|Adventures of Bull Turns Round
A Blackfoot Legend
Once the camp moved, but one lodge stayed. It belonged to Wolf Tail; and Wolf Tail's younger brother. Bull Turns Round, lived with him. Now their
father loved both his sons, but he loved the younger one most, and when he went away with the big camp, he said to Wolf Tail: "Take care of your
younger brother; he is not yet a strong person. Watch him that nothing befalls him."
One day Wolf Tail was out hunting, and Bull Turns Round sat in front of the lodge making arrows, and a beautiful strange bird lit on the ground
before him. Then cried one of Wolf Tail's wives, "Oh, brother, shoot that little bird." "Don't bother me, sister," he replied, "I am making arrows."
Again the woman said, "Oh, brother, shoot that bird for me." Then Bull Turns Round fitted an arrow to his bow and shot the bird, and the woman
went and picked it up and stroked her face with it, and her face swelled up so big that her eyes and nose could not be seen. But when Bull Turns
Round had shot the bird, he went off hunting and did not know what had happened to the woman's face.
Now when Wolf Tail came home and saw his wife's face, he said, "What is the matter?" and his wife replied: "Your brother has pounded me so that I
cannot see. Go now and kill him." but Wolf Tail said, "No, I love my brother; I cannot kill him." then his wife cried and said: "I know you do not
love me; you are glad your brother has beaten me. If you loved me, you would go and kill him."
Then Wolf Tail went out and looked for his brother, and when he had found him, he said: "Come, let us get some feathers. I know where there is an
eagle's nest;" and he took him to a high cliff, which overhung the river, and on the edge of this cliff was a dead tree, in the top of which the eagles had
built their nest. Then said Wolf Tail, "Climb up, brother, and kill the eagles;" and when Bull Turns Round had climbed nearly to the top, Wolf Tail
called out, "I am going to push the tree over the cliff, and you will be killed."
"Oh, brother, oh,brother, pity me; do not kill me," said Bull Turns Round.
"Why did you beat my wife's face so?" said Wolf Tail.
"I didn't," cried the boy; "I don't know what you are talking about."
"You lie," said Wolf Tail, and he pushed the tree over the cliff. He looked over and saw his brother fall into the water, and he did not come up again.
Then Wolf Tail went home and took down his lodge, and went to the main camp. When his father saw him coming with only his wives, he said to
him, "Where is your young brother?" And Wolf Tail replied: "He went hunting and did not come back. We waited four days for him. I think the
bears must have killed him."
Now when Bull Turns Round fell into the river, he was stunned, and the water carried him a long way down the stream and finally lodged him on a
sand shoal. Near this shoal was a lodge of Under Water People, an old man, his wife, and two daughters. This old man was very rich: he had great
flocks of geese, swans, ducks, and other water-fowl, and a big herd of buffalo which were tame. These buffalo always fed near by, and the old man
called them every evening to come and drink. But he and his family ate none of these. Their only food was the bloodsucker. Now the old man's
daughters were swimming about in the evening, and they found Bull Turns Round lying on the shoal dead, and they went home and told their father,
and begged him to bring the person to life, and give him to them for a husband. "Go, my daughters," he said, "and make four sweat lodges, and I will
bring the person." He went and got Bull Turns Round, and when the sweat lodges were finished, the old man took him into one of them, and when he
had sprinkled water on the hot rocks, he scraped a great quantity of sand off Bull Turns Round. Then he took him into another lodge and did the
same thing, and when he had taken him into the fourth sweat lodge and scraped all the sand off him, Bull Turns Round came to life, and the old man
led him out and gave him to his daughters. And the old man gave his son-in-law a new lodge and bows and arrows, and many good presents.
Then the women cooked some bloodsuckers, and gave them to their husband, but when he smelled of them he could not eat, and he threw them in the
fire. Then his wives asked him what he would eat. "Buffalo," he replied, "is the only meat for men."
"Oh, father!" cried the girls, running to the old man's lodge, "our husband will not eat our food. He says buffalo is the only meat for men."
"Go then, my daughters," said the old man, "and tell your husband to kill a buffalo, but do not take nor break any bones, for I will make it alive
again." Then the old man called the buffalo to drink, and Bull Turns Round shot a fat cow and took all the meat. And when he had roasted the
tongue, he gave each of his wives a small piece of it, and they liked it, and they roasted and ate plenty of the meat.
One day Bull turns Round went to the old man and said, "I mourn for my father."
"How did you come to be dead on the sand shoal?" asked the old man. Then Bull Turns Round told what his brother had done to him.
"Take this piece of sinew," said the old man. "Go and see your father. When you throw this sinew on the fire, your brother and his wife will roll, and
twist up and die." the old man gave him a herd of buffalo, and many dogs to pack the lodge, and other things; and Bull Turns Round took his wives,
and went to find his father.
One day, just after sunset, they came in sight of the big camp, and they went and pitched the lodge on the top of a very high butte; and the buffalo fed
close by, and there were so many of them that they covered the whole hill.
Now the people were starving, and some had died, for they had no buffalo. In the morning, early, a man arose whose son had starved to death, and
when he went out and saw this lodge on the top of the hill, and all the buffalo feeding by it, he cried out in a loud voice; and the people all came out
and looked at it, and they were afraid, for they thought it was Under Water People. Then said the man whose son had died: "I am no longer glad to
live. I will go up to this lodge, and find out what this is." Now when he said this, all the men grasped their bows and arrows and followed him, and
when they went up the hill, the buffalo just moved out of their path and kept on feeding; and just as they came to the lodge, Bull Turns Round came
out, and all the people said, "Here is the one whom we thought the bears killed." Wolf Tail ran up, and said, "Oh, brother you are not dead. You went
to get feathers, but we thought you had been killed." Then Bull Turns Round called his brother into the lodge, and he threw the sinew on the fire; and
Wolf Tail, and his wife, who was standing outside, twisted up and died.
Then Bull Turns Round told his father all that had happened to him; and when he learned that the people were starving, he filled his mouth with
feathers and blew them out, and the buffalo ran off in every direction, and he said to the people, "There is food, go chase it." Then the people were
very glad, and they came each one and gave him a present. They gave him war shirts, bows and arrows, shields, spears, white robes and many
Music: Storyteller by AH-NEE-MAH
|A Meal for Nata'Yowa
A Blackfoot Legend
One day, late in the fall, Napi was out walking, when he came upon a number of gophers playing near the remains of a camp-fire. It was a raw, cold
day, and the gophers were taking turns warming themselves in the ashes of the fire. One gopher would lie down on the ground and the others would
cover him with the warm ashes. When he was thoroughly warmed, he would squeak loudly, and another would take his place.
The game gave Napi an idea. So, losing no time in carrying out his scheme, he sat down on the ground and began to cry. The gophers came running
to see what was the matter. "Oh, you are having so much fun, getting so nice and warm!" yelled Napi. "I am so cold, and there is nobody to play
games with me! I wish I could play with you!"
The gophers said, "Well, Old Man, it's not difficult. We do it this way.." and the sympathetic gophers invited him into the game. "I will go first," said
Napi, taking over. "You cover me with the ashes, then, since I am bigger than you I can cover up all of you at once; and we will all be warm at the
same time. Then we can do something else."
So Napi lay down, an the gophers covered him with ashes, but he had stayed there only a minute when he said he was warm enough, and wished to
be let out. Then it was the turn of the gophers. They all lay down in a neat row, and Napi began covering them with ashes. But instead of the
just-warm ashes they had been using, Napi packed the misguided little animals in hot embers! The poor gophers squeaked and squealed, but Napi,
the wicked, just kept piling on hot coals till they were all roasted!
"This will be a very good meal," said Napi, going off to the bush for some willow sticks to use in picking up the hot meal. But while he was gone,
along came Nata'Yowa, the Lynx. Nata'Yowa could smell the gophers cooking, and he was hungry. So, losing no time about it, he dug the gophers
out of the embers and ate every one of them.
When Napi came back, all that was left of his meal was a little pile of tails. Napi was in a fine rage! He danced around furiously. Then, observing a
trail which Nata'Yowa had been too full of food and too sleepy to bother hiding, he set off in pursuit of the culprit who had stolen his meal. Following
the trail, he came to where the Lynx was sleeping in the shadow of a large rock.
Creeping up, he seized Nata'Yowa by the back of his neck, and began to pound his nose against the rock. When he had pounded the Lynx's nose till it
was very short and stubby, Napi rubbed his face in the long grass. The grass stuck to Nata'Yowa's face and turned into whiskers. Some of it made
little tufts on his ears.
The Old Man picked Nata'Yowa up by his tail, but the tail broke off short. So he took him by the hind legs instead, and twirled Nata'Yowa round his
head very rapidly. As he whirled round, Nata'Yowa's hind legs stretched, till they were longer than they should have been. Then, Napi let the Lynx
go, and threw him a long way away. "It serves you right for stealing my food!" said Old Man.
And that is why Nata'Yowa has a short stubby nose, a bobbed-off tail, whiskers, tufty little ears, and long hind legs.
There was once an old man who was very fond of beaver meat. He hunted and killed beaver so frequently that his son remonstrated with him, telling
him that some misfortune would surely overtake him as punishment for his persecution of the sagacious animals, which were then endowed with the
magic powers of the medicine-men.
The old man did not heed the warning, but continued to kill beaver nearly every day. Again the son said, "If you kill them, they will soon catch and
kill you." Not long afterward the old man saw a beaver enter a hole in the bank; disregarding his son's advice, he plunged head foremost into the
burrow to catch the animal. The son saw him enter the hole, and went in after him.
Catching the old man by the heels, he pushed him father in. Thinking another beaver had attacked him, the old man was at first too frightened to
move, then he cried for mercy. "Let me go, Beaver, and I will give you my knife." He threw his knife back toward the entrance, but received no reply
to his entreaty. "Let me go, Beaver, and I will give you my awl." Again no answer. "Let me go, and I will give you my arrows." The young man took
the articles as they were handed to him, and hastened away without making himself known.
When the old man returned to the tipi, he said nothing of his adventures, and his son asked no questions. As soon as the old man left the tipi, the son
replaced the knife and other articles in his father's fire-bag. "Where is your knife?" said the son when the old man returned. "I gave it to the beaver to
induce them to let me escape with my life." "I told you they would catch you," said the son. The old man never hunted beaver again.
A Blackfoot Legend
A Blackfoot Legend
Two brothers lived together in the old time. The elder, who was named Nopatsis, was married to a woman who was evil, and who hated his younger
brother, Akaiyan. Daily the wife pestered her husband to be rid of Akaiyan, but he would not agree to part with his only brother, for they had been
together through long years of privation, indeed, since their parents had left them together as little helpless orphans, and they were all in all to each
other. So the wife of Nopatsis had to resort to a ruse well known to women whose hearts are evil. One day when her husband returned from the
chase he found her lamenting with torn clothes and disordered appearance. She told him that Akaiyan had treated her brutally. The lie entered into
the heart of Nopatsis and made it heavy, so that in time he conceived a hatred of his innocent brother, and debated with himself how he should rid
himself of Akaiyan.
Summer arrived, and with it the molting season when the wild water-fowl shed their feathers, with which the Indians fletch their arrows. Near
Nopatsis's lodge there was a great lake, to which these birds came in large numbers, and to this place the brothers went to collect feathers with which
to plume their darts. They built a raft to enable them to reach the island in the middle of the lake, making it of logs bound securely with buffalo-hide.
Shoving off, they sailed to the little island, along the shores of which they walked, looking for suitable feathers. They parted in the search, and after
some time Akaiyan, who had wandered far along the beach, suddenly looked up to see his brother on the raft sailing toward the mainland. He called
loudly to him to return, but Nopatsis replied that he deserved to perish there because of the brutal manner in which he had treated his sister-in-law.
Akaiyan solemnly swore that he had not injured her in any way, but Nopatsis only jeered at him, and rowed away. Soon he was lost to sight, and
Akaiyan sat down and wept bitterly. He prayed earnestly to the nature spirits and to the sun and moon, after which he felt greatly uplifted. Then he
improvised a shelter of branches, and made a bed of feathers of the most comfortable description. He lived well on the ducks and geese which
frequented the island, and made a warm robe against the winter season from their skins. He was careful also to preserve many of the tame birds for
his winter food.
One day he encountered the lodge of a beaver, and while he looked at it curiously he became aware of the presence of a little beaver. "My father
desires that you enter his dwelling," said the animal. So Akaiyan accepted the invitation and entered the lodge, where the Great Beaver, attended by
his wife and family, received him. He was, indeed, the chief of all the beavers, and white with the snows of countless winters. Akaiyan told the
Beaver how cruelly he had been treated, and the wise animal consoled him, and invited him to spend the winter in his lodge, where he would learn
many wonderful and useful things. Akaiyan gratefully accepted the invitation, and when the beavers closed up their lodge for the winter he remained
with them. They kept him warm by placing their thick, soft tails on his body, and taught him the secret of the healing art, the use of tobacco, and
various ceremonial dances, songs, and prayers belonging to the great mystery of 'medicine'.
The summer returned, and on parting, the Beaver asked Akaiyan to choose a gift. He chose the Beaver's youngest child, with whom he had
contracted a strong friendship; but the father prized his little one greatly, and would not at first permit him to go. At length, however, Great Beaver
gave way to Akaiyan's entreaties and allowed him to take Little Beaver with him, counseling him to construct a sacred Beaver Bundle when he
arrived at his native village.
In due time Nopatsis came to the island on his raft, and, making sure that his brother was dead, began to search for his remains. But while he
searched, Akaiyan caught up Little Beaver in his arms and, shoving off on the raft, made for the mainland, spotted by Nopatsis. When Akaiyan
arrived at his native village he told his story to the chief, gathered a Beaver Bundle, and commenced to teach the people the mystery of 'medicine', with
its accompanying songs and dances. Then he invited the chiefs of the animal tribes to contribute their knowledge to the Beaver Medicine, which
many of them did. Having accomplished his task of instruction, which occupied him all the winter, Akaiyan returned to the island with Little Beaver,
who had been of immense service to him in teaching the people the 'medicine' songs and dances.
He returned Little Beaver to his parents, and received in exchange for him a pipe, being also instructed in its accompanying songs and ceremonial
dances. On the island he found the bones of his vengeful brother, who had met with the fate he had intended for the innocent Akaiyan. Every spring,
Akaiyan visited the beavers, and as regularly he received something to add to the Beaver Medicine Bundle, until it reached the great size it now has.
And he married and founded a race of medicine-men who have handed down the traditions and ceremonies of the Beaver Medicine to the present
|Blackfoot Creation Story
A Blackfoot Legend
Old Man came from the south, making the mountains, the prairies, and the forests as he passed along, making the birds and the animals also. He
traveled northward making things as he went, putting red paint in the ground here and there --arranging the world as we see it today.
He made the Milk River and crossed it; being tired, he went up on a little hill and lay down to rest. As he lay on his back, stretched out on the grass
with his arms extended, he marked his figure with stones. You can see those rocks today, they show the shape of his body, legs, arms and hair.
Going on north after he had rested, he stumbled over a knoll and fell down on his knees. He said aloud, "You are a bad thing to make me stumble so."
Then he raised up two large buttes there and named them the Knees. They are called the Knees to this day. He went on farther north, and with some
of the rocks he carried with him he built the Sweet Grass Hills.
Old Man covered the plains with grass for the animals to feed on. He marked off a piece of ground and in it made all kinds of roots and berries to
grow: camas, carrots, turnips, bitterroot, sarvisberries, bull-berries, cherries, plums, and rosebuds. He planted trees, and he put all kinds of animals
on the ground.
When he created the bighorn sheep with its big head and horns, he made it out on the prairie. But it did not travel easily on the prairie; it was
awkward and could not go fast. So Old Man took it by its horns, led it up into the mountains, and turned it loose. There the bighorn skipped about
among the rocks and went up fearful places with ease. So Old Man said to it, "This is the kind of place that suits you; this is what you are fitted for, the
rocks, and the mountains."
While he was in the mountains, he made the antelope out of dirt and turned it loose to see how it would do. It ran so fast that it fell over some rocks
and hurt itself. Seeing that the mountains were not the place for it, Old Man took the antelope down to the prairie and turned it loose. When he saw it
running away fast and gracefully, he said, "This is what you are suited to, the broad prairie."
One day Old Man decided that he would make a woman and a child. So he formed them both of clay, the woman and the child, her son.
After he had molded the clay in human shape, he said to it, "You must be people." And then he covered it up and went away. The next morning he
went to the place, took off the covering, looked at the images, and said, "Arise and walk." they did so. They walked down to the river with their
maker, and then he told them that his name was Napi, Old Man.
This is how we came to be people. It is he who made us.
The first people were poor and naked, and they did not know how to do anything for themselves. Old Man showed them the roots and berries and
said, "You can eat these." Then he pointed to certain trees, "When the bark of these trees is young and tender, it is good. Then you can peel it off and
He told the people that the animals also should be their food. "These are your herds," he said. "All these little animals that live on the ground
--squirrels, rabbits, skunks, beavers, are good to eat. You need not fear to eat their flesh. All the birds that fly, these too, I have made for you, so that
you can eat of their flesh."
Old Man took the first people over the prairies and through the forests, then the swamps to show them the different plants he had created. He told
them what herbs were good for sicknesses, saying often, "The root of this herb or the leaf of this herb, if gathered in a certain month of the year, is
good for certain sickness."
In that way the people learned the power of all herbs.
Then he showed them how to make weapons with which to kill the animals for their food. First, he went out and cut some sarvisberry shoots,
brought them in, and peeled the bark off them. He took one of the larger shoots, flattened it, tied a string to it, and thus made a bow. Then he caught
one of the birds he had made, took feathers from its wing, split them, and tied them to a shaft of wood.
At first he tied four feathers along the shaft, and with this bow sent the arrow toward its mark. But he found that it did not fly well. When he used
only three feathers, it went straight to the mark. Then he went out and began to break sharp pieces off the stones. When he tied them at the ends of
his arrows, he found that the black flint stones, and some white flint, made the best arrow points.
When the people had learned to make bows and arrows, Old Man taught them how to shoot animals and birds. Because it is not healthful to eat
animals' flesh raw, he showed the first people how to make fire. He gathered soft, dry rotten driftwood and made a punk of it. Then he found a piece
of hard wood and drilled a hole in it with an arrow point. He gave the first man a pointed piece of hard wood and showed him how to roll it between
his hands until sparks came out and the punk caught fire. Then he showed the people how to cook the meat of the animals they had killed and how to
He told them to get a certain kind of stone that was on the land, while he found a harder stone. With the hard stone he had them hollow out the softer
one and so make a kettle. Thus, they made their dishes.
Old Man told the first people how to get spirit power: "Go away by yourself and go to sleep. Something will come to you in your dream that will help
you. It may be some animal. Whatever this animal tells you in your sleep, you must do. Obey it. Be guided by it. If later you want help, if you are
traveling alone and cry aloud for help, your prayer will be answered. It may be by an eagle, perhaps by a buffalo, perhaps by a bear. Whatever
animal hears your prayer you must listen to it."
That was how the first people got along in the world, by the power given to them in their dreams.
After this, Old Man kept on traveling north. Many of the animals that he had created followed him. They understood when he spoke to them, and
they were his servants. When he got to the north point of the Porcupine Mountains, he made some more mud images of people, blew his breath upon
them, and they became people, men and women. They asked him, "What are we to eat?"
By way of answer, Old Man made many images of clay in the form of buffalo. Then he blew breath upon them and they stood up. When he made
signs to them, they started to run. Then he said to the people, "Those animals --buffalo --are your food."
"But how can we kill them?" the people asked.
"I will show you," he answered.
He took them to a cliff and told them to build rock piles: "Now hide behind these piles of rocks," he said. "I will lead the buffalo this way. When they
are opposite you, rise up."
After telling them what to do, he started toward the herd of buffalo. When he called the animals, they started to run toward him, and they followed
him until they were inside the piles of rock. Then Old Man dropped back. As the people rose up, the buffalo ran in a straight line and jumped over the
"Go down and take the flesh of those animals," said Old Man.
The people tried to tear the limbs apart, but they could not. Old Man went to the edge of the cliff, broke off some pieces with sharp edges, and told the
people to cut the flesh with these rocks. They obeyed him. When they had skinned the buffalo, they set up some poles and put the hides on them. Thus
they made a shelter to sleep under.
After Old Man had taught the people all these things, he started off again, traveling north until he came to where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet.
There he made some more people and taught them the same things. From there he went farther north. When he had gone almost to the Red Deer
River, he was so tired that he lay down on a hill. The form of his body can be seen there yet, on the top of the hill where he rested.
When he awoke from his sleep, he traveled farther north until he came to a high hill. He climbed to the top of it and there he sat down to rest. As he
gazed over the country, he was greatly pleased by it. Looking at the steep hill below him, he said to himself, "This is a fine place for sliding. I will have
some fun." And he began to slide down the hill. The marks where he slid are to be seen yet, and the place is known to all the Blackfeet tribes as "Old
Man's Sliding Ground."
Old Man can never die. Long ago he left the Blackfeet and went away toward the west, disappearing in the mountains. Before he started, he said to
the people, "I will always take care of you, and some day I will return."
Even today some people think that he spoke the truth and that when he comes back he will bring with him the buffalo, which they believe the white
men have hidden. Others remember that before he left them he said that when he returned he would find them a different people. They would be living
in a different world, he said, from that which he had created for them and had taught them to live in.
|Blood Clot Boy
A Blackfoot Legend
Once there was an old man and woman whose three daughters married a young man. The old people lived in a lodge by themselves.
The young man was suppose to hunt buffalo, and feed them all. Early in the morning the young man invited his father-in-law to go out with him to
kill buffalo. The old man was then directed to drive the buffalo through a gap where the young man stationed himself to kill them as they went by. As
soon as the buffalo were killed, the young man requested his father-in-law to go home.
He said, "You are old. You need not stay here. Your daughters can bring you some meat." Now the young man lied to his father-in-law; for when the
meat was brought to his lodge, he ordered his wives not to give meat to the old folks. Yet one of the daughters took pity on her parents, and stole meat
for them. The way in which she did this was to take a piece of meat in her robe, and as she went for water drop it in front of her father's lodge.
Now every morning the young man invited his father-in-law to hunt buffalo; and, as before, sent him away and refused to permit his daughters to
furnish meat for the old people. On the fourth day, as the old man was returning, he saw a clot of blood in the trail, and said to himself, "Here at least
is something from which we can make soup."
In order that he might not be seen by his son-in-law, he stumbled, and spilt the arrows out of his quiver. Now, as he picked up the arrows, he put the
clot of blood into the quiver. Just then the young man came up and demanded to know what it was he picked up. The old man explained that he had
just stumbled, and was picking up his arrows.
So the old man took the clot of blood home and requested his wife to make blood-soup. When the pot began to boil; the old woman heard a child
crying. She looked all around, but saw nothing. Then she heard it again. This time it seemed to be in the pot. She looked in quickly, and saw a boy
baby: so she lifted the pot from the fire, took the baby out and wrapped it up.
Now the young man, sitting in his lodge, heard a baby crying, and said, "Well, the old woman must have a baby." Then he sent his oldest wife to see
the old woman's baby, saying, "If it is a boy, I will kill it." The woman came into look at the baby, but the old woman told her it was a girl. When the
young man heard this, he did not believe it.
So he sent each wife in turn; but they all came back with the same report. Now the young man was greatly pleased, because he could look forward to
another wife. So he sent over some old bones, that soup might be made for the baby. Now, all this happened in the morning.
That night the baby spoke to the old man, saying, "You take me up and hold me against each lodge-pole in succession." So the old man took up the
baby, and, beginning at the door, went around in the direction of the sun, and each time that he touched a pole the baby became larger. When
halfway around the baby was so heavy that the old man could no longer hold him. So he put the baby down in the middle of the lodge, and, taking
hold of his head, moved it toward each of the poles in succession, and, when the last pole was reached, the baby had become a very fine young man.
Then this young man went out, got some black flint [obsidian] and, when he got to the lodge, he said to the old man, "I am the Smoking-Star. I came
down to help you. When I have done this, I shall return."
Now, when morning came, Blood-Clot (the name his father gave him) arose and took his father out to hunt. They had not gone very far when they
killed a scabby cow. Then Blood-Clot lay down behind the cow and requested his father to wait until the son-in-law came to join him. He also
requested that he stand his ground and talk back to the son-in-law.
Now, at the usual time in the morning, the son-in-law called at the lodge of the old man, but was told that he had gone out to hunt. This made him
very angry, and he struck at the old woman, saying, "I have a notion to kill you." So the son-in-law went out.
Now Blood-Clot had directed his father to be eating a kidney when the son-in-law approached. When the son-in-law came up and saw all this, he
was very angry. He said to the old man, "Now you shall die for all this."
"Well," said the old man, "you must die too, for all that you have done."
Then the son-in-law began to shoot arrows at the old man, and the latter becoming frightened called on Blood-Clot for help. Then Blood-Clot sprang
up and upbraided the son-in-law for his cruelty. "Oh," said the son-in-law, "I was just fooling." At this Blood-Clot shot the son-in-law through and
Then Blood-Clot said to his father, "We will leave this meat here: it is not good. Your son-in-law's house is full of dried meat. Which one of your
daughters helped you?"
The old man told him that it was the youngest.
Then Blood-Clot went to the lodge, killed the two older women, brought up the body of the son-in-law, and burned them together. Then he requested
the younger daughter to take care of her old parents, to be kind to them, etc. "Now," said Blood-Clot, "I shall go to visit the other Indians."
So he started out, and finally came to a camp. He went into the lodge of some old women, who were very much surprised to see such a fine young
man. They said, "Why do you come here among such old women as we? Why don't you go where there are young people?"
"Well," said Blood-Clot, "give me some dried meat." Then the old women gave him some meat, but no fat. "Well," said Blood-Clot, "you did not give
me the fat to eat with my dried meat."
"Hush!" said the old women. "You must not speak so loud. There are bears here that take all the fat and give us the lean, and they will kill you, if they
"Well," said Blood-Clot, "I will go out tomorrow, do some butchering, and get some fat." Then he went out through the camp, telling all the people to
make ready in the morning, for he intended to drive the buffalo over [the drive].
Now there were some bears who ruled over this camp. They lived in a bear-lodge [painted lodge], and were very cruel. When Blood-Clot had driven
the buffalo over, he noticed among them a scabby cow. He said, "I shall save this for the old women."
Then the people laughed, and said, "Do you mean to save that poor old beast? It is too poor to have fat." However, when it was cut open it was found
to very fat. Now, when the bears heard the buffalo go over the drive, they as usual sent out two bears to cut off the best meat, especially all the fat; but
Blood-Clot had already butchered the buffalo, putting the fat upon sticks. He hid it as the bears came up.
Also he had heated some stones in a fire. When they told him what they wanted, he ordered them to go back. Now the bears were very angry, and the
chief bear and his wife came up to fight, but Blood-Clot killed them by throwing hot stones down their throats.
Then he went down to the lodge of the bears and killed all, except one female who was about to become a mother. She pleaded so pitifully for her life,
that he spared her. If he had not done this, there would have been no more bears in the world.
The lodge of the bears was filled with dried meat and other property. Also all the young women of the camp were confined there. Blood-Clot gave all
the property to the old women, and set free all the young women. The bears' lodge he gave to the old women. It was a bear painted lodge.
"Now," said Blood-Clot, "I must go on my travels."
He came to a camp and entered the lodge of some old women. When these women saw what a fine young man he was, they said, "Why do you come
here, among such old women? Why do you not go where there are younger people?"
"Well," said he, "give me some meat." The old women gave him some dried meat, but no fat.
Then he said, "Why do you not give me some fat with my meat?"
"Hush!" said the women, "you must not speak so loud. There is a snake-lodge [painted lodge] here, and the snakes take everything. They leave no fat
for the people."
"Well," said Blood-Clot, "I will go over to the snake-lodge to eat."
"No, you must not do that," said the old women. "It is dangerous. They will surely kill you."
"Well," said he, "I must have some fat with my meat, even if they do kill me."
Then he entered the snake-lodge. He had his white rock knife ready. Now the snake, who was the head man in this lodge, had one horn on his head.
He way lying with his head in the lap of a beautiful woman. He was asleep. By the fire was a bowl of berry-soup ready for the snake when he should
wake. Blood-Clot seized the bowl and drank the soup.
Then the women warned him in whispers, "You must go away: you must not stay here." But he said, "I want to smoke." So he took out his knife and
cut off the head of the snake, saying as he did so, "Wake up! Light a pipe! I want to smoke."
Then with his knife he began to kill all the snakes. At last there was one snake who was about to become a mother, and she pleaded so pitifully for her
life that she was allowed to go. From her descended all the snakes that are in the world.
Now the lodge of the snakes was filled up with dried meat of every kind, fat, etc. Blood-Clot turned all this over to the people, the lodge and everything
it contained. Then he said, "I must go away and visit other people."
So he started out. Some old women advised him to keep on the south side of the road, because it was dangerous the other way. But Blood-Clot paid
no attention to their warning. As he was going along, a great windstorm struck him and at last carried into the mouth of a great fish.
This was a sucker-fish and the wind was its sucking. When he got into the stomach of the fish, he saw a great many people. Many of them were dead,
but some were still alive. He said to the people, "Ah, there must be a heart somewhere here. We will have a dance."
So he painted his face white, his eyes and mouth with black circles, and tied a white rock knife on his head, so that the point stuck up. Some rattles
made of hoofs were also brought. Then the people started in to dance. For a while Blood-Clot sat making wing-motions with his hands, and singing
songs. Then he stood up and danced, jumping up and down until the knife on his head struck the heart. Then he cut the heart down. Next he cut
through between the ribs of the fish, and let all the people out.
Again Blood-Clot said he must go on his travels. Before starting, the people warned him, saying that after a while he would see a woman who was
always challenging people to wrestle with her, but that he must not speak to her. He gave no heed to what they said, and, after he had gone a little
way, he saw a woman who called him to come over. "No," said Blood-Clot. "I am in a hurry."
However, at the fourth time the woman asked him to come over, he said, "Yes, but you must wait a little while, for I am tired. I wish to rest. When I
have rested, I will come over and wrestle with you."
Now, while he was resting, he saw many large knives sticking up from the ground almost hidden by straw. Then he knew that the woman killed the
people she wrestled with by throwing them down on the knives. When he was rested, he went over.
The woman asked him to stand up in the place where he had seen the knives; but he said, "No, I am not quite ready. Let us play a little, before we
begin." So he began to play with the woman, but quickly caught hold of her, threw her upon the knives, and cut her in two.
Blood-Clot took up his travels again, and after a while came to a camp where there were some old women. The old women told him that a little
farther on he would come to a woman with a swing, but on no account must he ride with her.
After a time he came to a place where he saw a swing on the bank of a swift stream. There was a woman swinging on it. He watched her a while,
and saw that she killed people by swinging them out and dropping them into the water. When he found this out, he came up to the woman. "You have
a swing here; let me see you swing," he said.
"No," said the woman, "I want to see you swing."
"Well," said Blood-Clot, "but you must swing first."
"Well," said the woman, "Now I shall swing. Watch me. Then I shall see you do it." So the woman swung out over the stream. As she did this, he saw
how it worked. Then he said to the woman, "You swing again while I am getting ready"; but as the woman swung out this time, he cut the vine and
let her drop into the water.
This happened on Cut Bank Creek.
"Now," said Blood-Clot, "I have rid the world of all the monsters, I will go back to my old father and mother." So he climbed a high ridge, and
returned to the lodge of the old couple.
One day he said to them, "I shall go back to the place from whence I came. If you find that I have been killed, you must not be sorry, for then I shall go
up into the sky and become the Smoking Star."
Then he went on and on, until he was killed by some Crow Indians on the war-path. His body was never found; but the moment he was killed, the
Smoking Star appeared in the sky, where we see it now.
A Blackfoot Legend
"Old Man was the one who started it, and our people have followed his example ever since. Ho! Old Man made a fool of himself that day.
"It was the time when buffalo-berries are red and ripe. All of the bushes along the rivers were loaded with them, and our people were about to gather
what they needed, when Old Man changed things, as far as the gathering was concerned.
"He was traveling along a river, and hungry, as he always was. Standing on the bank of that river, he saw great clusters of red, ripe buffalo-berries
in the water. They were larger than any berries he had ever seen, and he said:
"'I guess I will get those berries. They look fine, and I need them. Besides, some of the people will see them and get them, if I don't.'
"He jumped into the water; looked for the berries; but they were not there. For a time Old Man stood in the river and looked for the berries, but they
"After a while he climbed out on the bank again, and when the water got smooth once more there were the berries -- the same berries, in the same spot
in the water, that is a funny thing. 'I wonder where they hid that time. I must have those berries!' he said to himself.
"In he went again -- splashing the water like a Grizzly Bear. He looked about him and the berries were gone again. The water was rippling about
him, but there were no berries at all. He felt on the bottom of the river but they were not there.
"'Well,' he said, 'I will climb out and watch to see where they come from; then I shall grab them when I hit the water next time.'
"He did that; but he couldn't tell where the berries came from. As soon as the water settled and became smooth -- there were the berries -- the same as
before. Ho! -- Old Man was wild; he was angry, I tell you. And in he went flat on his stomach! He made an awful splash and mussed the water
greatly; but there were no berries.
"'I know what I shall do. I will stay right here and wait for those berries; that is what I shall do'; and he did.
"He thought maybe somebody was looking at him and would laugh, so he glanced along the bank. And there, right over the water, he saw the same
bunch of berries on some tall bushes. Don't you see? Old Man saw the shadow of the berry-bunch; not the berries. He saw the red shadow-berries on
the water; that was all, and he was such a foll he didn't know they were not real.
"Well, now he was angry in truth. Now he was ready for war. He climbed out on the bank again and cut a club. Then he went at the buffalo-berry
bushes and pounded them till all of the red berries fell upon the ground, till the branches were bare of berries.
"'[There,' he said, 'that's what you get for making a fool of the man who made you. You shall be beaten every year as long as you live, to pay for what
you have done; you and your children, too.'
"That is how it came about, and that is why your mothers whip the buffalo-berry bushes and then pick the berries from the ground. Ho!"
A Blackfoot Legend
Many years ago, a young Piegan warrior was noted for his bravery. When he grew older and more experienced in war, he became the war-chief for a
large band of Piegan warriors.
A little while after he became the war-chief, he fell in love with a girl who was in his tribe, and they got married. He was so in love with her that he took
no other wives, and he decided not to go on war parties any more. He and his wife were very happy together, unusually so, and when they had a baby,
they were even happier then.
Some moons later, a war party that had left his village was almost destroyed by an enemy. Only four men came back to tell the story.
The war-chief was greatly troubled by this. He saw that if the enemy was not punished, they would raid the Piegan camp. So he gave a big war feast
and asked all of the young men of his band to come to it.
After they had all eaten their fill, the war-chief arose and said to them in solemn tones:
"Friends and brothers, you have all heard the story that our four young men have told us. All the others who went out from our camp were killed by
the enemy. Only these four have come back to our campfires. Those who were killed were our friends and relatives.
"We who live must go out on the warpath to avenge the fallen. If we don't, the enemy will think that we are weak and that they can attack us unhurt.
Let us not let them attack us here in the camp.
"I will lead a party on the warpath. Who here will go with me against the enemy that has killed our friends and brothers?"
A party of brave warriors gathered around him, willing to follow their leader. His wife also asked to join the party, but he told her to stay at the camp.
"If you go without me," she said, "you will find an empty lodge when you return."
The chief talked to her and calmed her, and finally convinced her to stay with the women and children and old men in the camp at the foot of a high
Leading a large party of men, the chief rode out from the village.
The Piegans met the enemy and defeated them but their war-chief was killed. Sadly, his followers carried the broken body back to the camp.
His wife was crazed with grief. With vacant eyes she wandered everywhere looking for her husband and calling his name. Her friends took care of
her, hoping that eventually her mind would become clear again and that she could return to normal life.
One day, though, they could not find her anywhere in the camp. Searching for her, they saw her high up on the side of the mountain, the tall one above
their camp. She had her baby in her arms.
The head man of the village sent runners after her, but from the top of the mountain she signaled that they should not try to reach her.
All watched in horror as she threw her baby out over the cliff and then herself jumped from the mountain to the rocks far, far below.
Her people buried the woman and baby there among the rocks. They carried the body of the chief to the place and buried him beside them.
From that time on, the mountain that towers above the graves was known as Minnow Stahkoo, "the Mountain of the Chief", or "Chief Mountain".
If you look closely, even today, you can see on the face of the mountain the figure of a woman with a baby in her arms, the wife and child of the chief.
Chief Mountain is a mountain in Glacier National Park.
|Daily Life and Customs
A Blackfoot Legend
Indians are usually represented as being a silent, sullen race, seldom speaking, and never laughing or joking. However true this may be in regard to
some tribes, it certainly was not the case with most of those who lived upon the Great Plains. These people were generally talkative, merry, and
light-hearted; they delighted in fun, and were a race of jokers. It is true that, in the presence of strangers, they were grave, silent, and reserved, but this
is nothing more than the shyness and embarrassment felt by a child in the presence of strangers. As the Indian becomes acquainted, this reserve wears
off; he is at his ease again and appears in his true colors, a light-hearted child. Certainly the Blackfeet never were a taciturn and gloomy people. Before
the disappearance of the buffalo, they were happy and cheerful. Why should they not have been? Food and clothing were to be had for the killing and
tanning. All fur animals were abundant, and thus the people were rich. Meat, really the only food they cared for, was plenty and cost nothing. Their
robes and furs were exchanged with the traders for bright-colored blankets and finery. So they wanted nothing.
It is but nine years since the buffalo disappeared from the land. Only nine years have passed since these people gave up that wild, free life which was
natural to them, and ah, how dear! Let us go back in memory to those happy days and see how they passed the time.
The sun in just rising. Thin columns of smoke are creeping from the smoke holes of the lodges, and ascending in the still morning air. Everywhere the
women are busy, carrying water and wood, and preparing the simple meal. And now we see the men come out, and start for the river. Some are
followed by their children; some are even carrying those too small to walk. They have reached the water's edge. Off drop their blankets, and with a
plunge and a shivering ah-h-h they dash into the icy waters. Winter and summer, storm or shine, this was their daily custom. They said it made them
tough and healthy, and enabled them to endure the bitter cold while hunting on the bare bleak prairie. By the time they have returned to the lodges, the
women have prepared the early meal. A dish of boiled meat some three or four pounds is set before each man; the children are served as much as they
can eat, and the wives take the rest.
The horses are now seen coming in, hundreds and thousands of them, driven by boys and young men who started out after them at daylight. If buffalo
are close at hand, and it has been decided to make a run, each hunter catches his favorite buffalo horse, and they all start out together; they are followed
by the women, on the travois or pack horses, who will do most of the butchering, and transport the meat and hides to camp. If there is no band of
buffalo near by, they go off, singly or by twos and threes, to still-hunt scattering buffalo, or deer, or elk, or such other game as may be found. The
woman remaining in camp are not idle. All day long they tan robes, dry meat, sew moccasins, and perform a thousand and one other tasks. The
young men who have stayed at home carefully comb and braid their hair, paint their faces, and, if the weather is pleasant, ride or walk around the
camp so that the young women may look at them and see how pretty they are.
Feasting began early in the morning, and will be carried on far into the night. A man who gives a feast has his wives cook the choicest food they have,
and when all is ready, he goes outside his lodge and shouts the invitation, calling out each guest's name three times, saying that he is invited to eat, and
concludes by announcing that a certain number of pipes generally three will be smoked. The guests having assembled, each one is served with a dish of
food. Be the quantity large or small, it is all that he will get. If he does not eat it all, he may carry home what remains. The host does not eat with his
guests. He cuts up some tobacco, and carefully mixes it with l'herbe, and when all have finished eating, he fills and lights a pipe, which is smoked and
passed from one o another, beginning with the first man on his left. When the last person on the left of the host has smoked, the pipe is passed back
around the circle to the one on the right of the door, ans smoked to the left again. The guests do not all talk at once. When a person begins to speak, he
expects every one to listen, and is never interrupted. During the day the topics for conversation are about the hunting, war, stories of strange
adventures, besides a good deal of good-natured joking and chaffing. When the third and last pipeful of tobacco has been smoked, the host
ostentatiously knocks out the ashes and says "Kyi" whereupon all the guests rise and file out. Seldom a day passed but each lodge-owner in camp gave
from one to three feasts. In fact almost all a man did, when in camp, was to go from one of these gatherings to another.
A favorite pastime in the day was gambling with a small wheel called it-se'-wah. This wheel was about four inches in diameter, and had five spokes, on
which were strung different-colored beads, made of bone or horn. A level, smooth piece of ground was selected, at each end of which was placed a log.
At each end of the course were two men, who gambled against each other. A crowd always surrounded them, betting on the sides. The wheel was
rolled along the course, and each man at the end whence it started, darted an arrow at it. The cast was made just before the wheel reached the log at the
opposite end of the track, and points were counted according as the arrow passed between the spokes, or when the wheel, stopped by the log, was in
contact with the arrow, the position and nearness of the different beads to the arrow representing a certain number of points. The player who first
scored ten points won. It was a very difficult game, and one had to be very skillful to win.
Another popular game was what with more southern tribes is called "hands"; it is like "Button, button, who's got the button?" Two small oblong bones
were used, one of which had a black ring around it. Those who participated in this game, numbering from two to a dozen, were divided into two equal
parties, ranged on either side of the lodge. Wagers were made, each person betting with the one directly opposite him. Then a man took the bones, and,
by skillfully moving his hands and changing the objects from one to the other, sought to make it impossible for the person opposite him to decide which
hand held the marked one. Ten points were the game, counted by sticks, and the side which first got the number took the stakes. A song always
accompanied this game, a weird, unearthly air, if it can be so called, but when heard at a little distance, very pleasant and soothing. At first a scarcely
audible murmur, like the gentle soughing of an evening breeze, it gradually increased in volume and reached a very high pitch, sank quickly to a low
bass sound, rose and fell, and gradually died away, to be again repeated. The person concealing the bones swayed his body, arms, and hands in time
to the air, and went through all manner of graceful and intricate movements for the purpose of confusing the guesser. The stakes were sometimes very
high, two or three horses or more, and men have been known to lose everything they possessed, even to their clothing.
The children, at least the boys, played and did as they pleased. Not so with the girls. Their duties began at a very early age. They carried wood and
water for their mothers, sewed moccasins, and as soon as they were strong enough, were taught to tan robes and furs, make lodges, travois, and do all
other woman's and so menial work. The boys played at mimic warfare, hunted around in the brush with their bows and arrows, made mud images of
animals, and in summer spent about half their time in the water. In winter, they spun tops on the ice, slid down hill on a contrivance made of buffalo
ribs, and hunted rabbits.
Shortly after noon, the hunters began to return, bringing in deer, antelope, buffalo, elk, occasionally bear, and, sometimes, beaver which they had
trapped. The camp began to be more lively. In all directions persons could be heard shouting out invitations to feasts. Here a man was lying back on
his couch singing and drumming; there a group of young men were holding a war dance; everywhere the people were eating, singing, talking, and
joking. As the light faded from the western sky and darkness spread over the camp, the noise and laughter increased. In many lodges, the people held
social dances, the women dressed in their best gowns, ranged on one side, the men on the other; all sung, and three or four drummers furnished an
accompaniment; the music was lively if somewhat jerky. At intervals the people rose and danced, the "step" being a bending of the knees and swinging
of the body, the women holding their arms and hands in various graceful positions.
With the night came the rehearsal of the wondrous doings of the gods. These tales may not be told in the daytime. Old Man would not like that, and
would cause any one who narrated them while it was light to become blind. All Indians are natural orators, but some far exceed others in their powers
of expression. Their attitudes, gestures, and signs are so suggestive that they alone would enable one to understand the stories they relate. I have seen
these story-tellers so much in earnest, so entirely carried away by the tale they were relating, that they fairly trembled with excitement. They held their
little audiences spell-bound. The women dropped their half-sewn moccasin from their listless hands, and the men let the pipe go out. These stories for
the most part were about the ancient gods and their miraculous doings. They were generally related by the old men, warriors who had seen their best
days. Many of them are recorded in this book. They are the explanations of the phenomena of life, and contain many a moral for the instruction of
The I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi contributed not a little to the entertainment of every-day life. Frequent dances were held by the different bands of the society, and
the whole camp always turned out to see them. The animal-head masks, brightly painted bodies, and queer performances were dear to the Indian
Such was the every-day life of the Blackfeet in the buffalo days. When the camp moved, the women packed up their possessions, tore down the lodges,
and loaded everything on the backs of ponies or on the travois. Meantime the chiefs had started on, and the soldiers the Brave band of the
I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi followed after them. After these leaders had gone a short distance, a halt was made to allow the column to close up. The women,
children, horses, and dogs of the camp marched in a disorderly, straggling fashion, often strung out in a line a mile or two long. Many of the men rode
at a considerable distance ahead, and on each side of the marching column, hunting for any game that might be found, or looking over the country for
signs of enemies.
Before the Blackfeet obtained horses in the very first years of the present century, and when their only beasts of burden were dogs, their possessions
were transported by these animals or on men's backs. We may imagine that in those days the journeys were short ones, the camp traveling but a few
In moving the camp in ancient days, the heaviest and bulkiest things to be transported were the lodges. These were sometimes very large, often
consisting of thirty cow-skins, and, when set up, containing two or three fires like this or in ground plan like this. The skins of these large lodges were
sewn together in strips, of which there would be sometimes as many as four; and, when the lodge was set up, these strips were pinned together as the
front of a common lodge is pinned today. The dogs carried the provisions, tools, and utensils, sometimes the lodge strips, if these were small enough,
or anything that was heavy, and yet could be packed in small compass; for since dogs are small animals, and low standing, they cannot carry bulky
burdens. Still, some of the dogs were large enough to carry a load of one hundred pounds. Dogs also hauled the travois, on which were bundles and
sometimes babies. This was not always a safe means of transportation for infants, as is indicated by an incident related by John Monroe's mother as
having occurred in her father's time. The camp, on foot of course, was crossing a strip of open prairie lying between two pieces of timber, when a herd
of buffalo, stampeding, rushed through the marching column. The loaded dogs rushed after the buffalo, dragging the travois after them and scattering
their loads over the prairie. Among the lost chattels were two babies, dropped off somewhere in the long grass, which were never found.
There were certain special customs and beliefs which were a part of the every-day life of the people.
In passing the pipe when smoking, it goes from the host, who takes the first smoke, to the left, passing from hand to hand to the door. It may not be
passed across the door to the man on the other side, but must come back, no one smoking, pass the host, and go round to the man across the door from
the last smoker. This man smokes and passes it to the one on his left, and so it goes on until it reaches the host again. A person entering a lodge where
people are smoking must not pass in front of them, that is, between the smokers and the fire.
A solemn form of affirmation, the equivalent of the civilized oath, is connected with smoking, which, as is well known, is with many tribes of Indians a
sacred ceremony. If a man sitting in a lodge tells his companions some very improbable story, something that they find it very hard to believe, and
they want to test him, to see if he is really telling the truth, the pipe is given to a medicine man, who paints the stem red and prays over it, asking that if
the man's story is true he may have long life, but if it is false his life may end in short time. The pipe is then filled and lighted, and passed to the man,
who has seen and overheard what has been done and said. The medicine man says to him: "Accept this pipe, but remember that, if you smoke, your
story must be as sure as that there is a hole through this pipe, and as straight as the hole through this stem. So your life shall be long and you shall
survive, but if you have spoken falsely your days are counted." The man may refuse the pipe, saying, "I have told you the truth; it is useless to smoke
this pipe." If he declines to smoke, no one believes what he has said; he is looked upon as having lied. If, however, he takes the pipe and smokes, every
one believes him. It is the most solemn form of oath. The Blackfoot pipes are usually made of black or green slate or sandstone.
The Blackfeet do not whip their children, but still they are not without some training. Children must be taught, or they will not know anything; if they
do not know anything, they will have no sense; and it they have no sense they will not know how to act. They are instructed in manners, as well as in
other more general and more important matters.
If a number of boys were in a lodge where older people were sitting, very likely the young people would be talking and laughing about their own
concerns, and making so much noise that the elders could say nothing. If this continued too long, one of the older men would be likely to get up and go
out and get a long stick and bring it in with him. When he had seated himself, he would hold it up, so that the children could see it and would repeat a
cautionary formula, "I will give you gum!" This was a warning to them to make less noise, and was always heeded for a time. After a little, however,
the boys might forget and begin to chatter again, and presently the man, without further warning, would reach over and rap one of them on the head
with the stick, when quiet would again be had for a time.
In the same way, in winter, when the lodge was full of old and young people, and through lack of attention the fire died down, some older person would
call out, "Look out for the skunk!" which would be a warning to the boys to put some sticks on the fire. If this was not done at once, the man who had
called out might throw a stick of wood across the lodge into the group of children, hitting and hurting one or more of them. It was taught also that, if,
when young and old were in the lodge and the fire had burned low, an older person were to lay the unburned ends of the sticks upon the fire, all the
children in the lodge would have the scab, or itch. So, at the call "Look out for the scab!" some child would always jump to the fire, and lay up the sticks.
There were various ways of teaching and training the children. Men would make long speeches to groups of boys, playing in the camps, telling them
what they ought to do to be successful in life. They would point out to them that to accomplish anything they must be brave and untiring in war; that
long life was not desirable; that the old people always had a hard time, were given the worst side of the lodge and generally neglected; that when the
camp was moved they suffered from cold; that their sight was dim, so that they could not see far; that their teeth were gone, so that they could not chew
their food. Only discomfort and misery await the old. Much better, while the body is strong and in its prime, while the sight is clear, the teeth sound,
and the hair still black and long, to die in battle fighting bravely. The example of successful warriors would be held up to them, and the boys urged to
emulate their brave deeds. To such advice some boys would listen, while others would not heed it.
The girls also were instructed. All Indians like to see women more or less sober and serious-minded, not giggling all the time, not silly. A Blackfoot
man who had two or three girls would, as they grew large, often talk to them and give them good advice. After watching them, and taking the measure
of their characters, he would one day get a buffalo's front foot and ornament it fantastically with feathers. When the time came, he would call one of
his daughters to him and say to her: "Now I wish you to stand here in front of me and look me straight in the eye without laughing. No matter what I
may do, do not laugh." Then he would sing a funny song, shaking the foot in the girl's face in time to the song, and looking her steadily in the eye. Very
likely before he had finished, she would begin to giggle. If she did this, the father would stop singing and tell her to finish laughing; and when she was
serious again, he would again warn her not to laugh, and then would repeat his song. This time perhaps she would not laugh while he was singing. He
would go through with this same performance before all his daughters. To such as seemed to have the steadiest characters, he would give good advice.
He would talk to each girl of the duties of a woman's life and warn her against the dangers which she might expect to meet.
At the time of the Medicine Lodge, he would take her to the lodge and point out to her the Medicine Lodge woman. He would say: "There is a good
woman. She has built this Medicine Lodge, and is greatly honored and respected by all the people. Once she was a girl just like you; and you, if you are
good and live a pure life, may some day be as great as she is now. Remember this, and try to live a worthy life."
At the time of the Medicine Lodge, the boys in the camp also gathered to see the young men count their coups. A man would get up, holding in one hand
a bundle of small sticks, and taking one stick from the bundle, he would recount some brave deed, throwing away a stick as he completed the narrative
of each coup, until the sticks were all gone, when he sat down, and another man stood up to begin his recital. As the boys saw and heard all this, and
saw how respected those men were who had done the most and bravest things, they said to themselves, "That man was once a boy like us, and we, if we
have strong hearts, may do as much as he has done>" So even the very small boys used often to steal off from the camp, and follow war parties. Often
they went without the knowledge of their parents, and poorly provided, without food or extra moccasins. They would get to the enemy's camp, watch
the ways of the young men, and so learn about going to war, how to act when on the war trail so as to be successful. Also they came to know the
The Blackfeet men often went off by themselves to fast and dream for power. By no means every one did this, and, of those who attempted it, only a
few endured to the end, that is, fasted the whole four days, and obtained the help sought. The attempt was not usually made by young boys before they
had gone on their first war journey. It was often undertaken by men who were quite mature. Those who underwent this suffering were obliged to
abstain from food or drink for four days and four nights, resting for two nights on the right side, and for two nights on the left. It was deemed
essential that the place to which a man resorted for this purpose should be unfrequented, where few or no persons had walked; and it must also be a
place that tried the nerve, where there was some danger. Such situations were mountain peaks; or narrow ledges on cut cliffs, where a careless
movement might cause a man to fall to his death on the rocks below; or islands in lakes, which could only be reached by means of a raft, and where
there was danger that a person might be seized and carried off by the Su'-ye tup'-pi, or Under Water People; or places where the dead had been buried,
and where there was much danger from ghosts. Or a man might lie in a well-worn buffalo trail, where the animals were frequently passing, and so he
might be trodden on by a traveling band of buffalo; or he might choose a locality where bears were abundant and dangerous. Wherever he went, the
man built himself a little lodge of brush, moss, and leaves, to keep off the rain; and, after making his prayers to the sun and singing his sacred songs, he
crept into the hut and began his fast. He was not allowed to take any covering with him, nor to roof over his shelter with skins. He always had with
him a pipe, and this lay by him, filled, so that, when the spirit, or dream, came, he could smoke. They did not appeal to any special class of helpers, but
prayed to all alike. Often by the end of the fourth day, a secret helper usually, but by no means always, in the form of some animal appeared to the man
in a dream, and talked with him, advising him, marking out his course through life, and giving him its power. There were some, however, on whom
the power would not work, and a much greater number who gave up the fast, discouraged, before the prescribed time had been completed, either not
being able to endure the lack of food and water, or being frightened by the strangeness or loneliness of their surroundings, or by something that they
thought they saw or heard. It was no disgrace to fail, nor was the failure necessarily known, for the seeker after power did not always, nor perhaps
often, tell any one what he was going to do.
Three modes of burial were practiced by the Blackfeet. They buried their dead on platforms placed in trees, on platforms in lodges, and on the ground
in lodges. If a man dies in a lodge, it is never used again. The people would be afraid of the man's ghost. The lodge is often used to wrap the body in, or
perhaps the man may be buried in it.
As soon as a person is dead, be it man, woman, or child, the body is immediately prepared for burial, by the nearest female relations. Until recently,
the corpse was wrapped in a number of robes, then in a lodge covering, laced with rawhide ropes, and placed on a platform of lodge poles, arranged on
the branches of some convenient tree. Some times the outer wrapping the lodge covering was omitted. If the deceased was a man, his weapons, and
often his medicine, were buried with him. With women a few cooking utensils and implements for tanning robes were placed on the scaffolds. When a
man was buried on a platform in a lodge, the platform was usually suspended from the lodge poles.
Sometimes, when a great chief or noted warrior died, his lodge would be moved some little distance from the camp, and set up in a patch of brush. It
would be carefully pegged down all around, and stones piled on the edges to make it additionally firm. For still greater security, a rope fastened to the
lodge poles, where they come together at the smoke hole, came down, and was securely tied to a peg in the ground in the centre of the lodge, where the
fireplace would ordinarily be. Then the beds were made up all around the lodge, and on one of them was placed the corpse, lying as if asleep. ?The
man's weapons, pipe, war clothing, and medicine were placed near him, and the door then closed. No one ever again entered such a lodge. Outside the
lodge, a number of his horses, often twenty or more, were killed, so that he might have plenty to ride on his journey to the Sand Hills, and to use after
arriving there. If a man had a favorite horse, he mighty order it to be killed at his grave, and his order was always carried out. In ancient times, it is
said, dogs were killed at the grave.
Women mourn for deceased relations by cutting their hair short. For the loss of a husband or son (but not a daughter), they not only cut their hair, but
often take off one or more joints of their fingers, and always scarify the calves of their legs. Besides this, for a month or so, they daily repair to some
place near camp, generally a hill or little rise of ground, and there cry and lament, calling the name of the deceased over and over again. This may be
called a chant or song, for there is a certain tune to it. It is in a minor key and very doleful. Any one hearing it for the first time, even though wholly
unacquainted with Indian customs, would at once know that it was a mourning song, or at least was the utterance of one in deep distress. There is no
fixed period for the length of time one must mourn. Some keep up this daily lament for a few weeks only, and others mush longer. I once came across
an old wrinkled woman, who was crouched in the sage brush, crying and lamenting for some one, as if her heart would break. On inquiring if any one
had died lately, I was told she was mourning for a son she had lost more than twenty years before.
Men mourn by cutting a little of their hair, going without leggings, and for the loss of a son, sometimes scarify their legs. This last, however, is never
done for the loss of a wife, daughter, or any relative except a son.
Many Blackfeet change their names every season. Whenever a Blackfoot counts a new coup, he is entitled to a new name. A Blackfoot will never tell
his name if he can avoid it. He believes that if he should speak his name, he would be unfortunate in all his undertakings. It was considered a gross
breach of propriety for a man to meet his mother-in-law, and if by any mischance he did so, or what was worse, if he spoke to her, she demanded a
very heavy payment, which he was obliged to make. The mother-in-law was equally anxious to avoid meeting or speaking to her son-in-law.
|Heavy Collar and the Ghost Woman
A Blackfoot Legend
The Blood camp was on Old Man's River, where Fort McLeod now stands. A party of seven men started to war toward the Cypress Hills. Collar was
the leader. They went around the Cypress Mountains, but found no enemies and started back toward their camp. On their homeward way, Heavy
Collar used to take the lead. He would go out far ahead on the high hills, and look over the country, acting as scout for the party. At length they came to
the south branch of the Saskatchewan River, above Sever Persons' Creek. In those days there were many war parties about, and this party traveled
concealed as much as possible in the coulees and low places.
As they were following up the river, they saw at a distance three old bulls lying down close to a cut bank. Heavy Collar left his party, and went out to
kill one of these bulls, and when he had come close to them, he shot one and killed it right there. He cut it up, and, as he was hungry, he went down into
a ravine below him, to roast a piece of meat; for he had left his party a long way behind, and night was now coming on. As he was roasting the meat,
he thought, for he was very tired, "It is a pity I did not bring one of my young men with me. He could go up on that hill and get some hair from that
bull's head, and I could wipe out my gun." While he sat there thinking this, and talking to himself, a bunch of this hair came over him through the air,
and fell on the ground right in front of him. When this happened, it frightened him a little; for he thought that perhaps some of his enemies were close
by, and had thrown the bunch of hair at him. After a little while, he took the hair, and cleaned his gun and loaded it, and then sat and watched for a
time. He was uneasy, and at length decided that he would go on further up the river, to see what he could discover. He went on, up the stream, until he
came to the mouth of the St. Mary's River. It was now very late in the night, and he was very tired, so he crept into a large bunch of rye-grass to hide
and sleep for the night.
The summer before this, the Blackfeet (Sik-si-kau) had been camped on this bottom, and a woman had been killed in this same patch of rye-grass where
Heavy Collar had lain down to rest. He did not know this, but still he seemed to be troubled that night. He could not sleep. He could always hear
something, but what it was he could not make out. He tried to get to sleep, but as soon as he dozed off he kept thinking he heard something in the
distance. He spent the night there, and in the morning when it became light, there he saw right beside him the skeleton of the woman who had been
killed the summer before.
That morning he went on, following up the stream to Belly River. All day long as he was traveling, he kept thinking about his having slept by this
woman's bones. It troubled him. He could not forget it. At the same time he was very tired, because he had walked so far and had slept so little. As
night came on, he crossed over to an island, and determined to camp for the night. At the upper end of the island was a large tree that had drifted down
and lodged, and in a fork of this tree he built his fire, and got in a crotch of one of the forks, and sat with his back to the fire, warming himself, but all the
time he was thinking about the woman he had slept beside the night before. As he sat there, all at once he heard over beyond the tree, on the other side of
the fire, a sound as if something were being dragged toward him along the ground. It sounded as if a piece of a lodge were being dragged over the
grass. It came closer and closer.
Heavy Collar was scared. He was afraid to turn his head and look back to see what it was that was coming. He heard the noise come up to the tree in
which his fire was built, and then it stopped, and all at once he heard some one whistling a tune. He turned around and looked toward the sound, and
there sitting on the other fork of the tree, right opposite him, was the pile of bones by which he had slept, only now all together in the shape of a skeleton.
This ghost had on it a lodge covering. The string, which is tied to the pole, was fastened about the ghost's neck; the wings of the lodge stood out on
either side of its head, and behind it the lodge could be seen, stretched out and fading away into the darkness. The ghost sat on the old dead limb and
whistled its tune, ans as it whistled, it swung its legs in time to the tune.
When Heavy Collar saw this, his heart almost melted away. At length he mustered up courage, and said: "Oh ghost, go away, and do not trouble me. I
am very tired; I want to rest." The ghost paid no attention to him, but kept on whistling, swinging its legs in time to the tune. Four times he prayed to
her, saying: "Oh ghost, take pity on me! Go away and leave me alone. I am tired; I want to rest." The more he prayed, the more the ghost whistled and
seemed pleased, swinging her legs, and turning her head from side to side, sometimes looking down at him, and sometimes up at the stars, and all the
time whistling. When he saw that she took no notice of what he said, Heavy Collar got angry at heart, and said, "Well, ghost, you do not listen to my
prayers, and I shall have to shoot you to drive you away." With that he seized his gun, and throwing it to his should, shot right at the ghost. When he
shot at her, she fell over backward into the darkness, screaming out: "Oh Heavy Collar, you have shot me, you have killed me! You dog, Heavy Collar!
There is no place on this earth where you can go that I will not find you; no place where you can hide that I will not come."
As she fell back and said this, Heavy Collar sprang to his feet, and ran away as fast as he could. She called after him: "I have been killed once, and now
you are trying to kill me again. Oh Heavy Collar!" As he ran away, he could still hear her angry words following him, until at last they died away in
the distance. He ran all night long, and whenever he stopped to breathe and listen, he seemed to hear in the distance the echoes of her voice. All he could
hear was, "Oh Heavy Collar!" And then he would rush away again. He ran until he was all tired out, and by this time it was daylight. He was now
quite a long way below Fort McLeod. He was very sleepy, but dared not lie down, for he remembered that the ghost had said that she would follow him.
He kept walking on for some time, and then sat down to rest, and at once fell asleep.
Before he had left his party, Heavy Collar had said to his young men: "Now remember, if any one of us should get separated from the party, let him
always travel to the Belly River Buttes. There will be our meeting-place." When their leader did not return to them, the party started across the country
and went toward the Belly River Buttes. Heavy Collar had followed the river up, and had gone a long distance out of his way; and when he awoke
from his sleep he too started straight for the Belly River Buttes, as he had said he would.
When his party reached the Buttes, one of them went up on top of the hill to watch. After a time, as he looked down the river, he saw two persons
coming, and as they came nearer, he saw that one of them was Heavy Collar, and by his side was a woman. The watcher called up the rest of the party,
and said to them: "Here comes our chief. He has had luck. He is bringing a woman with him. If he brings her into camp, we will take her away from
him." And they all laughed. They supposed that he had captured her. They went down to the camp, and sat about the fire, looking at the two people
coming, and laughing among themselves at the idea of their chief bringing in a woman. When the two persons had come closer, they could see that
Heavy Collar was walking fast, and the woman would walk by his side a little way, trying to keep up, and then would fall behind, and then trot along
to catch up to him again. Just before the pair reached camp there was a deep ravine that they had to cross. They went down into this side by side, and
then Heavy Collar came up out of it alone, and came on into the camp.
When he got there, all the young men began to laugh at him and to call out, "Heavy Collar, where is your woman?" He looked at them for a moment,
and then said: "Why, I have no woman. I do not understand what you are talking about." One of them said: "Oh, he has hidden her in that ravine. He
was afraid to bring her into camp." Another said, "where did you capture her, and what tribe does she belong to?" Heavy Collar looked from one to
another, and said: "I think you are all crazy. I have taken no woman. What do you mean?" The young man said" "Why, that woman that you had
with you just now; where did you get her, and where did you leave her? Is she down in the coulee? We all saw her, and it is no use to deny that she was
with you. Come now, where is she?" When they said this, Heavy Collar's heart grew very heavy, for he knew that it must have been the ghost woman;
and he told them the story. Some of the young men could not believe this, and they ran down to the ravine, where they had last seen the woman. There
they saw in the soft dirt the tracks made by Heavy Collar, when he went down into the ravine, but there were no other tracks near his, where they had
seen the woman walking. When they found that it was a ghost that had come along with Heavy Collar, they resolved to go back to their main camp.
The [arty had been out so long that their moccasins were all worn out, and some of them were footsore, so that they could not travel fast, but at last
they came to the cut banks, and there found their camp seven lodges.
That night, after they had reached camp, they were inviting each other to feasts. It was getting pretty late in the night, and the moon was shining
brightly, when one of the Bloods called out for Heavy Collar to come and eat with him. Heavy Collar shouted, "Yes, I will be there pretty soon." He got
up and went out of the lodge, and went a little way from it, and sat down. While he was sitting there, a big bear walked out of the brush close to him.
Heavy Collar felt around him for a stone to throw at the bear, so as to scare it away, for he thought it had not seen him. As he was feeling about, his
hand came upon a piece of bone, and he threw this over at the bear, and hit it. Then the bear spoke, and said: "Well, well, well, Heavy Collar; you have
killed me once, and now here you are hitting me. Where is there a place in this world where you can hide from me? I will find you, I don;t care where
you may go." When Heavy Collar heard this, he knew it was the ghost woman, and he jumped up and ran toward his lodge, calling out, "Run, run, a
ghost bear is upon us!"
All the people in the camp ran to his lodge, so that it was crowded full of people. There was a big fire in the lodge, and the wind was blowing hard from
the west. Men, women, and children were huddled together in the lodge, and were very much afraid of the ghost. They could hear her walking toward
the lodge, grumbling, and saying: "I will kill all these dogs. Not one of them shall get away." The sounds kept coming closer and closer, until they were
right at the lodge door. Then she said, "I will smoke you to death." And as she said this, she moved the poles, so that the wings of the lodge turned
toward the west, and the wind could blow in freely through the smoke hole. All this time she was threatening terrible things against them. The lodge
began to get full of smoke, and the children were crying, and all were in great distress almost suffocating. So they said, "Let us lift one man up here
inside, and let him try to fix the ears, so that the lodge will get clear of smoke." They raised a man up, and he was standing on the shoulders of the
others, and, blinded and half strangled by the smoke, was trying to turn the wings. While he was doing this, the ghost suddenly hit the lodge a blow,
and said, "Un!" and this scared the people who were holding the man, and they jumped and let him go, and he fell down. Then the people were in
despair, and said, "It is no use; she is resolved to smoke us to death." All the time the smoke was getting thicker in the lodge.
Heavy Collar said: "Is it possible that she can destroy us? Is there no one here who has some strong dream power that can overcome this ghost?"
His mother said: "I will try to do something. I am older than any of you, and I will see what I can do." So she got down her medicine bundle and
painted herself, and got out a pip and filled it and lighted it, and stuck the stem out through the lodge door, and sat there and began to pray to the ghost
woman. She said: "Oh ghost, take pity on us, and go away. We have never wronged you, but you are troubling us and frightening our children.
Accept what I offer you, and leave us alone."
A voice came from behind the lodge and said: "No, no, no; you dogs, I will not listen to you. Every one of you must die."
The old woman repeated her prayer. "Ghost, take pity on us. Accept this smoke and go away."
Then the ghost said: "How can you expect me to smoke, when I am way back here? Bring that pipe out here. I have no long bill to reach round the
lodge." So the old woman went out of the lodge door, and reached out the stem of the pipe as far as she could reach around toward the back of the lodge.
The ghost said: "No, I do not wish to go around there to where you have that pipe. If you want me to smoke it, you must bring it here." The old
woman went around the lodge toward her, and the ghost woman began to back away, and said, "No, I do not smoke that kind of pipe." And when the
ghost started away, the old woman followed her, and she could not help herself.
She called out, "Oh my children, the ghost is carrying me off!" Heavy Collar rushed out, and called to the others, "Come, and help me take my mother
from the ghost." He grasped his mother about the waist and held her, and another man took him by the waist, and another him, until they were all
strung out, one behind the other, and all following the old woman, who was following the ghost woman, who was walking away.
All at once the old woman let go of the pipe, and fell over dead. The ghost disappeared, and they were troubled no more by the ghost woman.