One time, while we were camped on the Washita, said the agency farmer, we were visited by an old Kiowa, a dignified and serious old man.
I was introduced to him as the "White Father," out there to help the red men work and to show them the white man's road.
The old man said, "Aye, is that so!" but didn't seem very much impressed. After a moment's silence he got out his buffalo-horn tinder-box and, after
carefully examining the punk with which it was filled, began pecking with his flint in an effort to light his tinder-box.
I watched him pecking away for a while, sometimes hitting the flint, often barking his leathery fingers, and at last I said to a Cheyenne: "Why doesn't
he use a match and be done with it, not sit there pecking away all night?"
This being translated to the old Kiowa, he began to speak, but never for a moment interrupted his play with the flint, and this is what he said:
"You white men think you are very wise [peck,peck]. You have made little fire-sticks, and you think the red men can't get along without them [peck,
peck]. I will tell you, we didn't have so much trouble in the good old days as we do now [peck, peck. The old man's stroke grew a little vicious.] Before
the red man had the white man's fire-stick, we didn't have so many fires and we didn't have to move every few days on account of the prairies burning
black." At this point he struck out his spark and hurriedly lighted his pipe. After puffing vigorously a few times, he continued calmly: "Now the re
man uses the white man's fire-stick; he lights his pipe, he throws away the end: the grass blazesup, and then the ponies grow hungry. It is all bad
The old man smoked in silence for a few moments, but at last resumed: "Yes, these white men think they are very clever, but they are really very
foolish; they are very ridiculous [puff, puff]. They think they are men, but look at them [puff], see the hair on their faces; they are not men, they are
only hair-covered animals."
At this everybody in the tepee cried out with delight, and I, in self-defense, joined in the laughter, but the old man remained as grave as a bronze image.
Reaching up with his forefinger, he outlined the beard upon my face and said slowly, hopefully, as if to be gently encouraging: "But they are
changing. You see, the hair is wearing away -- in spots." then settling back, he blew out a great cloud of smoke, and with patient paternal benignity
concluded: "They'll be men by and by."
|A Red Man's View Of Evolution
A Kiowa Legend
Music: Stones Against the Sky by AH-NEE-MAH
A Kiowa Legend
One day long ago a traveling party of the Kiowa People were crossing the great prairie and camped by a stream. Many of the Bear People lived
nearby, and they smelled the Kiowa People. The Bear People were hungry, and some of the bear warriors went out to hunt the Kiowa People.
Seven young girls from the Kiowa camp were out gathering berries, up along the stream, far from the campsite. The Bears came upon them and
growled to attack. The girls ran and ran, out across the open prairie, until they came to a large gray rock. They climbed onto the rock, but the bears
began to climb the rock also.
The girls began to sing a prayer to the rock, asking it to protect them from the Bear People. No one had ever honored the rock before, and the rock
agreed to help them. The rock, who had laid quietly for centuries, began to stand up and reach to the sky. The girls rose higher and higher as the rock
stood up. The bear warriors began to sing to the bear gods, and the bears grew taller as the rock rose up.
The bears tried and tried to climb the rock as it grew steeper and higher, but their huge claws only split the rock face into thousands of strips as the
rock grew up out of their reach. Pieces of rock were scraped and cut away by the thousands and fell in piles at the foot of the rock. The rock was cut
and scarred on all of its sides as the bears fought to climb it.
At last, the bears gave up the hunt, and turned to go back to their own houses. They slowly returned to the original sizes. As the huge bears came back
across the prairie, slowly becoming smaller, the Kiowas saw them and broke camp. They fled in fear, and looking back at the towering mountain of
rock, they guessed that it must be the lodge of these giant bears. "Tso' Ai'," some People say today, or "Bears Lodge."
The Kiowa girls were afraid, high up on the rock, and they saw their People break camp and leave them there, thinking the girls had all already been
eaten by the bears.
The girls sang again, this time to the stars. The stars were happy to hear their song, and the stars came down and took the seven girls into the sky, the
Seven Sisters, and each night they pass over Bears' Lodge and smile in gratitude to the rock spirit.
A Kiowa Legend
Long ago before the Comanche had the horse of the gun, winter was very hard on the people. Deep snows hid the tracks of the animals and made it
hard for the hunters to travel. It was especially hard when the snows came early.
So it was the winter that the snows came before the leaves had fallen from the trees. The people did not yet have sufficient stores laid in, and the elders
would only shake their heads when asked what was to be done. Soon it was apparent that many would not survive to see the spring.
Every day the hunters would set out in the darkness of the early morning. And late each evening they would return with empty hands; half-frozen
and exhausted from pushing their way through the ever deepening snow. Yahtenah'te was always the first hunter to leave and the last to return.
Being the youngest and strongest of the hunters, he pushed himself to go father and to stay out longer than anyone else.
At first Yahtenah'te hunted the plains surrounding the camp. Then he journeyed to the foothills. And finally entered the Wichita Mountains in his
search for game to feed his people. And so it was that he became lost.
Yahtenah'te tried to retrace his steps but the wind and snow had covered his tracks. He tried traveling North, South, East and West in hopes of finding
a landmark that would lead him back to the village. But no matter which way he went, he remained lost. Days turned to weeks and weeks into
seasons. As the years passed the memory of his village never left him, and he searched first one valley and then another in hope of finding the way
One day Yahtenah'te sat by a stream looking at his reflection. His hair had now grown thin and white and his weathered face was wrinkled with age.
As he thought on his life alone, he noticed to his amazement that the lines and creases on his face matched the hills and valleys of the mountain. He
searched the furrows around his eyes and saw the summer range of the mule deer. In the creases of his chin he saw the steep bluffs of the central
range, where he had lured many bison to their death for food and hides. Then he noticed a line he did not recognize from the terrain. Wondering if
this was a place he had never seen before, he collected his weapons and set out.
Early the next morning he reached the mouth of a broad, shallow ravine that he had never seen before. As he followed it, he could hear distant voices.
And on the wind he was sure he could smell the smoke of a cook fire. Turning a bend in the ravine he saw his village in the distance. Painted tepees.
Children running and laughing. Men tending and repairing their weapons. women preparing food. He knew in his heart that this was his village.
Yahtenah'te paused. He thought of his years alone. Of his journeys in the mountains. Oh how the Fingerprints of the Creator are upon us all. And
how we are each given all the gifts we need in this life. Raising his arms to the sky, he gave thanks to the Creator. And returned Home.
|Legend of Wolf Boy
A Kiowa Legend
There was a camp of Kiowa. There was a young man, his wife, and his brother. They set out by themselves to look for game. This young man would
leave his younger brother and his wife in camp and go out to look for game. Every time his brother would leave, the boy would go the a high hill
nearby and sit there all day until his brother returned. One time before the boy went as usual to the hill, his sister-in-law said, "Why are you so
lonesome? Let us be sweethearts." The boy answered, "No, I love my brother and I would not want to do that." She said, "Your brother would not
know. Only you and I would know. He would not find out." "No, I think a great deal of my brother. I would not want to do that."
One night as they all went to sleep the young woman went to where the boy used to sit on the hill. She began to dig. She dug a hole deep enough so
that no one would ever hear him. She covered it by placing a hide over the hole, and made it look so natural so nobody would notice it. She went back
to the camp and laid down. Next day the older brother went hunting and the younger brother went to where he used to sit. The young woman
watched him and saw him drop out of sight. She went up the hill and looked into the pit and said, "I guess you want to make love now. If you are
willing to be my sweetheart I will let you out. If not, you will have to stay in there until you die." The boy said, "I will not." After the young man
returned home, he asked his wife where his little brother was. She said, "I have not seen him since you left, but he went up on the hill."
That night as they went to bed the young man said to his wife that he thought he heard a voice somewhere. She said, "It is only the Wolves that you
hear." The young man did not sleep all night. He said to his wife, "You must have scolded him to make him go; he may have gone back home." "I did
not say anything to him. Every day when you go hunting he goes to that hill." Next day they broke camp and went back to the main camp to see if he
was there. He was not there. They concluded that he had died. His father and mother cried over him.
The boy staying in the pit was crying; he was starving. He looked up and saw something. A Wolf was pulling off the old hide. The Wolf said, "Why
are you down there?" The boy told him what happened, that the woman caused him to be in there. The Wolf said, "I will get you out. If I get you out,
you will be my son." He heard the Wolf howling. When he looked up again, there was a pack of Wolves. They started to dig in the side of the pit until
they reached him and he could crawl out. It was very cold. As night came on, the Wolves lay all around him and on top of him to keep him warm.
Next morning the Wolves asked what he ate. He said that he ate meat. So the Wolves went out and found Buffalo and killed a calf and brought it to
him. The boy had nothing to butcher it with, so the Wolf tore the calf to pieces for the boy to get out what he wanted. The boy ate till he was full. The
Wolf who got him out asked the others if they knew where there was a flint knife. One said that he had seen one somewhere. He told him to get it.
After that, when the Wolves killed for him he would butcher it himself.
Some time after that, a man from the camp was out hunting, and he observed a pack of Wolves and among them a man. He rode up to see if he could
recognize this man. He got near enough only to see that it was a man. He returned to camp and told the people he had seen a man with some Wolves.
They considered that it might be the young man who had been lost some time before. The camp had killed off all the Buffalo. Some young men after
butchering had left to kill Wolves (as they did after killing Buffalo). They noticed a young man with a pack of Wolves. The Wolves saw the men, and
they ran off. The young man ran off with them.
Next day the whole camp went out to see who the young man was. They saw the Wolves and the young man with them. They pursued the young
man. They overtook him and caught him. He bit them like a Wolf. After they caught him, they heard the Wolves howling in the distance. The young
man told his father and brother to free him so he could hear what the Wolves were saying. They said if they loosened him, he would not come back.
However they loosened him and he went out and met the Wolves. Then he returned to camp.
"How did you come to be among them?" asked the father and brother. He told how his sister-in-law had dug the hole, and he fell in, and the Wolves
had gotten him out, and he had lived with them ever since.
The Wolf had said to him that someone must come in his place, that they were to wind Buffalo gut around the young woman and send her. The young
woman's father and mother found out what she had done to the boy. They said to her husband that she had done wrong and for him to do as the
Wold had directed and take her to him and let him eat her up. So the husband of the young woman took her and wound the guts around her and led
her to where the Wold had directed. The whole camp went to see, and the Wolf Boy said, "Let me take her to my father Wolf." Then he took her and
stopped at a distance and howled like a Wolf, and they saw the Wolves coming from everywhere. He said to his Wolf father, "Here is the one you
were to have in my place." The Wolves came and tore her up.