Collection: Blackfoot Lodge Tales

Two War Trails

Many years ago there lived in the Blood camp a boy named Screech Owl (A’-tsi-tsi). He was rather a lonely boy, and did not care to go with other boys. He liked better to be by himself. Often he would go off alone, and stay out all night away from the camp. He used to pray to all kinds of birds and animals that he saw, and ask them to take pity on him and help him, saying that he wanted to be a warrior. He never used paint. He was a fine looking young man, and he thought it was foolish to use paint to make oneself good looking. When Screech Owl was about fourteen years old, a large party of Blackfeet were starting to war against the Crees and the Assinaboines. The young man said to his father: “Father, with this war party many of my cousins are going. I think that now I am old enough to go to war, and I would like to join them.” His father said, “My son, I am willing; you may go.” So he joined the party. His father gave his son his own war horse, a black horse with a white spot on its side a very fast horse. He offered him arms, but the boy refused them all, except a little trapping axe. He said, “I think this...

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The Wonderful Bird

One day, as Old Man was walking about in the woods, he saw something very queer. A bird was sitting on the limb of a tree making a strange noise, and every time it made this noise, its eyes would go out of its head and fasten on the tree; then it would make another kind of a noise, and its eyes would come back to their places. “Little Brother,” cried Old Man, “teach me how to do that.” “If I show you how to do that,” replied the bird, “you must not let your eyes go out of your head more than three times a day. If you do, you will be sorry.” “Just as you say, Little Brother. The trick is yours, and I will listen to you.” When the bird had taught Old Man how to do it, he was very glad, and did it three times right away. Then he stopped. “That bird has no sense,” he said. “Why did he tell me to do it only three times? I will do it again, anyhow.” So he made his eyes go out a fourth time; but now he could not call them back. Then he called to the bird, “Oh Little Brother, come help me get back my eyes.” The little bird did not answer him. It had flown away. Then Old Man felt all...

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The Wolf-Man

There was once a man who had two bad wives. They had no shame. The man thought if he moved away where there were no other people, he might teach these women to become good, so he moved his lodge away off on the prairie. Near where they camped was a high butte, and every evening about sundown, the man would go up on top of it, and look all over the country to see where the buffalo were feeding, and if any enemies were approaching. There was a buffalo skull on the hill, which he used to sit on. “This is very lonesome,” said one woman to the other, one day. “We have no one to talk with nor to visit.” “Let us kill our husband,” said the other. “Then we will go back to our relations and have a good time.” Early in the morning, the man went out to hunt, and as soon as he was out of sight, his wives went up on top of the butte. There they dug a deep pit, and covered it over with light sticks, grass, and dirt, and placed the buffalo skull on top. In the afternoon they saw their husband coming home, loaded down with meat he had killed. So they hurried to cook for him. After eating, he went up on the butte and sat down on...

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The Theft from the Sun

Once Old Man was traveling around, when he came to the Sun’s lodge, and the Sun asked him to stay a while. Old Man was very glad to do so. One day the meat was all gone, and the Sun said, “Kyi! Old Man, what say you if we go and kill some deer?” “You speak well,” replied Old Man. “I like deer meat.” The Sun took down a bag and pulled out a beautiful pair of leggings. They were embroidered with porcupine quills and bright feathers. “These,” said the Sun, “are my hunting leggings. They are great medicine. All I have to do is to put them on and walk around a patch of brush, when the leggings set it on fire and drive the deer out so that I can shoot them.” “Hai-yah!” exclaimed Old Man. “How wonderful!” He made up his mind he would have those leggings, if he had to steal them. They went out to hunt, and the first patch of brush they came to, the Sun set on fire with his hunting leggings. A lot of white-tail deer ran out, and they each shot one. That night, when they went to bed, the Sun pulled off his leggings and placed them to one side. Old Man saw where he put them, and in the middle of the night, when every one was asleep,...

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The Rock

Once Old Man was traveling, and becoming tired he sat down on a rock to rest. After a while he started to go on, and because the sun was hot he threw his robe over the rock, saying: “Here, I give you my robe, because you are poor and have let me rest on you. Always keep it.” He had not gone very far, when it began to rain, and meeting a coyote he said: “Little brother, run back to that rock, and ask him to lend me his robe. We will cover ourselves with it and keep dry.” So the coyote ran back to the rock, but returned without the robe. “Where is the robe?” asked Old Man. “Sai-yah!” replied the coyote. “The rock said you gave him the robe, and he was going to keep it.” Then Old Man was very angry, and went back to the rock and jerked the robe off it, saying: “I only wanted to borrow this robe until the rain was over, but now that you have acted so mean about it, I will keep it. You don’t need a robe anyhow. You have been out in the rain and snow all your life, and it will not hurt you to live so always.” With the coyote he went off into a coulee, and sat down. The rain was falling, and they...

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The Race

Once Old Man was traveling around, when he heard some very queer singing. He had never heard anything like this before, and looked all around to see who it was. At last he saw it was the cottontail rabbits, singing and making medicine. They had built a fire, and got a lot of hot ashes, and they would lie down in these ashes and sing while one covered them up. They would stay there only a short time though, for the ashes were very hot. “Little Brothers,” said Old Man, “that is very wonderful, how you lie in those hot ashes and coals without burning. I wish you would teach me how to do it.” “Come on, Old Man,” said the rabbits, “we will show you how to do it. You must sing our song, and only stay in the ashes a short time.” So Old Man began to sing, and he lay down, and they covered him with coals and ashes, and they did not burn him at all.      “That is very nice,” he said. “You have powerful medicine. Now I want to know it all, so you lie down and let me cover you up.” So the rabbits all lay down in the ashes, and Old Man covered them up, and then he put the whole fire over them. One old rabbit got out, and Old...

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The Peace With The Snakes

In those days there was a Piegan chief named Owl Bear. He was a great chief, very brave and generous. One night he had a dream: he saw many dead bodies of the enemy lying about, scalped, and he knew that he must go to war. So he called out for a feast, and after the people had eaten, he said: “I had a strong dream last night. I went to war against the Snakes, and killed many of their warriors. So the signs are good, and I feel that I must go. Let us have a big party now, and I will be the leader. We will start to-morrow night.” Then he told two old men to go out in the camp and shout the news, so that all might know. A big party was made up. Two hundred men, they say, went with this chief to war. The first night they traveled only a little way, for they were not used to walking, and soon got tired. In the morning the chief got up early and went and made a sacrifice, and when he came back to the others, some said, “Come now, tell us your dream of this night.” “I dreamed good,” said Owl Bear. “I had a good dream. We will have good luck.” But many others said they had bad dreams. They saw blood...

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The Past and the Present

Fifty years ago the name Blackfoot was one of terrible meaning to the white traveler who passed across that desolate buffalo-trodden waste which lay to the north of the Yellowstone River and east of the Rocky Mountains. This was the Blackfoot land, the undisputed home of a people which is said to have numbered in one of its tribes the Pi-k[)u]n’-i 8000 lodges, or 40,000 persons. Besides these, there were the Blackfeet and the Bloods, three tribes of one nation, speaking the same language, having the same customs, and holding the same religious faith. But this land had not always been the home of the Blackfeet. Long ago, before the coming of the white men, they had lived in another country far to the north and east, about Lesser Slave Lake, ranging between Peace River and the Saskatchewan, and having for their neighbors on the north the Beaver Indians. Then the Blackfeet were a timber people. It is said that about two hundred years ago the Chippeweyans from the east invaded this country and drove them south and west. Whether or no this is true, it is quite certain that not many generations back the Blackfeet lived on the North Saskatchewan River and to the north of that stream. 1 Gradually working their way westward, they at length reached the Rocky Mountains, and, finding game abundant, remained there until...

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The Other Bands

For a long time the buffalo had not been seen. The pis’kun was useless, and the hunters could find no food for the people. Then a man who had two wives, a daughter, and two sons, said: “I shall not stop here to die. Tomorrow we will move toward the mountains, where we shall perhaps find deer and elk, sheep and antelope, or, if not, at least we shall find plenty of beaver and birds. Thus we shall survive.” When morning came, they packed the travois, lashed them on the dogs, and then moved out. It was yet winter, and they traveled slowly. They were weak, and could go but a little way in a day. The fourth night came, and they sat in their lodge, very tired and hungry. No one spoke, for those who are hungry do not care for words. Suddenly the dogs began to bark, and soon, pushing aside the door-curtain, a young man entered. “O’kyi!” said the old man, and he motioned the stranger to a sitting-place. They looked at this person with surprise and fear, for there was a black wind3 which had melted the snow, and covered the prairie with water, yet this person’s leggings and moccasins were dry. They sat in silence a long time. Then said he: “Why is this? Why do you not give me some food?” “Ah!” replied...

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The Lost Woman

A long time ago the Blackfeet were camped on Backfat Creek. There was in the camp a man who had but one wife, and he thought a great deal of her. He never wanted to have two wives. As time passed they had a child, a little girl. Along toward the end of the summer, this man’s wife wanted to get some berries, and she asked her husband to take her to a certain place where berries grew, so that she could get some. The man said to his wife: “At this time of the year, I do not like to go to that place to pick berries. There are always Snake or Crow war parties traveling about there.” The woman wanted very much to go, and she coaxed her husband about it a great deal; and at last he said he would go, and they started, and many women followed them. When they came to where the berries grew, the man said to his wife: “There are the berries down in that ravine. You may go down there and pick them, and I will go up on this hill and stand guard. If I see any one coming, I will call out to you, and you must all get on your horses and run.” So the women went down to pick berries. The man went up on the...

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The Lost Children

Once a camp of people stopped on the bank of a river. There were but a few lodges of them. One day the little children in the camp crossed the river to play on the other side. For some time they stayed near the bank, and then they went up over a little hill, and found a bed of sand and gravel; and there they played for a long time. There were eleven of these children. Two of them were daughters of the chief of the camp, and the smaller of these wanted the best of everything. If any child found a pretty stone, she would try to take it for herself. The other children did not like this, and they began to tease the little girl, and to take her things away from her. Then she got angry and began to cry, and the more she cried, the more the children teased her; so at last she and her sister left the others, and went back to the camp. When they got there, they told their father what the other children had done to them, and this made the chief very angry. He thought for a little while, and then got up and went out of the lodge, and called aloud, so that everybody might hear, saying: “Listen, listen! Your children have teased my child and made her...

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The Ghosts’ Buffalo

A long time ago there were four Blackfeet, who went to war against the Crees. They traveled a long way, and at last their horses gave out, and they started back toward their homes. As they were going along they came to the Sand Hills; and while they were passing through them, they saw in the sand a fresh travois trail, where people had been traveling. One of the men said: “Let us follow this trail until we come up with some of our people. Then we will camp with them.” They followed the trail for a long way, and at length one of the Blackfeet, named E-k[=u]s’-kini, a very powerful person, said to the others: “Why follow this longer? It is just nothing.” The others said: “Not so. These are our people. We will go on and camp with them.” They went on, and toward evening, one of them found a stone maul and a dog travois. He said: “Look at these things. I know this maul and this travois. They belonged to my mother, who died. They were buried with her. This is strange.” He took the things. When night overtook the men, they camped. Early in the morning, they heard, all about them, sounds as if a camp of people were there. They heard a young man shouting a sort of war cry, as young men...

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The Fox

One day Old Man went out hunting and took the fox with him. They hunted for several days, but killed nothing. It was nice warm weather in the late fall. After they had become very hungry, as they were going along one day, Old Man went up over a ridge and on the other side he saw four big buffalo bulls lying down; but there was no way by which they could get near them. He dodged back out of sight and told the fox what he had seen, and they thought for a long time, to see if there was no way by which these bulls might be killed. At last Old Man said to the fox: “My little brother, I can think of only one way to get these bulls. This is my plan, if you agree to it. I will pluck all the fur off you except one tuft on the end of your tail. Then you go over the hill and walk up and down in sight of the bulls, and you will seem so funny to them that they will laugh themselves to death.” The fox did not like to do this, but he could think of nothing better, so he agreed to what Old Man proposed. Old Man plucked him perfectly bare, except the end of his tail, and the fox went over...

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The Fast Runners

Once, long ago, the antelope and the deer met on the prairie. At this time both of them had galls and both dew claws. They began to talk together, and each was telling the other what he could do. Each one told how fast he could run, and before long they were disputing as to which could run the faster. Neither would allow that the other could beat him, so they agreed that they would have a race to decide which was the swifter, and they bet their galls on the race. When they ran, the antelope proved the faster runner, and beat the deer and took his gall. Then the deer said: “Yes, you have beaten me on the prairie, but that is not where I live. I only go out there sometimes to feed, or when I am travelling around. We ought to have another race in the timber. That is my home, and there I can run faster than you can.” The antelope felt very big because he had beaten the deer in the race, and he thought wherever they might be, he could run faster than the deer. So he agreed to race in the timber, and on this race they bet their dew claws. They ran through the thick timber, among the brush and over fallen logs, and this time the antelope ran slowly,...

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The Elk

Old Man was very hungry. He had been a long time without food, and was thinking how he could get something to eat, when he saw a band of elk on a ridge. So he went up to them and said, “Oh, my brothers, I am lonesome because I have no one to follow me.” “Go on, Old Man,” said the elk, “we will follow you.” Old Man led them about a long time, and when it was dark, he came near a high-cut bank. He ran around to one side where there was a slope, and he went down and then stood right under the steep bluff, and called out, “Come on, that is a nice jump, you will laugh.” So the elk jumped off, all but one cow, and were killed. “Come on,” said Old Man, “they have all jumped but you, it is nice.” “Take pity on me,” replied the cow. “My child is about to be born, and I am very heavy. I am afraid to jump.” “Go on, then,” answered Old Man; “go and live; then there will be plenty of elk again some day.” Now Old Man built a fire and cooked some ribs, and then he skinned all the elk, cut up the meat to dry, and hung the tongues up on a pole. Next day he went off, and did not...

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