Frank Bird Linderman.

Indian why stories; sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire online

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"Yes — the ^Mirc-pidpU' always make their nests in the heads of the
dead Buffalo-people, ever since that night"

{Page 71)




JCb ^"SKEE • SEE - CO • COT]







CopYRir.nT, 1915, by

Published September, 1915

SEP 301915






THE Indian's friend







The great Northwest — that wonderful fron-
tier that called to itself a world's hardiest
spirits — is rapidly becoming a settled country;
and before the light of civilizing influences,
the blanket-Indian has trailed the buffalo over
the divide that time has set between the pioneer
and the crowd. With his passing we have lost
much of the aboriginal folk-lore, rich in its
fairy-like characters, and its relation to the
lives of a most warlike people.

There is a wide difference between folk-lore
of the so-called Old World and that of America.
Transmitted orally through countless genera-
tions, the folk-stories of our ancestors show
many evidences of distortion and of change in
material particulars; but the Indian seems to
have been too fond of nature and too proud of


tradition to have forgotten or changed the
teachings of his forefathers. Childlike in sim-
plicity, beginning with creation itself, and
reaching to the whys and wherefores of nature's
moods and eccentricities, these tales impress
me as being well worth saving.

The Indian has always been a lover of nature
and a close observer of her many moods. The
habits of the birds and animals, the voices of
the winds and waters, the flickering of the
shadows, and the mystic radiance of the moon-
light — all appealed to him. Gradually, he for-
mulated within himself fanciful reasons for the
myriad manifestations of the Mighty Mother
and her many children; and a poet by instinct,
he framed odd stories with which to convey his
explanations to others. And these stories were
handed down from father to son, with little
variation, through countless generations, until
the white man slaughtered the buffalo, took to


himself the open country, and left the red man
little better than a beggar. But the tribal
story-teller has passed, and only here and there
is to be found a patriarch who loves the legends
of other days.

Old-man, or Napa, as he is called by the
tribes of Blackfeet, is the strangest character
in Indian folk-lore. Sometimes he appears as
a god or creator, and again as a fool, a thief, or
a clown. But to the Indian, Napa is not the
Deity; he occupies a somewhat subordinate
position, possessing many attributes which have
sometimes caused him to be confounded with
Manitou, himself. In all of this there is a curi-
ous echo of the teachings of the ancient Aryans,
whose belief it was that this earth was not the
direct handiwork of the Almighty, but of a
mere member of a hierarchy of subordinate gods.
The Indian possesses the highest veneration for
the Great God, who has become familiar to the
readers of Indian literature as Manitou. No


idle tales are told of Him, nor would any Indian
mention Him irreverently. But with Napa it
is entirely different; he appears entitled to no
reverence; he is a strange mixture of the fal-
lible human and the powerful under-god. He
made many mistakes; was seldom to be trusted;
and his works and pranks run from the sub-
lime to the ridiculous. In fact, there are many
stories in which Napa figures that will not
bear telling at all.

I propose to tell what I know of these legends,
keeping as near as possible to the Indian's
style of story-telling, and using only tales told
me by the older men of the Blackfeet, Chip-
pewa, and Cree tribes.



Why the Chipmunk's Back is Striped . . 3

How the Ducks Got Their Fine Feathers 17

Why the Kingfisher Always Wears a

War-Bonnet 27

Why the Curlew's Bill is Long and

Crooked 37

Old-Man Remakes the World 47

Why Blackfeet Never Kill Mice ... 65

How the Otter Skin Became Great "Medi-
cine" 75

Old-Man Steals the Sun's Leggings . . 91

Old-Man and His Conscience 105

Old-Man's Treachery 117

Why the Night-Hawk's Wings are Beau-
tiful 127

Why THE Mountain-Lion is Long and Lean 137

The Fire-Leggings 151




The Moon and the Great Snake . . . 159

Why the Deer Has no Gall 167

Why Indians Whip the Buffalo-Berries

FROM the Bushes 175

Old-Man and the Fox 185

Why the Birch-Tree Wears the Slashes

IN Its Bark 199

Mistakes of Old-Man 207

How the Man Found His Mate . . . . 213

Dreams 221

Retrospection 233



« Yes— the Mice-people always make their nests in the
heads of the dead Buffalo-people, ever since that _
• 1^1^)) Frontispiece


"The Person was full of arrows, and he was pulling

them from his ugly body" ^ '

"Then she sang a queer song over and over again until

the Young-man had learned it well" 7o

"'I am sorry for you,' said the White Beaver— Chief

of all the Beavers in the world" 80

"'Smoke,' said OW-man, and passed the pipe to his

visitor" ^^'

ujlo!- when the ghost-people saw the Unlucky-one

they rushed at him with many lances" .... 86

"This big Snake used to crawl up a high hill and watch

the Moon in the sky" ^°°

"He went up on the steep hillside and commenced to

roll big rocks down upon her lodge" 216

Also the illustrations in colors on the cover and the title-
page, and the black and white drawings m the text.



It was the moon when leaves were falling,
for Napa had finished painting them for their
dance with the North wind. Just over the
ragged mountain range the big moon hung in
an almost starless sky, and in shadowy outline
every peak lay upon the plain like a giant pat-
tern. Slowly the light spread and as slowly
the shadows stole away until the October moon
looked down on the great Indian camp — a hun-
dred lodges, each as perfect in design as the
tusks of a young silver-tip, and all looking
ghostly white in the still of the autumn night.

Back from the camp, keeping within the
ever-moving shadows, a buffalo-wolf skulked
to a hill overlooking the scene, where he stopped
to look and listen, his body silhouetted against


the sky. A dog howled occasionally, and the
weird sound of a tom-tom accompanying the
voice of a singer in the Indian village reached
the wolf's ears, but caused him no alarm; for
not until a great herd of ponies, under the eyes
of the night-herder, drifted too close, did he
steal away.

Near the centre of the camp was the big
painted lodge of War Eagle, the medicine-man,
and inside had gathered his grandchildren, to
whom he was telling the stories of the creation
and of the strange doings of Napa, the creator.
Being a friend of the old historian, I entered un-
hindered, and with the children Hstened until
the hour grew late, and on the lodge-wall the
dying fire made warning shadows dance.



TX 7HAT a splendid lodge it was, and how
^ ^ grand War Eagle looked leaning against
his back-rest in the firelight ! From the tri-
pod that supported the back-rest were sus-
pended his weapons and his medicine-bundle,
each showing the wonderful skill of the maker.
The quiver that held the arrows was combined
with a case for the bow, and colored quills of
the porcupine had been deftly used to make it
a thing of beauty. All about the lodge hung
the strangely painted linings, and the fire-
light added richness to both color and design.
War Eagle's hair was white, for he had known
many snows; but his eyes were keen and bright
as a boy's, as he gazed in pride at his grand-
children across the lodge-fire. He was wise,
and had been in many battles, for his was a



warlike tribe. He knew all about the world
and the people in it. He was deeply religious,
and every Indian child loved him for his good-
ness and brave deeds.

About the fire were Little Buffalo Calf, a
boy of eleven years; Eyes-in-the- Water, his
sister, a girl of nine; Fine Bow, a cousin of
these, aged ten, and Bluebird, his sister, who
was but eight years old.

Not a sound did the children make while
the old warrior filled his great pipe, and only
the snapping of the lodge-fire broke the still-
ness. Solemnly War Eagle lit the tobacco
that had been mixed with the dried inner bark
of the red willow, and for several minutes
smoked in silence, while the children's eyes
grew large with expectancy. Finally he spoke:

**Napa, Old-msLn, is very old indeed. He
made this world, and all that is on it. He
came out of the south, and travelled toward
the north, making the birds and animals as
he passed. He made the perfumes for the


winds to carry about, and he even made the
war-paint for the people to use. He was a
busy worker, but a great liar and thief, as I
shall show you after I have told you more
about him. It was Old-man who taught the
beaver all his cunning. It was Old-man who
told the bear to go to sleep when the snow grew
deep in winter, and it was he who made the
curlew's bill so long and crooked, although it
was not that way at first. Old-man used to
live on this world with the animals and birds.
There was no other man or woman then, and
he was chief over all the animal-people and
the bird-people. He could speak the lan-
guage of the robin, knew the words of the
bear, and understood the sign-talk of the
beaver, too. He lived with the wolves, for
they are the great hunters. Even to-day we
make the same sign for a smart man as we
make for the wolf; so you see he taught them
much while he lived with them. Old-man
made a great many mistakes in making things,



as I shall show you after a while ; yet he worked
until he had everything good. But he often
made great mischief and taught many wicked
things. These I shall tell you about some
day. Everybody was afraid of Old-msin and
his tricks and lies — even the animal-people,
before he made men and women. He used to
visit the lodges of our people and make trouble
long ago, but he got so wicked that Manitou
grew angry at him, and one day in the month
of roses, he built a lodge for Old-ma.n and told
him that he must stay in it forever. Of course
he had to do that, and nobody knows where
the lodge was built, nor in what country, but
that is why we never see him as our grand-
fathers did, long, long ago.

"What I shall tell you now happened when
the world was young. It was a fine sum-
mer day, and Old-man was travelling in the
forest. He was going north and straight as
an arrow — looking at nothing, hearing noth-
ing. No one knows what he was after, to



this day. The birds and forest-people spoke
politely to him as he passed but he answered
none of them. The Pine-squirrel, who is al-
ways trying to find out other people's business,
asked him where he was going, but 0/^-man
wouldn't tell him. The woodpecker hammered
on a dead tree to make him look that way,
but he wouldn't. The Elk-people and the Deer-
people saw him pass, and all said that he
must be up to some mischief or he would stop
and talk a while. The pine-trees murmured,
and the bushes whispered their greeting, but
he kept his eyes straight ahead and went on

"The sun was low when Old-msn heard a
groan" (here War Eagle groaned to show the
children how it sounded), ''and turning about
he saw a warrior lying bruised and bleeding
near a spring of cold water. Old-man knelt
beside the man and asked : * Is there war in this
country ? '

"'Yes,' answered the man. *This whole



day long we have fought to kill a Person, but
we have all been killed, I am afraid.'

"'That is strange,' said Old-rmn; 'how can
one Person kill so many men? Who is this
Person, tell me his name ! ' but the man didn't
answer — he was dead. When OW-man saw
that life had left the wounded man, he drank
from the spring, and went on toward the north,
but before long he heard a noise as of men
fighting, and he stopped to look and listen.
Finally he saw the bushes bend and sway near
a creek that flowed through the forest. He
crawled toward the spot, and peering through
the brush saw a great Person near a pile of
dead men, with his back against a pine-tree.
The Person was full of arrows, and he was
pulling them from his ugly body. Calmly the
Person broke the shafts of the arrows, tossed
them aside, and stopped the blood flow with
a brush of his hairy hand. His head was
large and fierce-looking, and his eyes were
small and wicked. His great body was larger

"The rcrson was full of arrows, and he was puUing them from his

ugly body"


than that of a buffalo-bull and covered with
scars of many battles.

''Old-man went to the creek, and with his
buffalo-horn cup brought some water to the
Person, asking as he approached:

*'*Who are you. Person? Tell me, so I
can make you a fine present, for you are great

in war.'

"*I am Bad Sickness,' replied the Person.
'Tribes I have met remember me and always
will, for their bravest warriors are afraid when I
make war upon them. I come in the night or
I visit their camps in daylight. It is always the
same; they are frightened and I kill them easily.'

" 'Ho!' said O/c^-man, 'tell me how to make
Bad Sickness, for I often go to war myself.'
He lied; for he was never in a battle in his life.
The Person shook his ugly head and then Old-
man said:

'"If you will tell me how to make Bad Sick-
ness I will make you small and handsome.
When you are big, as you now are, it is very


hard to make a living; but when you are small,
little food will make you fat. Your living
will be easy because I will make your food
grow everywhere.'

*''Good,' said the Person, *I will do it;
you must kill the fawns of the deer and the
calves of the elk when they first begin to live.
When you have killed enough of them you
must make a robe of their skins. Whenever
you wear that robe and sing — "now you sicken,
now you sicken," the sickness will come —
that is all there is to it. '

"'Good,' said Old-man, 'now lie down to
sleep and I will do as I promised.'

"The Person went to sleep and Old-man
breathed upon him until he grew so tiny that
he laughed to see how small he had made him.
Then he took out his paint sack and striped
the Person's back with black and yellow. It
looked bright and handsome and he waked the
Person, who was now a tiny animal with a
bushy tail to make him pretty.



"'Now,' said Old-rmn, 'you are the Chip-
munk, and must always wear those striped
clothes. All of your children and their chil-
dren, must wear them, too.'

"After the Chipmunk had looked at him-
self, and thanked 0/^-man for his new clothes,
he wanted to know how he could make his
living, and O/^Z-man told him what to eat, and
said he must cache the pine-nuts when the
leaves turned yellow, so he would not have
to work in the winter time.

"'You are a cousin to the Pine-squirrel,'
said Old-msn, 'and you will hunt and hide as
he does. You will be spry and your living will
be easy to make if you do as I have told you. '

"He taught the Chipmunk his language
and his signs, showed him where to live, and
then left him, going on toward the north again.
He kept looking for the cow-elk and doe-deer,
and it was not long before he had killed enough
of their young to make the robe as the Person
told him, for they were plentiful before the



white man came to live on the world. He
found a shady place near a creek, and there
made the robe that would make Bad Sick-
ness whenever he sang the queer song, but
the robe was plain, and brown in color. He
didn't like the looks of it. Suddenly he thought
how nice the back of the Chipmunk looked
after he had striped it with his paints. He
got out his old paint sack and with the same
colors made the robe look very much like
the clothes of the Chipmunk. He was proud
of the work, and liked the new robe better;
but being lazy, he wanted to save himself
work, so he sent the South-wind to tell all
the doe-deer and the cow-elk to come to him.
They came as soon as they received the mes-
sage, for they were afraid of 0/^-man and
always tried to please him. When they had
all reached the place where Old-man was he
said to them:

'"Do you see this robe?'

"'Yes, we see it,' they replied.



"*Well, I have made it from the skins of
your children, and then painted it to look
like the Chipmunk's back, for I like the looks
of that Person's clothes. I shall need many
more of these robes during my life; and every
time I make one, I don't want to have to spend
my time painting it; so from now on and for-
ever your children shall be born in spotted
clothes. I want it to be that way to save me
work. On all the fawns there must be spots
of white like this (here he pointed to the spots
on Bad Sickness's robe) and on all of the elk-
calves the spots shall not be so white and
shall be in rows and look rather yellow. ' Again
he showed them his robe, that they might see
just what he wanted.

"'Remember,' he said, 'after this I don't
want to see any of your children running about
wearing plain clothing, because that would
mean more painting for me. Now go away,
and remember what I have said, lest I make
you sick.'



"The cow-elk and the doe-deer were glad
to know that their children's clothes would
be beautiful, and they went away to their
little ones who were hidden in the tall grass,
where the wolves and mountain-lions would
have a hard time finding them; for you know
that in the tracks of the fawn there is no scent,
and the wolf cannot trail him when he is alone.
That is the way Manitou takes care of the
weak, and all of the forest-people know about
it, too.

"Now you know why the Chipmunk's back
is striped, and why the fawn and elk-calf wear
their pretty clothes.

"I hear the owls, and it is time for all young
men who will some day be great warriors to
go to bed, and for all young women to seek
rest, lest beauty go away forever. Ho!"







ANOTHER night had come, and I made
^ my way toward War Eagle's lodge. In
the bright moonlight the dead leaves of the
quaking-aspen fluttered down whenever the
wind shook the trees; and over the village
great flocks of ducks and geese and swan passed
in a never-ending procession, calling to each
other in strange tones as they sped away toward
the waters that never freeze.

In the lodge War Eagle waited for his grand-
children, and when they had entered, happily,
he laid aside his pipe and said:

"The Duck-people are travelling to-night
just as they have done since the world was
young. They are going away from winter
because they cannot make a living when ice
covers the rivers.



**You have seen the Duck-people often.
You have noticed that they wear fine clothes
but you do not know how they got them; so
I will tell you to-night.

"It was in the fall when leaves are yellow
that it happened, and long, long ago. The
Duck-people had gathered to go away, just as
they are doing now. The buck-deer was com-
ing down from the high ridges to visit friends
in the lowlands along the streams as they have
always done. On a lake Old-man saw the
Duck-people getting ready to go away, and
at that time they all looked alike; that is, they
all wore the same colored clothes. The loons
and the geese and the ducks were there and
playing in the sunlight. The loons were laugh-
ing loudly and the diving was fast and merry
to see. On the hill where Old-man stood there
was a great deal of moss, and he began to tear
it from the ground and roll it into a great ball.
When he had gathered all he needed he shoul-
dered the load and started for the shore of



the lake, staggering under the weight of the
great burden. Finally the Duck-people saw
him coming with his load of moss and began
to swim away from the shore.

"'Wait, my brothers!' he called, *I have a
big load here, and I am going to give you
people a dance. Come and help me get things
ready. '

" * Don't you do it, ' said the gray goose to
the others; 'that's Old-man and he is up to
something bad, I am sure. '

"So the loon called to Old-man and said
they wouldn't help him at all.

"Right near the water Old-man dropped his
ball of moss and then cut twenty long poles.
With the poles he built a lodge which he covered
with the moss, leaving a doorway facing the
lake. Inside the lodge he built a fire and
when it grew bright he cried:

"'Say, brothers, why should you treat me
this way when I am here to give you a big
dance? Come into the lodge,' but they



wouldn't do that. Finally OW-man began to
sing a song in the duck-talk, and keep time
with his drum. The Duck-people liked the
music, and swam a little nearer to the shore,
watching for trouble all the time, but Old-
man sang so sweetly that pretty soon they
waddled up to the lodge and went inside.
The loon stopped near the door, for he be-
lieved that what the gray goose had said was
true, and that 0/^-man was up to some mis-
chief. The gray goose, too, was careful to
stay close to the door but the ducks reached
all about the fire. Politely, OW-man passed
the pipe, and they all smoked with him be-
cause it is wrong not to smoke in a person's
lodge if the pipe is offered, and the Duck-
people knew that.

"'Well,* said Old-vmn, 'this is going to be
the Blind-dance, but you will have to be painted

"'Brother Mallard, name the colors — tell
how you want me to paint you. *



"'Well,' replied the mallard drake, 'paint
my head green, and put a white circle around
my throat, like a necklace. Besides that, I
want a brown breast and yellow legs; but I
don't want my wife painted that way. '

"Old-man painted him just as he asked,
and his wife, too. Then the teal and the
wood-duck (it took a long time to paint the
wood-duck) and the spoonbill and the blue-
bill and the canvasback and the goose and
the brant and the loon — all chose their paint.
Old-man painted them all just as they wanted
him to, and kept singing all the time. They
looked very pretty in the firelight, for it was
night before the painting was done.

"'Now,' said Old-man, 'as this is the Blind-
dance, when I beat upon my drum you must
all shut your eyes tight and circle around the
fire as I sing. Every one that peeks will have
sore eyes forever.'

"Then the Duck-people shut their eyes and
Old-man began to sing: 'Now you come, ducks,



now you come — tum-tum, turn; tum-tum,

"Around the fire they came with their eyes
still shut, and as fast as they reached Old-msn,
the rascal would seize them, and wring their
necks. Ho! things were going fine for Old-
man, but the loon peeked a little, and saw
what was going on; several others heard the
fluttering and opened their eyes, too. The
loon cried out, * He 's killing us — let us fly, '
and they did that. There was a great squawk-
ing and quacking and fluttering as the Duck-
people escaped from the lodge. Ho! but Old-
man was angry, and he kicked the back of
the loon-duck, and that is why his feet turn
from his body when he walks or tries to stand.
Yes, that is why he is a cripple to-day.

"And all of the Duck-people that peeked
that night at the dance still have sore eyes —
just as Old-man told them they would have.
Of course they hurt and smart no more but
they stay red to pay for peeking, and always



will. You have seen the mallard and the
rest of the Duck-people. You can see that
the colors OW-man painted so long ago are
still bright and handsome, and they will stay
that way forever and forever. Ho!"

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Online LibraryFrank Bird LindermanIndian why stories; sparks from War Eagle's lodge-fire → online text (page 1 of 7)