It is our custom to tell an old-time story when the corn is ripe. We have a man called Lone Man. As he was walking along he came to himself. He
stood and thought. A pipe was laying in front of him, over his head flew a raven. And he sang a song which said, "Where did I come from?" He
thought, "Where did I come from? How did I happen to come here?" The Earth about him was sandy and he could plainly see his own tracks, so he
followed them back to see where he came from. He came to a wet spot, then father on to a great water, beside which was a plant with spotted leaves.
A Buffalo Bug was jumping about in the sand. The plant said, "I am your mother, it was I that bore you; that is your father." and the Weed-mother
told Lone Man that he was born to arrange matters on the Earth. "Go back to the wet spot and there you will find a tall Weed. This is your pipe. I
am just a Weed, this is all I am for. If anyone has a sore eye or stomach trouble, let him take me and boil me up for medicine. Go ahead and create
things in the world." When he came to himself he had a Wolf blanket and a cane with feathers tied to the end. He came to the wet spot, and there
grew a tall Tobacco Weed and around it buzzed a Tobacco Fly -- buzz, buzz. The bug said, "I am a blowing your tobacco plant -- use it to smoke."
Again he sang the same song -- "Where did I come from?" And he pulled up the tobacco plant.
As he was trotting along at a gentle pace, another man came up suddenly. The two argued as to which was the eldest. They agreed: "You lie here and
I there and the first one that gets up will be the youngest." Lone Man said he would leave his cane standing as the other turned about and laid down,
and Lone Man sang the same song--"Where did I come from?" He went on his way, and traveled over the whole world from one end to the other.
Then he thought of his cane, and returning to the spot where it stood, he found it tottering and ready to fall. Grass grew where the other lay. He said,
"This fellow can never get up again!" He took his cane and it became like new and he sang his song and was about to trot away again when the other
man got up from the heap of dust where his body had been and said, "I told you that I was older than you!"
The two traveled to create the world. They looked for mud, but there was sand alone. They came to a great lake where there were two Mud Hens, a
male and a female. They called them over and made them their servants, and the Mud Hens dived and brought mud, and the men made all creatures.
They would throw the mud in the air and at once it became a bird. One bird had no place to go, so it flew over to the stony places and became a
Nighthawk. Another stuck its head into the red paint, saying it was hungry, and when it pulled its head out, the head was red, so they said it should
have a hard time to get a living out of rotten trees. This was the Woodpecker.
They made many kinds of different birds and animals and at last a grandmother frog came and said, "You are making too many animals; we must
make death so that the first ones may pass away and new ones come." The two said, "You have nothing to say about our business!" And they picked
up a stone and hit grandmother frog on the back. This is why her legs spread out so. This is how death started, and the child of grandmother frog
was the first to die. Grandmother frog came to the men and said, "I am sorry! Let us take it back and have no deaths!" But the men said, "No, it is
impossible; it must be so."
The two said, "Let us improve the Earth -- it is all sand!" So they took the mud that was left and Lone Man took his lump and smoothed it over the
Earth and the Earth was flat. First Creator took a little bit and put it here and there and formed hills and bluffs. Lone Man used his cane and leveled
the north side of the Earth and made lakes. The First Creator's idea was that when the snow flies there should be rough land and trees and springs to
protect men and animals from the cold. First Creator made nothing but Buffalo to roam over the land and in every herd he made a White Buffalo
and he said that this White One should be precious. From the East this way Only Man created and First Creator created the South side of the Earth.
Thus it has been told from generation to generation.
After the creation Lone Man was never seen again. First Creator turned him into a Coyote and from him came the Coyote today. He never knew
where he came from.
|First Creator and Lone Man
A Mandan Legend
Music: Wind Child by Kevin Mockingbird
In the beginning, the surface of the Earth was covered with water and everything was dark. The First Creator and Lone Man were walking upon the
surface of the water when they saw something move-a little duck.
They sent the duck diving right down to the bottom of the ocean, and it brought back some sand. First Creator and Lone Man used this sand to make
First Creator took the South and made the hill country, full of valleys and mountains and flowing streams. Lone Man took the North and made the
plains, flat land with lakes and ponds. First Creator filled his land with game: Buffalo, Deer, and Antelope. Lone Man had made Cattle and Sheep.
First Creator was not very impressed with the land Lone Man had made. "There's nowhere to hide!" he said. But Lone Man just shrugged his
shoulders. "Well, it's done now," he replied. "It's too late to change it."
Men and women peopled the land. When hard times came, Lonee Man saw the people's suffering and wanted to share it. So he entered into some
corn that a young girl was eating and she gave birth to him as a human being.
Lone Man was born as a man and lived with the girl's tribe. He was pure and good, and always the peacemaker in every quarrel. He never married,
but the children loved him and followed him everywhere.
He taught the people many important things. But eventually it was time for him to leave. So he instructed the tribe to set up a cedar trunk as a totem
pole in the center of the village, to paint it red, and to burn incense to it. "This cedar is my body," he said, "which I leave with you to protect you from
all harm." And then he departed.
As for First Creator, he turned into a Coyote.
|The Bird That Turned The Meat Bitter
A Mandan Legend
Looking about the lodges in the village, Coyote saw strings of jerked meat, but the people were lean. He asked why this was. The people said, "When
we go hunting, only the fastest butchers can get their meat home in good condition. There is a Raven which flies over calling "Get bitter! Get bitter!"
(gi-ba in Mandan) and the meat turns bitter." Coyote asked for a sample. He chewed but could not swallow the meat it was so bitter. He said, "I
must have this thing righted." He sent the young girl after firewood and had it piled ready to light. Then he had the men get timber rope and make a
snare. He filled his pipe and asked help of his fellow creatures. The big Spider came to his aid, and he lighted the pipe for the Spider to smoke. Now
the Raven lived in a hollow tree out of which it flew when the men were butchering. Big Spider said, "It is easy to snare that bird. Be ready to snare
him into the fire and let him burn. Some of his feathers will fly into the air and turn into birds. When you see a white Raven fly out cry 'At the end of
the world there shall be seen a white Raven as a sign that the world is coming to an end' that will be the last of it."
They sent out young men into the hills scouting. These reported Buffalo. They made ready for the hunt. The fastest runners went ahead to encircle
the herd. Buffalo always run towards the wind, but the runners drove them towards the other hunters. These formed a corral where they slaughtered
the whole herd. The men with large families packed the meat home; others followed behind. Meanwhile, some watched by the hollow tree. When the
bird came out, before it could cry, Coyote caught it by the neck and pulled it to the ground. It had the head of a man and the body of a bird. The face
was human but had no hair. The body had wings and a long neck. It was a frightful thing to see. Coyote clubbed the bird and threw it into the
flames. Feathers flew up and turned into birds and flew away. The unburned bones Coyote crushed with his club. Finally out flew a white Raven
and said, "When the world is about to end I will come to you again!" So Coyote told the people that was to be a sign to them.
|The Buffalo Dance
A Mandan Legend
The most exciting event of the year's festival was the Buffalo Dance. Eight men participated, wearing buffalo skins on their backs and painting
themselves black, red, and white. Dancers endeavored to imitate the buffalo on the prairie.
Each dancer held a rattle in his right hand and in his left a six-foot rod. On his head, he wore a bunch of green willow boughs. The season for the
return of the buffalo coincided with the willow trees in full leaf.
Another dance required only four tribesmen, representing the four main directions of the compass from which the buffalo might come. With a canoe
in the center, two dancers, dressed as grizzly bears who might attack the hunters, took their places on each side. They growled and threatened to
spring upon anyone who might interfere with the ceremony.
Onlookers tried to appease the grizzlies by tossing food to them. The two dancers would pounce upon the food, carrying it away to the prairie as
possible lures for the coming of the buffaloes.
During the ceremony, the old men of the tribe beat upon drums and chanted prayers for successful buffalo hunting.
By the end of the fourth day of the Buffalo Dance, a man entered the camp disguised as the evil spirit of famine. Immediately he was driven away by
shouts and stone-throwing from the younger Mandans, who waited excitedly to participate in the ceremony.
When the demon of famine was successfully driven away, the entire tribe joined in the bountiful thanksgiving feast, symbolic of the early return of
buffalo to the Mandan hunting-grounds.