1876-1938 Zitkala-Sa.

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FRED LOCKLEY

RARE WESTERN BOOKS

4227 S. E. Stark St.
PORTLAND. ORE.




<c>



OLD INDIAN LEGENDS




This was a sign of gratitude used when words failed to interpret
strong emotion

(See page 89)




OLD INDIAN LEGENDS



RETOLD BY



ZITKALA-SA



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
BY

ANGEL DE CORA

(Hinook . Mahiwi Kilinaka)



BOSTON, U.SA., AND LONDON
GINN & COMPANY, PUBLISHEES
&tl)emettm
190^



9 B



ENTERED AT STATIONERS HALL,



COPYRIGHT, 1901
BY GINN & COMPANY



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



PREFACE

THESE legends are relics of our country s
once virgin soil. These and many others are
the tales the little black-haired aborigine loved
so much to hear beside the night fire.

For him the personified elements and other
spirits played in a vast world right around the
center fire of the wigwam.

Iktomi, the snare weaver, lya, the Eater,
and Old Double-Face are not wholly fanciful
creatures.

There were other worlds of legendary folk
for the young aborigine, such as " The Star-
Men of the Sky," " The Thunder Birds Blink
ing Zigzag Lightning," and " The Mysterious
Spirits of Trees and Flowers."

Under an open sky, nestling close to the
earth, the old Dakota story-tellers have told me
these legends. In both Dakotas, North and
South, I have often listened to the same story
told over again by a new story-teller.

While I recognized such a legend without the
least difficulty, I found the renderings varying

V

M182702



Preface

much in little incidents. Generally one helped
the other in restoring some lost link in the
original character of the tale. And now I have
tried to transplant the native spirit of these
tales root and all into the English lan
guage, since America in the last few centuries
has acquired a second tongue.

The old legends of America belong quite as
much to the blue-eyed little patriot as to the
black-haired aborigine. And when they are
grown tall like the wise grown-ups may they
not lack interest in a further study of Indian
folklore, a study which so strongly suggests our
near kinship with the rest of humanity and
points a steady finger toward the great brother
hood of mankind, and by which one is so forci
bly impressed with the possible earnestness of
life as seen through the teepee door ! If it be
true that much lies "in the eye of the beholder,"
then in the American aborigine as in any other
race, sincerity of belief, though it were based
upon mere optical illusion, demands a little
respect.

After all he seems at heart much like other

peoples.

ZITKALA-SA.



vi



CONTENTS



PAGE

IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS , 1

IKTOMI S BLANKET 17

IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT 25

IKTOMI AND THE COYOTE 35

IKTOMI AND THE FAWN 45

THE BADGER AND THE BEAR 59

THE TREE-BOUND 75

SHOOTING OF THE RED EAGLE 91

IKTOMI AND THE TURTLE 101

DANCE IN A BUFFALO SKULL Ill

THE TOAD AND THE BOY 117

IYA, THE CAMP-EATER 129

MANSTIN, THE RABBIT 143

THE WARLIKE SEVEN 157



vii



ILLUSTRATIONS

THIS WAS A SIGN OF GRATITUDE USED WHEN WORDS FAILED

TO INTERPRET STRONG EMOTION Frontispiece

FACING PAGE

HE SNIFFED IMPATIENTLY THE SAVORY ODORS ... 12

"GREAT-GRANDFATHER, GIVE ME MEAT TO EAT!" . 20

THE MUSKRAT BEGAN TO FEEL AWKWARD .... 28
A SHOWER OF RED COALS UPON IKTOMI S BARE

ARMS AND SHOULDERS 42

THERE AMONG THEM STOOD IKTOMI IN BROWN

BUCKSKINS 54

OVER A BED OF COALS SHE BROILED THE VENISON 64

HE PLACED THE ARROW ON THE BOW 98

"MY FRIEND, YOU ARE A SKILLED HUNTER" . . 104

TINY FIELD MICE WERE SINGING AND DANCING . . 114
A LITTLE BOY STOPPED HIS PLAY AMONG THE

GRASSES 124

THE PROUD CHIEFTAIN ROSE WITH A LITTLE BABY

IN HIS ARMS .-; . . 134

I AM GOING TO THE NORTH COUNTRY ON A LONG HUNT 146

HE BLEW THE WATER ALL OVER THE PEOPLE . 162



IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS



OLD INDIAN LEGENDS



IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS

IKTOMI is a spider fairy. He wears
brown deerskin leggins with long soft
fringes on either side, and tiny beaded
moccasins on his feet. His long black
hair is parted in the middle and wrapped
with red, red bands. Each round braid
hangs over a small brown ear and falls
forward over his shoulders.

He even paints his funny face with red
and yellow, and draws big black rings
around his eyes. He wears a deerskin
jacket, with bright colored beads sewed
tightly on it. Iktomi dresses like a real
Dakota brave. In truth, his paint and



Old Indian Legends

deerskins are the best part of him if
ever dress is part of man or fairy.

Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are
always kept in mischief. He prefers to
spread a snare rather than to earn the
smallest thing with honest hunting. Why !
he laughs outright with wide open mouth
when some simple folk are caught in a
trap, sure and fast.

He never dreams another lives so bright
as he. Often his own conceit leads him
hard against the common sense of simpler
people.

Poor Iktomi cannot help being a little
imp. And so long as he is a naughty
fairy, he cannot find a single friend. No
one helps him when he is in trouble. No
one really loves him. Those who come to
admire his handsome beaded jacket and
long fringed leggins soon go away sick
and tired of his vain, vain words and
heartless laughter.



Iktomi and the Ducks

Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped
wigwam upon the plain. One day he sat
hungry within his teepee. Suddenly he
rushed out, dragging after him his blanket.
Quickly spreading it on the ground, he
tore up dry tall grass with both his hands
and tossed it fast into the blanket.

Tying all the four corners together in
a knot, he threw the light bundle of grass
over his shoulder.

Snatching up a slender willow stick with
his free left hand, he started off with a
hop and a leap. From side to side bounced
the bundle on his back, as he ran light-
footed over the uneven ground. Soon he
came to the edge of the great level land.
On the hilltop he paused for breath. With
wicked smacks of his dry parched lips, as
if tasting some tender meat, he looked
straight into space toward the marshy
river bottom. With a thin palm shading
his eyes from the western sun, he peered



Old Indian Legends

far away into the lowlands, munching
his own cheeks all the while. "Ah-ha!"
grunted he, satisfied with what he saw.

A group of wild ducks were dancing and
feasting in the marshes. With wings out
spread, tip to tip, they moved up and down
in a large circle. Within the ring, around
a small drum, sat the chosen singers, nod
ding their heads and blinking their eyes.

They sang in unison a merry dance-song,
and beat a lively tattoo on the drum.

Following a winding footpath near by,
came a bent figure of a Dakota brave.
He bore on his back a very large bundle.
With a willow cane he propped himself up
as he staggered along beneath his burden.

"Ho! who is there?" called out a
curious old duck, still bobbing up and
down in the circular dance.

Hereupon the drummers stretched their
necks till they strangled their song for a
look at the stranger passing by.



Iktomi and the Ducks

" Ho, Iktomi ! Old fellow, pray tell us
what you carry in your blanket. Do not
hurry off ! Stop ! halt ! " urged one of the
singers.

" Stop ! stay ! Show us what is in your
blanket ! " cried out other voices.

"My friends, I must not spoil your
dance. Oh, you would not care to see if
you only knew what is in my blanket.
Sing on ! dance on ! I must not show
you what I carry on my back," answered
Iktomi, nudging his own sides with his
elbows. This reply broke up the ring
entirely. Now all the ducks crowded
about Iktomi.

" We must see what you carry ! We
must know what is in your blanket ! " they
shouted in both his ears. Some even
brushed their wings against the mysteri
ous bundle. Nudging himself again, wily
Iktomi said, " My friends, t is only a pack
of songs I carry in my blanket."



Old Indian Legends

"Oh, then let us hear your songs ! " cried
the curious ducks.

At length Iktomi consented to sing his
songs. With delight all the ducks flapped
their wings and cried together, " Hoye !
ffoye ! "

Iktomi, with great care, laid down his
bundle on the ground.

" I will build first a round straw house,
for I never sing my songs in the open air,"
said he.

Quickly he bent green willow sticks,
planting both ends of each pole into the
earth. These he covered thick with reeds
and grasses. Soon the straw hut was
ready. One by one the fat ducks waddled
in through a small opening, which was the
only entrance way. Beside the door Iktomi
stood smiling, as the ducks, eyeing his
bundle of songs, strutted into the hut.

In a strange low voice Iktomi began
his queer old tunes. All the ducks sat



Iktomi and the Ducks

round-eyed in a circle about the mysterious
singer. It was dim in that straw hut, for
Iktomi had not forgot to cover up the
small entrance way. All of a sudden his
song burst into full voice. As the startled
ducks sat uneasily on the ground, Iktomi
changed his tune into a minor strain.
These were the words he sang :

"Istokmus wacipo, tuwayatunwanpi kin-
han ista nisasapi kta," which is, "With eyes
closed you must dance. He who dares to
open his eyes, forever red eyes shall have."

Up rose the circle of seated ducks and
holding their wings close against their sides
began to dance to the rhythm of Iktomi s
song and drum.

With eyes closed they did dance ! Iktomi
ceased to beat his drum. He began to sing
louder and faster. He seemed to be mov
ing about "in the center of the ring. No
duck dared blink a wink. Each one shut
his eyes very tight and danced even harder.

9



Old Indian Legends

Up and down ! Shifting to the right of
them they hopped round and round in that
blind dance. It was a difficult dance for
the curious folk.

At length one of the dancers could close
his eyes no longer ! It was a Skiska who
peeped the least tiny blink at Iktomi within
the center of the circle. " Oh ! oh ! "
squawked he in awful terror ! " Run ! fly !
Iktomi is twisting your heads and breaking
your necks ! Run out and fly ! fly ! " he
cried. Hereupon the ducks opened their
eyes. There beside Iktomi s bundle of songs
lay half of their crowd flat on their backs.

Out they flew through the opening Skiska
had made as he rushed forth with his alarm.

But as they soared high into the blue sky
they cried to one another : " Oh ! your eyes
are red-red!" "And yours are red-red!"
For the warning words of the magic minor
strain had proven true. " Ah-ha ! " laughed

Iktomi, untying the four corners of his
10



Iktomi and the Ducks

blanket, " I shall sit no more hungry within
my dwelling." Homeward he trudged along
with nice fat ducks in his blanket. He left
the little straw hut for the rains and winds
to pull down.

Having reached his own teepee on the
high level lands, Iktomi kindled a large fire
out of doors. He planted sharp-pointed
sticks around the leaping flames. On each
stake he fastened a duck to roast. A few
he buried under the ashes to bake. Disap
pearing within his teepee, he came out again
with some huge seashells. These were his
dishes. Placing one under each roasting
duck, he muttered, "The sweet fat oozing
out will taste well with the hard-cooked
breasts."

Heaping more willows upon the fire,
Iktomi sat down on the ground with crossed
shins. A long chin between his knees
pointed toward the red flames, while his

eyes were on the browning ducks.
11



Old Indian Legends

Just above his ankles lie clasped and
unclasped his long bony fingers. Now and
then he sniffed impatiently the savory odor.

The brisk wind which stirred the fire
also played with a squeaky old tree beside
Iktomi s wigwam.

From side to side the tree was swaying
and crying in an old man s voice, " Help !
I 11 break ! I 11 fall ! " Iktomi shrugged
his great shoulders, but did not once take
his eyes from the ducks. The dripping of
amber oil into pearly dishes, drop by drop,
pleased his hungry eyes. Still the old tree
man called for help. " He ! What sound
is it that makes my ear ache!" exclaimed
Iktomi, holding a hand on his ear.

He rose and looked around. The squeak
ing came from the tree. Then he began
climbing the tree to find the disagreeable
sound. He placed his foot right on a
cracked limb without seeing it. Just then

a whiff of wind came rushing by and
12




, t ;



He sniffed impatiently the savory odor



Iktomi and the Ducks

pressed together the broken edges. There
in a strong wooden hand Iktomi s foot
was caught.

"Oh! my foot is crushed!" he howled
like a coward. In vain he pulled and
puffed to free himself.

While sitting a prisoner on the tree he
spied, through his tears, a pack of gray
wolves roaming over the level lands. Wav
ing his hands toward them, he called in his
loudest voice, " He ! Gray wolves ! Don t
you come here ! I m caught fast in the
tree so that my duck feast is getting cold.
Don t you come to eat up my meal."

The leader of the pack upon hearing
Iktomi s words turned to his comrades and
said:

"Ah! hear the foolish fellow! He says
he has a duck feast to be eaten ! Let us
hurry there for our share ! " Away bounded
the wolves toward Iktomi s lodge.

From the tree Iktomi watched the hungry

13



Old Indian Legends

wolves eat up his nicely browned fat ducks.
His foot pained him more and more. He
heard them crack the small round bones
with their strong long teeth and eat out
the oily marrow. Now severe pains shot
up from his foot through his whole body.
"Hin-hin-hin!" sobbed Iktomi. Real tears
washed brown streaks across his red-painted
cheeks. Smacking their lips, the wolves
began to leave the place, when Iktomi cried
out like a pouting child, "At least you have
left my baking under the ashes!"

"Ho! po!" shouted the mischievous
wolves; a he says more ducks are to be
found under the ashes ! Come ! Let us
have our fill this once!"

Running back to the dead fire, they
pawed out the ducks with such rude haste
that a cloud of ashes rose like gray smoke
over them.

" Hin-hin-hin !" moaned Iktomi, when
the wolves had scampered off. All too late,

14



Iktomi and the Ducks

the sturdy breeze returned, and, passing by,
pulled apart the broken edges of the tree.
Iktomi was released. But alas ! he had no
duck feast.



IKTOMI S BLANKET



17



IKTOMI S BLANKET

ALONE within his teepee sat Iktomi.
The sun was but a hand s-breadth from
the western edge of land.

" Those bad, bad gray wolves ! They ate
up all my nice fat ducks!" muttered he,
rocking his body to and fro.

He was cuddling the evil memory he bore
those hungry wolves. At last he ceased
to sway his body backward and forward,
but sat still and stiff as a stone image.

" Oh ! I 11 go to Inyan, the greatgrand
father, and pray for food!" he exclaimed.

At once he hurried forth from his teepee
and, with his blanket over one shoulder,
drew nigh to a huge rock on a hillside.

With half-crouching, half-running strides,
he fell upon Inyan with outspread hands.

19



Old Indian Legends

"Grandfather! pity me. I am hungry.
I am starving. Give me food. Great-grand
father, give me meat to eat !" he cried. All
the while he stroked and caressed the face
of the great stone god.

The all-powerful Great Spirit, who makes
the trees and grass, can hear the voice of
those who pray in many varied ways. The
hearing of Inyan, the large hard stone, was
the one most sought after. He was the
great-grandfather, for he had sat upon the
hillside many, many seasons. He had seen
the prairie put on a snow-white blanket and
then change it for a bright green robe more
than a thousand times.

Still unaffected by the myriad moons he
rested on the everlasting hill, listening to
the prayers of Indian warriors. Before the
finding of the magic arrow he had sat
there.

Now, as Iktomi prayed and wept before

the great-grandfather, the sky in the
20




Great-grandfather, give me meat to eat! "



Iktomi 9 s Blanket

west was red like a glowing face. The
sunset poured a soft mellow light upon
the huge gray stone and the solitary figure
beside it. It was the smile of the Great
Spirit upon the grandfather and the way
ward child.

The prayer was heard. Iktomi knew it.
"Now, grandfather, accept my offering;
t is all I have," said Iktomi as he spread
his half -worn blanket upon Inyan s cold
shoulders. Then Iktomi, happy with the
smile of the sunset sky, followed a foot
path leading toward a thicketed ravine.
He had not gone many paces into the
shrubbery when before him lay a freshly
wounded deer!

"This is the answer from the red western
sky!" cried Iktomi with hands uplifted.

Slipping a long thin blade from out his
belt, he cut large chunks of choice meat.
Sharpening some willow sticks, he planted

them around a wood-pile he had ready to
21



Old Indian Legends

kindle. On these stakes he meant to roast
the venison.

While he was rubbing briskly two long
sticks to start a fire, the sun in the west
fell out of the sky below the edge of land.
Twilight was over all. Iktomi felt the cold
night air upon his bare neck and shoulders.
" Ough ! " he shivered as he wiped his knife
on the grass. Tucking it in a beaded case
hanging from his belt, Iktomi stood erect,
looking about. He shivered again. " Ough !
Ah ! I am cold. I wish I had my blanket ! "
whispered he, hovering over the pile of dry
sticks and the sharp stakes round about it.
Suddenly he paused and dropped his hands
at his sides.

" The old great-grandfather does not feel
the cold as I do. He does not need my old
blanket as I do. I wish I had not given it
to him. Oh ! I think I 11 run up there
and take it back!" said he, pointing his
long chin toward the large gray stone.



Iktomi s Blanket

Iktomi, in the warm sunshine, had no
need of his blanket, and it had been very
easy to part with a thing which he could
not miss. But the chilly night wind quite
froze his ardent thank-offering.

Thus running up the hillside, his teeth
chattering all the way, he drew near to
Inyan, the sacred symbol. Seizing one cor
ner of the half-worn blanket, Iktomi pulled
it off with a jerk.

" Give my blanket back, old grandfather !
You do not need it. I do !" This was very
wrong, yet Iktomi did it, for his wit was not
wisdom. Drawing the blanket tight over
his shoulders, he descended the hill with
hurrying feet.

He was soon upon the edge of the ravine.
A young moon, like a bright bent bow,
climbed up from the southwest horizon a
little way into the sky.

In this pale light Iktomi stood motion
less as a ghost amid the thicket. His wood-

23



Old Indian Legends

pile was not yet kindled. His pointed stakes
were still bare as he had left them. But
where was the deer the venison he had
felt warm in his hands a moment ago? It
was gone. Only the dry rib bones lay on
the ground like giant fingers from an open
grave. Iktomi was troubled. At length,
stooping over the white dried bones, he took
hold of one and shook it. The bones, loose
in their sockets, rattled together at his
touch. Iktomi let go his hold. He sprang
back amazed. And though he wore a
blanket his teeth chattered more than ever.
Then his blunted sense will surprise you, lit
tle reader ; for instead of being grieved that
he had taken back his blanket, he cried
aloud, "Hin-hin-hin! If only I had eaten
the venison before going for my blanket!"
Those tears no longer moved the hand
of the Generous Giver. They were selfish
tears. The Great Spirit does not heed
them ever.

24



IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT



25



IKTOMI AND THE MUSKRAT

BESIDE a white lake, beneath a large
grown willow tree, sat Iktomi on the bare
ground. The heap of smouldering ashes
told of a recent open fire. With ankles
crossed together around a pot of soup,
Iktomi bent over some delicious boiled fish.

Fast he dipped his black horn spoon into
the soup, for he was ravenous. Iktomi had
no regular meal times. Often when he was
hungry he went without food.

Well hid between the lake and the wild
rice, he looked nowhere save into the pot
of fish. Not knowing when the next meal
would be, he meant to eat enough now to
last some time.

"How, how, my friend!" said a voice
out of the wild rice. Iktomi started. He

27



Old Indian Legends

almost choked with his soup. He peered
through the long reeds from where he sat
with his long horn spoon in mid-air.

"How, my friend ! " said the voice again,
this time close at his side. Iktomi turned
and there stood a dripping muskrat who
had just come out of the lake.

"Oh, it is my friend who startled me.
I wondered if among the wild rice some
spirit voice was talking. How, how, my
friend ! " said Iktomi. The muskrat stood
smiling. On his lips hung a ready " Yes,
my friend," when Iktomi would ask, " My
friend, will you sit down beside me and
share my food ? "

That was the custom of the plains people.
Yet Iktomi sat silent. He hummed an old
dance-song and beat gently on the edge of
the pot with his buffalo-horn spoon. The
muskrat began to feel awkward before such
lack of hospitality and wished himself under
water.

28




The muskrat began to feel awkward



Iktomi and the Muskrat

After many heart throbs Iktomi stopped
drumming with his horn ladle, and looking
upward into the muskrat s face, he said :

" My friend, let us run a race to see who
shall win this pot of fish. If I win, I shall
not need to share it with you. If you win,
you shall have half of it." Springing to
his feet, Iktomi began at once to tighten
the belt about his waist.

"My friend Ikto, I cannot run a race
with you ! I am not a swift runner, and
you are nimble as a deer. We shall not
run any race together," answered the hun
gry muskrat.

For a moment Iktomi stood with a hand
on his long protruding chin. His eyes were
fixed upon something in the air. The
muskrat looked out of the corners of his
eyes without moving his head. He watched
the wily Iktomi concocting a plot.

"Yes, yes," said Iktomi, suddenly turn
ing his gaze upon the unwelcome visitor;

29



Old Indian Legends

" I shall carry a large stone on my back.
That will slacken my usual speed ; and the
race will be a fair one."

Saying this he laid a firm hand upon the
muskrat s shoulder and started off along
the edge of the lake. When they reached
the opposite side Iktomi pried about in
search of a heavy stone.

He found one half-buried in the shallow
water. Pulling it out upon dry land, he
wrapped it in his blanket.

" Now, my friend, you shall run on the
left side of the lake, I on the other. The
race is for the boiled fish in yonder kettle ! "
said Iktomi.

The muskrat helped to lift the heavy
stone upon Iktomi s back. Then they
parted. Each took a narrow path through
the tall reeds fringing the shore. Iktomi
found his load a heavy one. Perspiration
hung like beads on his brow. His chest
heaved hard and fast.

30



Iktomi and the Muskrat

He looked across the lake to see how far
the muskrat had gone, but nowhere did he
see any sign of him. " Well, he is running
low under the wild rice ! " said lie. Yet as
he scanned the tall grasses on the lake
shore, he saw not one stir as if to make
way for the runner. "Ah, has he gone so
fast ahead that the disturbed grasses in
his trail have quieted again?" exclaimed
Iktomi. With that thought he quickly
dropped the heavy stone. " No more of
this ! " said he, patting his chest with both
hands.

Off with a springing bound, he ran swiftly
toward the goal. Tufts of reeds and grass
fell flat under his feet. Hardly had they
raised their heads when Iktomi was many
paces gone.

Soon he reached the heap of cold ashes.
Iktomi halted stiff as if he had struck an
invisible cliff. His black eyes showed a
ring of white about them as he stared at

31



Old Indian Legends

the empty ground. There was no pot of
boiled fish ! There was no water-man in
sight ! " Oh, if only I had shared my food
like a real Dakota, I would not have lost
it all ! Why did I not know the muskrat
would run through the water? He swims
faster than I could ever run ! That is
what he has done. He has laughed at me
for carrying a weight on my back while he
shot hither like an arrow ! "

Crying thus to himself, Iktomi stepped
to the water s brink. He stooped forward
with a hand on each bent knee and peeped
far into the deep water.

" There ! " he exclaimed, " I see you, my
friend, sitting with your ankles wound
around my little pot of fish ! My friend,
I am hungry. Give me a bone ! "

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! " laughed the water-man,
the muskrat. The sound did not rise up
out of the lake, for it came down from
overhead. With his hands still on his

32



Iktomi and the Muskrat


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