|Splinter Foot Girl
An Arapaho Legend
It was in winter and a large party was on the war-path. Some of them became tired and went home, but seven continued on their way. Coming to a
river, they made camp on account of one of them who was weary and nearly exhausted.
They found that he was unable to go farther.
Then they made a good brush hut in order that they might winter there. From this place they went out and looked for buffalo and hunted them
wherever they thought they might find them.
During the hunting one of them ran against a thorny plant and became unable to hunt for some time. His leg swelled very much in consequence of
the wound, and finally suddenly opened. Then a child issued from the leg. The young men took from their own clothes what they could spare and
used it for wrapping for the child.
They made a panther skin answer as a cradle. They passed the child around from one to the other, like people smoking a pipe. They were glad to
have another person with them and they were very fond of the child.
While they lived there they killed very many elk and saved the teeth. From the skins they made a dress for the child, which was then old enough to
run about. The dress was a girl's, entirely covered with elk teeth. They also made a belt for her. She was very beautiful. Her name was Foot Stuck
A buffalo bull called Bone Bull heard that these young men had had a daughter born to them. As is the custom, he sent the magpie to go to these
people to ask for the girl in marriage. The magpie came to the young men and told them what the Bone-bull wished: but he did not meet with any
The young men said, "We will not do it. We love our daughter. She is so young that it will not be well to let her go."
The magpie returned and told the Bone-bull what the young men had said. He advised the bull to get a certain small bird which was very clever and
would perhaps persuade the young men to consent to the girl's marriage with him.
So the small bird was sent out by the bull. It reached the place where the people lived and lighted on the top of the brush house. In a gentle voice it
said to the men, "I am sent by Bone Bull to ask for your daughter."
the young men still refused, giving the same answer as before. The bird few back and told the bull of the result. The bull said to it, "Go back and tell
them that I mean what I ask. I shall come myself later." It was known that the bull was very powerful and hard to overcome or escape from. The
bird went again and fulfilled the bull's instructions, but again returned unsuccessfully.
It told the bull: "They are at last making preparations for the marriage. They are dressing the girl finely." but the bull did not believe it.
Then in order to free itself from the unpleasant task, the bird advised him to procure the services of some one who could do better than itself; some
one that had a sweet juicy tongue. So the bull sent another bird, called "Fire Owner," which has red on its head and reddish wings. This bird took the
message to the young men. Now at last they consented.
So the girl went to the bull and was received by him and lived with him for some time. She wore a painted buffalo robe. At certain times the bull got
up in order to lead the herd to water. At such times he touched his wife, who, wearing her robe, was sitting in the same position as all the rest, as a
sign for her to go too.
The young men were lonely and thought how they might recover their daughter. It was a year since she had left them. They sent out flies, but when
the flies came near the bull, he bellowed to drive them away. The flies were so much afraid of him that they did not approach him. Then the magpie
was sent, and came and alighted at a distance; but when the bull saw him he said, "Go away! I do not want you about."
They sent the blackbird, which lit on his back and began to sing. But the bull said to it also: "Go away, I do not want you about."
The blackbird flew back to the men and said, "I can do nothing to help you to get your daughter back but I will tell you of two animals that work
unseen, and are very cunning; they are the mole and the badger. If you get their help you will surely recover the girl."
Then the young men got the mole and the badger, and they started at night, taking arrows with them. They went underground, the mole going
ahead. The badger followed and made the hole larger. They came under the place where the girl was sitting and the mole emerged under her blanket.
He gave her the arrows which he had brought and she stuck them into the ground and rested her robe on them and then the badger came under this
too. The two animals said to her, "We have come to take you back." She said, "I am afraid," but they urged her to flee.
Finally she consented, and leaving her robe in the position in which she always sat, went back through the hole with the mole and the badger to the
house of the young men.
When she arrived they started to flee. The girl had become tired, when they came to the stone and asked it to help them. The stone said, "I can do
nothing for you, the bull is too powerful to contend with."
They rested by the side of the stone; then they continued on their way, one of them carrying the girl. But they went more slowly on account of her.
They crossed a river, went through the timber, and on the prairie the girl walked again for a distance. In front of them they saw a lone immense
They said to it: "We are pursued by a powerful animal and come to you for help."
The tree told them, "Run around me four times," and they did this. The tree had seven large branches, the lowest of them high enough to be out of the
reach of the buffalo, and at the top was a fork in which was a nest. They climbed the tree, each of the men sitting on one of the branches, and the girl
getting into the nest. So they waited for the bull who would pursue them.
When the bull touched his wife in order to go to water, she did not move. He spoke to her angrily and touched her again. The third time he tried to
hook her with his horn, but tossed the empty robe away. "They cannot escape me," he said.
He noticed the fresh ground which the badger had thrown up in order to close the hole. He hooked the ground and threw it to one side, and the other
bulls got up and did the same, throwing the ground as if they were making a ditch and following the underground passage until they came to the
place where the people had lived. The camp was already broken up, but they followed the people's trail.
Coming to the stone, the bull asked, "Have you hidden the people or done anything to help them?"
The stone said: "I have not helped them for fear of you."
But the bull insisted: "Tell me where you hid them. I know that they reached you and are somewhere about."
"No, I did not hide them; they reached this place but went on," said the stone.
"Yes, you have hidden them; I can smell them and see their tracks about here."
"The girl rested here a short time; that is what you smell," said the stone.
Then the buffalo followed the trail again and crossed the river, the bull leading. One calf which was becoming very tired tried hard to keep up with
the rest. It became exhausted at the lone cottonwood tree and stopped to rest. But the herd went on, not having seen the people in the tree. They
went far on.
The girl was so tired that she had a slight hemorrhage. Then she spat down.
As the calf was resting in the shade below, the bloody spittle fell down before it. The calf smelled it, knew it, got up, and went after the rest of the
buffalo. Coming near the herd, it cried out to the bull: "Stop! I have found a girl in the top of a tree. She is the one who is your wife."
Then the whole herd turned back to the tree.
When they reached it, the bull said: "We will surely get you."
The tree said: "You have four parts of strength. I give you a chance to do something to me."
Then the buffalo began to attack the tree; those with the least strength began. They butted it until its thick bark was peeled off. Meanwhile the young
men were shooting them from the tree.
The tree said: "let some of them break their horns."
Then came the large bulls, who split the wood of the tree; but some stuck fast, and others broke their horns or lost their covering.
The bull said, "I will be the last one and will make the tree fall." At last he came on, charging against the tree from the southeast, striking it, and
making a big gash. Then, coming from the southwest, he made a larger hole. Going to the northwest, he charged from there, and again cut deeper,
but broke his right horn. Going then to the northeast, he charged the tree with his left horn and made a still larger hole. The fifth time he went
straight east, intending to strike the tree in the center and break it down.
He pranced about, raising the dust; but the tree said to him: "You can do nothing. So come on quickly." This made him angry and he charged. The
tree said: "This time you will stick fast," and he ran his left horn far into the middle of the wood and stuck fast. Then the tree told the young men to
shoot him in the soft part of his neck and sides, for he could not get loose or injure them.
Then they shot him and killed him, so that he hung there. Then they cut him loose.
The tree told them to gather all the chips and pieces of wood that had been knocked off and cover the bull with them, and they did so. All the buffalo
that had not been killed went away. The tree said to them: "Hereafter you will be overcome by human beings. You will have horns, but when they
come to hunt you, you will be afraid. You will be killed and eaten by them and they will use your skins." Then the buffalo scattered over the land
with half-broken, short horns.
After the people had descended from the tree, the people went on their way. The magpie came to them as messenger sent by Merciless-man to ask the
young men for their daughter in marriage. He was a round rock. The magpie knew what this rock had done and warned the men not to consent to
He said, "Do not have anything to do with him, since he is not a good man. Your daughter is beautiful, and I do not like to see her married to the
rock. He has married the prettiest girls he could hear of, obtaining them somehow. But his wives are crippled, one-armed, or one-legged, or much
bruised. I will tell the rock to get hummingbird for a messenger because that bird is swift and can escape him if he should pursue."
So the magpie returned and said that the young men refused the marriage. But the rock sent him back to say: "Tell them that the girl must marry me
nevertheless." The magpie persuaded him to send the hummingbird as messenger instead of himself.
Then the hummingbird went to carry the message to the young men; but, on reaching them, told them instead: "He is merciless and not the right
man to marry this girl. He has treated his wives very badly. You had better leave this place."
So he went back without having tried to help the rock. He told the rock that he had seen neither camp nor people.
"yes you saw them," said the rock; "you are trying to help them instead of helping me. Therefore you try to pretend that you did not see them. Go
back and tell them that I want the girl. If they refuse, say that I shall be there soon."
The hummingbird went again to the men and told them what the rock wished, and said: "He is powerful. Perhaps it is best if you let your daughter
go. But there are two animals that can surely help you. They can bring her back before he injures her. They are the mole and the badger."
"Yes," they said, now having confidence in these animals.
So the hummingbird took the girl to the rock. He reached his tent, which was large and fine, but full of crippled wives. "I have your wife here," he
Soon after the hummingbird had left with the girl, the mole and the badger started underground and made their way to the rock's tent. In the
morning the rock always went buzzing out through the top of the tent; in the evening he came back home in the same way. While he was away, the
two animals arrived. The girl was sitting with both feet outstretched.
They said to her, "Remain sitting thus until your husband returns." Then they made a hole large enough for the rock to fall into and covered it
lightly. In the evening the rock was heard coming. As he was entering above, the girl got up, and the rock dropped into the hole while she ran out of
the tent saying: "Let the hole be closed."
"Let the Earth be covered again," said the mole and the badger. They heard the rock inside the Earth, tossing about, buzzing, and angry. The girl
returned to her fathers.
They traveled all night, fleeing. In the morning the rock overtook them. As they were going, they wished a canyon with steep cliffs to be behind
them. The rock went down the precipice, and while he tried to climb up again, the others went on. It became night again and in the morning the rock
was near them once more.
Then the girl said: "This time it shall happen. I am tired and weary from running my fathers." She was carrying a ball, and, saying: "First for my
father," she threw it up and as it came down kicked it upwards and her father rose up. Then she did the same for the others until all had gone up.
When she came to do it for herself the rock was near. She threw the ball, kicked it, and she too rose up.
She said, "We have passed through dangers on my account; I think this is the best place for us to go. It is a good place where we are. I shall provide
the means of living for you." To the rock she said, "You shall remain where you overtook us. You shall not trouble people any longer, but be found
wherever there are hills."
She and her fathers reached the sky in one place. They live in a tent covered with stars.
Music: This Sacred Land by AH-NEE-MAH
|The Lame Warrior
An Arapaho Legend
In the days before horses, a party of young Arapaho set off on foot one autumn morning in search of wild game in the western mountains. They
carried heavy packs of food and spare moccasins, and one day as they were crossing the rocky bed of a shallow stream a young warrior felt a
sudden sharp pain in his ankle. The ankle swelled and the pain grew worse until they pitched camp that night.
Next morning the warrior's ankle was swollen so badly that it was impossible for him to continue the journey with the others. His companions
decided it was best to leave him. They cut young willows and tall grass to make a thatched shelter for him, and after the shelter was finished they
collected a pile of dry wood so that he could keep a fire burning.
"When your ankle gets well," they told him, "don't try to follow us. Go back to our village, and await our return."
After several lonely days, the lame warrior tested his ankle, but it was still too painful to walk upon. And then one night a heavy snowstorm fell,
virtually imprisoning him in the shelter. Because he had been unable to kill any wild game, his food supply was almost gone.
Late one afternoon he looked out and saw a large herd of buffalo rooting in the snow for grass quite close to his shelter. Reaching for his bow and
arrow, he shot the fattest one and killed it. He then crawled out of the shelter to the buffalo, skinned it, and brought in the meat. After preparing a
bed of coals, he placed a section of ribs in the fire for roasting.
Night had fallen by the time the ribs were cooked, and just as the lame warrior was reaching for a piece to eat, he heard footsteps crunching on the
frozen snow. The steps came nearer and nearer to the closed flap of the shelter. "Who can that be?" he said to himself. "I am here alone and unable to
run, but I shall defend myself if need be." He reached for his bow and arrow.
A moment later the flap opened and a skeleton clothed in a tanned robe stood there looking down at the lame warrior.
The robe was pinned tight at the neck so that only the skull was visible above and skeleton feet below. Frightened by this ghost, the warrior turned
his eyes away from it.
"You must not be frightened of me," the skeleton said in a hoarse voice. "I have taken pity on you. Now you must take pity on me. Give me a piece of
those roast ribs to eat, for I am very hungry."
Still very much alarmed by the presence of this unexpected visitor, the warrior offered a large piece of meat to an extended bony hand. He was
astonished to see the skeleton chew the food with its bared teeth and swallow it.
"It was I who gave you the pain in your ankle," said the skeleton. "It was I who caused your ankle to swell so that you could not continue on the hunt.
If you had gone on with your companions you would have been killed. The day they left you here, an enemy war party made a charge upon them,
and they were all killed. I am the one who saved your life."
Again the skeleton's bony hand reached out, this time to rub the warrior's ankle. The pain and swelling vanished at once. "Now you can walk
again," the ghost said. "Your enemies are all around, but if you will follow me I can lead you safely back to your village."
At dawn they left the shelter and started off across the snow, the skeleton leading the way. They walked through deep woods, along icy streams, and
over high hills. Late in the afternoon the skeleton led the warrior up a steep ridge. When the warrior reached the summit, the ghost had vanished, but
down in the valley below he could see the smoke of tepees in his Arapaho village.
There was a camp circle. A party of women went out after some wood for the fire. One of them saw a porcupine near a cottonwood tree and
informed her companions of the fact.
The porcupine ran around the tree, finally climbing it, whereupon the woman tried to hit the animal, but he dodged from one side of the trunk of the
tree to the other, for protection. At length one of the women started to climb the tree to catch the porcupine, but it ever stopped just beyond her reach.
She even tried to reach it with a stick, but with each effort it went a little higher.
"Well!" she said, "I am climbing to catch the porcupine, for I want those quills, and if necessary I will go to the top."
When porcupine had reached the top of the tree the woman was still climbing, although the cottonwood was dangerous and the branches were
waving to and fro; but as she approached the top and was about to lay hands upon the porcupine, the tree suddenly lengthened, when the porcupine
resumed his climbing.
Looking down, she saw her friends looking up at her, and beckoning her to come down; but having passed under the influence of the porcupine and
fearful for the great distance between herself and the ground, she continued to climb, until she became the merest speck to those looking up from
below, and with the porcupine she finally reached the sky.
The porcupine took the woman into the camp-circle where his father and mother lived. The folks welcomed her arrival and furnished her with the
very best of accommodation. The lodge was then put up for them to live in. The porcupine was very industrious and of course the old folks were well
supplied with hides and food.
One day she decided to save all the sinew from the buffalo, at the same time doing work on buffalo robes and other things with it, in order to avoid all
suspicion on the part of her husband and the old folks, as to why she was saving the sinew. Thus she continued to save a portion of the sinew from
each beef brought in by her husband, until she had a supply suitable for her purpose.
One day her husband cautioned her that while in search of roots, wild turnips and other herbs, she should not dig and that should she use the digging
stick, she should not dig too deep, and that she should go home early when out for a walk.
The husband was constantly bringing in the beef and hide, in order that he might keep his wife at work at home all the time. But she was a good
worker and soon finished what was required for them.
Seeing that she had done considerable work, one day she started out in search of hog potatoes, and carried with her the digging stick. She ran to a
thick patch and kept digging away to fill her bag. She accidentally struck a hole which surprised her very much, and so she stooped down and looked
in and through the hole, seeing below, a green Earth with a camp-circle on it.
After questioning herself and recognizing the camp-circle below, she carefully covered the spot and marked it. She took the bag and went to her own
tipi, giving the folks some of the hog potatoes. The old folks were pleased and ate the hog potatoes to satisfy their daughter-in-law. The husband
returned home, too, bringing in beef and hides.
Early one morning the husband started off for more beef and hides, telling his wife to be careful about herself.
After he was gone, she took the digging stick and the sinew she had to the place where she struck the hole. When she got to the hole, she sat down and
began tying string, so as to make the sinew long enough to reach the bottom.
She then opened the hole and laid the digging stick across the hole which she had dug, and tied one of the sinew strings in the center of this stick, and
then also fastened herself to the end of the lariat. She gradually loosened the sinew lariat as she let herself down, finally finding herself suspended
above the top of the tree which she had climbed, but not near enough so that she could possibly reach it.
When the husband missed her, he scolded the old people for not watching their daughter-in-law. He began to look for her in the direction in which she
usually started off, but found no fresh tracks, though he kept traveling until he tracked her to the digging stick which was lying across the hole.
The husband stooped down and looked into this hole and saw his wife suspended from this stick by means of a sinew lariat or string. "Well, the only
way to do is to see her touch the bottom," said he. So he looked around and found a circular stone two or three inches thick, and brought it to the
Again he continued, "I want this stone to light right on top of her head," and he dropped the stone carefully along the sinew string, and it struck the
top of her head and broke her off and landed her safe on the ground. She took up the stone and went to the camp-circle.
This is the way the woman returned.
|The Star Husband
An Arapaho Legend
|The Sun Dance Wheel
An Arapaho Legend
At one time the whole world was covered with water. It was everywhere, no matter where one looked.
The water did not stop a man carrying Flat Pipe, his companions and counselor, from walking across the waters for four days and nights. The man
wanted to treat his pipe in the best way, so he gave much thought to this subject. He thought for six days and finally decided that in order to provide a
good home for Flat Pipe there should be land and the good company of creatures.
So on the seventh day the man set out to find land among all the water, calling to the four directions as he went. From the four directions came many
animal helpers, and with their help man found a land home. He put the Four Old Men in each of the four directions to control the winds. Now, the
land would also provide a place for a Sun Dance of ceremony and thanksgiving every year.
A garter snake came to the man, and the man said, "Oh, you will be a great comfort to the people and have a great place in the Sun Dance as the
Sacred Wheel to represent the waters that surround this earth."
He then looked to all around him for help and many offered. Long Stick, a bush with flexible limbs and dark bark came and said, "I offer myself for
the wheel for the good of all." All approved so Long Stick was made into the ring of the Sacred Wheel, representing the circle that is the Sun.
The eagle soared by and said, "My strength is great enough to carry me above the earth and water as I fly on the winds of the four directions. Please
take my feathers to represent the Four Old Men."
The man was pleased, and told all that four bunches of eagle feathers would forever be tied to the wheel to honor the desire of the eagle and anyone
who would ever offer an eagle feather as a gift.
Once the man shaped the Sacred Wheel he painted it in the image of garter snake and placed the feathers in the position of the Four Old Men -
Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest - who rule the directions and control the winds and to represent the Thunderbird who brings the
rain. To further enhance the wheel, the man added groups of stars, painting special images of the Sun, the Moon and the Milky Way. Blue beads tied
on represented the sky.
When finished, the man thanked garter snake for serving his people in this way with the creation of the wheel that symbolizes all creation.
|The Trickster Kills the Children
An Arapaho Legend
Nihansan was traveling down a stream. As he walked along on the bank he saw something red in the water. They were red plums. He wanted them
badly. Taking off his clothes, de dived in and felt over the bottom with his hands; but he could find nothing, and the current carried him down-stream
and to the surface again. He thought. He took stones and tied them to his wrists and ankles so that they should weigh him down in the water. Then
he dived again; he felt over the bottom, but could find nothing. When his breath gave out he tried to come up, but could not. He was nearly dead,
when at last the stones on one side fell off and he barely rose to the surface sideways and got a little air. As he revived, floating on his back, he saw the
plums hanging on the tree above him. He said to himself: "You fool!" He scolded himself a long time. Then he got up, took off the stones, threw them
away, and went and ate the plums. He also filled his robe with them.
Then he went on down the river. He came to a tent. He saw a bear-woman come out and go in again. Going close to the tent, he threw a plum so that
it dropped in through the top of the tent. When it fell inside, the bear-women and children all scrambled for it. Then he threw another and another.
At last one of the women said to her child: "Go out and see if that is not your uncle Nihansan." The child went out, came back, and said: "Yes, it is my
uncle Nihansan." Then Nihansan came in. He gave them the plums, and said: "I wonder that you never get plums, they grow so near you!" The
bear-women wanted to get some at once. He said: "Go up the river a little way; it is not far. Take all your children with you that are old enough to
pick. Leave the babies here and I will watch them." They all went.
Then he cut all the babies' heads off. He put the heads back into the cradles; the bodies he put into a large kettle and cooked. When the bear-women
came back, he said to them: "Have you never been to that hill here? There were many young wolves there." "In that little hill here?" they asked. "Yes.
While you were gone I dug the young wolves out and cooked them." Then they were all pleased. They sat down and began to eat. One of the children
said: "This tastes like my little sister." "Hush!" said her mother, "don't say that." Nihansan became uneasy. "It is too hot here," he said, and took
some plums and went off a little distance; there he sat down and ate. When he had finished, he shouted: "Ho! Ho! Bear-women, you have eaten
your own children."
All the bears ran to their cradles and found only the heads of the children. At once they pursued him. They began to come near him. Nihansan said:
"I wish there were a hole that I could hide in." When they had nearly caught him he came to a hole and threw himself into it.
The hole extended through the hill, and he came out on the other side while the bear-women were still standing before the entrance. He painted
himself with white paint to look like a different person, took a willow stick, put feathers on it, and laid it across his arm. Then he went to the women.
"What are you crying about?" he asked them. They told him. He said: "I will go into the hole for you," and crawled in. Soon he cried as if hurt, and
scratched his shoulders. Then he came out, saying: "Nihansan is too strong for me. Go into the hole yourselves; he is not very far in." They all went
in, but soon came out again and said: "We cannot find him."
Nihansan entered once more, scratched himself bloody, bit himself, and cried out. He said: "He has long finger nails with which he scratches me. I
cannot drag him out. But he is at the end of the hole. He cannot go back farther. If you go in, you can drag him out. He is only a little farther than
you went last time."
They all went into the hole. Nihansan got brush and grass and made a fire at the entrance. "That sounds like flint striking," said one of the women.
"The flint birds are flying," Nihansan said. "That sounds like fire," said another woman. "The fire birds are flying about; they will soon be gone by."
"that is just like smoke," called a woman. "The smoke birds are passing. Go on, he is only a little farther, you will catch him soon," said Nihansan.
Then the heat followed the smoke into the hole. The bear-women began to shout. "Now the heat birds are flying," said Nihansan.
Then the bears were all killed. Nihansan put out the fire and dragged them out. "Thus one obtains food when he is hungry," he said. He cut up the
meat, ate some of it, and hung the rest on branches to dry. Then he went to sleep.