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´╗┐Title: Prairie Smoke, A Collection of Lore of the Prairies
Author: Gilmore, Melvin Randolph, 1868-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prairie Smoke, A Collection of Lore of the Prairies" ***

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Transcriber's Note

Bold text is indicated with equals signs, =like this=.

Illustration captions in {braces} have been added by the transcriber
for the convenience of the reader.

              PRAIRIE SMOKE



             COPYRIGHT 1922

[Illustration: {Map to Show Distribution of Tribes}]


The native tribes of North Dakota are of three different linguistic
stocks or races. These are the Algonkian, Siouan and Caddoan. The
Algonkian race is represented in North Dakota by one nation, the
Chippewa or Ojibwa. The Siouan race is represented within our state
boundaries by three nations, the Dakota (sometimes called Sioux), the
Mandan, and the Hidatsa (who are also called Gros Ventre and
Minnetari). The Caddoan race is represented by one nation, the
Arikara. Other nations of the Caddoan race are the Pawnees, the
Wichita and the Waco farther south.

The domain of the Dakota nation comprised southern Minnesota,
northwest Iowa, almost all of South Dakota, part of northwest
Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, and the southern part of North Dakota.

The Chippewa domain was around the west end of Lake Superior in
northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and part of northeastern North

The Mandans, Hidatsas and Arikaras were three nations allied together
for mutual protection against the encroachments of their common
enemies who pressed upon them from all sides. The Mandan as an
independent nation held domain along both sides of the Missouri River
in what is now the central part of North Dakota. The Hidatsa were to
the east of the Mandan. The Arikara were, some centuries ago, in
northern Nebraska, but migrated gradually up the river. Finally they
were so pressed by the incursion of the Dakotas from the east that
they joined forces with the Mandans, who allowed them place in their
country in exchange for the added strength which their numbers gave
against the common enemy. The Hidatsas and the Mandans had already,
before this, made alliance, so now the three nations were allied in
the region of the upper Missouri River within what is now North
Dakota, extending westward a little into what is now Montana.

The several domains of the various native tribes or nations within
North Dakota and adjacent states are represented on this map as

    Dakota by horizontal lines,

    Chippewa by vertical lines,

    Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara alliance by oblique cross hatching,

    Ponka by oblique lines slanting to the left,

    Omaha by oblique lines slanting to the right,

    Pawnee by horizontal and vertical cross-hatching,

    Oto by cross-hatching of lines horizontal, oblique left and right.


To the Real Pioneers of the Great Plains: to those whose questing
spirit first sought out the wonders and the beauties of this
land;--its vast reaches, league upon league, of grassland, verdant in
springtime, sere and red and brown in autumn; its inviting valleys and
its forbidding buttes;--to those whose moccasined feet made the first
human footprints upon the turf of these prairies and upon the sands of
these river margins; whose self-reliance made them the first to breast
the current of these streams; whose humble footpaths over the land
have now become the transcontinental highways of the world's travel
and trade; to those who first slaked thirst at these cool, clear
watersprings, whose hunger was first satisfied by the fruits of this
land, and who, in eating and in drinking, devoutly gave thanks to our
tender Mother Earth for her bounties, receiving them gratefully as
sacred gifts to be prudently used and thankfully enjoyed, and never to
be wasted; who knew and loved this land in all its spacious extent,
east to west and south to north; who reverenced its sacred places, the
holy watersprings, the grand and silent hills, the mysterious caves,
the eery precipices,--all places where their fathers had with prayer
and fasting sought and obtained the favour of the gods, and where the
gods had granted revelations and given wisdom to their fathers; to
those whose eyes first beheld this land in its virgin beauty, fresh
and joyous, unscarred and unspoiled, clean and wholesome, animated
with exuberance of life of many species of both plant and animal in
wonderful balance and adjustment, spontaneously replenished; and who
held it a form of sacrilege to violate or in any way endanger the
overthrow of that delicate balance of nature;--to those first
inhabitants of this land which we now inhabit.

That something of their appreciation, of their love and reverence for
the land and its native life, something of their respect for its
sacred places and holy associations; that something of their sense of
its charm, of its beauty and wonder, may come to us; that we may the
more worthily occupy and more sympathetically enjoy our tenure of this

To these ends and purposes this book is hopefully and earnestly


Many persons are ever seeking outside of themselves and in some
distant place or time for interest and cheer. They are always
discontented and complaining. They fancy if they were but in some
other place or other circumstances they would be happy. But this is a
vain fancy. Each of us carries with him the germs of happiness or of
unhappiness. Those of unhappy disposition will be unhappy wherever
they may be. Cheer is not in environment, but in the individual. One
who is of a cheerful, understanding disposition will find interest and
cheer wherever he may be.

Robert Louis Stevenson well said "The world is so full of a number of
things I think we should all be as happy as kings." When there are so
many interesting things in the world, so many in any given place, so
many more than one can ever fully know or enjoy in the short span of
human lifetime, how can one ever be overtaken by dullness? If dullness
seem to enfold us, be sure it is we that are dull; it is because our
minds are lazy and our eyes unseeing. There is enough of interest
about us wherever we may be to engage our attention if we open our
eyes to it. If we have initiative and independence of mind we shall
find interest everywhere; but if we depend upon others or neglect
what is about us in desire for what is distant we shall never be
content. One greater than Robert Louis Stevenson said "The Kingdom of
Heaven is within you."

It is with the purpose of calling attention to some of the many
fascinatingly interesting things which we have all about us on the
prairie plains and in the hills and valleys of our own state, and
perhaps in our own neighborhood, that this volume is produced. The
myths which pertain to the hills, valleys, springs and streams in our
own state and in our own neighborhood must be of interest to us when
we look with our own eyes upon the actual places to which these myths
pertain. And these myths of the country in which we live are at least
equal in beauty and interest to the myths of the Greeks, and to the
old Teutonic myths of Thor, Odin, and Freya; or even to our own old
British myths which we have from our Druidic ancestors. And however
beautiful and interesting in itself a native tree or flower or other
plant may be, however engaging to the attention may be a native bird
or beast, how much more so when we think of what this bird or beast or
flower or tree has been in the lives of generations of our fellow
creatures who have lived here and loved this land and its teeming
native life long before we ever saw it.

So, it is with the purpose of directing the attention of our people to
the wealth of lore, of legend and story and myth, and of wonder and
beauty which lies all about us here if we but look and listen, that
this little volume is presented.

The title of this book is suggested by one of the popular names of
the flower which is the subject of one of the stories of this volume.
This flower, the earliest of all to bloom in springtime over all the
northern prairies, has a number of popular names, among which are
Pasque flower, Gosling flower, and Prairie Smoke flower. The latter
name is suggested by the nebulous appearance presented by a patch of
the bluish flowers blooming upon a prairie hillside in early spring,
while all other vegetation is still brown and dead. At such a time,
with all their blossoms tremulous in the spring wind, they appear to
the view like a pulsing cloud of grayish-blue smoke hovering low over
the ground.

Besides the reference to this dearly-loved prevernal flower the term
"prairie smoke" also connotes a number of other engaging conceptions.
To one who has lived upon the prairie this term will recall lively
recollections of both sight and scent. It will recall to the
imagination memories of rolling billows of smoke which he has seen
covering miles of advancing lines of prairie fire; he will see again
in memory the tiny blue spirals of smoke showing where some solid
particles still smoulder hours after the line of fire has passed on
leaving behind a vast blackened waste. It will recall to him also the
rare, intangible blue haze which for days after such a fire lay like a
veil over all the plain, and through which the sun appeared like a
great red disk hanging in the sky, while the air was redolent with an
indescribable tang. Again, it brings to mind the wisps of smoke which
once curled upward in the quiet summer air from stovepipes projecting
from the roofs of prairie sodhouses, or which on snowy winter mornings
hung above them like thin white scarfs against a vast background of
blue overhanging a white world.

It will bring to mind also other days and other scenes of this same
prairie country, when there might be seen wreaths of smoke issuing
from the domes of the hemispherical-shaped houses of villages of
Mandans, Pawnees, or Omahas, upon the hills and river terraces, their
laboriously tilled cornfields and gardens in the fertile alluvial
valleys near by. Or, again, it will recall the scene of an encampment
of some of these people out upon the prairie on a buffalo hunt in
quest of their meat supply. The encampment is a circle of conical
tents, a circle of perhaps a half mile in diameter. Before each tent
the evening fire is twinkling in the dusk upon the green of the
prairie, a circle of friendly lights, each the centre of a family
group, while a few stars begin to twinkle in the blue of the sky
above, and the sunset colours glow in the horizon.

Some or all of these sights and scents, and others also, will present
themselves according to the experience of the one who comprehends the
title "Prairie Smoke."

So it is hoped that to each one who reads this little volume it may
indeed be as a "wisp of prairie smoke," and shall bring a real savour
of the prairie and at least a slight realisation of what the Prairie
was before it was swept by the destructive Fires of Change.

Land and People


The philosophy of health and wholesomeness of the native Americans,
the Indians, was to live in accordance with nature and by coming as
much as possible into direct physical contact with the elements in
nature, such as the sunshine, the rain and snow, the air and earth.
They felt the need and desire to be in frequent and immediate contact
with "Mother Earth," to receive upon their persons the strong rays of
the sun, the restorative efficacy of the winds from the clean sky, and
to bathe daily in living streams.

The priest of a certain ritual of the Pawnee nation visited
Washington. He admired the Washington monument as he viewed it from
the capitol. When he went over to visit the monument he measured the
dimensions of its base by pacing; then he stood up and gazed toward
its summit, noting its height. Then he went inside; but when he was
asked whether he would walk up the stairway or go on the lift, he
said: "I will not go up. White men like to pile up stones, and they
may go to the top of them; I will not. I have ascended the mountains
made by Tirawa." (Tirawa is the Pawnee name of God.)

Some years ago Mr. Louis J. Hill took a party of people of the
Blackfoot tribe to New York City as his guests. They were interested
in the sight of the great engineering feats as manifested in the great
structures of the city. But they were unwilling to be cooped up in the
rooms of the hotel, so they made arrangements to be allowed to set up
their tents upon the hotel roof so that they might at least have the
natural sunlight and the outdoor air.

In an ancient Pawnee ritual there is a hymn which begins with the
words, "Now behold; hither comes the ray of our father Sun; it cometh
over all the land, passeth in the lodge, us to touch and give us
strength." And in another stanza of this hymn, referring to the
passing of the sun, it continues, "Now behold where has passed the ray
of our father Sun; around the lodge the ray has passed and left its
blessing there, touching us, each one of us."

So it was ever the aim to live in accord with nature, to commune often
with nature. A word of admonition from the wisdom lore of the Menomini
tribe says, "Look often at the moon and the stars." And the
Winnebagoes have a wise saying: "Holy Mother Earth, the trees and all
nature, are witnesses of your thoughts and deeds." Another admonition
of Winnebago wisdom is: "Reverence the Unseen Forces that are always
near you and are always trying to lead you right."


In the following verses Dr. A. McG. Beede of Fort Yates, North Dakota,
has translated a prayer he once heard uttered by an old man of the
Dakota nation who had just come from bathing in the river and was
standing upon a hill giving expression to his feeling of adoration:

    Spirit of Life in things above
    And lovelier in things below,
    We pray to Thee, All-being-love,
    Spontaneous in our hearts to grow.

    Our Father Life, we live in Thee
    And pray for glory which is Thine,
    And by our living may we be
    As Thou art in the Life divine.

    The trees and flowers and watersprings
    Are singing good old songs of mirth,
    So may we sing while music brings
    The good old joy o'er all the earth.

    Spirit of Life, sing on, sing on;
    Sing till our aching hearts find rest
    And anxious fear is past and gone,
    And like the rivers we are blest.

    The earth is singing, hark the song;
    The whispering breezes floating by,
    The waterstreams gliding along,
    Reflecting faces in the sky.

    Spirit of Life, we worship Thee,
    With waterstreams and trees and flowers;
    So may our new-born spirits be
    As Thou art, and Thy glory ours.


People of European race resident in America, (Americans we call
ourselves) have sentimental regard toward the plants and animals
native to Europe, some of which, domesticated by our ancestors, we
have brought with us to America. But most of our people have not
developed such sentiments toward the plants and animals native to
America. Literary allusions, songs and stories refer to trees,
flowers, birds and other forms of life pertaining to our old home
lands in Europe, but not to those of America. People of our race have
been inhabitants of America now for three centuries, and still we have
not made ourselves at home here; we have not formed sentimental
attachment to the land and to its native forms of life.

It is a pity for a people not to be so attached to the country in
which they live that their sentiments shall be first of all for the
forms of life that are native to their own country. Otherwise there
is a disharmony which lessens happiness and is harmful in many ways.

Lacking friendly feeling for the plants and animals native to America
there has been a tendency to destroy these things in a ruthless
manner; and this can hardly be prevented by law unless we can awaken
sentimental feelings for the native forms of life in America such as
that which our ancestors had for forms of life native in Europe.

Indians, the native Americans, have friendly sentiments, and even
feelings of reverence for the forms of life native to America.

I once asked an old Omaha what was the feeling of Indians when they
saw the white men wantonly killing buffaloes. As soon as he
comprehended my question he dropped his head and was silent for a
moment, seeming to be overcome by sadness; and then in a tone as
though he were ashamed that such a thing could have been done by human
beings, he answered: "It seemed to us a most wicked, awful thing."

Most white men can not comprehend the sense of pain experienced by
Indians at seeing the native forms of life in America ruthlessly and
wantonly destroyed with no compunction on the part of the destroyers.
And this destruction of the forms of native American life by white
people gave to Indians a sense of a fearful void in nature, coupled
with a feeling of grief, of horror, of distress and pain. It was not
fundamentally the thought of the loss of their food supply, but the
contemplation of the dislocation of the nice balance of nature, the
destruction of world symmetry.

White Horse, an old man of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska, said to me in
August, 1913: "When I was a youth the country was beautiful. Along the
rivers were belts of timberland, where grew cottonwoods, maples, elms,
oaks, hickory and walnut trees, and many other kinds. Also there were
various vines and shrubs. And under all these grew many good herbs and
beautiful flowering plants. On the prairie was the waving green grass
and many other pleasant plants. In both the woodland and the prairie I
could see the trails of many kinds of animals and hear the cheerful
songs of birds. When I walked abroad I could see many forms of life,
beautiful living creatures of many kinds which the Master of Life had
placed here; and these were, after their manner walking, flying,
leaping, running, feeding, playing all about. Now the face of all the
land is changed and sad. The living creatures are gone. I see the land
desolate, and I suffer unspeakable sadness. Sometimes I wake in the
night and I feel as though I should suffocate from the pressure of
this awful feeling of loneliness."

Indians generally were shrewd and discerning observers of the life and
habits of plants and animals. The careful study of plants and animals
was a considerable part of the courses of study in their system of
education, which included much more than is supposed by persons who
have not made themselves acquainted with Indian life. They were well
informed in plant and animal ecology, and in knowledge of range of
species. They took cognizance of the habits of animals in the animals'
dwelling places. An old Indian once told me how a muskrat lays up
stores of food in his house. He compared the appearance of the
musk-rat's stores to that of a grocer's goods on the shelves of his
store. Many old Indians have told me what kinds of food are stored by
different species of animals which lay up stores. They often speak of
such animals as lay up food stores as being civilized animal nations,
and of those which do not make such provision as being uncivilized.

They attribute great wisdom to certain species of animals. This
disposition results from discerning observation of the animals' works
and ways. The beaver notably is reputed to be very wise and
industrious. Indians often sought to gain the favor and learn the
wisdom of various animal species by endeavoring to place themselves en
rapport with the guardian genius of the species.


In the rituals of the various tribes may be found numerous expressions
of the love and reverence which the people had for Holy Mother Earth
in general and for their own homeland in particular. And in their
thought of their homeland they did not regard it as a possession which
they owned, but they regarded themselves as possessed by their
homeland, their country, and that they owed her love and service and
reverence. The following song is found in an ancient ritual of the
Pawnee nation which is given entire in the Twenty-second Annual Report
of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Part 2. This song plainly
reflects the topography and the scenery of the country of the Pawnee
nation, that part of the Great Plains traversed by the Solomon,
Republican, Platte, Loup, and Niobrara rivers.



    Dark against the sky yonder distant line
    Lies before us. Trees we see, long the line of trees,
    Bending, swaying in the breeze.


    Bright with flashing light yonder distant line
    Runs before us, swiftly runs, swift the river runs,
    Winding, flowing o'er the land.


    Hark! O hark! A sound, yonder distant sound
    Comes to greet us, singing comes, soft the river's song,
    Rippling gently 'neath the trees.

In the foregoing song one can hear the constant murmur of the summer
south wind as it blows in that country for days, and see the broad
stretch of the great level land, gently undulating in places, with its
eastward-flowing streams bordered by zones of trees, the timbered
zones along the stream courses being the only forest land in that


_A Pawnee Story_

In the northwest part of Nebraska there is a high butte with
perpendicular sides like the walls of a great building. Because of
the shape of this butte, and because it is composed mostly of a soft
rock or hard, firm clay, it is called Court-House Rock by the white
people. Of course it has other names among the Indian tribes of that

This great butte stands out boldly upon the high plain and can be seen
for many miles in all directions overlooking the Platte River. The top
is almost flat and all sides but one are almost vertical, and are bare
of vegetation, worn smooth by rain and by wind, impossible to climb.
But there is a way on one side by which a strong man can make his way
to the top.

This high lonely butte stands on the borderland between the country of
the Pawnees and the country of the Dakotas. The Dakotas and the
Pawnees were almost always at war with each other. Many years ago a
Pawnee war party was camped near this butte when they were surprised
by a war party of Dakotas stronger in numbers than their own party. In
the fight which ensued the Pawnees were unable to drive their enemies
off, but were compelled to take refuge by climbing to the top of the
butte. The Dakotas were unable to follow the Pawnees upon the butte,
for the Pawnees were able to guard the single narrow path. But neither
could the Pawnees escape again upon the open plain for the Dakotas
securely guarded the descent and could easily kill one after another
all who might attempt to come down that way. So it seemed only a
question of time before all the Pawnees must die of hunger and thirst
upon the top of the rock, or come down and give themselves up to death
at the hands of their enemies. The camps of the Dakotas surrounded the
butte, laying siege to it to starve the Pawnees out.

The Pawnees were in a woeful plight. As the sun rose and traveled
across the sky they could look away for miles and perhaps see flocks
of antelopes grazing upon the plain, while their own stomachs were
pinched with hunger; and some miles to the south they could see the
flashing sunlight gleaming upon the waters of the Platte River, while
close at hand, at the foot of the butte, they could see their enemies
eating and drinking, which could but serve to aggravate their own
hunger and thirst. And at night when the scorching sun had sunk in the
west they might look away to the eastward, in which direction their
homes lay many days' march distant in the beautiful and fruitful
valley of the Loup River; and as they looked the twinkling stars
appearing one by one near the eastern horizon must have made them
think of the evening camp fires of their home people. And at night the
grim chill of the rare air of the high butte gripped their bodies in
its clutch. And all the while they must be very vigilant against their
enemies to prevent being overtaken. They all suffered severely, but
the captain of the company suffered most of all; for added to the
bodily sufferings which he endured in common with his men, he also
suffered extreme mental anguish, for he felt his responsibility on
account of his men. Because they had trusted his leadership and had
put themselves under his orders it seemed that now they must all die a
horrible death. For himself he dreaded not death so much as to be the
cause of the loss of his brave men. To him this was far more bitter
than death. In the night-time he would go away from the others and
cry out in fervent prayer to Tirawa, begging His help, begging that He
would show him some way to save his men and bring them off safe.

And while he was thus praying, he heard a voice saying, "Look
carefully and see if you can find a place where you shall be able to
climb down from this rock and save your men and yourself." So he
prayed earnestly all night, and when daylight came he went along the
edges of the butte looking carefully to see if there might be a place
where some way might be found by which to go down. At last he found a
jutting point of rock near the cliff edge, and standing above the
level. Below this point the cliff side was smooth and vertical. It
occurred to him that this point might be made a means of support from
which the men might let themselves down the face of the cliff by a
rope. When night came again, after he had posted the sentries to guard
the place of ascent from the enemy, he returned to the point of rock
and with his knife he cut away soft weathered rock at its base to make
a secure place of fastening for a rope. Then he gathered secretly all
the lariats which the company had. These he tied together and then,
tying one end securely to the rock which he had prepared, he carefully
paid out the rope and found to his joy that it reached the ground
below. He made a loop in the rope for his foot and then he let himself
slowly down to the ground, then he climbed back again. When night came
again he posted his sentries so that the enemy might see them at their
posts on the side of the butte above the path, but when darkness had
fully come they were all gradually withdrawn. Quietly calling his men
about him he explained his plan and told them how they might all save
themselves. He sent his men down by the rope, one after another,
beginning with the youngest and least important of the company, and so
on up to the men of most importance. Last of all the captain of the
company himself came down. He and all his men crept quietly in the
darkness through the Dakota lines and escaped safely. The Dakotas
directed their vigilance mainly toward the other side of the butte
where lay the only path, and that a very rugged one, between the base
and the summit.

The Pawnees never knew how long the Dakotas kept watch about the rock.


It is a common instinct among all nations of the human race to
preserve relics and record memorials of notable persons and events.
Such monuments vary with the different means and materials at hand.
Sometimes mounds of earth, sometimes boulders, sometimes cairns of
stones, sometimes hewn stones, and various other devices have been
used according to circumstances.

There exists a monument to the memory of a Mandan hero which has never
before been described and published. The following account is from
information given by several persons of the Mandan, Hidatsa and
Arikara tribes. The location of the monument is near the site of
"Fish-hook Village" on the north side of the Missouri River some
twelve or fifteen miles east of Elbowoods, North Dakota.

During the middle part of the 19th century the three tribes, Arikara,
Hidatsa and Mandan, lived together in alliance against their common
enemies. Their chief enemies were the Dakota. So these three tribes
built their three villages adjoining, making one compound village of
three wards. The village lay upon a well-drained terrace of the
Missouri River, while their farms were laid out in the fertile
alluvial "bottom" along the river both above and below the village. To
the north of the village site lies a range of hills.

The enemy many times made raids upon the village. They would approach
under cover of the hills to the north and then steal close upon the
village through the course of a ravine which skirted the northeast and
north sides of the village.

About sixty-six years ago such an attack was made by a war party of
Dakota. Of the defenders of the village, two young Mandans, brothers,
named Lefthand and Redleaf, had been dismounted and their retreat cut
off by the enemy. A brother of these two, Whitecrow by name, saw the
danger of Lefthand and Redleaf and rode out to their assistance.
Lefthand was killed and Redleaf was defending the body from a Dakota
who was trying to take the scalp. Redleaf shot at the Dakota and
missed him, the bullet going over the enemy's head and striking into
the ground beyond him, the enemy being crouched low at the time of the
shot. Whitecrow rode in a circuit beyond these combatants and held off
the attacking party of the enemy. He killed the Dakota who was engaged
in combat with his brother Redleaf. Then Whitecrow picked up Redleaf
upon the horse with himself and carried him safely back to the

After the enemy had been driven away the Mandans went out and marked
the course in which Whitecrow had ridden to his brother's rescue, the
spot where Lefthand had been killed, the spot where Redleaf had made
his stand, the spot where the Dakota was killed, and the spot where
Redleaf's bullet fired at the Dakota, had struck the ground. The
method used for marking these places was by removal of the sod leaving
holes in the ground. To mark the course of Whitecrow's horse the sod
was removed in horse-track shaped sections consecutively from the
point of advance from the village round the place of combat and
returning to the village. The horse-track marks were made about two
feet in diameter. All these marks commemorating the entire action,
which took place about the year 1853 are still plainly evident, being
renewed whenever they tend to become obliterated by weathering and by
advancing vegetation.


This story of Standing Rock is a legend of the Arikara who once had
their villages along the Missouri River between the Grand River and
the Cannonball River. Afterwards, being harrassed by hostile
incursions of the Dakotas they abandoned this country to their enemies
and moved farther up the Missouri River, joining themselves in
alliance with the Mandans.

One time there was a young girl in this tribe who was beautiful and
amiable but not given to heedless, chattering, idle amusement. She
was thoughtful and earnest and conversant with the ways of all the
living creatures, the birds and the small mammals, and the trees and
shrubs and flowers of the woodlands and of the prairies. She was in
the habit of going to walk by herself to visit and commune with all
these living creatures. She understood them better than most other
people did, and they all were her friends.

When she became of marriageable age she had many suitors, for she was
beautiful and lovely in disposition. But to the young men who wooed
her she answered, "I do not find it in my heart to marry any one. I am
at home with the bird people, the four-footed people of the woods and
prairies, with the people of the flower nations and the trees. I love
to work in the cornfields in summer, and the sacred squash blossoms
are my dear companions."

Finally her grandmother reasoned with her and told her that it was her
duty to marry and to rear children to maintain the strength of the
tribe. Because of filial duty she finally said, when her grandmother
continued to urge her to marry a certain young man of estimable worth
who desired her for his wife, "Well grandmother, I will obey you, but
I tell you that good will not come of it. I am not as others are, and
Mother Nature did not intend me for marriage."

So she was married and went to the house already prepared for her by
her husband. But three days later she came back to her mother's,
house, appearing sad and downcast. She sat down without speaking.
Finally her grandmother said, "What is it, my child? Is he not kind to
you?" The girl answered, "Oh, no, he is not unkind. He treated me
well." And with that she sped away into the forest. Her grandmother
followed her after a little while, thinking that out among her beloved
trees and plants she might open her heart and tell her what was the
trouble. And this she did, explaining all the trouble to her
grandmother. And she concluded her talk with her grandmother with
these words, saying: "And so you see, grandmother, it is as I said
when you urged me to marry. I was not intended for marriage. And now
my heart is so sad. I should not have married. My spirit is not suited
to the bounds of ordinary human living, and my husband is not to be
blamed. He is honorable and kind. But I must go away and be with the
children of nature." So her grandmother left her there where she was
sitting by a clump of choke-cherries, having her sewing kit with her
and her little dog by her side.

She did not return home that night, so the next morning young men were
sent to search for her. At last she was found sitting upon a hill out
upon the prairie, and she was turned to stone from her feet to her
waist. The young men hastened back to the village and reported to the
officers who had sent them out.

Then the people were summoned by the herald and they all went out to
the place where the young woman was. Now they found she had become
stone as far up as her breasts.

Then the priests opened the sacred bundle and took the sacred pipe
which they filled and lighted and presented it to her lips so that
thus she and they in turn smoking from the same pipe might be put in
communion and accord with the spirit. But she refused the pipe, and
said, "Though I refuse the pipe it is not from disloyalty or because
of unwillingness to be at one with my people; but I am different by
nature. And you shall know my good will towards my people and my love
and remembrance of them always, for whoever in summer time places by
this stone a wild flower or a twig of a living tree in winter time or
any such token of living, wonderful Nature at any time, shall be glad
in his heart, and shall have his desire to be in communion with the
heart of Nature." And as she said these words she turned completely
into stone, and her little dog, sitting at her feet and leaning close
against her was also turned into stone with her. And this stone is
still to be seen, and is revered by the people. It is from this stone
that the country around Fort Yates, North Dakota, is called Standing


Each of the nations and tribes of Indians had certain places within
its own domain which they regarded as sacred, and to which they
accordingly paid becoming reverence. These places were sometimes
watersprings, sometimes peculiar hills, sometimes caves, sometimes
rocky precipices, sometimes dark, wooded bluffs. Within the ancient
domain of the Pawnee nation in Nebraska and northwest Kansas there is
a cycle of five such sacred places. The chief one of these five mystic
places is called Pahuk by the Pawnee. From its nature it is unique,
being distinctly different from any other hill in all the Pawnee
country. Pahuk stands in a bend of the Platte River where the stream
flows from the west in a sweep abruptly turning toward the southeast.
The head of the hill juts out into the course of the river like a
promontory or headland, which is the literal meaning of the Pawnee
word "pahuk." The north face of the bluff from the water's edge to the
summit is heavily wooded. Among the timber are many cedar trees, so
that in winter, when the deciduous trees are bare, the bluff is dark
with the mass of evergreen cedar. The cedar is a sacred tree, so its
presence adds mystery to the place. The Pawnee sometimes also speak of
this hill as Nahura Waruksti, which means Sacred or Mysterious
Animals. This allusion to the Sacred or Mysterious Animals has
reference to the myth which pertains to this place.

All the other tribes throughout the Great Plains region also knew of
the veneration in which this hill is held by the Pawnee, so they, too,
pay it great respect, and many individuals of the other tribes have
personally made pilgrimages to this holy place. The people of the
Dakota nation call it Paha Wakan, "the Holy Hill."

The Pawnee speak of the animal world collectively as Nahurak. It was
believed that the interrelations of all living beings, plants, animals
and human beings, are essentially harmonious, and that all species
take a wholesome interest in each other's welfare. It was believed
also that under certain conditions ability was given to different
orders of living creatures to communicate with men for man's good.

The before-mentioned five sacred places of the Pawnee country were
Nahurak lodges. Within these mystic secret places the animals,
Nahurak, held council. According to one version the names of the five
Nahurak lodges are Pahuk, Nakiskat, Tsuraspako, Kitsawitsak, and
Pahua. Pahuk is a bluff on the south side of the Platte River, a few
miles west of the city of Fremont, Nebraska; Nakiskat, (Black trees)
is an island in the Platte River near Central City, Nebraska, dark
with cedar trees; Tsuraspako (Girl Hill) is a hill on the south side
of the Platte River opposite Grand Island, Nebraska. It is called Girl
Hill because it was customary when a buffalo surround was made in its
vicinity for the young girls to stay upon this hill during the
surround. The hill is said to be in the form of an earth-lodge, even
to the extended vestibule. Kitsawitsak, which white people call
Wakonda Springs, is not far from the Solomon River near Beloit,
Kansas. The name Kitsawitsak means "Water on the bank." Pahua is said
to be a spring near the Republican River in Nebraska. Of these five
places Pahuk was chief, and the Nahurak councils of the other lodges
acknowledged the superior authority of the council at Pahuk.

There are many stories of the wonderful powers resident in these
sacred places. One of these tells of the restoration to life of a boy
who had been killed. The story is that a certain man of the Skidi
tribe of the Pawnee nation desired to gain the favour of Tirawa
(Pawnee name of God). He thought that if he sacrificed something which
he valued most highly that Tirawa might grant him some wonderful gift.
There were so many things in the world which he did not understand,
and which he wished very much to know. He hoped that Tirawa might
grant him revelations, that he might know and understand many things
which were hidden from the people. He strongly desired knowledge, and
he thought that if he sacrificed his young son, who was dear to him,
and the pride of his heart, that Tirawa might take pity on him and
grant him his desire. He felt very sad to think of killing his son,
and he meditated a long time upon the matter. Finally he was convinced
in his own mind that Tirawa would be pleased with his sacrifice, and
that then the good gifts he desired would be given to him, and that
many things now dark to his understanding would be made clear, and
that he should have ability given him to do many things which were now
beyond his power.

One day this man took his boy with him and walked out from the village
as though on some errand. They walked to the Platte River. After they
had gone a long distance from the village, as they were walking by the
riverside, no other persons being near, the man drew out his knife and
stabbed the boy so that he was quickly dead. The man then dropped the
body of the dead boy over the bank. After a time he returned to the
village, and went into his own lodge and sat down. After a while he
asked his wife "Where is the boy?" She said "Why, he went out with
you." The man said "I was out of the village, but the boy was not with

He went out and inquired of his neighbors, and then all through the
village, but of course the boy could not be found. Then for some days
a general search was made for the boy, but no trace of him was found.
After this the family mourned for the lost boy. It was now time for
the summer buffalo hunt, so in a few days the people set out for the
buffalo grounds, and the father and mother of the boy also went.

After the boy's body was dropped into the river it was carried away
down-stream by the current, sometimes being rolled along in shallow
water at the edge of sandbars and again it would be turned over and
over in the whirlpool of some deep hole in the channel, for the Platte
River is a peculiar stream, having a swift current but a wide course
with deep holes and many sandbars.

After a time the body floated down nearly to Pahuk. Two buzzards were
sitting on the edge of a bluff, gazing over the water. So, sitting
there, one of the buzzards stretched out his neck and looked up the
river. He thought he saw something in the water floating down-stream.
He stretched his neck again and looked, and turned to the other
buzzard and said "I see a body." Then they both looked towards the
object in the water, stretching out their necks and gazing intently.
They saw that the object was the body of the boy. The first one said
"What shall we do about this?" The second one said "Let us carry the
body down to Pahuk, to the hill where Nahurak Waruksti is." So they
both flew down to the floating body and got under it and lifted it
upon their backs and carried it to the top of the bluff called Pahuk,
over the secret cave of the Nahurak Waruksti, and there they placed it
upon the ground. Then the two buzzards stood quietly gazing upon the
body of the boy where they had laid it down upon the ground.

This cave far under the hill was the council lodge of the animals.
There sat the councilmen of all kinds of animals and birds, great and
small, which were native to that country. There were the buffalo, the
beaver, elk, deer, antelope, otter, muskrat, wolf, bear, fox, wildcat,
badger, bean mice, and many other kinds of animals. And there were the
swan, the loon, goose, duck, wild turkey, prairie chicken, quail,
heron, bittern, crane, plover, kildeer, meadowlark, blackbird, owls,
hawks, swallows, crow, chickadee, woodpeckers, grackle, purple martin,
and many other kinds of birds. There were also snakes, turtles, toads
and frogs. These were the Nahurak people, the Nahurak Waruksti, the
Sacred Animals. And the kingfisher was a messenger and errand man for
the Nahurak council.

Now it happened when the buzzards brought the body of the young man
and laid it down on the top of Pahuk, the kingfisher, who was flying
about over the river on business for the Nahurak, was flying by. He
stopped and looked at the body. He already knew all that had happened,
and he was moved with compassion for the boy. So he flew down at once
to the water at the foot of Pahuk and dived in at the entrance of the
Nahurak lodge. He spoke to the assembly of the Nahurak and told them
all that had happened and said in conclusion, "And the poor boy is up
there on the hill. I hope you will have pity on him and will do what
you can for him. I wish you would bring him to life again." When the
kingfisher, the messenger, had finished speaking the Nahurak held
serious council on the matter to decide what they should do. But after
they had meditated long on the question, and each had spoken, they
still could not decide the matter. The kingfisher urged the matter,
asking for a favourable decision, saying, "Come, do take pity on him
and restore him to life." But they could not come to a decision. At
last the chief of the council said, "No, messenger, we are unable to
decide now. You must go to the other Nahurak lodges and find out what
they have to say about it." The kingfisher said "I go," and flew
swiftly out from the lodge and up the river to Nakiskat, the Nahurak
lodge near Lone Tree. There he brought the matter before the council
and pleaded for the boy as he had done at Pahuk, and told them that he
was sent from Pahuk to ask the council at Nakiskat for their decision.
So the Nahurak here at Nakiskat talked over the matter, but at last
they said to the kingfisher "We are unable to decide. We leave it to
the council at Pahuk."

Then the kingfisher flew to the lodge at Tsuraspako, then to
Kitsawitsak, and at last to Pahua, and at each place the Nahurak
council considered the matter carefully and talked about it, but at
each place the same answer was given. They all said "It is too much
for us. We cannot decide what should be done. It is for the council at
Pahuk to decide."

After the messenger had visited all these lodges and had laid the
matter before all of them, receiving from each the same answer, he
flew as swiftly as he could back to the lodge at Pahuk and reported
what the other lodges had said. They all recognized the council at
Pahuk as the head council, and deferred the matter to them for
decision. But it had already been once considered by this council, so
the matter was now brought before the supreme council of Pahuk. This
was a council of four chiefs of the Pahuk council who sat as judges to
give final consideration and decision. These judges now reconsidered
the matter, and finally, when they had talked it over, they said to
the kingfisher, "Now, messenger, we will not decide this question, but
will leave it to you. You shall make the decision."

The kingfisher very quickly gave his decision. He said "It is my
desire that this poor boy be restored to life. I hope you will all
have pity on him and do what you can for him."

Then all the Nahurak arose and went out from the council lodge and
went up to the top of Pahuk where the body of the boy lay. They formed
in order and stood around the boy and prayed to the Higher Powers, and
at last the boy drew breath, then after a time he breathed again, then
his breath began to be regular. Finally he opened his eyes and sat up
and looked around in a confused manner. When he saw all the animals
standing around him he was puzzled and bewildered. He said to himself,
"Why, my father killed me by the riverside, but here I am in the midst
of this multitude of animals. What does it mean?"

Then the head chief of the Nahurak council spoke to him kindly and
reassured him. He was asked to rise and go with the animals into the
council lodge. When all had gone in and were seated the four judges
conferred together, then the chief of the four stood up and said, "My
people, we have restored this boy to life, but he is poor and forlorn
and needy. Let us do something for him. Let us teach him all we know,
and impart to him our mysterious powers." The Nahurak were all
pleased at this proposal and manifested their approval.

Then the Nahurak showed hospitality and kind attention to the poor boy
as their guest. He was shown a place to bathe and rest. When he had
rested, food was brought to him. So he was entertained and treated
kindly for the full season, and he was instructed by all the animals
in turn and they taught him their secret arts of healing and imparted
to him all their wonderful powers. So he remained with them at Pahuk
till autumn.

Autumn is a beautiful season at Pahuk, and in all the region of the
Platte, the Loup, the Republican, and the Solomon rivers in Nebraska
and Kansas embraced by the cycle of the five Nahurak lodges. At that
season in that country the sun casts a mellow golden light from the
sky, while the land is emblazed with the brilliance of the sunflowers
and goldenrod. And then the air is quiet and restful.

So one day at this season the Nahurak said to the boy, "It is now the
time when the swallows, the blackbirds, the meadowlarks, and other
kinds of birds will be gathering into flocks to fly away to the
south-land for the winter. The beavers are cutting trees and saplings
to store the branches under water for their winter food supply of
bark; they are also gathering into their houses certain kinds of roots
for food. The muskrats are repairing their houses and are storing in
them the tubers of the water-lilies and of the arrow-leaf and of other
kinds of plants for their winter supply. In the edge of the timber,
where the ground beans grow, the bean mice are making their
store-houses and filling them with ground beans and artichokes. And
your people have returned from the buffalo hunt with a good supply of
dried meat and hides. They are now busy at home gathering and storing
their crops of corn, of beans, and of squashes and pumpkins. We have
this past summer instructed you in our arts of healing and other
learning, and have imparted to you our mysterious powers, and have
taught you about our ways of living. You are now competent to use for
the good of your people the remedies and perform the mysteries which
were given to us by Tirawa, and which we have now given to you. So you
may now return to the village of your people. Go to the chiefs of the
village and tell them what the Nahurak have done for you, and say to
them that the people are to bring together gifts of dried buffalo meat
and dried corn and dried choke-cherries, and other kinds of food; of
robes and leggings and moccasins embroidered with porcupine quills;
and of tobacco for incense. All these things the people are to send by
you as gifts to the Nahurak at Pahuk in recognition of the favour
which the Nahurak showed to you."

So the boy parted from his animal friends at Pahuk, and promised to
return and visit them, and to bring them presents to show his
thankfulness and the thankfulness of his people for what the animals
had done for him. He traveled on up the Platte River and reached the
village of his people in the night. He went to his father's house. He
found his father and mother asleep and the fire had burned low. There
was only a little light from the coals. He went to his mother's bed
and touched her shoulder and spoke to her to waken her. He said "It is
I. I have come back." When his mother saw him and heard his voice she
was surprised, but she was glad-hearted to see her boy again. So she
wakened the boy's father and told him the boy had come back. When the
father saw the boy he thought it must be his ghost, and he was afraid.
But the boy did not mention anything that had happened nor say where
he had been. He said only "I have come back again."

The next day some of the people saw him, and they were surprised. They
told their neighbors, and soon it was rumored all over the village
that the boy had returned. They came where he was and stood around and
looked at him and asked him questions, but he told them nothing. But
he went to the chiefs of the village and made his report to them.
Afterwards he gave account to the people, saying, "I have been away
all summer with friends, with people who have been very good to me.
Now I should like to take them a present of dried meat and other good
things, so that we can have a feast. I beg you to help me, my
friends." So they brought together a quantity of the articles
required, and they chose some young men to go with him to help carry
the gifts to the people who had befriended him.

So the boy and his companions went on the way towards the Nahurak
lodge at Pahuk. When they came near to the place the boy dismissed the
young men who had accompanied him, and they went back to the village.
Now the boy went on alone and met the kingfisher, the messenger of the
Nahurak, and sent word by him that he had come to visit the Nahurak,
and had brought presents from his people. So the boy was invited into
the lodge and all the Nahurak made sounds of gladness at seeing him
again. The boy brought in the presents which had been sent by his
people and they had a feast. After the feast they held a doctors'
ceremony. They reviewed all the things that the Nahurak had taught him
during the summer that he had spent with them. Then the boy was made a
doctor, and he was now able to do many wonderful things.

After this the time came for the young man to return again to the
village of his people. The animals were thankful and gave praise to
Tirawa for the gifts which the young man had brought to them. And the
young man was thankful to the animals and he praised Tirawa for what
the animals had done for him. Then he returned to the village of his
people. He never told the people what his father had done to him.

The young man lived a long and useful life among his people and
attained much honour. He did many wonderful things for his people and
healed them of their diseases and injuries. In time he gathered about
him a group of other young men, who, like himself, were of serious and
thoughtful mind, and who had desire toward the welfare of the people.
These young men became his disciples, and to them he taught the
mysteries which had been imparted to him by the animals of the lodge
at Pahuk. These wise men in turn taught other worthy inquirers, and
these again others; and so these mysteries and learning and the
healing arts have come down from that long-ago time to the present
among the Pawnee people.


North Dakota has a number of places to which attach interesting
legends and myths. One such place is a butte not far from Schmitt on
the south side of the Missouri River on the road between Mandan and
Cannon Ball. It is west of Eagle-beak Butte.

The story of this butte is a Mandan myth. A long time ago the Mandans
lived in a village which was on a level place just north of the Bad
Water Creek, which white people call Little Heart River. At the west
of this place there is a range of high hills. The Mandans lived at the
Bad Water Village in the time long before white men had come across
the great water, so there were no horses in the country. The people
had no animals except dogs to help them carry their burdens. And of
course they had never heard of the thunder-irons (guns) which strike
and kill the deer and other game at long distance. So it was hard work
to obtain their supplies of meat and to carry the same home to their

A man who lived in the Bad Water village had dug a deer pit in a place
among the hills west of the village and cunningly covered it over to
appear not different from the ground about it. By this means he hoped
to capture a deer whose flesh would be food for his family, and whose
skin would be useful for making clothing; whose sinew would be used
for thread, some of its bones to be used for making awls and needles,
others for other useful implements and tools. Its horns would be used
to make garden rakes for working the ground of his family's garden.

One morning in autumn there had been a snowfall during the preceding
night, the first snowfall of the season. The man went out early in the
morning into the hills to look at his trap to see if it might have
caught something during the night. As he approached the place he saw
that the cover was broken through, and when he came near and looked in
he was rejoiced to see that he had captured a fine large black-tail

Now when he came to the edge of the pit and looked down at his prize
the deer looked up at him and spoke to him, saying, "O, man, do not
kill me, but let me go free from the pit. If you release me you will
do well." The man was surprised to hear the deer speak to him like a
man, and he was disappointed to think of losing his prize. But he
thought to himself, "This is something mysterious, I must give heed; I
must not defy the Mysterious Power, but listen to the message; for it
must be that some Mysterious Power wishes to impart something to me
through this animal as its messenger." So as he thus hesitated in
doubt the deer again made its plea and requested to be set free. But
the man spoke of his duty to his family, who looked to him for food
and for clothing. Again the deer spoke and said, "Indeed you do well
to think of your family, and your endeavor to provide for them as well
as you can is prompted both by your love and duty. But I say to you
that you would do well if you allow me to go. If you do so, I promise
you that you will have success in hunting; you shall find game
abundant for the needs of yourself and family. And when war comes upon
your people you shall be victorious over the enemy. So shall you be
remembered among your people for bravery."

The man gave heed to what the deer said to him, and he dared not
disobey the message which had come to him in this mysterious way. So
now he began to dig down the side of the pit so that the deer could
come out. When he had finished he said to the deer, "Now you may go."
Then the deer came up the incline from the pit and ran down across the
Bad Water Creek away toward the Eagle Beak Hill. As he ran the new
fallen snow flew behind him from his hoofs in a white cloud, and he
sang a song:

    "I was glad when I saw the first snow,
    But I almost lost the sight of day."

The man watched the deer as it ran and observed that when it
approached a conical butte west of Eagle-beak Butte that the butte
opened with a loud roaring sound and the deer entered and he saw it no
more, and then the butte closed again as before.

The man went home pondering these things in his mind. As time passed
events came true as they had been promised to him in the message
spoken to him by the deer. He became renowned among his people for his
skill and success in the chase, for his generosity to the old people
and to the sick and poor, and he attained many honors for his deeds of
valour in warfare against the enemies of his people.

Ever since that time the Mandans have called the butte into which the
deer disappeared after its release from the pit, The Lodge of the
Black-tail Deer.


_A Mandan Story_

Indians of all tribes held the thought of the brotherhood of all
living nature, of the trees and flowers and grasses, of the fishes in
the waters, of the living things which creep or walk or run on the
land and of the birds which fly above the earth, and of human beings.
And they believed that human beings often gained wisdom and useful
information through dreams and visions in which the guardian spirits
of any of these other living creatures talked to them, revealing to
chosen, attentive and worthy persons, secrets of nature which were
hidden from the careless and unworthy.

Among most tribes the cedar tree is considered to possess a property
of mystery and sacredness. For this reason twigs of cedar were often
burned as incense in a sacred fire for the purpose of driving away
evil influences. And if a person reclined under the shelter of cedar
trees the healing power and strength of their spirit would come to him
and his own spirit would thus gain composure and strength to meet
life's troubles.

Once in the old times a woman was resting under a cedar tree. She was
weary from her work, and as the gentle wind sighed among the thick
green branches above her she dropped to sleep. While she slept the
cedar tree spoke to her in a soft murmuring voice, and the woman gave
heed to the words of the cedar tree.

And this is what the cedar tree said to the woman: "Sister, if you
will dig down into the earth you will find there my slender, strong,
pliant roots. Take up some of these and weave them into a basket. You
shall find thereafter that some good shall come of it. It shall bring
good to you and to all women."

So the woman did as she was told by the cedar tree. She took up the
slender roots and wove of them a basket. The basket was light but
strong, and so pliant that it could be rolled into a small bundle when
empty, though it was large enough to hold many things when it was
opened out.

One day the woman took the basket with her and walked far out upon the
prairie where tipsin grew in abundance. She dug a quantity of the
sweet and wholesome roots to take home for food for herself and her
family. The tipsin roots grow so deep in the tough prairie sod that it
is hard work to dig them, so when she had filled her basket she was
very tired. She sat down to rest and sighed for very weariness, and
the tears came to her eyes. She said, "Alas! now I must carry home
this heavy load although I am already weary and faint."

Then the basket whispered to her "Do not cry. Wipe away your tears;
bathe your hot cheeks with water at the brook; be glad, for I am your

Then the woman wiped away her tears and went and bathed her cheeks and
brushed her hair. When she returned the basket seemed to smile. It
said to her "You were troubled for nothing. You forget what the cedar
tree said to you in your dreams. You were told that good would come to
you if you made a basket as you were instructed. Now you need not
carry your load; but sing and be glad and walk on to the village. I
shall come with you, carrying your load."

So the woman went on her way home, singing from happiness, while the
basket kept by her side carrying the load of tipsin roots.

As she came near the village the women knew by her happy singing voice
that some good thing had happened to her. Then as they looked up they
saw her coming, and with her was coming the wonderful basket carrying
the load.

Then all her neighbors begged her to teach them how to make a
wonderful basket. So she taught them as she had been taught by the
holy cedar tree how to make a wonderful basket out of its tiny roots.

And so, from that time, whenever a woman went out to gather June
berries or wild cherries, or raspberries, or wild plums or pembinas or
tipsin, or wild rice; or to their cultivated fields to gather corn or
beans, she was not obliged to carry the load home. When she was ready
she started towards the village singing, and the basket came with her
cheerfully carrying the burden.

One day, long after this, a woman had found the winter store-house of
the hintunka people, which they make under-ground, and into which they
garner their store of food for the winter time. The hard-working
hintunka people put away in their store-houses quantities of wild
ground beans, various kinds of seeds and roots and tubers to provide
themselves food for the cold time when the ground is frozen and the
earth is covered with snow.

It happened that the woman who found this store-house of the hintunka
people was one who was not considerate of the rights of other people.
She thought only that here was a quantity of food which was desirable
and easy to obtain. So she filled her basket with the wild ground
beans which are so delicious when cooked with bits of meat. She cared
not that it had cost the hintunka people many weary hours of hard work
to dig these beans and bring them together in this place, nor did she
care that without them the hintunka people, their old people and their
little ones, all would be left destitute of food and must perish from

While she was filling her basket a poor little hintunka woman cried
pitifully and said, "This is our food. We have worked hard for it. You
ought not to rob us of it. Without it we shall die miserably of
hunger." But the woman took the beans and heeded not the pitiful
crying of the hintunka woman. She had filled her basket, and was
making ready to go home but there was no song in her heart.

Then, while the filled basket sat there waiting a coyote standing near
by, laughed. At this the basket was vexed, and said, "You are rude.
Why do you laugh at me?" But the coyote only laughed all the more.
This annoyed the basket greatly, and made it feel very uneasy and
distressed, for it knew something must be wrong. And it said to the
coyote, "Do tell me why you laugh. What is it which is strange?"

Then the coyote replied, "I laugh because you are so foolish. For a
long time you have been carrying burdens to the village while the
women go their way singing."

But the basket said, "I am not foolish, I have the good spirit of the
cedar tree. I am willing to carry burdens to help the women. I am glad
when I hear their joyful singing." The coyote said, "But what do you
get for it, friend? You work like a slave. You receive nothing for it.
No one offers you a mouthful of food. When you rest for a time from
your labor you are not covered with a robe made beautiful with
quill-work. When you have carried burdens for a woman she merely hangs
you upon a peg on the wall till the next time she wishes you to carry
something for her."

As the basket considered the things which the coyote said it began to
be discontented. It felt that it had been treated unfairly; that it
had no pay nor thanks for all it had done, and so the basket was
sulky, and refused to carry the load to the village, and the woman at
last had to take up the burden and carry it upon her back; and she
felt aggrieved and bitter because the basket would not carry it for
her. She did not consider that all the service she had ever had from
the basket was from kindness and good will and not from obligation.

And ever since that time the women have had to carry burdens upon
their backs, for the baskets no longer carried burdens for them.


_A Myth of the Dakota Nation_

It is said that in the long ago there was a mysterious being within
the stream of the Missouri River. It was seldom seen by human beings,
and was most dreadful to see. It is said that sometimes it was seen
within the water in the middle of the stream, causing a redness
shining like the redness of fire as it passed up the stream against
the current with a terrific roaring sound.

And they say that if this dreadful being was seen by anyone in the
daytime anyone who thus saw it soon after became crazy and continued
restless and writhing as though in pain until he was relieved by
death. And it is said that one time not a very great many years ago
this frightful being was seen by a man, and he told how it appeared.
He said that it was of strange form and covered all over with hair
like a buffalo, but red in color; that it had only one eye in the
middle of its forehead, and above that a single horn. Its backbone
stood out notched and jagged like an enormous saw. As soon as the man
beheld the awful sight everything became dark to him, he said. He was
just able to reach home, but he lost his reason and soon after that he

It is said this mysterious "Miniwashitu" (water monster) still lives
in the Missouri River, and that in springtime, as it moves up-stream
against the current it breaks up the ice of the river. This water
monster was held in awe and dread by the people.


_A Myth of the Dakota Nation_

Long ago there was a village of people of the Dakota Nation, which was
situated on the east side of the great river which they call the
Muddy-Water River, but which white people call the Missouri River. The
white people named it so from the Missouri nation of Indians on the
lower course of this great river.

This village we have just mentioned was on the east side of the river
nearly opposite to the mouth of the Cannonball River. The people were
happy in this village, for it was a pleasant place. There was plenty
of wood for their fires, and there was an abundance of buffalo
berries, wild plums, choke-cherries, June berries, wild grapes, wild
raspberries and other fruit growing in the woods. Upon the high
prairie there was much tipsin, whose roots are so good when cooked
with meat or with dried green corn. Moreover, in the timber were many
boxelder trees, whose sap was made into sugar in early spring time.
Not far away were some lakes where there were many wild ducks and
geese and other water fowl. The flesh of these fowl, and also their
eggs were good food. Upon the prairie were herds of buffalo and
antelope and elk, and in the timber along the river were many deer.

And below the hills, on the level ground of the river valley there was
fertile soil where they planted their fields of corn and beans and
squashes. They also cultivated the great sunflowers whose seeds are so
good for food.

And the people loved this place, for besides all the good things to
eat, and other comforts which it gave them, it was also pleasant to
look upon. There was the mysterious river coming down from the distant
mountains away in the west and flowing on towards the lands of other
nations of people in the south, and whose channel could be seen
winding its gleaming way among the dark trees on its shores. Upon the
prairie hills in early spring the courageous little pasque flowers
appeared like a gray-blue cloud let down upon the hill-tops where they
nodded their cheery greetings to the people who passed them. A little
later in the little vales were masses of deep blue violets. Still
later the prairie was bright with the colour and the air was sweet
with the breath of the wild rose of the prairie. The cheery
meadowlark, which the people call the bird of promise, flitted here
and there and called his greetings and promised good things to his
friends, the Dakota people.

And through the procession of the seasons there were spread out before
their eyes on all sides scenes of beauty, changing with the change of
seasons and changing every day, indeed the beauties of colour and
light and shade were changing at every stage of the day from the rosy
dawn till the blue shades of evening came.

Yes, it was a delightful land and the people rejoiced in it. But a
strange thing happened which caused the people to move away to a far
distant place. And this is the way it happened:

There was living in this village an old man, a wise man, a man who was
held in great respect by the people, for he was a holy man, to whom
the Unseen Powers granted knowledge not given to all the people. And
these revelations came to the holy man in visions.

This holy man was now too old and feeble to till the soil and raise
crops of food plants, or to go on the chase for game, or to gather any
of the wild food plants. But because they held him in honor the young
men were glad to provide for him, and the women cooked for him of the
best they had.

But one time he had a vision which made him very sad, so that he could
only cry and weep and could not speak of his vision for sadness of
heart. And the people besought him to tell them his vision, for, they
said, "if it is a vision of evil to come, we may as well know the
worst. We ought to be prepared for it." For a long time the old man
could not bring himself to tell them the evil foreboding which had
come to him. But at last, when they continued strongly urging him to
tell them what it was, he said: "Well, my children, I will tell you
the vision, for it may be that I shall not live long. This vision has
come to me from the Mysterious and Awful Powers, and it is full of
evil portent for our people." But now he was again so overcome by
sadness that he was unable to tell it.

Again, after some days the people begged him to tell the vision, and
they pressed him so urgently that finally he said: "This is what I saw
in my vision, which has come to me repeatedly. I saw a great incursion
of human beings of strange appearance. They are coming from the
direction of the rising sun and are moving toward this land in
multitudes so great that they cannot be counted. They move everywhere
over the face of the land like the restless fluctuations of heated air
which are sometimes seen incessantly wavering over the heated prairie
on a summer day. They are moving on resistlessly toward us and nothing
can stop them, and they will take our land from us. They are a
terrible people and of a monstrous appearance. The skin of this
people is not of a wholesome color like the skin of our people who are
born of our holy mother earth. Their skin is hideous and ghastly, and
the men have hairy faces like the face of a wolf. They are not kind
like our people; they are savages, cruel and unfeeling. They have no
reverence for our holy places, nor for our holy mother earth. And they
kill and destroy all things and make the land desolate. They have no
ear for the voices of the trees and the flowers, and no pity for the
birds and the beasts of the field. And they deface and spoil the
beauty of the land and befoul the water courses.

"And they have many dreadful customs. When a person dies the body is
not honorably laid upon a funeral scaffold on the prairie or in the
branches of a tree in the forest as we do, but they dig a hole in the
ground and put the body down into the hole and then fill the hole up
again, throwing the dirt down upon the body. And they have strange and
powerful weapons, so that when they come our people will not be able
to withstand them. It is this dreadful vision which has overcome me
with sadness."

Then the people were amazed and angry. They tried to have him change
his vision, but he could not. Again the same vision came to him. The
leading men now counseled and gave the order that the people should
give him no more food for some days. They said, "Perhaps he will have
a different vision." So he was left alone in his tent for four days.
And on the fourth day when they came to his tent they found him dead.
They had not intended to cause his death, but they hoped that if they
let him become very hungry he would change his vision.

Now when they found him dead they were shocked and astonished and very
angry. They said, "Now the evil which he foretold will come, for he
died without changing his vision." And they said "We will not bury him
honorably upon a scaffold according to our custom, but we will bury
him in a hole in the ground, as he said his 'wandering people' bury
their dead." So they dug a hole and into this they put the body of the
old man and put the earth back again upon the body.

At evening some women were gazing out across the river in the
twilight, and they saw a man come up out of the river and advance
toward the village. When he came nearer they saw it was the holy man
who had died and whose body had been buried in a hole in the ground.
When he died he had changed from this life to the life of those who
dwell in "The Land of Evening Mirage." From the place where they
buried him he had gone out under the ground and had come up out of the
water of the river. Now when he came up out from the water he was
changed back again to the life on earth. From this it was evident to
all the people that he was indeed a very holy man, and that his vision
was true and must come to pass. They gave him a good dwelling and
provided for all his needs, and the women cooked for him the best food
they had, and every one did homage to him and paid him reverence.

After a time he knew that the end of his life was approaching, and as
he was about to die he called the leading men about him and said, "The
vision which I had will truly come to pass in future time. Now I am
about to die. When I am dead let me be buried in the ground again at
the place where I was buried before. You will see that some good thing
will come of it for our people at this place. And it shall be good for
all people at this place forever." When he said something good would
come they thought he meant that the people should be saved from the
cruel and savage, strange, pale-skinned people of his vision, but that
was not what he meant.

When the holy man was dead they would have preferred to give him
honorable scaffold burial as was customary, but they did as he had
directed and buried him in the ground where he had been buried before.
But this time, they dug out a roomy place, and made walls and a roof
with timbers, and in this place they put the body of the holy man
after dressing him in the best of garments decorated with porcupine
quill embroidery, and wrapped in a fine buffalo robe painted with
beautiful designs. And they placed with him his pipe and tobacco and
food and valuable presents of all kinds. Then they covered it all over
with earth again and set the sod as it was before.

At evening they watched the place in the river where he had reappeared
the other time after his burial. They thought he might return again
out of the water of the river, but he did not come. And they listened
above the little house they had made for him under the ground, but
they heard not the slightest sound of breathing or any movement. Then
they made a sacred fire by the grave from twigs of the cedar tree, for
this tree is holy and sacred to the Good Powers and the breath of its
fire will bring persons of good intention into communion with those
Unseen Powers. But the holy man did not appear by the sacred fire and
he was never seen again by any of the people.

Now the people became so burdened with sadness that they could not
endure to remain at this place, so they moved far away, where they
found another good country. In this new place they stayed until all
the people who were grown at the time they left the village of the
holy man's grave, had become old and had died. And none had ever been
back there. Then, when all those who were but boys and girls when they
left the former village had now become old men and women, their tribe
began to suffer harrassment from an enemy people of another tribe.
Their enemies were too strong for them, so they had to think of moving
to another place. And so it came into their minds to return to the
place by the Muddy-Water River, where they had lived at the time when
those of their people who were now old had been merry, happy children.

So they came back, and before they had reached the place the old men
said, "Let us go on ahead and see the grave of the holy man." And when
the old men came to the place where the holy man had been buried they
found that a spring of good water issued from the place where the holy
man's grave had been. And that is why we call this spring "The Holy
Man's Waterspring."

And it is said that now a bright star is often seen shining over this
spring for a while and that it then goes down and disappears into the
water of the spring. And it is said that sometimes when the moon is
full and bright the holy man may be seen walking near the spring.
When one approaches to speak to him he disappears into the spring. Not
all persons can see these things, but only those whose hearts are kind
and gentle, and whose minds are in accord with Nature, and who have
reverence for holy things and for the beauties and mysteries in


To the Dakotas the form of the circle is a sacred symbol because Great
Spirit caused everything in nature except stone to be round. Stone is
the implement of destruction. The sun, the earth and the moon are
round like a shield, and the sky is round like a bowl inverted over
the earth. All breathing creatures are round like a human body. All
things growing out of the ground are round, as the trunk of a tree or
the stem of an herb. The edge of the world is a circle, hence the
circle is a symbol of the world and of the winds which travel to us
from all points on the edge of the world. The sun and the moon which
mark the day and the night travel in a circle above the sky; for this
reason the circle is a symbol of these divisions of time, and of the
year, and so is the symbol for all time.

Raindrops are round, and so are the drops of dew hanging like strings
of beads upon the grass blades. Pellets of hail and of sleet are
round. Every snowflake has a centre from which lines radiate as from
the centre of a circle. The rainbow, which beautifies the sky after
showers, is round.

Because Great Spirit has caused almost all things to be round it is
for us a sacred symbol; it reminds us of the work of Great Spirit in
the universe. And for this reason Dakotas make their tipis round; and
in laying a camp the tipis are set in a circular line; and in all
ceremonies they sit in a circle.

The circle is a symbol of the tipi and of shelter and comfort. In
decorative figures the undivided circle is a symbol of the world and
of time. If the circle be filled with red it is a symbol of the sun;
if filled with blue it is a symbol of the sky. If the circle be
divided into four parts it is a symbol of the four winds.

The mouthpiece of a pipe should always be passed about the circle and
offered to the four directions before it is formally smoked.


It appears that Great Spirit caused everything in the world to be in
fours; for this reason mankind's activities of all kinds should be
governed by the number four out of respect to this sacred number and
in agreement with it.

We see that there are four directions: the north, the east, the south,
and the west; four divisions of time: the day, the night, the moon,
and the year; there are four seasons: the spring, the summer, the
autumn, and the winter; there are four parts to everything that grows
from the ground: the roots, the stems, the leaves, and the fruits;
four kinds of things that breathe: those that crawl, those that fly,
those that walk on four legs, and those that walk on two legs; four
things above the world: the sun, the moon, the sky, and the stars;
four kinds of gods: the great, the associates of the great, the gods
below them, and the spirit kind; four periods of human life: infancy,
youth, adulthood, and old age; mankind has four fingers on each hand,
four toes on each foot, and the thumbs and big toes of each taken
together make four.

All these tokens of the works of Great Spirit should cause mankind to
order his ceremonies and all activities so far as possible by this
sacred number.


To obtain even an approximate appreciation of the conditions of life
as they presented themselves to the people of the nations which
formerly occupied the region drained by the Missouri River and its
tributaries we must bring ourselves to see it as it was in its natural
condition, void of all the countless changes and accessories which we
have erected here by our European culture and custom.

Imagine, then, a country of open prairie stretching away and away
beyond the range of vision over hill, valley, and plain, the skyline
unbroken by trees, except a fringe along the course of the streams.
The aspect of this landscape in summer was that of a boundless sea of
shining green, billowing under the prevailing south wind, darkened
here and there by the swiftly marching shadows of clouds sailing high
and white in the brilliant blue sky. Toward the end of summer the sun
appears to have shed some of its lustre upon the plain below, for it
now shines with a paler light, while the ever restless, rustling,
whispering sea of grass waves in rolling billows of golden green,
seeming to be forever flowing on before the south wind into the
mysterious North, changing again into yellow and warm brown as autumn
comes on.

Then it may happen some day that the whole aspect is suddenly changed.
Fire has escaped in the sea of dry grass. To the windward the horizon
is one long line of smoke, which, as it comes nearer, rolls up in
black masses shot through with darting tongues of angry red flames
leaping a hundred feet skyward, while the sound of the conflagration
is like that of a rushing storm. Frightened animals are fleeing before
it in terror for their lives and birds are flying from the threatened

This scene passes, and now the whole visible earth is one vast stretch
of coal black, and the whole sky is a thick blue haze in which the sun
seems to hang like a great red ball, while an unbroken silence
pervades the land.

Then winter comes with days of leaden sky and blackened earth,
succeeded by clear days when the snow-covered earth appears like a
vast white bowl encrusted with frost-diamonds and inclosed by an
over-arching dome of most brilliant blue.

Again the season changes; warm airs blow from the south; soft showers
fall; the sound of the first thunder wakens all Nature; the blackened
earth appears once more, soon showing color from the pale green spears
of tender young grass, and in a short time the form of Mother Earth is
once more clothed in a mantle of shining green.

And now as the biting winds of winter yield to the balmy breezes from
the south all the vernal flora is quickened into life and beauty. The
modest blue violets appear in such profuse abundance that they seem
like shreds of the sky wafted by the spring breezes over the land and
drifted into every swale and ravine. On the upland the purple flowers
of the buffalo pea show themselves; in sandy places of the Middle
Great Plains the dainty lavender blue bonnets of the early wind-flower
are trembling in the breeze. In the Northern Great Plains the snow is
scarcely gone before the pasque flowers, first gladsome harbingers of
the lovely hosts to follow, troop forth over the bleak hillsides,
"very brave little flowers," the Cree Indians say, "which come while
it is still so cold that they must come wearing their fur coats." This
is in allusion to the furry appearance of the pasque flower.

And as the floral life manifests itself all the native faunal life is
also awakened to renewed activity. The migratory birds are seen and
heard flying northward by relays in hundreds of thousands. The course
of the Missouri River marks upon the earth the chart by which they
direct their northward flight toward their summer homing places. The
Arkansas River, the Kansas, the Platte, the Niobrara and the White
River are relay stations of their journey, and the countless V-shaped
flocks coming northward in long lines wheel, circling down until
tracts many acres in extent are whitened by the great numbers of snow
geese, while the Canada geese in equal numbers darken other tracts;
ducks in great numbers are swimming on all the ponds and quiet
streams, and regiments and brigades of tall gray cranes are
continually marching and counter-marching on land or sailing like
fleets of monoplanes far up in the clear blue, whence float down to
earth the vibrant notes of their bugle calls as they travel on into
the North. On the higher prairies at sunrise as the long rays of the
red morning sun slant brightly across the land the booming, drum-like
sound of hundreds of prairie chickens is heard at their assemblies,
for at this season they dance the mating dance at the sunrise hour.
Soon the meadowlarks, "the birds of promise," appear, singing their
songs of promise of good things for their friends, the human beings;
and they set about the duties of housekeeping, building their lowly
nests at the grass roots, and all about are scenes of brightness and
sounds of gladness.

It was in such a country as this, then, that the people of the several
different native nations who were here before us lived and took joy of
the good gifts of Mother Earth and from their own activities, and in
all the beauty of this good land. And they loved this land for all its
good gifts and for its beauty, and for these and for its mystery and
grandeur they paid reverence.

[Illustration: {Map to Show Aboriginal Agriculture}]


_See Map. Vertical lines indicate region under agriculture by natural
rainfall. Horizontal lines indicate region farmed under irrigation.
Both regions were settled in permanent villages._

Most people of this country, of the now dominant European race, seldom
give a thought to the aboriginal economic conditions which prevailed
here before this country was Europeanised. They seldom think of the
precolumbian utilisation of the natural resources of this continent by
the people of the native American race. They do not consider the
myriad possible uses of plants and plant products by the people of the
native tribes. Most persons of our European race in arrogant
self-satisfaction have not been accustomed to think of those of the
American race as agriculturists at all, much less have we given
thought to the contributions made by that race to the world's
agriculture. But according to the United States crop report of 1916
the value of the crops in this country alone, of plants which were
first brought under cultivation by Indians, is $3,000,000,000.

No doubt the beginnings of agriculture, with our own European race and
with every race, was simply the gathering and storing of supplies of
wild plant products, and proceeded by the stages of intentional
dissemination and cultivation, selection and improvement of stock into
myriad varieties.

When European explorers first visited the Atlantic shores of America
they found the native tribes to be agriculturists, living in villages
of permanent houses, and with their cultivated fields stretching about
the villages. And as the explorers advanced into the interior of the
continent they found similar conditions to prevail as far as to and
including the Missouri River valley. So it was found that in all the
region from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence River, the Great
Lakes and the region of the upper Missouri river all the various
Indian nations were settled agriculturists. On the High Plains and in
the western mountains the tribes could not cultivate the soil because
of the unfavorable conditions.

The crops cultivated by the tribes in the region above defined
consisted of corn, beans, squashes and pumpkins in many varieties,
gourds, sunflower, and tobacco. According to the testimony of some of
the early explorers it appears that in the southeastern part of the
continent they also cultivated sweet potatoes and peanuts. It may be
said that the sunflower is native to the western plains and was there
brought under cultivation and improved to what we have as the
cultivated sunflower and was distributed throughout the region from
the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast. The other crops above named
were introduced from the south many centuries ago from Mexico. Their
wild ancestors grow there, which would indicate that there they were
first brought into domestication by cultivation and improvement of the
wild stock. All evidence from every source seems to point to the
plateau of southeast Mexico as the place of origin of corn. It seems
to have been originally a large, coarse wild grass with seeds which
were at least large enough to furnish an article of food when gathered
in quantity. The botanical evidence would indicate that it was a
branched stalk and that all the branches and the terminal alike bore
loose panicles of seeds, not in compact ears as we now know the corn
ear. But ages of cultivation and selection by obscure and forgotten
tribes of primitive farmers have produced a plant which bears its
staminate flowers generally on the terminal and its pistillate flowers
on side branches modified into what we know as the corn ear. Not only
had the above-described modification taken place in the process of
long ages of cultivation and selection, but the five great types of
corn had been formed and developed into innumerable varieties of each
type prior to the advent of white men on this continent. The five
types to which I have referred are dent corn, flour corn, flint corn,
sweet corn, and pop corn. Dent corn was obtained first by white men
from the Indians of Virginia in the beginning of the seventeenth
century at the first settlement of that colony by the English. The New
England tribes had flint corn, flour corn, and sweet corn, and pop
corn, but not dent corn. The tribes of the upper Missouri River had
flint corn, flour corn and sweet corn.

The Arikara and Mandan on the upper Missouri were the great
agricultural tribes of this region. Omaha legend credits the Arikara
with first having corn and with having distributed to other tribes.
And the common pictograph to represent the Arikara among all the
surrounding tribes was a conventionalised ear of corn. In the sign
language also the surrounding tribes designated the Arikara by a
motion of the hands depicting the act of shelling corn, or by the
motions of eating an ear of corn. Washington Matthews says: "There are
some reasons for believing that the Arikara represent an older race of
farmers than the Mandan; for their religious ceremonies connected with
the planting are the more numerous, and they honor the corn with a
species of worship." And it is the work of these northern tribes in
past centuries in acclimating corn to the short northern summer with
its cool nights which has made it possible for the states of North
Dakota, Montana and Minnesota now to be corn-producing states; for
acclimation is a long and gradual process and was accomplished during
a northward migration from Mexico which occupied many centuries of

In the arid region of what is now New Mexico and Arizona the work of
agriculture was carried on by means of irrigation ages before the
coming of white men, and the old irrigation ditches made by the
primitive Indian farmers of that region may still be traced--irrigation
works made without other power than human muscles and without the use
of iron; the shovels used being made of bone.

The world is indebted to the aboriginal American agriculturists not
only for all types of corn which we now have, but also for all kinds
of beans, for pumpkins and squashes, cultivated sunflowers, sweet
potatoes, peanuts, and many other crops among our present day staples.

A great handicap to the primitive American farmer was the lack of iron
tools; for they had no iron before the coming of white men. Another
handicap was the absence of horses. The horse was not native to the
western hemisphere, and was first introduced by the Spaniards.
Previously the only beast of burden in North America was the dog. So
the cultivation of the ground was entirely handwork; and the tool most
in use was a hoe made from the shoulderblade of the buffalo or of the
elk. One may imagine the immense labor which was required to develop
and extend the above-named crops over the continent, acclimated and
ready to our hand when we arrived in the New World.


As an example of the modifying power of geographic influence exercised
upon the arts, we may consider the style of architecture or
domiciliary structure prevailing in the Plains region. In each
geographic province, which also constitutes a culture area, the style
of housing is different according to natural resources and climatic
conditions. In the Plains area the permanent dwelling was the
earth-covered structure; while the temporary dwelling was the skin

The earth-covered house seems to be an evolution from the thatched
house of the southern plains, exemplified in the dwellings of the
Wichitas. Farther north the exigencies of the climate suggested the
addition of an earth covering.

All the nations and tribes of the Missouri, of whatever racial stock,
employed the same style of dwelling. In order to effect the
construction of an earth-covered house, a circle of the desired
diameter was stripped off from the surface soil. Four tall, strong
forked posts were set in the center about 8 or 10 feet apart in a
quadrangle. Beams were laid on these forks. Outside of the center
posts a circle of shorter posts was set and beams laid in their forks.
Rafters were laid from the lower to the upper beams. A wall of timbers
was leaned up against the circle of lower beams, the base of the
leaning timbers resting upon the ground. An opening was left at the
east, and here was made a vestibule 6 to 14 feet long.

Timbers were laid upon the rafters, willow poles were laid upon the
timbers, and a thatch of dry grass upon these poles. A covering of
earth was now built up about the walls and over the roof to a total
thickness of about 2 feet, making, when complete, a dome-shaped

All structural timbers and poles were fastened by tying with ropes of
raw hide or of basswood or elm fiber.

An opening of several feet in diameter was left at the top of the dome
for a skylight, ventilator, and smoke-escape. The fireplace was at the
center of the earth floor; the sleeping compartments were ranged about
next to the wall. The altar was at the west side, opposite the

The diameter of the house varied, according to the needs of the family
which occupied it, from 30 to 50 or 60 feet; the height from 15 to 20
feet. This was a family domicile and not a community or tenement
house. Such family dwellings were clustered in villages. The evidences
of many such village sites may be seen throughout all the region of
the Missouri River drainage basin. Their fields of agricultural crops
were cultivated in alluvial valleys usually near the villages,
although sometimes, when suitable land was not nearby, their fields
might be at some distance.

The earth-covered house probably originated with the tribes of Caddoan
stock, that is, the Pawnee and Arikara, and was adopted by the tribes
of other stocks upon their migration into the Missouri River region.

The Pawnee had very elaborate ceremonies and traditions connected with
the earth-lodge. The earlier star cult is recognized in the
signification attached to the four central posts. Each stood for a
star--the Morning Star, and the Evening Star, symbols of the male and
female cosmic forces, and the North and South stars.

In the rituals of the Pawnee the earth-lodge is made typical of man's
abode on the earth; the floor is the plain, the wall the horizon, the
dome the arching sky, the central opening the zenith, the
dwelling-place of Tirawa, the invisible power which gives life to all

In the poetic thought of the Pawnee the earth was regarded as Mother
and was so called because from the earth's bounty mankind is fed. To
their imagination the form of the earth-lodge suggests the figure of
speech by which these human dwellings symbolised the breasts of Mother
Earth; for here man is nourished and nurtured, he is fed and sheltered
and blessed with tenderness of life. Here he knows love and warmth and

Herewith is given a metrical translation of an ancient Pawnee
ritualistic hymn. This hymn is extracted from the ritual of a
ceremonial of great age in the Pawnee nation, and there were similar
ceremonials among all the tribes and nations of the Plains area. The
full ritual from which this is taken is published in the Twenty-second
Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, part 2.

Having given the description of the structure of the earth-lodge, the
allusions in the following hymn will be readily understood:



    Now behold: hither comes the ray of our father Sun; it cometh
        over all the land, passeth in the lodge, us to touch, and
        give us strength.


    Now behold: where alights the ray of our father Sun; it touches
        lightly on the rim, the place above the fire, whence the
        smoke ascends on high.


    Now behold: softly creeps the ray of our father Sun; now o'er the
        rim it creeps to us, climbs down within the lodge; climbing
        down, it comes to us.


    Now behold: nearer comes the ray of our father Sun; it reaches now
        the floor and moves within the open space, walking there, the
        lodge about.


    Now behold where has passed the ray of our father Sun; around the
        lodge the ray has passed and left its blessing there, touching
        us, each one of us.


    Now behold: softly climbs the ray of our father Sun; it upward
        climbs, and o'er the rim it passes from the place whence the
        smoke ascends on high.


    Now behold on the hills the ray of our father Sun; it lingers
        there as loath to go, while all the plain is dark. Now has
        gone the ray from us.


    Now behold: lost to us the ray of our father Sun; beyond our sight
        the ray has gone, returning to the place whence it came to
        bring us strength.


The temporary dwelling used for traveling was a conical tent made from
buffalo skins erected on a frame of poles. It commonly had about
twenty poles averaging twenty-five feet in length. The poles were set
in a circle about fifteen feet in diameter, held together above by a
hide rope wound round the whole set of poles about four feet from the
upper ends. Three poles were first tied together, then the others were
laid in the forks of these, then the rope was passed round all of them
and tied. The cover was from fifteen to eighteen buffalo hides cut and
fitted so that when sewn together with sinew thread, they formed a
single large sheet nearly semi-circular in shape. This was lifted into
place by a special pole at the back of the structure, then the ends
were brought around to the front and fastened by means of eight or ten
small wooden pins at intervals from the door to the crossing of the
poles. The bottom was kept in place by pegs about two feet apart
around the circle. The door was usually a piece of skin stretched over
an elliptical frame.

At the top an opening was left for ventilation and outlet for the
smoke of the fire. The draft was regulated by two flaps or wings
supported each on a movable pole slanted alongside the tipi with its
base on the ground and its top fastened to the apex of the smoke-flap.
This held the draft open to the side away from the wind and was moved
according to the changes of the wind so as always to be open to the
lee side.

The beds were at the sides and the back of the tipi. Decorated
curtains above the beds kept off any drops of rain which might come
through the smoke-hole in rainy weather. The ground was the floor, the
part near the beds sometimes cut off from the open space by a hedge of
interwoven twigs.

In warm weather the bottom of the tipi was raised to allow the breeze
to pass through. In cold weather the bottom was banked with grass to
keep out the wind.

The camp was arranged in a circle, each band of the tribe having its
own proper segment of the circle, which was relatively the same
through immemorial generations, and each family in each band had its
proper place in the segment, so that one coming into camp after
nightfall, although he might not have been in camp before, could thus
unfailingly find his way to his own family.

On account of its exact adaptability to prairie life, the tipi was
taken as the model of the army tent which bears the name of General
Sibley, and is used now by our army.


In the springtime a little child had died and was buried on the hill
southeast of the village. The hill was green with the prairie grass
and spangled with the beautiful wild flowers of the prairie. On the
north and east the forest ascends the slope from the Missouri River
valley to the crest of the hill, partly encircling the burial place
with a rampart of green trees in which were numbers of happy birds,
busy with their nest-building and tuneful with their joyful songs.

Not long after the death of this little child the people went upon the
annual summer buffalo hunt to the Sand Hill region many miles away to
the west from the village. As the people drew away from the familiar
home scenes of the village the mother was strongly affected by a
feeling of sadness and grief for her little one which she had to leave
alone in its lone and narrow bed upon the hill. When the people made
camp and the evening meal was prepared this mother was so burdened
with grief for her child that she could not eat and went away to
grieve alone. When she left the camp she was so drawn by yearning for
her little one that she walked on and on all night toward the home
village. In the morning, weak and weary, she was back in the deserted
village. All was still. Not a person and not a dog was there. She went
into her own house. Then she went through the village to other houses.
At some deserted fireplace she happened to find some coals; so she was
able to kindle a fire and cook a bit of food. She sat in her house and
wailed for her baby. After a time she heard sounds. She listened and
there seemed to be whispers and murmurs all about her. And so it
continued day after day. At first she saw nothing, but heard the
murmurs and whispers, and gradually she could almost understand what
the whispers said, especially when she fasted. She made out enough to
know that it was the spirits of the departed, who, in the absence of
the living, returned to occupy the houses during the absence of the

After a time she became able to understand more of what the ghosts
said, and finally she could talk with them in their own manner. Their
speech was not like the speech of living people; there was no voice,
but slight whispering sounds, as one sometimes hears among the grass
on the prairie when all is still, or among the leaves of growing corn,
or the light rustling of the cottonwood leaves on a quiet evening.

At first the woman saw nothing, though she could hear the whispering
speech like the breathing of those who sleep. Later she could see, as
it seemed, feet moving about on the floor, but nothing above the feet.
As she looked she could see nothing between herself and the opposite
walls of the house. Then, after a time, she seemed to see not only the
moccasins but the leggings above them as far as the knees, but she
never saw any more. And thus it was with her during all the time she
dwelt there alone with the spirits until her people returned to the

This time it happened the people did not return for a year. When the
woman had disappeared from the camp on their first night out the
people supposed she had gone out somewhere to be alone to weep and
pray, but when she did not return they sought for her, and not being
able to find any trace of her they supposed some accident had befallen
her and that she was dead. They were much surprised to find her at
home when they returned to the village at the end of a year. But when
they spoke to her they found that she was mute; she moved her lips,
but no sound came. After some days she recovered speech and again took
up her accustomed life with her people.

During the year in which she lived alone in the deserted village she
had planted and harvested a crop and had lived by that and by what
food may have been left in the storage places and from the wild
products which she gathered.


All American tribes had many different classes of songs. One class of
songs was in praise of tribal heroes. There were also songs of
chivalry, celebrating brave and generous deeds. To this class belongs
the one given herewith. It must be said in explanation that all Indian
songs are very brief. They comprise only a line or two and the meaning
of the song is known by the story which is its foundation. To
understand this particular song it must be explained that a common
military custom among the tribes was to award certain honors for
certain exploits, just as we see in our own armies the awarding of the
Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Military Medal,
the Croix de Guerre, etc. In the Omaha tribe the highest military
honor was awarded for getting near enough to the enemy to touch an
enemy body, either with a lance, a bow, or any object in the hand.

There was an old warrior of this tribe, named Yellow-wood Bow, who had
fought well and won many honors in his time. But he was now old and no
longer able to fight for his people. But one day when an attack had
been made on his people by the enemy and the young men were fighting
valorously, the old man went out walking feebly toward the field of
conflict to see the battle, for he was unable to sit quietly in the
village while the fighting was going on. It happened that as he
approached the battlefield two young men were just about to count
their honors by striking with a lance the body of a slain enemy when
one saw the old warrior, Yellow-wood Bow approaching. He held back and
spoke to his comrade in the words "Hold! Yellow-wood Bow is coming!"
So the young men gave over the opportunity of counting the honor for
themselves in order that the highly respected old warrior might have
this one more chance to gain an honor, one more honor to his long list
of honors. And the generosity of these two young men is praised in the

    "Hold! Yellow-wood Bow is coming!"

In singing this song not only do the people award praise and glory to
bravery and courage, but the virtue of renunciation shown by the young
men also receives its measure of praise. The song has the purpose to
inculcate emulation of bravery and also of generosity and
unselfishness of spirit.

Stories of Plant People


A people living under natural conditions in communion with nature,
will carefully note the appearance of natural objects in their
environment. They become acquainted with the various aspects of the
landscape and of the living things, plants and animals in their
changes through the seasons, in storm and calm, in activity and in
repose. Becoming thus intimately acquainted with the life about them
the people will come to regard some of the more notable forms with a
feeling akin to that which they have towards persons, and hence they
come to have place in folk stories, in reasoned discourse and in
ceremonies of religion.

Commonly throughout the region of the Missouri River was to be seen
the cottonwood, the willows of several species, and the cedar or
juniper. The appearance and habits of these trees impressed themselves
powerfully upon the mind and imagination of the Indian folk.

The cedar or juniper was wonderful because it was ever green; unlike
other trees it appeared indifferent to frost and to heat, but alike in
winter and summer retained its leaves. Also it appeared to be
withdrawn, solitary and silent, standing dark and still, like an
Indian standing upon a hill with his robe drawn over his head in
prayer and meditation. Thus it gave the suggestion, and had the
appearance of being in communion with the High Powers.

Leaves and twigs of cedar were burned as incense in ceremonial rituals
in order that evil influences might be driven away.

Willows were always found growing along watercourses, as though they
had some duty or function in the world in connection with water, the
element so immediately and constantly needful to man and to all other
living things. Water was not only imperatively necessary for vivifying
and reanimating all living things, but was an active agent in
processes of change and transmutation. In cases of disease the evil
influences which plagued the body might be driven out and thus health
might be restored through the use of water transformed into vapor by
means of heat. So the vapor bath was used. Also if a man contemplated
the undertaking of any serious project, any dangerous mission, or any
solemn enterprise, it was important first to prepare himself by
purification, by means of the vapor bath, from all evil influences.
The framework of the vapor bath lodge was made of willow poles, bent
and tied with their bark.

The willow was also mystically connected with that greatest change of
all, the departure of the spirit from the body, the change which we
call death. Willow twigs had certain uses in funeral rites.

The cottonwood was found growing over a widely extended range, under
diverse climatic conditions, appearing always self-reliant, showing
prodigious fecundity, and having wonderful means of propagation. It
provided its seed, produced in enormous number, with a device by which
they traveled on the wind to far places and so became widely
disseminated in all directions, traveling up-stream or down-stream,
and even across the plains and prairies to other streams where the new
generation might establish itself. But besides this admirable
provision to insure the perpetuation of its kind it had also another
means of propagation; though by this means it could move only
down-stream. This method of propagation is by the making of cuttings
or planting slips from its own twigs. It is well known that the
gardener may make artificial cuttings of many kinds of trees and
plants, and so increase his stock. But the cottonwood, alone among
trees, performs this operation itself. At the beginning of autumn the
cottonwood trees form layers of cork cells which gradually wedge off
part of its twigs from the parent branch, thus covering and healing
the wound of separation and also covering and healing the base of the
separated twig so that it falls off alive and protected from loss of

Falling thus to the ground just about the time that autumn rains are
about to begin, they are ready to be carried away by the rising waters
of the streams and may be thus planted in a mud or sand bank further
down stream, ready to take root and grow in the springtime.

In the springtime the opening of the cottonwood buds and pushing out
of the young leaves, even when chilly nights follow the bright breezy
days and the rapid growth of these lustrous leaves, brightly dancing
in the spring winds, their brilliant sheen and active movement
reflecting the splendour of the sun like the dancing, glinting ripples
of a lake, suggest the joy and eagerness and energy of movement of all
returning life.

The foliage of the cottonwood is peculiar and remarkable so that it
may be said the air is never so still that there is not motion of
cottonwood leaves. Even in still and sultry summer afternoons, and at
night when all else was still, ever they could hear the rustling of
cottonwood leaves by the passage of little vagrant currents of air.
Secret messages seemed ever to be passing in soft whispers among the
cottonwood leaves. And the winds themselves are the bearers of the
messages and commands of the Higher Powers, so there was constant
reminder of the mystic character of this tree.

The cottonwood was, among trees, the symbol of fidelity, one of the
four great virtues inculcated by the ethical code of the people of the
Dakota nation.

So from all these considerations, it might be expected that this tree
should have an important place in the rituals of the people for many
generations associated with it. And so it had.

The Sacred Pole of the Omaha nation was made of the cottonwood. The
Sacred Pole was an object of the greatest veneration to the people of
that nation, similarly as the Ark of the Covenant was sacred to the
Hebrew nation.

The Sacred Tree, the central object of the Sun Dance, the most
momentous religious ritual of the Dakota nation, was a cottonwood. The
tree which should be chosen to be felled and brought into camp and set
up in the lodge erected for the performance of this ritual, must be a
growing cottonwood tree, the base of whose trunk is not less than two
spans in circumference. The tree must be straight and forked at a
distance from the ground of about four times the measure of the
outstretched arms from hand to hand.

Twigs and bark of cottonwood were burned as incense to ward against
the scheming of Anog Ite, the spiteful malevolent being who foments
scandals, strife and infidelity.

Such then, were some of the relations in the philosophic thought, the
religious conceptions and the sentiments of the people of the Dakota
nation in regard to these three species of trees.


The pasque flower (=Pulsatilla patens=), has a very extensive range
upon the northern prairies, reaching from about latitude 43 degrees
north to the Great Slave Lake above 60 degrees north latitude. It is
the earliest flower to put forth its blossoms in the springtime, often
appearing before all the snow is gone. Its bluish purple flowers
gladden the bare brown hillsides with great profusion of bloom, in
earnest of returning life. For this reason it has a strong hold upon
the affections of all the native tribes throughout all its extended
range. The plant is closely related to the anemone, which is sometimes
called the wind flower.

The people of the Dakota nation have a number of pretty little folk
stories concerning the pasque flower. One story is that in the long
ago, whenever any of the people happened to pass by where these
flowers were blooming they tried to show the friendliness which they
felt for human beings by nodding their heads in the chilly spring
wind, showing their smiling faces and saying, "Good morning! Good
morning!" But the people passed them unheeding. They became abashed at
this indifference, so nowadays still feeling friendly towards the
people in spite of such rebuffs, they bashfully turn their heads to
one side as they nod and call their kindly greetings in their sweet
low voice.

There is another pretty conceit connected with the pasque flower.
Indians generally are keenly observant of all things in nature, and
reverent towards them. They feel reverence for all living creatures,
whether plant or animal. They have songs and stories about most of the
species of plants and animals with which they are acquainted, the
specific song being the expression of the life or soul of the species
to which it pertains. The song of the pasque flower, translated out of
the Dakota language into English runs something like this:

    "I wish to encourage the children of other flower nations
    Which are now appearing over all the land;
    So while they waken from sleep and rise from the bosom
    Of Mother Earth, I stand here old and gray-headed."

[Illustration: Map of Geographical Distribution of Pasque Flower]

The saying: "I wish to encourage the children of other flower
nations," refers to the very early prevernal blossoming of this plant
and its consequent ripening while the other flower species (nations)
are just peeping through the ground. The entire plant is hairy, and
when mature its seed head is plumose and white, similar to the
clematis head, suggesting the head of a very old man with long white
hair. This explains the allusion in "I stand here old and

When in springtime an old man of the Dakota nation first finds one of
these flowers it reminds him of his childhood, when he wandered over
the hills at play as free from sorrow and care as the birds and the
flowers. He sits down near the flower, upon the lap of Mother Earth,
takes out his pipe and fills it with tobacco. Then he reverently holds
the pipe towards the earth, then towards the sky, then towards the
north, the east, the south and the west. After this act of silent
invocation and thanksgiving, he smokes. Tobacco was sacred and was
used ceremonially as an incense. The pipe was therefore a sort of
censer, and was accordingly treated with respect and reverence. In
smoking, Indians did not seize the pipestem in the teeth. Such an act
would be sacrilegious. The mouthpiece of the pipestem was gently
presented to the lips and the breath drawn through. By this
inspiration the smoker united the mystery of the tobacco, the mystery
of fire and the mystery of the breath of life.

While the old man sits by the flower and smokes he meditates upon all
the changing scenes of his lifetime; his joys and sorrows, his
youthful hopes, his accomplishments, his disappointments, and upon the
guidance of the Unseen Powers accorded to him thus far upon the
journey of life, and he is encouraged to believe that he will be
guided to the end of life's journey "beyond the fourth hill" of life;
as he has been guided over the hill of childhood, the hill of youth,
and the hill of manhood's prime, that he will also be guided over the
last hill, the hill of old age.

After finishing his pipe he empties the ashes reverently upon the
ground near the pasque flower which he has been contemplating. Then he
rises and plucks the flower prayerfully and carries it carefully home
to show to his grandchildren, singing as he goes, the song of the
pasque flower, which he learned as a child and which he now teaches to
his grandchildren, commending to them the example of the flower in its
courage and endurance and its faithfulness.


  By Rev. Ignatius Forster, O. S. B.
  Mount Marty, Yankton, South Dakota.
  February 1, 1921.

    Lovely Pasque Flower,
    Herald of Spring,
    Proclaiming the hour,
    Gladly to sing.

    Gently thou greetest
    The wintry sun;
    Boldly thou peepest
    If snow is gone.

    Callest thy playmates
    Who still do sleep:
    "Arise, lo, spring waits!
    No longer weep."

    Slowly they waken,
    Lowly they sigh:
    "Wasn't that beckon
    Pasque Flower's cry?"

    They rise in raiments
    Of colors bright;
    Pasque Flower's garments
    Are hoary white.

    Noble thy preaching,
    Pasque flower brave;
    "Work," is thy teaching,
    "Unto the grave."

    Lovely Pasque Flower,
    Herald of Spring
    Proclaiming the hour
    To work and sing.

Father Forster was moved to write this delightful little song upon
reading one evening, (February 1, 1921), the foregoing prose account
of the Dakota (Sioux) Song of the Pasque Flower or Hoksi-Cekpa Wahca.


The prairie was gray and drab, no beautiful flowers brightened it, it
had only dull greenish-gray herbs and grasses, and Mother Earth's
heart was sad because her robe was lacking in beauty and brightness.
Then the Holy Earth, our mother, sighed and said, "Ah, my robe is not
beautiful, it is sombre and dull. I wish it might be bright and
beautiful with flowers and splendid with color. I have many beautiful,
sweet and dainty flowers in my heart. I wish to have them upon my
robe. I wish to have upon my robe flowers blue like the clear sky in
fair weather. I wish also to have flowers white like the pure snow of
winter and like the high white cloudlets of a quiet summer day. I wish
also to have brilliant yellow flowers like the splendor of the sun at
noon of a summer day. And I wish to have delicate pink flowers like
the color of the dawn light of a joyous day in springtime. I would
also have flowers red like the clouds at evening when the sun is going
down below the western edge of the world. All these beautiful flowers
are in my heart, but I am sad when I look upon my old dull, gray and
brown robe."

Then a sweet little pink flower said, "Do not grieve mother, I will go
up upon your robe and beautify it." So the little pink flower came up
from the heart of Mother Earth to be upon the sad prairie of her
mother's robe.

Now when the Wind Demon saw the pink flower there he said, "Indeed she
is pretty, but I will not have her trespassing in my playground." So
the Wind Demon rushed at her shouting and roaring and blew out her
life, but her spirit returned to the heart of Mother Earth.

And when the other flowers ventured, one after another to come out
upon the prairie which was Mother Earth's robe, the Wind Demon
destroyed them also and their spirits returned to the heart of Holy
Mother Earth.

At last Prairie Rose offered to go and brighten the appearance of
Mother Earth's robe, the prairie. Mother Earth said fondly, "Yes,
dear, sweet child, I will let you go. You are so lovely and your
breath is so sweet, it may be that the Wind Demon will be charmed by
you, and that he will let you remain on his ground." And Prairie Rose
said, "Yes, dear mother, I will go, for I desire that my mother's robe
shall be beautiful. But if the Wind Demon should blow out my life my
spirit shall return home to the heart of my mother."

So Prairie Rose made the toilsome journey up through the dark ground
and came out upon the sad gray prairie. And as she was going Mother
Earth said in her heart, "Oh, I hope the Wind Demon will allow her to
live for I wish my robe to be beautiful!"

Now when the Wind Demon saw Prairie Rose he rushed at her shouting and
said, "Indeed, though she is pretty I shall not allow her to be upon
my ground. I will blow out her life." So he came on roaring and
drawing his breath in strong gusts. Just then he caught the fragrance
of the breath of Prairie Rose. "Ah," he said, "how sweet her breath
is! Why, I do not have it in my heart to blow out the life of such a
beautiful little maiden whose breath is so sweet! I love her. She
shall stay here with me. And I must make my voice gentle and sing a
melodious song, for I wish not to frighten her with my awful noise."

So he became quiet and breathed gentle breezes which passed over the
prairie grasses whispering and humming little songs of gladness.

Then the other flowers also came up through the dark ground and out
upon the dull, gray prairie and made it bright and joyous with their
presence. And the wind came to love all the flowers and the grasses.

And so the robe of our Mother Earth became beautiful because of the
loveliness and the sweet breath of the Prairie Rose.

Sometimes the Wind forgets his gentle songs and becomes loud and
boisterous, but he does not harm a person whose robe is ornamented
with the color of Prairie Rose.


The following is a translation into English out of the Dakota language
by Dr. A. McG. Beede, of an old Dakota song. The people of the Dakota
nation, and other tribes also, think of the various plant and animal
species as having each their own songs. With these people music, song,
is an expression of the soul and not a mere artistic or artful

Where the word "Mother" appears in the following song it refers to
"Mother Earth," a living, conscious, holy being in Indian thought. The
earth was truly venerated and loved by these people, who considered
themselves not as owners or potential owners of any part of the land,
but as being owned by the land which gave them birth and which
supplied their physical needs from her bounty and satisfied their love
of the beautiful by the beauty of her face in the landscape.

The trilled musical syllables at the close of the last two stanzas
express the spontaneous joy which comes to a person who has
"life-appreciation of Holy Earth."

The first stanza is an introduction by the narrator; not a part of the
"Song of the Wild Rose." The remaining stanzas are the song itself, of
the Wild Rose.

    I will tell you of something I know,
    And you can't half imagine how good;
    It's the song of wild roses that grow
    In the land the Dakota-folk love.

    From the heart of the Mother we come,
    The kind Mother of Life and of All;
    And if ever you think she is dumb,
    You should know that flowers are her songs.

    And all creatures that live are her songs,
    And all creatures that die are her songs,
    And the winds blowing by are her songs,
    And she wants you to sing all her songs.

    Like the purple in Daydawn we come,
    And our hearts are so brimful of joy
    That whene'er we're not singing we hum
    Ti-li-li-li-i, ta-la-la-loo, ta-la-la-loo!

    When a maiden is ready to wed
    Pin wild roses all over her dress,
    And a rose in the hair of her head;
    Put new moccasins onto her feet.

    Then the heart of the Mother will give
    Her the songs of her own heart to sing;
    And she'll sing all the moons she may live,
    Ti-li-li-li-i, ta-la-la-loo, ta-la-la-loo!


There is a native wild bean found growing over an area of wide
distribution in North America. The botanical name of this bean is
=Falcata comosa=. In the Dakota language it is called maka ta omnicha,
which means "bean of the earth;" in the Pawnee language it is called
ati-kuraru, which means "earth bean." The plant grows in dense masses
over shrubbery and other vegetation in some places, especially along
banks and at the edge of timber.

It forms two kinds of branches, bearing two forms of flower, producing
two forms of fruits. Leafy branches climb up over the shrubbery, but
under these, in the shade, prostrate on the earth, starting out from
the base of the main stem, are leafless, colorless branches, forming a
network on the surface of the ground. The tiny inconspicuous blossoms
borne on these prostrate branches are self-pollinated and push into
the leaf mold and soft soil, and there each produces a single large
bean closely clothed by a thin filmy pod or husk. These beans which
are formed in the earth are about the size of Lima beans. Upon the
upper, leafy branches are borne showy, purplish flowers appearing like
small bean blossoms. From these blossoms are produced small bean pods
about a half inch to an inch in length. These pods contain each from
three to four or five small, hard, mottled beans about an eighth of an
inch long.

The large beans produced in the ground are desirable for food. They
are of good flavor when cooked. The small beans of the upper branches
are also good for food, but they are so small and difficult to harvest
that not much use is made of them by the people. The large beans
formed in the earth would also be hard to gather but for the help of
certain little animals called voles, or wood mice, or bean mice. The
voles dig the large beans and store them in considerable quantities in
storage places which they hollow out in the ground and which they
cover over with sticks and leaves and earth. In these places the
little animals put away sometimes a peck or a half bushel of beans.

Through all the extensive range of =Falcata comosa=, the ground-bean,
it was sought by the people of the various Indian tribes to add to
their food supply. The people said they did not take away all the
beans from the voles as it would be wicked to loot the animals' food
stores and leave the animals to starve after they had worked to gather
them. But they would take a part of the store, in a manner making
themselves beggars to the little animals. The Omahas have a saying
that "The bean mouse is a very industrious fellow, he even helps human

But in all accounts I have had from the people of the Dakota nation
the women have always said that they never took away any beans from
the voles without making some payment in kind. They said it would be
wicked and unjust to take the beans from the animals and give nothing
in return. So they said they always put back some corn, some suet, or
some other food material in exchange for the beans they took out. In
that way they said both they and the little animals obtained a variety
in their food supply. They said they thought it very wrong to deprive
the animals of their store without such payment, but that it was fair
if they gave a fair exchange.

The people of the Dakota nation speak of the wood-mice or voles by the
designation of "Hintunka people." In the Dakota theory of the universe
they personify the maternal power and spirit by the name Hunka. Hunka
is the mystic All-Mother in nature, the mother of all living beings,
plant or animal, which of course includes mankind. For they do not
think of mankind as being apart from nature and the community of life
in the world.

The Dakotas have a moral story which is told as follows:

A certain woman went and plundered the store-house of some Hintunka
people. She robbed them of their entire food supply without even
giving them anything at all in return. The next night this woman who
had robbed the Hintunka people of all their food supply heard a woman
down in the woods crying and saying "Oh, what will my poor children
do?" It was the voice of one of the Hintunka women crying over her
hungry children.

The same night the woman who had done the wrong had a dream. In her
dreams Hunka appeared to her and said "You should not have taken the
food from the Hintunka people. Take back the food to them, or else
your own children shall cry for food."

The next morning the woman told her husband what Hunka had said to
her. Her husband said "You would better do as Hunka tells you to do."
But the woman was hard-hearted and perverse and would not restore to
the Hintunka people the food of which she had robbed them, neither
would she give them anything in exchange.

A short time after this a great prairie fire came, driven by a strong
wind, and swept over the place where this unjust woman and her family
were camping. The fire burned up her tipi and everything it contained,
and they barely escaped with their lives. They had no food nor shelter
and they had to wander on the prairie destitute.

The bean-mouse and its works are regarded with respect, admiration and
reverence by the people of the various Indian tribes which benefit by
its labor. They feel very resentful towards any seeming tendency to
meddle unwarrantedly with its winter store-houses. Upon hearing of the
desire of a white man to make a photograph of such a store-house an
old man of the Teton-Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation expressed
bitter resentment and declared himself ready to fight to prevent such
a thing from being done. He said "We have enough misfortune already,
counting the war and the epidemic of influenza, without inviting
further disaster by such sacrilege."

In the month of November, after the bean mice have harvested their
beans and laid them up in their store-houses for the winter, the
people often go out alone and sit near some such store-house in silent
meditation on the ways of Providence. At that time of the year the
missionaries and priests are often pained and puzzled because of the
absence of some of their church members from Sunday service or from
mass on Sunday morning. They do not know, and likely would not
appreciate or understand the feeling which has caused these people to
go out at such a time, not to the church but out to the quiet place
under the open heaven where they sit upon the lap of Mother Earth to
reverently and thankfully meditate upon the mysteries of nature and
the wonderful provisions of God in nature.

At such times they like to bring in to their homes or to their
churches some object connected with the bean mouse and his marvelous
ways and work. If they find some beans which the bean mouse has
spilled in transportation to his store-house, or a tree-leaf which
they suppose he has used as his sled for carrying his beans from field
to store-house, they will bring in such objects and lay them up
reverently in the home or in the church with devout regard for
prayerful meditation. Indians say that the bean mouse uses a leaf of
the boxelder tree, or sometimes another kind of leaf of suitable
shape, as a sled for gathering his stores.

At one time an old blind man of the Teton-Dakota on the Standing Rock
Reservation on the upper Missouri River went out to the vicinity of a
vole's store-house to meditate and pray. A man saw him and quietly
approached within hearing distance. As the old man was blind he did
not perceive the approach of the observer. Thinking himself alone in
the presence of the powers of nature, this devout old man, gave
expression to his religious feeling in the following prayer:

"Thou who art holy, pity me and help me I pray. Thou art small, but
thou art sufficiently large for thy place in the world. And thou art
sufficiently strong also for thy work, for Holy Wakantanka constantly
strengthens thee. Thou art wise, for the wisdom of holiness is with
Thee constantly.

"May I be wise in all my heart continually, for if an attitude of holy
wisdom leads me on, then this shadow-troubled life shall come into
constant light."


Over all the dry prairies of the Great Plains region there grows a
plant (=Psoralea esculenta=), which was an important item of the food
supplies of all the tribes of the region. It is a species which
belongs botanically to the Bean Family. The part used for food is the
large root, which is stored with proteid and starchy matter. The root
is about the size of a hen's egg. The stem of the plant is bushy and
branched; the leaves are trifoliate. The leaves and stems of the plant
are hairy, giving it a grayish-green appearance. The flowers are set
in close racemes at the ends of the branches, and are bluish in color
and of bean blossom shape.

In the journals of the early travellers mention of this plant is
often found under the name of "pomme blanche" or "pomme de prairie,"
the name by which the French traders and trappers called it, for they
learned to live upon the native products of the land. English speaking
people coming later, and depending not so much on native products, did
not supply names for them, not considering them of enough importance.
The name which I have given it for a common English name is an
approximation to, and an adaptation of the name of this plant in the
Dakota language.

Tipsin roots are gathered in June or early July. They were used fresh
when gathered, and they were also gathered in quantity and peeled and
dried for future use. The women gathered them by the use of digging
sticks. They had their children with them to look for the plants while
they dug them. Because of the branching habit of the plant the mother
would say to her children, "See, they point to each other. Now here is
one, notice the directions in which its arms point and you will find
others." So the children would start, each in the direction of one of
the branches, and of course, if they followed in any direction and
kept close watch they would find another. The idea of the plants
pointing to each other kept the children's attention fixed.


All the tribes which cultivated corn had legends accounting for its
acquisition. Many of these are very interesting and beautiful. In the
Sacred Legends of the Omaha, of which account is given in "The Omaha
Tribe," Twenty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American
Ethnology, by Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, occurs the
following legend of the finding of corn:

"Then a man in wandering about found some kernels, blue, and red, and
white. He thought he had secured something of great value, so he
concealed them in a mound. One day he thought he would go to see if
they were safe. When he came to the mound he found it covered with
stalks having ears bearing kernels of these colours. He took an ear of
each kind and gave the rest to the people to experiment with. They
tried it for food, found it good, and ever since have called it their
life. As soon as the people found the corn good, they thought to make
mounds like that in which the kernels had been hid. So they took the
shoulder blade of an elk and built mounds like the first and buried
the corn in them. So the corn grew and the people had abundant food."

While the legend does not designate what tribe it was which first
obtained corn, it is probably to be identified with the following
fuller account which is also told in the Omaha Sacred Legends, and
which recites that they first learned of corn and obtained seed of it
from the Arikara. The story tells how the Arikara first obtained corn
by divine favour, and then how they gave it to other tribes, among
these fortunate ones being the Omaha. It should be remembered that at
the time the Omaha came to where they now reside and have resided for
some centuries, the Arikara were in the region of what is now northern
Nebraska, so they were then neighbors of the Omaha. No doubt the
declaration of the legend that the Omahas did first obtain corn from
the Arikara is based on fact, in that corn culture among the Omaha had
been borrowed from the Arikara, who later migrated farther north along
the upper Missouri River.

The story runs thus:

"The Arikara were the first to obtain the maize. A young man went out
hunting. He came to a high hill, and, looking down upon a valley, he
saw a buffalo bull standing in the middle of a bottom land lying
between two rivers at their confluence. As the young man searched the
surroundings to find how he might approach the buffalo he was
impressed with the beauty of the landscape. The banks of the two
rivers were low and well timbered. He observed that the buffalo stood
facing north; he saw also that he could not approach from any side
within bowshot. He thought that the only way to get a chance to shoot
the buffalo would be to wait until the animal moved close to the banks
of one of the rivers, or to the hills where there were ravines and
shrubs. So the young man waited. The sun went down and the buffalo had
not moved; the young man went home disappointed. He lay awake nearly
all night brooding over his disappointment, for food had become scarce
and the buffalo would have afforded a good supply. Before dawn the
young man arose and hastened to the place where he had discovered the
buffalo to see whether the animal might be somewhere near, if it had
moved. Just as he reached the summit of the hill, where he was the day
before, the sun arose, and he saw that the buffalo was in the same
spot. But he noticed that it was now facing toward the east. Again the
young man waited for the animal to move, but again the sun went down
while the buffalo remained standing in the same spot. The hunter went
home and passed another restless night. He started out again before
dawn and came to the top of the hill just as the sun arose, and saw
the buffalo in the same place still, but it had now turned to face the
south. The young man waited and watched all day, but when darkness
came he once more had to go away disappointed. He passed another
sleepless night. His desire to secure game was mixed with curiosity to
know why the buffalo should so persistently remain in that one spot
without eating or drinking or lying down to rest. He rose upon the
fourth morning before dawn, his mind occupied with this curiosity, and
made haste to reach the hill to see if the buffalo still stood in the
same place. Morning light had come when he arrived at the hill, and he
saw that the buffalo was standing in exactly the same place, but had
turned around to face the west. He was determined now to know what the
animal would do, so he settled down to watch as he had throughout the
three previous days. He now began to think that the animal was acting
in this manner under the influence of some unseen power for some
mysterious purpose, and that he, as well as the buffalo, was
controlled by the same influence. Darkness again came upon him and the
animal was still standing in the same position. The young man returned
home, but he was kept awake all night by his thoughts and wondering
what would come of this strange experience. He rose before dawn and
hastened again to the mysterious scene. As he reached the summit of
the hill dawn spread across all the land. Eagerly he looked. The
buffalo was gone! But just where the buffalo had been standing there
appeared something like a small bush. The young man now approached the
spot with a feeling of curiosity and of awe, but also something of
disappointment. As soon as he came near he saw that what had appeared
from a distance like a small bush was a strange unknown plant. He
looked upon the ground and saw the tracks of the buffalo; he observed
that they turned from the north to the east, and to the south, and to
the west; and in the centre there was but one buffalo track, and out
of it had sprung this strange plant. He examined the ground all around
the plant to find where the buffalo had left the place, but there were
no other footprints except those he had already seen near the plant.
He made haste to reach his home village. There he notified the chiefs
and elders of his people concerning the strange experience which he
had had. Led by the young man they proceeded to the place of the
buffalo and examined the ground with care, and found that what he had
told them was true. They found the tracks of the buffalo where he had
stood and where he had turned, but could find no trace of his coming
to the place nor of his going from it. Now while all these men
believed that this plant had been given to the people in this
mysterious manner by Wakanda for their use, still they were not sure
what that use might be nor in what manner it should be used. The
people knew of other plants that were useful for food, and the season
for their ripening, and, believing that the fruit of this strange
plant would ripen in its proper time, they arranged to guard and
protect it carefully, awaiting with patience the time of its ripening
and further revelation of its purpose.

"After a time a spike of flowers appeared at the top of the plant, but
from their knowledge of other plants they knew that the blossom was
but the flower and not the fruit. But while they watched this blossom,
expecting it to develop into fruit, as they expected it would, a new
growth appeared from the joints of the plant. They now gave special
attention to the new growth. It grew larger, and finally something
appeared at the top which looked like hair. This, in the course of
time, turned from pale green to dark brown, and after much discussion
the people concluded that this growth at the side of the plant was its
fruit, and that it had ripened. Until this time no one had dared to
approach within touch of the plant. Although they were anxious to know
the uses to which the plant could be put, or for which it was
intended, no one dared to touch it. While the people were assembled
around the plant uncertain and undetermined how to approach the
examination of it to learn its possible use, a youth stepped forward
and spoke:

"'Every one knows how my life from childhood has been worse than
useless, that my life among you has been more evil than good.
Therefore since no one would regret, should any evil befall me, let me
be the first to touch this plant and taste of its fruit, so that you
may not suffer any harm and that you may learn if the plant possesses
qualities which may be for our good.' When the people gave their
assent the youth stepped forward and placed his hands over the top of
the plant and brought them down by the sides of the plant to the roots
in the manner of giving thanks and blessing. He then grasped the
fruit, and, turning to the people, said, 'It is solid; it is ripe.'
Very gently then he parted the husks at the top, and again turning to
the people, he said, 'The fruit is red.' Then he took a few of the
grains, showed them to the people, then ate them, and replaced the
husks. The youth suffered no ill effects, and the people were
convinced that this plant was given them for food. In the autumn, when
the prairie grass had turned brown, the stalks and leaves of this
plant turned brown also. The fruit was plucked and put away with
carefulness. The next spring the kernels were divided among the
people, four to each family. The people removed to the place where the
strange plant had appeared, and there they built their huts along the
banks of the two rivers. When the hills began to be green from the new
prairie grass, the people planted the kernels of this strange plant,
having first built mounds like the one out of which the first plant
grew. To the great joy of the people the kernels sprouted and grew
into strong healthy plants. Through the summer they grew and
developed, and the fruit ripened as did that of the original plant.
The fruit was gathered and some was eaten, and was found to be good.
In gathering the fruit the people discovered that there were various
colours--some ears were white and others were blue, some were red,
others were yellow.

"The next season the people gathered a rich harvest of this new plant.
In the autumn these people, the Arikara, sent invitations to a number
of different tribes to come and visit them. Six tribes came; one of
these was the Omaha. The Arikara were very generous in the
distribution of the fruit of this new plant among their guests, and in
this manner a knowledge of the plant came to the Omaha."


The Pawnee had migrated from the distant southwest into the Plains
region, finally arriving at the region drained by the Republican, the
Platte, and the Niobrara rivers. Corn was native in Mexico, and had
been introduced into the Plains by gradual adaptation in cultivation
along the line of migration of the Pawnee nation. These hymns express
something of the high value which the people placed upon corn as an
item of their daily sustenance. They also reflect something of the
scenery of the Plains landscape. These hymns are from an ancient
Pawnee ritual which is given entire in the Twenty-second Annual Report
of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Part 2.



    Mother with the life-giving power now comes,
    Stepping out of far-distant days she comes,
    Days wherein to our fathers gave she food;
    As to them, so now unto us she gives,
    Thus she will to our children faithful be.
    Mother with the life-giving power now comes!


    Mother with the life-giving power is here.
    Stepping out of far distant days she comes.
    Now she forward moves, leading as we walk
    Toward the future, where blessings she will give,
    Gifts for which we have prayed granting to us.
    Mother with the life-giving power is here!



    The Mother leads and we follow on,
    Her devious pathway before us lies.
    She leads us as were our fathers led
    Down through the ages.


    The Mother leads and we follow on,
    Her pathway straight, where a stage each day
    We forward walk, as our fathers walked
    Down through the ages.

The two preceding hymns reflect the fact that corn was introduced by
the Pawnee from their more ancient homeland in the faraway southwest
in remotely past time into the region of their later residence in the
plains. They also reflect the importance which corn had in the
everyday life of this people.

The following hymn to Mother Corn as Guide is expressive of the sense
of vastness and awesomeness of the great extent of the Plains, and
something of its grimness.



    Looking o'er the prairie, naught our eyes discern there,
    Wide the land stretches out before us;
    Then we cry aloud to Mother Corn: "Doth thy pathway lie here?"


    Heeding now our crying, while our eyes she opens,
    Mother Corn moveth out before us
    On the lonely prairie, where we see straight the pathway lies there!

       *       *       *       *       *

The following hymn of thanks for the corn shows something of the
religious feeling of the Pawnee and their gratitude to Providence for
the gift of corn.



    See! The Mother Corn comes hither, making all hearts glad!
    Making all hearts glad!
    Give her thanks, she brings a blessing; now, behold! she is here!


    Yonder Mother Corn is coming, coming unto us!
    Coming unto us!
    Peace and plenty she is bringing; now, behold! she is here!


A woman of the Arikara tribe was harvesting her crop of corn, making
ready to store it away in a safe place where she might be able to get
it for use during the long cold winter. She went along gathering the
ears and placing them in convenient heaps so that she could gather
them up to carry to the storage place she had prepared. When she had
finished her work she started to go, but she heard a voice like the
voice of a little child, crying and calling pitifully: "Oh, do not
leave me! Do not go away without me."

The woman was astonished at what she supposed was the voice of a lost
child. She said to herself: "What is this? Can it be some child has
wandered and has been lost in my cornfield? I must go and look for

So she laid down her burden of gathered corn, and went back into the
field to make search. But she found no child anywhere in the field.

Then she started once more to take up her burden and leave the field.
But again she heard the plaintive little voice crying: "Oh, do not
leave me! Do not go away without me."

Then she went back into the field and searched again for a long time.
After diligent search she found one little ear of corn which had been
covered by stalks and leaves. It was the little ear of corn which had
been crying, fearing to be left to die in the field. So all Indian
women are very careful in gathering their crops so that nothing shall
be lost or wasted of the good gifts of the Great Mystery, for they are
accounted sacred and holy, and it would be wicked to treat them with
neglect or indifference.


_A Chippewa Myth_

Wenibozho and his grandmother, Nokomis, lived together in a lodge by
themselves. When he approached manhood his grandmother exhorted him to
exert himself, to learn to endure hardship, loneliness, cold and
hunger and thirst, for such experience is the proper training for a
young man. A young man needs such training so that when overtaken by
misfortune he shall be brave and resourceful; so that he may be able
to take care of himself and of any who may be dependent upon him.

So, one day Wenibozho told his grandmother he was going away into the
wilderness where he had never been before, so that he could be cast
upon his own resources to try his strength and courage and wit.

He was gone many days and nights, wandering through the forest and
beside streams and lakes. He subsisted upon such fruits, seeds, roots
and tubers as he was able to find, and upon the flesh of animals he
was able to shoot with his bow and arrow which he had brought with
him. One day he came to a lake in which was growing a great quantity
of beautiful, feathery wild rice, swaying over the water in the gentle
breeze. From the bark of a birch tree he fashioned a canoe in which he
rowed out upon the lake and gathered a quantity of the wild rice. He
did not know the wild rice was useful for food, for he had never seen
it before, but he admired its beauty. He took the wild rice which he
had gathered to his grandmother. He told her of the beautiful plant
which he had found in the lake and that he had brought to her some of
the seed of the plant. This seed they sowed in another lake near the
place where he lived with his grandmother, for he hoped to have the
beautiful plant growing where he might often enjoy its beauty.

Again he went away into the forest so that he might become accustomed
to endure hardships and also that he might learn wisdom from the
living creatures, not only from the moving creatures, but also from
those other living creatures, the plants of all kinds. While walking
he thought he heard a voice saying, "Sometimes they eat us." He
stopped and listened and again he heard the words "Sometimes they eat
us." This time he perceived that the words came from some bushes near
which he was passing. Finally he spoke, saying, "To whom are you
talking?" He was told that he was the one to whom the bush was
speaking, so he dug up the plant and found that it had a long root. He
tasted the root and it was pleasant to the taste, so he dug more, and
ate a great many, so many that he was made ill. He was too ill to
travel, so he lay there three days. Finally he was able to rise and
move on, but he was hungry and weak. As he passed along other plants
spoke to him, but he was now afraid to eat of them. Then, as he was
walking along a stream he saw some bunches of grass growing up out of
the water which beckoned to him and said, "Sometimes they eat us." He
was so hungry, and the graceful grass was so tempting, that he was
constrained to gather some seeds of it and eat. The taste was
pleasing, and its effect upon his hunger was so gratifying that he
said, "O, you are indeed good! What are you called?" The Grass
replied, "We are called manomin," which is the name which the Chippewa
people call this plant. Wenibozho waded out into the water and
gathered the grains by handfuls and ate it, and so continued till his
hunger was fully satisfied. From eating the manomin he suffered no ill
effects whatever, but was strengthened wonderfully. Finally he
remembered the grain which he had discovered on his former journey and
which he and his grandmother, Nokomis, had sown in the lake near their
home. When he returned and found it growing and compared it with this
grain which he had now found to be so good, he perceived that it was
the same sort. So he found that this beautiful grass which he had
growing in the lake near home was really manomin, as pleasant to the
taste and as satisfying to hunger as it was beautiful to the eyes.
Ever since that time the Chippewas have known how to value the good
gift of manomin.


_A Story from the Dakota Nation_

Once on a time, long ago, a company of men were going upon a war
expedition. And now as they were within the country of the enemy they
were proceeding very cautiously. One morning very early they heard
what seemed to be the sound of someone singing in a tremulous voice,
coming from the direction toward which they were marching. They
stopped and stood still to listen.

As they stood thus listening it seemed to them that the singer,
whoever he might be, must be a clown, for he was singing a clown song.
There was not light enough to see the singer. But they waited silently
and anxiously peering ahead in the direction from which came the sound
of the singing. At the first glimmer of the dawn light they were able
to make out the appearance of a man walking with an awkward shuffling
gait. His robe was ragged and his leggings drooped down slouchingly in
wrinkles about his ankles as he walked. He had great circles about his
eyes painted a bright yellow and he was singing a clown song in a
husky wheezy voice.

So they stood in wonder regarding the clown who was coming toward
them. He was coming toward the sun rising and as the daylight grew
brighter they were astonished to see the man suddenly changed to a

And ever since that time, it is said, the sunflower is inclined to
face toward the sun.


The spiderwort (=Tradescantia bracteata=) and (=Tradescantia
occidentalis=) is a beautiful native prairie flower which is known
under numerous popular names. It is called spiderwort, spider lily,
ink flower, king's crown, and various other names. It has been
proposed to add to the list another name, "flower-of-romance." This
name is proposed from the circumstance of a bit of pleasing sentiment
connected with this flower in the folklore of the Dakota nation of

It is a charmingly beautiful and delicate flower, deep blue in color,
with a tender-bodied plant of graceful lines. There is no more
appealingly beautiful flower on the western prairies than this one
when it is sparkling with dewdrops in the first beams of the rising
sun. There is about it a suggestion of purity, freshness and

When a young man of the Dakota nation is in love, and walking alone on
the prairie finds this flower blooming, he stops and sings to it a
song in which he personifies it with the qualities of his sweetheart's
personality as they are called to his mind by the appearance of the
flower before him, its characteristics figuratively suggesting the
characteristics of her whose image he carries romantically in his mind
and heart. In his mind the beauties of the flower and the charms of
the girl are mutually transmuted and flow together into one image.

The words of his song, translated from the Dakota language into the
English, are something like this:

    "Tiny, gladsome flower,
    So winsome and modest,
    Thou art dainty and sweet,
    For love of thee I'd die."

Stories of the Four-Footed People


The dog was the companion and servant of the people over all parts of
North America, and previous to the introduction of the horse into the
western hemisphere by the Spaniards, the dog was the only domestic
animal which the Indians had. After horses were introduced by the
Spaniards, they soon came into use by the Indians, and in a
comparatively short time they were widely spread over the continent.

But in former days the dog was the only beast of burden which the
Indians had. They served as watchers at night, as companions and
helpers in the chase, and as bearers of burdens in transportation

Once on a time a hunting party of men of the Dakota nation were in the
buffalo grazing country in the time of the winter hunt. Scouts were
sent out each day to look for a herd and to bring back report to the
officers. One day one of the scouts discovered a herd near a certain
lake. He came into camp in the evening, as soon as he could after he
found the herd. At once he went according to the law and rendered his
report to the proper officers. After reporting he went to his lodge
and had his evening meal and then lay down to rest from the weariness
of the day's scouting.

The officers held council and made the plans for the next day's
activities of the hunting field. Then they sent the herald around the
camp to announce the orders for the next day.

At the earliest light next morning every one in camp was up and making
preparations for the day's work. It was yet early in the day when the
hunters reached the lake where the scout had discovered the buffalo
herd the previous day. Here they found the buffaloes still feeding. At
the command of the officers the hunters and their dogs were deployed
to surround the herd for the slaughter, for the meat supply of the
people had become low, and at this opportunity they must replenish
their provision.

The herd was feeding upon a strip of land which was surrounded on
three sides by a lake. The plan was to advance upon the herd from the
base of this strip of land and force them out into the lake where the
huge animals would be at a disadvantage upon the slippery ice.

The men and dogs charged upon the herd and soon the great mass of
shaggy beasts were forced out upon the treacherous ice where they were
struggling in great confusion. Many were killed before the herd
finally reached the shore of the lake and scrambled up the steep bank
and fled away over the plain.

The sun was already past the middle of the sky and the hunters were
busy with the work of skinning the carcasses and dressing the beef,
making ready to carry back to camp their prize of meat, hides, and
other useful products, when suddenly they saw and felt a great change
in the sky and in the air. The threatening signs were evident of the
swift approach of a blizzard, the dreadful and terrific winter storm
of fierce, roaring wind and driving snow and frightful cold which
frequently sweeps over the northern plains.

The hunters made haste to reach camp which had been made in the
shelter of the woods not far away. Here a certain number had been
detailed by the officers to make camp and to gather firewood, while
the others had been taking care of the meat. Now as the fearful storm
threatened, they gathered in the camp bringing in what they could
carry of the meat supply. Soon the hunters were refreshing themselves
with freshly broiled steaks which were much relished by the hungry
men, who had eaten nothing since the early morning just before they
had broken camp. The dogs too were given their share.

The storm was now upon them in its fury; and all about was a
smothering, dizzying swirl of whiteness as impenetrable as the
blackness of night. The gale of wind roared unceasingly; the myriad
millions of tiny snow particles ground upon each other in the swirl of
the storm, each infinitesimal impact adding to the aggregate of
reverberation of sound, while the skin tents hummed like enormous

From time to time those who were already in camp shouted to guide the
later comers who gave answering shouts and came one after another
staggering into camp exhausted by the buffeting of the storm. At last
only one was missing. The herd scout, who had found and reported the
herd the day before; he and his faithful dog had not yet come in. The
fury of the storm throughout the night and the next day prevented the
possibility of going to look for the missing man.

Toward morning following the second night of the storm its fury
abated. As is usual, at the end of a blizzard, it was followed by an
extraordinary calm. The drifted plain lay as still and white as
marble. The stars glistened coldly like ice crystals in the sky. The
air was so clear that the least sound made by any moving creature was
magnified in the stillness.

The hunting camp awoke. Suddenly the game call of the great gray wolf
was heard. And soon the hunters saw a great number of these gaunt gray
creatures out upon the ice of the lake and on the plain, digging out
the white mounds which were the snowdrifts about the carcasses of the
buffaloes which the hunters had been obliged to leave when the storm
came upon them.

And now among the wolf cries another sound was heard,--the defiant
barking of a dog! It was the scout's dog. The men hurried toward the
slaughter field to kill or drive away the wolves. Some wolves were
dragging away a buffalo carcass, and from among the snarling howling
pack about this carcass the hunters could distinctly hear the hoarse
barking of their missing friend's dog, and occasionally they could
hear a strangely muffled shout of a man sounding as though it came
from under the ice.

The hunters finally reached the place to which the carcass had been
dragged by the wolves. As the men came near the wolves ran away and
the men saw the dog standing by the carcass for a moment before he
fell dead as they reached the place. The men with their knives cut
open the abdominal cavity of the carcass and found the missing scout
inside wrapped in his robe in a bed of grass and buffalo hair.

When the storm had come upon him at his work he had seen that he could
not reach the camp so he had opened two of the carcasses and removed
the internal organs. In one he had made a bed for his dog, and in the
other for himself for protection from the fury of the storm. The dog
had kept an opening to his shelter, but the man had closed the
entrance of his own after he was in, and the hide had frozen solid,
making him a prisoner. When the wolves came the dog was able to free
himself and tried to defend his imprisoned master, regardless of his
own safety. He had been mortally wounded before the hunters could save

As soon as the scout was released he inquired for the dog, his friend
and defender. When he saw that his loyal friend was dead, having given
up his life in defense of his master, the scout was deeply moved with
grief. He knelt down and stroked the head of the dead dog, and said,
"Ah, my friend; you were courageous and faithful unto death. And you
died like a brave warrior. You shall have the funeral of a dead

So with all due ceremony the scout carried the body of the dog to the
top of a hill overlooking the lake where he had given up his life in
doing his duty. There the scout laid the body. Over it he built up a
tomb of boulders which he gathered from the hills. Then he laid upon
it offerings of red paint and of food according to the funeral custom
of his people, and they sang the farewell song for the dead.

Ever since that time this hill has been known to the Dakotas as the
Grave of the Dog.


_A Mandan Story_

Coyote Chief was out hunting one day, and he came upon a buffalo bull
grazing. "Brother," he said, "you have nothing to do just now. Let us
run a race to see which of us is the swifter." "All right," said the
buffalo, "let us run."

"I shall first go and prepare a place for the race," Coyote Chief
said, "then I shall come back for you."

So Coyote Chief found a high steep bank and placed on the very edge of
it a small heap of stones. Then he returned to the buffalo and said,
"Everything is now ready. Let us race over to yonder heap of stones
which I have set up for a goal. When we are almost to the goal let us
shut our eyes and run as hard as we can." And so they ran toward the
heap of stones and the buffalo ran over the bank and was killed by
falling, just as Coyote Chief had planned.

But Coyote Chief had nothing with which to skin the buffalo and cut
up and prepare the meat. So he walked along a little way and came to a
small clump of timber. As he approached the timber he called out,
"Brothers, give me a knife." And they gave him a knife. Then he went
on to another clump of timber. Here he called out, "Brothers, give me
an earthen pot." And they gave him an earthen pot. He went on again to
another clump of timber, where he called out, "Brothers, give me a
horn spoon." And they gave him a horn spoon.

Then Coyote Chief went back to the place where the buffalo had fallen,
and there he built a hunter's lodge of leafy branches of trees. Then
he skinned the buffalo and pegged out the skin upon the ground and
scraped it. Next he cut up the meat, and some of it he cut into strips
and hung it up to dry.

Coyote Chief had Fox for a servant, to run errands and to work about
the house. And he treated Fox badly and did not give him enough to
eat. Fox was hungry, as usual, and tried to help himself to some of
the buffalo meat, but Coyote Chief saw him and was angry. He seized a
brand from the fire and thrust it into Fox's face, burning him
thereby. Fox was hurt so badly that he decided to run away, but he
wished first to be revenged upon Coyote Chief. So he went around to
all the other animals and told them how badly he had been used by
Coyote Chief. The animals were sorry for him and seemed willing to
help him to punish Coyote Chief. So they held a meeting and talked
over the matter to decide upon the best way to do this. The decision
of the council was that they should all go over to his house that
night and eat up all his meat while he was asleep.

Coyote Chief had worked hard all day to take care of his meat, and had
not taken time to eat much. Being tired after his day's work he went
to bed early. But he was anxious lest some one might come and take his
meat while he slept, so before going to sleep he said, "Now my
members, you must watch for me while I sleep. My eyes, if anyone peeps
in you must stare hard at him. My ears, if you hear a sound, you must
wiggle. My arms, if anyone comes in you must thrash around. My legs,
if any one comes near, you must kick." Then he went to sleep.

That night all the animals gathered at Coyote Chief's house, but they
were afraid to touch anything till they were sure he was sound asleep.
So they sent Magpie first to peep in at the door. Magpie went and
peeped in and saw Coyote Chief's eyes staring hard at him, and he went
back and said, "He is not asleep, for his eyes stared at me."

After a time Crow was sent to find if Coyote Chief was not asleep.
Crow flew up and perched by the smoke-hole. When he looked in Coyote
Chief's ears began to wiggle. Crow went back and told the animals that
Coyote Chief could not be asleep, for as soon as he looked in Coyote
Chief's ears began to wiggle.

A little later Jack Rabbit was sent to look. Jack Rabbit pushed in a
little at the door, and Coyote Chief's arms began to move up and down.
So Jack Rabbit went back and reported that Coyote Chief must still be

The animals again waited, and then sent Fox. Fox went inside, and
then Coyote Chief's legs began to kick, so he ran out and told the
others that Coyote Chief was still awake.

Now, after waiting quite a long time, the animals sent Mouse. Mouse
went in and saw that Coyote Chief seemed to be sound asleep. He went
up and ran over his legs and there was no motion; then he ran over his
chest and still Coyote Chief was not disturbed. At last he ran over
his face, and Coyote Chief did not stir. So Mouse went and told the
others that Coyote Chief was surely asleep. Then they came in and ate
up all the meat except a few scraps which dropped while they were
eating. When they had finished eating they went away without having
wakened Coyote Chief.

The next morning when Coyote Chief awoke, he was very hungry because
he had eaten little the day before, and had worked hard; but he found
his meat was all gone, and he said to himself, "Oh, why did I not eat
the meat yesterday instead of waiting!" Then, because he was so
hungry, he searched about on the ground and found some scraps of meat
and some small bits of fat. All these he gathered up on a robe. He put
fresh wood upon the fire, and then sat down by the fireplace with the
robe over his knees to eat the little he had. But just then a spark
shot out from the fire and lighted on his hand, which hurt him so that
he jumped up suddenly, spilling into the fire all the shreds of meat
and fat which he had so carefully gathered.

So Coyote Chief got none of his meat, and was punished for the bad way
he had treated Fox.


_A Mandan Story_

One day a skunk was going somewhere, travelling quietly along a trail,
thinking of his own affairs. He did not know it, but a bear was coming
along the same trail towards him. Neither the bear nor the skunk knew
that the other was on the trail until suddenly they met. They both
stopped. Then the skunk said to the bear, "You are on my road. Turn
out and let me pass!" The bear replied, "Not so. It is you who are on
my road. Get out of my way!" But the skunk said, "You, yourself must
turn aside." The bear then said, "Unless you do as I tell you I shall
eat you at once. I tell you that you are on my road and must stand
aside. I wonder how skunk meat would taste if I should eat some."

The skunk said, "I wonder how bear flesh would taste if I should eat
some." Then suddenly the skunk threw up his brush and sprinkled the
bear full in the face with his dreadful scent. The bear tumbled out of
the path, howling in misery, and clawing at his nose and eyes. He
could not see, and was almost suffocated.

As for the skunk, he passed on his way as if nothing had happened.


There is a story told among the people of the Dakota nation that once
on a time an old man went out, to be alone upon a high hill above the
Missouri River to give himself to meditation and prayer. He chose this
situation because of the grandeur and majesty of the view, of the
great sweep of the prairie plains and hills, one hill beyond another
away and away to the far horizon. Below flowed the wonderful and
mysterious river, whose waters came down from the mighty mountains at
the west and rolled on and on past the villages of many different
nations, finally reaching the great salt water.

As the old man thus sat meditating and considering all the
manifestations of life and power and mystery of earth and sky, he
espied out upon the prairie a group of wolves trotting toward the
river. When they reached the river they plunged in and swam across to
the other side; all but one old one who was now too enfeebled by age
to dare try his strength against the swift and powerful current of the

This old wolf sat down upon the bank of the river and watched his
companions as they swam across and trotted away out of sight on the
other side. When they had disappeared from sight he raised his muzzle
towards the sky and mournfully sang in a man's voice the following

    All o'er the earth I've roamed,
    I've journeyed far and wide;
    My spirit haste and go,
    I'm nothing, nothing now,
    I'm nothing, nothing now.

    Missouri River, flow,
    Thou sacred water flow;
    My spirit haste and go,
    I'm nothing, nothing now,
    I'm nothing, nothing now.

After the old wolf had sung this song he wearily made his way to the
top of a hill and lay down in the warm sunshine, in the shelter of a
rock and there waited until his spirit went away.

And so now, when old men of the Dakota nation feel the infirmities of
age creeping upon them, and as though they had been left behind in
life's march, when they feel the depression of loneliness, will often
go out alone to the summit of some high hill overlooking the Missouri
River, and sitting there in solitude will muse upon their activities
and noteworthy deeds in the past, of their companions of former days
now long gone from them, and contrast all this with their present
inactivity and loneliness. Then they will sadly and quaveringly sing
this "Song of the Old Wolf."

       *       *       *       *       *

Note.--The English translation and rendering into verse is the work of
Dr. A. McG. Beede, of Fort Yates, North Dakota. The original song in
the Dakota language is as follows:

    Maka takomni
    Tehan omawani;
    Minagi yayayo,
    Wana matakuni,
    Mni-shoshe yayo
    Mni wakan yayo;
    Minagi yayayo,
    Wana matakuni,
    Wana matakuni,
      O he-he-he!

Stories of the People of the Air


The cheerful animation and lively manner of the meadowlark have made
it a favourite with all people who are acquainted with it, both whites
and Indians. And both whites and Indians attach words of their several
languages to the notes of the bird. Among sayings in the English
language attributed to the notes of the meadowlark are some
expressions of banter and raillery. Farmers say that early in
springtime the meadowlark perches jauntily upon the top of a
fence-post and calls mockingly to them "You sowed your wheat too soon!
You sowed your wheat too soon!" Another taunting expression fitted to
the meadowlark's notes is addressed to girls and young women; it is
"You think you're pretty, don't you?"

These locutions in English are in accord with the tone of many sayings
ascribed to the notes of the meadowlark by the Hidatsa tribe of North
Dakota, and with their name of the bird, =wia-akumakihishe=, which
means "scolding or shrewish woman," for they say that the meadowlark
says such taunting, tormenting and aggravating things. One of these
taunting expressions is "=Kitho karishtiditore=," which is a most
exasperating saying. =Kitho= means "that insignificant one," and
=karishtiditore= means "good-for-nothing fellow."

The Omahas also put words of their language to the notes of the
meadowlark. One of these is =Snite thingthi tegaze=, which means
"winter will not come back." A little mixed-blood girl in the Omaha
tribe was named Marguerite. Now the Omaha language does not contain
the sound of the letter "r," so in trying to pronounce the foreign
name of Marguerite they make it =Magathiche=. One day a friend of this
little girl's father was at their house, and he was playfully teasing
her because he was very fond of her. He said, of course speaking in
the Omaha language, "Listen! do you hear that bird telling about you?
He says: '=Magathiche hthitugthe!='" The word =hthitugthe= in the
Omaha language means "of a bad disposition," so her old friend was
teasing her by putting words to the bird notes which meant "Marguerite
is of a bad disposition," or "Marguerite is naughty!"

One of the sayings which the Pawnees fit to the notes of the
meadowlark in their language is "=Kichikakikuridu!=" which means "I am
not afraid!"

The meadowlark is a great favourite with the people of the Dakota
nation. An old man of that nation was asked if his people ever used
the meadowlark for food. He said they did not. When it was said that
white men sometimes eat them, he said he knew that. Then, when asked
why Dakotas would not eat the meadowlark, he said, "We think too much
of them. They are our friends." They call the meadowlark "the bird of
promise," and "the bird of many gifts," for they say it promises good
things to its friends, the Dakotas. They apply words of the Dakota
language to the songs of the bird. They say it calls to the people
with promises and with words of encouragement and good cheer, and that
it gives counsel and advice on all manner of subjects. One of the
things which it used to sing out to the people was "=Koda, pte
kizhozho=," i. e., "Friends, I whistle for the buffalo," that is to
say, it would whistle to call the buffalo in order that its friends,
the Dakotas, might supply their needs of meat and clothing.

A touch of Dakota humour is shown in one saying attributed to the
meadowlark's notes in these later times since the government has
established schools on the reservations to teach the Dakota children
in the ways of the white men. They say that ofter now the meadowlark
is to be seen flitting about the school grounds and singing, "One,
two, three, epedo! One, two, three, epedo!" The Dakota word =epedo=
means "You shall say."

The white people speak of the United States government as "Uncle Sam,"
but the people of the Dakota nation call the government
"=Tunkashila=," which means "Grandfather," a title of the highest
respect. In the summer of 1918, while the United States was at war
with Germany, many of the Dakotas said they heard "the bird of
promise" singing "=Tunkashila ohiyelo!=" The Dakota word "ohiyelo"
means "will be victorious" or "will have the victory;" so the
meadowlark, "the bird of promise," was singing to them "The United
States will have the victory!"


A young man named Piya had a beautiful and lovely young wife and she
was carried away by an evil monster who kept her hidden in his
dwelling. The young man's grandmother was a very wise old woman. She
had great knowledge of the birds and beasts and of the trees and other
plants, and she had mysterious powers and could do many wonderful
things. Also she had taught her grandson many things, so that he too
had uncommon knowledge and powers.

Now when the monster stole his wife away he came to his grandmother to
ask her to help him recover his wife. Before he came to her his
grandmother knew he was in trouble, so when he came he found her
waiting for him. She said "I will prepare you for this quest; but
first bring to me a wolf, a turtle and a meadowlark." Then she brought
him food; and after he had eaten and rested he set out to find the
wolf, the turtle and the meadowlark. As he journeyed he found all of
them, one after another, and invited them to eat with him. Then he
told of his grandmother's wish to have them to aid him in his quest.
They each consented to help him provided the old woman would give him
the thing most desired. The wolf said he wished to have a better fur
coat so that the cold breath of old Waziya, the Old Man Winter, would
not chill him. The turtle said, "Insects bite me, but I will help you
if I shall be given protection from insects which suck my blood." The
meadowlark said "My voice is harsh and I can sing but one note and the
magpie laughs at me. I will help you if I may be given a pleasing
voice so that I can make the magpie ashamed." So the young man Piya,
the wizard, together with his three friends, the wolf, the turtle and
the meadowlark came back to the tipi of his grandmother.

She was waiting and expecting him, and said, "Grandson I knew you
would come and bring with you those whom I want." She invited them
into her tipi and prepared food and set it before them. The next
morning Piya told his grandmother that these friends he had brought
had promised to help him if they should each be given what he most
desired. Then she told them if they would help her grandson she would
give each one what he most wished. So they were all agreed. She told
the wolf she wished him to give her grandson the cunning by which he
could follow a hidden trail and find hidden things; she asked the
turtle to give him the sense by which he could locate water, so that
he should be able to avoid perishing of thirst in a desert land; and
the lark was to give him power to hide himself without covering in the
open prairie. In return for these gifts the wolf was to have for
himself and all his people warm fur clothing so that they could laugh
at Waziya when he would blow his cold breath upon them. The turtle was
promised that he should have the hard tough covering which he asked,
so that insects could not bite him. The meadowlark was given a
pleasing voice so that his songs would make the magpie ashamed.

After the agreement was made the Old Woman told them that the quest on
which they had to go would take them into a country where there would
be no trees, nor much grass nor open trail, and but little water in
the hidden springs.

So the wizard, Piya, and his companions, the wolf, the turtle and the
meadowlark set out upon the quest after the Old Woman had instructed
them. The wolf taught him how to find hidden trails; the meadowlark
taught him how to be hidden without covering, and the turtle taught
him how to find hidden watersprings.

So the help of these friends, together with the powers he already
possessed, enabled Piya finally to discover where his wife was hidden
by the monster, and to rescue her.

So they all came back to the tipi of the Old Woman. They all rejoiced;
the young woman because she had been rescued from the power of the
monster; the young man Piya because he had found his wife; and the
wolf, the turtle and the meadowlark because they were to have the
gifts which they had most desired. The Old Woman prepared a feast and
they feasted until far into the night.

Next morning the Old Woman gave to the wolf, the turtle and the
meadowlark each the gift for which he had asked as a reward for
helping the young man, and they set out together on the trail to
return to their homes. As they journeyed they talked about the gifts
which they had received. As they talked they fell into argument, each
claiming that his gift was the best, and soon they were quarreling
and were about to fight. But just then a young man came along the
trail and he asked them why they were quarreling. They told him. He
said that quarreling was foolish and would decide nothing, but that
the only way to determine whose gift was the best was to find out
which would help most in a trial of skill. The wolf proposed a trial
in hunting, but the meadowlark and the turtle said they could not
hunt. The turtle proposed a swimming contest, but the wolf and the
meadowlark said they could not swim. Then the meadowlark in his turn
proposed a contest in singing, for he was very proud of his gift, but
the wolf and the turtle protested that they could not sing.

The young man suggested that they run a race. To this they all agreed.
The young man told them they must run past a plum thicket, across a
marsh and up to the top of a certain hill. There they would find white
clay and colored clay. The winner of the race would be the one that
first brought back to him some of the white clay. They set out upon
the race. The wolf and turtle were running side by side; but the
meadowlark fell far behind.

When he came near the plum thicket he saw a bundle laid up in the
forks of a plum bush. He paused and sniffed toward it and the scent of
it was strange to him, and he became curious about it, and wanted to
find out what was in the bundle. He asked the turtle to wait. The
turtle said he would wait for him at the marsh. The wolf walked all
round the bush and looked carefully at the bundle. Then he rose up
against the bush and sniffed at the bundle, but still he could not
make out what was in it. He could not quite reach the bundle, so he
leaped to try to pull it down. But as he did so the thorns pricked
him. He jumped again and missed the bundle, but was pricked again by
the thorns. Now he became angry and determined he would get the
bundle. After jumping many times and being always pricked by the
thorns so that he had many wounds on his sides and back he finally
pulled down the bundle. He was so angry that in his vexation he
energetically shook it about so that it was shaken open and its
contents smeared his wounds. This made his wounds itch so severely
that he had to scratch himself, but this made him itch the more. He
was in such torment that he scratched madly and tore his fur coat and
was bleeding, so he forgot the race.

The turtle ran on to the marsh and waited there as he had promised.
After he had waited a long time he concluded the wolf had deceived him
and had gone on to the hill. Then he saw a small white puffball. It
looked like a lump of white clay, so the thought came to him that he
could deceive the young man with it and get even with the wolf for the
trick he supposed the wolf had played upon him. So he took the
puffball back and showed it to the young man. Neither the meadowlark
nor the wolf had returned yet, so the young man told the turtle he was
the first to return bringing something to show that he had been to the
top of the hill.

Now when the meadowlark ran by the plum thicket he saw the wolf
jumping about one of the bushes trying to reach something which was
there, so the meadowlark was encouraged to think he might still have
some chance in the race. He ran on to the marsh, and there he saw the
turtle waiting, so he was still more encouraged. He then ran on all
the way to the top of the hill. He was so anxious and flustered when
he reached there that instead of the white clay which the young man
had specified as the token of having been to the goal, he made a
mistake and picked up a lump of the yellow clay and turned to carry it
back to the young man. As he was crossing back over the marsh again he
stumbled and dropped the lump of clay into the black mud. He picked it
up and hurried on, not stopping to clean off the black mud. When he
came near to the young man he saw the turtle sitting there and smiling
and looking very satisfied. The meadowlark then thought he had lost
the race. He was so disappointed and discouraged that he wept. His
tears washed the black mud off from the lump of clay and made a black
stripe, while the yellow clay itself was washed down over the whole
front of his clothes.

At last the wolf came back scratching and howling in his misery. Great
patches of fur were torn from his clothes and his skin was raw and
sore. The turtle taunted the wolf for his crying. He swaggered about
and boasted that nothing could make him whimper and cry. The young man
said that the turtle was the first to return, but that he must make
good his boast that nothing could make him whimper if he should lose.
The turtle declared that he would prove all he said in any way the
young man should require. The young man then placed the puffball upon
the turtle's back. The puffball very quickly increased in size and
weight so that it was all the turtle could bear. It continued to
increase in size until the turtle was borne down by it to the ground
and his legs were bent. Still the puffball continued to grow until the
turtle's body was pressed flat by it, and his breath was pressed out
of his body and he lay as if he were dead. Then the puffball became as
light as a feather and turned black. The turtle recovered his breath a
little, but he was unable to straighten his legs or to regain the form
of his body, so he was ashamed and drew in his head under his thick

Then the young man laughed loud and long at the plight of the wolf,
the turtle and the meadowlark, and told them now who he really was. He
told them that he was Iktomi, the Trickster. He told them that because
they had foolishly quarreled about the good gifts which the Old Woman
had given to them, instead of making good use of them, they had given
him the opportunity to play this trick upon them, the marks of which
would be upon them, and upon their people forever. He said that
because the wolf had meddled with something which was none of his
affair he had brought upon himself the torments of the mange, and so
it would always be with his people whenever they should do as he had
done. He said that because the turtle had attempted to win by
cheating, his legs and the legs of all his people should always be
short and bent and their bodies should be flattened, so they could
never run in a race. And because he had lied in saying the puffball
was white clay, therefore he and his people should never again be able
to speak, and they should always hide their heads for shame. As for
the meadowlark, the young man said he had won the race, but because he
had brought back the yellow clay instead of the white, therefore his
clothes and the clothes of his people should always be yellow in front
and there should be a black stripe over the yellow.


The name of this little bird in the Dakota language is
=ishtaniche-tanka= (big eye-tufts) from the tuft of feathers which it
has over each eye. It is for the same reason that we call it "horned"

The Dakotas say that this little bird foretells the weather. They say
that when a hot dry time is coming in the summer the bird sounds a
single sharp little note; but when rain is coming the bird is glad and
continuously sings loudly and joyously, "=magazhu, magazhu, magazhu!="
In the Dakota language the word for rain is =magazhu=. Thus the bird
is singing its joy for the rain which is coming.

The name of this bird is =hupa-hishe= in the Hidatsa language. In that
language the word for moccasin is =hupa=, and the word =hishe= means
wrinkled. This bird is called "wrinkled moccasin" because of its
appearance in its characteristic habit of crouching upon the ground,
where, by its grayish-brown color and its black markings it is made
inconspicuous and hardly distinguishable, suggesting the appearance of
a ragged, useless old moccasin.

The Hidatsas have a story of this bird that it was once acting as a
spy in enemy country. So while it sat in its characteristic attitude
of inconspicuousness, two of the enemy were coming along, when one
thought he saw something. He stopped and said to his companion, "Wait,
what is that over there?" His companion glanced over and saw what
appeared to him like nothing but a ragged, rotten old fragment of a
worn out moccasin, and answered, "O, that is just an old wrinkled
moccasin." So the bird escaped his enemies, and it is from that that
the people call him "hupa-hishe."


The Teton-Dakota have a story which says that "Long, long time ago"
(lila ehanna) the goose nation did not migrate to the south in the
autumn, but remained here throughout the winter time. Because of the
rigor of the winter most of the people of the goose nation perished so
that they were always a small and weak nation. At last one goose had a
dream of the south-land, that it was pleasant even in winter, that the
winter there was mild and that there was plenty of food there. So she
began teaching the other geese that they should practice flying more
and thus make their wings strong so they could fly to the south-land
before winter time. Some people of the goose nation believed the
vision and began to practice flying to make their wings strong for the
autumn journey. This caused discussion and dissension in the nation,
and a law was made which banished the goose which had the vision. So
they drove her out from among them. She practiced flying all summer
and made her wings strong so that in the autumn she was able to fly to
the pleasant south-land of which she had dreamed. The Mysterious Power
which had given her the vision guided her on the long journey and she
lived pleasantly through the winter time. After the first thunder in
the springtime she flew back north to her nation. As always before,
many of them had died during the cold winter-time from the fury of the
storms and the scarcity of food. But she told them how pleasantly she
had passed the time in the south-land, and they saw in what good
health she was, so many more of them now believed her vision and her
teaching. It was in this way that the geese learned to fly away to the
south-land in the autumn to escape the storms and cold of winter in
this land.


Indians in general have a close sympathy with nature and with all
living creatures and aspects of nature. And the term living creatures
includes plants as well as animals, all are living children of Mother
Earth and have their rights to life according to Indian thought. They
do not think of humankind as being above and separate from all other
creatures, but as fellow creatures in a world of life.

The following incident, which took place about fifty years ago on the
prairies of Nebraska among a group of children of the Omaha tribe,
will serve to show the attitude quite commonly held by Indians toward
other forms of life. It might be well, also to mention in this
connection that Indian children were taught by their parents to be not
wasteful and destructive of wild flowers, that they should not
wantonly pluck them, for, they were told, if they did so they would
thus destroy the flower babies and the flower nations would then be
exterminated. Indians feel a fearful dread of the consequences of
interfering with the nice balance and adjustment of nature.

It was a bright, warm summer afternoon in northern Nebraska. The wild
grass, waving in the summer breeze, was like a shimmering emerald sea,
flecked with varied colour of the many different tribes of wild
flowers. Overhead was a brilliantly blue sky with here and there
slow-sailing white clouds whose soft shadows came and passed, silent
and entrancing, over the greenth of the prairie. And in all this scene
the living creatures were moving, intent upon affairs of their own;
the crickets and grasshoppers, and the small mammals among the grass,
the butterfly flitting from flower to flower, the antelope grazing in
groups, and now and then a hawk might be seen circling high overhead.

Across the prairie came a caravan of people with their camp equipage.
A band of Omahas was on the summer buffalo hunt. The men were widely
deployed in front and over a wide extent on both sides far in advance
of the moving column. They were on the lookout for signs of the herd.
When a herd should be sighted, the scouts who had found them would at
once report to the officers. When the camp was made the officers would
confer and make plans for the surround and kill.

The boys were employed in looking after the herd of extra horses; some
of the women were with the train of pack animals looking after the
baggage and camp equipment, others were scattered over the prairie
along the line of march, carrying digging sticks and bags to gather
tipsin roots for food.

Groups of small children, too small to have any particular tasks
assigned to them were playing along the way, observing the ways of
beast and bird and of insects, and admiring the brilliant wild
flowers. One such group found a fledgling meadowlark, not yet able to
fly. They captured it and brought it along with them when the band
went into camp for the night. As the families sat about their tents
waiting the preparation of the evening meal, the children showed their
father the captive bird and told him how they caught it. He listened
to their account and then told them something of the life and habits
of the bird, its nesting and home life, of its love of life and
freedom, and of its place in the world under the wise plans of the
Master of Life. He brought the children to see the unhappiness and the
terror which they had unwittingly brought upon the captive and the
anxiety the mother bird would feel over its loss.

Then he said to them, "Now children, take the little bird back to the
place where you found it and set it down in the grass, and say 'O
Master of Life, here is thy little bird which we have set free again.
We are sorry that we took it away from its home and its people. We did
not think of the sorrow we should cause. We wish to restore it and
have it happy again with its people. May we be forgiven for our
thoughtlessness and we will not do such wrong again.'"

The children carried out their father's instructions and placed the
little bird again as near as they could to the place where they had
captured it and recited the prayer to the Master of Life which their
father had admonished them to say. As they returned to the camp the
quiet of the summer evening lay over all the land, the after-glow of
the sunset was in the western sky, the white tents stood in a great
circle upon the prairie, now dusky-green in the twilight which lay
upon the land, a twinkling camp-fire before each tent. The children
were thoughtful. They had had a glimpse of the unity of the universe.
They never forgot the lesson. Years passed, great changes came. The
white people were coming into the land. Old activities and industries
of the Indians were destroyed by the changes. The children of that
little group went away from their people to attend the white men's
schools, to learn the white men's ways and adapt themselves to those
ways. But this did not cause them to forget altogether the wisdom and
grace of their parental teaching. Long afterward they told this little
story to the writer, who now gives it to you, reader, and wishes that
you, also may know that there be those in all lands and among all
peoples who "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God."


The chickadee is a very popular bird among all the Indian tribes where
it is known. They all have many stories and sayings about it. They say
of it that, though small, it is a very wise bird. It is like the wise
men, the doctors and teachers among the people, who are learned in
mysteries and the wonderful things of nature, who keep a calendar of
the cycle of the days, months and seasons through the year by cutting
marks upon a piece of wood which they have prepared for that purpose.

This wise little bird is said also to keep account of the months. It
is said that "in the beginning" the task of keeping account of the
months was assigned to the chickadee. But instead of making notches in
a piece of wood as the wise men do this wise bird's method is to make
notches in its tongue; thus in September its tongue is single-pointed,
in October it has two points, in November three, and so on until
February, when it is said that its tongue has six points. Then in
March its tongue is again single-pointed and the count is begun again.
So, it is said, the chickadee has been keeping the count of the months
since the long ago, in the dim past, when the task was assigned to it
in the time of beginnings, in the time when evil powers and monsters
struggled mightily to overcome the good, and to destroy mankind by
sending fierce storms and heavy snowfalls and shuddering cold winds
upon the face of the earth. It was thus the evil powers sought to
discourage and to overcome mankind.

And so it is said that at one time the evil powers supposed that by
stress of a long siege of cold and storms they had reduced mankind to
famine. At this time they chose to send the chickadee as a messenger
to find out the conditions and to bring back word to them.

Now when the chickadee came on his mission and appeared at the
dwellings of men he was invited to enter. He was courteously given a
place by the fireside to rest and warm himself. Then food was brought
to him. After he had eaten and refreshed himself he was anointed with
fat, which was a symbol of plenty; then he was painted with red paint,
which was for a symbol of the power and mystery of life. After these
ceremonies and marks of respect his hosts quietly composed themselves
to give attention to whatever their visitor should have to say as to
the purpose of his visit. When he had stated his mission his hosts
held counsel and formulated a reply for the messenger to take back to
those who had sent him. He was bidden to say to them that mankind was
still living and hopeful, and they ever would be; that they could not
be daunted by discouragement, nor defeated by storms and stress, nor
vanquished by hunger, nor overcome by any hardships; and that there
never would be a time when there should not be men upon the earth. So
this is the message which the chickadee brought to the evil powers
which had sought to overcome mankind.


_A Pawnee Story_

The incident of this story occurred in the long ago in the country of
the Pawnee nation, in the broad expanse of the Platte River country in
what is now the State of Nebraska. The event was in the distant past
before the Pawnees had ever seen a white man, or any of his works or
strange devices. The people of the Pawnee nation lived in villages of
houses built in the manner that the houses of Pawnees had been built
for generations. Near their villages lay their fields of corn and
other crops which they cultivated to supply themselves with food.

It was a beautiful morning in early summer. The sky was clear and
bright, the dawn-light was showing in the eastern sky. All the
landscape lay as though still sleeping. There was no movement
anywhere. A thoughtful priest had risen and had walked out upon the
prairie away from the village so that he might view and meditate upon
the beauty and mystery of the firmament of the heavens and of the
plane of earth, and of the living creatures thereon, both animal
creatures and plant creatures, for in his mind both were equally
wonderful and equally interesting, as showing the power and the wisdom
of the Great Mystery. So he walked and pondered upon all the beauty
and mystery which lay about him, while the face of Mother Earth was
still moist with the dew of sleep. In a moment the first rays of the
sun shone across the land touching into sparkling brilliance the
myriads of dewdrops, while a gentle movement ran through all the
grasses and the wild flowers as they swayed to the rippling of the
gentle morning breeze which pulsed over the prairie at the first touch
of the morning gleam.

Where a moment before all had been so still and so silent now there
was movement and sound. Birds of many kinds raised their tuneful
voices, showing their joy in life and in the beauty of the morning.
The priest, whose mind and heart were open to all this beauty and
melody, stood still and listened. In a moment, among all the other
bird-songs, he heard one which was clearer and more remarkable than
any of the others. This song was a most joyous cheerful sound, like
happy laughter. As he approached he found that the joyous, laughing
song came from a very tiny brown bird, no larger than his thumb. It
was a wren, so small, so insignificant in comparison to the size and
brilliant plumage of many of the other birds, yet it appeared to be
the most whole hearted in joy and praise and delight in life, as the
sweet stream of music welled from its little throat.

The priest looked at the tiny bird, and wisely considered. He said to
himself: "The Great Mystery has shown me here a wise teaching for my
people. This bird is small and weak, but it has its proper place in
the world of life and it rejoices in it and gives thanks with
gladness. Everyone can be happy, for happiness is not from without,
but from within, in properly fitting and fulfilling each his own
place. The humblest can have a song of thanks in his own heart."

So he made a song and a story to be sung in a great religious ritual
of his people, which was to them like our Bible and prayer-book are to
us. And the song and story which that thoughtful priest put into the
ritual, was the story of the wren. And ever since that time so long
ago, the song has been sung by the Pawnees and has been handed down
from generation to generation until this time.


_A Mandan Story_

One time a party of men went into a lonely place among the hills far
away from the village, to enter their eagle pits for the purpose of
catching eagles to obtain their plumes. One of the men had made his
pit far out at some distance from any of the others. Another day, as
he was coming away from his eagle pit, returning to the village, he
stopped and sat down upon the top of a high hill from which he could
enjoy a grand view of the landscape. Thus he sat looking about over
the quiet hills and valleys, beyond the bright gleam which showed the
course of the river winding in and out among the green trees along its
borders, far away to the dim sky line. Far away on one side he saw a
number of elks feeding; on the other side he saw a band of graceful
antelopes. A doe and her fawn were browsing upon some bushes down near
the river.

Aloft he saw the white clouds sailing in the bright blue sky; below he
saw their shadows moving over the earth, now up a hillside and over
its crest and then swiftly across a little valley and up the next
hillside. While he sat enjoying the beauty of the scene he observed a
war eagle chasing a jack-rabbit. The jack-rabbit continually dodged
and circled, trying to escape as the eagle swooped toward him. The
eagle had several times swooped and just missed striking the rabbit.

Gradually the chase came near to the place where the man was seated.
The eagle was closely pursuing the rabbit and made a tremendous swoop
towards him. But the rabbit escaped by leaping into the man's robe as
he sat with it loosely draped about his shoulders and knees.

Then the eagle said "Put that rabbit away from you! He is my prey. I
intend to eat him."

But now the rabbit appealed to the man and said, "I have thrown myself
upon your kindness. Do not turn me away. I beg of you. If you save me
you shall hereafter have success in your undertakings and you shall
become a great man."

Then the eagle spoke again, saying, "His words are not true. Turn him
away. He can do nothing for you. I, myself will make you great if you
will do as I request. It is I who speak the truth. My feet are not
held to the earth and I can also fly in the air far above the earth. I
am successful in all the things I attempt."

Once more the jack-rabbit made his plea. "Believe him not, and do not
turn me away! Even though I must remain upon the ground, and cannot
fly like the eagle, still I have knowledge proper to my conditions of
life, and I know how to do many things suitably and successfully."

The man made his decision in favor of the jack-rabbit and saved him
from the eagle. And the jack-rabbit kept his promise to the man, for
he gave him of his own powers and made him successful in his
undertakings and helped him with good and wise counsel in times of
trouble and doubt and perplexity. So the man gained great renown and
honor and influence among his people.



    Dedication                                                       5

    Introduction                                                     7


    Nature and Health                                                9

    Spirit of Life                                                  10

    Attitude Towards Native Life                                    10

    Indians' Appreciation and Love of Their Homeland                12

    Song to the Trees and Streams                                   12

    Thrilling Escape of a Besieged War Party                        12

    A Mandan Monument                                               14

    The Legend of Standing Rock                                     15

    The Holy Hill Pahuk                                             17

    The Lodge of the Black-tail Deer which Talked with
        Its Captor                                                  23

    The Wonderful Basket                                            24

    Cause of the Breaking up of Ice in the Missouri River           26

    The Waterspring of the Holy Man                                 27

    The Sacred Symbol of the Circle                                 31

    The Sacred Number Four                                          31

    The Pristine Prairie                                            32

    Aboriginal American Agriculture                                 35

    Description of an Earth-lodge                                   37

    Hymn to the Sun                                                 38

    Description of a Tipi                                           39

    An Omaha Ghost Story                                            40

    An Omaha Hero Song                                              41


    Sacred Trees                                                    43

    The Song of the Pasque Flower                                   46

    The Prairie Rose                                                48

    The Song of the Wild Rose                                       49

    Use of the Ground Bean                                          50

    Tipsin: An Important Native Food Plant                          52

    How the People Obtained the Precious Gift of Corn               53

    A Group of Pawnee Hymns to Corn                                 56

    The Forgotten Ear of Corn                                       58

    How the Usefulness of Wild Rice Was Discovered                  58

    A Story of the Sunflower                                        59

    Dakota Folklore of the Spiderwort                               60


    The Faithful Dog                                                61

    How Coyote Chief Was Punished                                   63

    The Skunk and the Bear                                          65

    The Song of the Old Wolf                                        65


    Folk Sayings About the Meadowlark                               67

    How the Meadowlark Won the Race                                 68

    Folklore of the Horned Lark                                     72

    How It Came About that Geese Migrate                            72

    The Captive Bird                                                73

    The Chickadee                                                   74

    The Song of the Wren                                            75

    The War Eagle and the Jack-rabbit                               76


    Map to Show Distribution of Tribes                               4

    Map to Show Aboriginal Agriculture                              34

    Map of Geographical Distribution of Pasque Flower               46


_Bismarck Tribune Print_

Transcriber's Note

Omitted periods and mismatched quotation marks have been repaired. All
other punctuation usage is as in the original. Hyphenation has been
made consistent. Inconsistent capitalisation, e.g. Hintunka and
hintunka, is preserved as printed. Archaic and variable spelling is
preserved as printed.

The Dedication on page 6 includes the phrase, "... and who held it a
form of sacrilege to violate or in any way endanger the overthrow of
that delicate balance of nature; ..." The word 'endanger' does not
seem appropriate in the context, and may be an error for 'engender.'
However, as it is impossible to be sure, it is preserved as printed.

The following typographic errors have been repaired:

    Page 11--considerble amended to considerable--"The careful
    study of plants and animals was a considerable part ..."

    Page 40--semed amended to seemed--"Then, after a time, she
    seemed to see not only the moccasins ..."

    Page 40--leggins amended to leggings--"... but the leggings
    above them as far as the knees, ..."

    Page 41--one amended to on--"... he was unable to sit quietly
    in the village while the fighting was going on."

    Page 45--an amended to in--"... with great profusion of
    bloom, in earnest of returning life."

    Page 75--mesenger amended to messenger--"... and formulated a
    reply for the messenger to take back ..."

    Page 79--Thrillnig amended to Thrilling--"Thrilling Escape of
    a Besieged War Party ..."

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