Old Indian Legends, by Zitkala-Sa
OLD INDIAN LEGENDS
OLD INDIAN LEGENDS
IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS
IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT
IKTOMI AND THE COYOTE
IKTOMI AND THE FAWN
THE BADGER AND THE BEAR
SHOOTING OF THE RED EAGLE
IKTOMI AND THE TURTLE
DANCE IN A BUFFALO SKULL
THE TOAD AND THE BOY
IYA, THE CAMP-EATER
MANSTIN, THE RABBIT
THE WARLIKE SEVEN
IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS
OLD INDIAN LEGENDS
IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS
IKTOMI is a spider fairy. He wears brown deerskin leggins
with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on
his feet. His long black hair is parted in the middle and wrapped
with red, red bands. Each round braid hangs over a small brown ear
and falls forward over his shoulders.
He even paints his funny face with red and yellow, and draws
big black rings around his eyes. He wears a deerskin jacket, with
bright colored beads sewed tightly on it. Iktomi dresses like a
real Dakota brave. In truth, his paint and deerskins are the best
part of him--if ever dress is part of man or fairy.
Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in
mischief. He prefers to spread a snare rather than to earn the
smallest thing with honest hunting. Why! he laughs outright with
wide open mouth when some simple folk are caught in a trap, sure
He never dreams another lives so bright as he. Often his own
conceit leads him hard against the common sense of simpler people.
Poor Iktomi cannot help being a little imp. And so long as he
is a naughty fairy, he cannot find a single friend. No one helps
him when he is in trouble. No one really loves him. Those who
come to admire his handsome beaded jacket and long fringed leggins
soon go away sick and tired of his vain, vain words and heartless
Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped wigwam upon the
plain. One day he sat hungry within his teepee. Suddenly he
rushed out, dragging after him his blanket. Quickly spreading it
on the ground, he tore up dry tall grass with both his hands and
tossed it fast into the blanket.
Tying all the four corners together in a knot, he threw the
light bundle of grass over his shoulder.
Snatching up a slender willow stick with his free left hand,
he started off with a hop and a leap. From side to side bounced
the bundle on his back, as he ran light-footed over the uneven
ground. Soon he came to the edge of the great level land. On the
hilltop he paused for breath. With wicked smacks of his dry
parched lips, as if tasting some tender meat, he looked straight
into space toward the marshy river bottom. With a thin palm
shading his eyes from the western sun, he peered far away into the
lowlands, munching his own cheeks all the while. "Ah-ha!" grunted
he, satisfied with what he saw.
A group of wild ducks were dancing and feasting in the
marshes. With wings outspread, tip to tip, they moved up and down
in a large circle. Within the ring, around a small drum, sat the
chosen singers, nodding their heads and blinking their eyes.
They sang in unison a merry dance-song, and beat a lively
tattoo on the drum.
Following a winding footpath near by, came a bent figure of a
Dakota brave. He bore on his back a very large bundle. With a
willow cane he propped himself up as he staggered along beneath his
"Ho! who is there?" called out a curious old duck, still
bobbing up and down in the circular dance.
Hereupon the drummers stretched their necks till they
strangled their song for a look at the stranger passing by.
"Ho, Iktomi! Old fellow, pray tell us what you carry in your
blanket. Do not hurry off! Stop! halt!" urged one of the singers.
"Stop! stay! Show us what is in your blanket!" cried out
"My friends, I must not spoil your dance. Oh, you would not
care to see if you only knew what is in my blanket. Sing on! dance
on! I must not show you what I carry on my back," answered Iktomi,
nudging his own sides with his elbows. This reply broke up the
ring entirely. Now all the ducks crowded about Iktomi.
"We must see what you carry! We must know what is in your
blanket!" they shouted in both his ears. Some even brushed their
wings against the mysterious bundle. Nudging himself again, wily
Iktomi said, "My friends, 't is only a pack of songs I carry in my
"Oh, then let us hear your songs!" cried the curious ducks.
At length Iktomi consented to sing his songs. With delight
all the ducks flapped their wings and cried together, "Hoye! hoye!"
Iktomi, with great care, laid down his bundle on the ground.
"I will build first a round straw house, for I never sing my
songs in the open air," said he.
Quickly he bent green willow sticks, planting both ends of
each pole into the earth. These he covered thick with reeds and
grasses. Soon the straw hut was ready. One by one the fat ducks
waddled in through a small opening, which was the only entrance
way. Beside the door Iktomi stood smiling, as the ducks, eyeing
his bundle of songs, strutted into the hut.
In a strange low voice Iktomi began his queer old tunes. All
the ducks sat round-eyed in a circle about the mysterious singer.
It was dim in that straw hut, for Iktomi had not forgot to cover up
the small entrance way. All of a sudden his song burst into full
voice. As the startled ducks sat uneasily on the ground, Iktomi
changed his tune into a minor strain. These were the words he
"Istokmus wacipo, tuwayatunwanpi kinhan ista nisasapi kta,"
which is, "With eyes closed you must dance. He who dares to open
his eyes, forever red eyes shall have."
Up rose the circle of seated ducks and holding their wings
close against their sides began to dance to the rhythm of Iktomi's
song and drum.
With eyes closed they did dance! Iktomi ceased to beat his
drum. He began to sing louder and faster. He seemed to be moving
about in the center of the ring. No duck dared blink a wink. Each
one shut his eyes very tight and danced even harder. Up and down!
Shifting to the right of them they hopped round and round in that
blind dance. It was a difficult dance for the curious folk.
At length one of the dancers could close his eyes no longer!
It was a Skiska who peeped the least tiny blink at Iktomi within
the center of the circle. "Oh! oh!" squawked he in awful terror!
"Run! fly! Iktomi is twisting your heads and breaking your necks!
Run out and fly! fly!" he cried. Hereupon the ducks opened their
eyes. There beside Iktomi's bundle of songs lay half of their
crowd--flat on their backs.
Out they flew through the opening Skiska had made as he rushed
forth with his alarm.
But as they soared high into the blue sky they cried to one
another: "Oh! your eyes are red-red!" "And yours are red-red!"
For the warning words of the magic minor strain had proven true.
"Ah-ha!" laughed Iktomi, untying the four corners of his blanket,
"I shall sit no more hungry within my dwelling." Homeward he
trudged along with nice fat ducks in his blanket. He left the
little straw hut for the rains and winds to pull down.
Having reached his own teepee on the high level lands, Iktomi
kindled a large fire out of doors. He planted sharp-pointed sticks
around the leaping flames. On each stake he fastened a duck to
roast. A few he buried under the ashes to bake. Disappearing
within his teepee, he came out again with some huge seashells.
These were his dishes. Placing one under each roasting duck, he
muttered, "The sweet fat oozing out will taste well with the
Heaping more willows upon the fire, Iktomi sat down on the
ground with crossed shins. A long chin between his knees pointed
toward the red flames, while his eyes were on the browning ducks.
Just above his ankles he clasped and unclasped his long bony
fingers. Now and then he sniffed impatiently the savory odor.
The brisk wind which stirred the fire also played with a
squeaky old tree beside Iktomi's wigwam.
From side to side the tree was swaying and crying in an old
man's voice, "Help! I'll break! I'll fall!" Iktomi shrugged his
great shoulders, but did not once take his eyes from the ducks.
The dripping of amber oil into pearly dishes, drop by drop, pleased
his hungry eyes. Still the old tree man called for help. "He!
What sound is it that makes my ear ache!" exclaimed Iktomi, holding
a hand on his ear.
He rose and looked around. The squeaking came from the tree.
Then he began climbing the tree to find the disagreeable sound. He
placed his foot right on a cracked limb without seeing it. Just
then a whiff of wind came rushing by and pressed together the
broken edges. There in a strong wooden hand Iktomi's foot was
"Oh! my foot is crushed!" he howled like a coward. In vain he
pulled and puffed to free himself.
While sitting a prisoner on the tree he spied, through his
tears, a pack of gray wolves roaming over the level lands. Waving
his hands toward them, he called in his loudest voice, "He! Gray
wolves! Don't you come here! I'm caught fast in the tree so that
my duck feast is getting cold. Don't you come to eat up my meal."
The leader of the pack upon hearing Iktomi's words turned to
his comrades and said:
"Ah! hear the foolish fellow! He says he has a duck feast to
be eaten! Let us hurry there for our share!" Away bounded the
wolves toward Iktomi's lodge.
From the tree Iktomi watched the hungry wolves eat up his
nicely browned fat ducks. His foot pained him more and more. He
heard them crack the small round bones with their strong long teeth
and eat out the oily marrow. Now severe pains shot up from his
foot through his whole body. "Hin-hin-hin!" sobbed Iktomi. Real
tears washed brown streaks across his red-painted cheeks. Smacking
their lips, the wolves began to leave the place, when Iktomi cried
out like a pouting child, "At least you have left my baking under
"Ho! Po!" shouted the mischievous wolves; "he says more ducks
are to be found under the ashes! Come! Let us have our fill this
Running back to the dead fire, they pawed out the ducks with
such rude haste that a cloud of ashes rose like gray smoke over
"Hin-hin-hin!" moaned Iktomi, when the wolves had scampered
off. All too late, the sturdy breeze returned, and, passing by,
pulled apart the broken edges of the tree. Iktomi was released.
But alas! he had no duck feast.
ALONE within his teepee sat Iktomi. The sun was but a
handsbreadth from the western edge of land.
"Those, bad, bad gray wolves! They ate up all my nice fat
ducks!" muttered he, rocking his body to and fro.
He was cuddling the evil memory he bore those hungry wolves.
At last he ceased to sway his body backward and forward, but sat
still and stiff as a stone image.
"Oh! I'll go to Inyan, the great-grandfather, and pray for
food!" he exclaimed.
At once he hurried forth from his teepee and, with his blanket
over one shoulder, drew nigh to a huge rock on a hillside.
With half-crouching, half-running strides, he fell upon Inyan
with outspread hands.
"Grandfather! pity me. I am hungry. I am starving. Give me
food. Great-grandfather, give me meat to eat!" he cried. All the
while he stroked and caressed the face of the great stone god.
The all-powerful Great Spirit, who makes the trees and grass,
can hear the voice of those who pray in many varied ways. The
hearing of Inyan, the large hard stone, was the one most sought
after. He was the great-grandfather, for he had sat upon the
hillside many, many seasons. He had seen the prairie put on a
snow-white blanket and then change it for a bright green robe more
than a thousand times.
Still unaffected by the myriad moons he rested on the
everlasting hill, listening to the prayers of Indian warriors.
Before the finding of the magic arrow he had sat there.
Now, as Iktomi prayed and wept before the great-grandfather,
the sky in the west was red like a glowing face. The sunset poured
a soft mellow light upon the huge gray stone and the solitary
figure beside it. It was the smile of the Great Spirit upon the
grandfather and the wayward child.
The prayer was heard. Iktomi knew it. "Now, grandfather,
accept my offering; 'tis all I have," said Iktomi as he spread
his half-worn blanket upon Inyan's cold shoulders. Then Iktomi,
happy with the smile of the sunset sky, followed a footpath leading
toward a thicketed ravine. He had not gone many paces into the
shrubbery when before him lay a freshly wounded deer!
"This is the answer from the red western sky!" cried Iktomi
with hands uplifted.
Slipping a long thin blade from out his belt, he cut large
chunks of choice meat. Sharpening some willow sticks, he planted
them around a wood-pile he had ready to kindle. On these stakes he
meant to roast the venison.
While he was rubbing briskly two long sticks to start a fire,
the sun in the west fell out of the sky below the edge of land.
Twilight was over all. Iktomi felt the cold night air upon his
bare neck and shoulders. "Ough!" he shivered as he wiped his knife
on the grass. Tucking it in a beaded case hanging from his belt,
Iktomi stood erect, looking about. He shivered again. "Ough! Ah!
I am cold. I wish I had my blanket!" whispered he, hovering over
the pile of dry sticks and the sharp stakes round about it.
Suddenly he paused and dropped his hands at his sides.
"The old great-grandfather does not feel the cold as I do. He
does not need my old blanket as I do. I wish I had not given it to
him. Oh! I think I'll run up there and take it back!" said he,
pointing his long chin toward the large gray stone.
Iktomi, in the warm sunshine, had no need of his blanket, and
it had been very easy to part with a thing which he could not miss.
But the chilly night wind quite froze his ardent thank-offering.
Thus running up the hillside, his teeth chattering all the
way, he drew near to Inyan, the sacred symbol. Seizing one corner
of the half-worn blanket, Iktomi pulled it off with a jerk.
"Give my blanket back, old grandfather! You do not need it.
I do!" This was very wrong, yet Iktomi did it, for his wit was not
wisdom. Drawing the blanket tight over his shoulders, he descended
the hill with hurrying feet.
He was soon upon the edge of the ravine. A young moon, like
a bright bent bow, climbed up from the southwest horizon a little
way into the sky.
In this pale light Iktomi stood motionless as a ghost amid the
thicket. His woodpile was not yet kindled. His pointed stakes
were still bare as he had left them. But where was the deer--the
venison he had felt warm in his hands a moment ago? It was gone.
Only the dry rib bones lay on the ground like giant fingers from an
open grave. Iktomi was troubled. At length, stooping over the
white dried bones, he took hold of one and shook it. The bones,
loose in their sockets, rattled together at his touch. Iktomi let
go his hold. He sprang back amazed. And though he wore a blanket
his teeth chattered more than ever. Then his blunted sense will
surprise you, little reader; for instead of being grieved that he
had taken back his blanket, he cried aloud, "Hin-hin-hin! If only
I had eaten the venison before going for my blanket!"
Those tears no longer moved the hand of the Generous Giver.
They were selfish tears. The Great Spirit does not heed them ever.
IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT
IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT
BESIDE a white lake, beneath a large grown willow tree, sat
Iktomi on the bare ground. The heap of smouldering ashes told of
a recent open fire. With ankles crossed together around a pot of
soup, Iktomi bent over some delicious boiled fish.
Fast he dipped his black horn spoon into the soup, for he was
ravenous. Iktomi had no regular meal times. Often when he was
hungry he went without food.
Well hid between the lake and the wild rice, he looked nowhere
save into the pot of fish. Not knowing when the next meal would
be, he meant to eat enough now to last some time.
"How, how, my friend!" said a voice out of the wild rice.
Iktomi started. He almost choked with his soup. He peered through
the long reeds from where he sat with his long horn spoon in
"How, my friend!" said the voice again, this time close at his
side. Iktomi turned and there stood a dripping muskrat who had
just come out of the lake.
"Oh, it is my friend who startled me. I wondered if among the
wild rice some spirit voice was talking. How, how, my friend!"
said Iktomi. The muskrat stood smiling. On his lips hung a ready
"Yes, my friend," when Iktomi would ask, "My friend, will you sit
down beside me and share my food?"
That was the custom of the plains people. Yet Iktomi sat
silent. He hummed an old dance-song and beat gently on the edge of
the pot with his buffalo-horn spoon. The muskrat began to feel
awkward before such lack of hospitality and wished himself under
After many heart throbs Iktomi stopped drumming with his horn
ladle, and looking upward into the muskrat's face, he said:
"My friend, let us run a race to see who shall win this pot of
fish. If I win, I shall not need to share it with you. If you
win, you shall have half of it." Springing to his feet, Iktomi
began at once to tighten the belt about his waist.
"My friend Ikto, I cannot run a race with you! I am not a
swift runner, and you are nimble as a deer. We shall not run any
race together," answered the hungry muskrat.
For a moment Iktomi stood with a hand on his long protruding
chin. His eyes were fixed upon something in the air. The muskrat
looked out of the corners of his eyes without moving his head. He
watched the wily Iktomi concocting a plot.
"Yes, yes," said Iktomi, suddenly turning his gaze upon the
"I shall carry a large stone on my back. That will slacken my
usual speed; and the race will be a fair one."
Saying this he laid a firm hand upon the muskrat's shoulder
and started off along the edge of the lake. When they reached the
opposite side Iktomi pried about in search of a heavy stone.
He found one half-buried in the shallow water. Pulling it out
upon dry land, he wrapped it in his blanket.
"Now, my friend, you shall run on the left side of the lake,
I on the other. The race is for the boiled fish in yonder kettle!"
The muskrat helped to lift the heavy stone upon Iktomi's back.
Then they parted. Each took a narrow path through the tall reeds
fringing the shore. Iktomi found his load a heavy one.
Perspiration hung like beads on his brow. His chest heaved hard
He looked across the lake to see how far the muskrat had gone,
but nowhere did he see any sign of him. "Well, he is running low
under the wild rice!" said he. Yet as he scanned the tall grasses
on the lake shore, he saw not one stir as if to make way for the
runner. "Ah, has he gone so fast ahead that the disturbed grasses
in his trail have quieted again?" exclaimed Iktomi. With that
thought he quickly dropped the heavy stone. "No more of this!"
said he, patting his chest with both hands.
Off with a springing bound, he ran swiftly toward the goal.
Tufts of reeds and grass fell flat under his feet. Hardly had they
raised their heads when Iktomi was many paces gone.
Soon he reached the heap of cold ashes. Iktomi halted stiff
as if he had struck an invisible cliff. His black eyes showed a
ring of white about them as he stared at the empty ground. There
was no pot of boiled fish! There was no water-man in sight! "Oh,
if only I had shared my food like a real Dakota, I would not have
lost it all! Why did I not know the muskrat would run through the
water? He swims faster than I could ever run! That is what he has
done. He has laughed at me for carrying a weight on my back while
he shot hither like an arrow!"
Crying thus to himself, Iktomi stepped to the water's brink.
He stooped forward with a hand on each bent knee and peeped far
into the deep water.
"There!" he exclaimed, "I see you, my friend, sitting with
your ankles wound around my little pot of fish! My friend, I am
hungry. Give me a bone!"
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the water-man, the muskrat. The sound
did not rise up out of the lake, for it came down from overhead.
With his hands still on his knees, Iktomi turned his face upward
into the great willow tree. Opening wide his mouth he begged, "My
friend, my friend, give me a bone to gnaw!"
"Ha! ha!" laughed the muskrat, and leaning over the limb he
sat upon, he let fall a small sharp bone which dropped right into
Iktomi's throat. Iktomi almost choked to death before he could get
it out. In the tree the muskrat sat laughing loud. "Next time,
say to a visiting friend, 'Be seated beside me, my friend. Let me
share with you my food.'"
IKTOMI AND THE COYOTE
IKTOMI AND THE COYOTE
AFAR off upon a large level land, a summer sun was shining
bright. Here and there over the rolling green were tall bunches of
coarse gray weeds. Iktomi in his fringed buckskins walked alone
across the prairie with a black bare head glossy in the sunlight.
He walked through the grass without following any well-worn
From one large bunch of coarse weeds to another he wound his
way about the great plain. He lifted his foot lightly and placed
it gently forward like a wildcat prowling noiselessly through the
thick grass. He stopped a few steps away from a very large bunch
of wild sage. From shoulder to shoulder he tilted his head. Still
farther he bent from side to side, first low over one hip and then
over the other. Far forward he stooped, stretching his long thin
neck like a duck, to see what lay under a fur coat beyond the bunch
of coarse grass.
A sleek gray-faced prairie wolf! his pointed black nose tucked
in between his four feet drawn snugly together; his handsome bushy
tail wound over his nose and feet; a coyote fast asleep in the
shadow of a bunch of grass!--this is what Iktomi spied. Carefully
he raised one foot and cautiously reached out with his toes.
Gently, gently he lifted the foot behind and placed it before the
other. Thus he came nearer and nearer to the round fur ball lying
motionless under the sage grass.
Now Iktomi stood beside it, looking at the closed eyelids that
did not quiver the least bit. Pressing his lips into straight
lines and nodding his head slowly, he bent over the wolf. He held
his ear close to the coyote's nose, but not a breath of air stirred
"Dead!" said he at last. "Dead, but not long since he ran
over these plains! See! there in his paw is caught a fresh
feather. He is nice fat meat!" Taking hold of the paw with the
bird feather fast on it, he exclaimed, "Why, he is still warm!
I'll carry him to my dwelling and have a roast for my evening meal.
Ah-ha!" he laughed, as he seized the coyote by its two fore paws
and its two hind feet and swung him over head across his shoulders.
The wolf was large and the teepee was far across the prairie.
Iktomi trudged along with his burden, smacking his hungry lips
together. He blinked his eyes hard to keep out the salty
perspiration streaming down his face.
All the while the coyote on his back lay gazing into the sky
with wide open eyes. His long white teeth fairly gleamed as he
smiled and smiled.
"To ride on one's own feet is tiresome, but to be carried like
a warrior from a brave fight is great fun!" said the coyote in his
heart. He had never been borne on any one's back before and the
new experience delighted him. He lay there lazily on Iktomi's
shoulders, now and then blinking blue winks. Did you never see a
birdie blink a blue wink? This is how it first became a saying
among the plains people. When a bird stands aloof watching your
strange ways, a thin bluish white tissue slips quickly over his
eyes and as quickly off again; so quick that you think it was only
a mysterious blue wink. Sometimes when children grow drowsy they
blink blue winks, while others who are too proud to look with
friendly eyes upon people blink in this cold bird-manner.
The coyote was affected by both sleepiness and pride. His
winks were almost as blue as the sky. In the midst of his new
pleasure the swaying motion ceased. Iktomi had reached his
dwelling place. The coyote felt drowsy no longer, for in the next
instant he was slipping out of Iktomi's hands. He was falling,
falling through space, and then he struck the ground with such a
bump he did not wish to breathe for a while. He wondered what
Iktomi would do, thus he lay still where he fell. Humming a
dance-song, one from his bundle of mystery songs, Iktomi hopped and
darted about at an imaginary dance and feast. He gathered dry
willow sticks and broke them in two against his knee. He built a
large fire out of doors. The flames leaped up high in red and
yellow streaks. Now Iktomi returned to the coyote who had been
looking on through his eyelashes.
Taking him again by his paws and hind feet, he swung him to
and fro. Then as the wolf swung toward the red flames, Iktomi let
him go. Once again the coyote fell through space. Hot air smote
his nostrils. He saw red dancing fire, and now he struck a bed of
cracking embers. With a quick turn he leaped out of the flames.
From his heels were scattered a shower of red coals upon Iktomi's
bare arms and shoulders. Dumbfounded, Iktomi thought he saw a
spirit walk out of his fire. His jaws fell apart. He thrust a
palm to his face, hard over his mouth! He could scarce keep from
Rolling over and over on the grass and rubbing the sides of
his head against the ground, the coyote soon put out the fire on
his fur. Iktomi's eyes were almost ready to jump out of his head
as he stood cooling a burn on his brown arm with his breath.
Sitting on his haunches, on the opposite side of the fire from
where Iktomi stood, the coyote began to laugh at him.
"Another day, my friend, do not take too much for granted.
Make sure the enemy is stone dead before you make a fire!"
Then off he ran so swiftly that his long bushy tail hung out
in a straight line with his back.
IKTOMI AND THE FAWN
IKTOMI AND THE FAWN
IN one of his wanderings through the wooded lands, Iktomi saw
a rare bird sitting high in a tree-top. Its long fan-like tail
feathers had caught all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.
Handsome in the glistening summer sun sat the bird of rainbow
plumage. Iktomi hurried hither with his eyes fast on the bird.
He stood beneath the tree looking long and wistfully at the
peacock's bright feathers. At length he heaved a sigh and began:
"Oh, I wish I had such pretty feathers! How I wish I were not I!
If only I were a handsome feathered creature how happy I would be!
I'd be so glad to sit upon a very high tree and bask in the summer
sun like you!" said he suddenly, pointing his bony finger up toward
the peacock, who was eyeing the stranger below, turning his head
from side to side.
"I beg of you make me into a bird with green and purple
feathers like yours!" implored Iktomi, tired now of playing the
brave in beaded buckskins. The peacock then spoke to Iktomi: "I
have a magic power. My touch will change you in a moment into the
most beautiful peacock if you can keep one condition."
"Yes! yes!" shouted Iktomi, jumping up and down, patting his
lips with his palm, which caused his voice to vibrate in a peculiar
fashion. "Yes! yes! I could keep ten conditions if only you would
change me into a bird with long, bright tail feathers. Oh, I am so
ugly! I am so tired of being myself! Change me! Do!"
Hereupon the peacock spread out both his wings, and scarce
moving them, he sailed slowly down upon the ground. Right beside
Iktomi he alighted. Very low in Iktomi's ear the peacock
whispered, "Are you willing to keep one condition, though hard it
"Yes! yes! I've told you ten of them if need be!" exclaimed
Iktomi, with some impatience.
"Then I pronounce you a handsome feathered bird. No longer
are you Iktomi the mischief-maker." Saying this the peacock
touched Iktomi with the tips of his wings.
Iktomi vanished at the touch. There stood beneath the tree
two handsome peacocks. While one of the pair strutted about with
a head turned aside as if dazzled by his own bright-tinted tail
feathers, the other bird soared slowly upward. He sat quiet and
unconscious of his gay plumage. He seemed content to perch there
on a large limb in the warm sunshine.
After a little while the vain peacock, dizzy with his bright
colors, spread out his wings and lit on the same branch with the
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "how hard to fly! Brightly tinted
feathers are handsome, but I wish they were light enough to fly!"
Just there the elder bird interrupted him. "That is the one
condition. Never try to fly like other birds. Upon the day you
try to fly you shall be changed into your former self."
"Oh, what a shame that bright feathers cannot fly into the
sky!" cried the peacock. Already he grew restless. He longed to
soar through space. He yearned to fly above the trees high upward
to the sun.
"Oh, there I see a flock of birds flying thither! Oh! oh!"
said he, flapping his wings, "I must try my wings! I am tired of
bright tail feathers. I want to try my wings."
"No, no!" clucked the elder bird. The flock of chattering
birds flew by with whirring wings. "Oop! oop!" called some to
Possessed by an irrepressible impulse the Iktomi peacock
called out, "He! I want to come! Wait for me!" and with that he
gave a lunge into the air. The flock of flying feathers wheeled
about and lowered over the tree whence came the peacock's cry.
Only one rare bird sat on the tree, and beneath, on the ground,
stood a brave in brown buckskins.
"I am my old self again!" groaned Iktomi in a sad voice.
"Make me over, pretty bird. Try me this once again!" he pleaded in
"Old Iktomi wants to fly! Ah! We cannot wait for him!" sang
the birds as they flew away.
Muttering unhappy vows to himself, Iktomi had not gone far
when he chanced upon a bunch of long slender arrows. One by one
they rose in the air and shot a straight line over the prairie.
Others shot up into the blue sky and were soon lost to sight. Only
one was left. He was making ready for his flight when Iktomi
rushed upon him and wailed, "I want to be an arrow! Make me into
an arrow! I want to pierce the blue Blue overhead. I want to
strike yonder summer sun in its center. Make me into an arrow!"
"Can you keep a condition? One condition, though hard it be?"
the arrow turned to ask.
"Yes! Yes!" shouted Iktomi, delighted.
Hereupon the slender arrow tapped him gently with his sharp
flint beak. There was no Iktomi, but two arrows stood ready
to fly. "Now, young arrow, this is the one condition. Your flight
must always be in a straight line. Never turn a curve nor jump
about like a young fawn," said the arrow magician. He spoke slowly
At once he set about to teach the new arrow how to shoot in a
long straight line.
"This is the way to pierce the Blue overhead," said he; and
off he spun high into the sky.
While he was gone a herd of deer came trotting by. Behind
them played the young fawns together. They frolicked about like
kittens. They bounced on all fours like balls. Then they pitched
forward, kicking their heels in the air. The Iktomi arrow watched
them so happy on the ground. Looking quickly up into the sky, he
said in his heart, "The magician is out of sight. I'll just romp
and frolic with these fawns until he returns. Fawns! Friends, do
not fear me. I want to jump and leap with you. I long to be happy
as you are," said he. The young fawns stopped with stiff legs and
stared at the speaking arrow with large brown wondering eyes.
"See! I can jump as well as you!" went on Iktomi. He gave one
tiny leap like a fawn. All of a sudden the fawns snorted with
extended nostrils at what they beheld. There among them stood
Iktomi in brown buckskins, and the strange talking arrow was gone.
"Oh! I am myself. My old self!" cried Iktomi, pinching
himself and plucking imaginary pieces out of his jacket.
"Hin-hin-hin! I wanted to fly!"
The real arrow now returned to the earth. He alighted very
near Iktomi. From the high sky he had seen the fawns playing on
the green. He had seen Iktomi make his one leap, and the charm was
broken. Iktomi became his former self.
"Arrow, my friend, change me once more!" begged Iktomi.
"No, no more," replied the arrow. Then away he shot through
the air in the direction his comrades had flown.
By this time the fawns gathered close around Iktomi. They
poked their noses at him trying to know who he was.
Iktomi's tears were like a spring shower. A new desire dried
them quickly away. Stepping boldly to the largest fawn, he looked
closely at the little brown spots all over the furry face.
"Oh, fawn! What beautiful brown spots on your face! Fawn,
dear little fawn, can you tell me how those brown spots were made
on your face?"
"Yes," said the fawn. "When I was very, very small, my mother
marked them on my face with a red hot fire. She dug a large hole
in the ground and made a soft bed of grass and twigs in it. Then
she placed me gently there. She covered me over with dry sweet
grass and piled dry cedars on top. From a neighbor's fire she
brought hither a red, red ember. This she tucked carefully in at
my head. This is how the brown spots were made on my face."
"Now, fawn, my friend, will you do the same for me? Won't you
mark my face with brown, brown spots just like yours?" asked
Iktomi, always eager to be like other people.
"Yes. I can dig the ground and fill it with dry grass and
sticks. If you will jump into the pit, I'll cover you with sweet
smelling grass and cedar wood," answered the fawn.
"Say," interrupted Ikto, "will you be sure to cover me with a
great deal of dry grass and twigs? You will make sure that the
spots will be as brown as those you wear."
"Oh, yes. I'll pile up grass and willows once oftener than my
"Now let us dig the hole, pull the grass, and gather sticks,"
cried Iktomi in glee.
Thus with his own hands he aids in making his grave. After
the hole was dug and cushioned with grass, Iktomi, muttering
something about brown spots, leaped down into it. Lengthwise, flat
on his back, he lay. While the fawn covered him over with cedars,
a far-away voice came up through them, "Brown, brown spots to wear
forever!" A red ember was tucked under the dry grass. Off
scampered the fawns after their mothers; and when a great distance
away they looked backward. They saw a blue smoke rising, writhing
upward till it vanished in the blue ether.
"Is that Iktomi's spirit?" asked one fawn of another.
"No! I think he would jump out before he could burn into
smoke and cinders," answered his comrade.
THE BADGER AND THE BEAR
THE BADGER AND THE BEAR
ON the edge of a forest there lived a large family of badgers.
In the ground their dwelling was made. Its walls and roof were
covered with rocks and straw.
Old father badger was a great hunter. He knew well how to
track the deer and buffalo. Every day he came home carrying on his
back some wild game. This kept mother badger very busy, and the
baby badgers very chubby. While the well-fed children played
about, digging little make-believe dwellings, their mother hung
thin sliced meats upon long willow racks. As fast as the meats
were dried and seasoned by sun and wind, she packed them carefully
away in a large thick bag.
This bag was like a huge stiff envelope, but far more
beautiful to see, for it was painted all over with many bright
colors. These firmly tied bags of dried meat were laid upon the
rocks in the walls of the dwelling. In this way they were both
useful and decorative.
One day father badger did not go off for a hunt. He stayed at
home, making new arrows. His children sat about him on the ground
floor. Their small black eyes danced with delight as they watched
the gay colors painted upon the arrows.
All of a sudden there was heard a heavy footfall near the
entrance way. The oval-shaped door-frame was pushed aside. In
stepped a large black foot with great big claws. Then the other
clumsy foot came next. All the while the baby badgers stared hard
at the unexpected comer. After the second foot, in peeped the head
of a big black bear! His black nose was dry and parched. Silently
he entered the dwelling and sat down on the ground by the doorway.
His black eyes never left the painted bags on the rocky walls. He
guessed what was in them. He was a very hungry bear. Seeing the
racks of red meat hanging in the yard, he had come to visit the
Though he was a stranger and his strong paws and jaws
frightened the small badgers, the father said, "How, how, friend!
Your lips and nose look feverish and hungry. Will you eat with
"Yes, my friend," said the bear. "I am starved. I saw your
racks of red fresh meat, and knowing your heart is kind, I came
hither. Give me meat to eat, my friend."
Hereupon the mother badger took long strides across the room,
and as she had to pass in front of the strange visitor, she said:
"Ah han! Allow me to pass!" which was an apology.
"How, how!" replied the bear, drawing himself closer to the
wall and crossing his shins together.
Mother badger chose the most tender red meat, and soon over a
bed of coals she broiled the venison.
That day the bear had all he could eat. At nightfall he rose,
and smacking his lips together,--that is the noisy way of saying
"the food was very good!"--he left the badger dwelling. The baby
badgers, peeping through the door-flap after the shaggy bear, saw
him disappear into the woods near by.
Day after day the crackling of twigs in the forest told of
heavy footsteps. Out would come the same black bear. He never
lifted the door-flap, but thrusting it aside entered slowly in.
Always in the same place by the entrance way he sat down with
His daily visits were so regular that mother badger placed a
fur rug in his place. She did not wish a guest in her dwelling to
sit upon the bare hard ground.
At last one time when the bear returned, his nose was bright
and black. His coat was glossy. He had grown fat upon the
As he entered the dwelling a pair of wicked gleams shot out of
his shaggy head. Surprised by the strange behavior of the guest
who remained standing upon the rug, leaning his round back against
the wall, father badger queried: "How, my friend! What?"
The bear took one stride forward and shook his paw in the
badger's face. He said: "I am strong, very strong!"
"Yes, yes, so you are," replied the badger. From the farther
end of the room mother badger muttered over her bead work: "Yes,
you grew strong from our well-filled bowls."
The bear smiled, showing a row of large sharp teeth.
"I have no dwelling. I have no bags of dried meat. I have no
arrows. All these I have found here on this spot," said he,
stamping his heavy foot. "I want them! See! I am strong!"
repeated he, lifting both his terrible paws.
Quietly the father badger spoke: "I fed you. I called you
friend, though you came here a stranger and a beggar. For the
sake of my little ones leave us in peace."
Mother badger, in her excited way, had pierced hard through
the buckskin and stuck her fingers repeatedly with her sharp awl
until she had laid aside her work. Now, while her husband was
talking to the bear, she motioned with her hands to the children.
On tiptoe they hastened to her side.
For reply came a low growl. It grew louder and more fierce.
"Wa-ough!" he roared, and by force hurled the badgers out. First
the father badger; then the mother. The little badgers he tossed
by pairs. He threw them hard upon the ground. Standing in the
entrance way and showing his ugly teeth, he snarled, "Be gone!"
The father and mother badger, having gained their feet, picked
up their kicking little babes, and, wailing aloud, drew the air
into their flattened lungs till they could stand alone upon their
feet. No sooner had the baby badgers caught their breath than they
howled and shrieked with pain and fright. Ah! what a dismal cry
was theirs as the whole badger family went forth wailing from out
their own dwelling! A little distance away from their stolen house
the father badger built a small round hut. He made it of bent
willows and covered it with dry grass and twigs.
This was shelter for the night; but alas! it was empty of food
and arrows. All day father badger prowled through the forest, but
without his arrows he could not get food for his children. Upon
his return, the cry of the little ones for meat, the sad quiet of
the mother with bowed head, hurt him like a poisoned arrow wound.
"I'll beg meat for you!" said he in an unsteady voice.
Covering his head and entire body in a long loose robe he halted
beside the big black bear. The bear was slicing red meat to hang
upon the rack. He did not pause for a look at the comer. As the
badger stood there unrecognized, he saw that the bear had brought
with him his whole family. Little cubs played under the
high-hanging new meats. They laughed and pointed with their wee
noses upward at the thin sliced meats upon the poles.
"Have you no heart, Black Bear? My children are starving.
Give me a small piece of meat for them," begged the badger.
"Wa-ough!" growled the angry bear, and pounced upon the
badger. "Be gone!" said he, and with his big hind foot he sent
father badger sprawling on the ground.
All the little ruffian bears hooted and shouted "ha-ha!" to
see the beggar fall upon his face. There was one, however, who did
not even smile. He was the youngest cub. His fur coat was not as
black and glossy as those his elders wore. The hair was dry and
dingy. It looked much more like kinky wool. He was the ugly cub.
Poor little baby bear! he had always been laughed at by his older
brothers. He could not help being himself. He could not change
the differences between himself and his brothers. Thus again,
though the rest laughed aloud at the badger's fall, he did not see
the joke. His face was long and earnest. In his heart he was sad
to see the badgers crying and starving. In his breast spread a
burning desire to share his food with them.
"I shall not ask my father for meat to give away. He would
say 'No!' Then my brothers would laugh at me," said the ugly baby
bear to himself.
In an instant, as if his good intention had passed from him,
he was singing happily and skipping around his father at work.
Singing in his small high voice and dragging his feet in long
strides after him, as if a prankish spirit oozed out from his
heels, he strayed off through the tall grass. He was ambling
toward the small round hut. When directly in front of the entrance
way, he made a quick side kick with his left hind leg. Lo! there
fell into the badger's hut a piece of fresh meat. It was tough
meat, full of sinews, yet it was the only piece he could take
without his father's notice.
Thus having given meat to the hungry badgers, the ugly baby
bear ran quickly away to his father again.
On the following day the father badger came back once more.
He stood watching the big bear cutting thin slices of meat.
" Give--" he began, when the bear turning upon him with a
growl, thrust him cruelly aside. The badger fell on his hands. He
fell where the grass was wet with the blood of the newly carved
buffalo. His keen starving eyes caught sight of a little red clot
lying bright upon the green. Looking fearfully toward the bear and
seeing his head was turned away, he snatched up the small thick
blood. Underneath his girdled blanket he hid it in his hand.
On his return to his family, he said within himself : "I'll
pray the Great Spirit to bless it." Thus he built a small round
lodge. Sprinkling water upon the heated heap of sacred stones
within, he made ready to purge his body. "The buffalo blood, too,
must be purified before I ask a blessing upon it," thought the
badger. He carried it into the sacred vapor lodge. After placing
it near the sacred stones, he sat down beside it. After a long
silence, he muttered: "Great Spirit, bless this little buffalo
blood." Then he arose, and with a quiet dignity stepped out of the
lodge. Close behind him some one followed. The badger turned to
look over his shoulder and to his great joy he beheld a Dakota
brave in handsome buckskins. In his hand he carried a magic arrow.
Across his back dangled a long fringed quiver. In answer to the
badger's prayer, the avenger had sprung from out the red globules.
"My son!" exclaimed the badger with extended right hand.
"How, father," replied the brave; "I am your avenger!"
Immediately the badger told the sad story of his hungry little
ones and the stingy bear.
Listening closely the young man stood looking steadily upon
At length the father badger moved away.
"Where?" queried the avenger.
"My son, we have no food. I am going again to beg for meat,"
answered the badger.
"Then I go with you," replied the young brave. This made the
old badger happy. He was proud of his son. He was delighted to be
called "father" by the first human creature.
The bear saw the badger coming in the distance. He narrowed
his eyes at the tall stranger walking beside him. He spied the
arrow. At once he guessed it was the avenger of whom he had heard
long, long ago. As they approached, the bear stood erect with a
hand on his thigh. He smiled upon them.
"How, badger, my friend! Here is my knife. Cut your favorite
pieces from the deer," said he, holding out a long thin blade.
"How!" said the badger eagerly. He wondered what had inspired
the big bear to such a generous deed. The young avenger waited
till the badger took the long knife in his hand.
Gazing full into the black bear's face, he said: "I come to do
justice. You have returned only a knife to my poor father. Now
return to him his dwelling." His voice was deep and powerful. In
his black eyes burned a steady fire.
The long strong teeth of the bear rattled against each other,
and his shaggy body shook with fear. "Ahow!" cried he, as if he
had been shot. Running into the dwelling he gasped, breathless and
trembling, "Come out, all of you! This is the badger's dwelling.
We must flee to the forest for fear of the avenger who carries the
Out they hurried, all the bears, and disappeared into the
Singing and laughing, the badgers returned to their own
Then the avenger left them.
"I go," said he in parting, "over the earth."
IT was a clear summer day. The blue, blue sky dropped low
over the edge of the green level land. A large yellow sun hung
The singing of birds filled the summer space between earth and
sky with sweet music. Again and again sang a yellow-breasted
birdie--"Koda Ni Dakota!" He insisted upon it. "Koda Ni Dakota!"
which was "Friend, you're a Dakota! Friend, you're a Dakota!"
Perchance the birdie meant the avenger with the magic arrow, for
there across the plain he strode. He was handsome in his paint and
feathers, proud with his great buckskin quiver on his back and a
long bow in his hand. Afar to an eastern camp of cone-shaped
teepees he was going. There over the Indian village hovered a
large red eagle threatening the safety of the people. Every
morning rose this terrible red bird out of a high chalk bluff and
spreading out his gigantic wings soared slowly over the round camp
ground. Then it was that the people, terror-stricken, ran
screaming into their lodges. Covering their heads with their
blankets, they sat trembling with fear. No one dared to venture
out till the red eagle had disappeared beyond the west, where meet
the blue and green.
In vain tried the chieftain of the tribe to find among his
warriors a powerful marksman who could send a death arrow to the
man-hungry bird. At last to urge his men to their utmost skill he
bade his crier proclaim a new reward.
Of the chieftain's two beautiful daughters he would have his
choice who brought the dreaded red eagle with an arrow in its
Upon hearing these words, the men of the village, both young
and old, both heroes and cowards, trimmed new arrows for the
contest. At gray dawn there stood indistinct under the shadow of
the bluff many human figures; silent as ghosts and wrapped in robes
girdled tight about their waists, they waited with chosen bow and
Some cunning old warriors stayed not with the group. They
crouched low upon the open ground. But all eyes alike were fixed
upon the top of the high bluff. Breathless they watched for the
soaring of the red eagle.
From within the dwellings many eyes peeped through the small
holes in the front lapels of the teepee. With shaking knees and
hard-set teeth, the women peered out upon the Dakota men prowling
about with bows and arrows.
At length when the morning sun also peeped over the eastern
horizon at the armed Dakotas, the red eagle walked out upon the
edge of the cliff. Pluming his gorgeous feathers, he ruffled his
neck and flapped his strong wings together. Then he dived into the
air. Slowly he winged his way over the round camp ground; over the
men with their strong bows and arrows! In an instant the long bows
were bent. Strong straight arrows with red feathered tips sped
upward to the blue sky. Ah! slowly moved those indifferent wings,
untouched by the poison-beaked arrows. Off to the west beyond the
reach of arrow, beyond the reach of eye, the red eagle flew away.
A sudden clamor of high-pitched voices broke the deadly
stillness of the dawn. The women talked excitedly about the
invulnerable red of the eagle's feathers, while the would-be heroes
sulked within their wigwams. "He-he-he!" groaned the chieftain.
On the evening of the same day sat a group of hunters around
a bright burning fire. They were talking of a strange young man
whom they spied while out upon a hunt for deer beyond the bluffs.
They saw the stranger taking aim. Following the point of his arrow
with their eyes, they beheld a herd of buffalo. The arrow sprang
from the bow! It darted into the skull of the foremost buffalo.
But unlike other arrows it pierced through the head of the creature
and spinning in the air lit into the next buffalo head. One by one
the buffalo fell upon the sweet grass they were grazing. With
straight quivering limbs they lay on their sides. The young man
stood calmly by, counting on his fingers the buffalo as they
dropped dead to the ground. When the last one fell, he ran thither
and picking up his magic arrow wiped it carefully on the soft
grass. He slipped it into his long fringed quiver.
"He is going to make a feast for some hungry tribe of men or
beasts!" cried the hunters among themselves as they hastened away.
They were afraid of the stranger with the sacred arrow. When
the hunter's tale of the stranger's arrow reached the ears of the
chieftain, his face brightened with a smile. He sent forth fleet
horsemen, to learn of him his birth, his name, and his deeds.
"If he is the avenger with the magic arrow, sprung up from the
earth out of a clot of buffalo blood, bid him come hither. Let him
kill the red eagle with his magic arrow. Let him win for himself
one of my beautiful daughters," he had said to his messengers, for
the old story of the badger's man-son was known all over the level
After four days and nights the braves returned. "He is
coming," they said. "We have seen him. He is straight and tall;
handsome in face, with large black eyes. He paints his round
cheeks with bright red, and wears the penciled lines of red over
his temples like our men of honored rank. He carries on his back
a long fringed quiver in which he keeps his magic arrow. His bow
is long and strong. He is coming now to kill the big red eagle."
All around the camp ground from mouth to ear passed those words of
the returned messengers.
Now it chanced that immortal Iktomi, fully recovered from the
brown burnt spots, overheard the people talking. At once he was
filled with a new desire. "If only I had the magic arrow, I would
kill the red eagle and win the chieftain's daughter for a wife,"
said he in his heart.
Back to his lonely wigwam he hastened. Beneath the tree in
front of his teepee he sat upon the ground with chin between his
drawn-up knees. His keen eyes scanned the wide plain. He was
watching for the avenger.
"'He is coming!' said the people," muttered old Iktomi. All
of a sudden he raised an open palm to his brow and peered afar into
the west. The summer sun hung bright in the middle of a cloudless
sky. There across the green prairie was a man walking bareheaded
toward the east.
"Ha! ha! 'tis he! the man with the magic arrow!" laughed
Iktomi. And when the bird with the yellow breast sang loud
again--"Koda Ni Dakota! Friend, you're a Dakota!" Iktomi put his
hand over his mouth as he threw his head far backward, laughing at
both the bird and man.
"He is your friend, but his arrow will kill one of your kind!
He is a Dakota, but soon he'll grow into the bark on this tree!
Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed again.
The young avenger walked with swaying strides nearer and
nearer toward the lonely wigwam and tree. Iktomi heard the swish!
swish! of the stranger's feet through the tall grass. He was
passing now beyond the tree, when Iktomi, springing to his feet,
called out: "How, how, my friend! I see you are dressed in
handsome deerskins and have red paint on your cheeks. You are
going to some feast or dance, may I ask?" Seeing the young man
only smiled Iktomi went on: "I have not had a mouthful of food this
day. Have pity on me, young brave, and shoot yonder bird for me!"
With these words Iktomi pointed toward the tree-top, where sat a
bird on the highest branch. The young avenger, always ready to
help those in distress, sent an arrow upward and the bird fell. In
the next branch it was caught between the forked prongs.
"My friend, climb the tree and get the bird. I cannot climb
so high. I would get dizzy and fall," pleaded Iktomi. The avenger
began to scale the tree, when Iktomi cried to him: "My friend, your
beaded buckskins may be torn by the branches. Leave them safe upon
the grass till you are down again."
"You are right," replied the young man, quickly slipping off
his long fringed quiver. Together with his dangling pouches and
tinkling ornaments, he placed it on the ground. Now he climbed the
tree unhindered. Soon from the top he took the bird. "My friend,
toss to me your arrow that I may have the honor of wiping it clean
on soft deerskin!" exclaimed Iktomi.
"How!" said the brave, and threw the bird and arrow to the
At once Iktomi seized the arrow. Rubbing it first on the
grass and then on a piece of deerskin, he muttered indistinct words
all the while. The young man, stepping downward from limb to limb,
hearing the low muttering, said: "Iktomi, I cannot hear what you
"Oh, my friend, I was only talking of your big heart."
Again stooping over the arrow Iktomi continued his repetition
of charm words. "Grow fast, grow fast to the bark of the tree," he
whispered. Still the young man moved slowly downward. Suddenly
dropping the arrow and standing erect, Iktomi said aloud: "Grow
fast to the bark of the tree!" Before the brave could leap from
the tree he became tight-grown to the bark.
"Ah! ha!" laughed the bad Iktomi. "I have the magic arrow!
I have the beaded buckskins of the great avenger!" Hooting and
dancing beneath the tree, he said: "I shall kill the red eagle; I
shall wed the chieftain's beautiful daughter!"
"Oh, Iktomi, set me free!" begged the tree-bound Dakota
brave. But Iktomi's ears were like the fungus on a tree. He did
not hear with them.
Wearing the handsome buckskins and carrying proudly the magic
arrow in his right hand, he started off eastward. Imitating the
swaying strides of the avenger, he walked away with a face turned
"Oh, set me free! I am glued to the tree like its own bark!
Cut me loose!" moaned the prisoner.
A young woman, carrying on her strong back a bundle of tightly
bound willow sticks, passed near by the lonely teepee. She heard
the wailing man's voice. She paused to listen to the sad words.
Looking around she saw nowhere a human creature. "It may be a
spirit," thought she.
"Oh! cut me loose! set me free! Iktomi has played me false!
He has made me bark of his tree!" cried the voice again.
The young woman dropped her pack of firewood to the ground.
With her stone axe she hurried to the tree. There before her
astonished eyes clung a young brave close to the tree.
Too shy for words, yet too kind-hearted to leave the stranger
tree-bound, she cut loose the whole bark. Like an open jacket she
drew it to the ground. With it came the young man also. Free once
more, he started away. Looking backward, a few paces from the
young woman, he waved his hand, upward and downward, before her
face. This was a sign of gratitude used when words failed to
interpret strong emotion.
When the bewildered woman reached her dwelling, she mounted a
pony and rode swiftly across the rolling land. To the camp ground
in the east, to the chieftain troubled by the red eagle, she
carried her story.
SHOOTING OF THE RED EAGLE
SHOOTING OF THE RED EAGLE
A MAN in buckskins sat upon the top of a little hillock. The
setting sun shone bright upon a strong bow in his hand. His face
was turned toward the round camp ground at the foot of the hill.
He had walked a long journey hither. He was waiting for the
chieftain's men to spy him.
Soon four strong men ran forth from the center wigwam toward
the hillock, where sat the man with the long bow.
"He is the avenger come to shoot the red eagle," cried the
runners to each other as they bent forward swinging their elbows
They reached the side of the stranger, but he did not heed
them. Proud and silent he gazed upon the cone-shaped wigwams
beneath him. Spreading a handsomely decorated buffalo robe before
the man, two of the warriors lifted him by each shoulder and placed
him gently on it. Then the four men took, each, a corner of the
blanket and carried the stranger, with long proud steps, toward the
Ready to greet the stranger, the tall chieftain stood at the
entrance way. "How, you are the avenger with the magic arrow!"
said he, extending to him a smooth soft hand.
"How, great chieftain!" replied the man, holding long the
chieftain's hand. Entering the teepee, the chieftain motioned the
young man to the right side of the doorway, while he sat down
opposite him with a center fire burning between them. Wordless,
like a bashful Indian maid, the avenger ate in silence the food set
before him on the ground in front of his crossed shins. When he
had finished his meal he handed the empty bowl to the chieftain's
wife, saying, "Mother-in-law, here is your dish!"
"Han, my son!" answered the woman, taking the bowl.
With the magic arrow in his quiver the stranger felt not in
the least too presuming in addressing the woman as his mother-
Complaining of fatigue, he covered his face with his blanket
and soon within the chieftain's teepee he lay fast asleep.
"The young man is not handsome after all!" whispered the woman
in her husband's ear.
"Ah, but after he has killed the red eagle he will seem
handsome enough!" answered the chieftain.
That night the star men in their burial procession in the sky
reached the low northern horizon, before the center fires within
the teepees had flickered out. The ringing laughter which had
floated up through the smoke lapels was now hushed, and only the
distant howling of wolves broke the quiet of the village. But the
lull between midnight and dawn was short indeed. Very early the
oval-shaped door-flaps were thrust aside and many brown faces
peered out of the wigwams toward the top of the highest bluff.
Now the sun rose up out of the east. The red painted avenger
stood ready within the camp ground for the flying of the red eagle.
He appeared, that terrible bird! He hovered over the round village
as if he could pounce down upon it and devour the whole tribe.
When the first arrow shot up into the sky the anxious watchers
thrust a hand quickly over their half-uttered "hinnu!" The second
and the third arrows flew upward but missed by a wide space the red
eagle soaring with lazy indifference over the little man with the
long bow. All his arrows he spent in vain. "Ah! my blanket
brushed my elbow and shifted the course of my arrow!" said the
stranger as the people gathered around him.
During this happening, a woman on horseback halted her pony at
the chieftain's teepee. It was no other than the young woman who
cut loose the tree-bound captive!
While she told the story the chieftain listened with downcast
face. "I passed him on my way. He is near!" she ended.
Indignant at the bold impostor, the wrathful eyes of the
chieftain snapped fire like red cinders in the night time. His
lips were closed. At length to the woman he said: "How, you have
done me a good deed." Then with quick decision he gave command to
a fleet horseman to meet the avenger. "Clothe him in these my best
buckskins," said he, pointing to a bundle within the wigwam.
In the meanwhile strong men seized Iktomi and dragged him by
his long hair to the hilltop. There upon a mock-pillared grave
they bound him hand and feet. Grown-ups and children sneered and
hooted at Iktomi's disgrace. For a half-day he lay there, the
laughing-stock of the people. Upon the arrival of the real
avenger, Iktomi was released and chased away beyond the outer
limits of the camp ground.
On the following morning at daybreak, peeped the people out of
There again in the midst of the large camp ground was a man in
beaded buckskins. In his hand was a strong bow and red-tipped
arrow. Again the big red eagle appeared on the edge of the bluff.
He plumed his feathers and flapped his huge wings.
The young man crouched low to the ground. He placed the arrow
on the bow, drawing a poisoned flint for the eagle.
The bird rose into the air. He moved his outspread wings one,
two, three times and lo! the eagle tumbled from the great height
and fell heavily to the earth. An arrow stuck in his breast! He
So quick was the hand of the avenger, so sure his sight, that
no one had seen the arrow fly from his long bent bow.
In awe and amazement the village was dumb. And when the
avenger, plucking a red eagle feather, placed it in his black hair,
a loud shout of the people went up to the sky. Then hither and
thither ran singing men and women making a great feast for the
Thus he won the beautiful Indian princess who never tired of
telling to her children the story of the big red eagle.
IKTOMI AND THE TURTLE
IKTOMI AND THE TURTLE
THE huntsman Patkasa (turtle) stood bent over a newly slain
The red-tipped arrow he drew from the wounded deer was unlike
the arrows in his own quiver. Another's stray shot had killed the
deer. Patkasa had hunted all the morning without so much as spying
an ordinary blackbird.
At last returning homeward, tired and heavy-hearted that he
had no meat for the hungry mouths in his wigwam, he walked slowly
with downcast eyes. Kind ghosts pitied the unhappy hunter and led
him to the newly slain deer, that his children should not cry for
When Patkasa stumbled upon the deer in his path, he exclaimed:
"Good spirits have pushed me hither!"
Thus he leaned long over the gift of the friendly ghosts.
"How, my friend!" said a voice behind his ear, and a hand fell
on his shoulder. It was not a spirit this time. It was old
"How, Iktomi!" answered Patkasa, still stooping over the deer.
"My friend, you are a skilled hunter," began Iktomi, smiling
a thin smile which spread from one ear to the other.
Suddenly raising up his head Patkasa's black eyes twinkled as
he asked: "Oh, you really say so?"
"Yes, my friend, you are a skillful fellow. Now let us have
a little contest. Let us see who can jump over the deer without
touching a hair on his hide," suggested Iktomi.
"Oh, I fear I cannot do it!" cried Patkasa, rubbing his
funny, thick palms together.
"Have no coward's doubt, Patkasa. I say you are a skillful
fellow who finds nothing hard to do." With these words Iktomi led
Patkasa a short distance away. In little puffs Patkasa laughed
"Now, you may jump first," said Iktomi.
Patkasa, with doubled fists, swung his fat arms to and fro,
all the while biting hard his under lip.
Just before the run and leap Iktomi put in: "Let the winner
have the deer to eat!"
It was too late now to say no. Patkasa was more afraid of
being called a coward than of losing the deer. "Ho-wo," he
replied, still working his short arms. At length he started off on
the run. So quick and small were his steps that he seemed to be
kicking the ground only. Then the leap! But Patkasa tripped upon
a stick and fell hard against the side of the deer.
"He-he-he!" exclaimed Iktomi, pretending disappointment that
his friend had fallen.
Lifting him to his feet, he said: "Now it is my turn to try
the high jump!" Hardly was the last word spoken than Iktomi gave
a leap high above the deer.
"The game is mine!" laughed he, patting the sullen Patkasa on
the back. "My friend, watch the deer while I go to bring my
children," said Iktomi, darting lightly through the tall grass.
Patkasa was always ready to believe the words of scheming
people and to do the little favors any one asked of him. However,
on this occasion, he did not answer "Yes, my friend." He realized
that Iktomi's flattering tongue had made him foolish.
He turned up his nose at Iktomi, now almost out of sight, as
much as to say: "Oh, no, Ikto; I do not hear your words!"
Soon there came a murmur of voices. The sound of laughter
grew louder and louder. All of a sudden it became hushed. Old
Iktomi led his young Iktomi brood to the place where he had left
the turtle, but it was vacant. Nowhere was there any sign of
Patkasa or the deer. Then the babes did howl!
"Be still!" said father Iktomi to his children. "I know where
Patkasa lives. Follow me. I shall take you to the turtle's
dwelling." He ran along a narrow footpath toward the creek near
by. Close upon his heels came his children with tear-streaked
"There!" said Iktomi in a loud whisper as he gathered his
little ones on the bank. "There is Patkasa broiling venison!
There is his teepee, and the savory fire is in his front yard!"
The young Iktomis stretched their necks and rolled their round
black eyes like newly hatched birds. They peered into the water.
"Now, I will cool Patkasa's fire. I shall bring you the
broiled venison. Watch closely. When you see the black coals rise
to the surface of the water, clap your hands and shout aloud, for
soon after that sign I shall return to you with some tender meat."
Thus saying Iktomi plunged into the creek. Splash! splash!
the water leaped upward into spray. Scarcely had it become leveled
and smooth than there bubbled up many black spots. The creek was
seething with the dancing of round black things.
"The cooled fire! The coals!" laughed the brood of Iktomis.
Clapping together their little hands, they chased one another along
the edge of the creek. They shouted and hooted with great glee.
"Ahas!" said a gruff voice across the water. It was Patkasa.
In a large willow tree leaning far over the water he sat upon a
large limb. On the very same branch was a bright burning fire over
which Patkasa broiled the venison. By this time the water was calm
again. No more danced those black spots on its surface, for they
were the toes of old Iktomi. He was drowned.
The Iktomi children hurried away from the creek, crying and
calling for their water-dead father.
DANCE IN A BUFFALO SKULL
DANCE IN A BUFFALO SKULL
IT was night upon the prairie. Overhead the stars were
twinkling bright their red and yellow lights. The moon was young.
A silvery thread among the stars, it soon drifted low beneath the
Upon the ground the land was pitchy black. There are night
people on the plain who love the dark. Amid the black level land
they meet to frolic under the stars. Then when their sharp ears
hear any strange footfalls nigh they scamper away into the deep
shadows of night. There they are safely hid from all dangers, they
Thus it was that one very black night, afar off from the edge
of the level land, out of the wooded river bottom glided forth two
balls of fire. They came farther and farther into the level land.
They grew larger and brighter. The dark hid the body of the
creature with those fiery eyes. They came on and on, just over the
tops of the prairie grass. It might have been a wildcat prowling
low on soft, stealthy feet. Slowly but surely the terrible eyes
drew nearer and nearer to the heart of the level land.
There in a huge old buffalo skull was a gay feast and dance!
Tiny little field mice were singing and dancing in a circle to the
boom-boom of a wee, wee drum. They were laughing and talking among
themselves while their chosen singers sang loud a merry tune.
They built a small open fire within the center of their queer
dance house. The light streamed out of the buffalo skull through
all the curious sockets and holes.
A light on the plain in the middle of the night was an unusual
thing. But so merry were the mice they did not hear the "king,
king" of sleepy birds, disturbed by the unaccustomed fire.
A pack of wolves, fearing to come nigh this night fire, stood
together a little distance away, and, turning their pointed noses
to the stars, howled and yelped most dismally. Even the cry of the
wolves was unheeded by the mice within the lighted buffalo skull.
They were feasting and dancing; they were singing and
laughing--those funny little furry fellows.
All the while across the dark from out the low river bottom
came that pair of fiery eyes.
Now closer and more swift, now fiercer and glaring, the eyes
moved toward the buffalo skull. All unconscious of those fearful
eyes, the happy mice nibbled at dried roots and venison. The
singers had started another song. The drummers beat the time,
turning their heads from side to side in rhythm. In a ring around
the fire hopped the mice, each bouncing hard on his two hind feet.
Some carried their tails over their arms, while others trailed them
Ah, very near are those round yellow eyes! Very low to the
ground they seem to creep--creep toward the buffalo skull. All of
a sudden they slide into the eye-sockets of the old skull.
"Spirit of the buffalo!" squeaked a frightened mouse as he
jumped out from a hole in the back part of the skull.
"A cat! a cat!" cried other mice as they scrambled out of
holes both large and snug. Noiseless they ran away into the dark.
THE TOAD AND THE BOY
THE TOAD AND THE BOY
THE water-fowls were flying over the marshy lakes. It was now
the hunting season. Indian men, with bows and arrows, were wading
waist deep amid the wild rice. Near by, within their wigwams, the
wives were roasting wild duck and making down pillows.
In the largest teepee sat a young mother wrapping red
porcupine quills about the long fringes of a buckskin cushion.
Beside her lay a black-eyed baby boy cooing and laughing. Reaching
and kicking upward with his tiny hands and feet, he played with the
dangling strings of his heavy-beaded bonnet hanging empty on a tent
pole above him.
At length the mother laid aside her red quills and white
sinew-threads. The babe fell fast asleep. Leaning on one hand and
softly whispering a little lullaby, she threw a light cover over
her baby. It was almost time for the return of her husband.
Remembering there were no willow sticks for the fire, she
quickly girdled her blanket tight about her waist, and with a
short-handled ax slipped through her belt, she hurried away toward
the wooded ravine. She was strong and swung an ax as skillfully as
any man. Her loose buckskin dress was made for such freedom. Soon
carrying easily a bundle of long willows on her back, with a loop
of rope over both her shoulders, she came striding homeward.
Near the entrance way she stooped low, at once shifting the
bundle to the right and with both hands lifting the noose from over
her head. Having thus dropped the wood to the ground, she
disappeared into her teepee. In a moment she came running out
again, crying, "My son! My little son is gone!" Her keen eyes
swept east and west and all around her. There was nowhere any sign
of the child.
Running with clinched fists to the nearest teepees, she
called: "Has any one seen my baby? He is gone! My little son is
"Hinnu! Hinnu!" exclaimed the women, rising to their feet and
rushing out of their wigwams.
"We have not seen your child! What has happened?" queried the
With great tears in her eyes the mother told her story.
"We will search with you," they said to her as she started
They met the returning husbands, who turned about and joined
in the hunt for the missing child. Along the shore of the lakes,
among the high-grown reeds, they looked in vain. He was nowhere to
be found. After many days and nights the search was given up. It
was sad, indeed, to hear the mother wailing aloud for her little
It was growing late in the autumn. The birds were flying high
toward the south. The teepees around the lakes were gone, save one
Till the winter snow covered the ground and ice covered the
lakes, the wailing woman's voice was heard from that solitary
wigwam. From some far distance was also the sound of the father's
voice singing a sad song.
Thus ten summers and as many winters have come and gone since
the strange disappearance of the little child. Every autumn with
the hunters came the unhappy parents of the lost baby to search
again for him.
Toward the latter part of the tenth season when, one by one,
the teepees were folded and the families went away from the lake
region, the mother walked again along the lake shore weeping. One
evening, across the lake from where the crying woman stood, a pair
of bright black eyes peered at her through the tall reeds and wild
rice. A little wild boy stopped his play among the tall grasses.
His long, loose hair hanging down his brown back and shoulders was
carelessly tossed from his round face. He wore a loin cloth of
woven sweet grass. Crouching low to the marshy ground, he listened
to the wailing voice. As the voice grew hoarse and only sobs shook
the slender figure of the woman, the eyes of the wild boy grew dim
At length, when the moaning ceased, he sprang to his feet and
ran like a nymph with swift outstretched toes. He rushed into a
small hut of reeds and grasses.
"Mother! Mother! Tell me what voice it was I heard which
pleased my ears, but made my eyes grow wet!" said he, breathless.
"Han, my son," grunted a big, ugly toad. "It was the voice of
a weeping woman you heard. My son, do not say you like it. Do not
tell me it brought tears to your eyes. You have never heard me
weep. I can please your ear and break your heart. Listen!"
replied the great old toad.
Stepping outside, she stood by the entrance way. She was old
and badly puffed out. She had reared a large family of little
toads, but none of them had aroused her love, nor ever grieved her.
She had heard the wailing human voice and marveled at the throat
which produced the strange sound. Now, in her great desire to keep
the stolen boy awhile longer, she ventured to cry as the Dakota
woman does. In a gruff, coarse voice she broke forth:
"Hin-hin, doe-skin! Hin-hin, Ermine, Ermine! Hin-hin, red
blanket, with white border!"
Not knowing that the syllables of a Dakota's cry are the names
of loved ones gone, the ugly toad mother sought to please the boy's
ear with the names of valuable articles. Having shrieked in a
torturing voice and mouthed extravagant names, the old toad rolled
her tearless eyes with great satisfaction. Hopping back into her
dwelling, she asked:
"My son, did my voice bring tears to your eyes? Did my words
bring gladness to your ears? Do you not like my wailing better?"
"No, no!" pouted the boy with some impatience. "I want to
hear the woman's voice! Tell me, mother, why the human voice stirs
all my feelings!"
The toad mother said within her breast, "The human child has
heard and seen his real mother. I cannot keep him longer, I fear.
Oh, no, I cannot give away the pretty creature I have taught to
call me 'mother' all these many winters."
"Mother," went on the child voice, "tell me one thing. Tell
me why my little brothers and sisters are all unlike me."
The big, ugly toad, looking at her pudgy children, said: "The
eldest is always best."
This reply quieted the boy for a while. Very closely watched
the old toad mother her stolen human son. When by chance he
started off alone, she shoved out one of her own children after
him, saying: "Do not come back without your big brother."
Thus the wild boy with the long, loose hair sits every day on
a marshy island hid among the tall reeds. But he is not alone.
Always at his feet hops a little toad brother. One day an Indian
hunter, wading in the deep waters, spied the boy. He had heard
of the baby stolen long ago.
"This is he!" murmured the hunter to himself as he ran to his
wigwam. "I saw among the tall reeds a black-haired boy at play!"
shouted he to the people.
At once the unhappy father and mother cried out, "'Tis he, our
boy!" Quickly he led them to the lake. Peeping through the wild
rice, he pointed with unsteady finger toward the boy playing all
"'Tis he! 'tis he!" cried the mother, for she knew him.
In silence the hunter stood aside, while the happy father and
mother caressed their baby boy grown tall.
IYA, THE CAMP-EATER
IYA, THE CAMP-EATER
FROM the tall grass came the voice of a crying babe. The
huntsmen who were passing nigh heard and halted.
The tallest one among them hastened toward the high grass with
long, cautious strides. He waded through the growth of green with
just a head above it all. Suddenly exclaiming "Hunhe!" he dropped
out of sight. In another instant he held up in both his hands a
tiny little baby, wrapped in soft brown buckskins.
"Oh ho, a wood-child!" cried the men, for they were hunting
along the wooded river bottom where this babe was found.
While the hunters were questioning whether or no they should
carry it home, the wee Indian baby kept up his little howl.
"His voice is strong!" said one.
"At times it sounds like an old man's voice!" whispered a
superstitious fellow, who feared some bad spirit hid in the small
child to cheat them by and by.
"Let us take it to our wise chieftain," at length they said;
and the moment they started toward the camp ground the strange
wood-child ceased to cry.
Beside the chieftain's teepee waited the hunters while the
tall man entered with the child.
"How! how!" nodded the kind-faced chieftain, listening to the
queer story. Then rising, he took the infant in his strong arms;
gently he laid the black-eyed babe in his daughter's lap. "This is
to be your little son!" said he, smiling.
"Yes, father," she replied. Pleased with the child, she
smoothed the long black hair fringing his round brown face.
"Tell the people that I give a feast and dance this day for
the naming of my daughter's little son," bade the chieftain.
In the meanwhile among the men waiting by the entrance way,
one said in a low voice: "I have heard that bad spirits come as
little children into a camp which they mean to destroy."
"No! no! Let us not be overcautious. It would be cowardly to
leave a baby in the wild wood where prowl the hungry wolves!"
answered an elderly man.
The tall man now came out of the chieftain's teepee. With a
word he sent them to their dwellings half running with joy.
"A feast! a dance for the naming of the chieftain's
grandchild!" cried he in a loud voice to the village people.
"What? what?" asked they in great surprise, holding a hand to
the ear to catch the words of the crier.
There was a momentary silence among the people while they
listened to the ringing voice of the man walking in the center
ground. Then broke forth a rippling, laughing babble among the
cone-shaped teepees. All were glad to hear of the chieftain's
grandson. They were happy to attend the feast and dance for its
naming. With excited fingers they twisted their hair into glossy
braids and painted their cheeks with bright red paint. To and fro
hurried the women, handsome in their gala-day dress. Men in loose
deerskins, with long tinkling metal fringes, strode in small
numbers toward the center of the round camp ground.
Here underneath a temporary shade-house of green leaves they
were to dance and feast. The children in deerskins and paints,
just like their elders, were jolly little men and women. Beside
their eager parents they skipped along toward the green dance
Here seated in a large circle, the people were assembled, the
proud chieftain rose with the little baby in his arms. The noisy
hum of voices was hushed. Not a tinkling of a metal fringe broke
the silence. The crier came forward to greet the chieftain, then
bent attentively over the small babe, listening to the words of the
chieftain. When he paused the crier spoke aloud to the people:
"This woodland child is adopted by the chieftain's eldest
daughter. His name is Chaske. He wears the title of the eldest
son. In honor of Chaske the chieftain gives this feast and dance!
These are the words of him you see holding a baby in his arms."
"Yes! Yes! Hinnu! How!" came from the circle. At once the
drummers beat softly and slowly their drum while the chosen singers
hummed together to find the common pitch. The beat of the drum
grew louder and faster. The singers burst forth in a lively tune.
Then the drumbeats subsided and faintly marked the rhythm of the
singing. Here and there bounced up men and women, both young
and old. They danced and sang with merry light hearts. Then came
the hour of feasting.
Late into the night the air of the camp ground was alive with
the laughing voices of women and the singing in unison of young
men. Within her father's teepee sat the chieftain's daughter.
Proud of her little one, she watched over him asleep in her lap.
Gradually a deep quiet stole over the camp ground, as one by
one the people fell into pleasant dreams. Now all the village was
still. Alone sat the beautiful young mother watching the babe in
her lap, asleep with a gaping little mouth. Amid the quiet of the
night, her ear heard the far-off hum of many voices. The faint
sound of murmuring people was in the air. Upward she glanced at
the smoke hole of the wigwam and saw a bright star peeping down
upon her. "Spirits in the air above?" she wondered. Yet there was
no sign to tell her of their nearness. The fine small sound of
voices grew larger and nearer.
"Father! rise! I hear the coming of some tribe. Hostile or
friendly--I cannot tell. Rise and see!" whispered the young woman.
"Yes, my daughter!" answered the chieftain, springing to his
Though asleep, his ear was ever alert. Thus rushing out into
the open, he listened for strange sounds. With an eagle eye he
scanned the camp ground for some sign.
Returning he said: "My daughter, I hear nothing and see no
sign of evil nigh."
"Oh! the sound of many voices comes up from the earth about
me!" exclaimed the young mother.
Bending low over her babe she gave ear to the ground.
Horrified was she to find the mysterious sound came out of the open
mouth of her sleeping child!
"Why so unlike other babes!" she cried within her heart as she
slipped him gently from her lap to the ground. "Mother, listen and
tell me if this child is an evil spirit come to destroy our camp!"
she whispered loud.
Placing an ear close to the open baby mouth, the chieftain and
his wife, each in turn heard the voices of a great camp. The
singing of men and women, the beating of the drum, the rattling of
deer-hoofs strung like bells on a string, these were the sounds
"We must go away," said the chieftain, leading them into the
night. Out in the open he whispered to the frightened young woman:
"Iya, the camp-eater, has come in the guise of a babe. Had you
gone to sleep, he would have jumped out into his own shape and
would have devoured our camp. He is a giant with spindling legs.
He cannot fight, for he cannot run. He is powerful only in the
night with his tricks. We are safe as soon as day breaks." Then
moving closer to the woman, he whispered: "If he wakes now, he will
swallow the whole tribe with one hideous gulp! Come, we must flee
with our people."
Thus creeping from teepee to teepee a secret alarm signal was
given. At midnight the teepees were gone and there was left no
sign of the village save heaps of dead ashes. So quietly had the
people folded their wigwams and bundled their tent poles that they
slipped away unheard by the sleeping Iya babe.
When the morning sun arose, the babe awoke. Seeing himself
deserted, he threw off his baby form in a hot rage.
Wearing his own ugly shape, his huge body toppled to and fro,
from side to side, on a pair of thin legs far too small for their
burden. Though with every move he came dangerously nigh to
falling, he followed in the trail of the fleeing people.
"I shall eat you in the sight of a noon-day sun!" cried Iya in
his vain rage, when he spied them encamped beyond a river.
By some unknown cunning he swam the river and sought his way
toward the teepees.
"Hin! hin!" he grunted and growled. With perspiration beading
his brow he strove to wiggle his slender legs beneath his giant
"Ha! ha!" laughed all the village people to see Iya made
foolish with anger. "Such spindle legs cannot stand to fight by
daylight!" shouted the brave ones who were terror-struck the night
before by the name "Iya."
Warriors with long knives rushed forth and slew the
Lo! there rose out of the giant a whole Indian tribe: their
camp ground, their teepees in a large circle, and the people
laughing and dancing.
"We are glad to be free!" said these strange people.
Thus Iya was killed; and no more are the camp grounds in
danger of being swallowed up in a single night time.
MANSTIN, THE RABBIT
MANSTIN, THE RABBIT
MANSTIN was an adventurous brave, but very kind-hearted.
Stamping a moccasined foot as he drew on his buckskin leggins, he
said: "Grandmother, beware of Iktomi! Do not let him lure you into
some cunning trap. I am going to the North country on a long
With these words of caution to the bent old rabbit grandmother
with whom he had lived since he was a tiny babe, Manstin started
off toward the north. He was scarce over the great high hills when
he heard the shrieking of a human child.
"Wan!" he ejaculated, pointing his long ears toward the
direction of the sound; "Wan! that is the work of cruel
Double-Face. Shameless coward! he delights in torturing helpless
Muttering indistinct words, Manstin ran up the last hill and
lo! in the ravine beyond stood the terrible monster with a face in
front and one in the back of his head!
This brown giant was without clothes save for a wild-cat-skin
about his loins. With a wicked gleaming eye, he watched the little
black-haired baby he held in his strong arm. In a laughing voice
he hummed an Indian mother's lullaby, "A-boo! Aboo!" and at the
same time he switched the naked baby with a thorny wild-rose bush.
Quickly Manstin jumped behind a large sage bush on the brow of
the hill. He bent his bow and the sinewy string twanged. Now an
arrow stuck above the ear of Double-Face. It was a poisoned arrow,
and the giant fell dead. Then Manstin took the little brown baby
and hurried away from the ravine. Soon he came to a teepee from
whence loud wailing voices broke. It was the teepee of the stolen
baby and the mourners were its heart-broken parents.
When gallant Manstin returned the child to the eager arms of
the mother there came a sudden terror into the eyes of both the
Dakotas. They feared lest it was Double-Face come in a new guise
to torture them. The rabbit understood their fear and said: "I am
Manstin, the kind-hearted,--Manstin, the noted huntsman. I am your
friend. Do not fear."
That night a strange thing happened. While the father and
mother slept, Manstin took the wee baby. With his feet placed
gently yet firmly upon the tiny toes of the little child, he drew
upward by each small hand the sleeping child till he was a full-
grown man. With a forefinger he traced a slit in the upper lip;
and when on the morrow the man and woman awoke they could not
distinguish their own son from Manstin, so much alike were the
"Henceforth we are friends, to help each other," said Manstin,
shaking a right hand in farewell. "The earth is our common ear, to
carry from its uttermost extremes one's slightest wish for the
"Ho! Be it so!" answered the newly made man.
Upon leaving his friend, Manstin hurried away toward the North
country whither he was bound for a long hunt. Suddenly he came
upon the edge of a wide brook. His alert eye caught sight of a
rawhide rope staked to the water's brink, which led away toward a
small round hut in the distance. The ground was trodden into a
deep groove beneath the loosely drawn rawhide rope.
"Hun-he!" exclaimed Manstin, bending over the freshly made
footprints in the moist bank of the brook. "A man's footprints!"
he said to himself. "A blind man lives in yonder hut! This rope
is his guide by which he comes for his daily water!" surmised
Manstin, who knew all the peculiar contrivances of the people. At
once his eyes became fixed upon the solitary dwelling and hither he
followed his curiosity,--a real blind man's rope.
Quietly he lifted the door-flap and entered in. An old
toothless grandfather, blind and shaky with age, sat upon the
ground. He was not deaf however. He heard the entrance and felt
the presence of some stranger.
"How, grandchild," he mumbled, for he was old enough to be
grandparent to every living thing, "how! I cannot see you. Pray,
speak your name!"
"Grandfather, I am Manstin," answered the rabbit, all the
while looking with curious eyes about the wigwam.
"Grandfather, what is it so tightly packed in all these
buckskin bags placed against the tent poles?" he asked.
"My grandchild, those are dried buffalo meat and venison.
These are magic bags which never grow empty. I am blind and cannot
go on a hunt. Hence a kind Maker has given me these magic bags of
Then the old, bent man pulled at a rope which lay by his right
hand. "This leads me to the brook where I drink! and this," said
he, turning to the one on his left, "and this takes me into the
forest, where I feel about for dry sticks for my fire."
"Grandfather, I wish I lived in such sure luxury! I would
lean back against a tent pole, and with crossed feet I would smoke
sweet willow bark the rest of my days," sighed Manstin.
"My grandchild, your eyes are your luxury! you would be
unhappy without them!" the old man replied.
"Grandfather, I would give you my two eyes for your place!"
"How! you have said it. Arise. Take out your eyes and give
them to me. Henceforth you are at home here in my stead."
At once Manstin took out both his eyes and the old man put
them on! Rejoicing, the old grandfather started away with his
young eyes while the blind rabbit filled his dream pipe, leaning
lazily against the tent pole. For a short time it was a most
pleasant pastime to smoke willow bark and to eat from the magic
Manstin grew thirsty, but there was no water in the small
dwelling. Taking one of the rawhide ropes he started toward the
brook to quench his thirst. He was young and unwilling to trudge
slowly in the old man's footpath. He was full of glee, for it had
been many long moons since he had tasted such good food. Thus he
skipped confidently along jerking the old weather-eaten rawhide
spasmodically till all of a sudden it gave way and Manstin fell
headlong into the water.
"En! En!" he grunted kicking frantically amid stream. All
along the slippery bank he vainly tried to climb, till at last he
chanced upon the old stake and the deeply worn footpath. Exhausted
and inwardly disgusted with his mishaps, he crawled more cautiously
on all fours to his wigwam door. Dripping with his recent plunge
he sat with chattering teeth within his unfired wigwam.
The sun had set and the night air was chilly, but there was no
fire-wood in the dwelling. "Hin!" murmured Manstin and bravely
tried the other rope. "I go for some fire-wood!" he said,
following the rawhide rope which led into the forest. Soon he
stumbled upon thickly strewn dry willow sticks. Eagerly with both
hands he gathered the wood into his outspread blanket. Manstin was
naturally an energetic fellow.
When he had a large heap, he tied two opposite ends of blanket
together and lifted the bundle of wood upon his back, but alas! he
had unconsciously dropped the end of the rope and now he was lost
in the wood!
"Hin! hin!" he groaned. Then pausing a moment, he set his
fan-like ears to catch any sound of approaching footsteps. There
was none. Not even a night bird twittered to help him out of his
With a bold face, he made a start at random.
He fell into some tangled wood where he was held fast.
Manstin let go his bundle and began to lament having given away
his two eyes.
"Friend, my friend, I have need of you! The old oak tree
grandfather has gone off with my eyes and I am lost in the woods!"
he cried with his lips close to the earth.
Scarcely had he spoken when the sound of voices was audible on
the outer edge of the forest. Nearer and louder grew the
voices--one was the clear flute tones of a young brave and the
other the tremulous squeaks of an old grandfather.
It was Manstin's friend with the Earth Ear and the old
grandfather. "Here Manstin, take back your eyes," said the old
man, "I knew you would not be content in my stead, but I wanted you
to learn your lesson. I have had pleasure seeing with your eyes
and trying your bow and arrows, but since I am old and feeble I
much prefer my own teepee and my magic bags!"
Thus talking the three returned to the hut. The old
grandfather crept into his wigwam, which is often mistaken for a
mere oak tree by little Indian girls and boys.
Manstin, with his own bright eyes fitted into his head again,
went on happily to hunt in the North country.
THE WARLIKE SEVEN
THE WARLIKE SEVEN
ONCE seven people went out to make war,--the Ashes, the Fire,
the Bladder, the Grasshopper, the Dragon Fly, the Fish, and the
Turtle. As they were talking excitedly, waving their fists in
violent gestures, a wind came and blew the Ashes away. "Ho!" cried
the others, "he could not fight, this one!"
The six went on running to make war more quickly. They
descended a deep valley, the Fire going foremost until they came to
a river. The Fire said "Hsss--tchu!" and was gone. "Ho!" hooted
the others, "he could not fight, this one!"
Therefore the five went on the more quickly to make war. They
came to a great wood. While they were going through it, the
Bladder was heard to sneer and to say, "He! you should rise above
these, brothers." With these words he went upward among the
tree-tops; and the thorn apple pricked him. He fell through the
branches and was nothing! "You see this!" said the four, "this one
could not fight."
Still the remaining warriors would not turn back. The four
went boldly on to make war. The Grasshopper with his cousin, the
Dragon Fly, went foremost. They reached a marshy place, and the
mire was very deep. As they waded through the mud, the
Grasshopper's legs stuck, and he pulled them off! He crawled upon
a log and wept, "You see me, brothers, I cannot go!"
The Dragon Fly went on, weeping for his cousin. He would not
be comforted, for he loved his cousin dearly. The more he grieved,
the louder he cried, till his body shook with great violence. He
blew his red swollen nose with a loud noise so that his head came
off his slender neck, and he was fallen upon the grass.
"You see how it is, said the Fish, lashing his tail
impatiently, "these people were not warriors!" "Come!" he said,
"let us go on to make war."
Thus the Fish and the Turtle came to a large camp ground.
"Ho!" exclaimed the people of this round village of teepees,
"Who are these little ones? What do they seek?"
Neither of the warriors carried weapons with them, and their
unimposing stature misled the curious people.
The Fish was spokesman. With a peculiar omission of
syllables, he said: "Shu . . . hi pi!"
"Wan! what? what?" clamored eager voices of men and women.
Again the Fish said: "Shu . . . hi pi!" Everywhere stood
young and old with a palm to an ear. Still no one guessed what
the Fish had mumbled!
From the bewildered crowd witty old Iktomi came forward. "He,
listen!" he shouted, rubbing his mischievous palms together, for
where there was any trouble brewing, he was always in the midst of
"This little strange man says, 'Zuya unhipi! We come to make
"Uun!" resented the people, suddenly stricken glum. "Let us
kill the silly pair! They can do nothing! They do not know the
meaning of the phrase. Let us build a fire and boil them both!"
"If you put us on to boil," said the Fish, "there will be
"Ho ho!" laughed the village folk. "We shall see."
And so they made a fire.
"I have never been so angered!" said the Fish. The Turtle in
a whispered reply said: "We shall die!"
When a pair of strong hands lifted the Fish over the
sputtering water, he put his mouth downward. "Whssh!" he said. He
blew the water all over the people, so that many were burned and
could not see. Screaming with pain, they ran away.
"Oh, what shall we do with these dreadful ones?" they said.
Others exclaimed: "Let us carry them to the lake of muddy
water and drown them!"
Instantly they ran with them. They threw the Fish and the
Turtle into the lake. Toward the center of the large lake the
Turtle dived. There he peeped up out of the water and, waving a
hand at the crowd, sang out, "This is where I live!"
The Fish swam hither and thither with such frolicsome darts
that his back fin made the water fly. "E han!" whooped the Fish,
"this is where I live!"
"Oh, what have we done!" said the frightened people, "this
will be our undoing."
Then a wise chief said: "Iya, the Eater, shall come and
swallow the lake!"
So one went running. He brought Iya, the Eater; and Iya drank
all day at the lake till his belly was like the earth. Then the
Fish and the Turtle dived into the mud; and Iya said: "They are not
in me." Hearing this the people cried greatly.
Iktomi wading in the lake had been swallowed like a gnat in
the water. Within the great Iya he was looking skyward. So deep
was the water in the Eater's stomach that the surface of the
swallowed lake almost touched the sky.
"I will go that way," said Iktomi, looking at the concave
within arm's reach.
He struck his knife upward in the Eater's stomach, and the
water falling out drowned those people of the village.
Now when the great water fell into its own bed, the Fish and
the Turtle came to the shore. They went home painted victors and
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