Once upon a time there lived a couple, the woman being pregnant. The man went hunting one day, and in his absence a certain wicked woman
named Red-Woman came to the tipi and killed his wife and cut her open and found boy twins.
She threw one behind the tipi curtain, and the other she threw into a spring. She then put a stick inside the woman and stuck one end in the ground,
to give her the appearance of a live person, and burned her upper lip, giving her the appearance as though laughing.
When her husband came home, tired from carrying the deer he had killed, he saw his wife standing near the door of the tipi, looking as though she
were laughing at him, and he said: "I am tired and hungry, why do you laugh at me?" and pushed her. As she fell backwards, her stomach opened,
and he caught hold of her and discovered she was dead. He knew at once that Red-Woman had killed his wife.
While the man was eating supper alone one night a voice said, "Father, give me some of your supper." As no one was in sight, he resumed eating and
again the voice asked for supper. The man said, "Whoever you are, you may come and eat with me, for I am poor and alone." a young boy came
from behind the curtain, and said his name was "Thrown-behind-the-Curtain." During the day, while the man went hunting, the boy stayed home.
One day the boy said, "Father, make me two bows and the arrows for them." His father asked him why he wanted two bows. The boy said, "I want
them to change about." His father made them for him, but surmised the boy had other reasons, and concluded he would watch the boy, and on one
day, earlier than usual, he left his tipi and hid upon a hill overlooking the tipi, and while there, he saw two boys of about the same age shooting
That evening when he returned home, he asked his son, "Is there not another little boy of your age about here?" His son said, "Yes, and he lives in the
spring." His father said, "You should bring him out and make him live with us." The son said, "I cannot make him, because he has sharp teeth like an
otter, but if you will make me a suit of rawhide, I will try and catch him."
One day, arrangements were made to catch the boy. The father said, "I will stay here in the tipi and you tell him I have gone out." So
Thrown-behind-the-Curtain said to Thrown-in-Spring, "Come out and play arrows." Thrown-in-Spring came out just a little, and said, "I smell
Thrown-behind-the-Curtain said, "No you don't, my father is not home," and after insisting, Thrown-in-Spring came out, and both boys began to
play. While they were playing, Thrown-behind-the-Curtain disputed a point of their game, and as Thrown-in-Spring stooped over to see how close
his arrow came, Thrown-behind-the-Curtain grabbed him from behind and held his arms close to his sides and Thrown-in-Spring turned and
attempted to bite him, but his teeth could not penetrate the rawhide suit.
The father came to the assistance of Thrown-behind-the-Curtain and the water of the spring rushed out to help Thrown-in-Spring; but
Thrown-in-Spring was dragged to a high hill where the water could not reach him, and there they burned incense under his nose, and he became
human. The three of them lived together.
One day one of the boys said, "Let us go and wake up mother." They went to the mother's grave and one said, "Mother, your stone pot is dropping,"
and she moved. The other boy said, "Mother, your hide dresser is falling," and she sat up. Then one of them said, "Mother, your bone crusher is
falling," and she began to arrange her hair, which had begun to fall off. The mother said, "I have been asleep a long time." She accompanied the boys
The boys were forbidden by their father to goto the river bend above their tipi; for an old woman lived there who had a boiling pot, and every time
she saw any living object, she tilted the kettle towards it and the object was drawn into the pot and boiled for her to eat.
The boys went one day to see the old woman, and they found her asleep and they stole up and got her pot and awakened the old woman and said to
her, "Grandmother, why have you this here?" at the same time tilting the pot towards her, by which she was drowned and boild to death. They took
the pot home and gave it to their mother for her own protection.
Their father told them not to disobey him again and said, "There is something over the hill I do not want you to go near." They were very anxious to
find out what this thing was, and they went over to the hill and as they poked their heads over the hilltop, the thing began to draw in air, and the boys
were drawn in also; and as they went in, they saw people and animals, some dead and others dying. The thing proved to be an immense
One of the boys touched the kidneys of the thing and asked what they were. The alligator said, "That is my medicine, do not touch it." And the boy
reached up and touched its heart and asked what it was, and the serpent grunted and said, "This is Where I make my plans." One of the boys said,
"You do make plans, do you?" and he cut the heart off and it died. They made their escape by cutting between the ribs and liberated the living ones
and took a piece of the heart home to their father.
After the father had administered another scolding, he told the boys not to go near the three trees standing in a triangular shaped piece of ground; for
if anything went under them they would bend to the ground suddenly, killing everything in their way. One day the boys went towards these trees,
running swiftly and then stopping suddenly near the trees, which bent violently and struck the ground without hitting them. They jumped over the
trees, breaking the branches and they could not rise after the branches were broken.
Once more the boys were scolded and told not to go near a tipi over the hill; for it was inhabited by snakes, and they would approach anyone asleep
and enter his body through the rectum. Again the boys did as they were told not to do and went to the tipi, and the snakes invited them in. They went
in and carried flat pieces of stone with them and as they sat down they placed the flat pieces of stone under their rectums.
After they had been in the tipi a short while, the snakes began putting their heads over the poles around the fireplace and the snakes began to relate
stories, and one of them said, "When there is a drizzling rain, and when we are under cover, it is nice to sleep." One of the boys said, "When we are
lying down under the pine trees and the wind blows softly through them and has a weird sound, it is nice to sleep."
All but one of the snakes went to sleep, and that one tried to enter the rectum of each of the boys and failed, on account of the flat stone. The boys
killed all of the other snakes but that one, and they took that one out and rubbed its head against the side of a cliff, and that is the reason why snakes
have flattened heads.
Again the boys were scolded by their father who said, "There is a man living on the steep cut bank, with deep water under it, and if you go near it he
will push you over the bank into the water for his father in the water to eat." The boys went to the place, but before going, they fixed their
headdresses with dried grass.
Upon their arrival at the edge of the bank, one said to the other, "Just as he is about to push you over, lie down quickly." The man from his hiding
place suddenly rushed out to push the boys over, and just as he was about to do it, the boys threw themselves quickly upon the ground, and the man
went over their heads, pulling their headdresses with him, and his father in the water ate him.
Upon the boys' return, and after telling what they had done, their father scolded them and told them, "There is a man who wears moccasins of fire,
and when he wants anything, he goes around it and it is burned up." the boys ascertained where this man lived and stole upon him one day when he
was sleeping under a tree and each one of the boys took off a moccasin and put it on and they awoke him and ran about him and he was burned and
went up in smoke. They took the moccasins home.
Their father told them that something would yet happen to them; for they had killed so many bad things. One day while walking the valley they were
lifted from the earth and after traveling in mid air for some time, they were placed on top of a peak in a rough high mountain with a big lake
surrounding it and the Thunder-Bird said to them, "I want you to kill a long otter that lives in the lake; he eats all the young ones that I produce and I
cannot make him stop."
So the boys began to make arrows, and they gathered dry pine sticks and began to heat rocks, and the long otter came towards them.
As it opened its mouth the boys shot arrows into it; and as that did not stop it from drawing nearer, they threw the hot rocks down its throat, and it
curled up and died afterwards. They were taken up and carried through the air and gently placed upon the ground near their homes, where they lived
for many years.
|Lodge Boy and Thrown Away
A Crow Legend
Music: Ancient Spirits by AH-NEE-MAH
|Old Man At The Beginning
A Crow Legend
At the beginning of the world, there was nothing but water.
It was dark in the world, and no one saw the water of the world.
Then the Old Man of the Crow People came into the world, and he looked all around and said, "Is there nothing in this world but water?"
Off in the distance, Old Man saw that there were two little ducks swimming about. These ducks had red eyes. Old Man called them to him. They
came swimming, paddling in the world of water.
Old Man said to them, "Is there nothing in this world but water?"
The elder duck answered, "We have never seen anything in this world but water, but we think that there may be something down under the water.
We feel it in our hearts."
"Dive down, Younger Duck," said Old Man, and the younger of the little ducks dove deep under the water, looking for the bottom. He was gone for a
long time, and Old Man said, "Oh, I am afraid Younger Duck has drowned."
"No," said the Elder Duck, "we are able to hold our breath for a long time. He will come back up." At about that time, Younger Duck came up with
something in his bill. It was a root.
"If there is a root," said Old Man. "then there must be earth as well. Dive down Elder Duck, and see if you find some earth."
The elder duck dove deep, and was gone for a very long time. When he came up, he had a ball of mud in his bill.
"This is what I have been looking for," said Old Man. He took the root and put it in the ball of wet earth, and blew three times on it. Once he blew,
twice he blew, and again he blew on the ball of earth. The ball began to grow and fill the world and push the water aside. It grew until there was a
great land, with many plants and animals living on it.
The ducks, who live in water, on land, and in the sky, brought up the earth, and Old Man made the world for the Crow People.
|Old Man Coyote Makes the World
A Crow Legend
How water came to be, nobody knows. Where Old Man Coyote came from, nobody knows. But he was, he lived. Old Man Coyote spoke: "It is bad
that I am alone. I should have someone to talk to. It is bad that there is only water and nothing else." Old Man Coyote walked around. Then he
saw some who were living --two ducks with red eyes.
"Younger brothers," he said, "is there anything in this world but water and still more water? What do you think?"
"Why," said the ducks, "we think there might be something deep down below the water. In our hearts we believe this."
"Well, younger brothers, go and dive. Find out if there is something. Go!"
One of the ducks dove down. He stayed under water for a long, long time. "How sad!" Old Man Coyote said. "Our younger brother must have
"No way has he drowned," said the other duck. "We can live underwater for a long time. Just wait."
At last the first duck came to the surface. "What our hearts told us was right," he said. "There is something down there, because my head bumped
"Well, my younger brother, whatever it may be, bring it up."
The duck dived again. A long time he stayed down there. When he came up, he had something in his beak. "Why, what can this be?" Old Man
Coyote took it. "Why, this is a root," he said. "Where there are roots, there must be earth. My younger brother, dive again. If you find something
soft, bring it up."
The duck went down a third time. This time he came up with a small lump of soft earth in his bill. Old Man Coyote examined it. "Ah, my younger
brother, this is what I wanted. This I will make big. This I will spread around. This little handful of mud shall be our home."
Old Man Coyote blew on the little lump, which began to grow and spread all over. "what a surprise, elder brother!" said the ducks. "This is
wonderful! We are pleased."
Old Man Coyote took the little root. In the soft mud he planted it. Then things started to grow. Grasses, plants, trees, all manner of food Old Man
Coyote made in this way.
"Isn't this pretty?" he asked. "What do you think?"
"elder brother," answered the ducks, "this is indeed very pretty. But it's too flat. Why don't you hollow some places out, and here and there make
some hills and mountains. Wouldn't that be a fine thing?"
"Yes, my younger brothers. I'll do as you say. While I'm about it, I will also make some rivers, ponds, and springs so that wherever we go, we can
have cool, fresh water to drink."
"Ah, that's fine, elder brother," said the ducks after Old Man Coyote had made all these things. "How very clever you are."
"Well, is something still missing, younger brothers? What do your hearts believe?"
"everything is so beautiful, elder brother. What could be missing?"
"Companions are missing," Old Man Coyote said. "We are alone. It's boring."
He took up a handful of mus, and out of it made people. How he did this, no-one can imagine. The people walked about. Watching them, Old Man
Coyote was pleased, but the ducks were not so happy.
"Elder brother," they said, "you have made companions for yourself, but none for us."
"Why, that's true. I forgot." right away he made all kinds of ducks. "There, my younger brothers, now you can be happy."
After a while Old Man Coyote remarked: "Something's wrong here." "But everything is good. We're no longer bored. What could be wrong?"
"Why, don't you see, I've made all these people men, and all the ducks I made are male. How can they be happy? How can they increase?"
Forthwith he made women. Forthwith he made female ducks. Then there was joy. Then there was contentment. Then there was increase. That's
the way it happened.
Old Man Coyote walked about on the earth he had made. Suddenly he encountered Cirape, the Coyote.
"Why, younger brother, what a wonderful surprise! Where did you come from?"
"Well, my elder brother, I don't know. I exist. That's all. Here I am. Cirape, I call myself. What's your name?"
"Old Man Coyote, they call me." He waved his hand: "All that you see around you, I made."
"You did well. But there should be some animals besides ducks."
"Yes, you're right, come to think of it. Now, I'll pronounce some animal names. As soon as I say one, that animal will be made."
Old Man Coyote named buffalo, deer, elk, antelopes, and bear. And all these came into being. After some time the bear said to Old Man Coyote:
"Why did you make me? There's nothing to do. We're all bored."
"I have made females for you. This should keep everybody busy."
"Well, elder brother, one can't do that all the time."
"Yes, you're right; it's true. Well, I'll think of something. I'll make a special bird."
From one of the bear's claws he made wings. From a caterpillar's hair he made feet. From a bit of buffalo sinew he made a beak. From leaves he
made a tail. He put all these things together and formed a prairie chicken. Old Man Coyote instructed it: "There are many pretty birds. You I
haven't made pretty, but I gave you a special power. Every dawn as the sun rises, you shall dance. You will hop and strut with your head down.
You will raise your tail and shake it. Spreading your wings, you shall dance --thus!"
At once the prairie chicken danced. All the animals watched, and soon they began to dance too. Now there was something to keep them amused.
But the bear still wasn't satisfied. "I gave you a claw to make part of this prairie chicken," he told Old Man Coyote. "Why didn't you give me my
own dance? I don't want to dance like a chicken."
"Well, all right, cousin. I'll give you a dance of your own. Thus and thus, this way and that, you shall dance."
"Old Man Coyote," the bear kept complaining, "how can I dance? Something is missing."
"How can something be missing? I've made everything."
"There should be some kind of sound to dance to."
"Why, you're right. There should be." Forthwith Old Man Coyote made a little grouse and gave him a song. Then he made a drum --how, no man
can imagine. The little grouse sang and drummed, and everybody danced.
"Why should this no-account prairie chicken dance?" asked the bear.
"Why should all those little no-account animals dance? I alone should have this dance power."
"Why, they're happy. The chokecherries are ripe, the sun is shining. All of them feel like dancing. Why should you be the only one?"
"I am big and important. So I alone should dance."
"Why, listen to him, how he talks! Be polite to me who made you."
"Ho! You didn't make me. I made myself."
"How impolite!" said Old Man Coyote. "He is threatening the little animals with his big claws." He told the bear: "You're not fit to live among us.
You will stay in a den by yourself and eat decayed, rotten things. In winter you will sleep, because the less we see of you, the better." So it was.
One day Old Man Coyote and Cirape were walking and talking. "Something you forgot," Cirape said to Old Man Coyote. "How could I have
forgotten something?" "Why, those people you made. They live poorly. They should have tools, tipi's to live in, a fire to cook by and warm
themselves." "You're right. Why didn't I think of that?" forthwith he made a fire with lightning and the people rejoiced. "Now everything is
finished. What do you think?"
"Oh, elder brother, the people should have bows and arrows and spears for better hunting. Often they starve."
"That's so, I'll give out weapons."
"Elder brother, give weapons, but only to the people, not to the animals."
"Why should the animals not have bows and arrows too?"
"Don't you see? The animals are swift; they already have big claws, teeth, and powerful horns. The people are slow. Their teeth and nails are not
very strong. If animals had weapons, how could the people survive?"
"Why, my younger brother, you think of everything." Forthwith he gave the people bows and spears. "Younger brother, are you satisfied now?"
"No, not at all. There's only one language, and you can't fight somebody who speaks your language. There should be enmity; there should be war."
"What are wars good for?"
"Oh, my respected elder brother, sometimes you're just not thinking. War is a good thing. Say you're a young warrior. You paint yourself with
vermilion. You wear a fine war shirt. You start. You sing war songs. You have war honors. You look at the good-looking young girls. You look at
the young women whose husbands have no war honors. They look back at you. You go on the warpath. You steal the enemy's horses. You steal his
women and maidens. You count coup, so brave deeds. You are rich. You have gifts to give away. They sing songs honoring you. You have many
loves. And by and by you become a chief."
"Ah, Cirape, my younger brother, you've hit upon something."
Old Man Coyote divided the people into tribes, giving them different languages. Then there was war, then there was horse stealing, then there was
counting coup, then there was singing of honoring songs. After a long time, Old Man Coyote was walking with Cirape again.
"You are very clever, my younger brother, but there are some things you don't know. Let me tell you: When we marry a young woman, when we
take her to wife secretly, how satisfying it is! What pleasure it gives us!"
"Yes, my elder brother, just so. That's how it is with me."
"Ah, but after some years, after you have lived with one woman for awhile, you lose interest. You are yearning for someone new. So you steal
someone else's wife. In this back- and-forth wife stealing that goes on in our tribe, has some fellow ever made off with your wife? A proud young
"Why yes, my elder brother. It was such a man who took a plump, pleasing young wife away from me. It would have been better if an enemy from
another tribe had done it. It would have been easier to bear if she were far away where I couldn't see them together."
"Well, younger brother, if she would come back, would you take her?"
"What, take her back? Never! I have honor, I respect myself. How could I do such a thing?"
"Ah, Cirape, how foolish you are. You know nothing. Three times my wife has been abducted, and three times I have taken her back. Now when I
say 'come', she comes. When I say 'go', she goes. Whenever I tell her to do something, she remembers that she has been stolen. I never have to
remind her. She is eager to please, she fulfills my every desire. Under the blanket she's a hot one -she has learned things. This is the best wife, the
best kind of loving."
"That's how you feel. But people mock you. They look at you sideways and laugh behind your back. They say: 'He has taken what another one
"Ah, younger brother of mine, what do I care if they laugh behind my back when, under our buffalo robe, I am laughing for my own reasons? Let
me tell you, there's nothing more satisfying than having a wife who has been stolen once or twice. Tell me: Do they steal ugly old wives, or young
and pretty ones?"
So because of Old Man Coyote's sensible advice, there was mutual wife stealing among the Crows in the old days. And that's why Crow men ever
since have taken back wives they had already divorced. In one way or another, everything that exists or that is happening goes back to Old Man
Based on a number of anthropological accounts, including Robert Lowie's "The Crow Indians."
|The Origin of Tobacco
A Crow Legend
A long time ago the Indians roamed the West like the buffalo, one family scattered and returned by change. There were no separate tribes.
One of the Indians was a woman of powerful beauty. She gave birth to twin sons, but she did not know who their father was. The beautiful woman
sang her sons to sleep with a heartbreaking lullaby, and everyone who heard it took pity on her.
Finally, the Earth agreed to claim the first son, and the stars took the second son as one of their own. From then on, the people called them
Earth-Boy and Star-Boy.
When the boys were near manhood, they began to behave a little differently from their friends. Earth-Boy stopped following the buffalo everywhere
and began to stay close beneath the willows of his home, searching for pretty rocks and carefully observing the slow growth of the plants. Star-Boy
also grew lax in his hunting, but rather than staying at home he began to wander far beyond the buffalo. He slept during the days so that at night he
could watch the travels of his star family.
One day Star-Boy's wanderings brought him to the foot of the highest mountain. No one had climbed it before, but Star-Boy started the slow climb
upward without hesitating. Somewhere near the sky, Star-Boy fainted. S shining silver man appeared to him.
The man was a star. He told Star-Boy that he was his father but that he spent his life traveling far beyond the Earth, and he said he would not pass
near the mountain again in his son's lifetime.
"And so to show my love and concern for you, my son, I will give you a gift of great strength and colors of the sunset. Keep this plant with you
wherever you wander, and in the springtime plant it everywhere you go. Tend the scarred beds, and harvest them when they are tall." With these
words, the star plunged his hands into his own silver chest. When he pulled them out again, they were full of tobacco.
He told Star-Boy that tobacco would make everyone in their family strong and free. To share the tobacco and its power, people must be adopted
into Star-Boy's family. Star-Boy listened carefully, but he was too overwhelmed to speak, he nodded his head gratefully, and his father burst away
from him, back to the sky.
When Star-Boy came down from the mountains, he found his brother Earth-Boy, and offered to adopt him and share the tobacco.
Earth-Boy laughed, and said, "Brother, you don't need to climb mountains to have visions. While you were gone, I met my Father Earth and he
taught me some secrets of my own. Your family may become powerful wanderers, but mine is going to become a family of peaceful farmers. We
will grow everything except tobacco and you will grow nothing more."
"I don't want to grow anything more," said Star-Boy, "I will follow the buffalo, and be strong as an eagle, and as free as the wind."
Earth-Boy smiled. "I will be strong as rock, my brother," he said, "and steady as sunrise. But no matter how different our families become, we will
never quarrel. Your father has given you tobacco, and mine has given me the way of the Medicine Pipe. When we smoke together, your plant with
my pipe, our fathers will give us peace and colors of the sunset."
Earth-Boy brought forward a beautiful pipe made from the rock and willow of his home. Star-Boy filled it with tobacco from the heart of the star,
and the brothers smoked together.
When Star-Boy left, some of the people went with him, hoping to be adopted into his family. Even before they learned the secrets of tobacco, the
people who followed Star-Boy took a name, and called themselves the Crow.
The ones who stayed with Earth-Boy to learn to farm were called after the willows of their home, Hidatsa.
And so the people were divided into tribes, but the power of tobacco and the pipe kept them from becoming enemies.