There was a party of Gros Ventre Indians who went out for a hunt from Knife River where the old camp was, and while they were hunting, the
Assiniboins came and attacked the hunters. Some got away and were saved. A young man among them looked for his sister and could not find her.
So he trailed them to their camp. This man was an Assiniboin who had been a little boy captured by the Gros Ventre and made a slave. The girl called
him brother, but was not really related to him. When all was quiet at night he went through the camp to look for his sister. He came to a big tipi and
heard talking. Looking through a hole, he saw two men wounded whom he recognized as his own brothers. Now he had shot two Assiniboin in the
conflict (and he recognized these two as the ones he shot). Drawing his robe over his head, he entered and sat down beside their father, who was his
father too. The wounded men told their father to fill his pipe and smoke with the stranger. The boy had not forgotten his own language, so he spoke
to the old man and said, "Father, it is I." When he told what had happened to him, the father put his hands about his neck and fainted; the mother did
the same. When he told them it was he who had shot the two brothers, they all laughed over it. He told them that he was looking for his sister, and the
wounded men advised the father to call in the chiefs and tell them about her. So the chiefs arranged not to move camp for four days, but to have a
feast and call together all the slaves taken from the Gros Ventre and let them eat. Then they had a dance called the Scalp-Dance, but the sister was not
there. According to the old custom, slaves are supposed to belong to the tribe by which they are captured, so the slaves too got up and danced with
them. All the slaves knew the young man. They called him "Crow Necklace."
Before the four days were passed he said to the slaves, "Go steal some moccasins and dry meat and one of these nights we will run away." On the last
of the four nights they were all prepared. They stole sinew and cut pieces of Buffalo hide from the tents for moccasins. It was storming when they left
- young women, old and children, the young women carrying the children on their backs - and they ran North instead of East in the direction from
which they came. Coming to a dry lake, they laid down in the deep grass and the snow covered them. Meanwhile, the Assiniboin discovered their
absence and tracked after them but could not find them. They came to the lake but, seeing nothing of them, went home except one who stood looking.
Crow Necklace crept up and killed him and took his scalp.
That night they went until daylight, traveling North-East until they came to another dry lake thick with grass. There they stayed all day. Four days
they traveled in the night and hid all day. By this time they were up at the head waters. From there they came around toward the Missouri River and
came out at a place we call "Timber Coulee." At that time it was full of timber. Crow Necklace was about to push down an old tree which had an Owl's
nest on top. An old Owl said, "Don't push that tree or my young ones will get cold. We are the ones who have helped you get around to your home
again. It will be best for you to go back to your own tribe: there you will find a chief's daughter waiting to marry you." So when they wanted him to
marry some of the women he refused and said, "No! The young ones are my sisters and the old ones are my mothers." The Owl directed him, "After
leaving this place, go directly to the Short Missouri to camp, then on to Wood-Trap (right across the river West from here)? Here all the Spirits will
set traps to catch all kinds of wild animals for you to eat. When you get there, build a tipi out in the bush. Go inside and do not go out, and they will
bring you meat themselves." So they did this - fixed up nice and went in. Outside they could hear the noise of butchering going on around them.
When the noise ceased they went out and found meat cut up or wrapped in hides and laid up on scaffolds. The Owl told Crow Necklace that they were
now not far from the tribe - at the next move they would reach home. The next day they moved until they came to a high hill. Crow Necklace fixed up
a skull and painted their faces black. As they approached, they saw a woman crying on top of a hill and someone pointed her out to Crow Necklace; it
was his sister. He called to her, and when she saw him she fainted. Then the whole camp came out to meet them and everybody made much of Crow
Necklace. He told the story of their adventures and brought food for them to eat.
All the hides he had asked to have tanned in order to make Medicine after he got back home. Among them was a White Buffalo hide. So after he had
married a chief's daughter as had been foretold, he made Medicine in order to understand all the mysterious beings and leave out none of them. And
that cost him everything he had prepared - a hundred moccasins, a hundred robes, a hundred blankets - everything in hundreds.
|Crow Necklace and His Medicine Ceremony
A Gros Ventre Legend
Music: Firefall by AH-NEE-MAH
|Origin of the Sacred Arrow
A Gros Ventre Legend
Charred Body had his origin in the skies. There was a big village up there and this man was a great hunter. He used to go out and bring in Buffalo,
Elk, Antelope, until the Buffalo became scarce -they scattered out far from the village. So one day he told his close relatives, "The Buffalo seem to have
gone far away from here, and I am tired of hunting them so long. Some day they may multiply again, but now I am going to build a mound to sit on
and look over the country." He made a practice of going up to his mound at intervals of three or four days to survey the land and listen to its sounds.
One day toward nightfall he heard Buffalo bellowing. He was excited. He could not tell from what direction the sound came. He was in the habit of
changing himself into an arrow shot from a bow and thus making in one day a journey such as a man would ordinarily make in ten days. The next
day he went out to the mound, changed himself into an arrow, and went into every direction, but found no Buffalo. Back on the mound he again
heard the Buffalo, and they seemed so close that he thought it strange he could not place them. The next day when he went out to the mound he took
an arrow and stuck it into the ground, and as the ground opened up a crack, he worked the hole. There below he saw Buffalo as if the Chokeberries
are half ripe, and the bulls were fighting and bellowing. This was the sound he has heard.
He went back to his lodge and told his relatives that he had seen the Buffalo, thousands upon thousands, but since, if he went down below, it would be
difficult to pack the meat back, he decided to go down ahead and build a dwelling and his brothers and sisters-in-law should follow afterwards. They
could themselves see by looking down the hole that there would be Buffalo enough for all.
The chief of the village was named Long Arm. He was regarded as a holy man. He usually knew what was going on from day to day. Charred Body
told him of the land he had found, so beautiful and plentiful in game. Charred Body said, "I want to leave this place and go down there, but it will not
be possible to pack the meat back up here or to drive the Buffalo up here from the Earth. So I shall go down there to live and take with me all those
near relatives of mine who are bound to me like a thread of the Spider web, and we shall make our home there." Long Arm said neither yes nor no; he
uttered no word. The hunter went back to the hole, transformed himself into an arrow and flew through the air to Earth.
He came down so swiftly that as he landed on the ground the arrow struck the Earth, and it seemed as if he were stuck there for good. The place
where he landed was near Washburn by a creek some People call Turtle, but which we call Charred body Creek. There was an evil spirit in the creek
whose moccasin tops were like a flame of fire so that when he went through the forest the Cottonwood Trees would burn down. He would undo the
flap of the moccasins when he went to Windward and wave it back and forth over the ground; when he tied it up again the flame ceased. This man
feared the man from Heaven lest he establish villages or take away his land or even kill him, so he caused a Windstorm and set the Prairie on fire and
the flames charred the arrow here and there. Hence the name "Charred Body" is derived. Since the arrow could not pull himself out, he decided to
make a spring; thus he loosened himself. So he decreed that the spring would flow as long as the World would last; you can see even today where the
Charred Body established thirteen lodges. First, he looked about and found a good site and established one lodge, then another, until he had thirteen
built. Then he went back into the heavens and told what had happened and how the old man with flame about the foot had tried to kill him, how he
had found the spring and how good the game was. He made it sound so attractive. He said that he went by the arrow and hence could take down
only as many families as there parts to the arrow. He would take his nearest relatives only, with their children. The groove at the end of the arrow to
put the string into was one lodge. The three feathers were regarded as lodges; that made four. The two sinews bound about it were two others,
making six. The three points of the arrowhead were three other lodges, making nine. The three grooves circling around the arrow in a spiral made
twelve. The arrow itself was the thirteenth; there were thirteen lodges all told. The spiral is considered as Lightning; hence the arrows power. If it
does not come into contact with a bone, it will penetrate the buffalo right through.
He called his nearest relatives and embraced them, and in embracing them he gave them the power of the arrow and encouraged them to follow him.
First, he went down, then all came after and he assigned them lodges. When they first came down, the mysterious bodies down there knew that he
was also mysterious and tried to kill him, but when he pulled himself out (of the hole made by the arrow point) they knew that they had no power
against him. Before coming down, the People had made preparations and they brought seeds of corn, beans and so forth and began to plant corn on
the ground by the river and to build scaffolds for drying the corn and the meat. So they lived happily for a long time. You can see today the remains
of the thirteen villages, but obscured by high water and the ploughing farmers. I have heard that People have found arrowheads in the thirteen
After a number of years, First Creator happened to come to the village. He asked some boys playing outside who was the chief. They showed him the
way to the large lodge in the center which was Charred Body's lodge. He asked Charred Body how he came there and Charred Body told him. He
said it was well and that he wished to make friends with Charred Body; when there were two they could talk matters over and act more effectively
(than one), three were even better, but two were strong. They must therefore love one another. So they became friends, ate and talked together, and
First Creator stayed in the lodge several nights before he went on again.
When he came back, he reported that there was a big village East of them whose chief had a beautiful daughter. It was the custom in that village in the
afternoon for the maidens to go along a wide path to the river for water and for the men to line up along that path and do their courting. The married
women would go along the path outside the row. When a young girl came opposite a man who liked her, he would clear his throat and if the girl like
him, it was a good sign. The next day he would ask for a drink, and if she gave him a drink it was a better sign. So People took notice, and if a girl
gave a man a drink it became a matter of gossip, the parents came together to find out whether the two were industrious and able to run a household,
and if everything was favorable, they were married. Now the chief's daughter had a strong will and she never looked at the young men. When they
tried to catch her eye she paid them no attention. "Now, my friend," said First Creator, "You are handsome, not too slender, too tall or too short.
Your hair is long and beautiful. No one could find a blemish upon you. You would certainly make a hit with the girl, so lets go over and try our luck.
If you can get her and be a son-in-law to a great chief, you will be a renowned man."
So it was agreed, and when they came to the edge of the village to a place where the moles had dug up a mound of earth, they began to dress
themselves up. Charred Body mixed the dirt with water and daubed mud across his chin from ear to ear and upon his cheeks, brought his hair
together in a big pompadour in front and stuck a plume in at the place where he tied it up. This feather the wind waved to and fro. His robe he wore
open with his bow and arrows inside.
Today we say of a person who combs his hair to the side in a pompadour that "he wears his hair like Charred Body."
They went to a certain lodge in the village and were kindly received. When First Creator told them who Charred Body was they said, "We have heard
about him and how he had a beautiful land in the skies and liked the country down here." When he said that they had come courting, the People said,
"It is well." They went down to the path by the river and stood opposite each other and Coyote, which is another name for First Creator, said he
would give a signal when the chief's daughter came so that his friend would pay no attention to the others. She came dressed in tanned white
Deerskin with a robe of Elkskin from which the hair had been scrapped, light and pliable as a plume. Charred Body stepped in front of her and she
swerved. He turned also and she swerved again. When he was almost in front of her he said, "I wish to drink out of your cup." She said, "What you
have done is not according to our custom; you should not have moved from the line but just cleared your throat, and I shall give you no drink!" "Do
you make those streaks across your face in imitation of the charring?" He was angry, took out his bow and arrows and, as she turned to flee, shot
her twice in the back and killed her. A tumult arose and the two visitors fled back to the village.
Coyote warned Charred Body that he had done an evil deed and that this would not be the end of it. The chief was not likely to sit still and do nothing.
He had owned the land before Charred Body came there, and Charred Body must therefore build barricades and protect himself. Charred Body paid
little attention to him. "I go by the arrow and it can pierce through them." he said. "Even then," said Coyote, "You are often out hunting, and while
you are away they may send out scouts and kill all in the village. More than one village may combine against you. You may think that you can fight
them single-handed, but you have done a bad deed and this will cause your mind to stray, and while it is occupied with other things, they will
overcome you. So whatever you do, don't let anything distract your attention or you may be destroyed."
Day after day, Charred Body would go and sit on top of a hill where he had a mound and look over in the direction of the village where he had
committed the crime. He told the young men to cut up sticks for arrows and sort them out into bundles and put them under his bed. When they came
back, the sticks would be already made into arrows. Soon all the young men were supplied. But he was always in deep thought, first because of the
crime he had committed and second lest the village come against him. One day Coyote offered to go over to the village and find out what they were
planning. He said that it would take corn-balls and pemmican and spread them on the outskirts of the village, and if anyone was wounded he would
give him the food and tell him it was Good Medicine for wounds. He would pretend that he had left Charred Body because of his crime. He met them
on the way in such numbers as completely to surround the village. All who had children remained. When he had passed them, on the other side of the
hill, he saw Meadowlark and sent him on an errand to fly to Charred Body on his mound and tell him to prepare four barricades as a great force was
coming against him to avenge his crime. Meadowlark carried the message, but as soon as Charred Body got back to the village to prepare the
barricades, he forgot all about it. The enemy employed a Holy Man to make him forgetful; the Holy Man raised his hand against him and Charred
Body forgot what was to happen. Three times Coyote sent Meadowlark with the message, and three times Charred Body forgot it as soon as he
reached the village. The fourth time Meadowlark told him to make some sign on his body to attract attention. Charred Body stuck a bunch of grass
in his hair and went back to the village. Again he forgot the message. He went back to the lodge, but his head itched; he told his wife to scratch his
head, and she found the grass and said, "This is the cause of your itching!" He gave a groan and sent word to the People that the next day the enemy
would come against them; they must prepare a barricade, get arrows ready and be brave even to death. He went out and cut Bog Bush, put them
under his bed and commanded it to turn to June Bushes. When he took it out, it had become June Bush, and he peeled the bark and made more
Coyote (in the enemy's camp) said, "You have been sending out scouts but their reports are not clear. I will go myself to see what is going on." He
started on a run, fell with his foot out of joint, and claimed it was too painful to put in again and that he was now too disabled to fight with them in
the attack against the village. He said, "Way down on the river they are performing rites for Medicine, so I will go there and bring back corn-balls
and pemmican." He caused an announcement to be sounded at a distance (He must been a ventriloquist) which said; "All you who have Medicine
Bags and Mysteries, come and join in this ceremony to be performed.
He told them he had an adopted son on the enemy's camp who was Mysterious in battle. He could not be shot by an arrow and they must keep away
from him. "You will find him dressed with a bladder covering his head daubed with white clay. His body will have streaks lengthwise and crosswise.
His quiver is a Coyote's hide. He will wound many of you, but I will bring a hide for the wounded to lie on and feed them corn-balls and pemmican."
As soon as he was out of sight, he threw away his crutch, set his foot again, turned into a Coyote and ran around another way into the village and
became a man again. He asked after Charred Body and learned that he was making arrows. But a weasel had just been in to see Charred Body, and
it had scattered and trampled arrows. Charred Body had been angry and struck four times at the weasel; the fourth time it ran out and Charred Body
after it. "I told him whatever happened, not allowing anything to distract him!" Charred Body's sister was at this time with child, and Coyote told her
to go inside a celler-hole, and he would cover her over so that she would not be burned.
When the battle took place, there were four among the enemy's band who had supernatural power. One had no head, but only a big mouth from
shoulder to shoulder into which he sucked his enemies; another was an old woman with a basket which, whenever she turned, sucked in People or
birds of the air; a third was the man with the flaming moccasins; a fourth was a Beaver (called Tail-With-A-Knife) whose tail was sharp both sides.
These four helped the enemy. Tail-With-A-Knife chopped down the barricade, Flame-Around-His-Ankle encircled the village and set it on fire.
Coyote was in the thick of the battle dressed as he had described. When he saw that all was lost, he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Meanwhile, Charred Body was still chasing Yellow Weasel. It seems that there was a transformation of the Earth so that Charred Body found
himself far to the North. Yellow Weasel said, "Look back and see your own village!" He looked and saw the smoke. He wanted to get back as quickly
as possible. His eyesight would be too slow, for he would have to stop at the end of each sight, so he used his thinking power, transformed himself
into thought, and wished himself back to his village. There he found the place in flames.
Now after the battle, the enemy had withdrawn and were relating their exploits. It seemed to them as if Coyote had fought in the battle, and Coyote
heard their word as he came limping back with the hide, corn-balls and pemmican. An old bear was appointed to discover whether Coyote had been
in battle. The way he did this was to lift up his paw and put it on the person, then put his paw to his nose and smell it. When Coyote entered, the paw
was raised to test him, but Coyote put a corn-ball into the paw saying, "You greedy fellow, you want this all to yourself!" then he had the wounded
brought in and laid upon the robe, and gave them corn-ball and pemmican. He said, "However wounded you may be yourselves, you have destroyed
the village and enticed Charred Body away." And he said, "These People were just like relatives to me, and I want to go back there and walk through
the place where young men and maidens formally walked, and think about their sports and laughter and mourn there for them." So they consented
and he went on his way.
Close to the village he saw Charred Body walking among the dead. As was the custom in those days, Coyote walked up to him, put his arm about his
neck, and wept over him. Then he told him where he had hidden his sister, and they went to the cellar to see if she was alive. When they lifted up the
hide she came out, but when she saw the desolation of the village she wept and the men with her. Coyote proposed that they have a lodge, to live in
together. He faced the North, raised both eyes and he said, "I wish for a lodge facing South furnished with bedding and all things necessary and with
a scaffold in front." When they opened their eyes, there it stood just like Coyote had said. There was no food, so Coyote said, "There is all kinds of
food on the hoof; let us go out and see what we can take." They followed up the creek and killed Buffalo, cut it up, left the backbone, head and
shoulders and took the best pieces. The kidney, back-gut and liver they washed to be eaten raw. These raw parts are considered a tonic today to keep
one from sickness. The woman at the lodge cooked for them. She began to slice the meat and roast the ribs close to the fire and they felt themselves at
home once more.
After they had lived thus from day to day, bringing in game until there was plenty, Coyote went away to the enemy's camp to see what the People
were doing, promising to return again. It is an old custom with both Mandan and Gros Ventre that when a sister is alone in a house, a brother must
not enter out of respect to his sister. Only if someone else is with her is it right for him to enter. Hence Charred Body did not think it was right to stay
alone with his sister, so he went off hunting by day to bring in his choice bits of food for her and told his sister on no account to let anyone into the
house if anyone should come round asking for at the door. "No one can come in if you do not take out the crossbar," he said. One day when he came
back from hunting, he saw his sister outside looking as if she were laughing, and he took the meat and waited for her, but she did not come in
This is what happened.............
While he was away on the hunt she had heard a voice crying, "Tuk, tuk, tuk! My daughter, where can the door be?" She forgot that her brother had
told her and undid the door for the stranger. There entered a headless monster. He said, "Place me on the west side between the pillows." She said,
"Grandfather, what will you have to eat?" He said, "The best is the fat of the stomach. When I eat this fat I must have a pregnant woman lie on her
back and then I place the hot fat upon her and eat in this way." The woman was frightened and only half cooked it. He held it himself to the fire, and
the flames wrapped his hands but he did not seem to feel it. He made her lie down on the floor and place the hot fat upon her. The woman screamed
and twins were born and the woman died. The monster took one by the leg and threw it into the center of the lodge and said, "Lodge center, make this
boy your slave!" The other he threw into the spring and said, "Spring, take this child for yours!" Then he took the door-posts which forked and set
them outside and placed the woman against them and held out her lips with two sticks as if she were laughing. Then he gathered up all the food and
When Charred Body knew that his sister was dead, he made a burial scaffold for her and by means of a crude lattice he placed her body upon it and
cried bitterly. In the evening he came home and was preparing an evening meal when he heard a wee voice from the center of the lodge say, "Brother,
give me something to eat." Twice this happened; then he investigated. He cut up a splinter and wrapped fat into it and, using a torch, he looked into
the dark spot from which the voice came and found a baby boy. He brought the child to his knee. This was the child who called him "brother."
When Coyote drifted back, he found to his amazement that their sister had been killed, and he mourned her loss. One day he said, "Can't we do
something for our brother here? Let us take this baby up and wish that he grow to a certain height." This is the song that Charred Body sang: First
he took sweet grass and smoked him; then he raised him up sang, "I want my child to grow high!" Coyote sis the same. Charred Body raised him
again and sang and he became a boy of twelve. Coyote got up and raised him and sang, "I want my brother to be the height of a man," and he
became like a boy of eighteen. And at the same time, since the boys were twins, the Spring-Boy attended the same height also.
Since the boy was now grown, he was left to look after the lodge when the two went hunting, and every time this happened, Spring-Boy came out and
played with him. The name of the Lodge-Boy was A-tu-tish, which means, "Near-the-edge-of-the-lodge" and Ma-hash from Ma-ha, meaning
"Spring". He was dark and his brother was light and a little taller than Spring-Boy. The two men kept Buffalo tongues strung up and wondered why
they disappeared so rapidly. "Are there two of you?" they asked, but the boy denied it. They had to bite the tongue, and compared the mark left by
Spring-Boy's teeth, and they were different. At last, Lodge-Boy confessed that he had known all the time what happened when his mother was killed
by the stranger and he was taken by the leg and given to the edge of the wall as a slave, and his brother had been thrown into the spring. The brother
did not recall this. Spring-Boy seems to have been a kind of maverick -he did not belong to anyone. He had a long tusk and lived on water creatures
and was influenced by his wild life in the spring. If anyone tried to catch him, he would tear him to pieces with his tusk. They arranged a plan to
catch him. The boys used to play with gambling sticks and a round stone with a hole bored through. The men fixed up two Buffalo hides as a kind of
armor with a lace down the back to hold tight. In the game there was to be a dispute, and when the boy got down on his knees to look and see if the
ring lay on the stick, Lodge-Boy was to jump on his back, tangle up his hair and thrust a stick to which a bladder was fastened. If he ran for the
spring, they would catch him by the bladder. They then prepared a sweat lodge with hot stones and water ready, and transformed themselves into
arrowheads. Spring-Boy came trotting up, quick and agile, and encircled the lodge to see if there was anyone about. He complained of smelling his
brother, but Lodge-Boy told him that was because they had been there before going out hunting. He came into the lodge and was surprised to see the
bladder, Lodge-Boy told him it was used to separated the marrow from the bones. He asked about the sweat-bath and was told it was for the men
when they came home from hunting. They began to play, and when Spring-Boy knelt down to see how the ring had fallen, Lodge-Boy jumped upon
him, wound his legs about his boy, and the two boys rolled on the ground, and Spring-Boy's tusk could be heard snapping at his brother. The two
men dashed in, dragged him to the sweat-bath and began to switch him, crying, "What kind of person are you? You are a human being and you
should behave like one." Spring-Boy cried out, "I am coming to myself!" Three times they returned him to the bath and poured water and switched
his flesh; the fourth time the tusk disappeared and he lay exhausted. So they fastened up his hair and thrust a stick through it, to which the bladder
was attached. The moment he was released he ran to the spring and jumped in, but was unable to go under because of the bladder. After the fourth
time of trying to get under the water, he surrendered. They gave him water to drink, inserted two fingers into his mouth, and he vomited up all the
water creatures which he had eaten and was restored to the ways of the men.
Now there were four occupants of the lodge. Several days passed before Spring-Boy came entirely to his senses. The men he was accustomed to call,
"Your brothers" and one day he said, "I wish you would tell your brothers to make bow and arrows, two painted red and two black for me and the
same for you." Lodge-Boy said, "You always talk indirectly to our brothers, but we are twins. We are from the Sky. There is a big village where we
came from. The chief is Long-Arm and he knows everything that is going on and is called a Holy Man. When our brother Charred Body wanted to
come down here to this Earth, he asked permission, and although Long-Arm said neither yes nor no, he took it upon himself to come down here, and
this had led to the destruction of all our relatives. But the Holy Man knows what is going on below there. Our brother and Coyote went courting and
our brother killed the chief's daughter. So there was a fight, but our brother Coyote stowed our mother away in a cellar, and I knew all these things
that were going on. One of the formidable men who took part in the fight was a monster with no head but a big mouth from shoulder to shoulder
who lives around the bend of the creek. He killed our mother, and I knew all about it and thought you did too." Spring-Boy said that through living in
the spring, he had forgotten all these things. The arrows he had asked for the men made for the boys. Then they went through a ceremonial and
Spring-Boy said that these arrows, one painted black and one red for each boy, were to be kept sacred and used only in an emergency, and they were
to have other arrows for daily use.
One day as they walked near their mother's grave, Spring-Boy proposed that they use the sacred arrows to bring their mother to life. The two
brothers had watched the arrow rite. When the two hunters had gone out before sunrise, they took down the arrows from the quiver, burned sweet
grass and sang the arrow song. They did the same for the bow, resting one end of the bow on Buffalo bull manure while they strung it. Then they
went out where their mother lay. Spring-Boy placed one arrow in position, sang the arrow song and let it fly. They could see it go up into the sky like
a streak of flame. As it fell the boys cried, "Mother! Mother! Look out! The arrow is going to hit you!" The figure began to move. Spring-Boy sent
the third arrow, and this time mother sat up. Lodge-Boy shot the fourth arrow and the mother yawned and stretched her arms. She said, "I must
have slept a long time; I feel tired." The boy set up a ladder to the scaffold and the mother came down to embrace them and said, "My spirit remained
here and was about to return to my People when you sent the arrow. You are motherless and it is a joy that you have done this for me and my spirit
has returned to my body." When they returned to the lodge, she noticed at once how the meat was cut in strings, not in the nice flat pieces that a
woman is accustomed to cut. So she ate a hearty meal. In time came Charred Body and Coyote home from hunting, and as Charred Body threw
down his pack he recognized his sister and they all cried for joy, and she told him how her spirit had pitied the children and had lingered about until it
had been restored to her body by means of the sacred arrows.
Charred Body warned the boys that although they had more supernatural power than he did, they must never lie down to take a nap without sitting
four arrows in the ground, one at each of the four directions, and lying within the arrows with the head resting to the North or to the West (for even
the ordinary person should never rest his head South or to the East) and they must place their moccasins to point to the West, not toward the East,
because all spirits go to the East. Among Mandan and Gros Ventre a dead person is always placed with the head to the East.
One day the boys went out to survey the country and they came to an old man who they knew to be Flame-Around-The-Ankle. They stood side by
side and asked him to give them a demonstration of his power. He loosened the strings of his moccasin, let the flap fall, and they saw flames leaping.
They asked him to run about a cottonwood tree; he trotted about the tree; he trotted about it in a circle and the tree fell over in flames. Spring-Boy
asked to try the moccasin. "Surely you may!" He ran about a tree, then back to his brother, and then all at once he circled the old man and burned
him to ashes. Then the boys ran shouting and laughing home to their mother pretending that Flames was chasing them.
Again the boys wandered out, and as they followed up the creek, Lodge-Boy said, "Brother, right in that dense timber on the side of the hill lives the
monster without a head who carried his mouth on his shoulders. Let us go over and have a look at him!" They approached cautiously; then turning
into Chickadees, they flew over the monster's den and, perching on a tree, began to call. They filled a water bag made out of a Buffalo paunch and
had a heated stone red-hot and caused it to shrink so that they could carry it in the curve of a stick. They first got a big stone, then went into their
Mysteries and rubbed it until it became small. To this day, when we heat a stone red-hot for the sweat-bath we call it "The Chickadees' stone." When
the monster came out and opened his mouth to swallow them, they dropped the hot stone. As it went down his gullet, he thought, "It must be their
claws that scratch so!" "Enlarge, enlarge!" called the boys to the stone. He snatched the water-bag to drink and they said, "Enlarge yourself and hold
more water!" The water began to boil in his stomach and the monster burst. The boys burned up his lodge, skinned him and placed the skin on
Spring-Boy and ran back to the lodge as if the monster were after them. Its body was black; it had two tails and claws like a wildcat's. The mother
was so delighted with the victory that she danced with joy, so from that time they dance when one wins a victory, generally the women but sometimes
both women and men.
There was another mysterious spot where an old woman sucked People into a basket hung upon a post. They asked her to demonstrate her power.
The woman was afraid of them, knowing they had supernatural power. A flock of birds was passing; she waved her basket to and fro and then to the
side, and brought down the birds into the basket. Spring-Boy asked her to let him try. He took the basket, waved it as the old woman had done, and
drew the woman into the basket. Thus he killed her. Great was the joy of their mother when he brought her home dead in the basket.
All those Mysterious beings lived in the vicinity of Turtle Creek, which the People called Charred Body Creek, just about a couple of miles from
Some time later the boys heard about the Beaver-With-Tail-Like-A-Knife, who could tear open the Earth with a blow. Even today you can see where
his tail struck the Earth; it looks something like a shell-hole. The Beaver had sharp ears, but the boys laid in wait for him and Lodge-Boy shot an
arrow through his head as if it were a big pumpkin. When the Beaver was dead they cut off his tail and brought it home.
These were the beings who lived about Washburn and had allied themselves with the enemy. There might be others living at a distance, but those who
lived near were all destroyed. So their mother's brothers urged them to attempt no more such exploits, and the boys agreed that their mother's safety
was now assured. They wished, however, to wander further into the country, so they told their mother not to worry if they did not return and took
While all this was going on down below, the People in the Sky became uneasy lest the boys who had killed so many Mysterious beings below come up
to the Sky and kill them. So they held a council and asked Long-Arm to bring Spring-Boy, who was dark and reckless, up into the Sky and put him to
death. Long-Arm told them he saw nothing wrong with the boys and did not wish their death. They belonged to their own People. The father and
mother had had hard treatment and they avenged themselves justly. But the People cried out all the more against Spring-Boy and Long-Arm
accordingly used his magic power to throw the boys into a sleep in the moon. That is the origin of daytime napping. The boys grew sleepy and
remembering their brother's instruction, they set up the arrows and placed their moccasins Westward with the bow and arrow beside them and went
to sleep. Sun cast his direct rays upon them, making them sleepy. Then Long-Arm reached down to Earth to where Spring-Boy lay and picked him
up and carried him up into the air.
The People arranged for Spring-Boy's death. They dug a hole and the chief bade them set up a tree there with forked branches, but all feared to cut the
tree lest Spring-Boy come out alive and destroy the one who cut it down. They tried to persuade the women to cut it, but they said, "If you are afraid,
how much more should we weak women fear!" Then the chief decreed that a hermaphrodite should cut the tree on which Spring-Boy was to be hung.
As soon as Long-Arm brought Spring-Boy up, the People rushed upon him and beat him until he was nearly dead. They has already prepared the
form of death he was to die. A rawhide was stretched across the arms of the crotch and wound around the tree while it was wet; when dry it was
much tighter. The boy's arms were lanced next to the bone and his feet through the cords and rawhide strips were run through and brought right
around the tree so that they hung by wrists and feet. After he was securely tied, they raised the tree and set it forth into the hole. They had put an
Antelope hide, tanned soft, about his waist so that it hung below the knee, this on account of the number of women present. Over the tree they erected
a kind of bower, the cross-pieces of which were inserted into the rawhide at the top of the tree. The hole was covered in leaves. All this time the boy
said nothing, but now he spoke: "I have been delivered into your hands and I do not think evil of you, for my mother was one of you and I do not
wish to destroy you. If this were done by an enemy it would not be strange, but as you are my own People, it does not seem right for you to cause me
this agony. But you need not fear me." The People did not answer; they could not accuse him of nothing. (Today they do not put up a man, but kill a
Buffalo and cut a strip along the back leaving the tail and raise it as if the Buffalo were angry and on the other end they put the Buffalo skull without
the horns and hang this up to represent the Buffalo. They set up a bower about it and gather up the earth into a ridge on the North side and stick bog
bush into it, beginning at each end leaving a place vacant between. They use to leave this space so that when the boy died his body could be laid down.
Today they lay there the sacred Weasel or other Animals used in the ceremony. To the ridge of the West side sits the Holy Man in a robe worn hair
For three days Spring-Boy hung on the tree, then he began to get weary. Now when Lodge-Boy awoke from sleep he could not see his twin brother,
he was alarmed and, taking the shape of flaming arrow, he flew over the Earth even to both sides of the Ocean, calling the name of Spring-Boy and,
finding nothing, he returned to the place from which his brother had vanished. There he lay looking up into the sky, when he saw a streak of light at
the point where Spring-Boy had been taken through. Flying through the air he entered at the same place and saw that the land was empty where all
the multitudes had flocked after Spring-Boy. So he changed himself into a little boy with shaggy, uncombed hair and a big belly, who was
nevertheless old enough to talk, and followed the People to the field where they massed about the bower. At the edge of the field was a lodge in which
an old woman was sitting. He asked her for food and the old woman adopted him as a grandson; he waited upon her and she was glad. All this time
they could hear singing going on in the bower. He said, "Grandmother, what is going on there?" so she related the whole story of Charred Body's
descent to Earth and his crime and how the People feared the boys and especially spring-Boy because he was dark of color and reckless and how they
had cut a tree and what Spring-Boy had said about his own People destroying him. "This is the third day and night and tomorrow at noon they will
place his body on the ridge of the bower," she said, and she told him how they danced in the morning, at noon and in the evening and sang ten songs
in rotation, and how they could not stop dancing until the ten songs were sung or extend the dance beyond them. For a drum they used a long
rawhide without hair which they beat with sticks, and the dancers whistled to the rhythm of the song. The best singers beat with sticks on four small
round drums of wood covered with string on one side like a tambourine, which were to indicate the four nights of the dance. It was difficult to
remember the order of the songs correctly. These four led the singing and the whole society must sing with the leader.
So the little boy asked the woman to take him to the bower. At the door she picked him up so that he could see and asked the People to make way for
her and her grandchild. They were singing a song and dancing with whistles in their mouths and shouting to the man on the tree, "Be a man for one
day more." As Spring-boy looked about and saw his brother, a light shone about his head and he began to move and stretch as if he had been
strengthened. Lodge-Boy, fearing he would be recognized, begged the old woman to take him outside. That evening they heard again the sound of
songs and dancing. An announcer came through the village warning the young men and maidens not to sleep that night, but to keep watch lest
Lodge-Boy come to his brother's rescue, for the Holy Man thought when he saw the light that Spring-Boy's brother must have come there to
strengthen him. "My grandchild, did you hear what he was saying? He says Lodge-Boy is here!" said the grandmother. There she was speaking to
Lodge-Boy in person!
Rows of People slept at the bower to watch the place. When the old woman was snoring, the boy got up, took some Buffalo fat and went over to the
place. Some slept, others were talking and moving about. It seemed impossible to reach his brother. He changed himself into a great Spider and
crawled up to the post where his brother was. With the fat he greased his wounds, then he cut the thongs and he came down to the ground. There he
found a stone hatchet with eyes, the very one used to cut the pole, and the Holy Man knew all about it but could do nothing because the two of them
together were too powerful for him. Long-Arm went and placed his hand over the hole by which they passed through so as to catch them.
Spring-Boy made a motion with the hatchet as if to cut off the wrist and said, "This is the second time your hand has committed a crime, and it shall
be a sign to the People on Earth." So it is today that we see the hand in the heavens. Some People call it Orion. The belt is where they cut across the
wrist: the thumb and fingers also show; they are hanging down like a hand. "The Hand Star" it is called.
The boys went back to the place where they had left their arrows sticking in the ground, pulled out the arrows, and went home to their mother. She
told them that the People in the sky were like birds; they could fly about as they pleased. Since the opening was made in the heavens, they may come
down to Earth. If a person lives well on Earth, his spirit takes flight to the skies and is able to come back again and be reborn, but if he is evil, he will
wander about the Earth and never leave it for the skies. A baby born with a slit in the ear at the place where earrings are hung is such a reborn child
from the People in the skies.
While the People sang and danced about Spring-Boy in the bower, he had ten songs learned and he instituted the ceremony on Earth in order to get
power from the skies. In place of a man's body he told them to use a Buffalo skin. They should hang themselves at the wrist and tied cords to their
bodies and suspend the cords to the nose of the Buffalo skull and hand there just as he had been suspended. He said, "The person who performs the
ceremony in memory of me may have the picture of the Sun on his chest and the half moon on his back. The Sun causes things to grow and the moon
causes the moisture. Since I have named the Buffalo hide as my own body, the Buffalo shall range where People are. In regard to the tree, the
maidens of the village must be examined, and one who is a virgin shall cut down the tree and a young man, brave and unblemished, shall help her
haul the tree to the dance place. In course of time they shall marry and their seed multiply so that the People may live and not go out of existence."
The Gros Ventre (Hidatsa) People have believed in those rites. You can see where I have been lanced across the chest in those ceremonies. They took
hold of the flesh, lanced it through with a sharp knife and thrust a Juneberry stick cut about four inches long and wet with saliva through the
lance-thrust and tied it with buckskin so that it would not slip off, then pushed back the chest. It hurt at first but not later. As I ran around (after
being suspended to the tree) my feet would leave the Earth and I was suspended in air. Above my head I heard sounds like those made by Spirits and I
believed them to be the Spirits of my helpers.
The chief celebrant at these ceremonies has usually killed an enemy. He cuts off the hand, brings it home, skins it, removes the bones and fills it with
sand. After it dies he empties out the sand and wears it at the back of the neck where it flaps up and down at the back and a white Antelope hide about
his loins just as Spring-Boy wore it. Every night he uses the ridge of earth as a pillow. Since Spring-Boy hung on a tree for three days, and it took a
fourth to escape back to the lodge, the ceremony lasts four days. The men lanced have to fast. The man who sleeps with his head on the ridge is naked
and sage is strewn. The ceremony is called the Sundance in some tribes, but among the Hidatsa it is the "Hide-Beating."
The boys were worried for their mother's safety and the mother for that of the boys, so they sent the two older men and the mother to join the People
in the sky and take back the hatchet and give it to the owner. The boys promised their mother to stay below and help the People on Earth in spirit as
long as the world lasted and at the end of the world she would see them again. The greasing of Spring-Boy's wounds by Lodge-Boy was the origin of
the use of grease and tallow to heal wounds.
|The Deserted Children
A Gros Ventre Legend
There was a camp. All the children went off to play. They went to some distance. Then one man said, "Let us abandon the children. Left the ends of
your tent-poles and travois when you go, so that there will be no trail."
Then the people went off. After a time the oldest girl amongst the children sent the others back to the camp to get something to eat. The children found
the camp gone, the fires out, and only ashes about. They cried, and wandered about at random. The oldest girl said, "Let us go toward the river."
They found a trail leading across the river, and forded the river there. Then one of the girls found a tent-pole. As they went along, she cried, "My
mother, here is your tent-pole." "Bring my tent-pole here!" shouted an old woman loudly from out of the timber. The children went towards her.
They found that she was an old woman who lived alone. They entered her tent. At night they were tired. The old woman told them all to sleep with
their heads toward the fire. Only one little girl who had a small brother pretended to sleep, but did not. The old woman watched if all were asleep.
Then she put her foot in the fire. It became red hot. Then she pressed it down on the throat of one of the children, and burned the child's throat. Then
she killed the next one and the next one.
The little girl jumped up, saying, "My grandmother, let me live with you and work for you. I will bring wood and water for you." Then the old
woman allowed her and her little brother to live. "Take these out," she said.
Then the little girl, carrying her brother on her back, dragged out the bodies of the other children. Then the old woman sent her to get wood. The little
girl brought back a load of cottonwood. When she brought it, the old woman said, "That is not the kind of wood I use. Throw it out. Bring another
load." The little girl went out and got willow-wood. She came back, and said, "My grandmother, I have a load of wood." "Throw it in," said the old
The little girl threw the wood into the tent. The old woman said, "That is not the kind of wood I use. Throw it outside. Now go get wood for me."
Then the little girl brought birch-wood, then cherry, then sagebrush; but the old woman always said, "That is not the kind of wood I use." and sent her
out again. The little girl went.
She cried and cried. Then a bird came to her and told her, "Bring her ghost-ropes for she is a ghost." Then the little girl brought some of these plants,
which grow on willows. The old woman said, "Throw in the wood which you have brought." The little girl threw it in. Then the old woman was glad.
"You are my good grand-daughter," she said.
Then the old woman sent the little girl to get water. The little girl brought river-water, then rain-water, then spring-water, but the old woman always
told her, "That is not the kind of water I use. Spill it!" Then the bird told the little girl, "Bring her foul, stagnant water, which is muddy and full of
worms. That is the only kind she drinks." The little girl got the water, and when she brought it the old woman was glad.
Then the little boy said that he needed to go out doors. "Well, then, go out with your brother, but let half of your robe remain inside of the tent while
you hold him." Then the girl took her little brother out, leaving half of her robe inside the tent. When she was outside, she stuck an awl in the ground.
She hung her robe on this, and, taking her little brother, fled.
The old woman called, "Hurry!" Then the awl answered, "My grandmother, my little brother is not yet ready." Again the old woman said, "Now
hurry!" Then the awl answered again, "My little brother is not ready." Then the old woman said, "Come in now; else I will go outside and kill you."
She started to go out, and stepped on the awl.
The little girl and her brother fled, and came to a large river. An animal with two horns lay there. It said, "Louse me." The little boy loused it. Its lice
were frogs. "Catch four, and crack them with your teeth," said the Water-monster. The boy had on a necklace of plum-seeds. Four times the girl
cracked a seed. She made the monster think that her brother had cracked one of its lice. Then the Water-monster said, "Go between my horns, and do
not open your eyes until we have crossed." Then he went under the surface of the water. He came up on the other side. The children got off and went
The old woman was pursuing the children, saying, "I will kill you. You cannot escape me by going to the sky or by entering the ground." She came to
the river. The monster had returned, and was lying at the edge of the water. "Louse me," it said. The old woman found a frog. "These dirty lice! I
will not put them into my mouth!" she said, and threw it into the river. She found three more, and threw them away. Then she went on the
Water-monster. He went under the surface of the water, remained there, drowned her, and ate her. The children went on.
At last they came to the camp of the people who had deserted them. They came to their parents' tent. "My mother, here is your little son," the girl said.
"I did not know that I had a son," their mother said. They went to their father, their uncle, and their grandfather. They all said, "I did not know I had
a son," "I did not know I had a nephew," "I did not know I had a grandson." Then a man said, "Let us tie them face to face, and hang them in a tree
and leave them."
Then they tied them together, hung them in a tree, put out all the fires, and left them. A small dog with sores all over his body, his mouth, and his eyes,
pretended to be sick and unable to move, and lay on the ground. He kept a little fire between his legs, and had hidden a knife. The people left the dog
lying. When they had all gone off, the dog went to the children, climbed the tree, cut the ropes, and freed them. The little boy cried and cried. He felt
bad about what the people had done.
Then many buffalo came near them. "Look at the buffalo, my brother," said the girl. The boy looked at the buffalo, and they fell dead. The girl
wondered how they might cut them up. "Look at the meat, my younger brother," she said. The boy looked at the dead buffalo, and the meat was all
cut up. Then she told him to look at the meat, and when he looked at it, the meat was dried. Then they had much to eat, and the dog became well
The girl sat down on the pile of buffalo-skins, and they were all dressed. She folded them together, sat on them, and there was a tent. Then she went
out with the dog and looked for sticks. She brought dead branches, broken tent-poles, and rotten wood. "Look at the tent-poles," she said to her
brother. When he looked, there were large straight tent-poles, smooth and good. Then the girl tied three together at the top, and stood them up, and
told her brother to look at the tent.
He looked, and a large fine tent stood there. Then she told him to go inside and look about him. He went in and looked. Then the tent was filled with
property, and there were beds for them, and a bed also for the dog. The dog was an old man. Then the girl said, "Look at the antelopes running, my
brother." The boy looked, and the antelopes fell dead. He looked at them again, and the meat was cut up and the skins taken off.
Then the girl made fine dresses of the skins for her brother and herself and the dog. Then she called as if she were calling for dogs, and four bears
came loping to her. "You watch that pile of meat, and you this one," she said to each one of the bears. The bears went to the meat and watched it.
Then the boy looked at the woods and there was a corral full of fine painted horses. Then the children lived at this place, the same place where they
had been tied and abandoned. They had very much food and much property.
Then a man came and saw their tent and the abundance they had, and went back and told the people. Then the people were told, "Break camp and
move to the children for we are without food." Then they broke camp and traveled, and came to the children.
The women went to take meat, but the bears drove them away. The girl and her brother would not come out of the tent. Not even the dog would come
out. Then the girl said, "I will go out and bring a wife for you, my brother, and for the dog, and a husband for myself."
Then she went out, and went to the camp and selected two pretty girls and one good-looking young man, and told them to come with her. She took
them into the tent, and the girls sat down by the boy and the old man, and the man by her. Then they gave them fine clothing, and married them.
Then the sister told her brother, "Go outside and look at the camp." The boy went out and looked at the people, and they all fell dead.
|The False Bride Groom
A Gros Ventre Legend
There were two girls, sisters. The older sister said, "Lquot. We will go to look for Shell-Spitter." There was a man who was poor and who lived alone
with his old mother. He was the Loon and his mother was Badger-Woman.
He heard that two girls were looking for Shell-Spitter. He went to the children of the camp, and took their shells away from them. The girls arrived,
and asked for Shell-Spitter's tent. It was shown them, and they went to it. There stood the Loon. "What are you girls looking for?," he said. "We are
looking for Shell-Spitter." "I am he." "Let us see you spit shells."
He had filled his mouth with shells, and now spit them out. The two girls stooped, and hastily picked them up, each trying to snatch them before the
other. Then he took them to his tent. His tent was old and poor. His mother was gray-headed. He said to them, "I have another tent. It is fine and
large. I have brought you here because there is more room to sleep." The girls went inside.
Soon some one called to the Loon, "Come over! They are making the sun-dance!" "Oh!" he said. "Now I have to sit in the middle again, and give
away presents. I am tired of it. For once they ought to get some one else. I am to sit on the chief's bed in the middle of the lodge."
He told his mother, "Do not let these women go out." Then he went out, and the old woman guarded the door. When she was asleep, one of the girls
said, "I will go out to look." She stepped over the old woman, and went to the dance-lodge. Looking in, she saw the people dancing on the Loon's
rump. On the bed in the middle sat a fine man. Whenever he spit, he spit shells. The ground all around him was covered with them.
Then the girl went back, and called to her sister, "Come out! They are dancing on this man; but the one who spits shells sits in the middle of the lodge."
Then they both went to the lodge. They went inside and sat down behind Shell-Spitter.
Then the man on the ground, on whom the people were dancing, saw them. He jumped up. He killed Shell-Spitter, and ran out. He said to his
mother, "I told you to watch, and not to let those women out." Then he told her, "Dig a hole quickly!" She quickly dug a hole inside the tent. He
entered it, and then she followed him. The people came, but could do nothing. When they stopped trying to shoot, Badger-Woman came out of the
hole, singing in ridicule of Shell-Spitter's death. Before the people could reach her she dropped into the hole again. She did this repeatedly.
|Unknown One, Son of Two Men
A Gros Ventre Legend
The twins now went by the name of Two Men. Their former lodge was abandoned and they roamed at will all over the country and made a
permanent camp on the West side of the Missouri by Knife River. There you can see the ruins of the old village. The Two Men would come back to the
village for ceremonial rites, then they would be off again. When a young man of the village performed such a ceremony, if he had a young wife he
would call together all the men of the clan and deliver her to them in turn. Meanwhile they sang the Holy songs and prayed for blessings upon their
daughter-in-law. Thus these Two Men were given their son's wife and they took her out and sang songs and, without having any intercourse with
her, she bore them a son. As he grew, Two Men visited him in spirit as often as they could until he attained manhood. They drove the Buffalo within
hunting distance of the village and assured rain to bring good corn crops. Thus one day his father was killed in an Indian war and his mother died
through miscarriage. Before dying she called in a man whom she adopted as a brother because, though not a blood relative, he belonged to the same
clan, and entrusted her son to him as a brother and her mother to him as a mother. The man accepted the charge and the woman died. She was her
mother's only child. From this time on the man looked after the boy and loved him dearly. His lodge was placed close to the grandmother's, and if
they went on a winter's hunt, their camps were always beside each other. The two never quarreled; hence it was a rule that when two camps are
beside each other, there is to be no quarreling or backbiting between them.
From time to time they went hunting, as the custom was, or made gardens, Sometimes before the winter hunt the women and old men would recount
the deeds of the hunters and compare their ability to find a helping Spirit or to endure bravely the torture of hanging themselves over a cliff. Then,
pipe in hand, they would proceed to the lodge of some warrior who had shown himself brave and give him the charge of the winter camp for that year.
One year the leader decided to place the winter camp near the mouth of the Yellowstone. The people harvested their corn and stored into cellars what
corn and squash they could not carry. In those days, nine varieties of corn were known, differing in color or hardness in grain, but today some of
those varieties have today disappeared. Almost up to today it was the custom for the heralds to go through the village four days before the start and
announce the departure. In those days they depended upon dogs for transportation and the dogs were well fed and cared for. They were harnessed
with a strap of soft fur cut from the Buffalo where the fur is thickest and fastened to poles on each side. Almost over the back was a round withe bent
in a circle to which was fastened the rods as in basket work, and to this luggage was fastened. This year they made camp at Beaver Creek (on the
south side of the river). Below this creek is another creed called Beardancing Creek where there is a big meadow like a river flat, and here they made
their fourth camp.
Unknown One was now grown to be a young man and was a good hunter for his age. As they came up the river, he was successful in killing, Deer,
Elk and other game so that his brother was well provided. One night he came in with only a small portion of the game he had killed and said to his
grandmother, "On our way up I went in advance of the camp and saw a few herds to be sure, but the bulls looked scabby. I think it is going to be poor
hunting and propose that you go home and I will proved for you through the winter. But let us not tell my brother anything." So the next day he
delayed starting until the camp had gone over the hill and then the two packed up and returned to the village. At a certain place where a man eloping
with a girl had tried to shoot a rabbit and always missed it, hence called, "The place where the man missed the Jack Rabbit," they could look over the
whole village and from one hut they saw smoke rising. The boy said, "Grandmother, there must be someone remaining in the village." "That must be
the man who broke up the gambling-stick. I have heard that although he is only a middle-aged man he has been poisoned and cannot use his legs." It
was in fact this man; he had remained with his wife and daughter, a girl of marriageable age. She ran out joyfully to meet them and the young man
shared his game -the ham of the Deer, a rib, and such pieces also as are eaten raw. They insisted that the two must share their lodge, the cornmeal was
already cooked, and bull hide was placed for the old lady to sit upon.
Early next morning at dawn Unknown One rose and went hunting. About daybreak he came to a river where the antelope crossed, killed four and
carried back the parts to be eaten raw and as many ribs as he could carry. In those days they had a big log of wood burning all night covered with
ashes and the ashes were brushed away to kindle a fire in the morning. The old man was overjoyed. "I had thought that we would make snares and
catch Snow birds, but we are now provided for the whole winter," he said. Toward spring the old man proposed to his wife that as they liked the
young man, he should become their son-in-law. The wife consented. They proposed the match to the old woman, promising to look after her until the
day of her death. She told her grandson of the proposal, but he refused to consent. "I should be the laughing stock of the people if I should marry
before performing any warriors deed!" The old woman begged him to consider her loneliness, but he refused to yield. Three times the proposal was
made, three times he rejected it. The fourth time was the last chance. The old lady sat by the fire mending. She told him how old she was and how she
could not live much longer, how his own mother would wish the match, and even threatened suicide unless he would marry the girl; so rather than
this happen he promised to marry. The old people rejoiced at the news. All was prepared and there was a marriage. The young girl loved the man
dearly, as he was a handsome fellow, and she herself was a beauty. Her father gave to his daughter for his son-in-law his Eagle-tail ornament made
out of twelve feathers, and the young man was well pleased with it and hung it up in its case.
One day he was out hunting, he shot a Deer and was skinning it when he saw two men whom he recognized as his fathers. The men told him that in
order to honor their daughter-in-law, they were driving down a herd of Buffalo from the North and among them a White Buffalo out of which to
prepare a robe for their daughter-in-law to hang on the scalp-pole in front of the lodge. They made him cover the fire so that there should be no flame,
muzzle the dogs so that they would not bark. Also he must burn incense. The wife prepared a dish of corn cooked with fat and prepared the
father-in-law's tobacco for smoking. At night as the stars appeared one by one in the heavens they would come to visit his lodge. So all was done as
directed and at the appointed time Two Men lifted the bullhide at the door and entered the lodge. The coals burned without flame and the lodge was
dim. Unknown One took the pipe from a square of buffalo hide and passed it to Spring-Boy who lit it at the coals and smoked by inhaling the sweet
smoke; it was then cleaned out, refilled and passed to Lodge-Boy. Unknown One then divided the Eagle feathers, giving six to each, which they stuck
in their hair. It is for this reason that feathers are valued today by the people. Unknown One dished out the sweet corn and in no time they had
cleaned out the pot. After smoking again, the visitors advised them to bring in ice and drinking water in preparation for a heavy fog which would last
four days while the Buffalo were being brought in; then left the lodge.
Two Men had observed that the father-in-law was lame, and Spring-Boy now agreed to doctor the man. They came to the lodge a second time.
Spring-Boy had the fire rekindled with split wood and water brought in. He dipped some of the water into his mouth and gargled dour times. Then he
took more water into his mouth, chewed up some black medicine and going over to the man, took hole of the leg by the ankle, lifted it up and blew the
finely chewed medicine four times from the man's leg up to his hips. Something was seen twitching in the man's leg. Spring-Boy reached into the
instep and drew out a male bull snake and placed it in the ashes. Lodge-Boy did the same and drew out a female bull snake from the left leg, which he
laid on the ashes beside the other. He told the husband and wife to tie cords to the snakes, spit black medicine over their legs and draw the snakes out
on the snow and leave them with their heads pointing to the West, then cleanse their hands with sage-brush, and lay sage-brush at the rear, pointing
to the West. The man was now perfectly well. All that night they kept a light in the house lest the snakes escape, and the next morning they took them
far outside the village, and left them on the snow as directed. Four times the young would have stopped to leave them, and four times the wife insisted
that they should be carried farther from the village.
When the two returned they hauled the ice as directed and placed it on blocks of wood close to the door. Four days the fog lasted when they must
muzzle the dogs and keep inside. Voices were to be heard like those of women, which were Spirit voices. After four days they could see through the
smoke-hole that the sky was clear. Outside they found all the scaffolds throughout the village loaded with meat, the scaffold outside their own door as
well, and on the scalp-pole hung the white Buffalo hide. This the mother took down immediately to tan. Buffalo were to be seen roaming about
everywhere. The old man was delighted. Day by day he went through the village to drive the Ravens and Magpies from the meat. Their own store of
meat for the family was put away, the grandmother helping as she could. The bones were then crushed with a stone hammer over a flat stone, the
grease melted out and stored in Buffalo bladders. When spring came, the man erected shelters over the scaffolds to protect the dried meat. One day
the Two Men came to the boy and told him that the people were returning and would camp that night by the Little Missouri. They would send four
runners to the village and these must be well fed and given bundles of meat to carry back, for the people were famishing. So they got a good rib
roasting slowly by the fire to feed the runners and give them bundles of jerked meat to carry back to the others. Just about where the ferry is today,
that is where the camp began, and it was stretched West to the upper crossing. The next day there was a string of young men and women all the way
into the village, some hurrying to preserve meat and others to take food back to the others. Old people hobbled along on their canes eager to see what
had happened. Soon the whole village was lively with people.
Unknown One was hunting and his two fathers came to him. They told him that they could not come to his lodge now, for his father-in-law was the
kind of man in whose lodge men congregate. They warned him that although he had mysterious power, he was nevertheless human and the evil
spirits would not fear him as they did his tow fathers. Whatever happened therefore, he must never allow himself to feel fear or they would get the
better of him.
He was more cautious after this and formed the habit of going up on the lodge and looking off in a Southwesterly direction over the village. One day
he saw a big Buffalo on a ridge headed toward the river and, thinking to get a shot at it as it came to the river, he took his bow and arrows, explained
to his wife where he was going and hid himself in a ravine in the Buffalo's path. As it came along he was surprised to see that at times its body
appeared to contract. He shot, but the animal contracted its body so that all the ribs showed, and the arrow fell off harmlessly. The Buffalo ran; he
pursued. Four times he sot, but the arrow had no effect. He followed it up a coulee, came to a lodge, and was amazed to the Buffalo change into a
human being and walk into the lodge. "I told you to bring him along; did you bring him?" said a voice inside. "yes, he's standing outside," said
another voice. "I had all the points arranged where he was to shoot, but the four shots were the limit of my power. With every shot I drew the
distance toward me and succeeded in getting him here." "Son, enter in!" said the first voice.
Inside was a great serpent with a concave snake face, a big mouth, four legs with claws and a tail coiled in a heap. As the boy entered there came a
hissing sound and flames shot forth. This so frightened him that he went around the fireplace, and because of this fear he lost his memory and could
not recall his own mysterious power. A man reproved the snake and said, "Only of he brings home no game or tries to escape are you to kill and eat
him!" and to the youth he explained how the Buffalo had drawn in the country at every shot with its paw so that he was now in the North country in a
land of springs and running water where it was useless for him to try to escape. His task was to hunt Deer and bring home the whole body without
skinning it. He must then skin it and boil the guts and head for the serpent and feed him without tasting a bit himself. Then he must fill the pouch with
water and raise it to the snake's lips, throw out the remainder and taste no drop himself. This man had been in a fight with Charred Body and formed
an alliance with the chief whose daughter he had killed. He knew that Unknown One was his enemy's grandchild and had sent the Buffalo to draw
him to his lodge.
The boy went out, shot and killed a Deer, cut down the skin over the shinbone and took out the bone, leaving the hoof, which he brought crosswise
through a slit cut in the skin so that he could hang the Deer over his shoulder. The snake hissed loudly as he came in, and even when the man quieted
it, still humped it's back and grumbled. The boy saw no way of escape. He skinned the Deer in the customary manner by cutting the throat and
drawing out the insides. These he threw to the snake and watch him swallow them down without chewing just like feeding grain to a thrashing
machine. He roasted ribs, brought pieces of board and placed them in front of the man and laid cooked meat before him. When the man had eaten, he
threw every bone into the fire so that the boy could not get a taste. After this the boy took the water-bag made of Buffalo pouch laced into a kind of
kettle, carried it to the river and, wading out to the middle where the water ran clear and cool, he brought it back filled to the brim and lifting it with
great difficulty to the man's mouth, gave him what he could drink and poured out the rest outside without tasting a drop. Then he took string and a
stone axe and went after firewood. He was commanded to bring no rotten sticks but dry wood fit for firewood and to drink no water on the way.
"Should you disobey me in the slightest in one of these commands," said the man, "you will die. This Earth with us is like a small dish out of which you
cannot escape." So during his captivity the boy had little liberty except when out hunting; it was just as if he were shut up in a penitentiary. During
the night the fear of the serpent kept him awake. The man slept on the left of the door, the boy on the right, the bull near the center. Under him there
was not even straw and he had neither pillow or robe.
For three days the same thing happened. On the fourth day he had become so weak that when he got the Deer on his back he was unable to lift it. As
he lay on his back crying he saw a bright light pass across the sky and heard a voice crying, "Where are you?" The Two Men had become alarmed and
were out looking for him. With their backs against each other they were traveling all over the sky. They had searched the mountains in the West, the
ocean, but had not thought of the North. The boy suddenly realized that he also had mysterious powers but had allowed his mind to become
distracted. He got up, took up his arrow that slid farthest and wet it across his mouth to indicate that it was the voice that the arrow was to carry,
with a call for help. Had he not wet it, the arrow would have gone through the air with a flash of light but carried no sound with it. He strung his
bow, tested the string, strung the arrow and called out twice to Spring-Boy and Lodge-Boy, "Hey-h-h!Hey-h-h!" Then he let go the arrow and it shot
through the air like a flame with a sound tearing and came down again beside the boy. The two men followed it and he was overjoyed. Lodge-Boy
looked at him sadly, thinking how he must have suffered, but Spring-Boy laughed and asked how he could possibly have become so emaciated.
"Whoever it is, the enemy shall not escape my hand today," he promised.
The boy related this story and as he laid his ear against the Deer he heard a ringing sound in his right ear. This is a sign of glad news; a ringing sound
in the left ear is a sign of bad luck. The men told him that the serpent had caused him to lose his wits and this ringing sound was the return of his
consciousness of power. The men shot a fat old Buffalo for the boy to eat. They cut out the leg bone and used it to strike the backbone loose so that
they could cut up the ribs and gave him a piece of the raw liver to eat. Then they accompanied him to the lodge and told him to go in as usual, but
when the man had finished drinking to throw the rest of the water upon him and they would enter and take care of the situation.
All was done as they had said. They bound the serpent from its head to its tail and threw it into the fire. They shot the man and burned him with the
serpent. But the Buffalo they spared. This was the leader of the Buffalo who had brought in the herd for the boy's marriage feast, but he had been
taken into captivity by the man. He promised to do them no harm; only when they made sacrifices and did not perform the ritual correctly would he
allow them or their ponies to be gored. Then the two set the boy between them, Spring-Boy to the right and Lodge-Boy to the left, and made a leap and
landed beside the river near the village. All the family who had been mourning for him rejoiced. The young man became a great chief.
|Gros Ventre (Hidatsa) Legends