Native American Fables

Native children at play, including spinning tops, dart and disk, keeping house.
Group picture about 1875

There are many legends and fables among the native tribes which gifted men and women relate to their children on winter evenings and through the weary days of the rainy season, while they are cooped up in their cabins or tipis, and some of them are entirely worthy of a place in that renowned old book, Aesop's Fables.

Two fables from the Karok west coast tribe.



Lakota Sioux Stories







A Creation Fable

A great many hundred snows ago, Kareya, the Creator, sitting on the Sacred Stool, created the world. First, he made the fishes in the big water, then the animals on the green land, and last of all, The Man. But the animals were all alike yet in power, and it was not yet ordained which should be for food to others, and which should be food for The Man. Then Kareya bade them all assemble together in a certain place, that The Man might give each his power and his rank. So the animals all met together, a great many hundred snows ago, on an evening when the sun was set, that they might wait over night for the coming of The Man on the morrow. Now Kareya commanded The Man to make bows and arrows, as many as there were animals, and to give the longest to the one that should have the most power, and the shortest to the one that should have the least. So he did, and after nine sleeps his work was ended, and the bows and arrows which he made were very many.

Now the animals being gathered together in one place, went to sleep, that they might rise on the morrow and go forth to meet The Man. But the coyote was exceedingly cunning, above all the beasts that were, he was so cunning. So he considered within himself how he might get the longest bow, and so have the greatest power, and have all animals for his meat. He determined to stay awake all night, while the others slept, and so go forth first in the morning and get the longest bow. This he devised within his cunning mind, and then he laughed to himself, and stretched out his snout on his fore-paws, and pretended to sleep, like the others. But about midnight he began to get sleepy, and he had to walk around camp and scratch his eyes a considerable time to keep them open. But still he grew more sleepy, and he had to skip and jump about like a good one to keep awake. He made so much noise this way that he woke up some of the other animals, and he had to think of another plan. About the time the morning star came up, he was so sleepy that he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. Then he took two little sticks and sharpened them at the ends, and propped open his eyelids, whereupon he thought he was safe, and he concluded he would take just a little nap, with his eyes open, watching the morning star. But in a few minutes he was sound asleep, and the sharp sticks pierced through his eyelids, and pinned them fast together.

So the morning star mounted up very swiftly, and then there came a peep of daybreak, and the birds began to sing, and the animals began to rise and stretch themselves, but still the coyote lay fast asleep. At last it was broad daylight, and then the sun rose, and all the animals went forth to meet The Man. He gave the longest bow to the cougar, so he had the greatest power of all; and the second longest to the bear; and so on, giving the next to the last to the poor frog. But he still had the shortest one left, and he cried out, "What animal have I missed?" Then the animals began to look about, and they soon spied the coyote lying fast asleep, with the sharp sticks pinning his eyelids together. Upon that all the animals set up a great laugh, and they jumped on the coyote and danced upon him. Then they led him to The Man - for he could see nothing because of the sticks - and The Man pulled out the sticks, and gave him the shortest bow of all, which would shoot an arrow hardly more than a foot. And all the animals laughed very much.

But The Man took pity on the coyote, because he was now the weakest of all animals, weaker even than the frog, and he prayed to Kareya for him, and Kareya gave him cunning, ten times more than before, so that he was cunning above all the animals of the wood. So the coyote was a friend to The Man and to his children after him, and helped him, and did many things for him, as we shall see hereafter.

In the legendary lore of the native American the coyote plays the same conspicuous part that Reynard the fox does in the fables of European descended cultures, and the sagacious tricks that are accredited to him are endless.


After Kareya gave the coyote so much cunning he became very ambitious, and wanted to do many things which were very much too hard for him, and which Kareya never intended he should do. One of them once got so conceited that he thought he could dance with the stars, and so he asked one of them to fly close to the top of a mountain and take him by the paw, and let him dance once around through the sky. The star only laughed at him and winked its eye, but the next night when it came around, it sailed close to the mountain and took the coyote by the paw, and flew away with him through the sky. But the foolish coyote soon grew tired of dancing this way, and could not wait for the star to come around to the mountain again. He looked down at the earth and it seemed quite near to him, and as the star could not wait or fly low just then, he let go and leaped down. Poor coyote! he was ten whole snows in falling, and when he struck the earth he was smashed flatter than a willow mat or a frog in the road.

Another one, not taking warning from this dreadful example, asked a star to let him dance once round through the sky. The star tried to dissuade him from the fool-hardy undertaking, but it was of no avail; the silly animal would not be convinced. Every night when the star came around, he would squat on top of a mountain and bark until the star grew tired of his noise. So one night it sailed close down to the mountain and told the coyote to be quick for it could not wait, and up he jumped and caught it with his paw, and went dancing away through the great blue heaven. He, too, soon grew tired, and asked the star to stop and let him rest a little while. But the star told him it could not stop, for Kareya had made it to keep on moving all the while. Then he tried to get on the star and ride, but it was too small. Thus he was compelled to keep on dancing, dangling down from one paw, and one piece of his body after another dropped off until there was only one paw left hanging to the star.

These are traditional Lakota stories, passed down for thousands of years. They were used to teach lessons, explain the past, and entertain.

A Lakota Story .... The Creation of The Universe

At first there was only Inyan, Rock, who was soft and had no shape. Inyan was all-powerful, but he had nothing to use his powers on. So he opened his veins and created Maka, the Earth.

His blood was blue, and as it flowed from him it made the waters and the great sky, Skan. This made Inyan shrink and become hard, and he lost his power. Maka was unhappy because there was darkness everywhere, but she wanted to see herself. So Skan, the source of all energy, divided the darkness in half and made Han (Darkness) and Anp (Light). Han was sent to the underworld and Anp was placed on top of the world to make everything visible.

Now Maka could see, but she was cold. So Skan made Wi (the Sun) and gave Wi a spirit called Wi-Akan (Sun Spirit). And Wi shone on the whole world and gave warmth to all things.

Maka was still not satisfied. She wanted relief from the heat, and Wi wanted some rest for himself. To appease them, Skan divided time into two equal parts. One part he gave to Anp, as the day, when Wi would do his work and Maka would be warm. The other part he gave to Han, as the night, when Wi could rest and Maka could cool off.

Even then, things were not peaceful because Maka tried to order Wi around, which Wi resented. They began to argue. Skan, the final judge of all things, called them all together and said: "I, Skan, and you, Inyan, Maka, and Wi are all Tunkasilas and come from the same source. Although we are four, we are really only ONE being. That ONE being is Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit." Skan then gave each of them a role and a color by which to identify themselves.

But it was lonely for them, so Skan let each to create a companion. Wi made Han Hepi Wi (the Moon), a pale, feminine version of himself. Maka formed a beautiful being called Unk (Passion). Unk's son, Gnas (Demon) was also beautiful but cunning. Maka soon became jealous of Unk and threw her into the waters. Skan created a spirit being called Tate (Wind), who became his messenger and traveled all over the world. Inyan made a shapeless and terrible creature, Wakinyan (the Winged One, or Thunderstorm). Since anyone who saw Wakinyan became heyoka (silly), Skan showed him how to hide himself in clouds.

Inyan was very pleased with Wakinyan and together they created a wise and friendly being named Ksa (Wisdom). Skan gave Ksa a nagi (spirit), and Tate gave it a wanagi (ghost).

But with Tate gone all the time, Skan was still lonely. So he created a daughter for himself and named her Woohpe (Peace), the most beautiful and pleasing of all beings. Finally, Skan made the Wican (star people) so he would have spirit people to talk with and to light the way for Tate when it was night.

After all this was done, Ksa and Woohpe held a great feast. Each guest gave Skan a special token, which entitled them to make a request of Skan Wi was first and asked to become a patron of bravery, endurance, fortitude, contests, honesty and reliance. Wi Win became patroness of constancy, kinship, motherhood and all feminine things.Maka became the patroness of food, shelter, protection, contentment, comfort, and happiness. Inyan became patron of construction and destruction, offense and defense, and permanence and change. Wakinyan (as Heyoka) was awarded power to combat harmful things, to destroy evil and nourish good and to promote growth.Tate wanted simply to remain the constant companion of Skan and to do his will.

Unk had no desire to be subject to the will of anyone and demanded total freedom. She became the patroness of the waters. Gnas asked to be made beautiful and to be given the powers of persuasion. He became the patron of plots and schemes.

When all the tokens had been satisfied, Skan asked Ksa and Woohpe, who had no tokens, what they wanted. Woohpe asked only to create pleasure and harmony for others. Ksa stood up and said that Woohpe had served until she was exhausted, which was not fitting for the daughter of Skan, and suggested that Skan create beings to serve them. So Skan made the Pte Oyate (Buffalo People), and Ksa taught them how to live and serve.

In the meantime, Maka had become unhappy again. To make Maka look silly, Gnas (the Schemer) convinced her to ask for her own servants and for beautiful things. At the next feast, she stood and asked for all these things. Skan knew she had been put up to this, so to teach Gnas a lesson, he decided to give her everything she asked for. He gave Ksa, Woohpe, Tate and Wakinyan the task of making Maka happy. He also gave them powers to create plants and animals. They made Maka's domain green with trees and grasses and flowers and nourished them with the rain. Then they created animals for the land and for the world underwater.

After all this was done, the trees and flowers, shrubs and grasses spoke in harmony with the birds, and all the insects chirped joyfully. Only the fishes and reptiles remained silent. There was a feast with music and dancing, and Skan declared the creation was complete. Hok!!! Hecitu welo!!!

Another Lakota Creation Story

There was another world before this one. But the people of that world did not behave themselves. Displeased, Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit) set out to make a new world, He sang several songs to bring rain, which poured stronger with each song. As he sang the fourth song, the earth split apart and water gushed up through the many cracks, causing a flood. By the time the rain stopped, all of the people and nearly all of the animals had drowned. Only Kangi the crow survived.

Kangi pleaded with Wakan Tanka to make him a new place to rest. So Wakan Tanka decided the time had come to make his new world. From his huge pipe bag, which contained all types of animals and birds, Wakan Tanka selected four animals known for their ability to remain under water for a long time. He sent each in turn to retrieve a lump of mud from beneath the floodwaters, First the loon dove deep into the dark waters, but it was unable to reach the bottom. The otter, even with its strong webbed feet, also failed. Next, the beaver used its large flat tail to propel itself deep under the water, but it too brought nothing back. Finally, Wakan Tanka took the turtle from his pipe bag and urged it to bring back some mud.

Turtle stayed under the water for so long that everyone was sure it had drowned. Then, with a splash, the turtle broke the water's surface! Mud filled its feet and claws and the cracks between its upper and lower shells. Singing, Wakan Tanka shaped the mud in his hands and spread it on the water, where it was just big enough for himself and the crow. He then shook two long eagle wing feathers over the mud until earth spread wide and varied, overcoming the waters.

Feeling sadness for the dry land, the Wakan Tanka cried tears that became oceans, streams, and lakes, He named the new land Turtle Island in honor of the turtle who provided the mud from which it was formed.

Wakan Tanka then took many animals and birds from his great pipe bag and spread them across the earth. From red, white, black, and yellow earth, he made men and women. Wakan Tanka gave the people his sacred pipe and told them to live by it. He warned them about the fate of the people who came before them. He promised all would be well if all living things learned to live in harmony. But the world would be destroyed again if they made it bad and ugly.

Iktomi (The Spider), Two Widows, and the Red Plum

There once lived, in a remote part of a great forest, two widowed sisters, with their little babies. One day there came to their tent a visitor who was called Iktomi (spider). He had found some nice red plums during his wanderings in the forest, and he said to himself, "I will keep these plums and fool the two widows with them." After the widows had bidden him be seated, he presented them with the plums.

On seeing them they exclaimed "hi nu, hi nu (an exclamation of surprise), where did you get those fine plums?"

Iktomi arose and pointing to a crimson tipped cloud, said: "You see that red cloud? Directly underneath it is a patch of plums. So large is the patch and so red and beautiful are the plums that it is the reflection of them on the cloud that you see."

"Oh, how we wish some one would take care of our babies, while we go over there and pick some," said the sisters.

"Why, I am not in any particular hurry, so if you want to go I will take care of my little nephews until you return." (Iktomi always claimed relationship with everyone he met).

"Well brother," said the older widow, "take good care of them and we will be back as soon as possible."

The two then took a sack in which to gather the plums, and started off towards the cloud with the crimson lining. Scarcely had they gone from Iktomi’s sight when he took the babies out of their swinging hammocks and cut off first one head and then the other. He then took some old blankets and rolled them in the shape of a baby body and laid one in each hammock. Then he took the heads and put them in place in their different hammocks. The bodies he cut up and threw into a large kettle. This he placed over a rousing fire.

Then he mixed Indian turnips and arikara squash with the baby meat and soon had a kettle of soup. Just about the time the soup was ready to serve the widows returned. They were tired and hungry and not a plum had they. Iktomi, hearing the approach of the two, hurriedly dished out the baby soup in two wooden dishes and then seated himself near the door so that he could get out easily.

Upon the entrance of the widows, Iktomi exclaimed: "Sisters, I had brought some meat with me and I cooked some turnips and squash with it and made a pot of fine soup. The babies have just fallen asleep, so don't waken them until you have finished eating, for I know that you are nearly starved."

The two fell to at once and after they had somewhat appeased their appetites, one of them arose and went over to see how her baby was resting. Noting an unnatural color on her baby's face, she raised him up only to have his head roll off from the bundle of blankets. "'My son! my son!" she cried out. At once the other hastened to her baby and grabbed it up, only to have the same thing happen.

At once they surmised who had done this, and caught up sticks from the fire with which to beat Iktomi to death. He, expecting something like this to happen, lost very little time in getting outside and down into a hole at the roots of a large tree. The two widows not being able to follow Iktomi down into the hole, had to give up trying to get him out, and passed the rest of the day and night crying for their beloved babies.

In the meantime Iktomi had gotten out by another opening, and fixing himself up in an entirely different style, and painting his face in a manner that they would not recognize him, he cautiously approached the weeping women and inquired the cause of their tears.

Thus they answered him: "Iktomi came here and fooled us about some plums, and while we were absent killed our babies and made soup out of their bodies. Then he gave us the soup to eat, which we did, and when we found out what he had done we tried to kill him, but he crawled down into that hole and we could not get him out."

"I will get him out," said the mock stranger, and with that he crawled down into the hole and scratched his own face all over to make the widows believe he had been fighting with Iktomi. "I have killed him, and that you may see him I have enlarged the hole so you can crawl in and see for yourselves, also to take some revenge on his dead body."

The two foolish widows, believing him, crawled into the hole, only to be blocked up by Iktomi, who at once gathered great piles of wood and stuffing it into the hole, set it on fire, and thus ended the last of the family who were foolish enough to let Iktomi tempt them with a few red plums.

The Four Brothers, or Inyanhoksila (Stone Boy)

Alone and apart from their tribe dwelt four orphan brothers. They had erected a very comfortable hut, although the materials used were only willows, hay, birch bark, and adobe mud. After the completion of their hut, the oldest brother laid out the different kinds of work to be done by the four of them. He and the second and third brothers were to do all the hunting, and the youngest brother was to do the house work, cook the meals, and keep plenty of wood on hand at all times.

As his older brothers would leave for their hunting very early every morning, and would not return till late at night, the little fellow always found plenty of spare time to gather into little piles fine dry wood for their winter use.

Thus the four brothers lived happily for a long time. One day while out gathering and piling up wood, the boy heard a rustling in the leaves and looking around he saw a young woman standing in the cherry bushes, smiling at him.

"Who are you, and where did you come from?" asked the boy, in surprise.

"I am an orphan girl and have no relatives living. I came from the village west of here. I learned from rabbit that there were four orphan brothers living here all alone, and that the youngest was keeping house for his older brothers, so I thought I would come over and see if I couldn't have them adopt me as their sister, so that I might keep house for them, as I am very poor and have no relations, neither have I a home."

She looked so pitiful and sad that the boy thought to himself, "I will take her home with me, poor girl, no matter what my brothers think or say." Then he said to her: "Come on, tanke (sister). You may go home with me; I am sure my older brothers will be glad to have you for our sister."

When they arrived at the hut, the girl hustled about and cooked up a fine hot supper, and when the brothers returned they were surprised to see a girl sitting by the fire in their hut. After they had entered the youngest brother got up and walked outside, and a short time after the oldest brother followed him out. "Who is that girl, and where did she come from?" he asked his brother.

Whereupon the brother told him the whole story. Upon hearing this the oldest brother felt very sorry for the poor orphan girl and going back into the hut he spoke to the girl, saying: "Sister, you are an orphan, the same as we; you have no relatives, no home. We will be your brothers, and our poor hut shall be your home. Henceforth call us brothers, and you will be our sister."

"Oh, how happy I am now that you take me as your sister. I will be to you all as though we were of the same father and mother," said the girl. And true to her word, she looked after everything of her brothers and kept the house in such fine shape that the brothers blessed the day that she came to their poor little hut. She always had an extra buckskin suit and two pairs of moccasins hanging at the head of each one's bed. Buffalo, deer, antelope, bear, wolf, wildcat, mountain lion and beaver skins she tanned by the dozen, and piled nicely in one corner of the hut.

When Indians have walked a great distance and are very tired, they have great faith in painting their feet, claiming that paint eases the pain and rests their feet.

After the brothers would return from a long day’s journey, when they would be lying down resting, the sister would get her paint and mix it with the deer tallow and rub the paint on her brother’s feet, painting them up to their ankles. The gentle touch of her hands, and the soothing qualities of the tallow and paint soon put them into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Many such kind actions on her part won the hearts of the brothers, and never was a full blood sister loved more than was this poor orphan girl, who had been taken as their adopted sister. In the morning when they arose, the sister always combed their long black silken scalp locks and painted the circle around the scalp lock a bright Vermilion.

When the hunters would return with a goodly supply of meat, the sister would hurry and relieve them of their packs, hanging each one high enough from the ground so the prowling dogs and coyotes could not reach them. The hunters each had a post on which to hang his bow and flint head arrows. (Good hunters never laid their arrows on the ground, as it was considered unlucky to the hunter who let his arrows touch the earth after they had been out of the quiver).

They were all perfectly happy, until one day the older brother surprised them all by saying: "We have a plentiful supply of meat on hand at present to last us for a week or so. I am going for a visit to the village west of us, so you boys all stay at home and help sister. Also gather as much wood as you can and I will be back again in four days. On my return we "I resume our hunting and commence getting our winter's supply of meat."

He left the next morning, and the last they saw of him was while he stood at the top of the long range of hills west of their home. Four days had come and gone and no sign of the oldest brother.

"I am afraid that our brother has met with some accident," said the sister.

"I am afraid so, too," said the next oldest. "I must go and search for him; he may be in some trouble where a little help would get him out."

The second brother followed the direction his brother had taken, and when he came to the top of the long range of hills he sat down and gazed long and steadily down into the long valley with a beautiful creek winding through it. Across the valley was a long plain stretching for miles beyond and finally ending at the foot of another range of hills, the counterpart of the one upon which he sat.

After noting the different landmarks carefully, he arose and slowly started down the slope and soon came to the creek he had seen from the top of the range. Great was his surprise on arriving at the creek to find what a difference there was in the appearance of it from the range and where he stood. From the range it appeared to be a quiet, harmless, laughing stream. Now he saw it to be a muddy, boiling, bubbling torrent, with high perpendicular banks.

For a long time he stood, thinking which way to go, up or down stream. He had just decided to go down stream, when, on chancing to look up, he noticed a thin column of smoke slowly ascending from a little knoll. He approached the place cautiously and noticed a door placed into the creek bank on the opposite side of the stream.

As he stood looking at the door, wondering who could be living in a place like that, it suddenly opened and a very old appearing woman came out and stood looking around her. Soon she spied the young man, and said to him: "My grandchild, where did you come from and whither are you bound?"

The young man answered: "I came from east of this ridge and am in search of my oldest brother, who came over in this direction five days ago and who has not yet returned."

"Your brother stopped here and ate his dinner with me, and then left, traveling towards the west," said the old witch, for such she was. "Now, grandson, come across on that little log bridge up the stream there and have your dinner with me. I have it all cooked now and just stepped outside to see if there might not be some hungry traveler about, whom I could invite in to eat dinner with me"

The young man went up the stream a little distance and found a couple of small logs which had been placed across the stream to serve as a bridge. He crossed over and went down to the old woman's dugout hut. "Come in grandson, and eat. I know you must be hungry."

The young man sat down and ate a real hearty meal. On finishing he arose and said: "Grandmother, I thank you for your meal and kindness to me. I would stay and visit with you awhile, as I know it must be very lonely here for you, but I am very anxious to find my brother, so I must be going. On myreturn I will stop with my brother and we will pay you a little visit."

"Very well, grandson, but before you go, I wish you would do me a little favor. Your brother did it for me before he left, and cured me, but it has come back on me again. I am subject to very severe pains along the left side of my backbone, all the way from my shoulder blade down to where my ribs attach to my backbone, and the only way I get any relief from the pain is to have some one kick me along the side. (She was a witch, remember, and had concealed in her robe a long sharp steel spike. It was placed so that the last kick they would give her, their foot would hit the spike and they would instantly drop off into a swoon, as if dead.)

"If I won't hurt you too much, grandmother, I certainly will be glad to do it for you," said the young man, little thinking he would be the one to get hurt.

"No, grandson, don't be afraid of hurting me; the harder you kick the longer the pain stays away." She laid down on the floor and rolled over on to her right side, so he could get a good chance to kick the left side where she said the pain was located.

As he moved back to give the first kick, he glanced along the floor and he noticed a long object wrapped in a blanket, lying against the opposite wall. He thought it looked strange and was going to stop and investigate, but just then the witch cried out as if in pain. "Hurry up, grandson, I am going to die if you don't hurry and start in kicking."

"I can investigate after I get through with her," thought he, so he started in kicking and every kick he would give her she would cry: "Harder, kick harder."

He had to kick seven times before he would get to the end of the pain, so he let out as hard as he could drive, and when he came to the last kick he hit the spike, and driving it through his foot, fell down in a dead swoon, and was rolled up in a blanket by the witch and placed beside his brother at the opposite side of the room.

When the second brother failed to return, the third went in search of the two missing ones. He fared no better than the second one, as he met the old witch who served him in a similar manner as she had his two brothers.

"Ha! Ha!" she laughed, when she caught the third, "I have only one more of them to catch, and when I get them I will keep them all here a year, and then I will turn them into horses and sell them back to their sister. I hate her, for I was going to try and keep house for them and marry the oldest one, but she got ahead of me and became their sister, so now I "I get my revenge on her. Next year she will be riding and driving her brothers and she won't know it."

When the third brother failed to return, the sister cried and begged the last one not to venture out in search of them. But go he must, and go he did, only to do as his three brothers had done.

Now the poor sister was nearly distracted. Day and night she wandered over hills and through woods in hopes she might find or hear of some trace of them. Her wanderings were in vain. The hawks had not seen them after they had crossed the little stream. The wolves and coyotes told her that they had seen nothing of her brothers out on the broad plains, and she had given them up for dead.

One day, as she was sitting by the little stream that flowed past their hut, throwing pebbles into the water and wondering what she should do, she picked up a pure white pebble, smooth and round, and after looking at it for a long time, threw it into the water. No sooner had it hit the water than she saw it grow larger. She took it out and looked at it and threw it in again. This time it had assumed the form of a baby. She took it out and threw it in the third time and the form took life and began to cry: "Ina, ina" (mother, mother).

She took the baby home and fed it soup, and it being an unnatural baby, quickly grew up to a good sized boy. At the end of three months he was a good big, stout youth. One day he said: "Mother, why are you living here alone? To whom do all these fine clothes and moccasins belong?"

She then told him the story of her lost brothers. "Oh, I know now where they are. You make me lots of arrows. I am going to find my uncles."

She tried to dissuade him from going, but he was determined and said: "My father sent me to you so that I could find my uncles for you, and nothing can harm me, because I am stone and my name is "Stone Boy."

The mother, seeing that he was determined to go, made a whole quiver full of arrows for him, and off he started. When he came to the old witch's hut, she was nowhere to be seen, so he pushed the door in and entered. The witch was busily engaged cooking dinner.

"Why, my dear grandchild, you are just in time for dinner. Sit down and we will eat before you continue your journey." Stone boy sat down and ate dinner with the old witch. She watched him very closely, but when she would be drinking her soup he would glance hastily around the room. Finally he saw the four bundles on the opposite side of the room, and he guessed at once that there lay his four uncles. When he had finished eating he took out his little pipe and filled it with "kinikinic," and commenced to smoke, wondering how the old woman had managed to fool his smart uncles. He couldn't study it out, so when he had finished his smoke he arose to pretend to go.

When the old woman saw him preparing to leave, she said: "Grandson, will you kick me on the left side of my backbone. I am nearly dead with pain and if you kick me good and hard it will cure me."

"All right,grandmother," said the boy. The old witch lay down on the floor and the boy started in to kick. At the first kick he barely touched her.

“Kick as hard as you can, grandson; don't be afraid you will hurt me, because you can't."

With that Stone Boy let drive and broke two ribs. She commenced to yell and beg him to stop, but he kept on kicking until he had kicked both sides of her ribs loose from the backbone. Then he jumped on her backbone and broke it and killed the old witch.

He built a big fire outside and dragged her body to it, and threw her into the fire. Thus ended the old woman who was going to turn his uncles into horses.

Next he cut willows and stuck them into the ground in a circle. The tops he pulled together, making a wickiup. He then took the old woman's robes and blankets and covered the wickiup so that no air could get inside. He then gathered sage brush and covered the floor with a good thick bed of sage; got nice round stones and got them red hot in the fire, and placed them in the wickiup and proceeded to carry his uncles out of the hut and lay them down on the soft bed of sage. Having completed carrying and depositing them around the pile of rocks, he got a bucket of water and poured it on the hot rocks, which caused a great vapor in the little wickiup. He waited a little while and then listened and heard some breathing inside, so he got another bucket and poured that on also.

After awhile he could hear noises inside as though some one were moving about. He went again and got the third bucket and after he had poured that on the rocks, one of the men inside said: "Whoever you are, good friend, don't bring us to life only to scald us to death again."

Stone boy then said: "Are all of you alive?" "Yes," said the voice. "Well, come out," said the boy. And with that he threw off the robes and blankets, and a great cloud of vapor arose and settled around the top of the highest peak on the long range, and from that did Smoky Range derive its name.

The uncles, when they heard who the boy was, were very happy, and they all returned together to the anxiously waiting sister. As soon as they got home, the brothers worked hard to gather enough wood to last them all winter. Game they could get at all times of the year, but the heavy fall of snow covered most of the dry wood and also made it very difficult to drag wood through the deep snow. So they took advantage of the nice fall weather and by the time the snow commenced falling they had enough wood gathered to last them throughout the winter.

After the snow fell a party of boys swiftly coasted down the big hill west of the brothers' hut. The Stone boy used to stand and watch them for hours at a time. His youngest uncle said: "Why don't you go up and coast with them?" The boy said: "They may be afraid of me, but I guess I could try once, anyway."

So the next morning when the crowd came coasting, Stone boy started for the hill. When he had nearly reached the bottom of the coasting hill all of the boys ran off excepting two little fellows who had a large coaster painted in different colors and had little bells tied around the edges, so when the coaster was in motion the bells made a cheerful tinkling sound. As Stone boy started up the hill the two little fellows started down and went past him as though shot from a hickory bow.

When they got to the end of their slide, they got off and started back up the hill. It being pretty steep, Stone boy waited for them, so as to lend a hand to pull the big coaster up the hill. As the two little fellows came up with him he knew at once that they were twins, as they looked so much alike that the only way one could be distinguished from the other was by the scarves they wore. One wore red, the other black.

He at once offered to help them drag their coaster to the top of the hill. When they got to the top the twins offered their coaster to him to try a ride. At first he refused, but they insisted on his taking it, as they said they would sooner rest until he came back. So he got on the coaster and flew down the hill, only he was such an expert he made a zigzag course going down and also jumped the coaster off a bank about four feet high, which none of the other coasters dared to tackle.

Being very heavy, however, he nearly smashed the coaster. Upon seeing this wonderful jump, and the zigzag course he had taken going down, the twins went wild with excitement and decided that they would have him take them down when he got back So upon his arrival at the starting point, they both asked him at once to give them the pleasure of the same kind of a ride he had taken.

He refused, saying: "We will break your coaster. I alone nearly smashed it, and if we all get on and make the same kind of a jump, I am afraid you will have to go home without your coaster."

"Well, take us down anyway, and if we break it our father will make us another one." So he finally consented. When they were all seated ready to start, he told them that when the coaster made the jump they must look straight ahead. "By no means look down, because if you do we will go over the cut bank and land in a heap at the bottom of the gulch.”

They said they would obey what he said, so off they started swifter than ever, on account of the extra weight, and so swiftly did the sleigh glide over the packed, frozen snow, that it nearly took the twins' breath away. Like an arrow they approached the jump. The twins began to get a little nervous. "Sit steady and look straight ahead," yelled Stone boy.

The twin next to Stone boy, who was steering behind, sat upright and looked far ahead, but the one in front crouched down and looked into the coulee. Of course, Stone boy, being behind, fell on top of the twins, and being so heavy, killed both of them instantly, crushing them to a jelly.

The rest of the boys, seeing what had happened, hastened to the edge of the bank, and looking down, saw the twins laying dead, and Stone boy himself knocked senseless, lying quite a little distance from the twins. The boys, thinking that all three were killed, and that Stone boy had purposely steered the sleigh over the bank in such a way that it would tip and kill the twins, returned to the village with this report.

Now, these twins were the sons of the head chief of the Buffalo Nation. So at once the chief and his scouts went over to the hill to see if the boy's had told the truth.

When they arrived at the bank they saw the twins lying dead, but where was Stone boy? They looked high and low through the gulch, but not a sign of him could they find. Tenderly they picked up the dead twins and carried them home, then held a big council and put away the bodies of the dead in Buffalo custom.

A few days after this the uncles were returning from a long journey. When they drew near their home they noticed large droves of buffalo gathered on their side of the range. Hardly any buffalo ever ranged on this east side of the range before, and the brothers thought it strange that so many should so suddenly appear there now.

When they arrived at home their sister told them what had happened to the chiefs twins, as her son had told her the whole story upon his arrival at home after the accident.

"Well, probably all the buffalo we saw were here for the council and funeral," said the older brother. "But where is my nephew?(Stone boy)" he asked his sister.

"He said he had noticed a great many buffalo around lately and be was going to learn, if possible, what their object was," said the sister. "Well, we will wait until his return."

When Stone boy left on his trip that morning, before the return of his uncles, he was determined to ascertain what might be the meaning of so many buffalo so near the home of himself and uncles. He approached several bunches of young buffalo, but upon seeing him approaching they would scamper over the hills. Thus he wandered from bunch to bunch, scattering them all. Finally he grew tired of their cowardice and started for home.

When he had come to within a half mile or so of home he saw an old shaggy buffalo standing by a large boulder, rubbing on it first one horn and then the other. On coming up close to him, the boy saw that the bull was so old he could hardly see, and his horns so blunt that he could have rubbed them for a year on that boulder and not sharpened them so as to hurt anyone.

What are you doing here, grandfather?" asked the boy.

"I am sharpening my horns for the war," said the bull.

"What war?" asked the boy.

"Haven't you heard," said the old bull, who was so near sighted he did not recognize Stone boy.

"The chiefs twins were killed by Stone boy, who ran them over a cut bank purposely, and the chief has ordered all of his buffalo to gather here, and when they arrive we are going to kill Stone boy and his mother and his uncles."

"Is that so? When is the war to commence?"

"In five days from now we will march upon the uncles and trample and gore them all to death."

"Well, grandfather, I thank you for your information, and in return will do you a favor that "I save you so much hard work on your blunt horns."

So saying he drew a long arrow from his quiver and strung his bow, attached the arrow to the string and drew the arrow half way back The old bull, not seeing what was going on, and half expecting some kind of assistance in his horn sharpening process, stood perfectly still. Thus spoke Stone boy:

"Grandfather, you are too old to join in a war now, and besides if you got mixed up in that big war party you might step in a hole or stumble and fall and be trampled to death. That would be a horrible death, so I will save you all that suffering by just giving you this."

At this word he pulled the arrow back to the flint head and let it fly. True to his aim, the arrow went in behind the old bull's foreleg, and with such force was it sent that it went clear through the bull and stuck into a tree two hundred feet away.

Walking over to the tree, he pulled out his arrow. Coolly straightening his arrow between his teeth and sighting it for accuracy, he shoved it back into the quiver with its brothers, exclaiming: "I guess, grandpa, you won't need to sharpen your horns for Stone boy and his uncles."

Upon his arrival home he told his uncles to get to work building three stockades with ditches between and make the ditches wide and deep so they would hold plenty of buffalo. "The fourth fence "I build myself," he said.

The brothers got to work early and worked until very late at night. They built three corrals and dug three ditches around the hut, and it took them three days to complete the work. Stone boy hadn't done a thing towards building his fence yet, and there were only two days more left before the charge of the buffalo would commence. Still the boy didn't seem to bother himself about the fence.

Instead he had his mother continually cutting arrow sticks, and as fast as she could bring them he would shape them, feather and head them. So by the time his uncles had their fences and corrals finished he had a thousand arrows finished for each of his uncles. The last two days they had to wait, the uncles joined him and they finished several thousand more arrows. The evening before the fifth day he told his uncles to put up four posts, so they could use them as seats from which to shoot.

While they were doing this, Stone boy went out to scout and see how things looked. At daylight he came hurriedly in saying, "You had better get to the first corral; they are coming." "You haven't built your fence, nephew."

Whereupon Stone Boy said: "I will build it in time; don't worry, uncle."

The dust on the hillsides rose as great clouds of smoke from a forest fire. Soon the leaders of the charge came in sight, and upon seeing the timber stockade they gave forth a great snort or roar that fairly shook the earth. Thousands upon thousands of mad buffalo charged upon the little fort. The leaders hit the first stockade and it soon gave way. The maddened buffalo pushed forward by the thousands behind them; plunged forward, only to fall into the first ditch and be trampled to death by those behind them. The brothers were not slow in using their arrows, and many a noble beast went down before their deadly aim with a little flint pointed arrow buried deep in his heart.

The second stockade stood their charge a little longer than did the first, but finally this gave way, and the leaders pushed on through, only to fall into the second ditch and meet a similar fate to those in the first. The brothers commenced to look anxiously towards their nephew, as there was only one more stockade left, and the second ditch was nearly bridged over with dead buffalo, with the now thrice maddened buffalo attacking the last stockade more furiously than before, as they could see the little hut through the openings in the corral.

"Come in, uncles," shouted Stone boy. They obeyed him, and stepping to the center he said: "Watch me build my fence."

Suiting the words, he took from his belt an arrow with a white stone fastened to the point and fastening it to his bow, he shot it high in the air. Straight up into the air it went, for two or three thousand feet, then seemed to stop suddenly and turned with point down and descended as swiftly as it had ascended. Upon striking the ground a high stone wall arose, enclosing the hut and all who were inside. Just then the buffalo broke the last stockade only to fill the last ditch up again. In vain did the leaders butt the stone wall. They hurt themselves, broke their horns and mashed their snouts, but could not even scar the wall.

The uncles and Stone boy in the meantime rained arrows of death into their ranks.

When the buffalo chief saw what they had to contend with, he ordered the fight off. "Come away, come away, Stone boy and his uncles will kill us all."

So the buffalo withdrew, leaving over two thousand of their dead and wounded on the field, only to be skinned and put away for the feasts of Stone boy and his uncles, who lived to be great chiefs of their own tribe, and whose many relations soon joined them on the banks of Stone Boy Creek.

The Legend of the Flute

Well, you know our flutes, you've heard their sounds and have seen how beautifully they are made. These flutes of ours, the siyotanka, are for only one kind of music, love music. You can hear that music now if your speakers are turned on. It is playing a love song to Earth Mother, Maka. In the old days the men would sit by themselves, hidden and unseen, maybe leaning against a tree in the dark of night. They would make up their own special tunes, their courting songs.

We Indians are shy. Even if he was a warrior who had already counted coup on a enemy, a young man might hardly muster up enough courage to talk to a nice-looking winchinchala - a girl he was in love with. Also, there was no place where a young man and a girl could be alone inside the village. The family tipi was always crowded with people. And naturally, you couldn't just walk out of the village hand in hand with your girl, even if hand holding had been one of our customs, which it wasn't. Out there in the tall grass and sagebrush you could be gored by a buffalo, clawed by a grizzly, or tomahawked by a Pawnee, or you could run into the Mila Hanska, the Long Knives, the U.S. Cavalry.

The only chance you had to meet your winchinchala was to wait for her at daybreak when the women went to the river or brook with their skin bags to get water. When that girl you had your eye on finally came down to the water trail, you popped up from behind some bush and stood so she could see you. And that was about all you could do to show her that you were interested, standing there grinning, looking at your moccasins, scratching your ear, maybe.

The winchinchala didn't do much either, except get red in the face, giggle, maybe throw a wild turnip at you. If she liked you, the only way she would let you know was to take her time filling her water bag and peek at you a few times over her shoulder.

So the flutes did all the talking. At night, lying on her buffalo robe in her parents tipi, the girl would hear that moaning, crying sound of the siyotanka. By the way it was played, she would know that it was her lover who was out there someplace. And if the Elk Medicine was very strong in him and her, maybe she would sneak out to follow that sound and meet him without anybody noticing it.

The flute is always made of cedar wood. In the shape it describes the long neck and head of a bird with a open beak. The sound comes out of the beak, and that's where the legend comes in, the legend of how the Lakota people acquired the flute.

Once many generations ago, the people had drums, gourd rattles, and bull-roarers, but no flutes. At that long-ago time, a young man went out to hunt. Meat was scarce, and the people in his camp were hungry. He found the tracks of an elk and followed them for a long time. The elk, wise and swift, is the one who owns the love charm. If a man possesses Elk Medicine, the girl he likes can't help sleeping with him. This young man I'm talking about had no Elk Medicine.

After many hours he finally sighted his game. He was skilled with bow and arrows, and had a fine new bow and quiver full of arrows. Yet the elk always managed to stay just out of range, leading him on and on. The young man was so intent on following his prey that he hardly noticed where he went.

When night came, he found himself deep inside a thick forest. The tracks had disappeared and so had the elk, and there was no moon. He realized that he was lost and that it was too dark to find his way out. Luckily, he came upon a stream with cool, clear water. And he had been careful enough to bring a hide bag of wasna, dried meat pounded with berries and kidney fat, strong food that will keep a man going for a few days. After he had drunk and eaten, he rolled himself into his fur robe, propped his back against a tree, and tried to rest.

But he couldn't sleep, the forest was full of strange noises: the cries of night animals, the hooting owls, and the groaning of trees in the wind. It was as if he heared these sound for the first time.

Suddenly there was an entirely new sound, of a kind that neither he nor anyone else had ever heard before. It was mournful and ghost like. It made him afraid, so that he drew his robe tightly about himself and reached for his bow to make sure that it was properly strung. On the other hand the sound was like a song, sad but beautiful, full of love, hope, and yearning. Then before he knew it, he was asleep. He dreamed that the bird called wagnuka, the redheaded woodpecker, appeared singing the strangely beautiful song and telling him, "Follow me and I will teach you."

When the hunter awoke, the sun was already high. On a branch of the tree against which he was leaning, he saw a redheaded woodpecker. The bird flew away to another tree, and another, but never very far, looking back all the time at the young man as if to say, "Come on!" Then once more he heard that wonderful song, and his heart yearned to find the singer.

Flying toward the sound, leading the hunter, the bird flitted through the leaves, while it's bright red top made it easy to follow. At last it lighted on a cedar tree and began hammering on a branch, making a noise like the fast beating of a small drum. Suddenly there was a gust of wind, and again the hunter heard the beautiful sound right above him.

Then he discovered that the song came from the dead branch that the woodpecker was tapping his beak on. He realized also that it was the wind that made the sound as it whistled through the hole the bird had drilled.

"Kola, friend," said the hunter, "let me take this branch home. You can make yourself another."

He took the branch, a hollow piece of wood filled with woodpecker holes that was about the length of his forearm. He walked back to the village bringing no meat, but happy all the same.

In his tipi the young man tried to make the branch sing for him. He blew on it, he waved it around, but no sound came. It made him sad, he wanted so much to hear that wonderful new sound. He purified himself in the sweat lodge and climbed to the top of a lonely hill. There, resting with his back against a large rock, he fasted, going without food or water for four days and nights, crying for a vision which would tell him how to make the branch sing. In the middle of the fourth night, wagnuka, the bird with the bright red top appeared saying, "Watch me," turning himself into a man, showing the hunter how to make the branch sing, saying again and again, "Watch this, now." And in his dream the young man watched and observed very carefully.

When he awoke, he found a cedar tree. He broke off a branch and , working many hours, hollowed it out with a bowstring drill, just as he had seen the woodpecker do in his dream. He whittled the branch into the shape of the birds with a long neck and an open beak. He painted the top of the bird's head with washasha, the sacred red color. He prayed. He smoked the branch up with incense of burning sage, cedar, and sweet grass. He fingered the holes as he had seen the man-bird do in his vision, meanwhile blowing softly into the mouthpiece. All at once there was the song, ghost like and beautiful beyond words drifting all the way to the village, where the people were astounded and joyful to hear it. With the help of the wind and the woodpecker, the young man had brought them the first flute.

In the village lived an itanchan, a big chief. This itanchan had a daughter who was beautiful, but also very proud, and convinced that there was no young man good enough for her. Many had come courting, but she had sent them all away. Now, the hunter who had made the flute decided that she was just the woman for him. Thinking of her he composed a special song, and one night, standing behind a tall tree, he played it on his siyotanka in hopes that it might have a charm to make her love him.

All at once the winchinchala heard it. She was sitting in her father's tipi eating buffalo hump meat and tounge, and feeing good. She wanted to stay there, in the tipi by the fire, but her feet wanted to go outside. She pulled back, but her feet pulled forward, and the feet won. Her head said, "GO slow, go slow!" but the feet said, "Faster, faster!" She saw the young man standing in the moonlight, she heard the flute. Her head said, "Don't go to him, he's poor." Her feet said, "Go, run!" and again the feet prevailed.

So they stood face to face. The girl's head told her to be silent, but the feet told her to speak, and speak she did, saying, "Koshkalaka, young man, I am yours altogether." So they lay down together, the young man and his winchinchala, under one blanket.

Later she told him, "Koshkalaka, warrior, I like you. Let your parents send a gift to my father, the chief. No matter how small, it will be accepted. Let your father speak for you to my father. Do it soon! Do it now!"

And so the two fathers quickly agreed to the wishes of their children. The proud winchinchala became the hunter's wife, and he himself became a great chief. All the other young men had heard and seen what the flute did for the hunter, soon they too began to whittle cedar branches into the shape of birds' head with long necks and open beaks. The beautiful love music traveled from tribe to tribe, and made young girls feet go where they shouldn't. And that's how the flute was brought to the people, thanks to the cedar, the woodpecker, and this young man, who shot no elk, but knew how to listen.

Look not at our differences, but at how much we are alike.
We are indeed ONE!

An excellent page of Native American Lore with 150 stories from tribes everywhere on Turtle Island.

I say, once again, these are things that I know -

Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is in every step.

We shall learn to walk hand in hand.

There are no political or theological solutions to what is primarily a spiritual problem.

The ONLY solution is the TRUTH.

Remember, If the Creator put it there, it is in the right place. The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

I know that All must be brought into the Sacred Hoop for it to be mended. I often wonder how we will bring those who do not see even the simplest of Circles into the greatest Circle of all.

Then I remember it is a thing that has been promised by Spirit.
That is how I know it will come to be.

Aha! Love and Peace!
Barefoot Windwalker

Click for my wish for you this day
Click for a Message From Barefoot

To My Brothers and Sisters who have come to this page
Welcome to the Sacred Hoop!
May You Always Walk in the Sunlight of the Spirit!
You have volunteered to be a Teacher of God!
Your Path will not be easy!
But . . . Grandfather will guide your steps
One At A Time!

Love and Peace, Barefoot Windwalker
Barefoot's World
Email Barefoot

by Èlan Michaels