A young man lived with his grandmother. He was a good hunter and wished to marry. He knew a girl who was a good moccasin maker, but she belonged
to a great family. He wondered how he could win her.
One day she passed the tent on her way to get water at the river. His grandmother was at work in the tipi with a pair of old worn-out sloppy moccasins.
The young man sprang to his feet. "Quick, grandmother! Let me have those old sloppy moccasins you have on your feet!" he cried.
"My old moccasins, what do you want of them?" cried the astonished woman.
"Never mind! Quick! I can't stop to talk," answered the grandson as he caught up the old moccasins the old lady had doffed, and put them on. He threw a
robe over his shoulders, slipped through the door, and hastened to the watering place. The girl had just arrived with her bucket.
"Let me fill your bucket for you," said the young man.
"Oh, no, I can do it," the girl said.
"Oh, let me, I can go in the mud. You surely don't want to soil your moccasins," and taking the bucket he slipped in the mud, taking care to push his sloppy
old moccasins out so the girl could see them. She giggled outright.
"My, what old moccasins you have!" she cried.
"Yes, I have nobody to make me a new pair," he answered.
"Why don't you get your grandmother to make you a new pair?" she asked.
"she's old and blind and can't make them any longer. That's why I want you," he answered.
"Oh, you're fooling me. You aren't speaking the truth," she said.
"Yes, I am. If you don't believe -- come with me now!" said the man.
The girl looked down; so did the youth. At least he said softly, "Well, which is it? Shall I take up your bucket, or will you go with me?"
And she answered, still more softly, "I guess I'll go with you!"
The girl's aunt came down to the river, wondering what kept her niece so long. In the mud she found two pairs of moccasin tracks close together; at the
edge of the water stood an empty keg.
|A Bashful Courtship
A Lakota Legend
Music: Sun Circle by AH-NEE-MAH
|A Little Brave and the Medicine Woman
A Lakota Legend
A village of Indians moved out of winter camp and pitched their tents in a circle on high land overlooking a lake. A little way down the hill was a grave.
Choke cherries had grown up, hiding the grave from view. But as the ground had sunk somewhat, the grave was marked by a slight hollow.
One of the villagers going out to hunt took a short cut through the choke cherry bushes. As he pushed them aside he saw the hollow grave, but thought it
was a washout made by the rains.
But as he moved to step over it, to his great surprise he stumbled and fell. Made curious by his mishap, he drew back and tried again; but again he fell.
When he came back to the village he told the old men what had happened to him. They remembered then that a long time before there had been buried there
a medicine woman or conjurer. Doubtless it was her medicine that made him stumble.
The story of the villager's adventure spread through the camp and made many curious to see the grave. Among others were six little boys who were,
however, rather timid, for they were in great awe of the dead medicine woman. But they had a little playmate named Brave, a mischievous little rogue,
whose hair was always unkempt and tossed about and who was never quiet for a moment.
"Let us ask Brave to go with us," they said. And they went as a group to see him.
"All right," said Brave; "I will go with you. But I have something to do first. You go on around the hill that way, and I will hasten around this way, and
meet you a little later near the grave."
So the six little boys went on as bidden until they came to a place near the grave. There they halted.
"Where is Brave?" they asked.
Now Brave, full of mischief, had thought to play a joke on his little friends. As soon as they were well out of sight he had sped around the hill to the shore of
the lake and sticking his hands in the mud had rubbed it over his face, plastered it in his hair, and soiled his hands until he looked like a new risen corpse
with the flesh rotting from his bones. He then went and lay down in the grave and awaited the boys.
When the six little boys came they were more timid than ever when they did not find Brave; but they feared to go back to the village without seeing the
grave, for fear the old men would call them cowards.
So they slowly approached the grave and one of them timidly called out, "Please, grandmother, we won't disturb your grave. We only want to see where
you lie. Don't be angry."
At once a thin quavering voice, like an old woman's, called out, "Han, han, takoja, hechetuya, hechetuya! Yes, yes, that's right, that's right."
The boys were frightened out of their senses, believing the old woman had come to life.
"Oh, grandmother," they grasped, "don't hurt us; please don't, we'll go."
Just then Brave raised his muddy face and hands up through the choke cherry bushes. With the oozy mud dripping from his features he looked like some
very witch just raised from the grave. The boys screamed outright. One fainted. The rest ran yelling up the hill to the village, where each broke at once for
his mother's tipi.
As all the tents in a Lakota camping circle face the center, the boys as they came tearing into camp were in plain view from the tipi's. Hearing the
screaming, every woman in camp ran to her tipi door to see what had happened. Just then little Brave, as badly scared as the rest, came rushing in after
them, his hair on end and covered with mud and crying out, all forgetful of his appearance, "It's me, it's me!"
The women yelped and bolted in terror from the village. Brave dashed into his mother's tipi, scaring her out of her wits. Dropping pots and kettles, she
tumbled out of the tent to run screaming with the rest. Not a single villager came near poor Little Brave until he had gone down to the lake and washed
A Lakota Legend
There once was a woman called Black Corn. She lived in a village surrounded by incredible beauty. There was beauty in the forest, in the plains, in the sky
above and the earth below. Black Corn was very tall, taller than all of the other women of her village, indeed, taller than most of the men as well. Strong
of limb she was and fair to see. Yet deep within were hidden deeper waters, roiling with discontent and..... Well, no one really knew what else, not even
Black Corn was very unhappy, she had so much love to give, yet could not seem to find the one to give it to. All she wanted to do is love someone and have
someone love her. She loved her People dearly and did all she could for them, even to the point of sacrificing her own wants to help her People.
Many gifts she had been given by Wakan Tanka, but could not seem to find them when she needed them the most. She was taunted by many for things she
could not understand, she began believing, at first resistantly, then willingly that the lies and the actions were deserved. When she would gaze upon her
image in the still waters of the pond, she would think "you are too direct, too tall, too strong, too much... Well, too much everything! You have too much
passion, too much love, too much... Well, too much everything, and no one wants what you have to give!"
Yet the love she held inside for all the People was full to bursting within her breast and all she wanted was someone who would accept her love. All she
wanted was for the People to accept her love and what she could give them. Down and down she went with no one to love, no People who wanted her love,
or so she thought.
Then, one day, after a particularly difficult incident, she awakened as if from a dream and thought to herself, "Why is it this way? What did I do that was
so awful that I should be treated in this manner?" deep inside herself she looked for an answer to these questions. Deeply, beyond all of the hurt, all of the
pain that had been put upon her, behind the men who had used her without her consent, and eventually, as her self-respect dwindled, with her consent. So
many judgements had been passed on her but none so harsh as what she had passed upon herself.
The deeper she looked, the uglier it became, and the faster the anger rose until it was full-blown rage. White hot the rage burned and coursed through her
body. Blindingly it raged, but this too was another illusion. Yes, the rage was a deception, a shield to protect her from what laid beneath.
Finally she could hide no longer behind the rage and sorrow that she had desperately tried to hide over the years. It came at her like a tidal wave and she
stood defenseless in its path. She no longer had the strength to fight; nothing left to stem the flood, so she stood helpless in its path, no shield to protect her
Out she ran into the forest, hearing the tiny voice inside screaming in agony, dying, dying, dying, screaming.
NNNNNOOOOOOOOoooooooo... And she just knew that all she had ever thought that she was slowly dying a painful death. Finally, she could help herself
no more and cried out in anguish, clutching at the pain in her breast, feeling herself slipping away. She cried out, in full voice, which held all of the pain and
agony, begging, at her most pitiful for Wakan Tanka to take her away from this pain.
"Please, please Wakan Tanka, Tunkasila, I can bear this life, this pain, no more, it is too much. Please, please, take me home, please let me have peace!"
And when she had finished crying out these words and prayers, and all of the ugliness that was inside her had been given voice, the sound so awful to hear
that not even the animals or birds made a sound out of respect for her pain, she lay herself down on the damp sweet smelling forest floor. Her soul ripped
open and flayed a bloody mess before her and before the Creator, she finally saw the truth.
It began when she was 7 summers old; she would go into the forest to play. One day a strange man came upon her and began to speak with her. His
words were intriguing and he spoke of grown-up things that she liked to hear about. Eventually this stranger seduced her as a child, and as a child, not
knowing any better, had allowed it. Many years would pass before Black Corn realized what had been done to her, and when she did realize, she issued a
judgement so severe upon herself that she began to believe that she was unworthy of love. She lost all respect for herself and, indeed, this is what she
projected unknowingly to everyone she came into contact with. The voices of the others that would taunt her were really reflections of her own voice
within that she could not, until now, listen to.
In that moment of her defeat, laying on the forest floor, she began to see with clarity what was that made the People treat her as they were, and with that
knowing, she began to cry, great heart wrenching cries that tore at the very fabric of her soul and thus began the cleansing process from within. She found
that while she had forgiven that strange man his trespass against her, she had never forgiven herself for her part in it, she had never taken responsibility
for it either, preferring to live in a fantasy in her mind that she had been the victim, all the while feeling the guilt of the participant. There had been one
other who had used her in this fashion, a relative, who did not know of the first stranger. But by then, the damage to her soul had been done and, while not
realizing why it was so, she allowed herself to be degraded even more by this second man.
After that, there was no room for self-respect or self-love, feeling as she did that she was unworthy for the things she had done.
After the sobbing had subsided, Black Corn began to feel differently, having accepted everything that was ugly inside of her, she began to heal. Finally,
after all of these years. It took a long time, but finally she was able to forgive herself as well as forgive those who took her unfairly and in bad faith, took
her innocence and made something ugly out of it, all the while accepting her own responsibility in it as well. Finally she was able to forgive herself. With
that forgiving, there was now room for love; all of the love she wanted to give the People was the love that she had been denying herself. Once she could
learn to love herself and accept herself, she could also love the People much more than she ever thought possible, and the People rejoiced!
You see, they had always loved Black Corn, but because she did not love herself, she could not see this, she would not ever have seen it if she had not asked
herself, "why am I being treated this way". The answer was within her all the time.... This was Wakan Tanka's answer to her prayers; this was his gift to
|Dance In A Buffalo Skull
A Lakota Legend
It was night upon the prairie. Overhead the stars were twinkling bright their red and yellow lights. The moon was young. A silvery thread among the
stars, it soon drifted low beneath the horizon. Upon the ground the land was pitch black.
There are night people on the plain who love the dark. Amid the black level land they meet to frolic under the stars. Then when their sharp ears hear any
strange footfalls nigh they scamper away into the deep shadows of night.
There they are safely hid from all dangers, they think.
Thus it was that one very black night, afar off from the edge of the level land, out of the wooded river bottom glided forth two balls of fire. They came
farther and farther into the level land. They grew larger and brighter. The dark hid the body of the creature with those fiery eyes. They came on and on,
just over the tops of the prairie grass. It might have been a wildcat prowling low on soft, stealthy feet.
Slowly but surely the terrible eyes drew nearer and nearer to the heart of the level land. There in a huge old buffalo skull was a gay feast and dance! Tiny
little field mice were singing and dancing in a circle to the boom-boom voice of a wee, wee drum. They were laughing and talking among themselves while
their chosen singers sang loud a merry tune.
They built a small open fire within the center of their queer dance house. The light streamed out of the buffalo skull through all the curious sockets and
holes. A light on the plain in the middle of the night was an unusual thing.
But so merry were the mice they did not hear the "king, king" of sleepy birds disturbed by the unaccustomed fire.
A pack of wolves, fearing to come nigh this night fire, stood together a little distance away, and, turning their pointed noses to the stars, howled and yelped
most dismally. Even the cry of the wolves was unheeded by the mice within the lighted buffalo skull.
They were feasting and dancing; they were singing and laughing -those funny little furry fellows. All the while across the dark from out the low river
bottom came that pair of fiery eyes. Now closer and more swift, now fiercer and glaring, the eyes moved toward the buffalo skull. All unconscious of
those fearful eyes, the happy mice nibbled at dried roots and venison. The singers had started another song.
The drummers beat the time, turning their heads from side to side in rhythm. In a ring around the fire hopped the mice, each bouncing hard on his two
hind feet. Some carried their tails over their arms, while others trailed them proudly along. Ah, very near are those round yellow eyes! Very low to the
ground they seem to creep -creep toward the buffalo skull.
All of a sudden they slide into the eye-sockets of the old skull. "Spirit of the buffalo!" squeaked a frightened mouse as he jumped out from a hole in the back
part of the skull.
"A cat! A cat!" cried other mice as they scrambled out of holes both large and snug. Noiseless they ran away into the dark.
A Lakota Legend
Long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision.
In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider.
Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.
As he spoke, Iktomi, the spider, took the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horse hair, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web.
He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life - and how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to
old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.
"But," Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, "in each time of life there are many forces - some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces,
they will steer you in the right direction. But if you listen to the bad forces, they will hurt you and steer you in the wrong direction."
He continued, "There are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the Great Spirit and all
of his wonderful teachings."
All the while the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web starting from the outside and working toward the center.
When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the Lakota elder the web and said, "See, the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the center of the circle."
He said, "Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people's ideas, dreams and visions.
"If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good ideas - and the bad ones will go through the hole."
The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Sioux Indians use the dream catcher as the web of their life.
It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.
The good in their dreams are captured in the web of life and carried with them - but the evil in their dreams escapes through the hole in the center of the web
and are no longer a part of them.
They believe that the dream catcher holds the destiny of their lives.
|How the Lakota Sioux Came To Be Brule
A Lakota Legend
This story was told to me by a Santee grandmother.
A long time ago, a really long time when the world was still freshly made, Unktehi the water monster fought the people and caused a great flood. Perhaps
the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, was angry with us for some reason. Maybe he let Unktehi win out because he wanted to make a better kind of human
Well, the waters got higher and higher. Finally everything was flooded except the hill next to the place where the sacred red pipe stone quarry lies today.
The people climbed up there to save themselves, but it was no use. The water swept over that hill. Waves tumbles the rocks and pinnacles, smashing them
down on the people. Everyone was killed, and all the blood jelled, making one big pool.
The blood turned to pipe stone and created the pipe stone quarry, the grave of those ancient ones. That's why the pipe, made of that red rock, is so sacred to
us. Its red bowl is the flesh and blood of our ancestors, its stem is the backbone of those people long dead, the smoke rising from it is their breath. I tell
you, that pipe, that *chanunpa*, comes alive when used in a ceremony; you can feel power flowing from it.
Unktehi, the big water monster, was also turned to stone. Maybe Tunkshila, the Grandfather Spirit, punished her for making the flood. Her bones are in
the Badlands now. Her back forms a long high ridge, and you can see her vertebrae sticking out in a great row of red and yellow rocks. I have seen them.
It scared me when I was on that ridge, for I felt Unktehi. She was moving beneath me, wanting to topple me.
Well, when all the people were killed so many generations ago, one girl survived, a beautiful girl. It happened this way: When the water swept over the
hill where they had tried to seek refuge, a big spotted eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, swept down and let her grab hold of his feet. With her hanging on, he flew
to the top of a tall tree which stood on the highest stone pinnacle in the Black Hills. This was the eagle's home. It became the only spot not covered with
If the people had gotten up there, they would have survived, but it was a needle-like rock as smooth and steep as the skyscrapers you got now in the big
cities. My grandfather told me that maybe the rock was not in Black Hills; maybe it was the Devil's Tower, as white men call it, that place in Wyoming.
Both places are sacred. Wanblee kept that beautiful girl with him and made her his wife. There was a closer connection then between people and animals,
so he could do it. The eagle's wife became pregnant and bore him twins, a boy and a girl. She was happy, and said: "Now we will have people again.
*Washtay*, it is good."
The children were born right there, on top of that cliff. When the waters finally subsided, Wanblee helped the children and their mother down from his
rock and put them on the earth, telling them: "Be a nation, become a great Nation - the Lakota Oyate."
The boy and girl grew up. He was the only man on earth, she the only woman of child-bearing age. They married; they had children. A nation was born.
So we are descended from the eagle. We are an eagle nation. That is good, something to be proud of, because the eagle is the wisest of birds. He is the
Great Spirit's messenger; he is a great warrior. That is why we always wore the eagle plume, and still wear it. We are a great nation.
It is I, Lame Deer, who said this.
[Told by Lame Deer in Winner, South Dakota, in 1969.]
Iktomi is a spider fairy. He wears brown deerskin leggings with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on his feet.
His long black hair is parted in the middle and wrapped with red, red bands. Each round braid hangs over a small brown ear and falls forward over his
He even paints his funny face with red and yellow, and draws big black rings around his eyes. He wears a deerskin jacket, with bright colored beads
sewed tightly on it. Iktomi dresses like a real Lakota brave. In truth, his paint and deerskins are the best part of him - if ever dress is part of man or fairy.
Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in mischief. He prefers to spread a snare rather than to earn the smallest thing with honest hunting.
Why! -he laughs outright with wide open mouth when some simple folk are caught in a trap, sure and fast.
He never dreams another lives so bright as he. Often his own conceit leads him hard against the common sense of simpler people. Poor Iktomi cannot help
being a little imp. And so long as he is a naughty fairy, he cannot find a single friend.
No one helps him when he is in trouble. No one really loves him. Those who come to admire his handsome beaded jacket and long fringed leggings soon
go away sick and tired of his vain, vain words and heartless laughter.
Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped wigwam upon the plain.
|Iktomi and the Coyote
A Lakota Legend
Afar off upon a large level land, a summer sun was shining bright. Here and there over the rolling green were tall branches of coarse gray weeds. Iktomi
in his fringed buckskins walked alone across the prairie with a black bare head glossy in the sunlight.
He walked through the grass without following any well-worn footpath. From one large bunch of coarse weeds to another he wound his way about the
great plain. He lifted his foot lightly and placed it gently forward like a wildcat prowling noiselessly through the thick grass. He stopped a few steps away
from a very large bunch of wild sage.
From shoulder to shoulder he tilted his head. Still farther he bent from side to side, first low over one hip and then over the other. Far forward he stooped,
stretching his long thin neck like a duck, to see what lay under a fur coat beyond the bunch of coarse grass. A sleek gray-faced prairie wolf!
His pointed black nose tucked in between his four feet drawn snugly together; his handsome bushy tail wound over his nose and feet; a coyote fast asleep
in the shadow of a bunch of grass! - this is what Iktomi spied.
Carefully he raised one foot and cautiously reached out with his toes. Gently, gently he lifted the foot behind and placed it before the other. Thus he came
nearer and nearer to the round fur ball lying motionless under the sage grass. Now Iktomi stood beside it, looking at the closed eyelids that did not quiver
the least bit.
Pressing his lips into straight lines and nodding his head slowly, he bent over the wolf. He held his ear close to the coyote's nose, but not a breath of air
stirred from it. "Dead!" said he at last. "Dead, but not long since he ran over these plains! See! -there in his paw is caught a fresh feather. He is nice fat
Taking hold of the paw with the bird feather fast on it, he exclaimed, "Why, he is still warm! I'll carry him to my dwelling and have a roast for my evening
meal. Ah-ha!" he laughed, as he seized the coyote by its two fore paws and its two hind feet and swung him over head across his shoulders.
The wolf was large and the tipi was far across the prairie. Iktomi trudged along with his burden, smacking his hungry lips together. He blinked his eyes
hard to keep out the salty perspiration streaming down his face. All the while the coyote on his back lay gazing into the sky with wide open eyes. His long
white teeth fairly gleamed as he smiled and smiled. "To ride on one's own feet is tiresome, but to be carried like a warrior from a brave fight is great fun!"
said the coyote in his heart.
He had never been borne on any one's back before and the new experience delighted him. He lay there lazily on Iktomi's shoulders, now and then blinking
blue winks. Did you never see a birdie blink a blue wink? This is how it first became a saying among the plains people.
When a bird stands aloof watching your strange ways, a thin bluish white tissue slips quickly over his eyes and as quickly off again; so quick that you
think it was only a mysterious blue wink. Sometimes when children grow drowsy they blink blue winks, while others who are too proud to look with
friendly eyes upon people blink in this cold bird-manner.
The coyote was affected by both sleepiness and pride. His winks were almost as blue as the sky. In the midst of his new pleasure the swaying motion
ceased. Iktomi had reached his dwelling place.
The coyote felt drowsy no longer, for in the next instant he was slipping out of Iktomi's hands. He was falling, falling through space and then he struck the
ground with such a bump he did not wish to breathe for a while. He wondered what Iktomi would do, thus he lay still where he fell. Humming a
dance-song, one from his bundle of mystery songs, Iktomi hopped and darted about at an imaginary dance and feast.
He gathered dry willow sticks and broke them in two against his knee. He built a large fire out of doors. The flames leaped up high in red and yellow
streaks. Now Iktomi returned to the coyote who had been looking on through his eyelashes.
Taking him again by his paws and hind feet, he swung him to and fro. Then as the wolf swung toward the red flames, Iktomi let him go. Once again the
coyote fell through space. Hot air smote his nostrils. He saw red dancing fire, and now he struck a bed of crackling embers.
With a quick turn he leaped out of the flames. From his heels were scattered a shower of red coals upon Iktomi's bare arms and shoulders.
Dumbfounded, Iktomi thought he saw a spirit walk out of his fire.
His jaws fell apart. He thrust a palm to his face, hard over his mouth!
He could scarce keep from shrieking. Rolling over and over on the grass and rubbing the sides of his head against the ground, the coyote soon put out the
fire on his fur. Iktomi's eyes were almost ready to jump out of his head as he stood cooling a burn on his brown arm with his breath.
Sitting on his haunches, on the opposite side of the fire from where Iktomi stood, the coyote began to laugh at him. "Another day, my friend, do not take
too much for granted. Make sure the enemy is stone dead before you make a fire!"
Then off he ran so swiftly that his long bushy tail hung out in a straight line with his back.
|Iktomi and the Ducks
A Lakota Legend
One day Iktomi sat hungry within his tipi. Suddenly he rushed out, dragging after him his blanket. Quickly spreading it on the ground, he tore up dry tall
grass with both his hands and tossed it fast into the blanket.
Tying all the four corners together in a knot, he threw the light bundle of grass over his shoulder. Snatching up a slender willow stick with his free left
hand, he started off with a hop and a leap. From side to side bounced, the bundle on his back, as he ran light-footed over the uneven ground.
Soon he came to the edge of the great level land. On the hilltop he paused for breath. With wicked smacks of his dry parched lips, as if tasting some tender
meat, he looked straight into space toward the marshy river bottom. With a thin palm shading his eyes from the western sun, he peered far away into the
lowlands, munching his own cheeks all the while.
"Ah-ha!" grunted he, satisfied with what he saw. A group of wild ducks were dancing and feasting in the marshes. With wings outspread, tip to tip, they
moved up and down in a large circle. Within the ring, around a small drum, sat the chosen singers, nodding their heads and blinking their eyes.
They sang in unison a merry dance-song, and beat a lively tattoo on the drum. Following a winding footpath near by, came a bent figure of a Lakota
brave. He bore on his back a very large bundle. With a willow cane he propped himself up as he staggered along beneath his burden.
"Ho! Who is there?" called out a curious old duck, still bobbing up and down in the circular dance. Hereupon the drummers stretched their necks till they
strangled their song for a look at the stranger passing by.
"Ho, Iktomi! Old fellow, pray tell us what you carry in your blanket. Do not hurry off! Stop! Halt!" urged one of the singers.
"Stop! Stay! Show us what is in your blanket!" cried out other voices.
"My friend, I must not spoil your dance. Oh, you would not care to see if you only knew what is in my blanket. Sing on! Dance on! I must not show you
what I carry on my back," answered Iktomi, nudging his own sides with his elbows.
This reply broke up the ring entirely. Now all the ducks crowded about Iktomi. "We must see what you carry! We must know what is in your blanket!"
they shouted in both his ears. Some even brushed their wings against the mysterious bundle.
Nudging himself again, wily Iktomi said, "My friends, It is only a pack of songs I carry in my blanket."
"Oh, then let us hear your songs!" cried the curious ducks.
At length Iktomi consented to sing his songs. With delight all the ducks flapped their wings and cried together, "Hoye! Hoye!" Iktomi, with great care, laid
down his bundle on the ground. "I will build first a round straw house, for I never sing my songs in the open air," said he.
Quickly he bent green willow sticks, planting both ends of each pole into the earth. These he covered thick with reeds and grasses. Soon the straw hut was
ready. One by one the fat ducks waddled in through a small opening, which was the only entranceway. Beside the door Iktomi stood smiling, as the ducks,
eying his bundle of songs, strutted into the hut.
In a strange low voice Iktomi began his queer old tunes. All the ducks sat round-eyed in a circle about the mysterious singer. It was dim in that straw hut,
for Iktomi had not forgotten to cover up the small entranceway. All of a sudden his song burst into full voice. As the startled ducks sat uneasily on the
ground, Iktomi changed his tune into a minor strain. These were the words he sang:
"Istokmus wacipo, tuwayatunwanpi kinhan ista nishashapi kta," which is, "With eyes closed you must dance. He who dares to open his eyes, forever red
eyes shall have."
Up rose the circle of seated ducks and holding their wings close against their sides began to dance to the rhythm of Iktomi's song and drum. With eyes
closed they did dance! Iktomi ceased to beat his drum. He began to sing louder and faster. He seemed to be moving about in the center of the ring.
No duck dared a wink. Each one shut his eyes very tight and danced even harder. Up and down! Shifting to the right of them they hopped round and
round in that blind dance. It was a difficult dance for the curious folk.
At length one of the dancers could close his eyes no longer! It was a Skiska who peeped the least tiny blink at Iktomi within the center of the circle. "Oh!
Oh!" squawked he in awful terror! "Run! Fly! Iktomi is twisting your heads and breaking your necks! Run out and fly! Fly!" he cried. Hereupon the
ducks opened their eyes.
There beside Iktomi's bundle of songs lay half of their crowd - flat on their backs. Out they flew through the opening Skiska had made as he rushed forth
with his alarm. But as they soared high into the blue sky they cried to one another: "Oh! Your eyes are red-red!" "And yours are red-red!" For the
warning words of the magic minor strain had proven true.
"Ah-ha!" laughed Iktomi, untying the four corners of his blanket, "I shall sit no more hungry within my dwelling." Homeward he trudged along with nice
fat ducks in his blanket. He left the little straw hut for the rains and winds to pull down. Having reached his own tipi on the high level lands, Iktomi
kindled a large fire out of doors. He planted sharp-pointed sticks around the leaping flames. On each stake he fastened a duck to roast. A few he buried
under the ashes to bake.
Disappearing within his tipi, he came out again with some huge seashells. These were his dishes. Placing one under each roasting duck, he muttered, "The
sweet fat oozing out will taste well with the hard-cooked breasts."
Heaping more willows upon the fire, Iktomi sat down on the ground with crossed shins. A long chin between his knees pointed toward the red flames,
while his eyes were on the browning ducks. Just above his ankles he clasped and unclasped his long bony fingers. Now and then he sniffed impatiently the
The brisk wind which stirred the fire also played with a squeaky old tree beside Iktomi's wigwam. From side to side the tree was swaying and crying in an
old man's voice, "Help! I'll break! I'll fall!"
Iktomi shrugged his great shoulders, but did not once take his eyes from the ducks. The dripping of amber oil into pearly dishes, drop by drop, pleased his
Still the old tree man called for help. "He! What sound is it that makes my ear ache!" exclaimed Iktomi, holding a hand on his ear. He rose and looked
around. The squeaking came from the tree. Then he began climbing the tree to find the disagreeable sound. He placed his foot right on a cracked limb
without seeing it. Just then a whiff of wind came rushing by and pressed together the broken edges. There in a strong wooden hand Iktomi's foot was
"Oh! My foot is crushed!" he howled like a coward. In vain he pulled and puffed to free himself.
While sitting a prisoner on the tree he spied, through his tears, a pack of gray wolves roaming over the level lands. Waving his hands toward them, he
called in his loudest voice, "He! Gray wolves! Don't you come here! I'm caught fast in the tree so that my duck feast is getting cold. Don't you come to eat
up my meal."
The leader of the pack upon hearing Iktomi's words turned to his comrades and said: "Ah! Hear the foolish fellow! He says he has a duck feast to be eaten!
Let us hurry there for our share!"
Away bounded the wolves toward Iktomi's lodge. From the tree Iktomi watched the hungry wolves eat up his nicely browned fat ducks. His foot pained
him more and more. He heard them crack the small round bones with their strong long teeth and eat out the oily marrow.
Now severe pains shot up from his foot through his whole body. "Hin-hin-hin!" sobbed Iktomi. Real tears washed brown streaks across his red-painted
Smacking their lips, the wolves began to leave the place, when Iktomi cried out like a pouting child, "At least you have left my baking under the ashes!"
"Ho! Po!" shouted the mischievous wolves; "he says more ducks are to be found under the ashes! Come! Let us have our fill this once!" Running back to
the dead fire, they pawed out the ducks with such rude haste that a cloud of ashes rose like gray smoke over them.
"Hin-hin-hin!" moaned Iktomi, when the wolves had scampered off. All too late, the sturdy breeze returned, and, passing by, pulled apart the broken edges
of the tree. Iktomi was released. But alas! He had no duck feast.
|Iktomi and the Fawn
A Lakota Legend
In one of his wanderings through the wooded lands, Iktomi saw a rare bird sitting high in a tree-top. Its long fan-like tail feathers had caught all the
beautiful colors of the rainbow. Handsome in the glistening summer sun sat the bird of rainbow plumage.
Iktomi hurried hither with his eyes fast on the bird. He stood beneath the tree looking long and wistfully at the peacock's bright feathers.
At length he heaved a sigh and began: "Oh, I wish I had such pretty feathers! How I wish I were not I! If only I were a handsome feathered creature how
happy I would be! I'd be so glad to sit upon a very high tree and bask in the summer sun like you!" said he suddenly, pointing his bony finger up toward
the peacock, who was eying the stranger below, turning his head from side to side. "I beg of you make me into a bird with green and purple feathers like
yours!" implored Iktomi, tired now of playing the brave in beaded buckskins.
The peacock then spoke to Iktomi: "I have a magic power. My touch will change you in a moment into the most beautiful peacock if you can keep one
"Yes! Yes!" shouted Iktomi, jumping up and down, patting his lips with his palm, which caused his voice to vibrate in a peculiar fashion.
"Yes! Yes! I could keep ten conditions if only you would change me into a bird with long, bright tail feathers. Oh, I am so ugly! I am so tired of being
myself! Change me! Do!"
Hereupon the peacock spread out both his wings, and scarce moving them, he sailed slowly down upon the ground. Right beside Iktomi he alighted. Very
low in Iktomi's ear the peacock whispered, "Are you willing to keep one condition, though hard it be?"
"Yes! Yes! I've told you ten of them if need be!" exclaimed Iktomi, with some impatience.
"Then I pronounce you a handsome feathered bird. No longer are you Iktomi the mischief-maker," saying this the peacock touched Iktomi with the tips of
his wings. Iktomi vanished at the touch. There stood beneath the tree two handsome peacocks. While one of the pair strutted about with a head turned
aside as if dazzled by his own bright-tinted tail feathers, the other bird soared slowly upward.
He sat quiet and unconscious of his gay plumage. He seemed content to perch there on a large limb in the warm sunshine. After a little while the vain
peacock, dizzy with his bright colors, spread out his wings and lit on the same branch with the elder bird. "Oh!" he exclaimed, "how hard to fly! Brightly
tinted feathers are handsome, but I wish they were light enough to fly!"
Just there the elder bird interrupted him,. "That is the one condition. Never try to fly like other birds. Upon the day you try to fly you shall be changed into
your former self."
"Oh, what a shame that bright feathers cannot fly into the sky!" cried the peacock. Already he grew restless. He longed to soar through space. He yearned
to fly above the trees high upward to the sun.
"Oh, there I see a flock of birds flying thither! Oh! Oh!" said he, flapping his wings, "I must try my wings! I am tired of bright tail feathers. I want to try
"No, no!" clucked the elder bird. The flock of chattering birds flew by with whirring wings.
"Oop! Oop!" called some to their mates.
Possessed by an irrepressible impulse the Iktomi peacock called out, "He! I want to come! Wait for me!" and with that he gave a lunge into the air. The
flock of flying feathers wheeled about and lowered over the tree whence came the peacock's cry.
Only one rare bird sat on the tree, and beneath, on the ground, stood a brave in brown buckskins. "I am my old self again!" groaned Iktomi in a sad voice.
"Make me over, pretty bird. Try me this once again!" he pleaded in vain.
"Old Iktomi wants to fly! Ah! We cannot wait for him!" sang the birds as they flew away.
Muttering unhappy vows to himself, Iktomi had not gone far when he chanced upon a bunch of long slender arrows. One by one they rose in the air and
shot a straight line over the prairie. Others shot up into the blue sky and were soon lost to sight.
Only one was left. He was making ready for his flight when Iktomi rushed upon him and wailed, "I want to be an arrow! Make me into an arrow! I want
to pierce the blue overhead. I want to strike yonder summer sun in its center. Make me into an arrow!"
"Can you keep a condition? One condition, though hard it be?" the arrow turned to ask.
"Yeas! Yes!" shouted Iktomi, delighted.
Hereupon the slender arrow tapped him gently with his sharp flint beak. There was no Iktomi, but two arrows stood ready to fly.
"Now, young arrow, this is the one condition. Your flight must always be in a straight line. Never turn a curve nor jump about like a young fawn," said
the arrow magician. He spoke slowly and sternly. At once he set about to teach the new arrow how to shoot in a long straight line. "This is the way to
pierce the Blue overhead," said he; and off he spun high into the sky.
While he was gone a herd of deer came trotting by. Behind them played the fawns together. They frolicked about like kittens. They bounced on all fours
like balls. Then they pitched forward, kicking their heels in the air.
The Iktomi arrow watched them so happy on the ground. Looking quickly up into the sky, he said in his heart, "The magician is out of sight. I'll just romp
and frolic with these fawns until he returns. Fawns! Friends, do not fear me. I want to jump and leap with you. I long to be happy as you are," said he.
The young fawns stopped with stiff legs and stared at the speaking arrow with large brown wandering eyes.
"See! I can jump as well as you!" went on Iktomi. He gave one tiny leap like a fawn. All of a sudden the fawns snorted with extended nostrils at what they
beheld. There among them stood Iktomi in brown buckskins, and the strange talking arrow was gone.
"Oh! I am myself. My old self!" cried Iktomi, pinching himself and plucking imaginary pieces out of his jacket. "Hin-hin-hin! I wanted to fly!"
The real arrow now returned to the earth. He alighted very near Iktomi. From the high sky he had seen the fawns playing on the green. He had seen
Iktomi make his one leap, and the charm was broken. Iktomi became his former self. "Arrow, my friend, change me once more!" begged Iktomi.
"No, no more," replied the arrow. Then away he shot through the air in the direction his comrades had flown.
By this time the fawns gathered close around Iktomi. They poked their noses at him trying to know who he was.
Iktomi's tears were like a spring shower. A new desire dried them quickly away. Stepping boldly to the largest fawn, he looked closely at the little brown
spots all over the fury face.
"Oh, fawn! What beautiful brown spots on your face! Fawn, dear little fawn, can you tell me how those brown spots were made on your face?"
"Yes," said the fawn. "When I was very, very small, my mother marked them on my face with a red hot fire. She dug a large hole in the ground and made
a soft bed of grass and twigs in it. Then she placed me gently there. She covered me over with dry sweet grass and piled dry cedars on top. From a
neighbor's fire she brought hither a red, red ember. This she tucked carefully in at my head. This is how the brown spots were made on my face."
"Now, fawn, my friend, will you do the same for me? Won't you mark my face with brown, brown spots just like yours?" asked Iktomi, always eager to
be like other people.
"Yes, I can dig the ground and fill it with dry grass and sticks. If you will jump into the pit, I'll cover you with sweet smelling grass and cedar wood,"
answered the fawn.
"Say," interrupted Iktomi, "will you be sure to cover me with a great deal of dry grass and twigs? You will make sure that the spots will be as brown as
those you wear."
"Oh, yes, I'll pile up grass and willows once oftener than my mother did."
"Now let us dig the hole, pull the grass, and gather sticks," cried Iktomi in glee.
Thus with his own hands he aids in making his grave. After the hole was dug and cushioned with grass, Iktomi, muttering something about brown spots,
leaped down into it. Lengthwise, flat on his back, he lay.
While the fawn covered him over with cedars, a far-away voice came up through them, "Brown, brown spots to wear forever!" A red ember was tucked
under the dry grass. Off scampered the fawns after their mothers; and when a great distance away they looked backward.
They saw a blue smoke rising, writhing upward till it vanished in the blue ether.
"Is that Iktomi's spirit?" asked one fawn of another. "No! I think he would jump out before he could burn into smoke and cinders," answered his comrade.
|Iktomi and the Muskrat
A Lakota legend
Beside a white lake, beneath a large grown willow tree, sat Iktomi on the bare ground. The heap of smoldering ashes told of a recent open fire. With
ankles crossed together around a pot of soup, Iktomi bent over some delicious boiled fish.
Fast he dipped his black horn spoon into the soup, for he was ravenous. Iktomi had no regular meal times. Often when he was hungry he went without
food. Well hidden between the lake and the wild rice, he looked nowhere save into the post of fish.
Not knowing when the next meal would be, he meant to eat enough now to last some time.
"Hau, hau, my friend!" said a voice out of the wild rice.
Iktomi started. He almost choked with his soup. He peered through the long reeds from where he sat with his long horn spoon in mid-air.
"Hay, my friend!" said the voice again, this time close at his side.
Iktomi turned and there stood a dripping muskrat who had just come out of the lake. "Oh, it is my friend who startled me. I wondered if among the wild
rice some spirit voice was talking. Hau, hau, my friend!" said Iktomi.
The muskrat stood smiling. On his lips hung a ready "Yes, my friend," when Iktomi would ask, "My friend, will you sit down beside me and share my
food?" That was the custom of the plains people. Yet Iktomi sat silent.
He hummed an old dance-song and beat gently on the edge of the pot with his buffalo-horn spoon. The muskrat began to feel awkward before such lack of
hospitality and wished himself under water.
After many heart throbs Iktomi stopped drumming with his horn ladle, and looking upward into the muskrat's face, he said: "My friend, let us run a race
to see who shall win this pot of fish. If I win, I shall not need to share it with you. If you win, you shall have half of it." Springing to his feet, Iktomi began
at once to tighten the belt about his waist.
"My friend Ikto, I cannot run a race with you! I am not a swift runner, and you are nimble as a deer. We shall not run any race together," answered the
For a moment Iktomi stood with a hand on his long protruding chin. His eyes were fixed upon something in the air. The muskrat looked out of the
corners of his eyes without moving his head. He watched the wily Iktomi concocting a plot. "Yes, yes," said Iktomi, suddenly turning his gaze upon the
unwelcome visitor, "I shall carry a large stone on my back. That will slacken my usual speed; and the race will be a fair one."
Saying this he laid a firm hand upon the muskrat's shoulder and started off along the edge of the lake. When they reached the opposite side Iktomi pried
about in search of a heavy stone. He found one half-buried in the shallow water.
Pulling it out upon dry land, he wrapped it in his blanket. "Now, my friend, you shall run on the left side of the lake, I on the other. The race is for the
boiled fish in yonder kettle!" said Iktomi.
The muskrat helped to lift the heavy stone upon Iktomi's back.
Then they parted. Each took a narrow path through the tall reeds fringing the shore. Iktomi found his load a heavy one. Perspiration hung like bead on
his brow. His chest heaved hard and fast. He looked across the lake to see how far the muskrat had gone, but nowhere did he see any sign of him.
"Well, he is running low under the wild rice!" said he. Yet as he scanned the tall grasses on the lake shore, he saw not one stir as if to make way for the
runner. "Ah, has he gone so fast ahead that the disturbed grasses in his trail have quieted again?" exclaimed Iktomi.
With that thought he quickly dropped the heavy stone. "No more of this!" said he, patting his chest with both hands. Off with a springing bound, he ran
swiftly toward the goal. Tufts of reeds and grass fell flat under his feet. Hardly had they raised their heads when Iktomi was many paces gone.
Soon he reached the heap of cold ashes. Iktomi halted stiff as if he had struck an invisible cliff. His black eyes showed a ring of white about them as he
stared at the empty ground. There was no pot of boiled fish! There was no water-man in sight!
"Oh, if only I had shared my food like a real Lakota, I would not have lost it all! Why did I not know the muskrat would run through the water? He swims
faster than I could ever run! That is what he has done. He has laughed at me for carrying a weight on my back while he shot hither like an arrow!"
Crying thus to himself, Iktomi stepped to the water's brink. He stooped forward with a hand on each bent knee and peeped far into the deep water.
"There!" he exclaimed, "I see you, my friend, sitting your ankles wound around my little pot of fish!
My friend, I am hungry. Give me a bone!"
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed the water-man, the muskrat.
The sound did not rise up out of the lake, for it came down from overhead. With his hands still on his knees, Iktomi turned his face upward into the great
willow tree. Opening wide his mouth he begged, "My friend, my friend, give me a bone to gnaw!"
"Ha! Ha!" laughed the muskrat, and leaning over the limb he sat upon, he let fall a small sharp bone which dropped right into Iktomi's throat. Iktomi
almost choked to death before he could get it out.
In the tree the muskrat sat laughing loud. "Next time, say to a visiting friend, 'Be seated beside me, my friend. Let me share with you my food.'"
|Iktomi and the Turtle
A Lakota Legend
The huntsman Patkasha (turtle) stood bent over a newly slain deer. The red-tipped arrow he drew from the wounded deer was unlike the arrows in his
own quiver. Another's stray shot had killed the deer.
Patkasha had hunted all the morning without so much as spying an ordinary blackbird. At last returning homeward, tired and heavy-hearted that he had
no meat for the hungry mouths in his wigwam, he walked slowly with downcast eyes.
Kind ghosts pitied the unhappy hunter and led him to the newly slain deer, that his children should not cry for food. When Patkasha stumbled upon the
deer in his path, he exclaimed: "Good spirits have pushed me hither!" Thus he leaned long over the gift of the friendly ghosts.
"Hau, my friend!" said a voice behind his ear, and a hand fell on his shoulder. It was not a spirit this time. It was old Iktomi.
"Hau, Iktomi!" answered Patkasha, still stooping over the deer.
"My friend, you are a skilled hunter," began Iktomi, smiling a thin smile which spread from one ear to the other.
Suddenly raising up his head, Patkasha's black eyes twinkled as he asked: "Oh, you really say so?"
"Yes, my friend, you are a skillful fellow. Now let us have a little contest. Let us see who can jump over the deer without touching a hair on his hide,"
"Oh, I fear i cannot do it!" cried Patkasha, rubbing his funny, thick palms together.
"Have no coward's doubt, Patkasha. I say you are a skillful fellow who finds nothing hard to do." With these words Iktomi led Patkasha a short distance
away. In little puffs Patkasha laughed uneasily. "Now, you may jump first," said Iktomi.
Patkasha, with doubled fists, swung his fat arms to and fro,all the while biting hard his under lip.
Just before the run and leap Iktomi put in: "Let the winner have the deer to eat!" It was too late now to say no. Patkasha was more afraid of being called a
coward than of losing the deer.
"Ho-wo," he replied, still working his short arms. At length he started off on the run. So quick and small were his steps that he seemed to be kicking the
ground only. Then the leap!
But Patkasha tripped upon a stick and fell hard against the side of the deer.
"He-he-he!" exclaimed Iktomi, pretending disappointment that his friend had fallen. Lifting him to his feet, he said: "Now it is my turn to try the high
jump!" Hardly was the last word spoken than Iktomi gave a leap high above the deer. "The game is mine!" laughed he, patting the sullen Patkasha on the
"My friend, watch the deer while I go to bring my children," said Iktomi, darting lightly through the tall grass. Patkasha was always ready to believe the
words of scheming people and to do the little favors any one asked of him.
However, on this occasion, he did not answer "Yes, my friend." He realized that Iktomi's flattering tongue had made him foolish. He turned up his nose at
Iktomi, now almost out of sight, as much as to say: "Oh, no, Iktomi; I do not hear your words!"
Soon there came a murmur of voices. The sound of laughter grew louder and louder. All of a sudden it became hushed. Old Iktomi led his young Iktomi
brood to the place where he had left the turtle, but it was vacant. Nowhere was there any sigh of Patkasha or the deer.
Then the babes did how!
"Be still!" said father Iktomi to his children. "I know where Patkasha lives. Follow me. I shall take you to the turtle's dwelling."
He ran along a narrow footpath toward the creek nearby. Close upon his heels came his children with tear-streaked faces.
"there!" said Iktomi in a loud whisper as he gathered his little ones on the bank. "There is Patkasha broiling venison! There is his tipi, and the savory fire is
in his front yard!" The young Iktomi stretched their necks and rolled their round black eyes like newly hatched birds.
They peered into the water. "Now, I will cool Patkasha's fire. I shall bring you the broiled venison. Watch closely. When you see the black coals rise to the
surface of the water, clap your hands and shout aloud, for soon after that sign I shall return to you with some tender meat."
Thus saying Iktomi plunged into the creek.
The water leaped upward into spray. Scarcely had it become leveled and smooth than there bubbled up many black spots. The creek was seething with the
dancing of round black things.
"The cooled fire! The coals!" laughed the brood of Iktomi. Clapping together their little hands, they chased one another along the edge of the creek. They
shouted and hooted with great glee.
"Alas!" said a gruff voice across the water. It was Patkasha. In a large willow tree leaning far over the water he sat upon a large limb.
On the very same branch was a bright burning fire over which Patkasha broiled the venison. By this time the water was calm again. No more danced
those black spots on its surface, for they were the toes of old Iktomi.
He was drowned. The Iktomi children hurried away from the creek, crying and calling for their water-dead father.
A Lakota Legend
Alone within his tipi sat Iktomi. The sun was but a hands breadth from the western edge of land. "Those, bad, bad gray wolves! They ate all my nice fat
ducks!" muttered he, rocking his body to and fro. He was cuddling the evil memory he bore those hungry wolves.
At last he ceased to sway his body backward and forward, but sat still and stiff as a stone image. "Oh! I'll go to Inyan, the great-grandfather, and pray
for food!" he exclaimed. At once he hurried forth from his tipi and, with his blanket over one shoulder, drew nigh to a huge rock on a hillside. With
half-crouching, half-running strides, he fell upon Inyan with outspread hands.
"Grandfather! Pity me, I am hungry. I am starving. Give me food. Great-grandfather, give me meat to eat!" he cried. All the while he stroked and
caressed the face of the great stone god.
The all-powerful Great Spirit, who makes the trees and grass, can hear the voice of those who pray in many varied ways, The hearing of Inyan, the large
hard stone, was the one most sought after. He was the great-grandfather, for he had sat upon the hillside many, many seasons. He had seen the prairie
put on a snow-white blanket and then change it for a bright green robe more than a thousand times.
Still unaffected by the myriad moons he rested on the everlasting hill, listening to the prayers of Indian warriors. Before the finding of the magic arrow he
had sat there. Now, as Iktomi prayed and wept before the great-grandfather, the sky in the west was red like a glowing face. The sunset poured a soft
mellow light upon the huge gray stone and the solitary figure beside it. It was the smile of the Great Spirit upon the grandfather and the wayward child.
The prayer was heard. Iktomi knew it.
"Now, grandfather, accept my offering; 'tis all I have," said Iktomi as he spread his half-worn blanket upon Inyan's cold shoulders. Then Iktomi, happy
with the smile of the sunset sky, followed a footpath leading toward a thicketed ravine. He had not gone many paces into the shrubbery when before lay a
freshly wounded deer!
"This is the answer from the red western sky!" cried Iktomi with hands uplifted. Slipping a long thin blade from out his belt, he cut large chunks of choice
meat. Sharpening some willow sticks, he planted them around a wood-pile he had ready to kindle. On these sticks he meant to roast the venison.
While he was rubbing briskly two long sticks to start a fire, the sun in the west fell out of the sky below the edge of land. Twilight was over all. Iktomi felt
the cold night air upon his bare neck and shoulders. "Ough!" he shivered as he wiped his knife on the grass. Tucking it in a beaded case hanging from his
belt, Iktomi stood erect, looking about. He shivered again.
"Ough! Ah! I am cold. I wish I had my blanket!" whispered he, hovering over the pile of dry sticks and the sharp stakes round about it. Suddenly he
paused and dropped his hands at his sides.
"The old great-grandfather does not feel the cold as I do. He does not need my old blanket as I do. I wish I had not given it to him. Oh! I think I'll run up
there and take it back!" said he, pointing his long chin toward the large gray stone.
Iktomi, in the warm sunshine, had no need of his blanket, and it had been very easy to part with a thing which he could not miss. But the chilly night wind
quite froze his ardent thank-offering. Thus running up the hillside, his teeth chattering all the way, he drew neat to Inyan, the sacred symbol.
Seizing one corner of the half-worn blanket, Iktomi pulled it off with a jerk. "Give my blanket back, old grandfather! You do not need it. I do!"
This was very wrong, yet Iktomi did it, for his wit was not wisdom. Drawing the blanket tight over his shoulders, he descended the hill with hurrying feet.
He was soon upon the edge of the ravine.
A young moon, like a bright bent bow, climbed up from the southwest horizon a little way into the sky. In this pale light Iktomi stood motionless as a
ghost amid the thicket. His woodpile was not yet kindled. His pointed stakes were still bare as he had left them. But where was the deer - the venison he
had felt warm in his hands a moment ago? It was gone.
Only the dry rib bones lay on the ground like giant fingers from an open grave. Iktomi was troubled. At length, stooping over the white dried bones, he
took hold of one and shook it. The bones, loose in their sockets, rattled together at his touch. Iktomi let go his hold. He sprang back amazed. And though
he wore a blanket his teeth chattered more than ever.
Then his blunted sense will surprise you, little reader; for instead of being grieved that he had taken back his blanket, he cried aloud, "Hin-hin-hin! If only I
had eaten the venison before going for my blanket!"
Those tears no longer moved the hand of the Generous Giver. They were selfish tears. The Great Spirit does not heed them ever.
|Iya, The Camp Eater
A Lakota Legend
From the tall grass came the voice of a crying babe. The huntsmen who were passing nigh heard and halted. The tallest one among them hastened toward
the high grass with long, cautious strides. He waded through the growth of green with just a head above it all.
Suddenly exclaiming "Hunhe!" he dropped out of sight. In another instant he held up in both his hands a tiny little baby, wrapped in soft brown buckskins.
"Oh ho, a wood-child!" cried the men, for they were hunting along the wooded river bottom where this babe was found. While the hunters were questioning
whether or no they should carry it home, the wee Indian baby kept up his little howl.
"His voice is strong!" said one.
At times it sounds like an old man's voice!" whispered a superstitious fellow, who feared some bad spirit hid in the small child to cheat them by and by.
"Let us take it to our wise chieftain," at length they said; and the moment they started toward the camp ground the strange wood-child ceased to cry.
Beside the chieftain's tipi waited the hunters while the tall man entered with the child.
"Hau! Hau!" nodded the kind-faced chieftain, listening to the queer story, Then rising, he took the infant in his strong arms; gently he laid the black-eyed
babe in his daughter's lap.
"This is to be your little son!" said he, smiling.
"Yes, father," she replied. Pleased with the child, she smoothed the long black hair fringing his round brown face.
"Tell the people that I give a feast and dance this day for the naming of my daughter's little son," bade the chieftain.
In the meanwhile among the men waiting by the entrance way, one said in a low voice: "I have heard that bad spirits come as little children into a camp
which they mean to destroy."
"No! No! Let us not be overcautious. It would be cowardly to leave a baby in the wild wood where prowl the hungry wolves!" answered an elderly man.
The tall man now came out of the chieftain's tipi. With a word he sent them to their dwellings half running with joy. "A feast! A dance for the naming of
the chieftain's grandchild!" cried he in a loud voice to the village people.
"What? What?" asked they in great surprise, holding a hand to the ear to catch the words of the crier. There was a momentary silence among the people
while they listened to the ringing voice of the man walking in the center ground.
Then broke forth a rippling, laughter babble among the cone-shaped tipi's. All were glad to hear of the chieftain's grandson. They were happy to attend the
feast and dance for its naming. With excited fingers they twisted their hair into glossy braids and painted their cheeks with bright red paint.
To and fro hurried the women, handsome in their gala-day dress. Men in loose deerskins, with long tinkling metal fringes, strode in small numbers
toward the center of the round camp ground. Here underneath a temporary shade-house of green leaves they were to dance and feast.
The children in deerskins and paints, just like their elders, were jolly little men and women. Beside their eager parents they skipped along toward the green
dance house. Here seated in a large circle, the people were assembled, the proud chieftain rose with the little baby in his arms. The noisy hum of voices was
hushed. Not a tinkling of a metal fringe broke the silence.
The crier came forward to greet the chieftain, then bent attentively over the small babe, listening to the words of the chieftain. When he paused the crier
spoke aloud to the people: "This woodland child is adopted by the chieftain's eldest daughter. His name is Chaske. He wears the title of the eldest son. In
honor of Chaske the chieftain gives this feast and dance! These are the words of him you see holding a baby in his arms."
"Yes! Yes! Hinnu! How!" cane from the circle.
At once the drummers beat softly and slowly their drum while the chosen singers hummed together to find the common pitch. The beat of the drum grew
louder and faster. The singers burst forth in a lively tune.
Then the drumbeats subsided and faintly marked the rhythm of the singing. Here and there bounced up men and women, both young and old. They
danced and sang with merry light hearts.
Then came the hour of feasting. Late into the night the air of the camp ground was alive with the laughing voices of women and the singing in unison of
Within her father's tipi sat the chieftain's daughter. Proud of her little one, she watched over him asleep in her lap. Gradually a deep quiet stole over the
camp ground, as one by one the people fell into pleasant dreams.
Now all the village was still.
Alone sat the beautiful young mother watching the babe in her lap, asleep with a gaping little mouth. Amid the quiet of the night, her ear heard the far-off
hum of many voices. The faint sound of murmuring people was in the air. Upward she glanced at the smoke hole of the wigwam and saw a bright star
peeping down upon her. "Spirits in the air above?" she wondered. Yet there was no sign to tell her of their nearness.
The fine small sound of voices grew larger and nearer. "Father! Rise! I hear the coming of some tribe. Hostile or friendly - I cannot tell. Rise and see!"
whispered the young woman.
"Yes, my daughter!" answered the chieftain, springing to his feet. Though asleep, his ear was ever alert. Thus rushing out into the open he listened for
strange sounds. With an eagle eye he scanned the camp ground for some sign. Returning he said: "My daughter, I hear nothing and see no sign of evil
"Oh! The sound of many voices comes up from the earth about me!" exclaimed the young mother. Bending low over her babe she gave ear to the ground.
Horrified was she to find the mysterious sound came out of the open mouth of her sleeping child!
"Why so unlike other babes!" she cried within her heart as she slipped him gently from her lap to the ground. "Mother, listen and tell me if this child is an
evil spirit come to destroy our camp!" she whispered loud.
Placing an ear close o the open baby mouth, the chieftain and his wife, each in turn heard the voices of a great camp. The singing of men and women, the
beating of the drum, the rattling of deer-hoofs strung like bells on a string, these were the sounds they heard.
"We must go away," said the chieftain, leading them into the night. Out in the open he whispered to the frightened young woman: "Iya, the camp-eater,
has come in the guise of a babe. Had you gone to sleep, he would have jumped out into his own shape and would have devoured our camp. He is a giant
with spindling legs. He cannot fight, for he cannot run. He is powerful only in the night with his tricks. We are safe as soon as day breaks."
Then moving closer to the woman, he whispered: "If he wakes now, he will swallow the whole tribe with one hideous gulp! Come, we must flee with our
people." Thus creeping from tipi to tipi a secret alarm signal was given. At midnight the tipi's were gone and there was left no sign of the village shave
heaps of dead ashes.
So quietly had the people folded their wigwams and bundled their tent poles that they slipped away unheard by the sleeping Iya babe. When the morning
sun arose, the babe awoke.
Seeing himself deserted, he threw off his baby form in a hot rage. Wearing his own ugly shape, his huge body toppled to and fro, from side to side, on a pair
of thin legs far too small for their burden. Though with every move he came dangerously nigh to falling, he followed in the trail of the fleeing people.
"I shall eat you in the sight of a noon-day sun!" cried Iya in his vain rage, when he spied them encamped beyond a river. By some unknown cunning he
swam the river and sought his way toward the tipi's.
"Hin! Hin!" he grunted and growled. With perspiration beading his brow he strove to wiggle his slender legs beneath his giant form.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed all the village people to see Iya made foolish with anger. "Such spindle legs cannot stand to fight by daylight!" shouted the brave ones
who were terror-struck the night before by the name "Iya."
Warriors with long knives rushed forth and slew the camp-eater. Lo! - there rose out of the giant a whole Indian tribe: their camp, ground, their tipi's in a
large circle, and the people laughing and dancing.
"We are glad to be free!" said these strange people. Thus Iya was killed; and no more are the camp grounds in danger of being swallowed up in a single