Myths and Legends of the Great Plains
Author: Unknown
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Copyright A. C. McCLURG & CO. 1913

Published November, 1913

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(Kiowa Drawing)

The ghost-dance among the Sioux was based on the belief that the dead Indians would all come to life and drive out the white intruders. Then the buffaloes, which were disappearing, would come back in the immense herds of the olden time.

The vision of one of the dreamer priests is represented. After reaching the spirit world, Bianki found himself on a vast prairie covered with innumerable buffaloes and ponies. He went through the herds (dotted lines) until he came to a large Kiowa camp, with its ornament tepees. He met four young women who had died years before, and asked about two of his brothers, also dead. He soon met them coming into camp, with buffalo meat hanging from their saddles.]


From the edge of the Darkening Land, where stand the mountains which encircle the earth-plain, eastward toward the Sunland, lie the great plains of America. Smooth and flat and green they stretch away, hundreds of miles, rising from a dead level into a soft rolling of the land, then into the long green waves of the prairies where rivers flow, where the water ripples as it flows, and trees shade the banks of the gleaming water.

Here, amidst the vast sweep of the plains which stretch away to the horizon on every side, boundless, limitless, endless, lived the plains Indians. Standing in the midst of this vast green plain on a soft May morning, after the Thunder Gods have passed, when the sun is shining in the soft blue above, and the sweet, rain-swept air is blown about by the Four Winds which are always near to man, day and night,—standing far out on the plains with no hint of the white man or his work—one sees the earth somewhat as the Indian saw it and wonders not at his reverence for the Mysterious One who dwelt overhead, beyond the blue stone arch, and for the lesser powers which came to him over the four paths guarded by the Four Winds. It was Wakoda, the Mysterious One, who gave to man the sunshine, the clear rippling water, the clear sky from which all storms, all clouds are absent, the sky which is the symbol of peace. Through this sky sweeps the eagle, the "Mother" of Indian songs, bearing upon her strong wings the message of peace and calling to her nestlings as she flies. Little wonder that to some tribes song was an integral part of their lives, and that emotions too deep for words were expressed in song.

Other songs there were, with words, songs of the birds which fly through that soft, tender blue:

All around the birds in flocks are flying; Dipping, rising, circling, see them coming. See, many birds are flocking here, All about us now together coming.


The power to fly has always inspired Indians of all tribes and of all degrees of civilization with wonder and reverence. The bird chiefs have their own places in Indian myths. Owl is chief of the night; Woodpecker, with his ceaseless tattoo on the trees, is chief of the trees; Duck is chief of the water; but Eagle is chief of the day. It is always Eagle who is chief of the birds, even though Wren may outwit him in a tale told by the fire glimmering in the tepee, when the story tellers of the tribe tell of the happenings in the days "way beyond." It is Eagle who inspires admiration, and becomes the most sacred bird.

Round about a tree in ever widening circles an eagle flies, alert, watching o'er his nest; Loudly whistles he, a challenge sending far, o'er the country wide it echoes, there defying foes.


In the breeze that rippled the long grass of the prairie and fluttered the flaps of the graceful tepee, waved also the corn, sent by Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies, the ever returning life of the green thing growing. In the ravines and on the lower slopes of the grassy waves of the prairie bellowed the buffalo, or grazed in silence, having long since come up from the underground world and become the source of the Indian's food, clothing, home, utensils, and comfort. Endless were the charms and enchantments to bring the buffalo herds near his camping ground. Severe was the punishment meted out to the thoughtless warrior whose unguarded eagerness frightened the herds and sent them away.

Over the plains and prairies, at other times, swept the Thunder Gods, with their huge jointed wings, darkening all the land, and flashing fire from angry eyes which struck down man and beast. Terrified were the Indians when the Thunder Gods rolled. Vows made to them must be kept, for relentless were they.

"Oh, grandfather," prayed the Indian when the sky was black and the lightning flashed, as he filled a pipe with tobacco and offered it skyward, "Oh, grandfather! I am very poor. Somewhere make those who would injure me leave a clear space for me." Then he put the sacred green cedar upon the fire—the cedar which stayed awake those seven nights and therefore does not lose its hair every winter—and the smoke from the sacred, burning wood, rolling upward, appeased the rolling Thunders.

* * * * *

The authorities used in this compilation are those found in the annual reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Publications of the United States Geographical and Geological Survey: contributions to North American Ethnology. Of the various ethnologists whose work has been used, those of especial importance are Alice C. Fletcher, whose wonderful work among the Omaha and Pawnee Indians is deserving of the most careful study, J. Owen Dorsey, James Mooney, and S. R. Riggs.

No claim whatever is made for original work. Indeed, original work of any kind in a compilation such as this would impair the authenticity of the myths, and therefore destroy the value of this work. Nor has any effort been made towards "style." The only style worth having in telling an Indian legend is that of the Indian himself.

K. B. J.

Seattle, Washington.


Page The Creation Osage 19 How the World was Made Cherokee 22 The Flood and the Rainbow Lenni-Lenapi (Delaware) 26 The First Fire Cherokee 28 The Ancestors of People Osage 31 Origin of Strawberries Cherokee 32 Sacred Legend Omaha 34 The Legend of the Peace Pipes Omaha 38 A Tradition of the Calumet Lenni-Lenapi (Delaware) 41 The Sacred Pole Omaha 43 Ikto and the Thunders Teton 46 The Thunder Bird Comanche 47 The Thunder Bird Assiniboin 48 Song to the Thunder Gods Omaha 49 Songs of the Buffalo Hunt Sioux 50 Origin of the Buffalo Teton 53 The Buffalo Being Teton 55 The Youth and the Underground People Omaha 57 The Buffalo and the Grizzly Bear Omaha 68 My First Buffalo Hunt Omaha 71 Bird Omens Sioux 73 The Bird Chief Omaha 74 Song of the Birds Pawnee 75 Song of Kawas, the Eagle Pawnee 77 The Eagle's Revenge Cherokee 78 The Race between Humming Bird and Crane Cherokee 80 Rabbit and the Turkeys Omaha 82 Unktomi and the Bad Songs Dakota 84 How the Pheasant Beat Corn Cherokee 88 Why Turkey Gobbles Cherokee 89 Omaha Beliefs Omaha 90 Pawnee Beliefs Pawnee 92 A Song of Hospitality Sioux 95 A Song of the March Sioux 96 Song of the Prairie Breeze Kiowa 97 Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies Mandan 98 Legend of the Corn Arikara 101 Tradition of the Finding of Horses Ponca 105 Dakota Beliefs and Customs Dakota 108 Why the Tetons Bury on Scaffolds Teton 110 The Ghost's Resentment Dakota 111 The Forked Roads Omaha 116 Tattooed Ghosts Dakota 117 A Ghost Story Ponca 118 The Ghost and the Traveler Teton 119 The Man who Shot a Ghost Teton 120 The Indian Who Wrestled with a Ghost Teton 122 The Wakanda, or Water God Yankton 126 The Spirit Land Arapahoe 129 Waziya, the Weather Spirit Teton 131 Kansas Blizzards Kansa 132 Ikto and the Snowstorm Teton 133 The Southern Bride Cherokee 135 The Fallen Star Dakota 136 Quarrel of Sun and Moon Omaha 147 Why the Possum Plays Dead Cherokee 148 Bog Myth Dakota 150 Coyote and Snake Omaha 151 Why the Wolves Help in War Dakota 153 How Rabbit Escaped from the Wolves Cherokee 155 How Rabbit Lost His Fat Omaha 157 How Flint Visited Rabbit Cherokee 158 How Rabbit Caught the Sun in a Trap Omaha 161 How Rabbit Killed the Giant Omaha 163 How Deer Got His Horns Cherokee 167 Why the Deer has Blunt Teeth Cherokee 169 Legend of the Head of Gold Dakota 171 The Milky Way Cherokee 175 Coyote and Gray Fox Ponca 176 Ictinike and Turtle Omaha 178 Ictinike and the Creators Omaha 181 How Big Turtle Went on the War Path Omaha 186


Page Bianki's Vision Frontispiece Woman's Costume 32 An Elderly Omaha Beau 33 Tattooing, Showing Conventional Design of the Peace Pipe 42 Bull Boat 43 German Knights and Indian Warriors 56 Rivalry over the Buffalo 70 Capture of a Wandering Buffalo 71 Five Chiefs of the Ogalla Sioux 84 Old Horse 85 Siouan Tents 96 An Arapahoe Bed 97 Indian Scaffold Cemetery on the Missouri River 110 An Omaha Village, Showing Earth Lodge and Conical Tepees 111 Black Coyote 122 Ornamentation on the Reverse of an Arapahoe "ghost-dance" Shirt 123 "Killed two Arikara chiefs" 132 Many Tongues, or Loud Talker 133 Petroglyph in Nebraska 144 Plains Indians Dragging Brush for a Medicine Lodge 156 An Earth Lodge 157 Kansa Chief 168 Big Goose 169 Omaha Assault on a Dakota Village 186 "Killed ten men and three women" 187



Osage (Wazha zhe group)

Way beyond, once upon a time, some of the Osages lived in the sky. They did not know where they came from, so they went to Sun. They said, "From where did we come?"

He said, "You are my children."

Then they wandered still further and came to Moon.

Moon said, "I am your mother; Sun is your father. You must go away from here. You must go down to the earth and live there."

So they came to the earth but found it covered with water. They could not return up above. They wept, but no answer came to them. They floated about in the air, seeking help from some god; but they found none.

Now all the animals were with them. Elk was the finest and most stately. They all trusted Elk. So they called to Elk, "Help us."

Then Elk dropped into the water and began to sink. Then he called to the winds. The winds came from all sides and they blew until the waters went upwards, as in a mist. Now before that the winds had traveled in only two directions; they went from north to south and from south to north. But when Elk called to them, they came from the east, from the north, from the west, and from the south. They met at a central place; then they carried the waters upwards.

Now at first the people could see only the rocks. So they traveled on the rocky places. But nothing grew there and there was nothing to eat. Then the waters continued to vanish. At last the people could see the soft earth. When Elk saw the earth, he was so joyous, he rolled over and over on the earth. Then all the loose hairs clung to the soil. So the hairs grew, and from them sprang beans, corn, potatoes, and wild turnips, and at last all the grasses and trees.

Now the people wandered over the land. They found human footsteps. They followed them. They joined with them, and traveled with them in search of food.

(Hoga group)

The Hoga came down from above, and found the earth covered with water. They flew in every direction. They sought for gods who would help them and drive the water away. They found not one. Then Elk came. He had a loud voice and he shouted to the four corners of the sky. The four winds came in answer. They blew upon the water and it vanished upwards, in a mist. Then the people could see the rocks. Now there was only a little space on the rocks. They knew they must have more room. The people were crowded. So they sent Muskrat down into the water. He did not come back. He was drowned. Then they sent Loon down. He did not come back. He was drowned. Then they sent Beaver down into the water. The water was too deep. Beaver was drowned. Then Crawfish dived into the water. He was gone a long time. When he came up there was a little mud in his claws. Crawfish was so tired he died. But the people took the mud out of his claws and made the land.



The earth is a great floating island in a sea of water. At each of the four corners there is a cord hanging down from the sky. The sky is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the cords will break, and then the earth will sink down into the ocean. Everything will be water again. All the people will be dead. The Indians are much afraid of this.

In the long time ago, when everything was all water, all the animals lived up above in Galun'lati, beyond the stone arch that made the sky. But it was very much crowded. All the animals wanted more room. The animals began to wonder what was below the water and at last Beaver's grandchild, little Water Beetle, offered to go and find out. Water Beetle darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but it could find no place to rest. There was no land at all. Then Water Beetle dived to the bottom of the water and brought up some soft mud. This began to grow and to spread out on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. Afterwards this earth was fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

At first the earth was flat and soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and they sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but there was no place to alight; so the birds came back to Galun'lati. Then at last it seemed to be time again, so they sent out Buzzard; they told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired; his wings began to flap and strike the ground. Wherever they struck the earth there was a valley; whenever the wings turned upwards again, there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day. [This was the original home, in North Carolina.]

When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark. Therefore they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way. Red Crawfish had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled. Therefore the Cherokees do not eat it.

Then the medicine men raised the sun a handsbreadth in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time; and then another time; at last they had raised it seven handsbreadths so that it was just under the sky arch. Then it was right and they left it so. That is why the medicine men called the high place "the seventh height." Every day the sun goes along under this arch on the under side; it returns at night on the upper side of the arch to its starting place.

There is another world under this earth. It is like this one in every way. The animals, the plants, and the people are the same, but the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld. The springs at their head are the doorways by which we enter it. But in order to enter the other world, one must fast and then go to the water, and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underground world are different, because the water in the spring is always warmer in winter than the air in this world; and in summer the water is cooler.

We do not know who made the first plants and animals. But when they were first made, they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights. This is the way young men do now when they fast and pray to their medicine. They tried to do this. The first night, nearly all the animals stayed awake. The next night several of them dropped asleep. The third night still more went to sleep. At last, on the seventh night, only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. Therefore, to these were given the power to see in the dark, to go about as if it were day, and to kill and eat the birds and animals which must sleep during the night.

Even some of the trees went to sleep. Only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake all seven nights. Therefore they are always green. They are also sacred trees. But to the other trees it was said, "Because you did not stay awake, therefore you shall lose your hair every winter."

After the plants and the animals, men began to come to the earth. At first there was only one man and one woman. He hit her with a fish. In seven days a little child came down to the earth. So people came to the earth. They came so rapidly that for a time it seemed as though the earth could not hold them all.


Delaware (Lenni-Lenapi)

The Lenni-Lenapi are the First People, so that they know this story is true.

After the Creation of the earth, the Mysterious One covered it with a blue roof. Sometimes the roof was very black. Then the Manitou of Waters became uneasy. He feared the rain would no longer be able to pour down upon the earth through this dark roof. Therefore the Manitou of Waters prayed to the Mysterious One that the waters from above be not cut off.

At once the Mysterious One commanded to blow the Spirit of the Wind, who dwells in the Darkening Land. At once thick clouds arose. They covered all the earth, so that the dark roof could no longer be seen.

Then the voice of the Mysterious One was heard amongst the clouds. The voice was deep and heavy, like the sound of falling rivers.

Then the Spirit of Rain, the brother of the Spirit of Waters and the Spirit of the Winds, poured down water from above. The waters fell for a long time. They fell until all the earth was covered. Then the birds took refuge in the branches of the highest trees. The animals followed the trails to the mountain peaks.

Then the Manitou of Waters feared no longer. Therefore the Mysterious One ordered the rain to cease and the clouds to disappear. Then Sin-go-wi-chi-na-xa, the rainbow, was seen in the sky.

Therefore the Lenni-Lenapi watch for the rainbow, because it means that the Mysterious One is no longer angry.



In the beginning there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders, who lived up in Galun'lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was a long, long time ago.

Every animal was anxious to go after the fire. Raven offered. He was large and strong, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water, and lighted on the sycamore tree. There he perched, wondering what to do next. Then he looked at himself. The heat had scorched his feathers black. Raven was so frightened he flew back across the water without any fire.

Then little Wa-hu-hu, the Screech Owl, offered to go. He flew high and far across the water and perched upon a hollow tree. As he sat there looking into the hollow tree, wondering what to do, a blast of hot air came up and hurt his eyes. Screech Owl was frightened. He flew back as best he could, because he could hardly see. That is why his eyes are red even to this day.

Then Hooting Owl and the Horned Owl went, but by the time they reached the hollow tree, the fire was blazing so fiercely that the smoke nearly blinded them. The ashes carried up by the breeze made white rings around their eyes. So they had to come home without fire. Therefore they have white rings around their eyes.

None of the rest of the birds would go to the fire. Then Uk-su-hi, the racer snake, said he would go through the water and bring back fire. He swam to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree. Then he went into the tree by a small hole at the bottom. But the heat and smoke were dreadful. The ground at the bottom of the tree was covered with hot ashes. The racer darted back and forth trying to get off the ashes, and at last managed to escape through the same hole by which he had entered. But his body had been burned black. Therefore he is now the black racer. And that is why the black racer darts around and doubles on his track as if trying to escape.

Then great Blacksnake, "The Climber," offered to go for fire. He was much larger than the black racer. Blacksnake swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump. Before he could climb out, he, too, was burned black.

So the birds, and the animals, and the snakes held another council. The world was still very cold. There was no fire. But all the birds, and the snakes, and all the four-footed animals refused to go for fire. They were all afraid of the burning sycamore.

Then Water Spider said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but the other one—the one with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of the water, or dive to the bottom.

The animals said, "How can you bring back fire?"

But Water Spider spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl which she fastened on her back. Then she swam over to the island and through the grass to the fire. Water Spider put one little coal of fire into her bowl, and then swam back with it.

That is how fire came to the world. And that is why Water Spider has a tusti bowl on her back.



There are people who come from under the water. They lived in the water weeds that hang down, all green, into the water. They have leaves upon their stems. Now the water people lived in shells. The shells were their houses and kept the water out.

There were other animals who lived under the earth. Cougar lived under the earth, and bear, and buffalo. These creatures came up out of the ground. Then the shell people came up to the earth also; and the sky people came down. So all these three peoples lived together. They are the fathers of the people who live on the earth today.



When the world was new, there was one man and one woman. They were happy; then they quarreled. At last the woman left the man and began to walk away toward the Sunland, the Eastland. The man followed. He felt sorry, but the woman walked straight on. She did not look back.

Then Sun, the great Apportioner, was sorry for the man. He said,

"Are you still angry with your wife?"

The man said, "No."

Sun said, "Would you like to have her come back to you?"

"Yes," said the man.

So Sun made a great patch of huckleberries which he placed in front of the woman's trail. She passed them without paying any attention to them. Then Sun made a clump of blackberry bushes and put those in front of her trail. The woman walked on. Then Sun created beautiful service-berry bushes which stood beside the trail. Still the woman walked on.

So Sun made other fruits and berries. But the woman did not look at them.

Then Sun created a patch of beautiful ripe strawberries. They were the first strawberries. When the woman saw those, she stopped to gather a few. As she gathered them, she turned her face toward the west. Then she remembered the man. She turned to the Sunland but could not go on. She could not go any further.

Then the woman picked some of the strawberries and started back on her trail, away from the Sunland. So her husband met her, and they went back together.



In the beginning the people were in water. They opened their eyes, but they could see nothing. As the people came out of the water, they first saw the daylight. They had no clothing. Then they took weeds and grasses and from them wove clothing.

The people lived near a large body of water; it was in a wooded country where there was game. The men hunted the deer with clubs; they did not know the use of the bow. The people wandered about the shores of the great water. They were poor and cold. The people thought, "What shall we do to help ourselves?" So they began chipping stones. They found a bluish stone that was easily flaked and chipped; so they made knives and arrowheads out of it. But they were still poor and cold. They thought, "What shall we do?"

Then a man found an elm root that was very dry. He dug a hole in it and put a stick in and rubbed it. Then smoke came. He smelled it. Then the people smelled it and came near. Others helped him to rub. At last a spark came. They blew this into a flame. Thus fire came to warm the people and to cook their food.

After this the people built grass houses; they cut the grass with the shoulder blade of a deer. Now the people had fire and ate their meat roasted. Then they grew tired of roast meat. They thought, "How shall we cook our meat differently?"

A man found a piece of clay that stuck well together. Then he brought sand to mix with it. Then he molded it as a pot. Then he gathered grass until he had a large heap of it; he put the clay pot into the midst of the grass and set it on fire. This made the clay hard. After a time he put water into the pot; the water did not leak out. This was good. So he put water into it and then meat into it, and put the pot over the fire. Thus the people had boiled meat to eat.

Now their grass coverings would grow fuzzy and drop off. It was hard to gather and keep these coverings. The people were not satisfied. Again they thought, "What can we do to have something different to wear?"

Before this, they had been throwing away the hides from the game which they killed. But now they took their stone knives to scrape down the hides and make them thin. They rubbed the hides with grass and with their hands to make them soft. Then they used the hides for clothing. Now they had clothing and were warm.

Now the women had to break the dry wood to keep up the fires. They had no tools. So the men made a stone ax with a groove. Then they put a handle on the grooved stone and fastened it with rawhide. This was used. Then they wanted something better to break the wood. So they made wedges of stone.

Now the grass shelter came to pieces easily. Then the people thought, "What shall we do? How can we get something that will not come to pieces?" Then they tried putting skins on poles.

First they tried deerskins. But they were too small. They tried elk skins. But they became hard and stiff in the rain and sun. Then they did not try skins longer. They used bark to cover the poles of their tepees.

But the bark houses were not warm. Then the people took the leg bone of the deer and splintered it So they made sharp pieces for awls. Then they took buffalo skins and sinews, and with the awl they fastened the skins together. So they made comfortable covers for their tepees.

Then a man wandered around a long time. One day he found some small pieces of something which were white, and red, and blue. He thought they must be something of great value, so he hid them in a mound of earth. Now one day he went to see if they were safe. Behold! When he came to the mound, green stalks were growing out of it. And on the stalks were small kernels of white, and red, and blue. Behold! It was corn. Then the man took the corn, and gave it to the people. They tried it for food. They found it good, and have ever since called it their life.

Now when the people found the corn good, they thought to hide it in mounds as the first man had done. So they took the shoulder blade of an elk and made mounds. Then they hid the corn in it. So the corn grew and the people had food.

Now as the people wandered around, they came to a forest where the birch trees grew. There was a great lake there. Then they made canoes of birch bark. They traveled in them on the water. Then a man found two young animals. He carried them home. He fed them so they grew bigger. Then he made a harness which he placed upon them and fastened it to poles. So these animals became burden bearers. Before that, every burden had to be carried on the back. Now the dogs helped the people.



The people came across a great water on logs tied together. They pitched their tents on the shore. Then they thought to make for themselves certain bounds within which they were to live and rules which should govern them. They cleared a space of grass and weeds so they could see each other's faces. They sat down and there was no obstruction between them.

While they were holding a council, an owl hooted in the trees near by. The leader said, "That bird is to take part in our council. He calls to us. He offers us his aid."

Immediately afterward they heard a woodpecker. He knocked against the trees. The leader said, "That bird calls to us. He offers us his aid. He will take part in our council."

Then the chief appointed a man as servant. He said, "Go into the woods and get an ash sapling." The servant came back with a sapling having a rough bark.

"We do not want that," said the leader. "Go again and get a sapling with a smooth bark, bluish in color at the joint where a branch comes." So the servant went out, and came back with a sapling of the kind described.

When the leader took up the sapling, an eagle came and soared about the council which was sitting in the grass. He dropped a downy feather; it fell. It fell in the center of the cleared space. Now this was the white eagle. The chief said, "This is not what we want," so the white eagle passed on.

Then the bald eagle came swooping down, as though attacking its prey. It balanced itself on its wings directly over the cleared space. It uttered fierce cries, and dropped one of its downy feathers, which stood on the ground as the other eagle's feather had done. The chief said, "This is not what we want." So the bald eagle passed on.

Then came the spotted eagle, and soared over the council, and dropped its feather as the others had done. The chief said, "This is not what we want," and the spotted eagle passed on.

Then the imperial eagle, the eagle with the fantail, came, and soared over the people. It dropped a downy feather which stood upright in the center of the cleared space. The chief said, "This is what we want."

So the feathers of this eagle were used in making the peace pipes, together with the feathers of the owl and woodpecker, and with other things. These peace pipes were to be used in forming friendly relations with other tribes.

When the peace pipes were made, seven other pipes were made for keeping peace within the tribe. One pipe was to prevent revenge. If one man should kill another, the chief took this pipe to the relatives and offered it to them. If the relatives of the dead man refused to accept it, it was offered again. It was offered four times. If it was refused four times, the chief said, "Well, you must take the consequences. We will do nothing, and you cannot now ask to see the pipes." He meant if they took revenge and any trouble came to them, they could not ask for help or for mercy.

Each band had its own pipe.



In the days of the old men, far to the north there lived a nation with many villages. Their warriors were as many as the buffalo herds on the plains toward the Darkening Land. Their tepees were many on the shores of a beautiful lake and along wide rivers.

Then the Mysterious One, whose voice is in the clouds, told the chiefs of a great nation, also of many villages, which hunted through all the country from the Big Water in the sunrise to the mountains in the Darkening Land.

Then the chiefs and the old men held a council. Runners came from many villages to the great council. And the council voice was to go to the great nation to the south, the nation with many villages, and bring back scalps and horses.

So the chiefs and warriors went out, one by one. Then runners were sent to all the villages, ordering the chiefs to dance the scalp dance.

Suddenly there came through the sky a great white bird. It came from the forest, and flew into the village of the great chief. It rested above the head of the chief's daughter.

Then the chief's daughter heard a voice in her heart. The voice said, "Call all the chiefs and warriors together. Tell them the Mysterious One is sad because they seek the scalps of the Lenni-Lenapi, the First People. Tell the warriors they must wash their hands in the blood of a young fawn. They must go with many presents to the First People. They must carry to the First People Hobowakan, the calumet."

Thus the First People and the mighty people with many villages on the shore of the lake smoked together the pipe of council. So there was peace.



A young man who had been wandering came back to his village. When he reached his home he said, "Father, I have seen a wonderful tree." Then he told his father about it. The old man was silent because all was not yet settled between the tribes. The Cheyenne, the Arikara, the Omaha, Ponca, and Iowa were having a great council, so as to adopt rules concerning the hunting of game, and of peace, and war.

After a while, the young man went to visit the tree. When he reached home, he told his father again of it. The old man was silent, for the chiefs were still holding their council. At last, when the council was over and the rules decided upon, the old man sent for the chiefs. He said, "My son has seen a wonderful tree. The Thunder Birds come and go upon this tree. They make a trail of fire which leaves four paths on the burnt grass that stretch towards the Four Winds. When the Thunder Birds alight upon the tree, it bursts into flame. The fire mounts to the top. The tree stands burning, but no one can see the fire except at night."

When the chiefs heard this tale, they sent runners to see what this tree might be. The runners came back and told the same story. In the night they had seen the tree burning as it stood. Then all the people held a council as to what this might mean. The chiefs said, "We shall run for it. Put on your ornaments and prepare as if for battle."

The warriors painted themselves as if for war. They put on their ornaments. They set out for the tree, which stood near a lake. They ran as if it were a race to attack the enemy. All the men ran. A Ponca was the first to reach the tree and he struck it as if it were an enemy.

Then they cut the tree down. Four men, walking in a straight line, carried it on their shoulders to the village. The chiefs for four nights sang the songs made in honor of the tree. They held a council about the tree. A tent was made for it, and it was set up in the circle of lodges. The chiefs worked upon it; they trimmed it and called it a human being. They made a basket of twigs and feathers and tied it half way up the tree. Then they said, "It has no hair!" So they sent out to get a large scalp lock and they put it on top of Pole for hair. Afterwards the chiefs told the criers to tell the people that when Pole was completed they should see it.

Then they painted Pole and set it up before the tent. They leaned it on a crotched stick. Then they called all the people and all the people came. Men, women, and children came.

When they were all together, the chiefs said, "This is a mystery. Whenever we meet with trouble, we shall bring all our prayers to Pole. We shall make offerings to him. We shall ask him for what we need. When we ask anything, we must make gifts. If anyone desires to become a chief, he shall make presents to the Keepers of the Pole, and they shall give him authority to be a chief."

When all was finished the people said, "Let us appoint a time when we shall again paint Pole; when we shall act before him the battles we have fought." So they fixed the time in the moon when the buffaloes bellow.



Ikto once stood on the bank of a stream across which he could not swim. He stood on the bank and thought. Then he sang:

I stand, Thinking often, Oh, that I might reach the other side.

Just then a long Something passed, swimming against the current. When it reached Ikto, it said,

"I will take you across, but you must not lift your head above the water. Should you notice even a small cloud, warn me at once, as I must go under the water. If you see a small cloud, you must say, 'Younger brother, your grandfather is coming.'"

Before the other bank was reached, Ikto looked up. He saw a small cloud and said, "Younger brother, your grandfather is coming."

There was a sudden commotion. When Ikto became conscious again, the Thunder Beings were roaring, and the water was dashing high, but the monster had vanished.



In the olden times, a hunter once shot at a large bird which was flying above him. It fell to the ground. It was so large he was afraid to go to it alone, so he went back to the camp for others.

When they came back to the place where the bird had been shot, thunder was rolling through the ravine. Flashes of lightning showed the place where the bird lay. They came nearer. Then the lightning flashed so that they could not see the bird. One flash killed a hunter.

The other Indians fled back to the camp. They knew it was the Thunder Bird.

Once the Thunder Bird, in the days of the grandfathers, came down to the ground and alighted there. You may know that is so, because the grass remains burned off a large space, and the outlines are those of a large bird with outspread wings.



The Sioux, or Dakotas, of whom the Assiniboins are a branch, pretend that thunder is an enormous bird, and that the muffled sound of the distant thunder is caused by a countless number of young birds! The great bird, they say, gives the first sound, and the young ones repeat it; this is the cause of the reverberations. The Sioux declare that the young Thunders do all the mischief, like boys who will not listen to good advice; but the old Thunder, or big bird, is wise and excellent; he never kills or injures any one!



Ye four, come hither and stand, near shall ye stand,[B] In four groups shall ye stand, Here shall ye stand, in this place stand.

[The thunder rolls]

Turned by the wind goes the one I send yonder; Yonder he goes who is whirled by the winds; Goes, where the four hills of life and the four winds are standing; There in the midst of the winds do I send him, Into the midst of the winds standing there.

[The thunder rolls]


[A] By Alice C. Fletcher.

[B] The "four" are the four winds.



The whole world is coming, A nation is coming, a nation is coming, The Eagle has brought the message to the tribe. The father says so, the father says so, Over the whole earth they are coming. The buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming, The Crow has brought the message to the tribe, The father says so, the father says so.[C]


[C] "This fine song summarizes the whole hope of the Ghost-dance—the return of the buffalo and the departed dead, the message being brought to the people by the sacred birds, the Eagle and the Crow."



He! They have come back racing,[E] He! They have come back racing, Why, they say there is to be a buffalo hunt over here, Why, they say there is to be a buffalo hunt over here. Make arrows! Make arrows! Says the father, says the father. Give me my knife, Give me my knife, I shall hang up the meat to dry—Ye' ye! I shall hang up the meat to dry—Ye' ye! Says grandmother—Yo' yo! Says grandmother—Yo' yo! When it is dry I shall make pemmican, When it is dry I shall make pemmican, Says grandmother—Yo' yo! Says grandmother—Yo' yo![F]


[D] Songs and comments as given by James Mooney.

[E] "When going on a buffalo hunt, it was customary among the Sioux to send out a small advance party to locate the herd. On finding it, these men returned at once at full gallop to the main body of hunters, but instead of stopping on reaching them, they dashed past and then turned and fell in behind. It is to this custom the first line refers."

[F] "In the old days an Indian camp during the cutting up of the meat after a buffalo hunt was a scene of the most joyous activity.... Preparations were made for days and weeks ahead. Couriers were sent out to collect the neighboring bands at a common rendezvous, medicine men began their prayers and ceremonies to attract the herd, the buffalo songs were sung, and finally when all was ready the confederated bands or sometimes the whole tribe—men, women, children, horses, dogs, and travois—moved out into the buffalo grounds. Here the immense camp of hundreds of tipis was set up, more ceremonies were performed, and the mounted warriors rode out in a body to surround and slaughter the herd. The women followed close after them to strip the hides from the fresh carcasses, and cut out the choice portion of the meat and tallow and bring it into camp."



In the days of the grandfathers, buffaloes lived under the earth. In the olden times, they say, a man who was journeying came to a hill where there were many holes in the ground. He entered one of them. When he had gone inside he found buffalo chips and buffalo tracks on all sides. He found also buffalo hairs where the buffaloes had rubbed against the walls. These were the real buffaloes and they lived under the ground. Afterwards some of them came to the surface of the earth and lived there. Then the herds on the earth increased.

These buffaloes had many lodges and there they raised their children. They did many strange things. Therefore when a man escapes being wounded by an enemy, people say he has seen the buffaloes in his dreams, and they have helped him.

Men who dream of the buffaloes act like them and dance the buffalo-bull dance. Then the man who acts the buffalo has a real buffalo inside of him, people say, a little hard ball near the shoulder blade; and therefore he is very hard to kill. No matter how often he is wounded, he does not die.

People know that the buffaloes live in earth lodges; so they never dance the buffalo dance vainly.



Once upon a time, a Buffalo Being attacked a party of Indians. He killed one of them, but the others ran away and climbed a tree. The Buffalo Being followed them and rushed at the tree. He rushed many times, knocking off piece after piece of the tree, until very little was left.

Then the frightened Indians lighted some tinder, and threw it far off into the tall grass. The fire scorched the Buffalo Being's eyes, and injured his horns. The hard part of the horn slipped off, leaving only the softer part, so that he could no longer injure any one.

But the Buffalo Being was still dangerous. At last one of the Indians slipped down the tree, with his bow and arrow. He killed the Buffalo Being. Then all the men came down the tree and skinned the animal and cut up the flesh. Into the buffalo-skin robe they placed the body of the dead Indian. But suddenly another Buffalo Being appeared. The Indians again climbed the tree. But this Being only walked four times around the dead Indian. Then he said, "Arise to your feet."

At once the dead man came to life. The Buffalo Being said to him, "Hereafter you shall be mysterious. The sun, the moons, the four winds, day and night shall be your slaves."

Then it was so. The Indian could take the form of a fine plume, which was blown against a tree. It would stick to the tree and wave many times in the breeze.


The German knights are from a sketch in a Ms., dated 1220, in the University of Leipzig. The sketch was copied from Rudolph Cronau's "Geschichte der Solinger Klingenindustrie." They are Knights of the 13th century.

The Indian warriors were drawn by an Apache Indian at Anadarko, in 1884, though the insignia is really that of the Cheyenne Indians.

The comparison and contrast are made by the Bureau of Ethnology.]



There were some villages which were very populous. The chief's son and his daughter were unmarried. There were two sons. They surrounded the herds of buffaloes. They used to kill buffaloes.

One of the sons of this chief attacked a buffalo when far apart from the rest. He shot it; but the buffalo had gone out of sight into the ground. The man and his horse, too, went headlong; but the buffalo went down first.

Now the father sent out criers. "He says that his son reached the buffaloes, but he has not come home. He says that ye who have seen his son will please tell it," shouted the criers.

One said he had seen him. "I saw him very distinctly. He went in pursuit. Perhaps he went headlong into a sunken place, for when on very level ground he vanished altogether. I did not see him again," he said.

The father commanded the people to join him in seeking his son. When the man who had seen him said, "It was just here," the people scattered far and wide, seeking the chief's son. All the people sought him. Behold, he had gone down the pit some time before. The buffalo had gone down, having kicked off a piece of the soil. The horse, too, had gone down, having kicked off a piece of the soil.

There was no trail beyond the pit. All the people went directly to it, without hesitation.

The pit was very large and extended far downward. The chief spoke of removing the village there, at once. So there they camped. They camped around the pit.

Then the chief implored the young men and those who had been his friends. If there was one man who was stout-hearted, one who had a firm heart, the father wished him to enter the pit and go after the young man. So he implored them.

At length one rode round and round the village. Then he promised to enter the pit and go after the missing son.

"Tell his father. He must also collect cords," he said.

Having cut buffalo hides in strips, he collected the cords.

"Make a round piece of skin for me, and tie the long line of cord to it," he said. So they finished it.

"Now it matters not to what place I go, I will put the body in the skin bucket. I go to take hold of him. When I reach the ground at the bottom, I will pull suddenly on the cord. When I pull on it many times, you will draw it up." Thus he said.

At last he reached the ground inside the pit. It was very dark. When he felt around in the dark, the buffalo was lying alone, being killed by the fall. The horse, too, was lying by itself, having been killed by the fall. And the man lay apart from them, having been killed by the fall.

Picking up the body of the chief's son, he put it in the hollow skin. Then he pulled many times on the cord.

But when the young man went down, strange to say, he did not ask favors for himself. And they rejoiced because he had put the chief's son in the hollow skin. Having brought up the dead man they forgot the living one.

Though he sat waiting for the hollow skin to come down again, he was not drawn up. So he sat wailing.

Now the chief had promised him his daughter to go down into the pit. "If you bring my son back, you shall marry her," he had said.

The young man wandered about in the darkness. At length when walking along the trail, he came suddenly upon an old woman.

"Venerable woman, though this land is very difficult to reach, I have come hither. I came to the hole in the ground above. One person came hither, having fallen into this pit. I came to take him back. They have not drawn me up; and I have no way of going back. Venerable woman, help me." So he spoke.

"There is nothing that I can do to help you," she said. "A person is in that place, out of sight. Go there. He is the one who will do it for you."

He went there. When he arrived, he knocked repeatedly on the door. Though he stood hearing them speaking, they did not open the door for him.

The woman said, "Fie! A person has come. Open the door for him."

Behold! The man's child was dead, and therefore he sat without speaking. He sat still, being sad. Then the young man arrived within the lodge, the woman having opened the door for him. Yet her husband sat without speaking. The young man was impatient from hunger. The husband questioned him:

"From what place have you walked?" he asked.

The young man told his story. "I walked up above, but a man headed off the herd, and having fallen, he came here. I came here to take him back. They did not take me back; I have no way of going back. Help me," he said.

The man said, "We had a child, but it died. We will treat you just like the child who died." He meant he would adopt him. "All things which I have are yours," said the father.

The young man did not speak. He wished to go homeward.

"Whatever you say I will do it for you," said the father. "Even if you desire to go homeward, it shall be so," he said.

At last the young man spoke of going homeward.

"If you say, 'I will go homeward riding a horse of such a color, O father!' it shall be so," said the father.

"Fie!" said the woman. "Heretofore we were deprived of our child. The young man who has just come home is like him. Give him one thing which you have."

"I make you my child. I will give you something. Whatever I desire I always make with it, when I wish to have anything," said the father. He had a piece of iron and when he wished anything he used to point at the iron.

"O father, I wish to go homeward riding a horse with very white hair. I also desire a mule with very white hair, and a good saddle," said the young man.

"Come, go there. Open the door of that stable. When you wish to see us again, you shall see us. When you will go homeward, you will say, 'Come, O father, I desire to go homeward,'" said the father.

The young man went homeward. He made the rocks open suddenly by pointing at them with the iron. He went up, making the ground echo under the horse's feet. When he pushed aside a very large rock which was in his way, he found himself again on the surface of the earth. The horse and mule were very sudden in their movements. They shied at every step. They sniffed the odor of a bad land.

The young man found his nation that he had left. Behold! they had recently removed and departed. After they waited some time for him to appear, they had removed their camp and departed. The horse and mule went along, fearing the sight of the old camping ground. They followed the trail of the departing village.

Then the young man saw two people on a large hill, walking in the trail. They were the head chief and his wife who were walking along, mourning for the dead.

They looked behind and said, "Yonder comes one on horseback, following the trail made by the departing village."

He drew near. They sat waiting for him to appear. The horse and mule feared the sight of them; they sniffed a bad odor.

"Why! Of what nation are you?" asked the chief.

"It is I," said the young man.

"But which one are you?" said the chief.

"Your son went headlong into a pit when they surrounded the herd," said the young man. "And I went down to get him. You did not bring me back. It is I."

As he was very much changed, the old man doubted.

"Fie! Tell the truth about yourself."

"When they surrounded the herd, your son went headlong as well as the buffalo, and he was killed by falling into a pit. When you commanded them to get him, they drew back through fear. I am he who went to get him when you offered your daughter as a reward," said the young man. "I have hardly been able to come again to the surface."

Then they recognized him. The two men stood talking together on the large hill. The chief's son looked back from the camp.

"Why! The chief and his wife have come as far as the large hill and a man on horseback has come, too. He stands talking to them. I will go thither. Let me see! I will go to see them."

He went back on horseback and came to his father.

"With what person do you talk?" said the son.

"Why! He who went to get your elder brother has come back!" said the head chief.

They shook hands. And the head chief gave his daughter to the young man.

"Let all the men and chiefs assemble. Let all the stout-hearted young men assemble. They can look at my daughter's husband," he said.

They assembled. They came to see the young man and brought the things they intended giving him.

"He says that he who went to get the man who was killed by falling has come back. The chief says that as he has made the young man his daughter's husband you shall go to see the young man. He says that you will take to him what things you wish to give him. The chief says he will give thanks for them." So shouted the crier.

All the young men and those who were brave and generous went thither. They all gave him clothing and good horses. His wife's father made him the head chief.

"Make ye a tent for him in the center," said the old chief.

They set up a tent for him in the center. They finished it.

"The people did not eat. As they sat waiting for you to appear, the nation did not eat. You came back when they were just removing camp," said the old chief.

"Ho!" said the one who had just reached home. "Let two old men go as criers."

So the criers shouted: "The chiefs daughter's husband says that you will rest tomorrow. He says you will not go in any direction whatever."

The next day he commanded those who had come back on horseback to act as scouts. And the scouts came back very soon; because by means of the iron rod which he had asked of his father, he made a great many buffaloes very quickly. He spoke of surrounding them. They shot down many of the buffaloes. He went to take part in surrounding them.

His wife said, "I desire to go to see them surround the herd. I must go to see the buffaloes. When they are killed, I will be quite likely to come back."

When they killed the buffaloes she was coming back; the wife stood on the hill. Her husband came to that place.

"Though I killed the buffaloes, they will cut them up," he said. They who surrounded them reached home.

Again they spoke of a buffalo hunt. "The chief's daughter's husband speaks indeed of sending them to act as scouts," said the criers.

Again the herd of buffaloes had come to that country. They surrounded them. Again they shot down many of them.

At last the son of the old head chief was in a bad humor. He was in a bad humor because his sister's husband had been made chief.

Now at night, the horse used to say to the young man, "O father, a man desires very much to kill us. It is so every night." And after that at night the young man used to take care of his horse and mule.

On the next day they surrounded the herd in the land where the deed was done. It was just so again; a great many buffaloes had been coming. At length the son wished the buffaloes to trample his sister's husband to death. When they attacked the buffaloes, he waved his robe. Turning around in his course, he waved his robe again. When the sister's husband went right in among the buffaloes, they closed in on him and he was not seen at all.

The people said, "The buffaloes have trampled to death the chief's daughter's husband."

When the buffaloes trampled him to death, they scattered and went homeward in every direction, moving in long lines. And the people did not find any trace whatever of what was done. They did not find the horse. Even the man they did not find. When the buffaloes killed him by trampling, the horse had gone back to Him Who Made Things.



Grizzly Bear was going somewhere, following the course of a stream, and at last he went straight towards the headland. When he got in sight, Buffalo Bull was standing beneath it. Grizzly Bear retraced his steps, going again to the stream, following its course until he got beyond the headland. Then he drew near and peeped. He saw that Buffalo Bull was very lean, and standing with his head bowed, as if sluggish. So Grizzly Bear crawled up close to him, made a rush, seized him by the hair of his head, and pulled down his head. He turned Buffalo Bull round and round, shaking him now and then, saying, "Speak! Speak! I have been coming to this place a long time, and they say you have threatened to fight me. Speak!" Then he hit Buffalo Bull on the nose with his open paw.

"Why!" said Buffalo Bull, "I have never threatened to fight you, who have been coming to this country so long."

"Not so! You have threatened to fight me." Letting go the buffalo's head, Grizzly Bear went around and seized him by the tail, turning him round and round. Then he left, but as he did so, he gave him a hard blow with his open paw.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! you have caused me great pain," said Buffalo Bull. Bobtailed Grizzly Bear departed.

Buffalo Bull thought thus: "Attack him! You too have been just that sort of a person."

Grizzly Bear knew what he was thinking, so he said, "Why! what are you saying?"

"I said nothing," said Buffalo Bull.

Then Grizzly Bear came back. He seized Buffalo Bull by the tail, pulling him round and round. Then he seized him by the horns, pulling his head round and round. Then he seized him again by the tail and hit him again with the open paw. Again Grizzly Bear departed. And again Buffalo Bull thought as he had done before. Then Grizzly Bear came back and treated Buffalo Bull as he had before.

Buffalo Bull stepped backward, throwing his tail into the air.

"Why! Do not flee," said Grizzly Bear.

Buffalo threw himself down, and rolled over and over. Then he continued backing, pawing the ground.

"Why! I say, do not flee," said Grizzly Bear. When Buffalo Bull backed, making ready to attack him, Grizzly Bear thought he was scared.

Then Buffalo Bull ran towards Grizzly, puffing a great deal. When he neared him, he rushed on him. He sent Grizzly Bear flying through the air.

As Grizzly Bear came down towards the earth, Buffalo Bull caught him on his horns and threw him into the air again. When Grizzly Bear fell and lay on the ground, Buffalo Bull made at him with his horns to gore him, but just missed him. Grizzly Bear crawled away slowly, with Buffalo Bull following him step by step, thrusting at him now and then, though without striking him. When Grizzly Bear came to a cliff, he plunged over headlong, and landed in a thicket at the foot. Buffalo Bull had run so fast he could not stop at the edge where Grizzly Bear went over, but followed the cliff for some distance. Then he came back and stood with his tail partly raised. Grizzly Bear returned to the bank and peeped.

"Oh, Buffalo Bull," said Grizzly Bear. "Let us be friends. We are very much alike in disposition."


(Comanche drawing on a buffalo shoulder blade)

The Indian chase is by arrow; the white man's by the lasso, gun, and spear. The rivalry is indicated by half the buffalo being drawn as belonging to one race, half to the other. The white men are supposed to be Spaniards. The shoulder blade was found in the Comanche country, in Texas.]


(Indian drawing)

A buffalo has wandered near an Indian village, and is being captured. The dotted lines indicate footprints. One Indian, having secured the buffalo by his forefeet, tells his companion of his success—indicated by the line drawn from his mouth to its feet. Another, having secured the buffalo by the horns, gives a companion a chance to kill it with an axe. This he intends to do—indicated by the line from his mouth to its head, as well as by his attitude. The Indian in the upper corner is told by his squaw to take an arrow and join in the capture. He turns his head to inform her that he has an arrow—indicated by holding it up, and by the line from his mouth to her.]



I went three times on the buffalo hunt. When I was there the first time, I was small; therefore, I did not shoot the buffaloes. But I used to take care of the pack horses for those who surrounded the herd. When they surrounded the herd at the very first, I spoke of shooting at the buffaloes. But my father said, "Perhaps the horse might throw you suddenly, and then the buffalo might gore you." And I was in a bad humor.

My father went with me to the hill. We sat and looked on them when they attacked the buffaloes. And notwithstanding my father talked to me, I continued there without talking to him. At length one man was coming directly toward the tents in pursuit of a buffalo bull. And the buffalo bull was savage. He attacked the man now and then.

"Come! Go thither," said my father. I tied a lariat on a large red mare that was very tall. And taking a very light gun which my father had, I went over there. When I arrived the buffalo bull was standing motionless. The man said he was very glad that I had come. The buffalo bull was savage. The man shot suddenly at him with a bow and wounded him on the back. And then he attacked us. The horse on which I was seated leaped very far four times, and had gone off, throwing me suddenly. When the buffalo bull had come very close, he wheeled around and departed. So I failed to shoot at him before he went. I reached home just as my mother was scolding my father about me. When the horse reached home with the bridle sticking to it, she knew that I had been thrown. My father said nothing at all, but sat laughing. Addressing me, he said, "Did you kill the buffalo bull?" And I did not speak.


[G] The author, Frank La Fleche, an Omaha Indian, was about twelve years old when this occurred.



When whippoorwills sing together at night, "Hohin, hohin," one says in reply, "No." If the birds stop talking at once, then the person will die soon. But if the birds continue talking, then the man will live a long time.

The gray screech owl foretells cold weather. When the night is to be very cold, then the owl cries out; it sounds just as if a person's teeth chattered. When the owl cries out, all people wrap themselves in their thickest robes; and they put plenty of wood on the fires.

The Ski-bi-bi-la is a small gray bird, with a black head, and spotted on the breast. It lives in the woods, and it answers a person who calls to it. When this bird says, "Has it returned?" people are glad. They know that spring is near. When a boy hears the bird ask this question, he runs to his mother; she tells him he must answer, "No; it has not yet returned."

When the people first hear the cry of the nighthawk in the spring, they begin to talk of hunting buffalo. This is because when the hawk returns, the buffaloes have become fat again and the birds bring the news.



All the birds were called together. To them was said, "Whichever one of you can fly farthest into the sky shall be chief."

All the birds flew to a great height. But Wren got under the thick feathers of Eagle and sat there as Eagle flew. When all the birds became wing-tired, they flew down again; but Eagle flew still higher. When Eagle had gone as far as he could, Wren flew still higher.

When all the birds reached the ground, Eagle alone returned, after a great while. Behold! Wren only was absent. So they awaited him. At last he returned. Eagle had too highly been thinking of himself, being sure of being made chief; and behold! Wren was made chief.



All around the birds in flocks are flying. Dipping, rising, circling, see them coming. See, many birds are flocking here, All about us now together coming.

Yonder see the birds in flocks, come flying; Dipping, rising, circling, see them gather. Loud is the sound their winging makes. Rushing, come they on the trees alighting.

From the flock an eagle now comes flying; Dipping, rising, circling, comes she hither. Loud screams the eagle, flying swift, As an eagle flies, her nestlings seeking.

It is Kawas coming, Kawas flying; Dipping, rising, circling, she advances. See! Nearer she comes, nearer comes. Now, alighted, she her nest is making.

Yonder people like the birds are flocking; See them circling, this side, that side coming. Loud is the sound their moving makes, As together come they, onward come they.


[H] Rendition by Alice C. Fletcher.



O'er the prairie flits in ever widening circles the shadow of a bird about me as I walk; Upward turn my eyes, Kawas looks upon me, she turns with flapping wings and far away she flies.

Round about a tree in ever widening circles an eagle flies, alert watching o'er his nest; Loudly whistles he, a challenge sending far, o'er the country wide it echoes, there defying foes.


[I] Rendition by Alice C. Fletcher.



Once a hunter in the mountains heard a noise at night like a rushing wind. He went outside his tepee, and found an eagle was sitting on the drying pole, feasting at the deer he had shot. So he shot the eagle.

The next morning the hunter took the deer back to the village. He told how he had shot the deer and then the eagle. Therefore the chief sent out men to bring in the eagle, and have an Eagle dance.

That night when they were dancing, there was a whoop outside. A strange warrior walked into the circle. He was not of that village. They thought he had come from one of the other Cherokee villages.

This warrior told how he had killed a man. At the end of the story, he yelled, "Hi!" One of the men with rattles, who was leading the dance, fell dead. The stranger sang of another deed. At the end he yelled, "Hi!" Another rattler fell dead. The people were frightened. But the stranger sang of another great deed. Then again he yelled, "Hi!" Again a man with the rattles fell dead. So all seven men who had rattles and who were leading the dance fell dead. And the people were too frightened to leave the lodge where they were dancing.

Then the stranger vanished into the darkness. Long after they learned that the stranger was the brother of the eagle that had been killed.



Humming Bird and Crane were both in love with a pretty woman. She liked Humming Bird, who was handsome. Crane was ugly, but he would not give up the pretty woman. So at last to get rid of him, she told them they must have a race, and that she would marry the winner. Now Humming Bird flew like a flash of light; but Crane was heavy and slow.

The birds started from the woman's house to fly around the world to the beginning. Humming Bird flew off like an arrow. He flew all day and when he stopped to roost he was far ahead.

Crane flew heavily, but he flew all night long. He stopped at daylight at a creek to rest. Humming Bird waked up, and flew on again, and soon he reached a creek, and behold! there was Crane, spearing tadpoles with his long bill. Humming Bird flew on.

Soon Crane started on and flew all night as before. Humming Bird slept on his roost.

Next morning Humming Bird flew on and Crane was far, far ahead. The fourth day, Crane was spearing tadpoles for dinner when Humming Bird caught up with him. By the seventh day Crane was a whole night's travel ahead. At last he reached the beginning again. He stopped at the creek and preened his feathers, and then in the early morning went to the woman's house. Humming Bird was far, far behind.

But the woman declared she would not marry so ugly a man as Crane. Therefore she remained single.



Rabbit was going somewhere. At length he reached a place where there were wild Turkeys.

"Come," said Rabbit. "I will sing dancing songs for you."

Turkeys went to him saying, "Oho! Rabbit will sing dancing songs for us!"

"When I sing for you, you larger ones must go around the circle next to me. Beware lest you open your eyes. Should one of you open his eyes, your eyes shall be red," said Rabbit.

Then he began to sing,

Alas for the gazer! Eyes red! Eyes red! Spread out your tails! Spread out your tails!

Whenever a large Turkey came near, Rabbit seized it and put it in his bag. While he was putting in a Turkey, another one opened his eyes a little, and exclaimed, "Why! He has captured nearly all of us large ones!"

Off they all flew with a whirring sound.

Rabbit took home those he had in his bag, saying to his grandmother, "Do not look at what is in that bag! I have brought it home on my back and I wish you to guard it!"

Then he went out to cut spits on which to roast the Turkeys. When the old woman was alone, she thought, "What could he have brought home on his back?" So she untied the bag, and when she looked in out flew all the Turkeys, hitting their wings hard against the grass lodge, and flying out the smoke hole. The old woman barely killed one by hitting it. At length Rabbit came home.

"Oh I have inflicted a severe injury on my grandchild," she said.

"Really," he answered. "Grandmother, I told you not to look at it."

But that is why Turkeys have red eyes.


Rank is shown by pipe and pouch. The first Cankutanka, Big Road; often called Good Road—big and broad and well traveled. The bird flying through the dusk shows that one may fly rapidly over a good road. Next is Low Dog. The dog figure is "low," as shown by the shortness of the legs. In the center is Long Dog, as shown by the long legs on the dog figure. Below, to the left, is Iron Crow, the crow painted blue indicating iron. The last is Little Hawk. Each chief has three bands on the cheek, but with variant colors and patterns.]



Unktomi was going along; his way lay along by the side of a lake. Out on the lake there were a great many ducks, geese, and swans swimming. When Unktomi saw them he went backward out of sight, and picking some grass, bound it up in a bundle. He placed this on his back and so went again along by the side of the lake.

"Unktomi, what are you carrying?" asked the ducks and the geese and the swans.

"These are bad songs I am carrying," said Unktomi.

The ducks said, "Unktomi, sing for us."

Unktomi replied, "But the songs are very bad."

But the ducks insisted upon it. Then Unktomi said, "Make a grass lodge." So they went to work and made a large grass lodge.

"Now, let all the ducks, geese, and swans gather inside the lodge and I will sing for you," said Unktomi. So all the ducks and the geese and the swans gathered inside and filled the grass lodge. Then Unktomi took his place at the door of the lodge and said, "If I sing for you, no one must look, for that is the meaning of the song."

Then he began to sing,

Dance with your eyes shut; If you open your eyes Your eyes shall be red! Your eyes shall be red!

When he said and sang this, the geese, ducks, and swans danced with their eyes shut. Then Unktomi rose up and said,

I even, even I Follow in my own; I even, even I, Follow in my own.

So they all gabbled as they danced, and Unktomi, dancing among them, commenced twisting off the necks of the fattest of the geese and ducks and swans. But when he tried to twist off the neck of a large swan and could not, he only made him squawk. Then a small duck, called Skiska, partly opened his eyes. He saw Unktomi try to break the swan's neck, and he made an outcry:

Look ye, look ye! Unktomi will destroy us all. Look ye, look ye!

At once they all opened their eyes and attempted to go out. But Unktomi threw himself in the doorway and tried to stop them. They rushed upon him with their feet and wings, and smote him and knocked him over, walking on his stomach, and leaving him as though dead. Then Unktomi came to life, and got up, and looked around.

But they say that the Wood Duck, which looked first, had his eyes made red.

Then Unktomi gathered up the ducks and geese and swans he had killed and carried them on his back. He came to a river and traveled along by the side of it till he came to a long, straight place where he stopped to boil his kettle. He put all the ducks and geese and swans whose necks he had twisted into the kettle, and set it on the fire to boil, and then he lay down to sleep.

As he lay there, curled up on the bank of the river, he said, "Mionze [familiar spirit], if anyone comes you wake me up." So he slept.

Now a mink came paddling along on the river, and coming close to Unktomi's boiling place, saw him lying fast asleep. Then he went there. While Unktomi slept, he took out all the boiling meat and ate it up, putting the bones back into the kettle. Then Unktomi waked up. He sat up and saw no one.

"Perhaps my boiling is cooked for me," he said.

He took the kettle off the fire. He poked a stick into it and found only bones. Then he said, "Indeed, the meat has all fallen off." So he took a spoon and dipped it out; nothing was there but bones.

This is the story of Unktomi and the Bad Songs.



Once Pheasant saw a woman beating corn in a wooden mortar in front of her lodge.

"I can do that, too," said Pheasant.

"I don't believe you," said the woman.

"Yes, I can," said Pheasant. So Pheasant went into the woods behind the lodge. He flew to a hollow log and drummed with his wings until the people thought he really was beating corn.

That is why the Indians have the Pheasant dance, as a part of the Green-corn dance.



In the old days, Grouse had a good voice and Turkey had none. Therefore Turkey asked Grouse to teach him. But Grouse wanted pay, so Turkey promised to give him some feathers for a collar. That is how the Grouse got his collar of turkey feathers.

So the Grouse began to teach Turkey. At last Grouse said, "Now you must try your voice. You must halloo."

Turkey said, "Yes."

Grouse said, "I'll stand on this hollow log, and when I tap on it, you must halloo as loudly as you can."

So Grouse climbed upon a log, ready to tap on it, but when he did so, Turkey became so excited that when he opened his mouth, he only said, "Gobble, gobble, gobble!"

That is why the Turkey gobbles whenever he hears a noise.



Song was an integral part of Omaha life. Through song, the Omaha approached the mysterious Wakoda; through song he voiced his emotions, both individual and social; through song he embodied feelings and aspirations that eluded expression in words. In one of their ceremonies, the Wa' wa, "to sing for somebody," songs are one of the chief characteristics.

In this ceremony, the eagle is "Mother." She calls to her nestlings and upon her strong wings she bears the message of peace. Peace and its symbol, the clear, cloudless sky, are the theme of the principal songs. The curlew, in the early morning, stretches its neck and its wing as it sits on the roost, and utters a long note. The sound is considered an indication that the day will be cloudless.

Green represents the verdure of the earth; blue is the color of the sky; red is the color of the sun, typifying life. The eagle is the bird of tireless strength. The owl represents night, and the woodpecker the day and sun. These two birds also stand for life and death.

Wakoda gives to man the sunshine, the clear sky from which all storms, all clouds are absent; in the Wa' wa ceremony, they stand for peace. In this connection, black storm clouds with their thunder and lightning are emblematic of war.



At the creation of the world, lesser powers were made, because Tira'wa-tius, the Mighty Power, could not come near to man, or be seen or felt by him. These lesser powers dwell in the great circle of the sky. One is North Star; another is Brown Eagle. The Winds were the first of the lesser powers to come near man. Therefore, when man calls for aid, he calls first to the Winds. They stand at the four points, and guard the four paths down which the lesser powers come when they help mankind. The Winds are always near us, by day and by night.

The Sun is one of these powers. It comes from the mighty power above; therefore it has great strength.

Mother Earth is another power. She is very near to man. From her we get food; upon her we lie down. We live and walk on her. We could not exist without Mother Earth, without Sun, and without the Winds.

Water is another lesser power. Water is necessary to mankind.

Fire made by rubbing two sticks together is sacred. It comes direct from the power granted Toharu, vegetation, in answer to man's prayer as he rubs the sticks. When the flame leaps from the glowing wood, it is the word of the fire. The power has come near.

Blue is the color of the sky, the dwelling place of Tira' wahut, the circle of powers which watch over man. As a man paints the blue stick he sings.

Red is the color of the sun. Green is the color of Mother Earth.

Eagle is the chief of day; Owl is chief of the night; Woodpecker is chief of the trees; Duck is chief of the water.

The ear of corn represents the supernatural power that dwells in the earth, which brings forth the food that sustains life; there corn is spoken of as h'Atira, "mother breathing forth life." The power which dwells in the earth, which enables it to give life to all growing things, comes from above. Therefore, in the Hako, the Pawnee ceremony, the ear of corn is painted with blue.

The wildcat was made to live in the forest. He has much skill and ingenuity. The wildcat shows us we must think, must use tact, must be shrewd when we set out to do anything. The wildcat is one of the sacred animals.

Trees grow along the banks of the streams; we can see them at a distance, like a long line, and we can see the river glistening in the sunlight in its length. We sing to the river, and when we come nearer and see the water and hear it rippling along, then we sing to the water, the water that ripples as it runs.

Hills were made by Tira'wa. We ascend hills when we go away alone to pray. From the top of a hill we can look over the country to see if there are enemies in sight, or if any danger is near us. We can see if we are to meet friends. The hills help man, so we sing to them.



I am mashing the berries, I am mashing the berries, They say travelers are coming on the march, They say travelers are coming on the march, I stir [the berries] around, I stir them around, I take them up with a spoon of buffalo horn, I take them up with a spoon of buffalo horn, And I carry them, I carry them [to the strangers], And I carry them, I carry them [to the strangers].

"Word comes that travelers are approaching ... on the march with their children, dogs, and household property. She stirs them around with a spoon of buffalo horn and goes to offer them to the strangers. The translation is an exact paraphrase of the rhythmic repetition of the original."


[J] James Mooney.



Now set up the tipi, Now set up the tipi, Around the bottom, Around the bottom, Drive in the pegs, Drive in the pegs, In the meantime I shall cook, In the meantime I shall cook.

"To those who know the Indian life it brings up a vivid picture of a prairie band on the march, halting at noon or in the evening. As soon as the halt is called by some convenient stream, the women jump down and release the horses from ... the travois, in the olden times, and hobble them to prevent them from wandering away. Then, while some of the women set up the tipi poles, draw the canvas over them, and drive in the pegs around the bottom and the wooden pins up the side, other women take axes and buckets and go down to the creek for wood and water. When they return, they find the tipis set up and the blankets spread out on the grass, and in a few minutes fires are built and the meal is in preparation."


[K] James Mooney.


B. Tent of Little Cedar, belonging to the order of Sun and Moon shamans. The circle represents the sun in which stands a man holding deer rattles.

C. Those persons who belong to the Inke-sabe sub-gens known as Keepers of the Pipes, paint their tents with the pipe decorations.

D. Used by a member of the order of Grizzly Bear shamans. "When they have had visions of grizzly bears, they decorate their tents accordingly." (George Miller.) The bear is represented as emerging from his den. The dark band represents the ground.

E. Sketch furnished by Chief Dried Buffalo. The circle at the top represents a bear's cave. Below there are lightnings, then prints of bears' paws. E also represents the grizzly bear vision.]



That wind, that wind Shakes my tipi, shakes my tipi, And sings a song for me, And sings a song for me.

"To the familiar, this little song brings up pleasant memories of the prairie camp when the wind is whistling through the tipi poles and blowing the flaps about, while inside the fire burns bright and the song and the game go round."


[L] James Mooney.



In the sun lives the Lord of Life. In the moon lives Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies. She has six children, three sons and three daughters. These live in the sky. The eldest son is the Day; another is the Sun; another is Night. The eldest daughter is the Morning Star, called "The Woman who Wears a Plume"; another is a star which circles around the polar star, and she is called "The Striped Gourd"; the third is Evening Star.

Every spring Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies sends the wild geese, the swans, and the ducks. When she sends the wild geese, the Indians plant their corn and Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies makes it grow. When eleven wild geese are found together, the Indians know the corn crop will be very large. The swans mean that the Indians must plant gourds; the ducks, that they must plant beans.

Indians always save dried meat for these wild birds, so when they come in the spring they may have a corn feast. They build scaffolds of many poles, three or four rows, and one above the others. On this they hang the meat. Then the old women in the village, each one with a stick, meet around the scaffold. In one end of the stick is an ear of corn. Sitting in a circle, they plant their sticks in the ground in front of them. Then they dance around the scaffolds while the old men beat the drums and rattle the gourds.

Afterwards the old women in the village are allowed to eat the dried meat.

In the fall they hold another corn feast, after the corn is ripe. This is so that Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies may send the buffalo herds to them. Each woman carries the entire cornstalk, with the ears attached, just as it was pulled up by the roots. Then they call on Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies and say,

"Mother, pity us. Do not send the cold too soon, or we may not have enough meat. Mother, do not let the game depart, so that we may have enough for winter."

In the fall, when the birds go south to Old-Woman, they take back the dried meat hung on the scaffolds, because Old-Woman is very fond of it.

Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies has large patches of corn, kept for her by the great stag and by the white-tailed stag. Blackbirds also help her guard her corn patches. The corn patches are large, therefore the Old Woman has the help also of the mice and the moles. In the spring the birds go north, back to Old-Man-Who-Never-Dies.

In the olden time, Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies lived near the Little Missouri. Sometimes the Indians visited her. One day twelve came, and she offered them only a small kettle of corn. They were very hungry and the kettle was very small. But as soon as it was empty, it at once became filled again, so all the Indians had enough to eat.



The Arikara were the first to find the maize. A young man went out hunting. He came to a high hill. Looking down a valley, he saw a buffalo bull near where two rivers joined. When the young man looked to see how he could kill the buffalo, he saw how beautiful the country was. The banks of the two rivers were low, with many trees. The buffalo faced the north; therefore he could not get within bowshot of him. He thought he should wait until the buffalo moved close to the banks of one of the rivers, or to a ravine where there were bushes and shrubs. So the young man waited. The sun went down before the buffalo moved.

Nearly all night the hunter lay awake. He had little food. He felt sorry he could not reach the buffalo. Before the sun rose, he hurried to the top of the hill. The buffalo stood just where it had, but it faced the east. Again he waited for it to move. He waited all day. When the sun went down, the buffalo still stood in the same place.

Nearly all night the young man lay awake. He had very little food indeed. The next morning he rose early, and came to the top of the hill, just as the sun came up. The buffalo was still standing in the same place; but now it faced the south. He waited all day. Then the sun went down.

Now the next morning, when he arose early, the buffalo stood in the same place; this time it faced the west. All day the young man waited, but the buffalo did not move.

Now the young man thought, "Why does not the buffalo move?" He saw it did not drink, did not eat, did not sleep. He thought some power must be influencing it.

Now the next morning, the young man hurried to the top of the hill. The sun had risen and everything was light. The buffalo was gone. Then he saw where the buffalo had stood there was a strange bush.

He went to the place; then he saw it was a plant. He looked for the tracks of the buffalo. He saw where it had turned to the east and to the south and to the west. In the center there was one track; out of it the small plant had grown. There was no track to show where the buffalo had left the place.

Then the hunter hurried to his village. He told the chiefs and the people of the strange buffalo and the plant. So all the chiefs and the people came to the place. They saw the tracks of the buffalo as he had stood, but there were no tracks of his coming or going.

So all the people knew that Wahkoda had given this strange plant to the people. They knew of other plants they might eat. They knew there was a time when each plant was ripe. So they watched the strange plant; they guarded it and protected it.

Then a flower appeared on the plant. Afterwards, at one of the joints, a new part of the plant pushed out. It had hair. At first the hair was green; then it was brown. Then the people thought, "Perhaps this fruit is ripe." But they did not dare touch it. They met together. They looked at the plant.

Then a young man said, "My life has not been good. If any evil comes to me, it will not matter."

So the people were willing, and the young man put his hand on the plant and then on its fruit. He grasped the fruit boldly. He said to the people, "It is solid. It is ripe." Then he pulled apart the husks, and said, "It is red."

He took a few of the grains and showed them to the people. He ate some. He did not die. So the people knew Wahkoda had sent this plant to them for food.

Now in the fall, when the prairie grass turned brown, the leaves of this plant turned brown also. Then the fruit was plucked, and put away. After the winter was over, the kernels were divided. There were four to each family.

Then the people moved the lodges to the place where the plant had grown. When the hills became green, they planted the seed of the strange plant. But first they built little mounds like the one out of which it grew. So the fruit grew and ripened. It had many colors; red, and yellow, and white, and blue.

Then the next year there were many plants and many ears of corn. So they sent to other tribes. They invited them to visit them and gave them of the new food. Thus the Omahas came to have corn.



Long ago, the people followed the Missouri River northward to a place where they could step over the water. Then they turned, and were going across the land. Then they met the Padouca [Comanche].

At that time the Ponca had no animals but dogs to help them carry burdens. Wherever they went they had to go on foot, but the people were strong and fleet. They could run a great distance and not be weary. One day when they were hunting buffalo, they met the Padouca. Then they had many battles with them. The Padouca were mounted on strange animals. At first the Ponca thought it was all one animal. The Padouca had bows made from elk horn. They were not very long, nor were they very strong. They boiled the horn until it was soft; then they scraped it, and bound it together with sinews and glue. Their arrows were tipped with bone. They fought also with a stone battle-ax. The handle was a sapling; a grooved stone ax head, pointed at both ends, was fastened to this with rawhides. So the Padouca were terrible fighters. They protected their horses with a covering of thick rawhide cut in round pieces, and put together like fish scales. They spread glue over the outside and then sand. So when the Comanches fought, the arrows of their enemies glanced off the horses' armor. Then the Padouca made breastplates for themselves like those of the horses.

When the Ponca met these terrible warriors, they were afraid. They thought man and horse were one. They named it "Kawa" because they noticed the odor of the horse. Then they knew by this odor when the Padouca were coming. When a man smelled the horses, he would run to the camp and say, "The wind tells us the Kawa are coming." Then the Ponca would make ready to defend themselves. The Ponca had many battles with the Comanches. They did not know how to use the animals, so they killed the horses as well as the men. Neither could they find out where the Padouca lived.

One day the two tribes had a great battle. The people fought all day. Sometimes the Ponca were driven back, sometimes the Padouca. Then at last a Ponca shot a Padouca so that he fell from his horse. Then the battle ceased. After this, one of the Padouca came toward the Ponca and said in plain Ponca,

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