you see this robe?'
"'Yes, we see it,' they replied.
"'Well, I have made it from the skins of
your children, and then painted it to look
like the Chipmunk's back, for I like the looks
of that Person's clothes. I shall need many
more of these robes during my life; and every
time I make one, I don't want to have to spend
my time painting it; so from now on and for-
ever your children shall be born in spotted
clothes. I want it to be that way to save me
work. On all the fawns there must be spots
of white like this (here he pointed to the spots
on Bad Sickness's robe) and on all of the elk-
calves the spots shall not be so white and
shall be in rows and look rather yellow.' Again
he showed them his robe, that they might see
just what he wanted.
"'Remember,' he said, 'after this I don't
want to see any of your children running about
wearing plain clothing, because that
would mean more painting for me. Now go away,
and remember what I have said, lest I make
you sick. '
"The cow-elk and the doe-deer were glad
to know that their children's clothes would
be beautiful, and they went away to their
little ones who were hidden in the tall grass,
where the wolves and mountain-lions would
have a hard time finding them; for you know
that in the tracks of the fawn there is no scent,
and the wolf cannot trail him when he is alone.
That is the way Manitou takes care of the
weak, and all of the forest-people know about
"Now you know why the Chipmunk's back
is striped, and why the fawn and elk-calf wear
their pretty clothes.
"I hear the owls, and it is time for all young
men who will some day be great warriors to
go to bed, and for all young women to seek
rest, lest beauty go away forever. Ho!"
HOW THE DUCKS GOT THEIR FINE FEATHERS
Another night had come, and I made
my way toward War Eagle's lodge. In
the bright moonlight the dead leaves of the
quaking-aspen fluttered down whenever the
wind shook the trees; and over the village
great flocks of ducks and geese and swan passed
in a never-ending procession, calling to each
other in strange tones as they sped away toward
the waters that never freeze.
In the lodge War Eagle waited for his grand-
children, and when they had entered, happily,
he laid aside his pipe and said:
"The Duck-people are travelling to-night
just as they have done since the world was
young. They are going away from winter
because they cannot make a living when ice
covers the rivers.
"You have seen the Duck-people often.
You have noticed that they wear fine clothes
but you do not know how they got them; so
I will tell you to-night.
"It was in the fall when leaves are yellow
that it happened, and long, long ago. The
Duck-people had gathered to go away, just as
they are doing now. The buck-deer was com-
ing down from the high ridges to visit friends
in the lowlands along the streams as they have
always done. On a lake OLD-man saw the
Duck-people getting ready to go away, and
at that time they all looked alike; that is, they
all wore the same colored clothes. The loons
and the geese and the ducks were there and
playing in the sunlight. The loons were laugh-
ing loudly and the diving was fast and merry
to see. On the hill where OLD-man stood there
was a great deal of moss, and he began to tear
it from the ground and roll it into a great ball.
When he had gathered all he needed he shoul-
dered the load and started for the shore of
the lake, staggering under the weight of the
great burden. Finally the Duck-people saw
him coming with his load of moss and began
to swim away from the shore.
"'Wait, my brothers!' he called, 'I have a
big load here, and I am going to give you
people a dance. Come and help me get things
"'Don't you do it,' said the gray goose to
the others; 'that's OLD-man and he is up to
something bad, I am sure.'
"So the loon called to OLD-man and said
they wouldn't help him at all.
"Right near the water OLD-man dropped his
ball of moss and then cut twenty long poles.
With the poles he built a lodge which he covered
with the moss, leaving a doorway facing the
lake. Inside the lodge he built a fire and
when it grew bright he cried:
"'Say, brothers, why should you treat me
this way when I am here to give you a big
dance? Come into the lodge,' but they
wouldn't do that. Finally OLD-man began to
sing a song in the duck-talk, and keep time
with his drum. The Duck-people liked the
music, and swam a little nearer to the shore,
watching for trouble all the time, but OLD-
man sang so sweetly that pretty soon they
waddled up to the lodge and went inside.
The loon stopped near the door, for he be-
lieved that what the gray goose had said was
true, and that OLD-man was up to some mis-
chief. The gray goose, too, was careful to
stay close to the door but the ducks reached
all about the fire. Politely, OLD-
man passed the pipe, and they all smoked with him be-
cause it is wrong not to smoke in a person's
lodge if the pipe is offered, and the Duck-
people knew that.
"'Well,' said Old-man, 'this is going to be
the Blind-dance, but you will have to be painted
"'Brother Mallard, name the colors--tell
how you want me to paint you.'
"'Well,' replied the mallard drake, 'paint
my head green, and put a white circle around
my throat, like a necklace. Besides that, I
want a brown breast and yellow legs: but I
don't want my wife painted that way.'
"OLD-man painted him just as he asked,
and his wife, too. Then the teal and the
wood-duck (it took a long time to paint the
wood-duck) and the spoonbill and the blue-
bill and the canvasback and the goose and
the brant and the loon--all chose their paint.
OLD-man painted them all just as they wanted
him to, and kept singing all the time. They
looked very pretty in the firelight, for it was
night before the painting was done.
"'Now,' said OLD-man, 'as this is the Blind-
dance, when I beat upon my drum you must
all shut your eyes tight and circle around the
fire as I sing. Every one that peeks will have
sore eyes forever.'
"Then the Duck-people shut their eyes and
OLD-man began to sing: 'Now you come, ducks,
now you come--tum-tum, tum; tum-tum,
"Around the fire they came with their eyes
still shut, and as fast as they reached OLD-man,
the rascal would seize them, and wring their
necks. Ho! things were going fine for OLD-
man, but the loon peeked a little, and saw
what was going on; several others heard the
fluttering and opened their eyes, too. The
loon cried out, 'He's killing us--let us fly,'
and they did that. There was a great squawk-
ing and quacking and fluttering as the Duck-
people escaped from the lodge. Ho! but OLD-
man was angry, and he kicked the back of
the loon-duck, and that is why his feet turn
from his body when he walks or tries to stand.
Yes, that is why he is a cripple to-day.
"And all of the Duck-people that peeked
that night at the dance still have sore eyes--
just as OLD-man told them they would have.
Of course they hurt and smart no more but
they stay red to pay for peeking, and always
will. You have seen the mallard and the
rest of the Duck-people. You can see that
the colors OLD-man painted so long ago are
still bright and handsome, and they will stay
that way forever and forever. Ho!"
WHY THE KINGFISHER ALWAYS
WEARS A WAR-BONNET
Autumn nights on the upper Missouri
river in Montana are indescribably beau-
tiful, and under their spell imagination is a
constant companion to him who lives in wil-
derness, lending strange, weird echoes to the
voice of man or wolf, and unnatural shapes
in shadow to commonplace forms.
The moon had not yet climbed the distant
mountain range to look down on the humbler
lands when I started for War Eagle's lodge; and
dimming the stars in its course, the milky-
way stretched across the jewelled sky. "The
wolf's trail," the Indians call this filmy streak
that foretells fair weather, and to-night it
promised much, for it seemed plainer and
brighter than ever before.
"How--how!" greeted War Eagle, making
the sign for me to be seated near him, as I
entered his lodge. Then he passed me his
pipe and together we smoked until the chil-
Entering quietly, they seated themselves in
exactly the same positions they had occupied
on the previous evenings, and patiently waited
in silence. Finally War Eagle laid the pipe
away and said: "Ho! Little Buffalo Calf,
throw a big stick on the fire and I will tell
you why the Kingfisher wears a war-bonnet."
The boy did as he was bidden. The sparks
jumped toward the smoke-hole and the blaze
lighted up the lodge until it was bright as day-
time, when War Eagle continued:
"You have often seen Kingfisher at his fish-
ing along the rivers, I know; and you have
heard him laugh in his queer way, for he laughs
a good deal when he flies. That same laugh
nearly cost him his life once, as you will see.
I am sure none could see the Kingfisher without
noticing his great head-dress, but not many
know how he came by it because it happened
so long ago that most men have forgotten.
"It was one day in the winter-time when
OLD-man and the Wolf were hunting. The
snow covered the land and ice was on all of the
rivers. It was so cold that OLD-man wrapped
his robe close about himself and his breath
showed white in the air. Of course the Wolf
was not cold; wolves never get cold as men
do. Both OLD-man and the Wolf were hungry
for they had travelled far and had killed no
meat. OLD-man was complaining and grum-
bling, for his heart is not very good. It is
never well to grumble when we are doing our
best, because it will do no good and makes us
weak in our hearts. When our hearts are
weak our heads sicken and our strength goes
away. Yes, it is bad to grumble.
"When the sun was getting low OLD-man
and the Wolf came to a great river. On the
ice that covered the water, they saw four fat
"'There is meat,' said the Wolf; 'wait here
and I will try to catch one of those fellows.'
"'No!--No!' cried OLD-man, 'do not run
after the Otter on the ice, because there are
air-holes in all ice that covers rivers, and you
may fall in the water and die.' OLD-man
didn't care much if the Wolf did drown. He
was afraid to be left alone and hungry in the
snow--that was all.
"'Ho!' said the Wolf, 'I am swift of foot
and my teeth are white and sharp. What
chance has an Otter against me? Yes, I will
go,' and he did.
"Away ran the Otters with the Wolf after
them, while OLD-man stood on the bank and
shivered with fright and cold. Of course the
Wolf was faster than the Otter, but he was
running on the ice, remember, and slipping
a good deal. Nearer and nearer ran the Wolf.
In fact he was just about to seize an Otter,
when SPLASH!--into an air-hole all the
Otters went. Ho ! the Wolf was going so fast
he couldn't stop, and SWOW! into the air-
hole he went like a badger after mice, and the
current carried him under the ice. The Otters
knew that hole was there. That was their
country and they were running to reach that
same hole all the time, but the Wolf didn't
"Old-man saw it all and began to cry and
wail as women do. Ho! but he made a great
fuss. He ran along the bank of the river,
stumbling in the snowdrifts, and crying like
a woman whose child is dead; but it was be-
cause he didn't want to be left in that coun-
try alone that he cried--not because he
loved his brother, the Wolf. On and on he
ran until he came to a place where the water
was too swift to freeze, and there he waited and
watched for the Wolf to come out from under
the ice, crying and wailing and making an
awful noise, for a man.
"Well--right there is where the thing hap-
pened. You see, Kingfisher can't fish through
the ice and he knows it, too; so he always
finds places like the one OLD-man found. He
was there that day, sitting on the limb of a
birch-tree, watching for fishes, and when OLD-
man came near to Kingfisher's tree, crying
like an old woman, it tickled the Fisher so
much that he laughed that queer, chattering
"OLD-man heard him and--Ho! but he was
angry. He looked about to see who was
laughing at him and that made Kingfisher
laugh again, longer and louder than before.
This time OLD-man saw him and SWOW! he
threw his war-club at Kingfisher; tried to kill
the bird for laughing. Kingfisher ducked so
quickly that OLD-man's club just grazed the
feathers on his head, making them stand up
"'There,' said OLD-man, 'I'll teach you to
laugh at me when I'm sad. Your feathers are
standing up on the top of your head now
and they will stay that way, too. As long
as you live you must wear a head-dress, to
pay for your laughing, and all your children
must do the same.
"This was long, long ago, but the King-
fishers have not forgotten, and they all wear
war-bonnets, and always will as long as there
"Now I will say good night, and when
the sun sleeps again I will tell you why the
curlew's bill is so long and crooked. Ho!"
WHY THE CURLEW'S BILL IS LONG AND CROOKED
When we reached War Eagle's lodge
we stopped near the door, for the old
fellow was singing--singing some old, sad
song of younger days and keeping time with
his tom-tom. Somehow the music made me
sad and not until it had ceased, did we enter.
"How! How!"--he greeted us, with no trace
of the sadness in his voice that I de-
tected in his song.
"You have come here to-night to learn why
the Curlew's bill is so long and crooked. I
will tell you, as I promised, but first I must
In silence we waited until the pipe was laid
aside, then War Eagle began:
"By this time you know that OLD-man was
not always wise, even if he did make the
world, and all that is on it. He often got into
trouble but something always happened to get
him out of it. What I shall tell you now
will show you that it is not well to try to do
things just because others do them. They
may be right for others, and wrong for us, but
OLD-man didn't understand that, you see.
"One day he saw some mice playing and
went near to watch them. It was spring-
time, and the frost was just coming out of
the ground. A big flat rock was sticking
out of a bank near a creek, and the sun had
melted the frost from the earth about it, loos-
ening it, so that it was about to fall. The Chief-
Mouse would sing a song, while all the other
mice danced, and then the chief would cry
'now!' and all the mice would run past the
big rock. On the other side, the Chief-Mouse
would sing again, and then say 'now!'--back
they would come--right under the danger-
ous rock. Sometimes little bits of dirt would
crumble and fall near the rock. as though
warning the mice that the rock was going to
fall, but they paid no attention to the warn-
ing, and kept at their playing. Finally OLD-
"'Say, Chief-Mouse, I want to try that.
I want to play that game. I am a good run-
"He wasn't, you know, but he thought he
could run. That is often where we make
great mistakes--when we try to do things
we were not intended to do.
"'No--no!' cried the Chief-Mouse, as OLD-
man prepared to make the race past the rock.
'No!--No!--you will shake the ground.
You are too heavy, and the rock may fall and
kill you. My people are light of foot and
fast. We are having a good time, but if you
should try to do as we are doing you might
get hurt, and that would spoil our fun.'
"'Ho!' said OLD-man, 'stand back! I'll
show you what a runner I am.'
"He ran like a grizzly bear, and shook the
ground with his weight. Swow!--came the
great rock on top of OLD-man and held him
fast in the mud. My! how he screamed and
called for aid. All the Mice-people ran away
to find help. It was a long time before the
Mice-people found anybody, but they finally
found the Coyote, and told him what had
happened. Coyote didn't like OLD-man very
much, but he said he would go and see what
he could do, and he did. The Mice-people
showed him the way, and when they all reached
the spot--there was OLD-man deep in the
mud, with the big rock on his back. He was
angry and was saying things people should not
say, for they do no good and make the mind
"Coyote said: 'Keep still, you big baby.
Quit kicking about so. You are splashing
mud in my eyes. How can I see with my eyes
full of mud? Tell me that. I am going to
try to help you out of your trouble.' He
tried but OLD-man insulted Coyote. and called
him a name that is not good, so the Coyote
said, 'Well, stay there,' and went away.
"Again OLD-man began to call for helpers,
and the Curlew, who was flying over, saw the
trouble, and came down to the ground to help.
In those days Curlew had a short, stubby bill,
and he thought that he could break the rock
by pecking it. He pecked and pecked away
without making any headway, till OLD-man
grew angry at him, as he did at the Coyote.
The harder the Curlew worked, the worse OLD-
man scolded him. OLD-man lost his temper
altogether, you see, which is a bad thing to do,
for we lose our friends with it, often. Temper
is like a bad dog about a lodge--no friends
will come to see us when he is about.
"Curlew did his best but finally said: 'I'll
go and try to find somebody else to help you.
I guess I am too small and weak. I shall come
back to you.' He was standing close to OLD-
man when he spoke, and OLD-man reached out
and grabbed the Curlew by the bill. Curlew
began to scream--oh, my--oh, my--oh,
my--as you still hear them in the air when it
is morning. OLD-man hung onto the bill and
finally pulled it out long and slim, and bent
it downward, as it is to-day. Then he let go
and laughed at the Curlew.
"'You are a queer-looking bird now. That
is a homely bill, but you shall always wear it
and so shall all of your children, as long as
there are Curlews in the world.'
"I have forgotten who it was that got OLD-
man out of his trouble, but it seems to me it
was the bear. Anyhow he did get out some-
how, and lived to make trouble, until Mani-
tou grew tired of him.
"There are good things that OLD-man did
and to-morrow night, if you will come early,
I will tell you how OLD-man made the world
over after the water made its war on the land,
scaring all the animal-people and the bird-
people. I will also tell you how he made
the first man and the first woman and who
they were. But now the grouse is fast asleep;
nobody is stirring but those who were made to
see in the dark, like the owl and the wolf.-- Ho!"
OLD-MAN REMAKES THE WORLD
The sun was just sinking behind the hills
when we started for War Eagle's lodge.
"To-morrow will be a fine day," said Other-
person, "for grandfather says that a red sky
is always the sun's promise of fine weather,
and the sun cannot lie."
"Yes," said Bluebird, "and he said that
when this moon was new it travelled well
south for this time of year and its points were
up. That means fine, warm weather."
"I wish I knew as much as grandfather,"
said Fine-bow with pride.
The pipe was laid aside at once upon our
entering the lodge and the old warrior said:
"I have told you that OLD-man taught the
animals and the birds all they know. He
made them and therefore knew just what
each would have to understand in order to
make his living. They have never forgotten
anything he told them--even to this day.
Their grandfathers told the young ones what
they had been told, just as I am telling you
the things you should know. Be like the
birds and animals--tell your children and
grandchildren what I have told you, that
our people may always know how things were
made, and why strange things are true.
"Yes--OLD-man taught the Beaver how to
build his dams to make the water deeper;
taught the Squirrel to plant the pine-nut so
that another tree might grow and have nuts
for his children; told the Bear to go to sleep
in the winter, when the snow made hard travel-
ling for his short legs--told him to sleep, and
promised him that he would need no meat
while he slept. All winter long the Bear
sleeps and eats nothing, because OLD-
man told him that he could. He sleeps so much in the
winter that he spends most of his time in
"It was OLD-man who showed the Owl how
to hunt at night and it was OLD-man that
taught the Weasel all his wonderful ways--
his bloodthirsty ways--for the Weasel is
the bravest of the animal-people, considering
his size. He taught the Beaver one strange
thing that you have noticed, and that is to
lay sticks on the creek-bottoms, so that they
will stay there as long as he wants them to.
"Whenever the animal-people got into
trouble they always sought OLD-man and told
him about it. All were busy working and
making a living, when one day it commenced
to rain. That was nothing, of course, but it
didn't stop as it had always done before. No,
it kept right on raining until the rivers over-
ran their banks, and the water chased the
Weasel out of his hole in the ground. Yes,
and it found the Rabbit's hiding-place and
made him leave it. It crept into the lodge
of the Wolf at night and frightened his wife
and children. It poured into the den of the
Bear among the rocks and he had to move. It
crawled under the logs in the forest and
found the Mice-people. Out it went to the
plains and chased them out of their homes in
the buffalo skulls. At last the Beavers' dams
broke under the strain and that made every-
thing worse. It was bad--very bad, indeed.
Everybody except the fish-people were fright-
ened and all went to find OLD-man that they
might tell him what had happened. Finally
they found his fire, far up on a timbered bench,
and they said that they wanted a council
"It was a strange sight to see the Eagle
sitting next to the Grouse; the Rabbit sitting
close to the Lynx; the Mouse right under the
very nose of the Bobcat, and the tiny Hum-
ming-bird talking to the Hawk in a whisper,
as though they had always been great friends.
All about OLD-man's fire they sat and whispered
or talked in signs. Even the Deer spoke to
the Mountain-lion, and the Antelope told the
Wolf that he was glad to see him, because fear
had made them all friends.
"The whispering and the sign-making stopped
when OLD-man raised his hand-like that"
(here War Eagle raised his hand with the palm
outward)--"and asked them what was troubling
"The Bear spoke first, of course, and told
how the water had made him move his camp.
He said all the animal-people were moving
their homes, and he was afraid they would be
unable to find good camping-places, because
of the water. Then the Beaver spoke, be-
cause he is wise and all the forest-people know
it. He said his dams would not hold back the
water that came against them; that the whole
world was a lake, and that he thought they
were on an island. He said he could live in
the water longer than most people, but that
as far as he could see they would all die except,
perhaps, the fish-people, who stayed in the
water all the time, anyhow. He said he
couldn't think of a thing to do--then he
sat down and the sign-talking and whispering
"OLD-man smoked a long time--smoked
and thought hard. Finally he grabbed his
magic stone axe, and began to sing his war-
song. Then the rest knew he had made up his
mind and knew what he would do. Swow!
he struck a mighty pine-tree a blow, and it
fell down. Swow! down went another and
another, until he had ten times ten of the
longest, straightest, and largest trees in all
the world lying side by side before him. Then
OLD-man chopped off the limbs, and with the aid
of magic rolled the great logs tight together.
With withes of willow that he told the Beaver
to cut for him, he bound the logs fast together
until they were all as one. It was a monstrous
raft that OLD-man had built, as he sang his song
in the darkness. At last he cried, 'Ho! every-
body hurry and sit on this raft I have made';
and they did hurry.
"It was not long till the water had reached
the logs; then it crept in between them, and
finally it went on past the raft and off into the
forest, looking for more trouble.
"By and by the raft began to groan, and the
willow withes squeaked and cried out as though
ghost-people were crying in the night. That
was when the great logs began to tremble as
the water lifted them from the ground. Rain
was falling--night was there, and fear made
cowards of the bravest on the raft. All through
the forest there were bad noises--noises that
make the heart cold--as the raft bumped against
great trees rising from the earth that they
were leaving forever.
"Higher and higher went the raft; higher
than the bushes; higher than the limbs on the
trees; higher than the Woodpecker's nest;
higher than the tree tops, and even higher
than the mountains. Then the world was no
more, for the water had whipped the land in
the war it made against it.
"Day came, and still the rain was falling.
Night returned, and yet the rain came down.
For many days and nights they drifted in the
falling rain; whirling and twisting about while
the water played with the great raft, as a Bear
would play with a Mouse. It was bad, and
they were all afraid--even OLD-man himself
"At last the sun came but there was no
land. All was water. The water was the
world. It reached even to the sky and touched
it all about the edges. All were hungry, and
some of them were grumbling, too. There
are always grumblers when there is great
trouble, but they are not the ones who become
"OLD-man sat in the middle of the raft and
thought. He knew that something must be
done, but he didn't know what. Finally he
said: 'Ho! Chipmunk, bring me the Spotted
Loon. Tell him I want him.'
"The Chipmunk found the Spotted Loon
and told him that OLD-man wanted him, so the
Loon went to where OLD-man sat. When he
got there, OLD-man said:
"'Spotted Loon you are a great diver. No-
body can dive as you can. I made you that
way and I know. If you will dive and swim
down to the world I think you might bring me
some of the dirt that it is made of--then
I am sure I can make another world.'
"'It is too deep, this water,' replied the
Loon, 'I am afraid I shall drown.'
"'Well, what if you do?' said OLD-man. 'I
gave you life, and if you lose it this way I
will return it to you. You shall live again!'
"'All right, OLD-man,' he answered, 'I am
willing to try'; so he waddled to the edge of the
raft. He is a poor walker--the Loon, and
you know I told you why. It was all because
OLD-man kicked him in the back the night he
painted all the Duck-people.
"Down went the Spotted Loon, and long
he stayed beneath the water. All waited and
watched, and longed for good luck, but when
he came to the top he was dead. Everybody
groaned--all felt badly, I can tell you, as
OLD-man laid the dead Loon on the logs. The
Loon's wife was crying, but OLD-man told her to
shut up and she did.
"Then OLD-man blew his own breath into
the Loon's bill, and he came back to life.
"'What did you see, Brother Loon?' asked
OLD-man, while everybody crowded as close
as he could.
"'Nothing but water,' answered the Loon,
'we shall all die here, I cannot reach the world
by swimming. My heart stops working.'
"There were many brave ones on the raft,
and the Otter tried to reach the world by
diving; and the Beaver, and the Gray Goose,
and the Gray Goose's wife; but all died in
trying, and all were given a new life by OLD-
man. Things were bad and getting worse.
Everybody was cross, and all wondered what
OLD-man would do next, when somebody laughed.
"All turned to see what there could be to
laugh at, at such a time, and OLD-man turned
about just in time to see the Muskrat bid
good-by to his wife--that was what they
were laughing at. But he paid no attention
to OLD-man or the rest, and slipped from the
raft to the water. Flip!--his tail cut the
water like a knife, and he was gone. Some
laughed again, but all wondered at his daring,
and waited with little hope in their hearts;
for the Muskrat wasn't very great, they
"He was gone longer than the Loon, longer
than the Beaver, longer than the Otter or
the Gray Goose or his wife, but when he
came to the surface of the water he was
"OLD-man brought Muskrat back to life,
and asked him what he had seen on his journey.
Muskrat said: 'I saw trees, OLD-man, but I
died before I got to them.'
"OLD-man told him he was brave. He said
his people should forever be great if he suc-
ceeded in bringing some dirt to the raft; so
just as soon as the Muskrat was rested he
"When he came up he was dead, but clinched
in his tiny hand OLD-man found some dirt--
not much, but a little. A second time OLD-man
gave the Muskrat his breath, and told him
that he must go once more, and bring dirt.
He said there was not quite enough in the first
lot, so after resting a while the Muskrat tried
a third time and a third time he died, but
brought up a little more dirt.
"Everybody on the raft was anxious now,
and they were all crowding about OLD-man;
but he told them to stand back, and they did.
Then he blew his breath in Muskrat's mouth
a third time, and a third time he lived and
joined his wife.
"OLD-man then dried the dirt in his hands,
rubbing it slowly and singing a queer song.
Finally it was dry; then he settled the hand that
held the dirt in the water slowly, until the
water touched the dirt. The dry dirt began to
whirl about and then OLD-man blew upon it.
Hard he blew and waved his hands, and the
dirt began to grow in size right before their
eyes. OLD-man kept blowing and waving his
hands until the dirt became real land, and the
trees began to grow. So large it grew that
none could see across it. Then he stopped
his blowing and sang some more. Everybody wanted
to get off the raft, but OLD-man said 'no.'
"'Come here, Wolf,' he said, and the Wolf
came to him.
"'You are swift of foot and brave. Run
around this land I have made, that I may
know how large it is.'
"The Wolf started, and it took him half a
year to get back to the raft. He was very
poor from much running, too, but OLD-man
said the world wasn't big enough yet so he
blew some more, and again sent the Wolf out
to run around the land. He never came back
--no, the OLD-man had made it so big that the
Wolf died of old age before he got back to the
raft. Then all the people went out upon the
land to make their living, and they were
happy, there, too.
"After they had been on the land for a long
time OLD-man said: 'Now I shall make a man
and a woman, for I am lonesome living with
you people. He took two or three handfuls
of mud from the world he had made, and
moulded both a man and a woman. Then he
set them side by side and breathed upon them.
They lived!--and he made them very strong
and healthy--very beautiful to look upon.
Chippewas, he called these people, and they
lived happily on that world until a white man
saw an Eagle sailing over the land and came to
look about. He stole the woman--that white
man did; and that is where all the tribes came
from that we know to-day. None are pure of
blood but the two humans he made of clay,
and their own children. And they are the
"That is a long story and now you must
hurry to bed. To-morrow night I will tell
you another story--Ho!"
WHY BLACKFEET NEVER KILL MICE
Muskrat and his grandmother were
gathering wood for the camp the next
morning, when they came to an old buffalo
skull. The plains were dotted with these relics
of the chase, for already the hide-hunting
white man had played havoc with the great
herds of buffalo. This skull was in a grove
of cottonwood-trees near the river, and as
they approached two Mice scampered into
it to hide. Muskrat, in great glee, secured a
stick and was about to turn the skull over
and kill the Mice, when his grandmother
said: "No, our people never kill Mice. Your
grandfather will tell you why if you ask him.
The Mice-people are our friends and we treat
them as such. Even small people can be good
friends, you know--remember that."
All the day the boy wondered why the Mice-
people should not be harmed; and just at dark
he came for me to accompany him to War
Eagle's lodge. On the way he told me what
his grandmother had said, and that he intended
to ask for the reason, as soon as we arrived.
We found the other children already there,
and almost before we had seated ourselves,
"Grandfather, why must we never kill the
Mice-people? Grandmother said that you
"Yes," replied War Eagle, "I do know
and you must know. Therefore I shall tell
you all to-night why the Mice-people must
be let alone and allowed to do as they please,
for we owe them much; much more than we
can ever pay. Yes--they are great people,
as you will see.
" It happened long, long ago, when there
were few men and women on the world. OLD-
man was chief of all then, and the animal-
people and the bird-people were greater than
our people, because we had not been on earth
long and were not wise.
"There was much quarrelling among the
animals and the birds. You see the Bear
wanted to be chief, under OLD-man, and so
did the Beaver. Almost every night they
would have a council and quarrel over it.
Beside the Bear and Beaver, there were other
animals, and also birds, that thought they had
the right to be chief. They couldn't agree and
the quarrelling grew worse as time went on.
Some said the greatest thief should be chosen.
Others thought the wisest one should be the
leader; while some said the swiftest traveller
was the one they wanted. So it went on and
on until they were most all enemies instead of
friends, and you could hear them quarrelling
almost every night, until OLD-man came along
"He heard about the trouble. I forget
who told him, but I think it was the Rabbit.
Anyhow he visited the council where the
quarrelling was going on and listened to what
each one had to say. It took until almost
daylight, too. He listened to it all--every
bit. When they had finished talking and the
quarrelling commenced as usual, he said, 'stop!'
and they did stop.
"Then he said to them: 'I will settle this
thing right here and right now, so that there
will be no more rows over it, forever.'
"He opened his paint sack and took from
it a small, polished bone. This he held up in
the firelight, so that they might all see it, and
"'This will settle the quarrel. You all see
this bone in my right hand, don't you?'
"'Yes,' they replied.
"'Well, now you watch the bone and my
hands, too, for they are quick and cunning.'
"OLD-man began to sing the gambling song
and to slip the bone from one hand to the other
so rapidly and smoothly that they were all
puzzled. Finally he stopped singing and held
out his hands--both shut tight, and both
with their backs up.
"'Which of my hands holds the bone now?'
he asked them.
"Some said it was in the right hand and
others claimed that it was the left hand that
held it. OLD-man asked the Bear to name the
hand that held the bone, and the Bear did;
but when OLD-man opened that hand it was
empty--the bone was not there. Then every-
body laughed at the Bear. OLD-man smiled
a little and began to sing and again pass the
"'Beaver, you are smart; name the hand
that holds the bone this time.'
"The Beaver said: 'It's in your right hand.
I saw you put it there.'
"OLD-man opened that hand right before
the Beaver's eyes, but the bone wasn't there,
and again everybody laughed--especially the
"'Now, you see,' said OLD-man, 'that this
is not so easy as it looks, but I am going to
teach you all to play the game; and when you
have all learned it, you must play it until you
find out who is the cleverest at the playing.
Whoever that is, he shall be chief under me,
"Some were awkward and said they didn't
care much who was chief, but most all of them
learned to play pretty well. First the Bear
and the Beaver tried it, but the Beaver beat
the Bear easily and held the bone for ever so
long. Finally the Buffalo beat the Beaver
and started to play with the Mouse. Of
course the Mouse had small hands and was
quicker than the Buffalo--quicker to see the
bone. The Buffalo tried hard for he didn't
want the Mouse to be chief but it didn't do
him any good; for the Mouse won in the end.
"It was a fair game and the Mouse was
chief under the agreement. He looked quite
small among the rest but he walked right
out to the centre of the council and said:
"'Listen, brothers--what is mine to keep
is mine to give away. I am too small to be
your chief and I know it. I am not warlike.
I want to live in peace with my wife and fam-
ily. I know nothing of war. I get my living
easily. I don't like to have enemies. I am
going to give my right to be chief to the man
that OLD-man has made like himself.'
"That settled it. That made the man chief
forever, and that is why he is greater than the
animals and the birds. That is why we never
kill the Mice-people.
"You saw the Mice run into the buffalo
skull, of course. There is where they have
lived and brought up their families ever since
the night the Mouse beat the Buffalo playing
the bone game. Yes--the Mice-people al-
ways make their nests in the heads of the
dead Buffalo-people, ever since that night.
"Our people play the same game, even to-
day. See," and War Eagle took from his
paint sack a small, polished bone. Then he
sang just as OLD-man did so long ago. He
let the children try to guess the hand that
held the bone, as the animal-people did that
fateful night; but, like the animals, they al-
ways guessed wrong. Laughingly War Eagle
"Now go to your beds and come to see me
to-morrow night. Ho!"
HOW THE OTTER SKIN BECAME GREAT "MEDICINE"
It was rather late when we left War Eagle's
lodge after having learned why the Indians
never kill the Mice-people; and the milky
way was white and plain, dimming the stars
with its mist. The children all stopped to
say good night to little Sees-in-the-dark, a
brand-new baby sister of Bluebird's; then
they all went to bed.
The next day the boys played at war, just
as white boys do; and the girls played with
dolls dressed in buckskin clothes, until it grew
tiresome, when they visited relatives until
it came time for us all to go to their grand-
father's lodge. He was smoking when we
entered, but soon laid aside the pipe and said:
"You know that the otter skin is big medi-
cine, no doubt. You have noticed that our
warriors wear it sometimes and you know
that we all think it very lucky to wear the
skin of the Otter. But you don't know how
it came to be great; so I shall tell you.
"One time, long before my grandfather was
born, a young-man of our tribe was unlucky
in everything. No woman wanted to marry
him, because he couldn't kill enough meat to
keep her in food and clothes. Whenever he
went hunting, his bow always broke or he
would lose his lance. If these things didn't
happen, his horse would fall and hurt him.
Everybody talked about him and his bad
luck, and although he was fine-looking, he
had no close friends, because of his ill fortune.
He tried to dream and get his medicine but
no dream would come. He grew sour and
people were sorry for him all the time. Finally
his name was changed to 'The Unlucky-one,'
which sounds bad to the ear. He used to
wander about alone a good deal, and one
morning he saw an old woman gathering wood
by the side of a River. The Unlucky-one
was about to pass the old woman when she
stopped him and asked:
"'Why are you so sad in your handsome
face? Why is that sorry look in your fine
"'Because,' replied the young-man, 'I am
the Unlucky-one. Everything goes wrong with
me, always. I don't want to live any longer,
for my heart is growing wicked.'
"'Come with me,' said the old woman,
and he followed her until she told him to sit
down. Then she said: 'Listen to me. First
you must learn a song to sing, and this is it.'
Then she sang a queer song over and over
again until the young-man had learned it
"'Now do what I tell you, and your heart
shall be glad some day.' She drew from
her robe a pair of moccasins and a small sack
of dried meat. 'Here,' she said, 'put these
moccasins on your feet and take this sack of
meat for food, for you must travel far. Go
on down this river until you come to a great
beaver village. Their lodges will be large and
fine-looking and you will know the village by
the great size of the lodges. When you get
to the place, you must stand still for a long
time, and then sing the song I taught you.
When you have finished the singing, a great
white Beaver, chief of all the Beavers in the
world, will come to you. He is wise and can
tell you what to do to change your luck. After
that I cannot help you; but do what the white
Beaver tells you, without asking why. Now
go, and be brave!'
"The young-man started at once. Long
his steps were, for he was young and strong.
Far he travelled down the river--saw many
beaver villages, too, but he did not stop, be-
cause the lodges were not big, as the old woman
told him they would be in the right village.
His feet grew tired for he travelled day and
night without resting, but his heart was brave
and he believed what the old woman had told him.
"It was late on the third day when he came
to a mighty beaver village and here the lodges
were greater than any he had ever seen before.
In the centre of the camp was a monstrous
lodge built of great sticks and towering above
the rest. All about, the ground was neat
and clean and bare as your hand. The Un-
lucky-one knew this was the white Beaver's
lodge--knew that at last he had found the
chief of all the Beavers in the world; so he
stood still for a long time, and then sang that
"Soon a great white Beaver--white as
the snows of winter--came to him and asked:
'Why do you sing that song, my brother?
What do you want of me? I have never
heard a man sing that song before. You
must be in trouble.'
"'I am the Unlucky-one, ' the young-man
replied. 'I can do nothing well. I can find
no woman who will marry me. In the hunt
my bow will often break or my lance is poor.
My medicine is bad and I cannot dream.
The people do not love me, and they pity me
as they do a sick child.'
"'I am sorry for you, ' said the white Beaver
--chief of all the Beavers in the world--'but
you must find my brother the Coyote, who
knows where OLD-man's lodge is. The Coyote
will do your bidding if you sing that song
when you see him. Take this stick with you,
because you will have a long journey, and
with the stick you may cross any river and
not drown, if you keep it always in your hand.
That is all I can do for you, myself.'
"On down the river the Unlucky-one
travelled and the sun was low in the west on
the fourth day, when he saw the Coyote on
a hillside near by. After looking at Coyote
for a long time, the young-man commenced
to sing the song the old woman had taught
him. When he had finished the singing, the
Coyote came up close and asked:
"'What is the matter? Why do you sing
that song? I never heard a man sing it be-
fore. What is it you want of me?'
"Then the Unlucky-one told the Coyote
what he had told the white Beaver, and showed
the stick the Beaver-chief had given him,
to prove it.
"'I am hungry, too,' said the Unlucky-one,
'for I have eaten all the dried meat the old
woman gave me.'
"'Wait here,' said the Coyote, 'my brother
the Wolf has just killed a fat Doe, and per-
haps he will give me a little of the meat when
I tell him about you and your troubles.'
"Away went the Coyote to beg for meat,
and while he was gone the young-man bathed
his tired feet in a cool creek. Soon the Coyote
came back with meat, and young-man built
a fire and ate some of it, even before it was
warm, for he was starving. When he had
finished the Coyote said:
"'Now I shall take you to OLD-man's lodge,
"They started, even though it was getting
dark. Long they travelled without stopping
--over plains and mountains--through great
forests and across rivers, until they came to a
cave in the rough rocks on the side of a mighty
"'In there,' said the Coyote, 'you will find
OLD-man and he can tell you what you want
"The Unlucky-one stood before the black
hole in the rocks for a long time, because he
was afraid; but when he turned to speak to
the Coyote he found himself to be alone. The
Coyote had gone about his own business--
had silently slipped away in the night.
"Slowly and carefully the young-man be-
gan to creep into the cave, feeling his way
in the darkness. His heart was beating like
a tom-tom at a dance. Finally he saw a fire
away back in the cave.
"The shadows danced about the stone sides
of the cave as men say the ghosts do; and
they frightened him. But looking, he saw a
man sitting on the far side of the fire. The
man's hair was like the snow and very long.
His face was wrinkled with the seams left by
many years of life and he was naked in the
firelight that played about him.
"Slowly the young-man stood upon his feet
and began to walk toward the fire with great
fear in his heart. When he had reached the
place where the firelight fell upon him, the
OLD-man looked up and said:
"'How, young-man, I am OLD-man. Why
did you come here? What is it you want?'
"Then the Unlucky-one told OLD-man just
what he had told the old woman and the white
Beaver and the Coyote, and showed the stick
the Beaver had given him, to prove it.
"'Smoke,' said OLD-man, and passed the
pipe to his visitor. After they had smoked
"'I will tell you what to do. On the top of
this great mountain there live many ghost-
people and their chief is a great Owl. This
Owl is the only one who knows how you can
change your luck, and he will tell you if you
are not afraid. Take this arrow and go among
those people, without fear. Show them you
are unarmed as soon as they see you. Now
"Out into the night went the Unlucky-one
and on up the mountain. The way was rough
and the wind blew from the north, chilling his
limbs and stinging his face, but on he went
toward the mountain-top, where the storm-
clouds sleep and the winter always stays.
Drifts of snow were piled all about, and the
wind gathered it up and hurled it at the young-
man as though it were angry at him. The
clouds waked and gathered around him, making
the night darker and the world lonelier than
before, but on the very top of the mountain
he stopped and tried to look through the
clouds. Then he heard strange singing all
about him; but for a long time there was no
singer in sight. Finally the clouds parted
and he saw a great circle of ghost-people with
large and ugly heads. They were seated on
the icy ground and on the drifts of snow and
on the rocks, singing a warlike song that made
the heart of the young-man stand still, in
dread. In the centre of the circle there sat
a mighty Owl--their chief. Ho!--when the
ghost-people saw the Unlucky-one they rushed
at him with many lances and would have killed
him but the Owl-chief cried, 'Stop!'
"The young-man folded his arms and said:
'I am unarmed--come and see how a Black-
foot dies. I am not afraid of you.'
"'Ho!' said the Owl-chief, 'we kill no un-
armed man. Sit down, my son, and tell me
what you want. Why do you come here?
You must be in trouble. You must smoke
"The Unlucky-one told the Owl-chief just
what he had told the old woman and the Beaver
and the Coyote and OLD-man, and showed the
stick that the white Beaver had given him
and the arrow that OLD-man had given to
him to prove it.
"'Good,' said the Owl-chief, 'I can help
you, but first you must help yourself. Take
this bow. It is a medicine-bow; then you
will have a bow that will not break and an
arrow that is good and straight. Now go
down this mountain until you come to a
river. It will be dark when you reach this
river, but you will know the way. There
will be a great cottonwood-tree on the bank
of the stream where you first come to the
water. At this tree, you must turn down the
stream and keep on travelling without rest,
until you hear a splashing in the water near
you. When you hear the splashing, you must
shoot this arrow at the sound. Shoot quickly,
for if you do not you can never have any good
luck. If you do as I have told you the splasher
will be killed and you must then take his hide
and wear it always. The skin that the splasher
wears will make you a lucky man. It will
make anybody lucky and you may tell your
people that it is so.
"'Now go, for it is nearly day and we must
"The young-man took his bow and arrow
and the stick the white Beaver had given him
and started on his journey. All the day he
travelled, and far into the night. At last he
came to a river and on the bank he saw the
great cottonwood-tree, just as the ghost Owl
had told him. At the tree the young-man
turned down the stream and in the dark easily
found his way along the bank. Very soon he
heard a great splashing in the water near him,
and--zipp--he let the arrow go at the
sound--then all was still again. He stood
and looked and listened, but for a long time
could see nothing--hear nothing.
"Then the moon came out from under a
cloud and just where her light struck the
river, he saw some animal floating--dead.
With the magic stick the young-man walked
out on the water, seized the animal by the
legs and drew it ashore. It was an Otter,
and the young-man took his hide, right there.
"A Wolf waited in the brush for the body
of the Otter, and the young-man gave it to
him willingly, because he remembered the
meat the Wolf had given the Coyote. As
soon as the young-man had skinned the Otter
he threw the hide over his shoulder and started
for his own country with a light heart, but
at the first good place he made a camp, and
slept. That night he dreamed and all was
well with him.
"After days of travel he found his tribe
again, and told what had happened. He be-
came a great hunter and a great chief among
us. He married the most beautiful woman in
the tribe and was good to her always. They
had many children, and we remember his
name as one that was great in war. That is
OLD-MAN STEALS THE SUN'S LEGGINGS
Firelight--what a charm it adds to
story-telling. How its moods seem to
keep pace with situations pictured by the
oracle, offering shadows when dread is abroad,
and light when a pleasing climax is reached;
for interest undoubtedly tends the blaze, while
sympathy contributes or withholds fuel, ac-
cording to its dictates.
The lodge was alight when I approached
and I could hear the children singing in a
happy mood, but upon entering, the singing
ceased and embarrassed smiles on the young
faces greeted me; nor could I coax a continua-
tion of the song.
Seated beside War Eagle was a very old
Indian whose name was Red Robe, and as
soon as I was seated. the host explained that
he was an honored guest; that he was a Sioux
and a friend of long standing. Then War
Eagle lighted the pipe, passing it to the dis-
tinguished friend, who in turn passed it to
me, after first offering it to the Sun, the father,
and the Earth, the mother of all that is.
In a lodge of the Blackfeet the pipe must
never be passed across the doorway. To do
so would insult the host and bring bad luck
to all who assembled. Therefore if there be
a large number of guests ranged about the
lodge, the pipe is passed first to the left from
guest to guest until it reaches the door, when
it goes back, unsmoked, to the host, to be
refilled ere it is passed to those on his right
Briefly War Eagle explained my presence
to Red Robe and said:
"Once the Moon made the Sun a pair of
leggings. Such beautiful work had never been
seen before. They were worked with the col-
ored quills of the Porcupine and were covered
with strange signs, which none but the Sun
and the Moon could read. No man ever saw
such leggings as they were, and it took the
Moon many snows to make them. Yes, they
were wonderful leggings and the Sun always
wore them on fine days, for they were bright
to look upon.
"Every night when the Sun went to sleep
in his lodge away in the west, he used the
leggings for a pillow, because there was a
thief in the world, even then. That thief and
rascal was OLD-man, and of course the Sun
knew all about him. That is why he always
put his fine leggings under his head when
he slept. When he worked he almost always
wore them, as I have told you, so that there
was no danger of losing them in the daytime;
but the Sun was careful of his leggings when
night came and he slept.
"You wouldn't think that a person would
be so foolish as to steal from the Sun, but
one night OLD-man--who is the only person
who ever knew just where the Sun's lodge
was--crept near enough to look in, and
saw the leggings under the Sun's head.
"We have all travelled a great deal but
no man ever found the Sun's lodge. No
man knows in what country it is. Of course
we know it is located somewhere west of here,
for we see him going that way every after-
noon, but OLD-man knew everything--except
that he could not fool the Sun.
"Yes--OLD-man looked into the lodge of
the Sun and saw the leggings there--saw
the Sun, too, and the Sun was asleep. He
made up his mind that he would steal the
leggings so he crept through the door of the
lodge. There was no one at home but the
Sun, for the Moon has work to do at night
just as the children, the Stars, do, so he thought
he could slip the leggings from under the
sleeper's head and get away.
"He got down on his hands and knees to
walk like the Bear-people and crept into the
lodge, but in the black darkness he put his
knee upon a dry stick near the Sun's bed.
The stick snapped under his weight with so
great a noise that the Sun turned over and
snorted, scaring OLD-man so badly that he
couldn't move for a minute. His heart was
not strong--wickedness makes every heart
weaker--and after making sure that the Sun
had not seen him, he crept silently out of the
lodge and ran away.
"On the top of a hill OLD-man stopped to
look and listen, but all was still; so he sat down
"'I'll get them to-morrow night when he
sleeps again'; he said to himself. 'I need
those leggings myself, and I'm going to get
them, because they will make me handsome
as the Sun.'
"He watched the Moon come home to camp
and saw the Sun go to work, but he did not
go very far away because he wanted to be
near the lodge when night came again.
"It was not long to wait, for all the OLD-
man had to do was to make mischief, and only
those who have work to do measure time.
He was close to the lodge when the Moon
came out, and there he waited until the Sun
went inside. From the bushes OLD-man saw
the Sun take off his leggings and his eyes
glittered with greed as he saw their owner
fold them and put them under his head as
he had always done. Then he waited a
while before creeping closer. Little by little
the old rascal crawled toward the lodge,
till finally his head was inside the door. Then
he waited a long, long time, even after the
Sun was snoring.
"The strange noises of the night bothered
him, for he knew he was doing wrong, and
when a Loon cried on a lake near by, he shivered
as with cold, but finally crept to the sleeper's
side. Cautiously his fingers felt about the
precious leggings until he knew just how they
could best be removed without waking the
Sun. His breath was short and his heart was
beating as a war-drum beats, in the black dark
of the lodge. Sweat--cold sweat, that great
fear always brings to the weak-hearted--was
dripping from his body, and once he thought
that he would wait for another night, but
greed whispered again, and listening to its
voice, he stole the leggings from under the
"Carefully he crept out of the lodge, look-
ing over his shoulder as he went through the
door. Then he ran away as fast as he could
go. Over hills and valleys, across rivers and
creeks, toward the east. He wasted much
breath laughing at his smartness as he ran,
and soon he grew tired.
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