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 the old man, “you behold those who are truly poor. We have no food. For many days the buffalo did not come in sight, and we shot deer and other animals which people eat, and when all these had been killed, we began to starve. Then said I, ‘We will not stay here to starve to death’; and we started for the mountains. This is the fourth night of our travels.”

“Ah!” said the young man. “Then your travels are ended. Close by here, we are camped by our pis’kun. Many buffalo have been run in, and our parfleches are filled with dried meat. Wait; I will go and bring you some.”

As soon as he went out, they began to talk about this strange person. They were very much afraid of him, and did not know what to do. The children began to cry, and the women were trying to quiet them, when the young man returned, bringing some meat and three pis-tsi-ko’-an.4

“Kyi!” said he. “Tomorrow move over to our lodges. Do not be afraid. No matter what strange things you see, do not fear. All will be your friends. Now, one thing I caution you about. In this be careful. If you should find an arrow lying about, in the pis’kun, or outside, no matter where, do not touch it; neither you, nor your wives nor children.” Having said this, he went out.

Then the old man took his pipe and smoked and prayed, saying: “Hear now, Sun! Listen, Above People. Listen, Under Water People. Now you have taken pity. Now you have given us food. We are going to those strange ones, who walk through water with dry moccasins. Protect us among those to-be-feared people. Let us survive. Man, woman, child, give us long life; give us long life!”

Once more the smell of roasting meat. The children played. They talked and laughed who had so long been silent. They ate plenty and lay down and slept.

Early in the morning, as soon as the sun rose, they took down their lodge, packed up, and started for the strange camp. They found it was a wonderful place. There by the pis’kun, and far up and down the valley were the lodges of meat-eaters. They could not see them all, but close by they saw the lodges of the Bear band, the Fox band, and the Badger band. The father of the young man who had given them meat was chief of the Wolf band, and by that band they pitched their lodge. Ah! That was a happy place. Food there was plenty. All day people shouted out for feasts, and everywhere was heard the sound of drums and song and dancing.

The new-comers went to the pis’kun for meat, and one of the children found an arrow lying on the ground. It was a beautiful arrow, the stone point long and sharp, the shaft round and straight. All around the people were busy; no one was looking. The boy picked up the arrow and hid it under his robe. Then there was a fearful noise. All the animals howled and growled, and ran toward him. But the chief Wolf said: “Hold! We will let him go this time; for he is young yet, and not of good sense.” So they let him go.

When night came, some one shouted out for a feast, saying: “Wo’-ka-hit! Wo’-ka-hit! Mah-kwe’-i-ke-tum-ok-ah-wah-hit. Ke-t[)u]k’-ka-p[)u]k’-si-pim.” (“Listen! Listen! Wolf, you are to feast. Enter with your friend.”) “We are asked,” said the chief Wolf to his new friend, and together they went to the lodge.

Within, the fire burned brightly, and many men were already there, the old and wise of the Raven band. Hanging behind the seats were the writings 5 of many deeds. Food was placed before them, pemmican of berries and dried back fat; and when they had eaten, a pipe was lighted. Then spoke the Raven chief: “Now, Wolf, I am going to give our new friend a present. What say you?”

“It is as you say,” replied the Wolf. “Our new friend will be glad.”

Then the Raven chief took from the long parfleche sack a slender stick, beautifully dressed with many colored feathers; and on the end of it was fastened the skin of a raven, head, wings, feet, and all. “We,” he said, “are the Mas-to-pah’-ta-kiks (Raven carriers, or those who bear the Raven). Of all the above animals, of all the flyers, where is one so smart? None. The Raven’s eyes are sharp. His wings are strong. He is a great hunter and never hungry. Far, far off on the prairie he sees his food, and deep hidden in the pines it does not escape his eye. Now the song and the dance.”

When he had finished singing and dancing, he gave the stick to the man, and said: “Take it with you, and when you have returned to your people, you shall say: Now there are already the Bulls, and he who is the Raven chief says: ‘There shall be more, there shall be the I-kun-uh’-kah-tsi, so that the people may survive, and of them shall be the Raven carriers.’ You will call a council of the chiefs and wise old men, and they will choose the persons. Teach them the song and the dance, and give them the medicine. It shall be theirs forever.”

Soon they heard another person shouting for a feast, and, going, they entered the lodge of the Sin-o-pah chief. Here, too, were the old men assembled. After they had eaten of that set before them, the chief said: “Those among whom you are newly arrived are generous. They do not look at their possessions, but give to the stranger and pity the poor. The Kit-fox is a little animal, but what one is smarter? None. His hair is like the dead prairie grass. His eyes are sharp, his feet noiseless, his brain cunning. His ears receive the far-off sound. Here is our medicine, take it.” And he gave the stick. It was long, crooked at one end, wound with fur, and tied here and there to it were eagle feathers. At the end was a fox’s skin. Again the chief said: “Hear our song. Do not forget it; and the dance, too, you must remember. When you get home, teach them to the people.”

Again they heard the feast shout, and he who called was the Bear chief. Now when they had smoked, the chief said: “What say you, friend Wolf? Shall we give our new friend something?”

“As you say,” replied the Wolf. “It is yours to give.”

Then said the Bear: “There are many animals, and some of them are powerful. But the Bear is the strongest and bravest of all. He fears nothing, and is always ready to fight.” Then he put on a necklace of bear claws, a belt of bear fur, and around his head a band of the fur; and sang and danced. When he had finished, he gave them to the man, saying: “Teach the people our song and dance, and give them this medicine. It is powerful.”

It was now very late. The Seven Persons had arrived at midnight, yet again they heard the feast shout from the far end of camp. In this lodge the men were painted with streaks of red and their hair was all brushed to one side. After the feast the chief said: “We are different from all the others here. We are called the Mut-siks 6 We are death. We know not fear. Even if our enemies are in number like the grass, we do not turn away, but fight and conquer. Bows are good weapons. Spears are better, but our weapon is the knife.” Then the chief sang and danced, and afterwards he gave the Wolf’s friend the medicine. It was a long knife, and many scalps were tied on the handle. “This,” he said, “is for the I-kun-uh’-kah-tsi.”

Once more they were called to a feast and entered the Badger chief’s lodge. He taught the man the Badger song and dance and gave him the medicine. It was a large rattle, ornamented with beaver claws and bright feathers. They smoked two pipes in the Badger’s lodge, and then went home and slept.

Early next day, the man and his family took down their lodge, and prepared to move camp. Many women came and made them presents of dried meat, pemmican, and berries. They were given so much they could not take it all with them. It was many days before they joined the main camp, for the people, too, had moved to the south after buffalo. As soon as the lodge was pitched, the man called all the chiefs to come and feast, and he told them all he had seen, and showed them the medicines. The chiefs chose certain young men for the different bands, and this man taught them the songs and dances, and gave each band their medicine.
1: An account of the _I-kun-uh’-kah-tsi_, with a list of its different bands or societies and their duties, will be found in the chapter on Social Organization.]
2: Here the narrator repeated the song and showed the dance. As is fitting to the dance of such great beasts, the air is slow and solemn, and the step ponderous and deliberate.]
3: The “Chinook.”]
4: Unborn buffalo calves.]
5: That is, the painting on cow skin of the various battles and adventures in which the owner of the lodge had taken part.]
6: Brave, courageous.]

Blackfoot, Legends,

Grinnell, George Bird. Blackfoot Lodge Tales: The Story of a Prairie People. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1892.

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