The Project Gutenberg eBook, Blackfeet Indian Stories, by George Bird
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Title: Blackfeet Indian Stories
Author: George Bird Grinnell
Release Date: October 22, 2004 [eBook #13833]
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BLACKFEET INDIAN STORIES
GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL
Author of _Blackfeet Lodge Tales_, _Trails Of The Pathfinders_, etc.
[Illustration: Cold Maker]
TO THE READER
Those who wish to know something about how the people lived who told
these stories will find their ways of life described in the last
chapter of this book.
The Blackfeet were hunters, travelling from place to place on foot.
They used implements of stone, wood, or bone, wore clothing made of
skins, and lived in tents covered by hides. Dogs, their only tame
animals, were used as beasts of burden to carry small packs and drag
The stories here told come down to us from very ancient times.
Grandfathers have told them to their grandchildren, and these again
to their grandchildren, and so from mouth to mouth, through many
generations, they have reached our time.
TWO FAST RUNNERS
THE WOLF MAN
KUT-O-YIS', THE BLOOD BOY
THE DOG AND THE ROOT DIGGER
THE CAMP OF THE GHOSTS
THE BUFFALO STONE
HOW THE THUNDER PIPE CAME
COLD MAKER'S MEDICINE
THE ALL COMRADES SOCIETIES
THE BULLS SOCIETY
THE OTHER SOCIETIES
THE FIRST MEDICINE LODGE
THE BUFFALO-PAINTED LODGES
MIKA'PI--RED OLD MAN
RED ROBE'S DREAM
THE BLACKFEET CREATION
OLD MAN STORIES
THE WONDERFUL BIRD
THE RABBITS' MEDICINE
THE LOST ELK MEAT
THE ROLLING ROCK
BEAR AND BULLBERRIES
THE THEFT FROM THE SUN
THE SMART WOMAN CHIEF
BOBCAT AND BIRCH TREE
THE RED-EYED DUCK
THE ANCIENT BLACKFEET
TWO FAST RUNNERS
Once, a long time ago, the antelope and the deer happened to meet on
the prairie. They spoke together, giving each other the news, each
telling what he had seen and done. After they had talked for a time
the antelope told the deer how fast he could run, and the deer said
that he could run fast too, and before long each began to say that
he could run faster than the other. So they agreed that they would
have a race to decide which could run the faster, and on this race
they bet their galls. When they started, the antelope ran ahead of
the deer from the very start and won the race and so took the deer's
But the deer began to grumble and said, "Well, it is true that out
here on the prairie you have beaten me, but this is not where I
live. I only come out here once in a while to feed or to cross the
prairie when I am going somewhere. It would be fairer if we had a
race in the timber. That is my home, and there I can run faster than
you. I am sure of it."
The antelope felt so glad and proud that he had beaten the deer in
the race that he was sure that wherever they might run he could beat
him, so he said, "All right, I will run you a race in the timber. I
have beaten you out here on the flat and I can beat you there." On
this race they bet their dew-claws.
They started and ran this race through the thick timber, among the
bushes, and over fallen logs, and this time the antelope ran slowly,
for he was afraid of hitting himself against the trees or of falling
over the logs. You see, he was not used to this kind of travelling.
So the deer easily beat him and took his dew-claws.
Since that time the deer has had no gall and the antelope no
THE WOLF MAN
A long time ago there was a man who had two wives. They were not
good women; they did not look after their home nor try to keep
things comfortable there. If the man brought in plenty of buffalo
cow skins they did not tan them well, and often when he came home at
night, hungry and tired after his hunting, he had no food, for these
women would be away from the lodge, visiting their relations and
having a good time.
The man thought that if he moved away from the big camp and lived
alone where there were no other people perhaps he might teach these
women to become good; so he moved his lodge far off on the prairie
and camped at the foot of a high butte.
Every evening about sundown the man used to climb up to the top of
this butte and sit there and look all over the country to see where
the buffalo were feeding and whether any enemies were moving about.
On top of the hill there was a buffalo skull, on which he used to
One day one of the women said to the other, "It is very lonely here;
we have no one to talk with or to visit."
"Let us kill our husband," said the other: "then we can go back to
our relations and have a good time."
Early next morning the man set out to hunt, and as soon as he was
out of sight his wives went up on top of the butte where he used to
sit. There they dug a deep hole and covered it over with light
sticks and grass and earth, so that it looked like the other soil
near by, and placed the buffalo skull on the sticks which covered
In the afternoon, as they watched for their returning husband, they
saw him come over the hill loaded down with meat that he had killed.
When he threw down his load outside the lodge, they hurried to cook
something for him. After he had eaten he went up on the butte and
sat down on the skull. The slender sticks broke and he fell into the
hole. His wives were watching him, and when they saw him disappear,
they took down the lodge and packed their dogs and set out to go to
the main camp. As they drew near it, so that people could hear them,
they began to cry and mourn.
Soon some people came to meet them and said, "What is this? Why are
you mourning? Where is your husband?"
"Ah," they replied, "he is dead. Five days ago he went out to hunt
and he did not come back. What shall we do? We have lost him who
cared for us"; and they cried and mourned again.
Now, when the man fell into the pit he was hurt, for the hole was
deep. After a time he tried to climb out, but he was so badly
bruised that he could not do so. He sat there and waited, thinking
that here he must surely die of hunger.
But travelling over the prairie was a wolf that climbed up on the
butte and came to the hole and, looking in, saw the man and pitied
"Ah-h-w-o-o-o! Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!" he howled, and when the other wolves
heard him they all came running to see what was the matter.
Following the big wolves came also many coyotes, badgers, and
kit-foxes. They did not know what had happened, but they thought
perhaps there was food here.
To the others the wolf said, "Here in this hole is what I have
found. Here is a man who has fallen in. Let us dig him out and we
will have him for our brother."
All the wolves thought that this talk was good, and they began to
dig, and before very long they had dug a hole down almost to the
bottom of the pit.
Then the wolf who had found the man said, "Hold on; wait a little; I
want to say a few words." All the animals stopped digging and began
to listen, and the wolf said, "We will all have this man for our
brother; but I found him, and so I think he ought to live with us
big wolves." All the others thought that this was good, and the
wolf that had found the man went into the hole that had been dug,
and tearing down the rest of the earth, dragged out the poor man,
who was now almost dead, for he had neither eaten nor drunk anything
since he fell in the hole. They gave the man a kidney to eat, and
when he was able to walk the big wolves took him to their home. Here
there was a very old blind wolf who had great power and could do
wonderful things. He cured the man and made his head and his hands
look like those of a wolf. The rest of his body was not changed.
In those days the people used to make holes in the walls of the
fence about the enclosure into which they led the buffalo. They set
snares over these holes, and when wolves and other animals crept
through them so as to get into the pen and feed on the meat they
were caught by the neck and killed, and the people used their skins
One night all the wolves went down to the pen to get meat, and when
they had come close to it, the man-wolf said to his brothers, "Stop
here for a little while and I will go down and fix the places so
that you will not be caught." He went down to the pen and sprung all
the snares, and then went back and called the wolves and the
others--the coyotes, badgers, and kit-foxes--and they all went into
the pen and feasted and took meat to carry home to their families.
In the morning the people found the meat gone and all their snares
sprung, and they were surprised and wondered how this could have
happened. For many nights the nooses were pulled tight and the meat
taken; but once when the wolves went there to eat they found only
the meat of a lean and sickly bull. Then the man-wolf was angry,
and he cried out like a wolf, "Bad-food-you-give-us-o-o-o!
When the people heard this they said to one another, "Ah, it is a
man-wolf who has done all this. We must catch him." So they took
down to the piskun pemmican and nice back fat and placed it
there, and many of them hid close by. After dark the wolves came,
as was their custom, and when the man-wolf saw the good food, he ran
to it and began to eat. Then the people rushed upon him from every
side and caught him with ropes, and tied him and took him to a
lodge, and when they had brought him inside to the light of the
fire, at once they knew who it was. They said, "Why, this is the man
who was lost."
[Footnote 1: A pen or enclosure, usually--among the
Blackfeet--at the foot of a cliff, over which the buffalo
were induced to jump. Pronounced p[)i]'sk[)u]n.]
"No," said the man, "I was not lost. My wives tried to kill me. They
dug a deep hole and I fell into it, and I was hurt so badly I could
not get out; but the wolves took pity on me and helped me or I would
have died there."
When the people heard this they were angry, and they told the man to
do something to punish these women.
"You say well," he replied; "I give those women to the punishing
society. They know what to do."
After that night the two women were never seen again.
KUT-O-YIS', THE BLOOD BOY
As the children whose ancestors came from Europe have stories about
the heroes who killed wicked and cruel monsters--like Jack the Giant
Killer, for example--so the Indian children hear stories about
persons who had magic power and who went about the world destroying
those who treated cruelly or killed the Indians of the camps. Such a
hero was K[)u]t-o-y[)i]s', and this is how he came to be alive and
to travel about from place to place, helping the people and
destroying their enemies.
It was long, long ago, down where Two Medicine and Badger Rivers
come together, that an old man lived with his wife and three
daughters. One day there came to his camp a young man, good-looking,
a good hunter, and brave. He stayed in the camp for some time, and
whenever he went hunting he killed game and brought in great loads
All this time the old man was watching him, for he said in his
heart, "This seems a good young man and a good hunter. Perhaps I
will give him my daughters for wives, and then he will stay here and
help me always."
After a time the old man decided to do this, and he gave the young
man his daughters; and because these three were his only children he
gave his son-in-law his dogs and all his property, and for himself
and his wife he kept only a little lodge. The young man's wives
tanned plenty of cow skins and made a big fine lodge, and in this
the son-in-law lived with his wives.
For some time after this the son-in-law was very good and kind to
the old people. When he killed any animal he gave them part of the
meat, and gave them skins which his mother-in-law tanned for robes
or for clothing.
As time went on the son-in-law began to grow stingy, and pretty soon
he gave nothing to his father-in-law's lodge, but kept everything
for his own.
Now, the son-in-law was a person of much mysterious power, and he
kept the buffalo hidden under a big log-jam in the river. Whenever
he needed food and wished to kill anything, he would take his
father-in-law with him to help. He would send the old man out to
stamp on the log-jam and frighten the buffalo, and when they ran out
from under it the young man would shoot one or two with his arrows,
never killing more than he needed. But often he gave the old people
nothing at all to eat. They were hungry all the time, and at length
they began to grow thin and weak.
One morning early the young man asked his father-in-law to come and
hunt with him. They went to the log-jam and the old man drove out
the buffalo and his son-in-law killed a fat buffalo cow. Then he
said to his father-in-law, "Hurry back now to the camp and tell your
daughters to come and carry home the meat, and then you can have
something to eat." The old man set out for the camp, thinking, as he
walked along, "Now, at last, my son-in-law has taken pity on me; he
will give me some of this meat."
When he returned with his daughters they skinned the cow and cut it
up and, carrying it, went home. The young man had his wives leave
the meat at his own lodge and told his father-in-law to go home. He
did not give him even a little piece of the meat. The two older
daughters gave their parents nothing to eat, but sometimes the
youngest one had pity on them and took a piece of meat and, when she
could, threw it into the lodge to the old people. The son-in-law had
told his wives not to give the old people anything to eat. Except
for the good heart of the youngest daughter they would have died of
Another day the son-in-law rose early in the morning and went over
to the old man's lodge and kicked against the poles, calling to him,
"Get up now and help me; I want you to go and stamp on the log-jam
to drive out the buffalo." When the old man moved his feet on the
jam and a buffalo ran out, the son-in-law was not ready for it, and
it passed by him before he shot the arrow; so he only wounded it. It
ran away, but at last it fell down and died.
The old man followed close after it, and as he ran along he came to
a place where a great clot of blood had fallen from the buffalo's
wound. When he came to where this clot of blood was lying on the
ground, he stumbled and fell and spilled his arrows out of his
quiver, and while he was picking them up he picked up also the clot
of blood and hid it in his quiver.
"What are you picking up?" called the son-in-law.
"Nothing," replied the old man. "I fell down and spilled my arrows,
and I am putting them back."
"Ah, old man," said the son-in-law, "you are lazy and useless. You
no longer help me. Go back now to the camp and tell your daughters
to come down here and help carry in this meat."
The old man went to the camp and told his daughters of the meat that
their husband had killed, and they went down to the killing ground.
Then he went to his own lodge and said to his wife, "Hurry, now, put
the stone kettle on the fire. I have brought home something from the
"Ah," said the old woman, "has our son-in-law been generous and
given us something nice to eat?"
"No," replied the old man, "but hurry and put the kettle on the
After a time the water began to boil and the old man turned his
quiver upside down over the pot, and immediately there came from it
a sound of a child crying, as if it were being hurt. The old people
both looked in the kettle and there they saw a little boy, and they
quickly took him out of the water. They were surprised and did not
know where the child had come from. The old woman wrapped the child
up and wound a line about its wrappings to keep them in place,
making a lashing for the child. Then they talked about it, wondering
what should be done with it. They thought that if their son-in-law
knew it was a boy he would kill it; so they determined to tell their
daughters that the baby was a girl, for then their son-in-law would
think that he was going to have another wife. So he would be glad.
They called the child Kut-o-yis'--Clot of Blood.
The son-in-law and his wives came home, bringing the meat, and
after a little time they heard the child in the next lodge crying.
The son-in-law said to his youngest wife, "Go over to your mother's
and see whether that baby is a boy or a girl. If it is a boy, tell
your parents to kill it."
Soon the young woman came back and said to her husband, "It is a
girl baby. You are to have another wife."
The son-in-law did not know whether to believe this, and sent his
oldest wife to ask the same question. When she came back and told
him the same thing he believed that it was really a girl. Then he
was glad, for he said to himself, "Now, when this child has grown
up, I shall have another wife." He said to his youngest wife, "Take
some back fat and pemmican over to your mother; she must be well fed
now that she has to nurse this child."
On the fourth day after he had been born the child spoke and said to
his mother, "Hold me in turn to each one of these lodge poles, and
when I come to the last one I shall fall out of my lashings and be
grown up." The old woman did as he had said, and as she held him to
one pole after another he could be seen to grow; and finally when he
was held to the last pole he was a man.
After Kut-o-yis' had looked about the lodge he put his eye to a hole
in the lodge-covering and looked out. Then he turned around and said
to the old people, "How is it that in this lodge there is nothing to
eat? Over by the other lodge I see plenty of food hanging up."
"Hush," said the old woman, raising her hand, "you will be heard.
Our son-in-law lives over there. He does not give us anything at all
"Well," said the young man, "where is your piskun--where do you kill
"It is down by the river," the old woman answered. "We pound on it
and the buffalo run out."
For some time they talked together and the old man told Kut-o-yis'
how his son-in-law had abused him. He said to the young man, "He has
taken from me my bow and my arrows and has taken even my dogs; and
now for many days we have had nothing to eat, except sometimes a
small piece of meat that our daughter throws to us."
"Father," said Kut-o-yis', "have you no arrows?"
"No, my son," replied the old man, "but I still have four stone
"Go out then," said Kut-o-yis', "and get some wood. We will make a
bow and some arrows, and in the morning we will go down to where the
buffalo are and kill something to eat."
Early in the morning Kut-o-yis' pushed the old man and said, "Come,
get up now, and we will go down and kill, when the buffalo come
out." It was still very early in the morning.
When they reached the river the old man said, "This is the place to
stand and shoot. I will go down and drive them out."
He went down and stamped on the log-jam, and presently a fat cow ran
out and Kut-o-yis' killed it.
Now, after these two had gone to the river the son-in-law arose and
went over to the old man's lodge, and knocked on the poles and
called to the old man to get up and help him kill. The old woman
called out to the son-in-law, saying, "Your father-in-law has
already gone down to the piskun." This made the son-in-law angry,
and he began to talk badly to the old woman and to threaten to harm
Presently he went on down to the log-jam, and as he got near the
place he saw the old man at work there, bending over, skinning a
buffalo; for Kut-o-yis', when he had seen the son-in-law coming, had
lain down on the ground and hidden himself behind the carcass.
When the son-in-law had come pretty close to where the buffalo lay
he said to his father-in-law, "Old man, stand up and look all about
you. Look carefully and well, for it will be the last time that you
will ever see anything"; and while the son-in-law said this he took
an arrow from his quiver.
Kut-o-yis' spoke to the old man from his hiding-place and said,
"Tell your son-in-law that he must take his last look, for that you
are going to kill him now." The old man said this as he had been
"Ah," said the son-in-law, "you talk back to me. That makes me still
angrier at you." He put an arrow on the string and shot at the old
man, but did not hit him. Kut-o-yis' said to the old man, "Pick up
that arrow and shoot it back at him"; and the old man did so. Now,
they shot at each other four times, and then the old man said to
Kut-o-yis', "I am afraid now; get up and help me. If you do not, I
think he will kill me." Then Kut-o-yis' rose to his feet and said to
the son-in-law, "Here, what are you doing? I think you have been
treating this old man badly for a long time. Why do you do it?"
"Oh no," said the son-in-law, and he smiled at Kut-o-yis' in a
friendly way, for he was afraid of him. "Oh no; no one thinks more
of this old man than I do. I have always been very good to him."
"No," said Kut-o-yis'. "You are saying what is not true, and I am
going to kill you now."
Kut-o-yis' shot the son-in-law four times and he fell down and
died. Then the young man told his father to go and bring down to him
the daughters who had acted badly toward him. The old man did so and
Kut-o-yis' punished them. Then he went up to the lodges and said to
the youngest woman, "Did you love your husband?" "Yes," said the
girl, "I loved him." So Kut-o-yis' punished her too, but not so
badly as he had the other daughters, because she had been kind to
To the old people he said, "Go over now to that lodge and live
there. There is plenty of food, and when that is gone I will kill
more. As for me, I shall make a journey. Tell me where there are any
people. In what direction shall I go to find a camp?"
"Well," said the old man, "up here on Two Medicine Lodge Creek there
are some people--up where the piskun is, you know."
Kut-o-yis' followed up the stream to where the piskun was and there
found many lodges of people. In the centre of the camp was a big
lodge, and painted on it the figure of a bear. He did not go to this
lodge, but went into a small lodge where two old women lived. When
he had sat down they put food before him--lean dried meat and some
"How is this, grandmothers?" he said. "Here is a camp with plenty of
fat meat and back fat hanging up to dry; why do you not give me some
"Hush; be careful," said the old women. "In that big lodge over
there lives a big bear and his wives and children. He takes all the
best food and leaves us nothing. He is the chief of this place."
Early in the morning Kut-o-yis' said to the old women, "Harness up
your dogs to the travois now and go over to the piskun, and I will
kill some fat meat for you."
When they got there, he killed a fat cow and helped the old women to
cut it up, and they took it to the lodge. One of those old women
said, "Ah me, the bears will be sure to come."
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
They said to him, "We shall be sorry to lose this back fat."
"Do not fear," he said. "No one shall take this back fat from you.
Now, take all those best pieces and hang them up, so that those who
live in the bear lodge may see them."
They did so. Pretty soon the old bear chief said to one of his
children, "By this time I think the people have finished killing. Go
out now and look about; see where the nicest pieces are, and bring
in some nice back fat."
One of the young bears went out of the lodge and stood up and looked
about, and when it saw this meat hanging by the old women's lodge
close by, it went over toward it.
"Ah," said the old women, "there are those bears."
"Do not be afraid," said Kut-o-yis'.
The young bear went over to where the meat was hanging and stood up
and began to pull it down. Kut-o-yis' went out of the lodge and
said, "Wait; wait! What are you doing, taking the old women's meat?"
The young bear answered, "My father told me that I should go out and
get this meat and bring it home to him."
Kut-o-yis' hit the young bear over the head with a stick and it ran
When it had reached the lodge it told what had happened and the
father bear said, "I will go over there myself; perhaps this person
will hit me over the head."
When the old women saw the father and mother bear and all their
relations coming they were afraid, but Kut-o-yis' jumped out of the
lodge and killed the bears one after another; all except one little
she-bear, a very small one, which got away.
"Well," said Kut-o-yis', "you may go and breed more bears."
He told the old women to move over to the bear-painted lodge and
after this to live in it. It was theirs.
To the old women Kut-o-yis' then said, "Now, grandmothers, where are
there any more people? I want to travel about and see them."
The old women said, "At the Point of Rocks--on Sun River--there is a
camp. There is a piskun there."
So Kut-o-yis' set off for that place, and when he came to the camp
he went into an old woman's lodge.
The old woman gave him something to eat--a dish of bad food.
"Why is this, grandmother?" asked Kut-o-yis'. "Have you no food
better than this to give to a visitor? Down there I see a piskun;
you must kill plenty of buffalo and must have good food."
"Speak lower," said the old woman, "or you may be heard. We have no
good food because there is a great snake here who is the chief of
the camp. He takes all the best pieces. He lives over there in that
The next morning when the buffalo were led in, Kut-o-yis' killed
one, and they took the back fat and carried it to their lodge. Then
Kut-o-yis' said, "I think I will visit that snake person." He went
over and went into the lodge, and there he saw many women that the
snake person had taken to be his wives. The women were cooking some
service berries. Kut-o-yis' picked up the dish and ate the berries
and threw the dish away. Then he went up to the big snake, who was
lying there asleep, and pricked him with his knife, saying, "Here,
get up; I have come to visit you. Let us smoke together."
Then the snake was angry and he raised up his head and began to
rattle, and Kut-o-yis' cut off his head and cut him in pieces. He
cut off the heads of all the snake's wives and children; all except
one little female snake which got away by crawling into a crack in
"Oh, well," said Kut-o-yis', "you can go and breed snakes so there
will be more. The people will not be afraid of little snakes."
Kut-o-yis' said to the old woman, "Now, grandmother, go into this
snake lodge and take it for your own and everything that is in it."
Then he said to them, "Where are there some more people?" They told
him there were some camps down the river and some up in the
mountains, but they said, "Do not go up there. It is bad because
there lives [=A]i-s[=i]n'-o-k[=o]-k[=i]--Wind Sucker. He will kill
Kut-o-yis' was glad to know that there was such a person, and he
went to the mountains.
When he reached the place where Wind Sucker lived, he looked into
his mouth and saw there many dead people. Some were skeletons and
some had only just died. He went in, and there he saw a fearful
sight. The ground was white as snow with the bones of those who had
died. There were bodies with flesh on them; some who had died not
long before and some who were still living.
As he looked about, he saw hanging down above him a great thing that
seemed to move--to grow a little larger and then to grow a little
Kut-o-yis' spoke to one of the people who was alive and asked, "What
is that hanging down above us?"
The person answered him, "That is Wind Sucker's heart."
Then Kut-o-yis' spoke to all the living and said to them, "You who
still draw a little breath try to move your heads in time to the
song that I shall sing; and you who are still able to move stand up
on your feet and dance. Take courage now; we are going to dance to
Then Kut-o-yis' tied his knife, point upward, to the top of his
head and began to dance, singing the ghost song, and all the others
danced with him; and as he danced up and down he kept springing
higher and higher into the air, and the point of his knife cut Wind
Sucker's heart and killed him.
Then Kut-o-yis', with his knife, cut a hole between Wind Sucker's
ribs, and he and all those who were able to move crawled out through
the hole. He said to those who could still walk that they should go
and tell their people to come here, to get the ones still alive but
unable to travel.
To some of these people that he had freed he said, "Where are there
any other people? I want to visit all the people."
"There is a camp to the westward, up the river," they replied; "but
you must not take the left-hand trail going up because on that trail
lives a woman who invites men to wrestle with her and then kills
them. Avoid her."
Now, really, this was what Kut-o-yis' was looking for. This was what
he was doing in the world, trying to kill off all the bad things.
He asked these people just where this woman lived and how it was
best for him to go so that he should not meet her. He did this
because he did not wish the people to know that he was going where
He started, and after he had travelled some time he saw a woman
standing not far from the trail. She called to him, saying, "Come
here, young man, come here; I want to wrestle with you."
"No," he replied, "I am in a hurry; I cannot stop."
The woman called again, "No, no; do not go on; come now and wrestle
once with me."
After she had called him the fourth time, Kut-o-yis' went to her.
Now on the ground where this woman wrestled with people she had
placed many sharp, broken flint-stones, partly hiding them by the
grass. The two seized each other and began to wrestle over these
sharp stones, but Kut-o-yis' looked at the ground and did not step
on them. He watched his chance and gave the woman a quick wrench,
and threw her down on a large sharp flint which cut her in two; and
the parts of her body fell asunder.
Kut-o-yis' then went on, and after a time came to where a woman had
made a place for sliding downhill. At the far end of it she had
fixed a rope which, when she raised it, would trip people up, and
when they were tripped they fell over a high cliff into a deep
water, where a great fish ate them.
When this woman saw Kut-o-yis' coming she cried out to him, "Come
over here, young man, and slide with me."
"No," he replied, "I am in a hurry; I cannot wait." She kept calling
to him, and when she had called him the fourth time he went over
where he was to slide with her.
"This sliding," said the woman, "is very good fun."
"Ah, yes," said Kut-o-yis', "I will look at it."
As he went near the place he looked carefully and saw the hidden
rope. He began to slide, and holding his knife in his hand, when he
reached the rope he cut it just as the woman raised it and pulled on
it, and the woman fell over backward into the water and was eaten
up by the big fish.
From here he went on again, and after a time he came to a big camp.
A man-eater was the chief of this place.
Before Kut-o-yis' went to the chief's lodge he looked about and saw
a little girl and called her to him and said, "Child, I am going
into that lodge, to let that man-eater kill and eat me. Therefore,
be on the watch, and if you can get hold of one of my bones take it
out and call all the dogs to you, and when they have come to you
throw down the bone and say, 'Kut-o-yis', the dogs are eating your
Then Kut-o-yis' entered the lodge, and when the man-eater saw him he
called out, "Oki, oki!" (welcome, welcome!) and seemed glad to see
him, for he was a fat young man. The man-eater took a knife and
walked up to Kut-o-yis' and cut his throat and put him into a great
stone pot to cook. When the meat was cooked he pulled the kettle
from the fire and ate the body, limb by limb, until it was all
After that the little girl who was watching came into the lodge and
said, "Pity me, man-eater, my mother is hungry and asks you for
those bones." The old man gathered them together and handed them to
her, and she took them out of the lodge. When she had gone a little
way, she called all the dogs to her and threw down the bones to the
dogs, crying out, "Look out, Kut-o-yis', the dogs are eating you,"
and when she said that, Kut-o-yis' arose from the pile of bones.
Again he went into the lodge, and when the man-eater saw him he
cried out, "How, how, how! the fat young man has survived!" and he
seemed surprised. Again he took his knife and cut the throat of
Kut-o-yis' and threw him into the kettle. Again when the meat was
cooked he ate it, and when the little girl asked for the bones again
he gave them to her. She took them out and threw them to the dogs,
crying, "Kut-o-yis', the dogs are eating you," and again Kut-o-yis'
arose from the bones.
When the man-eater had cooked him four times Kut-o-yis' again went
into the lodge, and seizing the man-eater, he threw him into the
boiling kettle, and his wives and all his children, and boiled them
The man-eater was the seventh and last of the bad things to be
destroyed by Kut-o-yis'.
THE DOG AND THE ROOT DIGGER
This happened long ago.
In those days the people were hungry. No buffalo could be found, no
antelope were seen on the prairie. Grass grew in the trails where
the elk and the deer used to travel. There was not even a rabbit in
the brush. Then the people prayed, "Oh, Napi, help us now or we must
die. The buffalo and the deer are gone. It is useless to kindle the
morning fires; our arrows are useless to us; our knives remain in
Then Napi set out to find where the game was, and with him went a
young man, the son of a chief. For many days they travelled over the
prairies. They could see no game; roots and berries were their only
food. One day they climbed to the crest of a high ridge, and as they
looked off over the country they saw far away by a stream a lonely
"Who can it be?" asked the young man. "Who camps there alone, far
"That," said Napi, "is he who has hidden all the animals from the
people. He has a wife and a little son." Then they went down near to
the lodge and Napi told the young man what to do. Napi changed
himself into a little dog, and he said, "This is I." The young man
changed himself into a root digger and he said, "This is I." Pretty
soon the little boy, who was playing about near the lodge, found the
dog and carried it to his father, saying, "See what a pretty little
dog I have found."
The father said, "That is not a dog; throw it away!" The little boy
cried, but his father made him take the dog out of the lodge. Then
the boy found the root digger, and again picking up the dog, he
carried both into the lodge, saying, "Look, mother; see what a
pretty root digger I have found."
"Throw them away," said his father; "throw them both away. That is
not a root digger; that is not a dog."
"I want that root digger," said the woman. "Let our son have the
"Let it be so, then," replied the husband; "but remember that if
trouble comes, it is you who have brought it on yourself and on our
Soon after this the woman and her son went off to pick berries, and
when they were out of sight the man went out and killed a buffalo
cow and brought the meat into the lodge and covered it up. He took
the bones and the skin and threw them in the water. When his wife
came back he gave her some of the meat to roast, and while they were
eating, the little boy fed the dog three times, and when he offered
it more the father took the meat away.
In the night, when all were sleeping, Napi and the young man arose
in their right shapes and ate some of the meat.
"You were right," said the young man. "This is surely the person who
has hidden the buffalo."
"Wait," said Napi; and when they had finished eating they changed
themselves again into the root digger and the dog.
Next morning the wife and the little boy went out to dig roots, and
the woman took the root digger with her, while the dog followed the
As they travelled along looking for roots, they passed near a cave,
and at its mouth stood a buffalo cow. The dog ran into the cave, and
the root digger, slipping from the woman's hand, followed, gliding
along over the ground like a snake. In this cave were found all the
buffalo and the other game. They began to drive them out, and soon
the prairie was covered with buffalo, antelope, and deer. Never
before were so many seen.
Soon the man came running up, and he said to his wife, "Who is
driving out my animals?" The woman replied, "The dog and the root
digger are in there now."
"Did I not tell you," said her husband, "that those were not what
they looked like. See now the trouble that you have brought upon
us!" He put an arrow on his string and waited for them to come out,
but they were cunning, and when the last animal, a big bull, was
starting out the stick grasped him by the long hair under the neck
and coiled up in it, and the dog held on by the hair underneath
until they were far out on the prairie, when they changed into their
true shapes and drove the buffalo toward the camp.
When the people saw the buffalo coming they led a big band of them
to the piskun, but just as the leaders were about to jump over the
cliff a raven came and flapped its wings in front of them and
croaked, and they turned off and ran down another way. Every time a
herd of buffalo was brought near to the piskun this raven frightened
them away. Then Napi knew that the raven was the person who had kept
the buffalo hidden.
Napi went down to the river and changed himself into a beaver and
lay stretched out on a sandbar, as if dead. The raven was very
hungry and flew down and began to pick at the beaver. Then Napi
caught it by the legs and ran with it to the camp, and all the
chiefs were called together to decide what should be done with the
bird. Some said, "Let us kill it," but Napi said, "No, I will punish
it," and he tied it up over the lodge, right in the smoke hole.
As the days went by the raven grew thin and weak and its eyes were
blinded by the thick smoke, and it cried continually to Napi asking
him to pity it. One day Napi untied the bird and told it to take its
right shape, and then said, "Why have you tried to fool Napi? Look
at me. I cannot die. Look at me. Of all peoples and tribes I am the
chief. I cannot die. I made the mountains; they are standing yet. I
made the prairies and the rocks; you see them yet.
"Go home now to your wife and your child, and when you are hungry
hunt like any one else. If you do not, you shall die."
THE CAMP OF THE GHOSTS
There was once a man who loved his wife dearly. After they had been
married for a time they had a little boy. Some time after that the
woman grew sick and did not get well. She was sick for a long time.
The young man loved his wife so much that he did not wish to take a
second woman. The woman grew worse and worse. Doctoring did not seem
to do her any good. At last she died.
For a few days after this, the man used to take his baby on his back
and travel out away from the camp, walking over the hills, crying
and mourning. He felt badly, and he did not know what to do.
After a time he said to the little child, "My little boy, you will
have to go and live with your grandmother. I shall go away and try
to find your mother and bring her back."
He took the baby to his mother's lodge and asked her to take care
of it and left it with her. Then he started away, not knowing where
he was going nor what he should do.
When he left the camp, he travelled toward the Sand Hills. On the
fourth night of his journeying he had a dream. He dreamed that he
went into a little lodge in which was an old woman. This old woman
said to him, "Why are you here, my son?"
The young man replied, "I am mourning day and night, crying all the
while. My little son, who is the only one left me, also mourns."
"Well," asked the old woman, "for whom are you mourning?"
The young man answered, "I am mourning for my wife. She died some
time ago. I am looking for her."
"Oh, I saw her," said the old woman; "she passed this way. I myself
have no great power to help you, but over by that far butte beyond,
lives another old woman. Go to her and she will give you power to
continue your journey. You could not reach the place you are seeking
without help. Beyond the next butte from her lodge you will find
the camp of the ghosts."
The next morning the young man awoke and went on toward the next
butte. It took him a long summer's day to get there, but he found
there no lodge, so he lay down and slept. Again he dreamed. In his
dream he saw a little lodge, and saw an old woman come to the door
and heard her call to him. He went into the lodge, and she spoke to
"My son, you are very unhappy. I know why you have come this way.
You are looking for your wife who is now in the ghost country. It is
a very hard thing for you to get there. You may not be able to get
your wife back, but I have great power and I will do for you all
that I can. If you act as I advise, you may succeed."
Other wise words she spoke to him, telling him what he should do;
also she gave him a bundle of mysterious things which would help him
on his journey.
She went on to say, "You stay here for a time and I will go over
there to the ghosts' camp and try to bring back some of your
relations who are there. If it is possible for me to bring them
back, you may return there with them, but on the way you must shut
your eyes. If you should open them and look about you, you would
die. Then you would never come back. When you come to the camp you
will pass by a big lodge and they will ask you, 'Where are you going
and who told you to come here?' You must answer, 'My grandmother,
who is standing out here with me, told me to come.' They will try to
scare you; they will make fearful noises and you will see strange
and terrible things, but do not be afraid."
The old woman went away, and after a time came back with one of the
man's relations. He went with this relation to the ghosts' camp.
When they came to the large lodge some one called out and asked the
man what he was doing there, and he answered as the old woman had
told him. As he passed on through the camp the ghosts tried to
frighten him with many fearful sights and sounds, but he kept up a
Presently he came to another lodge, and the man who owned it came
out and spoke to him, asking where he was going. The young man said,
"I am looking for my dead wife. I mourn for her so much that I
cannot rest. My little boy too keeps crying for his mother. They
have offered to give me other wives, but I do not want them. I want
the one for whom I am searching."
The ghost said, "It is a fearful thing that you have come here; it
is very likely that you will never go away. Never before has there
been a person here."
The ghost asked him to come into his lodge, and he entered.
This chief ghost said to him, "You shall stay here for four nights
and you shall see your wife, but you must be very careful or you
will never go back. You will die here in this very place."
Then the chief ghost walked out of the lodge and shouted out for a
feast, inviting the man's father-in-law and other relations who were
in the camp to come and eat, saying, "Your son-in-law invites you
to a feast," as if he meant that the son-in-law had died and become
a ghost and arrived at the camp of the ghosts.
Now when these invited ghosts had reached the lodge they did not
like to go in. They said to each other, "There is a person here"; it
seemed as if they did not like the smell of a human being. The chief
ghost burned sweet pine on the fire, which took away this smell, and
then the ghosts came in and sat down.
The chief ghost said to them, "Now pity this son-in-law of yours. He
is looking for his wife. Neither the great distance that he has come
nor the fearful sights that he has seen here have weakened his
heart. You can see how tender-hearted he is. He not only mourns
because he has lost his wife, but he mourns because his little boy
is now alone, with no mother; so pity him and give him back his
The ghosts talked among themselves, and one of them said to the man,
"Yes; you shall stay here for four nights, and then we will give you
a medicine pipe--the Worm Pipe--and we will give you back your wife
and you may return to your home."
Now, after the third night the chief ghost called together all the
people, and they came, and with them came the man's wife. One of the
ghosts was beating a drum, and following him was another who carried
the Worm Pipe, which they gave to him.
Then the chief ghost said, "Now be very careful; to-morrow you and
your wife will start on your journey homeward. Your wife will carry
the medicine pipe and for four days some of your relations will go
along with you. During this time you must keep your eyes shut; do
not open them, or you will return here and be a ghost forever. Your
wife is not now a person. But in the middle of the fourth day you
will be told to look, and when you have opened your eyes you will
see that your wife has become a person, and that your ghost
relations have disappeared."
Before the man went away his father-in-law spoke to him and said,
"When you get near home you must not go at once into the camp. Let
some of your relations know that you have come, and ask them to
build a sweat-house for you. Go into that sweat-house and wash your
body thoroughly, leaving no part of it, however small, uncleansed.
If you fail in this, you will die. There is something about the
ghosts that it is difficult to remove. It can only be removed by a
thorough sweat. Take care now that you do what I tell you. Do not
whip your wife, nor strike her with a knife, nor hit her with fire.
If you do, she will vanish before your eyes and return here."
They left the ghost country to go home, and on the fourth day the
wife said to her husband, "Open your eyes." He looked about him and
saw that those who had been with them had disappeared, and he found
that they were standing in front of the old woman's lodge by the
butte. She came out of her lodge and said to them, "Stop; give me
back those mysterious medicines of mine, whose power helped you to
do what you wished." The man returned them to her, and then once
more became really a living person.
When they drew near to the camp the woman went on ahead and sat
down on a butte. Then some curious persons came out to see who this
might be. As they approached the woman called out to them, "Do not
come any nearer. Go and tell my mother and my relations to put up a
lodge for us a little way from the camp, and near by it build a
sweat-house." When this had been done the man and his wife went in
and took a thorough sweat, and then they went into the lodge and
burned sweet grass and purified their clothing and the Worm Pipe.
Then their relations and friends came in to see them. The man told
them where he had been and how he had managed to get his wife back,
and that the pipe hanging over the doorway was a medicine pipe--the
Worm Pipe--presented to him by his ghost father-in-law.
That is how the people came to possess the Worm Pipe. That pipe
belongs to the band of Piegans known as the Worm People.
Not long after this, once in the night, this man told his wife to do
something, and when she did not begin at once he picked up a brand
from the fire and raised it--not that he intended to strike her
with it, but he made as if he would--when all at once she vanished
and was never seen again.
THE BUFFALO STONE
A small stone, which is often a fossil shell, or sometimes only a
queer shaped piece of flint, is called by the Blackfeet
I-n[)i]s'k[)i]m, the buffalo stone. This stone has great power, and
gives its owner good luck in bringing the buffalo close, so that
they may be killed. The stone is found on the prairie, and any one
who finds one is thought to be very lucky. Sometimes a man who is
going along on the prairie will hear a queer faint chirp, such as a
little bird might make. He knows this sound is made by a buffalo
stone. He stops and searches for it on the ground, and if he cannot
find it, marks the place and comes back next day to look for it
again. If it is found, he and all his family are glad. The Blackfeet
tell a story about how the first buffalo stone was found.
Long ago, one winter, the buffalo disappeared. The snow was deep, so
deep that the people could not move in search of the buffalo; so
the hunters went as far as they could up and down the river-bottoms
and in the ravines, and killed deer and elk and other small game,
and when these were all killed or driven away the people began to
One day a young married man killed a prairie rabbit. He ran home as
fast as he could, and told one of his wives to hurry and get a skin
of water to cook it. She started down to the river for water, and as
she was going along she heard a beautiful song. She looked all
about, but could see no one who was singing.
The song seemed to come from a big cotton-wood tree near the trail
leading down to the water. As she looked closely at this tree she
saw a queer stone jammed in a fork where the tree was split, and
with it a few hairs from a buffalo which had rubbed against the
tree. The woman was frightened and dared not pass the tree. Soon the
singing stopped and the I-nis'kim said to the woman, "Take me
to your lodge, and when it is dark call in the people and teach them
the song you have just heard. Pray, too, that you may not starve,
and that the buffalo may come back. Do this, and when day comes your
hearts will be glad."
The woman went on and got the water, and when she came back she took
the stone and gave it to her husband, telling him about the song and
what the stone had said.
As soon as it was dark, the man called the chiefs and old men to his
lodge, and his wife taught them the song that she had heard. They
prayed too, as the stone had said should be done. Before long they
heard far off a noise coming. It was the tramp of a great herd of
buffalo. Then they knew that the stone was powerful, and since that
time the people have taken care of it and have prayed to it.
HOW THE THUNDER PIPE CAME
You have heard the Thunder, for he is everywhere. He roars in the
mountains, and far out on the prairie is heard his crashing. He
strikes the high rocks, and they fall to pieces; a tree, and it is
broken in slivers; the people, and they die. He is bad. He does not
like the high cliff, the standing tree, or living man. He likes to
strike and crush them to the ground. Of all things he is the most
powerful. He cannot be resisted. But I have not told you the worst
thing about him. Sometimes he takes away women.
Long ago, almost in the beginning, a man and his wife were sitting
in their lodge when Thunder came and struck them. The man was not
killed. At first he lay as if dead, but after a time he lived again,
and, standing up, looked about him. He did not see his wife.
"Oh," he thought, "she has gone to get wood or water," and he sat
down again. But when night came he went out of the lodge and asked
the people about her. No one had seen her. He looked all through the
camp, but could not find her. Then he knew that the Thunder had
taken her away, and he went out on the hills and mourned. All night
he sat there, trying to think what he might do to get back his wife.
When morning came he rose and wandered away, and whenever he met any
of the animals he asked if they could tell him where the Thunder
lived. The animals laughed, and most of them would not answer.
The Wolf said to him, "Do you think that we would look for the home
of the only one we fear? He is our only danger. From all other
enemies we can run away, but from him no one can run. He strikes and
there we lie. Turn back; go home. Do not look for the place of that
The man kept on and travelled a long distance. At last, after many
days, he came to a lodge--a strange lodge, for it was made of
stone. Just like any other lodge it looked, only it was made of
stone. This was the home of the Raven chief. The man entered.
"Welcome, friend," said the chief of the Ravens; "sit down there,"
and he pointed to a place. Soon food was placed before the poor man.
When he had finished eating, the Raven chief asked, "Why have you
"Thunder has stolen my wife," the man answered. "I am looking for
his dwelling-place that I may find her."
"Are you brave enough to enter the lodge of that dreadful person?"
asked the Raven. "He lives near here. His lodge is of stone like
this one, and hanging in it are eyes--the eyes of those he has
killed or taken away. He has taken out their eyes and hung them in
his lodge. Now, then! Dare you enter there?"
"No," answered the man, "I am afraid. Who could look at such
dreadful things and live?"
"No man can," said the Raven; "there is only one old Thunder fears;
there is but one he cannot kill. It is we. It is the Ravens. Now I
will give you some medicine, and he shall not harm you. You shall
enter there and try to find among those eyes your wife's, and if you
find them tell the Thunder why you came and make him give them to
you. Here, now, is a raven's wing. Point this at him and he will be
afraid and start back; but if that should fail, take this arrow. Its
shaft is made of elk horn. Take this, I say, and shoot it through
"Why make a fool of me?" the poor man asked. "My heart is sad. I am
crying." He covered his head with his robe and wept.
"Oh," said the Raven, "you do not believe me. Come outside, come
outside, and I will make you believe."
When they stood outside the Raven asked, "Is the home of your people
"A great distance," said the man.
"Can you tell how many days you have travelled?"
"No," he replied, "my heart was sad; I did not count the days.
Since I left, the berries have grown and ripened."
"Can you see your camp from here?" asked the Raven.
The man did not answer. Then the Raven rubbed some medicine on his
eyes and said, "Look!" The man looked and saw the camp. It was near.
He saw the people; he saw the smoke rising from the lodges; he saw
the painting on some of the lodges.
"Now you will believe," said the Raven. "Take, then, the arrow and
the wing, and go and get your wife." The man took these things and
went to the Thunder's lodge. He entered and sat down by the doorway.
The Thunder sat at the back of the lodge and looked at him with
awful eyes. The man looked above and saw hanging there many pairs of
eyes. Among them were those of his wife.
"Why have you come?" said the Thunder in a dreadful voice.
"I seek my wife," said the man, "whom you have stolen. There hang
"No man may enter my lodge and live," said the Thunder, and he rose
to strike him. Then the man pointed the raven wing at the Thunder,
and he fell back on his bed and shivered; but soon he recovered and
rose again, and then the man fitted the elk-horn arrow to his bow
and shot it through the lodge of stone. Right through that stone it
pierced a hole and let the sunlight in.
"Wait," said the Thunder; "stop. You are the stronger, you have the
greater medicine. You shall have your wife. Take down her eyes."
The man cut the string that held the eyes, and his wife stood beside
"Now," said the Thunder, "you know me. I have great power. In summer
I live here; but when winter comes I go far south. I go south with
the birds. Here is my pipe. It has strong power. Take it and keep
it. After this, when first I come in the spring you shall fill this
pipe and light it, and you shall smoke it and pray to me; you and
the people. I bring the rain which makes the berries large and ripe.
I bring the rain which makes all things grow, and for this you
shall pray to me; you and all the people."
Thus the people got their first medicine pipe. It was long ago.
COLD MAKER'S MEDICINE
The last lodge had been set up in the Blackfeet winter camp. Evening
was closing over the travel-tired people. The sun had dropped beyond
the hills not far away. Women were bringing water from the river at
the edge of the great circle. Men gathered in quiet groups, weary
after the long march of the day. Children called sleepily to each
other, and the dogs sniffed about in well-fed content.
Lone Feather wrapped his robe more closely around him and walked
slowly from his lodge door and from the camp, off toward the north.
He was thinking of many things, and hardly noticed where he was
going. Presently as he walked, he heard the sound of persons
talking. He stopped to listen. The sound came from a lodge made of
stone, close by the river. Quietly he went toward the lodge and saw
a thin blue line of smoke coming from the top.
As he approached, an old woman, bent with age and crippled, came
from the lodge door and looked at him.
"Will you come into my lodge?" she said, greeting him.
Lone Feather looked at her for a moment in silence. She spoke again.
He could not understand her speech, for she belonged to another
tribe. By signs she made him know that she wished him to come into
her lodge and rest. Lone Feather entered.
Far back from the door crouched two big grizzly bears. She made
signs to show that the bears were friendly, and Lone Feather sat
down near the door. She stirred the fire, and as she put on fresh
wood the sparks flew up toward the smoke hole, which was opened only
a little way.
By signs she told him she would go out and open the smoke hole
wider, so that the fire might burn more brightly. She was gone for
some time, and Lone Feather sat looking into the fire, still
thinking of many things, when the air became thick with smoke. He
looked up and saw that the smoke hole was closed. He sprang up and
went to the door, but the door covering was down. He raised it, and
as he put his head out the old woman hit him with a large stone club
and he was dead.
Before his spirit started for the Sand Hills he saw that with a
large knife she cut up his body and put the pieces into a pot. Soon
they were well cooked and the old woman and the two bears feasted on
They threw his bones out of the door, where they fell among many
others like them. The ground was strewn with the bones of the
persons she had trapped and killed.
Day by day other persons disappeared from the winter camp, and more
and more bones whitened on the ground outside the stone lodge on the
As Cold Maker was bringing the snow to the Blackfeet winter camp, he
passed the Sand Hills. Lone Feather and other ghosts from the
Blackfeet tribe were telling each other how the old woman had sent
them there. Cold Maker heard their stories and he was angry.
When he reached the camp he went to the lodge of Broken Bow--a
brave young man, but very poor.
He shivered when Cold Maker entered his lodge and drew his ragged
robe about him. They were close friends.
"Would you like to have a new robe?" asked Cold Maker.
"Yes," said Broken Bow.
"Come with me. You may kill two grizzly bears," said Cold Maker.
"My bow is broken. I cannot," said Broken Bow sadly.
"I will help you. Bring only a knife."
Together they went from the lodges toward the north. The sun was
already hidden behind the nearby hills.
After they had travelled some distance they heard the sound of
voices. They listened. Two bears were complaining that they wanted
meat. A woman told them they must wait. The men saw the line of thin
blue smoke rising from the top of the lodge of stone. All about
whitening bones covered the ground. They went nearer.
Soon an old woman, bent with age and crippled, came from the door
and smiled as she saw the two persons coming.
"Come in and rest," she said. Broken Bow did not understand her
language, but Cold Maker, who understands all tribes, said, "We are
cold. Will you let us sit by your fire?"
The old woman smiled again.
"You are welcome," she said; "come in. Do not fear my bears. They
are friendly. They will not harm you." The two friends entered the
lodge, where a smouldering fire sent a feeble smoke up to the smoke
hole, that was partly open. She put fresh wood on the fire and said,
"I will open the smoke hole wider," and went out, dropping the door
covering as she went.
Then she closed the smoke hole. The smoke began to fill the top of
the lodge. It settled lower and lower. Broken Bow was afraid.
"Give me your pipe," said Cold Maker.
Broken Bow filled his pipe and, handed it to him. He lighted it by a
brand from the fire, and sent great puffs of smoke curling upward.
This smoke met the other smoke and stopped it. It could not descend
Broken Bow saw the wonderful medicine of his friend. He was no
longer afraid, but wondered what Cold Maker would do next. The
grizzly bears growled low.
The old woman outside called to them, "Friends, is it smoking in
"Not a bit," replied Cold Maker. "We are very comfortable."
She waited. They did not come out. She stood near the door. Her
stone club was ready. She grew impatient. She wondered what had gone
wrong with her plans. The two friends were silent. She looked at the
smoke hole, but it was closed securely. She lifted the door covering
to see if the friends within had died. They sat perfectly still. She
entered to look more closely, and as soon as she was fairly inside
Cold Maker and Broken Bow rushed out and dropped the door covering.
Before she could move they piled great heaps of stone in the
door-way. The bears growled. She called for help. Cold Maker and
Broken Bow went on down the river.
Then Cold Maker took from a little sack a few white eagle-down
feathers. He blew them from him. At once a fierce storm blew across
the valley. The bitter cold froze the water, but only in this one
place. It dammed the stream with fast forming ice. The water rose
higher and higher. It spread out over the banks. Cold Maker and
Broken Bow went far off on the hills and watched it. Little by
little it rose. It reached the stone lodge. The bears roared. The
woman screamed. The water reached the top and covered the lodge from
sight. All sound ceased. A moment more, and the water was quiet.
Once more Cold Maker blew from him a few white eagle-down feathers.
The storm subsided. It became warm again. The ice melted. The water
retreated to its channel.
Cold Maker and Broken Bow went to the stone lodge. The woman was
lying beside the pot. The grizzly bears were close to the stones
which blocked the door-way.
Cold Maker said, "Here is your new robe," and Broken Bow took from
the bears their thick, warm skins.
On his way home Cold Maker again passed the Sand Hills. Entering
the country was an old woman bent with age and crippled.
He hurried on.
THE ALL COMRADES SOCIETIES
In the Blackfeet tribe was an association known as the All Comrades.
This was made up of a dozen secret societies graded according to
age, the members of the younger societies passing, after a few
years, into the older ones. This association was in part benevolent
and helpful and in part to encourage bravery in war, but its main
purpose was to see that the orders of the chiefs were carried out,
and to punish offences against the tribe at large. There are stories
which explain how these societies came to be instituted, and this
one tells how the Society of Bulls began.
THE BULLS SOCIETY
It was long, long ago, very far back, that this happened. In those
days the people used to kill the buffalo by driving them over a
steep place near the river, down which they fell into a great pen
built at the foot of the cliff, where the buffalo that had not been
killed by the fall were shot with arrows by the men. Then the people
went into the pen and skinned the buffalo and cut them up and
carried the meat away to their camp. This pen they called piskun.
In those days the people had built a great piskun with high, strong
walls. No buffalo could jump over it; not even if a great crowd of
them ran against it, could they push it down.
The young men kept going out, as they always did, to try to bring
the buffalo to the edge of the cliff, but somehow they would not
jump over into the piskun. When they had come almost to the edge,
they would turn off to one side or the other and run down the
sloping hills and away over the prairie. So the people could get no
food, and they began to be hungry, and at last to starve.
Early one morning a young woman, the daughter of a brave man, was
going from her lodge down to the stream to get water, and as she
went along she saw a herd of buffalo feeding on the prairie, close
to the edge of the cliff above the great piskun.
"Oh," she called out, "if you will only jump off into the piskun I
will marry one of you." She did not mean this, but said it just in
fun, and as soon as she had said it, she wondered greatly when she
saw the buffalo come jumping over the edge, falling down the cliff.
A moment later a big bull jumped high over the wall of the piskun
and came toward her, and now truly she was frightened.
"Come," he said, taking hold of her arm.
"No, no," she answered, trying to pull herself away.
"But you said if the buffalo would only jump over, you would marry
one of them. Look, the piskun is full."
She did not answer, and without saying anything more he led her up
over the bluff and out on the prairie.
After the people had finished killing the buffalo and cutting up the
meat, they missed this young woman. No one knew where she had gone,
and her relations were frightened and very sad because they could
not find her. So her father took his bow and quiver and put them on
his back and said, "I will go and find her"; and he climbed the
bluff and set out over the prairie.
He travelled some distance, but saw nothing of his daughter. The sun
was hot, and at length he came to a buffalo wallow in which some
water was standing, and drank and sat down to rest. A little way off
on the prairie he saw a herd of buffalo. As the man sat there by the
wallow, trying to think what he might do to find his daughter, a
magpie came up and alighted on the ground near him. The man spoke to
it, saying, "M[)a]m-[=i]-[)a]t's[=i]-k[)i]m[)i]--Magpie--you are a
beautiful bird; help me, for I am very unhappy. As you travel about
over the prairie, look everywhere, and if you see my daughter say to
her, 'Your father is waiting by the wallow.'"
Soon the magpie flew away, and as he passed near the herd of buffalo
he saw the young woman there, and alighting on the ground near her,
he began to pick at things, turning his head this way and that, and
seeming to look for food. When he was close to the girl he said to
her, "Your father is waiting by the wallow."
"Sh-h-h! Sh-h-h!" replied the girl in a whisper, looking about her
very much frightened, for her bull husband was sleeping close by.
"Do not speak so loud. Go back and tell him to wait."
"Your daughter is over there with the buffalo. She says 'Wait,'"
said the magpie when he had flown back to the poor father.
After a little time the bull awoke and said to his wife, "Go and
bring me some water." Then the woman was glad, and she took a horn
from her husband's head and went to the wallow for water.
"Oh, why did you come?" she said to her father. "They will surely
"I came to take my daughter back to my lodge. Come, let us go."
"No," said the girl, "not now. They will surely chase us and kill
us. Wait until he sleeps again and I will try to get away." Then she
filled the horn with water and went back to the buffalo.
Her husband drank a swallow of the water, and when he took the horn
it made a noise. "Ah," he said, as he looked about, "a person is
somewhere close by."
"No one," replied the girl, but her heart stood still. The bull
drank again. Then he stood up on his feet and moaned and grunted,
"M-m-ah-oo! Bu-u-u!" Fearful was the sound. Up rose the other bulls,
raised their tails in the air, tossed their heads and bellowed back
to him. Then they pawed the earth, thrust their horns into it,
rushed here and there, and presently, coming to the wallow, found
there the poor man. They rushed over him, trampling him with their
great hoofs, thrust their horns into his body and tore him to
pieces, and trampled him again. Soon not even a piece of his body
could be seen--only the wet earth cut up by their hoofs.
Then his daughter mourned in sorrow. "_Oh! Ah! Ni-nah-ah! Oh! Ah!
Ni-nah-ah!_"--Ah, my father, my father.
"Ah," said her bull husband; "now you understand how it is that we
feel. You mourn for your father; but we have seen our fathers,
mothers, and many of our relations fall over the high cliffs, to be
killed for food by your people. But now I will pity you, I will give
you one chance. If you can bring your father to life, you and he may
go back to your camp."
Then said the woman, "Ah, magpie, pity me, help me; for now I need
help. Look in the trampled mud of the wallow and see if you can find
even a little piece of my father's body and bring it to me."
Swiftly the magpie flew to the wallow, and alighting there, walked
all about, looking in every hole and even tearing up the mud with
his sharp beak. Presently he uncovered something white, and as he
picked the mud from about it, he saw it was a bone, and pulling
hard, he dragged it from the mud--the joint of a man's backbone.
Then gladly he flew back with it to the woman.
The girl put the bone on the ground and covered it with her robe and
began to sing. After she had sung she took the robe away, and there
under it lay her father's body, as if he had just died. Once again
she covered the body with the robe and sang, and this time when she
took the robe away the body was breathing. A third time she covered
the body with the robe and sang, and when she again took away the
robe, the body moved its arms and legs a little. A fourth time she
covered it and sang, and when she took away the robe her father
The buffalo were surprised and the magpie was glad, and flew about
making a great noise.
"Now this day we have seen a strange thing," said her bull husband.
"The people's medicine is strong. He whom we trampled to death, whom
our hoofs cut to pieces and mixed all up with the soil, is alive
again. Now you shall go to your home, but before you go we will
teach you our dance and our song. Do not forget them."
The buffalo showed the man and his daughter their dance and taught
them the songs, and then the bull said to them, "Now you are to go
back to your home, but do not forget what you have seen. Teach the
people this dance and these songs, and while they are dancing it let
them wear a bull's head and a robe. Those who are to be of the
Bulls Society shall wear them."
When the poor man returned with his daughter, all the people were
glad. Then after a time he called a council of the chiefs and told
them the things that had happened. The chiefs chose certain young
men to be Bulls, and the man taught them the dance and the song, and
told them everything that they should do.
So began the Bull Society.
THE OTHER SOCIETIES
For a long time the buffalo had not been seen. Every one was hungry,
for the hunters could find no food for the people.
A certain man, who had two wives, a daughter, and two sons, as he
saw what a hard time they were having, said, "I shall not stop here
to die. To-morrow we will move toward the mountains, where we may
kill elk and deer and sheep and antelope, or, if not these, at least
we shall find beaver and birds, and can get them. In this way we
shall have food to eat and shall live."
Next morning they caught their dogs and harnessed them to the
travois and took their loads on their backs and set out. It was
still winter, and they travelled slowly. Besides, they were weak
from hunger and could go only a short distance in a day. The fourth
night came, and they sat in their lodge, tired and hungry. No one
spoke, for people who are hungry do not care to talk. Suddenly,
outside, the dogs began to bark, and soon the door was pushed aside
and a young man entered.
"Welcome," said the man, and he motioned to a place where the
stranger should sit.
Now during this day there had been blowing a warm wind which had
melted the snow, so that the prairie was covered with water, yet
this young man's moccasins and leggings were dry. They saw this, and
were frightened. They sat there for a long time, saying nothing.
Then the young man spoke and asked, "Why is this? Why do you not
give me food?"
"Ah," replied the father, "you see here people who are truly poor.
We have no food. For many days the buffalo did not come in sight,
and we looked for deer and other animals, which people eat, and when
these had all been killed we began to starve. Then I said, 'We will
not stay here to die from hunger,' and we set out for the mountains.
This is the fourth night of our travels."
"Ah," said the young man, "then your travels are ended. You need go
no farther. Close by here is our piskun. Many buffalo have been run
in, and our parfleches are filled with dried meat. Wait a little; I
will go and bring you some," and he went out.
As soon as he had gone they began to talk about this strange person.
They were afraid of him and did not know what to do. The children
began to cry, and the women tried to quiet them. Presently the young
man came back, bringing some meat.
"There is food," said he, as he put it down by the woman. "Now
to-morrow move your camp over to our lodges. Do not fear anything.
No matter what strange things you may see, do not fear. All will be
your friends. Yet about one thing I must warn you. In this you
should be careful. If you should find an arrow lying about
anywhere, in the piskun or outside, do not touch it, neither you nor
your wives nor your children." When he had said this he went out.
The father took his pipe and filled it, and smoked and prayed to all
the powers, saying, "Hear now, Sun; listen, Above People; listen,
Underwater People; now you have taken pity; now you have given us
food. We are going to those mysterious ones who walk through water
with dry moccasins. Protect us among these to-be-feared people. Let
us live. Man, woman, and child, give us long life."
Now from the fire again arose the smell of roasting meat. The
children ate and played. Those who so long had been silent now
talked and laughed.
Early in the morning, as soon as the sun had risen, they took down
their lodge and packed their dogs and started for the camp of the
stranger. When they had come to where they could see it, they found
it a wonderful place. There around the piskun, and stretching far
up and down the valley, were pitched the lodges of the meat eaters.
They could not see them all, but near by they saw the lodges of the
Bear band, the Fox band, and the Raven band. The father of the young
man who had visited them and given them meat was the chief of the
Wolf band, and by that band they pitched their lodge. Truly that was
a happy place. Food was plenty. All day long people were shouting
out for feasts, and everywhere was heard the sound of drumming and
singing and dancing.
The newly come people went to the piskun for meat, and there one of
the children saw an arrow lying on the ground. It was a beautiful
arrow, the stone point long, slender, and sharp, the shaft round and
straight. The boy remembered what had been said and he looked around
fearfully, but everywhere the people were busy. No one was looking.
He picked up the arrow and put it under his robe.
Then there rose a terrible sound. All the animals howled and growled
and rushed toward him, but the chief Wolf got to him first, and
holding up his hand said, "Wait. He is young and not yet of good
sense. We will let him go this time." They did nothing to him.
When night came some one shouted out, calling people to a feast and
saying, "Listen, listen, Wolf, you are to eat; enter with your
"We are invited," said the chief Wolf to his new friend, and
together they went to the lodge from which the call came.
Within the lodge the fire burned brightly, and seated around it were
many men, the old and wise of the Raven band. On the lodge lining,
hanging behind the seats, were the paintings of many great deeds.
Food was placed before the guests--pemican and berries and dried
back fat--and after they had eaten the pipe was lighted and passed
around the circle. Then the Raven chief spoke and said, "Now, Wolf,
I am going to give our new friend a present. What do you think of
"It shall be as you say," replied the Wolf; "our new friend will be
From a long parfleche sack the Raven chief took a slender stick,
beautifully ornamented with many-colored feathers. To the end of
the stick was tied the skin of a raven--head, wings, feet, and tail.
"We," said the Raven chief, "are those who carry the raven
(M[)a]s-to-p[=a]h'-t[)a]-k[=i]ks). Of all the fliers, of all the
birds, what one is so smart as the raven? None. The raven's eyes are
sharp, his wings are strong. He is a great hunter and never hungry.
Far off on the prairie he sees his food, or if it is deep hidden in
the forest it does not escape him. This is our song and our dance."
When he had finished singing and dancing he placed the stick in
the sack and gave it to the man and said, "Take it with you,
and when you have returned to your people you shall say, 'Now
there are already the Bulls, and he who is the Raven chief
said, "There shall be more. There shall be the All Friends
([=I]k[)u]n-[)u]h'-k[=a]h-ts[)i]), so that the people may live,
and of the All Friends shall be the Raven Bearers."' You shall
call a council of the chiefs and wise old men, and they shall
choose the persons who are to belong to the society. Teach them
the song and the dance, and give them the medicine. It shall be
Soon they heard another person shouting out the feast call, and,
going, they entered the lodge of the chief of the Kit-Foxes
(S[)i]n'-o-pah). Here, too, old men had gathered. After they had
eaten of the food set before them, the chief said, "Those among whom
you have just come are generous. They do not look carefully at the
things they have, but give to the stranger and pity the poor. The
kit-fox is a little animal, but what one is smarter? None. His hair
is like the dead grass of the prairie; his eyes are keen; his feet
make no noise when he walks; his brain is cunning. His ears receive
the far-off sound. Here is our medicine. Take it." He gave the man
the stick. It was long, crooked at one end, wound with fur, and tied
here and there with eagle feathers. At the end was a kit-fox skin.
Again the chief spoke and said, "Listen to our song. Do not forget
it, and the dance, too, you must remember. When you reach home teach
them to the people." He sang and danced. Then presently his guests
Again they heard the feast shout, and he who called was the chief
of the Bear society. After they had eaten and smoked the chief said,
"What is your opinion, friend Wolf? Shall we give our new friend a
"It shall be as you say," replied the Wolf. "It is yours to give."
Then spoke the Bear, saying, "There are many animals and some of
them are powerful; but the bear is the strongest and greatest of
all. He fears nothing and is always ready to fight."
Then he put on a necklace of bear claws, a band of bear fur about
his head, and a belt of bear fur, and sang and danced. When he had
finished he gave the things he had worn to the man and said, "Teach
the people our song and our dance, and give them this medicine. It
It was very late. The Seven Stars had come to the middle of the
night, yet again they heard the feast shout from the far end of the
camp. In this lodge the men were painted with streaks of red, and
their hair was all pushed to one side. After the feast the chief
said, "We are different from all others here. We are called the
Braves (M[)u]t'-s[)i]ks). We know not fear; we are death. Even if
our enemies are as many as the grass we do not turn away, but fight
and conquer. Bows are good weapons, lances are better; but our
weapon is the knife."
Then the chief sang and danced, and afterward he gave the Wolf
chief's friend the medicine. It was a long knife and many scalps
were tied on the handle. "This," said he, "is for the All Friends."
To one more lodge they were called that night and the lodge owner
taught the man his song and dance, and gave him his medicine. Then
the Wolf chief and his friend went home and slept.
Early next day the Blackfeet women began to take down the lodge and
to get ready to move their camp. Many women came and made them
presents of food, dried meat, pemican, and berries. They were given
so much that they could not take it all with them. It was long
before they joined the main camp, for it had moved south, looking
When they reached the camp, as soon as the lodge was pitched, the
man called all the chiefs to come and feast with him, and told them
what he had seen, and showed them the different medicines. Then the
chiefs chose certain young men to belong to the different societies,
and this man taught them the songs and dances, and gave its medicine
to each society.
THE FIRST MEDICINE LODGE
The chief god of the Blackfeet is the Sun. He made the world and
rules it, and to him the people pray. One of his names is Napi--old
man; but there is another Napi who is very different from the Sun,
and instead of being great, wise, and wonderful, is foolish, mean,
and contemptible. We shall hear about him further on.
Every year in summer, about the time the berries ripen, the
Blackfeet used to hold the great festival and sacrifice which we
call the ceremony of the Medicine Lodge. This was a time of happy
meetings, of feasting, of giving presents; but besides this
rejoicing, those men who wished to have good-luck in whatever they
might undertake tried to prove their prayers sincere by sacrificing
their bodies, torturing themselves in ways that caused great
suffering. In ancient times, as we are told in books of history,
things like that used to happen among many peoples all over the
It was the law that the building of the Medicine Lodge must always
be pledged by a good woman. If a woman had a son or a husband away
at war and feared that he was in danger, or if she had a child that
was sick and might die, she might pray for the safety of the one she
loved, and promise that if he returned or recovered she would build
a Medicine Lodge. This pledge was made in a loud voice, publicly, in
open air, so that all might know the promise had been made.
At the time appointed all the tribe came together and pitched their
lodges in a great circle, and within this circle the Medicine Lodge
was built. The ceremony lasted for four days and four nights, during
which time the woman who had promised to make the Medicine Lodge
neither ate nor drank, except once in sacrifice. Different stories
are told of how the first Medicine Lodge came to be built. This is
one of those stories:
In the earliest times there was a man who had a very beautiful
daughter. Many young men wished to marry her, but whenever she was
asked she shook her head and said she did not wish to marry.
"Why is this?" said her father. "Some of these young men are rich,
handsome, and brave."
"Why should I marry?" replied the girl. "My father and mother take
care of me. Our lodge is good; the parfleches are never empty; there
are plenty of tanned robes and soft furs for winter. Why trouble me,
Soon after, the Raven Bearers held a dance. They all painted
themselves nicely and wore their finest ornaments and each one tried
to dance the best. Afterward some of them asked for this girl, but
she said, "No." After that the Bulls, the Kit-Foxes, and others of
the All Comrades held their dances, and many men who were rich and
some great warriors asked this man for his daughter, but to every
one she said, "No."
Then her father was angry, and he said, "Why is this? All the best
men have asked for you, and still you say 'No.'" Then the girl
said, "Father, listen to me. That Above Person, the Sun, said to me,
'Do not marry any of these men, for you belong to me. Listen to what
I say, and you shall be happy and live to a great age.' And again he
said to me, 'Take heed, you must not marry; you are mine.'"
"Ah!" replied her father; "it must always be as he says"; and they
spoke no more about it.
There was a poor young man. He was very poor. His father, his
mother, and all his relations were dead. He had no lodge, no wife to
tan his robes or make his moccasins. His clothes were always old and
worn. He had no home. To-day he stopped in one lodge; then to-morrow
he ate and slept in another. Thus he lived. He had a good face, but
on his cheek was a bad scar.
After they had held those dances, some of the young men met this
poor Scarface, and they laughed at him and said, "Why do not you ask
that girl to marry you? You are so rich and handsome."
Scarface did not laugh. He looked at them and said, "I will do as
you say; I will go and ask her."
All the young men thought this was funny; they laughed a good deal
at Scarface as he was walking away.
Scarface went down by the river and waited there, near the place
where the women went to get water. By and by the girl came there.
Scarface spoke to her, and said, "Girl, stop; I want to speak with
you. I do not wish to do anything secretly, but I speak to you here
openly, where the Sun looks down and all may see."
"Speak, then," said the girl.
"I have seen the days," said Scarface. "I have seen how you have
refused all those men, who are young and rich and brave. To-day some
of these young men laughed and said to me, 'Why do not you ask her?'
I am poor. I have no lodge, no food, no clothes, no robes. I have no
relations. All of them have died. Yet now to-day I say to you, take
pity. Be my wife."
The girl hid her face in her robe and brushed the ground with the
point of her moccasin, back and forth, back and forth, for she was
After a time she spoke and said, "It is true I have refused all
those rich young men; yet now a poor one asks me, and I am glad. I
will be your wife, and my people will be glad. You are poor, but
that does not matter. My father will give you dogs; my mother will
make us a lodge; my relations will give us robes and furs; you will
no longer be poor."
Then the young man was glad, and he started forward to kiss her, but
she put out her hand and held him back, and said, "Wait; the Sun has
spoken to me. He said I may not marry; that I belong to him; that if
I listen to him I shall live to great age. So now I say, go to the
Sun; say to him, 'She whom you spoke with has listened to your
words; she has never done wrong, but now she wants to marry. I want
her for my wife.' Ask him to take that scar from your face; that
will be his sign, and I shall know he is pleased. But if he refuses,
or if you cannot find his lodge, then do not return to me."
"Oh!" cried Scarface; "at first your words were good. I was glad.
But now it is dark. My heart is dead. Where is that far-off lodge?
Where is the trail that no one yet has travelled?"
"Take courage, take courage," said the girl softly, and she went on
to her lodge.
Scarface was very unhappy. He did not know what to do. He sat down
and covered his face with his robe, and tried to think. At length he
stood up and went to an old woman who had been kind to him, and said
to her, "Pity me. I am very poor. I am going away, on a long
journey. Make me some moccasins."
"Where are you going--far from the camp?" asked the old woman.
"I do not know where I am going," he replied; "I am in trouble, but
I cannot talk about it."
This old woman had a kind heart. She made him moccasins--seven
pairs; and gave him also a sack of food--pemican, dried meat, and
All alone, and with a sad heart, Scarface climbed the bluff that
overlooked the valley, and when he had reached the top, turned to
look back at the camp. He wondered if he should ever see it again;
if he should return to the girl and to the people.
"Pity me, O Sun!" he prayed; and turning away, he set off to look
for the trail to the Sun's lodge.
For many days he went on. He crossed great prairies and followed up
timbered rivers, and crossed the mountains. Every day his sack of
food grew lighter, but as he went along he looked for berries and
roots, and sometimes he killed an animal. These things gave him
One night he came to the home of a wolf. "Hah!" said the wolf; "what
are you doing so far from your home?"
"I am looking for the place where the Sun lives," replied Scarface.
"I have been sent to speak with him."
"I have travelled over much country," said the wolf; "I know all the
prairies, the valleys, and the mountains; but I have never seen the
Sun's home. But wait a moment. I know a person who is very wise,
and who may be able to tell you the road. Ask the bear."
The next day Scarface went on again, stopping now and then to rest
and to pick berries, and when night came he was at the bear's lodge.
"Where is your home?" asked the bear. "Why are you travelling so far
"Ah," replied the man, "I have come to you for help. Pity me.
Because of what that girl said to me, I am looking for the Sun. I
wish to ask him for her."
"I do not know where he lives," said the bear. "I have travelled by
many rivers and I know the mountains, yet I have not seen his lodge.
Farther on there is some one--that striped face--who knows a great
deal; ask him."
When the young man got there, the badger was in his hole. But
Scarface called to him, "Oh, cunning striped face! I wish to speak
The badger put his head out of the hole and said, "What do you want,
"I wish to find the Sun's home," said Scarface. "I wish to speak
"I do not know where he lives," answered the badger. "I never
travel very far. Over there in the timber is the wolverene. He is
always travelling about, and knows many things. Perhaps he can tell
Scarface went over to the forest and looked all about for the
wolverene, but could not see him; so he sat down on a log to rest.
"Alas, alas!" he cried; "wolverene, take pity on me. My food is
gone, my moccasins are worn out; I fear I shall die."
Some one close to him said, "What is it, my brother?" and looking
around, he saw the wolverene sitting there.
"She whom I wish to marry belongs to the Sun," said Scarface; "I am
trying to find where he lives, so that I may ask him for her."
"Ah," said the wolverene, "I know where he lives. It is nearly night
now, but to-morrow I will show you the trail to the big water. He
lives on the other side of it."
Early in the morning they set out, and the wolverene showed Scarface
the trail, and he followed it until he came to the water's edge.
When he looked out over it, his heart almost stopped. Never before
had any one seen such a great water. The other side could not be
seen and there was no end to it. Scarface sat down on the shore.
This seemed the end. His food was gone; his moccasins were worn out;
he had no longer strength, no longer courage; his heart was sick. "I
cannot cross this great water," he said. "I cannot return to the
people. Here by this water I shall die."
Yet, even as he thought this, helpers were near. Two swans came
swimming up to the shore and said to him, "Why have you come here?
What are you doing? It is very far to the place where your people
"I have come here to die," replied Scarface. "Far away in my country
is a beautiful girl. I want to marry her, but she belongs to the
Sun; so I set out to find him and ask him for her. I have travelled
many days. My food is gone. I cannot go back; I cannot cross this
great water; so I must die."
"No," said the swans; "it shall not be so. Across this water is the
home of that Above Person. Get on our backs, and we will take you
Scarface stood up. Now he felt strong and full of courage. He waded
out into the water and lay down on the swans' backs, and they swam
away. It was a fearful journey, for that water was deep and black,
and in it live strange people and great animals which might reach up
and seize a person and pull him down under the water; yet the swans
carried Scarface safely to the other side. There was seen a broad,
hard trail leading back from the water's edge.
"There," said the swans; "you are now close to the Sun's lodge.
Follow that trail, and soon you will see it."
Scarface started to walk along the trail, and after he had gone a
little way he came to some beautiful things lying in the trail.
There was a war shirt, a shield, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. He
had never seen such fine weapons. He looked at them, but he did not
touch them, and at last walked around them and went on. A little
farther along he met a young man, a very handsome person. His hair
was long; his clothing was made of strange skins, and his moccasins
were sewed with bright feathers.
The young man spoke to him and asked, "Did you see some weapons
lying in the trail?"
"Yes," replied Scarface, "I saw them."
"Did you touch them?" said the young man.
"No," said Scarface; "I supposed some one had left them there, and I
did not touch them."
"You do not meddle with the property of others," said the young man.
"What is your name, and where are you going?" Scarface told him.
Then said the young man, "My name is Early Riser (the morning star).
The Sun is my father. Come, I will take you to our lodge. My father
is not at home now, but he will return at night."
At length they came to the lodge. It was large and handsome, and on
it were painted strange medicine animals. On a tripod behind the
lodge were the Sun's weapons and his war clothing. Scarface was
ashamed to go into the lodge, but Morning Star said, "Friend, do not
be afraid; we are glad you have come."
When they went in a woman was sitting there, the Moon, the Sun's
wife and the mother of Morning Star. She spoke to Scarface kindly
and gave him food to eat, and when he had eaten she asked, "Why have
you come so far from your people?"
So Scarface told her about the beautiful girl that he wished to
marry and said, "She belongs to the Sun. I have come to ask him for
When it was almost night, and time for the Sun to come home, the
Moon hid Scarface under a pile of robes. As soon as the Sun got to
the doorway he said, "A strange person is here."
"Yes, father," said Morning Star, "a young man has come to see you.
He is a good young man, for he found some of my things in the trail
and did not touch them."
Scarface came out from under the robes and the Sun entered the lodge
and sat down. He spoke to Scarface and said, "I am glad you have
come to our lodge. Stay with us as long as you like. Sometimes my
son is lonely. Be his friend."
The next day the two young men were talking about going hunting and
the Moon spoke to Scarface and said, "Go with my son where you
like, but do not hunt near that big water. Do not let him go there.
That is the home of great birds with long, sharp bills. They kill
people. I have had many sons, but these birds have killed them all.
Only Morning Star is left."
Scarface stayed a long time in the Sun's lodge, and every day went
hunting with Morning Star. One day they came near the water and saw
the big birds.
"Come on," said Morning Star, "let us go and kill those birds."
"No, no," said Scarface, "we must not go there. Those are terrible
birds; they will kill us."
Morning Star would not listen. He ran toward the water and Scarface
ran after him, for he knew that he must kill the birds and save the
boy's life. He ran ahead of Morning Star and met the birds, which
were coming to fight, and killed every one of them with his spear;
not one was left. The young men cut off the heads of the birds and
carried them home, and when Morning Star's mother heard what they
had done, and they showed her the birds' heads, she was glad. She
cried over the two young men and called Scarface "My son," and when
the Sun came home at night she told him about it, and he too was
"My son," he said to Scarface, "I will not forget what you have this
day done for me. Tell me now what I can do for you; what is your
"Alas, alas!" replied Scarface, "Pity me. I came here to ask you for
that girl. I want to marry her. I asked her and she was glad, but
she says that she belongs to you, and that you told her not to
"What you say is true," replied the Sun. "I have seen the days and
all that she has done. Now I give her to you. She is yours. I am
glad that she has been wise, and I know that she has never done
wrong. The Sun takes care of good women; they shall live a long
time, and so shall their husbands and children.
"Now, soon you will go home. I wish to tell you something and you
must be wise and listen. I am the only chief; everything is mine; I
made the earth, the mountains, the prairies, the rivers, and the
forests; I made the people and all the animals. This is why I say
that I alone am chief. I can never die. It is true the winter makes
me old and weak, but every summer I grow young again.
"What one of all the animals is the smartest?" the Sun went on. "It
is the raven, for he always finds food; he is never hungry. Which
one of all the animals is the most to be reverenced? It is the
buffalo; of all the animals I like him best. He is for the people;
he is your food and your shelter. What part of his body is sacred?
It is the tongue; that belongs to me. What else is sacred? Berries.
They too are mine. Come with me now and see the world."
The Sun took Scarface to the edge of the sky and they looked down
and saw the world. It is flat and round, and all around the edge it
goes straight down. Then said the Sun, "If any man is sick or in
danger his wife may promise to build me a lodge if he recovers. If
the woman is good, then I shall be pleased and help the man; but if
she is not good, or if she lies, then I shall be angry. You shall
build the lodge like the world, round, with walls, but first you
must build a sweat-lodge of one hundred sticks. It shall be arched
like the sky, and one-half of it shall be painted red for me, the
other half you shall paint black for the night." He told Scarface
all about making the Medicine Lodge, and when he had finished
speaking, he rubbed some medicine on the young man's face and the
scar that had been there disappeared. He gave him two raven
feathers, saying: "These are a sign for the girl that I give her to
you. They must always be worn by the husband of the woman who builds
a Medicine Lodge."
Now Scarface was ready to return home. The Sun and Morning Star gave
him many good presents; the Moon cried and kissed him and was sorry
to see him go. Then the Sun showed him the short trail. It was the
Wolf Road--the Milky Way. He followed it and soon reached the
* * * * *
It was a very hot day. All the lodge skins were raised and the
people sat in the shade. There was a chief, a very generous man,
who all day long was calling out for feasts, and people kept coming
to his lodge to eat and smoke with him. Early in the morning this
chief saw sitting on a butte near by a person close-wrapped in his
robe. All day long this person sat there and did not move. When it
was almost night the chief said, "That person has sat there all day
in the strong heat, and he has not eaten nor drunk. Perhaps he is a
stranger. Go and ask him to come to my lodge."
Some young men ran up to the person and said to him, "Why have you
sat here all day in the great heat? Come to the shade of the lodges.
The chief asks you to eat with him." The person rose and threw off
his robe and the young men were surprised. He wore fine clothing;
his bow, shield, and other weapons were of strange make; but they
knew his face, although the scar was gone, and they ran ahead,
shouting, "The Scarface poor young man has come. He is poor no
longer. The scar on his face is gone."
All the people hurried out to see him and to ask him questions.
"Where did you get all these fine things?" He did not answer. There
in the crowd stood that young woman, and, taking the two raven
feathers from his head, he gave them to her and said, "The trail was
long and I nearly died, but by those helpers I found his lodge. He
is glad. He sends these feathers to you. They are the sign."
Great was her gladness then. They were married and made the first
Medicine Lodge, as the Sun had said. The Sun was glad. He gave them
great age. They were never sick. When they were very old, one
morning their children called to them, "Awake, rise and eat." They
did not move.
In the night, together, in sleep, without pain, their shadows had
departed to the Sandhills.
THE BUFFALO-PAINTED LODGES
The old lodges of the Piegans were made of buffalo skin and were
painted with pictures of different kinds--birds, or animals, or
trees, or mountains. It is believed that in most cases the first
painter of any lodge was taught how he should paint it in a dream,
but this was not always the case.
Two of the most important lodges in the Blackfeet camp are known as
the [=I]n[)i]s'k[)i]m lodges. Both are painted with figures of
buffalo, one with black buffalo, and the other with yellow buffalo.
Certain of the Inis'kim are kept in these lodges and can be
kept in no others.
This story tells how these two lodges came to be made.
The painters were told what to do long, long ago, "in about the
second generation after the first people."
In those days the old Piegans lived in the north, close to the Red
Deer River. The camp moved, and the lodges were pitched on the
river. One day two old men who were close friends had gone out from
the camp to find some straight cherry shoots with which to make
arrows. After they had gathered their shafts, they sat down on a
high bank by the river and began to peel the bark from the shoots.
The river was high. One of these men was named Weasel Heart and the
As they sat there, Weasel Heart chanced to look down into the water
and saw something. He said to his comrade, "Friend, do you not see
something down there where the water goes around?"
Fisher said, "No; I see nothing except buffalo," for he was looking
across the river to the other side, and not down into the water.
"No," said Weasel Heart; "I do not mean over there on the prairie.
Look down into that deep hole in the river, and you will see a lodge
Fisher looked as he had been told, and saw the lodge.
Weasel Heart said, "There is a lodge painted with black
buffalo." As he spoke thus, Fisher said, "I see another lodge,
standing in front of it." Weasel Heart saw that lodge too--the
The two men wondered at this and could not understand how it could
be, but they were both men of strong hearts, and presently Weasel
Heart said, "Friend, I shall go down to enter that lodge. Do you sit
here and tell me when I get to the place." Then Weasel Heart went up
the river and found a drift-log to support him and pushed it out
into the water, and floated down toward the cut bank. When he had
reached the place where the lodge stood Fisher told him, and he let
go the log and dived down into the water and entered the lodge.
In it he found two persons who owned the lodge, a man and his wife.
The man said to him, "You are welcome," and Weasel Heart sat down.
Then spoke the owner of the lodge saying, "My son, this is my lodge,
and I give it to you. Look well at it inside and outside; and make
your lodge like this. If you do that, it may be a help to you."
Fisher sat a long time waiting for his friend, but at last he
looked down the stream and saw a man on the shore walking toward
him. He came along the bank until he had reached his friend. It was
Fisher said to him, "I have been waiting a long time, and I was
afraid that something bad had happened to you."
Weasel Heart asked him, "Did you see me?"
"I saw you," said Fisher, "when you went into that lodge. Did you,
when you came out of the lodge, see there in the water another lodge
painted with yellow buffalo? Is it still there?"
Weasel Heart said, "I saw it; it is there. Go you into the water as
Then Fisher went up the stream as his friend had gone and entered
the water at the same place and swam down as Weasel Heart had done,
and when Weasel Heart showed him the place he dived down and
disappeared as Weasel Heart had disappeared. He entered the
yellow-painted-buffalo lodge, and his friend saw him go into it.
In the lodge were two persons, a man and his wife. The man said to
him, "You are welcome; sit there." He spoke further, saying, "My
son, you have seen this lodge of mine; I give it to you. Look
carefully at it, inside and outside, and fix up your lodge in that
way. It may be a help to you hereafter." Then Fisher went out.
Weasel Heart waited for his friend as long as Fisher had waited for
him, and when Fisher came out of the water it was at the place where
Weasel Heart had come out. Then the two friends went home to the
When the two had come to a hill near the camp they met a young man,
and by him sent word that the people should make a sweat-house for
them. After the sweat-house had been made, word was sent to them,
and they entered the camp and went into the sweat-house and took a
sweat, and all the time while they were sweating, sand was falling
from their bodies.
Some time after that the people moved camp and went out and killed
buffalo, and these two men made two lodges, and painted them just as
the lodges were painted that they had seen in the river.
These two men had strong power which came to them from the
Once the people wished to cross the river, but the stream was deep
and it was always hard for them to get across. Often the dogs and
the travois were swept away and the people lost many of their
things. At this time the tribe wished to cross, and Fisher and
Weasel Heart said to each other, "The people want to cross the
river, but it is high and they cannot do so. Let us try to make a
crossing, so that it will be easier for them." So Weasel Heart alone
crossed the river and sat on the bank on the other side, and Fisher
sat opposite to him on the bank where the camp was.
Then Fisher said to the people, "Pack up your things now and get
ready to cross. I will make a place where you can cross easily."
Weasel Heart and Fisher filled their pipes and smoked, and then each
started to cross the river. As each stepped into the water, the
river began to go down and the crossing grew more and more shallow.
The people with all their dogs followed close behind Fisher, as he
had told them to do. Fisher and Weasel Heart met in the middle of
the river, and when they met they stepped to one side up the stream
and let the people pass them. Ever since that day this has been a
These lodges came from the Under-water
People--S[=u]'y[=e]-t[)u]p'p[)i]. They were those who had owned them
and who had been kind to Weasel Heart and Fisher.
MIKA'PI--RED OLD MAN
In Montana, running into the Missouri River from the south, is a
little stream that the Blackfeet call "It Fell on Them." Once, long,
long ago, while a number of women were digging in a bank near this
stream for the red earth that they used as paint, the bank gave way
and fell on them, burying and killing them. The white people call
this Armell's Creek.
It was on this stream near the mountains that the Piegans were
camped when M[=i]ka'pi went to war. This was long ago.
Early in the morning a herd of buffalo had been seen feeding on the
slopes of the mountains, and some hunters went out to kill them.
Travelling carefully up the ravines, and keeping out of sight of the
herd, they came close to them, near enough to shoot their arrows,
and they began to kill fat cows. But while they were doing this a
war party of Snakes that had been hidden on the mountainside
attacked them, and the Piegans began to run back toward their camp.
One of them, called Fox Eye, was a brave man, and shouted to the
others to stop and wait, saying, "Let us fight these people; the
Snakes are not brave; we can drive them back." But the other Piegans
would not listen to him; they made excuses, saying, "We have no
shields; our war medicine is not here; there are many of them; why
should we stop here to die?" They ran on to the camp, but Fox Eye
would not run. Hiding behind a rock he prepared to fight, but as he
was looking for some enemy to shoot at, holding his arrow on the
string, a Snake had crept up on the bank above him; the Piegan heard
the twang of the bowstring, and the long, fine arrow passed through
his body. His bow and arrow dropped from his hands, and he fell
forward, dead. Now, too late, the warriors came rushing out from the
Piegan camp to help him, but the Snakes scalped their enemy,
scattered up the mountain, and soon were hidden in the timber.
Fox Eye had two wives, and their father and mother and all their
near relations were dead. All Fox Eye's relations had died. So it
happened that these poor widows had no one to help them--no one to
take vengeance for the killing of their husband.
All day long, and often far into the night, these two sat on a
near-by hill and wailed, and their mourning was sad.
There was a young man named Mika'pi. Every morning when he awoke
he heard the mourning of these poor widows, and all through the day
he could not forget their sorrow. He pitied them. One day he sent
his mother to them, to tell them that he wished to speak with them.
When they had come to the lodge they entered and sat down close by
the doorway and covered their heads.
"Listen!" said Mika'pi. "For days and nights I have heard your
mourning, and I too have mourned. Your husband was my close friend,
and now he is dead, and no relations are left to avenge him. So now
I say to you, I will take the load from your hearts; I will go to
war and kill enemies and take scalps, and when I return they shall
be yours. I will wipe away your tears, and we shall be glad that Fox
Eye is avenged."
When the people heard that Mika'pi was going to war many young
men wished to join him, but he refused. "I shall go alone," he said.
So when he had taken a medicine sweat and had asked a priest to pray
for him in his absence, he left the camp one evening, just as it was
It is only the foolish warrior who travels in the day. The wise one
knows that war-parties may be out, or that some camp watcher sitting
on a hill may see him far off and may try to kill him. Mika'pi
was not one of these foolish persons. He was brave and cautious, and
he had powerful helpers. Some have said that he was helped by the
ghosts. When he started to war against the Snakes he travelled in
low places, and at sunrise he climbed some hill near by and looked
carefully over the country in all directions, and during all the
long day he lay there and watched, sleeping often, but only for a
When Mika'pi had come to the Great Place of Falling Water,[A] it
began to rain hard, and, looking about for a place to sleep, he saw
a hole in the rocks and crept in and lay down at the farther end.
The rain did not stop, and when it grew dark he could not travel
because of the darkness and the storm, so he lay down to sleep
again; but before he had fallen asleep he heard something at the
mouth of the cave, and then something creeping toward him. Then soon
something touched his breast, and he put out his hand and felt a
person. Then he sat up.
[Footnote A: The Great Falls of the Missouri.]
Mika'pi stretched out his hand and put its palm on the person's
breast and moved his hand quickly from side to side, and then
touched the person with the point of his finger, which in sign
language means, "Who are you?" The stranger took Mika'pi's hand
and made him feel of his own right hand. The thumb and fingers were
closed except the forefinger, which was extended. When Mika'pi's
hand was on the stranger's hand the person moved his hand forward
with a zigzag motion, meaning Snake.
Mika'pi was glad. Here had come to him one of the tribe he was
seeking, yet he thought it better to wait for a time before fighting
him; so when, in signs, the Snake asked Mika'pi who he was he
replied, by making the sign for paddling a canoe, that he was a
River person, for he knew that the Snakes and the River people, or
Pend d'Oreilles, were at peace. Then the two lay down for the night,
but Mika'pi did not sleep. Through the long night he watched for
the first light, so that he might kill his enemy; and just at
daybreak Mika'pi, without noise, strung his bow, fitted an arrow
to the string, and sent the thin shaft through his enemy's heart.
The Snake half rose up and fell back dead. Mika'pi scalped him,
took his bow and arrows and his bundle of moccasins, and went out of
the cave and looked all about. Daylight had come, but no one was in
sight. Perhaps, like himself, the Snake had gone to war alone.
Mika'pi did not forget to be careful because he had been
fortunate. He travelled only a little way, and then hid himself and
waited for night before going on. After drinking from the river he
ate and, climbing up on a high rock wall, he slept.
He dreamed that he fought with strange people and was wounded. He
felt blood trickling from his wounds, and when he awoke he knew that
he had been warned to turn back. Other signs were bad. He saw an
eagle rising carrying a snake, which dropped from its claws. The
setting sun too was painted, a sure warning that danger was near. In
spite of all these things Mika'pi determined to go on. He thought
of the poor widows mourning; he thought of welcome of the people if
he should return with scalps; he thought also of two young sisters
whom he wished to marry. If he could return with proof of brave
deeds, they would think well of him.
Mika'pi travelled onward.
* * * * *
The sun had already disappeared behind the sharp pointed dark peaks
of the mountains. It was nearly night. As the light grew dim, the
far stretching prairie began to be hidden. By a stream in a valley
where grew large and small trees were the lodges of a great camp.
For a long distance up and down the river rose the smokes of many
On a hill overlooking the valley sat a person alone. His robe was
drawn close about him, and he sat there without moving, looking down
on the valley and out on the prairie above it. Perhaps he was
watching for enemies; perhaps he was praying.
Creeping through the grass behind this person, something was slowly
drawing near to him. There was no noise, the watcher heard nothing;
still he sat there, looking out over the prairie, and turning his
head neither to the right nor the left. This thing behind him kept
creeping closer, and presently it was so near it could touch the
man. Perhaps then there was some little rustle of the grass, and the
watcher turned his head. It was too late. A strong arm around his
neck bent his head back, a hand covered his mouth, a long stone
knife was thrust into his breast, and he died in silence. The fading
light had kept people in the camp from seeing what had happened.
The man who had used the knife scalped his enemy, and slowly,
hidden by the grass, crept down the hill that he had just ascended,
and when he reached the cover of a low place Mika'pi rose to his
feet and crept away. He had another Snake scalp tied to his belt.
His heart was glad, but he was not satisfied.
Several nights had passed since the signs warned him to turn back,
but notwithstanding the warnings, he had succeeded. Perhaps his
success had made him too confident. He longed for more of it. "One
more scalp I shall take," he said, "and then I will return to the
He climbed far up the mountainside and hid among the pines and
slept, but when day came he awoke and crept out to a point where he
could see the camp. He saw the smoke rising as the women kindled
their morning fires; he saw the people going about through the camp,
and then presently he saw many people rush up on the hill where he
had left the dead enemy. He could not hear their angry cries, nor
their mournful wailings, but he knew how badly they felt, and he
sung a song, for he was happy.
Once more the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, and as
darkness grew Mika'pi came down from where he had been hiding and
carefully approached the camp. Now was a time of danger. Now
watchers might be hidden anywhere, looking for the approach of
enemies, ready to raise a cry to warn the camp. Each bush or clump
of rye grass or willow thicket might hide an enemy. Very slowly,
looking and listening, Mika'pi crept around the outskirts of the
camp. He made no noise, he did not show himself. Presently he heard
some one clear his throat and then a cough, and a little bush moved.
Here was a watcher. Could he kill him and get away? He sat and
waited to see what would happen, for he knew where his enemy was,
but the enemy knew nothing of him. The great moon rose over the
eastern prairie and climbed high and began to travel across the sky.
Seven Persons swung around and pointed downward. It was about the
middle of the night. At length the person in the bush grew tired of
watching; he thought no enemy could be near and he rose and
stretched out his arms and yawned, but even as he stood an arrow
pierced him through, beneath the arms. He gave a loud cry and tried
to run, but another arrow struck him, and he fell.
And now from out the camp rushed the warriors toward the sound, but
even as they came Mika'pi had taken the scalp from his enemy and
started to run away into the darkness. The moon was bright, and
close behind him were the Snakes. He heard arrows flying by him, and
presently one passed through his arm. He pulled it out and threw it
from him. Another struck his leg, and he fell, and a great shout
arose from the Snakes. Now their enemy was down and revenge for the
two lives lately taken was certain.
But Mika'pi's helpers were not far off. It was at the very verge
of a high cut wall overhanging the river that Mika'pi fell, and
even as the Snakes shouted he rolled over the brink into the dark
rushing water below. The Snakes ran along the edge of the river,
looking into the water, with bent bows watching for the enemy's head
or body to appear, but they saw nothing. Carefully they looked
along the shores and sandbars; they did not find him.
Mika'pi had sunk deep in the water. The swift current carried him
along, and when he rose to the surface he was beyond his enemies.
For some time he floated on, but the arrow in his leg pained him and
at last he crept out on a sandbar. He managed to draw the arrow from
his leg, and finding at the edge of the bar a dry log, he rolled it
into the water, and keeping his hands on it, drifted down the river
with the current. Cold and stiff from his wounds, he crept out on
the bank and lay down in the warm sunshine. Soon he fell asleep.
When he awoke the sun was in the middle of the sky. His leg and arm
were swollen and pained him, yet he started to go home, and for a
time struggled onward; but at last, tired and discouraged, he sat
"Ah," he said to himself, "true were the signs! How crazy I was to
go against them! Now my bravery has been useless, for here I must
stop and die. The widows will still mourn, and who will care for my
father and mother in their old age? Pity me now, O Sun; help me, O
Great Above Person! Give me life!"
Something was coming through the brush near him, breaking the sticks
as it walked. Was it the Snakes following his trail? Mika'pi
strung his bow and drew his arrows from the quiver. He waited.
No, it was not a Snake; it was a bear, a big grizzly bear, standing
there looking down at Mika'pi. "What is my brother doing here?"
said the bear. "Why does he pray for life?"
"Look at my leg," said Mika'pi; "swollen and sore. See my wounded
arm; I can hardly hold the bow. Far away is the home of my people,
and my strength is gone. Surely here I must die, for I cannot walk,
and I have no food."
"Take courage, my brother," said the bear. "Keep up a strong heart,
for I will help you, and you shall have life."
When he had said this he lifted Mika'pi in his arms and took him
to a place where there was thick mud, and there he took great
handfuls of the mud and plastered it on the wounds, and while he
was putting on the mud he sang a medicine song. Then he carried
Mika'pi to a place where there were many service berries, and he
broke off great branches of the fruit and gave them to him, saying,
"Eat; my brother, eat." He kept breaking off branches full of large,
ripe berries until Mika'pi was full and could eat no more.
Then said the bear, "Now lie down on my back and hold tight by my
hair and we will go on"; and when Mika'pi had got on his back and
was ready the bear started. All through the night he travelled on
without stopping, and when morning came they rested for a time and
ate more berries, and again the bear put mud upon the man's wounds.
In this way they travelled on, until, on the fourth day, they had
come close to the lodges of the Piegans and the people saw them
coming, and wondered.
"Get off now, my brother, get off," said the bear. "There is the
camp of your people. I shall leave you"; and at once he turned and
went off up the mountain.
All the people came out to meet Mika'pi, and they carried him to
his father's lodge. He untied the scalps from his belt and gave them
to the poor widows, saying, "These are the scalps of your enemies; I
wipe away your tears." Then every one rejoiced. All Mika'pi's
women relations went through the camp, shouting out his name and
singing songs about him, and all prepared to dance the dance of
triumph and rejoicing.
First came the widows. They carried the scalps tied on poles, and
their faces were painted black. Then came the medicine men, with
their medicine pipes unwrapped, and then the bands of the All
Friends dressed in their war costumes; then came the old men; and,
last of all, the women and children. They went all through the
village, stopping here and there to dance, and Mika'pi sat
outside the lodge and saw all the people dance by him. He forgot his
pain and was happy, and although he could not dance, he sung with
Soon they made the medicine lodge, and first of all the warriors,
Mika'pi was chosen to cut the rawhide to bind the poles, and as
he cut the strips he related the coups he had counted. He told of
the enemies he had killed, and all the people shouted his name and
the drummers struck the drum. The father of those two sisters gave
them to him. He was glad to have such a son-in-law.
Long lived Mika'pi. Of all the great chiefs who have lived and
died he was the greatest. He did many other great things. It must be
true, as the old men have said, that he was helped by the ghosts,
for no one can do such things without help from those fearful and
RED ROBE'S DREAM
Long, long ago, Red Robe and Talking Rock were young men in the
Blackfeet camp. In their childhood days and early youth their life
had been hard. Talking Rock was an orphan without a single relation
and Red Robe had only his old grandmother.
This old woman, by hard work and sacrifice, had managed to rear the
boys. She tanned robes for the hunters, made them moccasins worked
with porcupine quills, and did everything she could to get a little
food or worn out robes and hide, from which she made clothes for her
boys. They never had new, brightly painted calf robes, like other
children. They went barefoot in summer, and in winter their toes
often showed through the worn out skin of their moccasins. They had
no flesh. Their ribs could be counted beneath the skin; their cheeks
were hollow; they looked always hungry.
When they grew to be twelve or fifteen years old they began to do
better, for now they could do more and more for themselves. They
herded horses and performed small services for the wealthy men;
then, too, they hunted and killed a little meat. Now, for their
work, three or four dogs were given them, so with the two the old
woman owned, they were able to pack their small lodge and other
possessions when the camp moved, instead of carrying everything on
Now they began to do their best to make life easier for the good old
woman who had worked so hard to keep them from starving and
Time passed. The boys grew old enough to go out and fast. They had
their dreams. Each found his secret helper of mysterious power, and
each became a warrior. Still they were very poor, compared with
other young men of their age. They had bows, but only a few arrows.
They were not able to pay some great medicine man to make shields
for them. As yet they went to war only as servants.
About this time Red Robe fell in love.
In the camp was a beautiful girl named M[=a]-m[)i]n'--the
Wing--whom all the young men wished to marry, but perhaps Red Robe
loved her more than all the rest. Her father was a rich old medicine
man who never invited any except chiefs and great warriors to feast
with him, and Red Robe seldom entered his lodge. He used to dress as
well as he could, to braid his hair carefully, to paint his face
nicely, and to stand for a long time near the lodge looking
entreatingly at her as she came and went about her work, or fleshed
a robe under the shelter of some travois over which a hide was
spread. Then whenever they met, he thought the look she gave him in
passing was friendly--perhaps more than that.
Wherever Ma-min' went her mother or some woman of the family
went with her, so Red Robe could never speak to her, but he was
often near by. One day, when she was gathering wood for the lodge,
and her companion was out of sight behind some willow bushes some
distance away, Red Robe had a chance to tell Ma-min' what was
in his heart. He walked up to her and took her hands in his, and
she did not try to draw them away. He said to her, "I love you; I
cannot remember a time when I saw you that my heart did not beat
faster. I am poor, very poor, and it is useless to ask your father
to let me marry you, for he will not consent; but there is another
way, and if you love me, you will do what I ask. Let us go from
here--far away. We will find some tribe that will be kind to us, and
even if we fail in that we can live in some way. Now, if you love
me, and I hope you do, you will come."
"Ai," replied Ma-min', "I do love you; only you. All the other
young men pass before me as shadows. I scarcely see them, but I
cannot do what you ask. I cannot go away and leave my mother to
mourn; she who loves me so well. Let us wait a little. Go to war. Do
something great and brave. Then perhaps you will not uselessly ask
my father to give me to you."
In vain Red Robe tried to persuade the girl to do as he wished. She
was kind; she threw her arms about him and kissed him and cried, but
she would not run away to leave her mother to sorrow, to be beaten
by her father, who would blame the poor woman for all the disgrace;
and so, too soon, they parted, for they heard her companion
coming--the sound of her heavy footsteps.
Three Bulls, chief of the camp, was a great man. He had a fierce
temper, and when he spoke, people hurried to do what he ordered, for
they feared him. He never talked loud nor called any one by an ill
name. When any one displeased him or refused to do what he said he
just smiled and then killed the person. He was brave. In battle with
enemies he was the equal of twenty men, rushing here, there, into
the thickest of the fights, and killing--always with that silent,
terrible smile on his face. Because he was such a great warrior, and
also because he was generous, helping the poor, feasting any who
came to his lodge, he was the head chief of the Blackfeet.
Three Bulls had several wives and many children, some of them grown
and married. Gray hairs were now many in his head. His face wrinkles
showed that old age was not far distant. No one supposed that he
would ever take another wife; so when the news spread through the
camp that he had asked the old medicine man for his daughter
Ma-min', every one was surprised. When Red Robe heard the news
his heart nearly broke. The old medicine man agreed to let the chief
have the girl. He dared not refuse, nor did he wish to, for many
good presents were to be given him in three days' time. When that
was done, he told his daughter, she would be taken to the chief's
lodge; let her prepare for the change.
That day Red Robe had planned to start with a party to war; but when
he heard this news he asked his friend Talking Rock to take word to
the leader that he had changed his mind and would not go. He asked
his friend to stay with him, instead of joining the war party, and
Talking Rock agreed to do so.
Out in front of the camp was a large spring, and to that place Red
Robe went and stood leaning against a large stone and looking sadly
down into the blue water. Soon, as he had thought, Ma-min'
came to the spring for a skin of water. He took her hands, as he
had done before, and began to beg her to go away with him that very
night, before it was too late. The girl cried bitterly, but at first
she did not speak.
The two were standing in plain sight of the camp and the people in
it, and some one went to the chief's lodge and told him what was
"Go to the spring," said the chief, "and tell that young man to let
the girl go; she is to be my wife."
The person did as he was told, but the two young people paid no
attention to him. They did not care what any one said, nor if the
whole camp saw them there together. All they could think about was
this terrible thing, which would make them unhappy so long as they
lived. Red Robe kept asking the girl to go, and at last she
consented to do as he wished. They had their arms about each other,
not thinking of the crowd that was watching them, and were quickly
planning for their meeting and for their going away that night, when
Three Bulls quietly walked up to them and stabbed the young man with
a flint-pointed lance. Red Robe sank down dying at the young girl's
feet, and she, looking down for an instant at her lover, turned and
ran to her father's lodge.
"Bring wood," the chief called out; "let every one bring some wood;
all you have at your lodges. Those who have none, let them go
quickly and bring some from the timber."
All the people hurried to obey. What Three Bulls ordered was soon
done, for the people feared him, and soon a great pile of wood was
heaped beside the dead man.
The chief lifted the slender young form, placed it on the pile of
wood, and told a woman to bring coals and set fire to the pile. When
this had been done, all left the place except Three Bulls, who
stayed there, tending the fire and poking it here and there, until
it was burnt out and no wood or trace of a human body was left.
Nothing remained except the little pile of ashes. These he
scattered. Still he was not satisfied. His medicine was strong;
perhaps his dream had warned him. Now he ordered that the lodges be
taken down, that everything be packed up, and that the trail of the
moving camp should pass over the heap of ashes.
Some time before this, after Red Robe had made his long fasting, and
his dream had come to him and he had returned to his grandmother's
lodge, he had told his true friend something of what had been said
to him by his dream.
"If I should die," he said, "and you are near, do not desert me. Go
to the place where I fell, and if my body should have been destroyed
look carefully around the place. If you can find even a shred of my
flesh or a bit of my bone, it will be well. So said my dream. Here
are four arrows, which the dream told me to make. If you can find a
bit of my body, flesh or bone, or even hair, cover it with a robe,
and standing over it, shoot three arrows one after another up into
the air, crying, as each one leaves the bow, 'Look out!' When you
fit the fourth arrow on the bowstring and shoot it upward, cry,
'Look out, Red Robe, the arrow will strike you!' and as you say
this, turn and run away from the place, not looking back as you go.
If you do this, my friend, just as I have told you, I shall live
As the camp moved, Three Bulls stood and watched it filing over the
place of the fire, and saw the ashes scattered by the trailing ends
of lodge poles and travois, and by the feet of hundreds of people
and dogs. Still he was not satisfied, and for a long time after the
last of the people had passed he remained there. Then he went on
across the flat and up and over a ridge, but presently he returned,
once, twice, four times, to the crest of the hill and looked back at
the place where the camp had been; but at last he felt sure that no
one remained at the place, and went on.
Yet Talking Rock was there. He had been hidden in the brush all the
time, watching the chief. Even after Three Bulls had passed over the
ridge, he remained crouched in the bushes, and saw him come back
again and again to peer over its crest. Still further on there was
another higher ridge, and when the young man saw Three Bulls climb
that and disappear on the trail of the camp, he came forth.
Going to the place where his friend had lain, Talking Rock sat down
and mourned, wailing long and loud. Back on the hills the wolves and
coyotes heard him and they too became sorrowful, adding their cries
The young man had little faith in the power of the four arrows that
he kept so carefully wrapped in a separate bundle in his quiver. He
looked at the place where Red Robe's body had been burnt. It was
like any other place on the great trail that had been made, dust and
grass blades mingled together, and scratches made by the dragging
poles. It did not seem possible that anything of his friend's body
remained; yet he must search, and breaking a green willow twig he
began carefully to work over the dust, stopping his crying, for the
tears blinded his eyes so that he could not see.
All the long morning and far into the afternoon, Talking Rock swept
the dust this way and that, turning it over and over, in a circle
that grew always wider, and just as he was about to give up the
search, he found a bit of charred and blackened bone. Was this a
part of his friend's frame? Was it not more likely a bit of bone of
buffalo or elk, which some dog had carried from one of the
fireplaces of the camp and dropped here?
Now for the test. Talking Rock covered the bit of bone with his robe
as he had been told to do. He even raised the robe along its middle,
making it look as if it really covered a person lying there. Then he
shot three of the arrows up in the air, each time crying, "Look
Then with a hand that trembled a little, he drew the fourth arrow
from the quiver, shot it and cried, "Look out, Red Robe, the arrow
will strike you"; and, turning, ran from the place with all his
How he wanted to look back! How he longed to see if his friend was
really rising from that bit of blackened bone! But Talking Rock was
strong-hearted. He controlled his desires. On and on he ran, and
then--behind him the light tread of running feet, a firm hand
gripped his shoulder, and a loved voice said, "Why so fast, my
friend?" and stopping and turning, Talking Rock found himself face
to face with Red Robe. He could not believe what he saw, and had to
pinch himself and to hold his friend hard in his arms to believe
that all this was real.
The camp had not moved far, and the lodges were pitched on the next
stream to the south. Soon after dark, the two friends entered it and
went to their lodge. The poor old grandmother could not believe her
eyes when she saw the young man she had reared and loved so dearly;
but when he spoke she knew that it was he, and running over to him
she held him in her arms and kissed him, crying from joy. After a
little time, the young man said to her, "Grandmother, go to the
chief's lodge and say to him that I, Red Robe, need some dried
meat." The old woman hesitated at this strange request, but Red Robe
said: "Go, do not fear him; Three Bulls is now the one to know
When the old woman entered the great lodge and in reply to the
chief's look said, "Red Robe sent me here. He wants some dried
meat," only Three Bulls of all who were in the lodge, showed no
surprise. "It is what I expected," he said; "in spite of all my care
he lives again, and I can do nothing." Turning to his wives he
said, "Give her meat."
"Did you see Ma-min'?" asked Red Robe, when his grandmother
had returned with the meat and had told him what the chief had said.
"No, she was not in the lodge, but two women were approaching as I
left it. I think they were the girl and her mother."
"Go back once more," said the young man, "and tell Three Bulls to
send me that young woman."
But now the poor old grandmother was afraid. "I dare not tell him
that," she exclaimed. "He would kill me, and you. His anger would be
"Do not fear," said Red Robe, "do not fear, my mother, his anger and
his power are no longer to be feared. He is as feeble and as
helpless as one of those old bulls one sees on the sunny side of the
coulee, spending his last days before the wolves pull him down."
The old woman went to the lodge and told the chief what Red Robe
further wished. Ma-min' was there, her head covered with her
robe, crying quietly, and Three Bulls told her to arise and go with
the messenger. Timidly at first, and then with steps that broke into
a run, Ma-min' hurried toward the lodge of her sweetheart and
entered it. With a cry of joy she threw herself into his arms, and
Talking Rock went out and left them alone.
Great now was the happiness of these young people. Long was their
life, full of plenty and of great honor. Red Robe became a chief,
respected and loved by all the people. Ma-min' bore him many
children, who grew up to be the support of their old age.
THE BLACKFEET CREATION
The Blackfeet believe that the Sun made the earth--that he is the
creator. One of the names by which they call the Sun is Napi--Old
Man. This is how they tell of the creation:
In the beginning there was water everywhere; nothing else was to be
seen. There was something floating on the water, and on this raft
were Old Man and all the animals.
Old Man wished to make land, and he told the beaver to dive down to
the bottom of the water and to try to bring up a little mud. The
beaver dived and was under water for a long time, but he could not
reach the bottom. Then the loon tried, and after him the otter, but
the water was too deep for them. At last the muskrat was sent down,
and he was gone for a long time; so long that they thought he must
be drowned, but at last he came up and floated almost dead on the
water, and when they pulled him up on the raft and looked at his
paws, they found a little mud in them. When Old Man had dried this
mud, he scattered it over the water and land was formed. This is the
story told by the Blackfeet. It is very much like one told by some
Eastern Indians, who are related to the Blackfeet.
After the land had been made, Old Man travelled about on it, making
things and fixing up the earth so as to suit him. First, he marked
out places where he wished the rivers to run, sometimes making them
run smoothly, and again, in some places, putting falls on them. He
made the mountains and the prairie, the timber and the small trees
and bushes, and sometimes he carried along with him a lot of rocks,
from which he built some of the mountains--as the Sweet Grass
Hills--which stand out on the prairie by themselves.
Old Man caused grass to grow on the plains, so that the animals
might have something to feed on. He marked off certain pieces of
land, where he caused different kinds of roots and berries to
grow--a place for camas; and one for wild carrots; one for wild
turnips, sweet root and bitter root; one for service berries,
bullberries, cherries, plums, and rosebuds.
He made all kinds of animals that travel on the ground. When he made
the big-horn with its great horns, he put it out on the prairie. It
did not seem to travel easily there; it was awkward and could not go
fast, so he took it by one of its horns and led it up into the rough
hills and among the rocks, and let it go there, and it skipped about
among the cliffs and easily went up fearful places. So Old Man said
to the big-horn, "This is the place for you; this is what you are
fitted for; the rough country and the mountains." While he was in
the mountains he made the antelope, and turned it loose to see how
it travelled. The antelope ran so fast that it fell over some rocks
and hurt itself. He saw that this would not do, and took the
antelope down on the prairie and set it free there, and it ran away
fast and gracefully, and he said to it, "This is the place that
At last, one day, Old Man decided that he would make a woman and a
child, and he modelled some clay in human shape, and after he had
made these shapes and put them on the ground, he said to the clay,
"You shall be people." He spread his robe over the clay figures and
went away. The next morning he went back to the place and lifted up
the robe, and saw that the clay shapes had changed a little. When he
looked at them the next morning, they had changed still more; and
when on the fourth day he went to the place and took off the
covering, he said to the images, "Stand up and walk," and they did
so. They walked down to the river with him who had made them, and he
told them his name.
As they were standing there looking at the water as it flowed by,
the woman asked Old Man, saying, "How is it; shall we live always?
Will there be no end to us?"
Old Man said, "I have not thought of that. We must decide it. I will
take this buffalo chip and throw it in the river. If it floats,
people will become alive again four days after they have died; they
will die for four days only. But if it sinks, there will be an end
to them." He threw the chip into the river, and it floated.
The woman turned and picked up a stone and said, "No, I will throw
this stone in the river. If it floats, we shall live always; if it
sinks, people must die, so that their friends who are left alive may
always remember them." The woman threw the stone in the water, and
"Well," said Old Man, "you have chosen; there will be an end to
Not many nights after that the woman's child died, and she cried a
great deal for it. She said to Old Man, "Let us change this. The law
that you first made, let that be the law."
He said, "Not so; what is made law must be law. We will undo nothing
that we have done. The child is dead, but it cannot be changed.
People will have to die."
These first people did not have hands like a person; they had hands
like a bear with long claws. They were poor and naked and did not
know how to get a living. Old Man showed them the roots and the
berries, and showed them how to gather these, and told them how at
certain times of the year they should peel the bark off some trees
and eat it; that the little animals that live in the ground--rats,
squirrels, skunks, and beavers--were good to eat. He also taught
them something about the roots that were good for medicine to cure
In those days there were buffalo, and these black animals were
armed, for they had long horns. Once, as the people were moving
about, the buffalo saw them and rushed upon them and hooked them and
killed them, and then ate them. One day, as the creator was
travelling about, he came upon some of his children that he had made
lying there dead, torn to pieces and partly eaten by the buffalo.
When he saw this, he felt badly. He said, "I have not made these
people right. I will change this; from now on the people shall eat
He went to some of the people who were still alive, and said to
them, "How is it that you people do nothing to these animals that
are killing you?" The people replied, "What can we do? These animals
are armed and can kill us, and we have no way to kill them."
The creator said, "That is not hard. I will make you something that
will kill these animals."
He went out and cut some straight service-berry shoots, and brought
them in, and peeled the bark from them. He took a larger piece of
wood and flattened it, and tied a string to it, and made a bow. Now
he was the master of all birds and he went out and caught one, and
took feathers from its wings and tied them to the shaft of wood. He
tied four feathers along the shaft and tried the arrow at a mark and
found that it did not fly well. He took off these feathers and put
on three, and when he again tried it at the mark he found that it
went straight. He picked up some hard stones, and broke sharp pieces
from them. When he tried them he found that the black flint stones
made the best arrow points. He showed them how to use these things.
Then he spoke to the people, and said, "The next time you go out,
take these things with you, and use them as I tell you. Do not run
from these animals. When they rush at you, and have come pretty
close, shoot the arrows at them as I have taught you, and you will
see that they will run from you or will run around you in a circle."
He also broke off pieces of stone, and fixed them in a handle, and
told them that when they killed the buffalo they should cut up the
flesh with these stone knives.
One day after this, some people went on a little hill to look about,
and the buffalo saw them and called out to each other, "Ah, there is
some more of our food," and rushed upon them. The people did not
run. They began to shoot at the buffalo with the bows and arrows
that had been given them, and the buffalo began to fall. They say
that when the first buffalo hit with an arrow felt it prick him, he
called out to his fellows, "Oh, my friends, a great fly is biting
With the flint knives that had been given them they cut up the
bodies of the dead buffalo. About this time Old Man came up and said
to them, "It is not healthful to eat raw flesh. I will show you
something better than that." He gathered soft, dry rotten wood and
made punk of it, and took a piece of wood and drilled a hole in it
with an arrow point, and gave them a pointed piece of hard wood, and
showed them how to make a fire with fire sticks, and to cook the
flesh of animals.
After this the people found a certain sort of stone in the land, and
took another harder stone, and worked one upon the other and
hollowed out the softer one, so as to make of it a kettle.
It is told also that the creator made people and animals at another
place, and in another way. At the Porcupine Mountains he made other
earthen images of people, and blew breath on the images, and they
became people. They were men and women. After a time they asked him,
"What are we to eat?" Then he took more earth and made many images
in the form of buffalo, and when he had blown on them they stood up,
and he made signs to them and they started to run. He said to the
people, "There is your food."
"Well, now," they replied; "we have those animals, how are we to
"I will show you," he said.
He took them to the edge of a cliff and showed them how to heap up
piles of stone, running back from the cliff like this [Illustration:
two lines of diverging dots in a narrow < shape], with the point of
the V toward the cliff. He said to the people, "Now, do you hide
behind these piles of stones, and when I lead the buffalo this way,
as they get opposite to you, stand up."
Then he went on toward a herd of buffalo and began to call them, and
the buffalo started toward him and followed him, until they were
inside the arms of the V. Then he ran to one side and hid, and as
the people rose up the buffalo ran on in a straight line and jumped
over the cliff and some of them were killed by the fall.
"There," he said, "go and take the flesh of those animals." Then the
people tried to do so. They tried to tear the limbs apart, but they
could not. They tried to bite pieces out of the bodies, but they
could not do that. Old Man went to the edge of the cliff and broke
some pieces of stone with sharp edges, and showed them how to cut
the flesh with these. Of the buffalo that went over the cliff, some
were not dead, but were hurt, so they could not run away. The
people cut strips of green hide and tied stones in the middle, and
with these hammers broke in the skulls of the buffalo and killed
When they had taken the skins from these animals, they set up poles
and put the hides over them, and so made a shelter to sleep under.
In later times the creator marked off a piece of land for the five
tribes, Blackfeet, Bloods, Piegans, Gros Ventres, and Sarsis, and
said to these tribes, "When people come to cross this line at the
border of your land, take your bows and arrows, your lances and your
war clubs and give them battle, and keep them out. If they gain a
footing here, trouble for you will follow."
OLD MAN STORIES
Under the name Na'pi, Old Man, have been confused two wholly
different persons talked of by the Blackfeet. The Sun, the creator
of the universe, giver of light, heat, and life, and reverenced by
every one, is often called Old Man, but there is another personality
who bears the same name, but who is very different in his character.
This last Na'pi is a mixture of wisdom and foolishness; he is
malicious, selfish, childish, and weak. He delights in tormenting
people. Yet the mean things he does are so foolish that he is
constantly getting himself into scrapes, and is often obliged to ask
the animals to help him out of his troubles. His bad deeds almost
always bring their own punishment.
Interpreters commonly translate this word Na'pi as Old Man, but it
is also the term for white man; and the Cheyenne and Arapahoe
tribes tell just such stories about a similar person whom they also
call "white man." Tribes of Dakota stock tell of a similar person
whom they call "the spider."
The stories about this Old Man are told by the Blackfeet for
entertainment rather than with any serious purpose, and when that
part of the story is reached where Old Man is in some difficulty
which he cannot get out of, the man who is telling the story, and
those who are listening to it, laugh delightedly.
Some stories of this kind are these:
THE WONDERFUL BIRD
One day, as Old Man was walking about among the trees, he saw
something that seemed very queer.
A little bird was sitting on the branch of a tree. Every little
while it would make a strange noise, and every time it made this
noise its eyes flew out of its head and fastened on a branch of the
tree. Then after a little while the bird would make another sort of
noise and its eyes would go back to their places in its head.
Old Man called out to the bird, "Little brother, teach me how to do
"If I show you how," the bird answered, "you must not send your eyes
out of your head more than four times in a day. If you do, you will
"It shall be as you say, little brother. It is for you to give, and
I will listen to what you say."
When the bird had taught Old Man how to do this, he was glad. He
began to do it, and did it four times right away. Then he said, "Why
did that bird tell me to do this only four times? He has no sense. I
will do it again." So once more he made his eyes go out, but now
when he called to them they would not come back.
He shouted out to the bird, "Little brother, come here, and help me
to get back my eyes." The little bird did not answer him; it had
flown away. Now Old Man felt all over the branches of the tree with
his hands, but he could not find his eyes. So he went away and
wandered over the prairie for a long time, crying and calling to the
animals to help him.
As he was blind, he could find nothing to eat, and he began to be
A wolf teased him a great deal and had much fun. It had found a dead
buffalo, and taking a piece of the meat, it would hold the meat
close to Old Man's face. Then Old Man would say, "I smell something
dead, I wish I could find it; I am almost starved." He felt all
around for it.
Once when the wolf was doing this, Old Man caught him, and plucking
out one of the wolf's eyes, he put it in his own head. Then he could
see, and was able to find his own eyes, but never again could he do
the trick the little bird had taught him.
THE RABBITS' MEDICINE
Once, when Old Man was travelling about, he heard some singing that
sounded very queer. He had never before heard anything like it, and
looked all about to see where it came from. After a time he saw that
the cottontail rabbits were singing and making medicine. They had
built a fire, and raked out some hot ashes, and they would lie down
in these ashes and sing, while one of the others covered them up.
They could stay there only for a short time, though, for the ashes
"Little brothers," said Old Man, "here is something wonderful--that
you can lie in those hot ashes and coals without burning. I ask you
to teach me how to do this."
"We will show you how to do it, Old Man," said the rabbits. "You
must sing our song, and stay in the ashes only a short time." They
taught Old Man their song, and he began to sing and lay down, and
they covered him with coals and ashes, and the hot ashes did not
"That is good," he said. "You have strong medicine. Now, so that I
may know it all, do you lie down and let me cover you up."
All the rabbits lay down in the ashes, and Old Man covered them up,
and then he pulled the whole fire over them. One old rabbit got out,
and Old Man was just about to put her back when she said, "Pity me;
my children need me."
"It is good," replied Old Man. "You may go, so that there will be
more rabbits; but these I will roast, and have a feast." He put
more wood on the fire, and when the rabbits were cooked he got some
red willow brush and put the rabbits on it to cool. The grease from
their bodies soaked into the branches, so that even to-day if red
willow is held over a fire one may see the grease on the bark. Ever
since that time, too, the rabbits have a burnt place on the back,
where the one that got away was singed.
Old Man sat down by the fire, waiting for the rabbits to get cool,
when a coyote came along, limping. He went on three legs. "Pity me,
Old Man," he said. "You have plenty of cooked rabbits, give me one
"Go away," said Old Man, very cross; "if you are too lazy to catch
food, I will not give you any."
"But my leg is broken," said the coyote; "I cannot run. I cannot
catch anything, and I am starving. Give me half a rabbit."
"I don't care what happens to you," said Old Man; "I worked hard to
catch and cook these rabbits, and I shall not give any of them away.
I'll tell you what I will do, though; I will run a race with you
out to that far butte on the prairie, and if you beat me you can
have a rabbit."
"Good," said the coyote, and they started.
Old Man ran very fast, and the coyote limped along behind him, but
pretty close, until they got near the butte. Then the coyote turned
around and ran back very fast, for he was not lame at all. It took
Old Man a long time to get back, and just before he reached the
fire, the coyote finished eating the last rabbit and ran away.
THE LOST ELK MEAT
Old Man had been a long time without food and was very hungry. He
was trying to think how he could get something to eat, when he saw a
band of elk come up on a ridge. He went over to them and spoke to
them and said, "Brothers, I am lonely because I have no one to
"Go ahead, Old Man," said the elk; "we will follow you." Old Man led
them about for a long time, and when it was dark he came near a
high, steep cut bank. He ran around to one side, where the hill
sloped, and then went back right under the steep cliff and called
out, "Come on, that is a nice jump. You will laugh." So all the elk
jumped off and were killed, except one cow.
"They have all jumped but you," said Old Man. "Come on, you will
"Take pity on me," said the cow. "I am very heavy, and I am afraid
"Go away, then," said Old Man; "go and live. Then some day there
will be plenty of elk again."
Old Man built a fire and cooked some of the meat, and then he
skinned all the elk, and cut up the meat and hung it up to dry. The
tongues he hung on a pole.
The next day he started off and was gone all day, and at night, as
he was coming home, he was very hungry. He was thinking to himself
that he would have some roasted ribs and a tongue and other good
things; but when he reached the place, the meat was all gone; the
wolves had eaten it.
"It was lucky I hung up those tongues," said Old Man, "or I should
not have had anything to eat." But when he took down the tongues
they were all hollow. The mice had eaten out the meat, leaving only
THE ROLLING ROCK
Once when Old Man was travelling about and felt tired, he sat down
on a rock to rest. After he was rested he started on his way, and
because the sun was hot he threw his robe over the rock and said to
it, "Here, I give you my robe because you are poor and have let me
rest on you. Keep it always."
He had not gone far when it began to rain, and meeting a coyote, he
said to him, "Little brother, run back to that rock and ask him to
lend me his robe. We will cover ourselves with it and keep dry."
The coyote ran back to the rock, but presently returned without the
"Where is the robe?" asked Old Man.
"Why," said the coyote, "the rock said that you had given him the
robe and he was going to keep it."
This made Old Man angry, and he went back to the rock and snatched
the robe off it, saying, "I was only going to borrow this robe until
the rain was over, but now that you have acted so mean about it, I
will keep it. You don't need a robe, anyhow. You have been out in
the rain and snow all your life, and it will not hurt you to live so
When he had said this he put the robe about his shoulders, and with
the coyote he went off into a ravine and they sat down there. The
rain was falling and they covered themselves with the robe, and were
warm and dry.
Pretty soon they heard a loud, rumbling noise, and Old Man said to
the coyote, "Little brother, go up on the hill and see what that
The coyote went off, but presently he came back, running as hard as
he could, saying, "Run, run, the big rock is coming." They both
started, and ran away as fast as they could. The coyote tried to
creep into a badger-hole, but it was too small for him and he stuck
fast, and before he could get out the rock rolled over him and
crushed his hips. Old Man was frightened, and as he ran he threw
away his robe and everything that he had on, so that he might run
faster. The rock was gaining on him all the time.
Not far away on the prairie a band of buffalo bulls were feeding,
and Old Man cried out to them, saying, "Oh, my brothers, help me,
help me; stop that rock." The bulls ran and tried to stop it,
butting against it, but it crushed their heads. Some deer and
antelope tried to help Old Man, but they too were killed. Other
animals came to help him, but could not stop the rock; it was now
close to Old Man, so close that it began to hit his heels. He was
just going to give up when he saw circling over his head a flock of
"Oh, my little brothers," he cried, "help me; I am almost dead." The
bull bats flew down one after another against the rock, and every
time one of them hit it he chipped off a piece, and at last one hit
it fair in the middle and broke it into two pieces.
Then Old Man was glad. He went to where there was a nest of
night-hawks and pulled their mouths out wide and pinched off their
bills, to make them pretty and queer looking. That is the reason
they look so to-day.
BEAR AND BULLBERRIES
Scattered over the prairie in northern Montana, close to the
mountains, are many great rocks--boulders which thousands of years
ago, when the great ice-sheet covered northern North America, were
carried from the mountains out over the prairie by the ice and left
there when it melted.
Around most of these great boulders the buffalo used to walk from
time to time, rubbing against the rough surface of the rock to
scratch themselves, as a cow rubs itself against a post or as a
horse rolls on the ground--for the pleasant feeling that the rubbing
of the skin gives it.
As the buffalo walked around these boulders their hoofs loosened the
soil, and this loosened soil--the dust--was blown away by the
constant winds of summer. So, around most of these boulders, much of
the soil is gone, leaving a deep trench, at the bottom of which are
stones and gravel, too large to be moved by the wind.
This story explains how these rocks came to be like that:
Once Old Man was crossing a river and the stream was deep, so that
he was carried away by the current, and lost his bow and arrows and
other weapons. When he got to the shore he began to look about for
something to use in making a bow and arrows, for he was hungry and
wanted to kill some food.
He took the first wood he could find and made a bow and arrows and a
handle for his knife. When he had finished these things he started
on his way.
Presently, as he looked over a hill he saw down below him a bear
digging roots. Old Man thought he would have some fun with the bear,
and he called out aloud, "He has no tail." Then he dodged back out
of sight. The bear looked all about, but saw no one, and again began
to dig roots. Then Old Man again peeped over the hill and saw the
bear at work, and again called out, "He has no tail." This time the
bear looked up more quickly, but Old Man dodged down, and the bear
did not see him, and pretty soon went on with his digging.
Four times Old Man did this, calling the bear names, but the fourth
time the bear was on the watch and saw Old Man, and started after
Old Man ran away as hard as he could, but the bear followed fast.
Presently, Old Man tried to shoot the bear with his arrows, but they
were made of bad wood and would not fly well, and if they hit the
bear, they just broke off. All his weapons failed him, and now the
bear was close to him. Just in front was a great rock, and when Old
Man came to that, he dodged behind it and ran around to the other
side, and the bear followed him. They kept running around the rock
for a long time and wore a deep trail about it, and because Old Man
could turn more quickly, he kept just ahead of the bear. Old Man
kept calling to the animals to help him, but no one came.
He was almost out of breath, and the bear was close to him, when Old
Man saw lying on the ground a bull's horn. He picked it up and held
it on his head and turned around and bellowed loudly, and the bear
was frightened and turned around and ran away as hard as he could.
Then Old Man leaned up against the rock, and breathed hard for a
long time, but at last he got his wind back. He said to the rock,
"This is the way you rocks shall always be after this, with a big
hole all around you."
By this time he was pretty tired and thirsty, and he thought he
would go down to the river and drink. When he got to the edge of the
water he got down on his knees to drink, and there before him in the
water he saw bullberries, great bunches of them. He said to himself,
"I will dive in and get those bull-berries"; and he took off his
moccasins and clothing and dived in, but he could not find the
bullberries, and presently he came up. He looked into the water
again, and again saw the bullberries. He said to himself, "Those
bullberries must be very deep down."
He went along the shore looking for a heavy stone that would take
him down into the deep water where the bullberries were, and when he
found one he tied the stone to his neck and again dived in. This
time he sank to the bottom, for the stone carried him down. He felt
about with his hands trying to reach the bullberries, but could feel
nothing and began to drown. He tried to get free from the stone, but
that was hard to do; yet at last he broke the string and came to the
top of the water. He was almost dead, and it took him a long time to
get to the shore, and when he got there he crawled up on to the bank
and lay down to rest and get his breath. As he lay there on his
back, he saw above him the thick growing bullberries whose
reflections he had seen in the water. He said to himself, "And I was
almost drowned for these." Then he took a stick and with it began to
beat the bullberry bushes. He said to the bushes, "After this, the
people shall beat you in this way when they want to gather berries."
The Blackfeet women, when gathering bullberries, spread robes under
the bushes and beat the branches with sticks, knocking off the
berries, which fall on the robes.
THE THEFT FROM THE SUN
One time when Old Man was on a journey, he came to the Sun's lodge,
and went in and sat down, and the Sun asked him to stay with him for
a time. Old Man was glad to do so. One day the meat was all gone,
and the Sun said, "Well, Old Man, what do you say if we go out and
kill some deer?"
"I like what you say," said Old Man. "Deer meat is good."
The Sun took down a bag, that was hanging from a lodge pole and took
from it a handsome pair of leggings, embroidered with porcupine
quills and pretty feathers.
"These are my hunting leggings," said the Sun; "they have great
power. When I want to kill deer, all I have to do is to put them on
and walk around a patch of brush, and the leggings set it on fire
and drive out the deer, so that I can shoot them."
"Well, well," exclaimed Old Man, "how wonderful that is!" He began
to think, "I wish I had such a pair of leggings as that"; and after
he had thought about it some more, he made up his mind that he
would have those leggings, if he had to steal them.
They went out to hunt, and when they came to a patch of brush, the
Sun set it on fire with his hunting leggings. A number of deer ran
out, and each shot one.
That night when they were going to bed the Sun pulled off his
leggings, and laid them aside. Old Man saw where he had put them,
and in the middle of the night, after every one was asleep, he took
the leggings and went away. He travelled a long time, until he had
gone far and was tired; then making a pillow of the leggings he lay
down and slept. After a while he heard some one speaking and woke up
and saw that it was day. Some one was talking to him. The Sun was
saying, "Old Man, why are my leggings under your head?"
Old Man looked about him and saw that he was in the Sun's lodge. He
thought he must have wandered around and got lost and returned
there. Again the Sun spoke, and asked, "What are you doing with my
"Oh," replied Old Man, "I could not find anything for a pillow, so
I put these leggings under my head."
When night came and all had gone to bed, again Old Man stole the
leggings and ran off. This time he did not walk at all. He kept
running until it was almost morning, and then lay down and slept.
When morning came he found himself still in the Sun's lodge.
You see what a fool he was; he did not know that the whole world is
the Sun's lodge. He did not know that, no matter how far he ran, he
could not get out of the Sun's sight.
This time the Sun said, "Old Man, since you like my leggings so
much, I give them to you. Keep them." Then Old Man was glad and he
One day his food was all gone, and he put on the hunting leggings
and went out and set fire to a piece of brush. He was just going to
kill some deer that were running out, when he saw that the fire was
getting close to him. He ran away as fast as he could, but the fire
gained on him and began to burn his legs. His leggings were all on
fire. He came to a river and jumped in and pulled off the leggings
as soon as he could. They were burnt to pieces.
Perhaps the Sun did this because Old Man tried to steal his
THE SMART WOMAN CHIEF
Long ago, they tell me, men and women did not know each other. Women
were put in one place and men in another. They were not together;
they were apart.
He who made us made women first. He did not make them very well.
That is why they are not so strong as men. The men he made better;
so that they were strong.
The women were the smartest. They knew the most. They were the first
to make piskuns, and to know how to tan hides and to make moccasins.
At that time men wore moccasins made from the shank of the buffalo's
leg, and robes made of wolfskin. This was all their clothing.
One day when Old Man was travelling about, he came to a camp of men,
and stayed there with them for a long time. It was after this that
he discovered there were such beings as women.
One time, as he was travelling along, he saw two women driving some
buffalo over a cliff. When Old Man got near them, the women were
very much frightened. They did not know what kind of animal it was
that was coming. Too much scared to run away, they lay down to hide.
When Old Man came up to them he thought they were dead, and said,
"Here are two women who are dead. It is not good for them to lie out
here on the prairie. I must take them to a certain place." He looked
them all over to see what had killed them, but could find no wound.
He picked up one of the women and carried her along with him in his
arms. She was wondering how she could get away. She let her arms
swing loose as if she were dead, and at every step Old Man took the
arm swung and hit him in the nose, and pretty soon his nose began to
bleed and to hurt, and at length he put the woman down on the ground
and went back to get the other woman; but while he was gone she had
run away, and when he came back to get the first one she was gone
too; so he lost them both. This made him angry, and he said to
himself, "If these two women will lie there again, I will get both
In this way women found out that there were men.
One day Old Man stood on a hill and looked over toward the piskun at
Woman's Falls, where the women had driven a band of buffalo over the
cliff, and afterward were cutting up the meat. The chief of the
women called him down to the camp, and sent word by him to the men,
asking if they wanted to get wives. Old Man brought back word that
they did, and the chief woman sent a message, calling all the men to
a feast in her lodge to be married. The woman asked Old Man, "How
many chiefs are there in that tribe?" He answered, "There are four
chiefs. But the real chief of all that tribe you will know when you
see him by this--he is finely dressed and wears a robe trimmed, and
painted red, and carries a lance with a bone head on each end." Old
Man wanted to marry the chief of the women, and intended to dress
in this way, and that is why he told her that.
Old Man had no moccasins; his were all worn out. The women gave him
some for himself, and also some to take back to give to the men, and
he went back to the men's camp. When he reached it, word went out
that he had returned, and all the men said to each other, "He has
got back; Old Man has come again." He gave the men the message that
the woman had sent, and soon the men started for the woman's camp to
get married. When they came near it, they went up on a bluff and
stood there, looking down on the camp. Old Man had dressed himself
finely, and had put on a trimmed robe painted red, and in his hand
held a lance with a bone head on each end.
When the women saw that the men had come they got ready to go and
select their husbands. The chief of the women said, "I am the chief.
I will go first and take the man I like. The rest wait here."
The woman chief started up the hill to choose the chief of the men
for her husband. She had been making dried meat, and her hands,
arms, and clothing were covered with blood and grease. She was
dirty, and Old Man did not know her. The woman went up to Old Man to
choose him, but he turned his back on her and would not go with her.
She went back to her camp and told the women that she had been
refused because her clothes were dirty. She said, "Now, I am going
to put on my nice clothes and choose a man. All of you can go up and
take men, but let no one take that man with the red robe and the
After she was nicely dressed the chief woman again went up on the
hill. Now, Old Man knew who she was, and he kept getting in front of
her and trying hard to have her take him, but she would not notice
him and took another man, the one standing next to Old Man. Then the
other women began to come, and they kept coming up and choosing men,
but no one took Old Man, and at last all the men were taken and he
was left standing there alone.
This made him so angry that he wanted to do something, and he went
down to the woman's piskun and began to break down its walls, so the
chief of the women turned him into a pine-tree.
BOBCAT AND BIRCH TREE
Once Old Man was travelling over the prairie, when he saw far off a
fire burning, and as he drew near it he saw many prairie-dogs
sitting in a circle around the fire. There were so many of them that
there was no place for any one to sit down. Old Man stood there
behind the circle, and presently he began to cry, and then he said
to the prairie-dogs, "Let me, too, sit by that fire." The
prairie-dogs said, "All right, Old Man, don't cry; come and sit by
the fire." They moved aside so as to make a place for him, and Old
Man sat down and looked on at what they were doing.
He saw that they were playing a game, and this was the way they did
it: they put one prairie-dog in the fire and covered him up with hot
ashes, and then, after he had been there a little while, he would
say, "_sk, sk_," and they pushed the ashes off him and pulled him
Old Man said, "Little brothers, teach me how to do that." The
prairie-dogs told him what to do, and put him in the fire and
covered him up with the ashes, and after a little time he said,
"_sk, sk_," like a prairie-dog, and they pulled him out again.
Then he did it to the prairie-dogs.
At first he put them in one at a time, but there were many of them,
and soon he got tired and said, "I will put you all in at once."
They said, "Very well, Old Man," and all got in the ashes, but just
as Old Man was about to cover them up one of them, a female, said,
"Do not cover me up, for I fear the heat will hurt me." Old Man
said, "Very well; if you do not wish to be covered up, you may sit
over by the fire and watch the rest." Then he covered over all the
At length the prairie-dogs said, "_sk, sk_," but Old Man did not
sweep off the ashes and pull them out of the fire. He let them stay
there and die. The she one that was looking on ran to a hole, and as
she went down in it, said, "_sk, sk_." Old Man chased her, but he
got to the hole too late to catch her.
"Oh, well, you can go," he said; "there will be more prairie-dogs
by and by."
When the prairie-dogs were roasted, Old Man cut some red willow
twigs to place them on, and then sat down and began to eat. He ate
until he was full, and then felt sleepy.
He said to his nose, "I am going to sleep now; watch out, and in
case any bad thing comes about, wake me up." Then Old Man slept.
Pretty soon his nose snored, and Old Man woke up and said, "What is
it?" The nose said, "A raven is flying by, over there." Old Man
said, "That is nothing," and went to sleep again.
Soon his nose snored again, and Old Man said, "What is it now?" The
nose said, "There is a coyote over there, coming this way." Old Man
said, "A coyote is nothing," and again went to sleep.
Presently his nose snored again, but Old Man did not wake up. Again
it snored, and called out, "Wake up, a bobcat is coming." Old Man
paid no attention; he slept on.
The bobcat crept up to the fire and ate all the roasted
prairie-dogs, and then went off and lay down on the flat rock and
went to sleep. All this time the nose kept trying to awaken Old Man,
and at last he awoke, and the nose said, "A bobcat is over there on
that flat rock. He has eaten all your food." Then Old Man was so
angry that he called out loud.
The tracks of the bobcat were all greasy from the food it had been
eating, and Old Man followed these tracks. He went softly over to
where the bobcat was sleeping, and seized it before it could wake up
to bite or scratch him. The bobcat cried out, "Wait, let me speak a
word or two," but Old Man would not listen.
"I will teach you to steal my food," he said. He pulled off the
lynx's tail, pounded his head against the rock so as to make his
face flat, pulled him out long so as to make him small-bellied, and
then threw him into the brush. As he went sneaking away, Old Man
said, "There, that is the way you bobcats shall always be." It is
for this reason that the lynxes to-day look like that.
Old Man went to the fire, and looked at the red willow sticks where
the roasted prairie-dogs had been, and when he saw them, and thought
how his food was all gone, it made him angry at his nose. He said,
"You fool, why did you not wake me?" He took the willow sticks and
thrust them in the coals, and when they had caught fire he burnt his
nose. This hurt, and he ran up on a hill and held his nose to the
wind, and called to the wind to blow hard and cool him. A hard wind
came, so hard that it blew him off the hill and away down to Birch
Creek. As he was flying along he caught at the weeds and brush to
stop himself, but nothing was strong enough to hold him. At last he
grasped a birch tree. He held fast, and it did not give way.
Although the wind whipped him about, this way and that, and tumbled
him up and down, the tree held him. He kept calling to the wind to
blow more softly, and at last it listened to him and went down.
Then he said, "This is a beautiful tree. It has saved me from being
blown away and knocked all to pieces. I will make it pretty, and it
shall always be like that." So he gashed the bark across with his
stone knife, as you see the marks to-day.
THE RED-EYED DUCK
Once, long ago, Old Man was travelling north along a river. He
carried a great pack on his back. After a time he came to a place
where the river spread out and the water was quiet, and here many
ducks were swimming about. Old Man did not look at the ducks, and
kept travelling along; but presently some of the ducks saw him and
looked at him and said to each other, "Who is that going along there
with a pack on his back?" One duck said to the others, "That must be
The duck that knew him called out, saying, "Hi, Old Man, where are
"I am going on farther," replied Old Man, "I have been sent for."
"What have you got in your pack?" said the duck.
"Those are my songs," answered Old Man. "Some people have asked me
to come and sing for them."
"Stop for a while and sing for us," said the duck, "and we can have
"No," said Old Man, "I am in a hurry; I cannot stop now."
The duck kept persuading him to stop, and when it had asked him the
fourth time, Old Man stopped and said to the ducks, "Well, I will
stop for a little while and sing for you, and you can dance."
So the ducks all came out on the bank and stood in a circle, and Old
Man began to sing. He sang one song, and then said, "Now, this next
song is a medicine song, and while you dance you must keep your eyes
shut. No one must look. If any one opens his eyes and looks, his
eyes will turn red."
The ducks closed their eyes and Old Man began to sing, and they
danced around; but Old Man took a stick, and every time one of them
passed him, he knocked it on the head and threw it into the circle.
Presently one of the littlest ducks while dancing could not feel any
one on either side of him, and he opened his eyes and looked, and
saw what Old Man was doing. He cried out to the rest, "Run, run,
Old Man is killing us"; and all the other ducks flew away, but ever
since that time that little duck's eyes have been red. It is the
Old Man took the ducks and went off a little way and built a fire
and hung some of the ducks up in front of it to roast, and after the
fire was burning well, he swept away the ashes and buried some of
the ducks in the ground and again swept back the fire over them.
Then he lay down to wait for the birds to cook, and while they were
cooking he fell asleep.
While he slept a coyote came sneaking along and saw Old Man sleeping
there, and the ducks roasting by the fire. Very quietly he crept up
to the fire and took the ducks one by one and ate them. Not one was
left. Pretty soon he found those that were roasting under the fire,
and dug them out, and opening them, ate the meat from the inside of
the skin and filled each one with ashes and buried them all again.
Then he went away.
Pretty soon Old Man woke up and saw that his ducks were gone, and
when he saw the tracks about the fire, he knew that the coyote had
"It was lucky," said Old Man, "that I put some of those to roast
under the fire." He dug them up from under the ashes, but when he
took a big bite from one, his mouth and face were full of ashes.
THE ANCIENT BLACKFEET
Long, long ago, before our fathers or grandfathers were born, before
the white people knew anything about the western half of North
America, the Indians who told these stories lived on the Western
plains. To the west of their home rose high mountains, black with
pine-trees on their lower slopes and capped with snow, but their
tents were pitched on the rolling prairie. For a little while in
spring this prairie was green and dotted with flowers, but for most
of the year it stretched away brown and bare, north, east, and
south, farther than one could see.
On these plains were many kinds of wild animals. Sometimes the
prairie was crowded with herds of black buffalo running in fear; or,
again, the herds, unfrightened, fed scattered out; so that the hills
far and near were dotted with their dark forms. Among the buffalo
were yellow and white antelope--many of them--graceful and swift of
foot. Feeding on the high prairie or going down into the wooded
river valleys to drink were herds of elk, while the willow thickets,
the brushy ravines, and the lower timbered foot-hills sheltered
deer. The naked Bad Lands, the rocky slopes of the mountains, and
the tall buttes that often rise above the level prairie were the
refuge of the mountain sheep, which in those days, like all the
other grass eaters of the region, grazed on the prairie and sought
the more broken, higher country only when alarmed or when they
wished to rest.
These were the animals which the Blackfeet killed for food before
the white men came, and of these the buffalo was the chief. Buffalo,
more than any other animals, could be captured in numbers, and the
Blackfeet, like the other Indians of the plains, had devised a
method for taking them, so that when the buffalo were near the
Blackfeet never suffered from hunger. Yet sometimes it happened that
the buffalo went away, and that the lonely far travelling scouts
sent out by the tribe could not find them. Then the people had to
turn to the smaller animals--the elk, deer, antelope, and wild
In those old days, before they had horses, they did not make long
marches when they moved. Their only domestic animal was the dog,
which was used chiefly as a beast of burden, either carrying loads
on its back or hauling a travois, formed by two long sticks crossing
above the shoulders and dragging on the ground behind. Behind the
dog these two sticks were united by a little platform, on which was
lashed some small burden--sometimes a little baby.
In those days, when the people moved from one place to another, all
who were large enough to walk and strong enough to carry a burden on
the shoulders, were laden. Usually men, women, and children alike
bore loads suited to their strength. Yet sometimes the men carried
no loads at all, for if journeying through a country where they
feared that some enemy might attack them, the men must be ready to
fight and to defend their wives and children. A man cannot fight
well if he is carrying a burden; he cannot use his arms readily, nor
run about lightly--forward to attack, backward in retreat. If he is
not free to fight well, his family will be in danger. White men who
have seen Indians journeying in this way, and who have not
understood why some women carried heavy loads and the men carried
nothing, have said that Indian men were idle and lazy, and forced
their women to do all the work. Those who wrote those things were
mistaken in what they said. They did not understand what they saw.
The truth is that these men were prepared for danger of attacks by
enemies, and were ready to do their best to save their families from
Carrying on their backs all their property, except the little which
the dogs might pack, it is evident that the Indians in those days
could not make long journeys.
In those days they had no buckets of wood or tin in which to carry
water. Instead, they used a vessel like a bag or sack, made from the
soft membrane of one of the stomachs of the buffalo. This, after it
had been cleansed and all the openings from it save one had been
tied up, the women filled at the stream with a spoon made of
buffalo horn or with a larger ladle of the horn of the wild sheep.
Because this water-skin was soft and flexible, it could not stand on
the ground, and they hung it up, sometimes on the limb of a tree,
more often on one of the poles of the lodge, or sometimes on a
tripod--three sticks coming together at the top and standing spread
out at the ground.
Most of the meat cooked for the family was roasted, yet much of it
was boiled, sometimes in a bowl of stone, sometimes in a kettle made
of a fresh hide or of the paunch of the buffalo. Sometimes these
skin or paunch kettles were supported at the sides by stakes stuck
in the ground, and sometimes a hole dug in the ground was lined with
the hide, which was so arranged as to be water-tight. They were not,
as may be imagined, put over a fire, but when filled with cold water
this water was heated in quite another way. Near by a fire was
built, in which were thrown large stones, and on top of the stones
more wood was piled; so that after a time, when the wood had burnt
down, the stones were very hot--sometimes red hot. With two rather
short-handled forked sticks, the women took from the fire one of the
hot stones, and put it in the water in the hide kettle, and as it
cooled, took it out and put in another hot stone. Thus the water was
soon heated, and boiled and cooked whatever was in the kettle. To be
sure, there were some ashes and a little dirt in the soup, but that
was not regarded as important.
This was long before the Indians knew of matches, or even of flint
and steel. In those days to make a fire was not easy and it took a
long time. By his knees or feet a man held in position on the ground
a piece of soft, dry wood in which two or three little hollows had
been dug out, and taking another slender stick of hard wood, and
pressing the point in one of the little hollows in the stick of soft
wood, he twirled the stick rapidly between the palms of his hands,
so fast and so long that presently the dust ground from the softer
stick, falling to one side in a little pile, began to smoke, and at
last a faint spark was seen at the top of the pile, which began to
glow, and, spreading, became constantly larger. He, or his
companion, for often two men twirled the stick, one relieving the
other, caught this spark in a bit of tinder--perhaps some dry punk
or a little fine grass--and by blowing coaxed it into flame, and
there was the fire.
This fire making was hard work, and the people tried to escape this
work by keeping a spark of fire always alive. To do this, men
sometimes carried, by a thong slung over the shoulder, the hollow
tip of a buffalo horn, the opening of which was closed by a wooden
plug. When going on a journey, the man lighted a piece of punk, and,
placing it in this horn, plugged up the open end, so that no air
could get into the horn. There the punk smouldered for a long time,
and neither went out nor was wholly consumed. Once in a while during
the day the man looked at this punk, and, if he saw that it was
almost consumed, he lighted another piece and put it in the horn and
replaced the plug. So at night when he reached camp the fire was
still in his horn, and he could readily kindle a blaze, and from
this blaze other fires were kindled. Often, if the camp was large,
the first young men who reached it gathered wood and perhaps kindled
four fires, and after the women had reached the camp, unpacked their
dogs, and put up their lodges, each woman would go to one of these
fires to get a brand or some coals with which to start her own lodge
In warm weather men and boys wore little clothing. They went almost
naked; yet in cold weather each man or woman was most of the time
wrapped in a warm robe of tanned buffalo skin. Even the little
children wore robes, the smallest ones those taken from the little
buffalo calves. All their clothing, like their beds and their homes,
was made of the skins of animals. Shirts, women's dresses, leggings,
and moccasins were made from the tanned skins of buffalo, deer,
antelope, and mountain sheep. Often the moccasins were made from the
smoked skin cut from the top of an old lodge, for this skin had been
smoked so much that it never dried hard and stiff, after it had been
wet. The moccasins had a stiff sole of buffalo rawhide; and in the
bottom of this sole were cut one or two holes, in order that the
water might run out if a man had to wade through a stream.
The homes of these Indians were lodges--tents made of tanned buffalo
skin supported on a cone of long, straight, slender poles. At the
top where the poles crossed was an opening for the smoke from the
fire built in the centre of the circular lodge floor, while about
the fire, and close under the lodge covering, were the beds where
the people slept or ate during the day.
These homes were warm and comfortable. The border of the lodge
covering did not come down quite to the ground, but inside the lodge
poles, and tied to them, was a long wide strip of tanned buffalo
skin four or five feet high, and long enough to reach around the
inside of the lodge, almost from one side of the door to the other.
This strip of tanned skin--made up of several pieces--was so wide
that one edge rested on the floor, and reached inward under the beds
and seats. Through the open space between the lodge covering and the
lodge lining, fresh air kept passing into the lodge close to the
ground and up over the lining and down toward the centre of the
lodge, and so furnished draught for the fire. The lodge lining kept
this cold air from blowing directly on the occupants of the lodge
who sat around the fire. Often the lodge lining was finely painted
with pictures of animals, people, and figures of mysterious beings
of which one might not speak.
The seats and beds in this home were covered with soft tanned
buffalo robes, and at the head and foot of each bed was an inclined
back-rest of straight willow twigs, strung together on long lines of
sinew and supported in an inclined position by a tripod. Buffalo
robes often hung over these back-rests. In the spaces between the
back-rests, which though they came together at the top were
separated at the ground, were kept many of the possessions of the
family; the pipe, sacks of tobacco, of paint, "possible
sacks"--parfleches for clothing or food, and many smaller articles.
The outside of the lodge was often painted with mysterious figures
which the lodge owner believed to have power to bring good luck to
him and to his family. Sometimes these figures represented
animals--buffalo, deer, and elk--or rocks, mountains, trees, or the
puff-balls that grow on the prairie. Sometimes a procession of
ravens, marching one after the other, was painted around the
circumference of the lodge. The painting might show the tracks of
animals, or a number of water animals, apparently chasing each other
around the lodge. On either side of the smoke hole at the top were
two flaps, or wings, each one supported by a single pole. These were
to regulate the draught of the fire in case of a change of wind, and
the poles were moved from side to side, changing as the direction of
the wind changed. On such wings were often painted groups of white
disks which represented some group of stars. At the back of the
lodge, high up, just below the place where the lodge poles cross,
was often a large round disk representing the sun, and above that a
cross, which was the sign of the butterfly, the power that they
believe brings sleep. From the ends of the wings, or tied to the
tips of the poles which supported them, hung buffalo tails, and
sometimes running down from one of these poles to the ground near
the door was a string of the sheaths of buffalo hooflets, which
rattled as it swung to and fro in the breeze.
Their arms were the bow and arrow, a short spear or lance, with a
head of sharpened stone or bone, stone hammers with wooden handles,
and knives made of bone or stone, and if of stone, lashed by rawhide
or sinew to a split wooden handle.
The hammers were of two sorts: one quite heavy, almost like a
sledge-hammer or maul, and with a short handle; the other much
lighter, and with a longer, more limber handle. This last was used
by men in war as a mace or war club, while the heavier hammer was
used by women as an axe to break up fallen trees for firewood; as a
hammer to drive tent-pins into the ground, to kill disabled animals,
or to break up heavy bones for the marrow they contained. These
mauls and hammers were usually made by choosing an oval stone and
pecking a groove about its shortest diameter. The handles were made
by green sticks fitted as closely as possible into the groove,
brought together and lashed in position by sinew, the whole being
then covered with wet rawhide tightly fitted and sewed. As the
rawhide dried, it shrunk and strongly bound together the parts of
The Blackfeet bow was about four feet long. Its string was of
twisted sinew and it was backed with sinew. This gave the bow great
power, so that the arrow went with much force. The arrows were
straight shoots of the service berry or cherry, and the manufacture
of arrows was the chief employment of many of the men of middle
life. Each arrow by the same maker was precisely like every other
arrow he made. Each arrowmaker tried hard to make good arrows. It
was a fine thing to be known as a maker of good arrows.
The shoots for the arrow shafts were brought into the lodge, peeled,
smoothed roughly, tied up in bundles, and hung up to dry. After they
were dried, the bundles were taken down and each shaft was smoothed
and reduced to a proper thickness by the use of a grooved piece of
sand-stone, which acted on the arrow like sandpaper. After they were
of the right thickness, they were straightened by bending with the
hands, and sometimes with the teeth, and were then passed through a
circular hole drilled in a rib, or in a mountain sheep's horn, which
acted in part as a gauge of the size and also as a smoother, for if
in passing through the hole the arrow fitted tightly, the shaft
received a good polish. The three grooves which always were found in
the Blackfeet arrows were made by pushing the shaft through a round
hole drilled in a rib, which, however, had one or more projections
left on the inside. These projections pressed into the soft wood and
made the grooves, which were in every arrow. The feathers were three
in number. They were put on with a glue, made by boiling scraps of
dried rawhide, and were held in place by wrappings of sinew. The
heads of the arrows were made of stone or bone or horn. The flint
points were often highly worked and very beautiful, being broken
from larger flints by sharp blows of a stone hammer, and after they
had been shaped the edges were worked sharp by flaking with an
implement of bone or horn. The points made of horn or bone were
ground sharp by rubbing on a stone. A notch was cut in the end of
the arrow shaft and the shank of the arrow point set in that. The
arrow heads were firmly fixed to the shaft by glue and by sinew
Although the Blackfeet lived almost altogether on the flesh of birds
or animals, yet they had some vegetable food. This was chiefly
berries--of which in summer the women collected great quantities and
dried them for winter use--and roots, the gathering of which at the
proper season of the year occupied much of the time of women and
young girls. These roots were unearthed by a long, sharp-pointed
stick, called a root digger. Some of the roots were eaten as soon as
collected, while others were dried and stored for use in winter.
After they reached the plains, the main food of the Blackfeet was
the buffalo, which they killed in large numbers when everything went
right. Many of the streams in the Blackfeet country run through
wide, deep valleys bordered on either side by cliffs, or broken
precipices, falling sharply from the high prairie above. Long ago
the Blackfeet must have learned that it was possible to make the
buffalo jump over these cliffs, and that in the fall on the rocks
below numbers would be killed or crippled. No doubt after this had
been practised for a time, there came to some one the idea of
building at the foot of such a cliff where the buffalo were run
over, a fence which would form a corral or pound, and which would
hold all the buffalo that were jumped over the cliff. This corral
they called piskun.
It is often said that the buffalo were driven over these precipices,
but this is true only in part. Like most wild animals, buffalo are
inquisitive. It was not difficult to excite their curiosity, and
when they saw something they did not recognize, they were anxious to
find out what it was.
When run into the piskun, the buffalo were really drawn by curiosity
almost to the jumping point, and between two long diverging lines of
people, who kept hidden until after the buffalo had passed them, and
then rose and showed themselves and tried to frighten the animals.
Now, to be sure, for the short distance that remained between the
place where they were alarmed and the place where they jumped, the
buffalo were driven. Any attempt on the open prairie to drive
buffalo in one direction or another would be certain to fail. The
animals would go where they wished to. They would not be driven,
though often they might be led.
To the people the capture of food was the most important thing in
life, and they put forth every effort to accomplish it. For this
reason it came about that the effort to capture buffalo was preceded
usually by religious ceremonies, in which many prayers were offered
to the powers of the earth, the sky, and the waters, many sacrifices
made, and sacred objects, like the buffalo stone, were displayed.
When the day for the hunt came, the man who was to bring the buffalo
left the camp early in the morning, climbed the rocky bluffs to the
high prairie, and journeyed toward some near-by herd of buffalo,
that had been located the day before by himself or by other young
men. He approached the buffalo as nearly as he could without
frightening them, and then, attracting the attention of some of the
animals by uttering certain calls, tossed into the air his buffalo
robe or some smaller object. As soon as the buffalo began to look at
him, he retreated slowly in the direction of the piskun, but
continued to call and to attract their attention by showing himself
and then disappearing. Soon, some of the buffalo began to walk
toward him, and others began to look and to follow those that had
first started, so that before long the whole herd of fifty or a
hundred animals might be walking or sometimes trotting after him.
The more rapidly the buffalo came on, the faster the man ran--and
sometimes it was a hard matter for him to keep ahead of the
herd--until he had got far within the wings and near to the cliff.
If there seemed danger that he would be overtaken, he watched his
chance and either at some low place quickly dodged out of the line
in which the buffalo were running, or hid behind one of the piles of
stones of which the wings were formed, or, if he had time, slipped
over the rocky wall at the valley's edge, so as to get out of the
way of the approaching herd.
As soon as the buffalo had come well within the diverging lines of
people who were hidden behind the piles of stones called wings,
those whom the buffalo passed rose up from their places of
concealment, and by yells and shouts and the waving of their robes
frightened the buffalo, so that they quite forgot their curiosity in
the terror that now replaced it. When the leaders reached the brink
of the cliff, they could not stop. They were pushed over by those
behind, and most of the buffalo jumped over the cliff. Many were
crippled or injured by the fall, and all were kept within the fence
of the piskun below. About this fence the people were collected. The
buffalo raced round and round within the pen, the young and weak
being injured or killed in the crowding, while above the fence men
were shooting them with arrows until presently all in the pen were
dead, or so hurt that the women could go into the pen and kill them.
The people entered and took the flesh and hides.
Deer, elk, and antelope were shot with arrows, and antelope were
often captured in pitfalls roofed with slender poles and covered
with grass and earth. Such pitfalls were dug in a region where
antelope were plenty, and a long > shaped pair of wings, made of
poles or bushes or even rock piles, led to the pit. The antelope is
very inquisitive and was easily led within the chute and there
frightened, as were the buffalo, by people who had been concealed
and who rose up and showed themselves after the antelope had passed.
This was done more in order to secure antelope skins for clothing
than their flesh for food.
Fish and reptiles were not eaten by the Blackfeet, nor were dogs,
although dogs, wolves, and coyotes are eaten by many tribes of
plains Indians. Most small animals, and practically all birds, were
eaten in case of need. In summer, when the wildfowl which bred
on so many of the lakes in the Blackfeet country lost their
flight-feathers, during the moult, and again in the late summer,
when the young ducks and geese were almost fullgrown but could not
yet fly, the Indians often went in large parties to the shallow
lakes which here and there dotted the prairie, and, driving the
birds to shore, killed them in large numbers.
Earlier in the season, when the fowl had begun to lay their eggs,
these were collected in great quantities for food. Sometimes they
were roasted in the hot ashes, but a more common way was to dig a
deep, narrow hole in the ground in which the eggs were to be cooked.
Several little platforms of small sticks or twigs were built in this
hole, one above another, and on these platforms they put the eggs.
Another much smaller hole was dug to one side of the large hole,
slanting down into it. The large hole was partly filled with water,
and was then roofed over by small sticks on which was placed grass
covered with earth. Stones were heated in a fire built near at hand,
and then were rolled down the side hole into the larger hole,
heating the water, which at last boiled and steamed, the steam
cooking the eggs.
When the Americans first met them on the prairie, the Blackfeet were
known as great warriors. But up to the time when they got from the
Hudson Bay traders better weapons than they had before known,
whether these were metal knives, steel arrow points, or guns, it is
probable that they did not do much fighting. There seems to have
been no reason why they should have fought, unless they quarrelled
about small matters with other tribes. It became quite different
when the Indians procured better arms and, above all, when they got
horses--a means of swiftly getting about over the country, something
that all people wanted to have and which all were so eager to obtain
that they would go into danger for them. In the old days of stone
arrow heads, when they had to travel on foot and to carry heavy
loads on their backs, the whole thought and effort of the tribe must
have been devoted to the work of procuring a supply of food.
The tribal and family life of the people was simple and friendly.
The man and his wives loved each other and loved their children.
Relationship counted for much in an Indian camp, and cousins of
remote degree were called brother and sister. Children were not
punished; they were trained by persuasion and advice. They were
told by older people how they ought to act in order to make their
lives happy and successful and to be well thought of by their
fellows. Young people had much respect for their elders, listened to
what they said, and strove more or less successfully to follow their
The Blackfeet were very religious. They feared many natural powers
and influences whose workings they did not understand, and they were
constantly praying to the Sun--regarded as the ruler of the
universe--as well as to those other powers which they believe live
in the stars, the earth, the mountains, the animals, and the trees.
The Blackfoot was constantly afraid that some evil thing might
happen to him, and he therefore prayed to all the powers for
help--for good fortune in his undertakings, for health, plenty, and
long life for himself and all his family.
Among these tribes there are a number of secret societies known as
the All Comrades or All Friends--groups of men of different ages,
which have been alluded to in the stories. Originally there were
about twelve of these societies, but a number have been abandoned
of recent years.
The tribe was divided into a number of clans, all the members of
which were believed to be related, and in old times no member of a
clan was permitted to marry another member of the clan. Relations
might not marry.
In olden times, when large numbers of people were together, the
lodges of the camp were pitched in a great circle, the opening
toward the southeast. In this circle each clan camped in its own
particular place with relation to the other clans. Within the circle
was often a smaller circle of lodges, each occupied by one or more
of the societies of the All Comrades. Sometimes it happened that
great numbers of the Blackfeet came together, perhaps even all of
the three tribes, Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegans. When this was the
case, each tribe camped by itself with its own circle, no matter how
near it might be to one or other of the tribal circles.
We read of some tribes of Indians which believed that after death
the spirits of the departed went to a happy hunting ground where
game was always plenty and life was full of joy. The Blackfeet
knew no such place as this. When they died their spirits
were believed to go to a barren, sandy region south of the
Saskatchewan, which they called the Sand Hills. Here, as shadows,
the ghosts lived a life much like their existence before death,
but all was unreal--unsubstantial. Riding on shadow horses they
hunted shadow buffalo. They lived in shadow camps and when they
moved shadow dogs hauled their travois. There are stories which
tell that living people have seen these hunters, their houses, and
their implements of the camp, but when the people got close they
found that what they thought they had seen was something
different. It reminds us a little of the old ballad of Alice
Brand, where Urgan tells of the things seen in fairy-land:
"And gayly shines the Fairy-land--
But all is glistening show,
Like the idle gleam that December's beam
Can dart on ice and snow.
"And fading, like that varied gleam,
Is our inconstant shape,
Who now like knight and lady seem,
And now like dwarf and ape."
Books have been written about the Blackfeet Indians which tell much
more about how they lived than can be given here.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BLACKFEET INDIAN STORIES***
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