A man was living with his wife. It was summer. The woman was pregnant. One day, while she was picking berries, a big bear saw and abducted the
woman, whom he kept in his cave.
Before spring, the woman gave birth to a child begotten by her first husband, but with plenty of hair on his body, wherefore he was called Icma
(Plenty-of-Hair). In the spring the bear came out of his cave.
The boy looked outside and told his mother, "We had better run away to where you first came from."
but the bear had stopped up the entrance with a big rock, and the woman said, "We can't get out, the rock is too heavy."
The boy tried it, and was able to lift it. They fled before the bear returned. They were already near the Indian camp when they heard the bear coming
in pursuit. The woman was exhausted, but the boy packed her on his back and ran to the camp. At first, the woman went to a stranger's lodge. Then
someone told her husband that his wife was back. The chief then took both her and his son home.
The boy used to play with other boys. Once he quarreled with one of them and killed him with a single blow. This happened again on another
occasion. Then Icma said to his father, "I don't like to kill any more boys; I'll go traveling."
He started out and met two men, who became his comrades. One of them was called Wood-Twister, the other Timber-Hauler. They got to a good
lodge, and decided to stay there together. On the first day, Icma and Wood-Twister went hunting. They bade Timber-Hauler stay home and cook.
While they were away, an ogre that lived in the lodge came out, threw Timber-Hauler on his back and killed him. The two other men found him dead,
but Icma restored him to life. The next day Icma said, "Wood-Twister, you stay home, I'll go hunting with Timber-Hauler." At sunset Wood-Twister
began cutting firewood.
He saw something coming out of the lodge that looked like a man, but wearing a beard down to its waist and with nails as long as bear-claws. It
assaulted Wood-Twister, who was found dying by his friends, but was restored by Icma. The next day Icma said, "You two go hunting, I will stay
home." As he was beginning to chop wood, the monster appeared and challenged him to fight. Icma seized its head, cut it off, and left the body in the
When his comrades returned, Icma asked them, "Why did not you kill him like this?"
then he said, "I don't like this house; let us go traveling."
They started out and got to a large camp. The chief said, "My three daughters have been stolen by a subterranean being. Whoever brings them back
may marry them all." Icma told Timber-Hauler to get wood and ordered Wood-Twister to twist a rope of it. Then he made a hole in the ground and
put in a box to lower himself in.
He descended to the underground country and pulled the rope to inform his friends of his arrival. He found the three girls. The first one was guarded
by a mountain-lion, the second by a big eagle, the third by giant cannibals. Icma killed the lion. The girl said, "You had better turn back, the eagle will
But he slew the eagle. Then the girl said, "The cannibals are bad men, you had better go home."
"I'll wait for them." The twelve cannibals approached yelling; they were as big as trees. The girl said, "Run as fast as you can."
But Icma remained, and made two slings. With the first he hurled a stone that went clean through six of the men and killed them; and with the other
sling he killed the remaining cannibals in the same way. One of the girls gave him a handkerchief, another one a tie, and the youngest a ring. He took
them to his box and pulled the rope.
His two comrades hoisted up the oldest one. Both wanted to marry her, but Icma pulled the rope again, and they hauled up the second girl. Then Icma
sat down in the box with the youngest, and pulled the rope.
As they were hauling them up, Wood-Twister said, "Let us cut the rope." The other man refused, but Wood-Twister cut the rope, and Icma fell down.
He stayed there a long time, while his companions took the girls to the chief.
At last Icma begged a large bird to carry him above ground. The bird said he did not have enough to eat for such a trip. Then Icma killed five moose,
and having packed the meat on the bird's back, mounted with the third girl. Flying up, Icma fed the bird with moose-meat, and when his supply was
exhausted, he cut off his own flesh and gave it to the bird to eat. Icma came up on the day when his false friends were going to marry the girls.
All the people were gathered there. Icma arrived, saying, "I should like to go into the lodge before they get married."
When he came in, Wood-Twister was frightened. "I should like to go out, I'll be back in a short time," he said.
But he never returned. Then the chief asked, "Which of you three rescued the girls?"
Then Icma showed the handkerchief, the tie and the ring given him by the girls, and got all three girls for his wives.
|John the Bear
An Assiniboin Legend
Music: Dream Catcher by AH-NEE-MAH
|The Story of Hungry Wolf
An Assiniboin Legend
A young man and his wife were up hunting in the breaks North of Little Missouri, back by Kildeer Mountains. The man camped there with his wife.
He was successful as a hunter, and his wife cured the hides and fried strips of jerked meat. One night he told her to pack up everything, as the next day
they would be leaving. Early the next morning he went out to get some fresh meat for the journey and returned with parts of a Rocky Mountain Sheep
and its hide, which the people regard as very valuable. He found the packages on the scaffold just as he had left them, but his wife and dog were gone.
Circling about the tent he found no trace, but the fourth day he found a few tracks of men. With the tracks of men were the tracks of his wife and dog
heading South. He went back to the camp and pounded the meat and roasted the fattest meat and stored it away in bags to eat on the way, then he
followed the trail. The fugitives hid their trail by spreading out and then coming together again, so that the tracks were hard to follow. Thus he
followed a party which he judged to consist of twelve persons. When he came to Looks-Like-A-Chicken-Tail butte, he turned South-West and saw
smoke rising from a camp. He waited till sunset, then he walked into the camp. There he stood for a while considering. He covered his head with his
robe, carrying bows and arrows under his robe in case of attack. He could see young men walking about engaged in courting. As he went from tent
to tent listening for signs of his wife, their dog ran out from a tent and jumped about his master. He gave it meat. The dog returned to the tent,
whined, wagged its tail and ran out again to its master. He went and stood in the doorway. Within he could see his wife sitting. An old woman came
in, and to his surprise his wife spoke to him in Gros Ventres. She was an old woman who had also been taken prisoner and had lived among the
enemy until she was old.
He surveyed the situation of the camp. On the outskirts was a ravine where a spring had made a small pond. A trail led down to the pond, made by
the woman going after water. Beside the pond grew Beaver Grass, long and fine, right down to the water's edge. There he hid, hoping that when his
wife came down to get water, they might plan an escape. His plan was to start in the night, go Westward toward the mountains, and come back
home. In the morning a stream of women came down to the water. At noon fewer came. In the early afternoon he saw the dog coming down the
bank wagging its tail. His wife came to the edge of the spring and, standing on a stone, leaned over to dip water. He said, "Stay just where you are,
my own heart. I heard you talking last night with the old woman. My plan is for you to come out here when everyone is asleep. The people will expect
us to go back to our old camp, so we will go towards the mountains and live on game on the way home. Afterwards we will go back and get our
packages at the camp."
He laid behind the grass. In the evening after the women had left who came down to the water, the men came down and encircled the pond. They
overpowered him, took away his bow and arrows and carried him away to a tent and gave him food. His wife came and looked into the tent. He
said, "I believe it is you who have betrayed me."
They dug two holes in a circle, set in two posts, lanced his muscles next to the bone at wrists and ankles, stretched his arms and legs to the posts; then
they scalped him, and tying the scalp to a long pole, they sent our drummers and all came out and danced the victory dance and carried his scalp about
on the pole. They brought firewood and made a pile of it before and behind him, intending to burn him; but just then an old man came out who
seemed to have authority, and stopped the dancing and made signs towards the Sun, but his words were unintelligible. The old Gros Ventre woman
came to him and said, "My dear, it is all your wife's fault. You communicated with her when she went down to get water. When she returned she told
the camp that there was a Corn Man down in the water-hole. I was taken away when young by these people and have been here ever since. I married
and have children and grandchildren and hence have been contented to live among them. When they brought the Gros Ventre woman here, as she
was one of our tribe, I went over to her tent to comfort her. It was your wife who advised that you be captured and tortured to death. You cannot
expect a woman to keep a secret. The man who spoke to the people told them that when we fight and kill an enemy we kill him quickly. He said, 'The
great God in the heavens is looking down upon us. If you burn this man, that Great Spirit will some day avenge this deed. He will punish us. Let us
wait and see what will happen.'"
The next day when the people broke camp, some came over and pierced his eyes; then they left him and went away. For four days he remained
hanging. On the fourth day towards dusk he heard an Owl hooting. He came nearer and hooted again. He could hear the grass rustling as from a
man walking close to him. The steps stopped in front of him and a man said, "My son, the hooting of the Owl was myself. I have come to see what I
can do to restore your sight." He heard him spitting on his hands and rubbing his palms together. The man told him to look up, and he rubbed the
palms of his hands over his eyes, and his eyesight was restored. The man told him, "fear not, the torture from which you were suffering has been
caused by your wife. But you shall live and see your home again. You must stand and listen at daybreak when the Sun comes over the hill and you
will hear the Earth trembling and the sound of something falling to Earth. That which you hear falling and whose vibration you feel is white clay,
which is being made for you in the sky and dropped from the sky to Earth. You will find it near red Grass butte beside Knife River. When you get
home, when you give a dance, let the Grandma society clean a lodge site and pile the grass in the center as a symbol of your standing here. Strip a
cane in four places as a symbol of the four days you have stood here without food and water. It will be a token of long life and prosperity. Give
another such cane to a brother or some relative. The two canes are symbols of the two torture posts. There shall be a circle for the Wolf society and
the old scouts shall circle around you. Take one winter to prepare all the articles for the dance. Ask all your friends and relatives to help you. They
shall make arrows and give them as payment to the scouts who sing and tell their exploits as they shall give them to their sons and young relatives to
use against those who torture you. Next year you will find these same people camping here, and you shall kill a hundred of them. You shall capture
this old Gros Ventre woman and your wife. Save their lives, but do not make the woman your wife again. You shall marry the daughters of your
chief. Teach your warriors to use in the battle shields made of Buffalo hide hardened by burning with hot stones.
The Owl Man told him that in the morning he would see Wolf-Of-The-Sunset dancing with his warriors. He must watch their dress and learn their
songs and make this dance a part of his Mystery. In the morning wolf-Of-The-Sunset came with his warriors, who were a pack of Wolves. They freed
him and took him into their company by the name of Hungry Wolf. The scouts came in the rear. The Raven as he flies over the country seeing all that
is going on is like the scout. It was the Raven who had told the Owl how the man was being tortures and had reported it to Wolf-Of-The-Sunset. That
is why the two men who led the Wolf Dance and impersonate Wolf-Of-The-Sunset and Hungry Wolf wear Raven feathers. Just as the Wolves do for
the "fasters" in the dance, so the Wolves came that day, removed the rawhides that bound him and gave him the feast of fat of the Buffalo to eat. They
said, "This will drive away the pain of the torture. When your people kill a Buffalo, after skinning the breastbone, they must take a mouthful of the fat,
and whatever their sickness this will cure it." They took fat and anointed his wounds in his arms and feet and on the forehead. They daubed him with
white clay all over and then, as a sign of healing, they made scratches with their fingernails in the clay on his calves, his forearm, and on his forehead,
thus leaving the clay in streaks. This white clay is used in the Wolf ceremony. The heap in the center of the clearing is the symbol of his torture. When
they dance about, they must go over to the right side (and dance from the right to the left) in order to insure long life and prosperity; if they start from
the left, it is a sign of misery. So when people smoke, the pipe is handed to the extreme right of the circle and then handed around.
The Wolves told him to follow them. When he got over the divide, he found a Buffalo butchered and blood and kidney, liver and guts, laid aside from
the Buffalo's head, sang a song, and his torn scalp was healed and the hair turned to the color of his own hair. Thus he reached home. Then he climbed
up to his old lodge, face to the West, and said, "Hee-hay!" (which signifies "Listen!"). He spoke to the Wolves of the West and said, "This winter I shall
have bedding (Buffalo hides) scraped for you and shall bring the Wolves into my lodge (meaning warriors) in order to conquer my enemies." Taking
hunters and Dogs, he returned to his old camp and brought back his bundles. He placed food in those lodges where the societies met and in return they
gave arrows and other things for the ceremony. He sent one of his sisters to the chief's lodge and asked for the hand of the chief's two daughters in
During the winter he instructed the Wolves in the scout songs he had learned from the Wolves. In the summer he sent for the white clay and had the
dance performed. After this he called for the young men through the announcer and for the old men who had endurance and speed and provided them
with moccasins and provisions for the war path. On the outskirts of the village the warriors assembled. When they reached the butte, he was told that
this was the place to mine the bright red ochre which is to be found there in pockets. Since he had too many scouts, he selected from the forty-five the
fourteen who were the fastest runners. They had to run one by one between the two goals while the rest in the center tried to catch them.
This is called "running by." If anyone was caught before he reached the opposite goal, he was put out. They went on and sent out scouts ahead. They
reported a hundred and fifty tents. There were 2500 persons in the village. They got close to camp, whooped, and attacked at daybreak. After a
hundred warriors had been killed, he gave the signal to stop by waving his robe in the air. No women or children were killed, or any old people. The
old Gros Ventre woman and the young man's wife were taken. The old woman was allowed to go back to the tribe; the wife was brought back to the
village. No one would marry her, and it was she who introduced harlotry.
In the village they danced the greatest village dance ever known. Hungry Wolf live to old age and had children and grandchildren. The mystery he
conferred upon his son, and so it was handed down from generation to generation.