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Friday, March 6, 2015

Story of the Bird Clan

A Chickasaw Legend
This clan was not very numerous. Their origin was not known for
some time, but finally it was discovered. There were some people
living on two neighboring hills, but for a long time it was not
thought that these had inhabitants.
These hills were thought uninhabited because other people did not
see how they could get down from them to hunt. When they found that they actually were inhabited they thought that the occupants must have wings, and so they called them Birds.
They were people who were up and off before day. They did not have
many peculiar customs. They were like real birds in that they would
not bother anybody. They usually had many wives, and they had a
good custom of not marrying anyone outside of their clan or those
belonging to another house group. A woman might belong to the very
same clan as a man, but if her house name was different from his
he would not marry her.
The reason was that they did not want to mix their blood with that
of other people. They kept to the ways of their ancestors without
disturbing anyone else. They were satisfied with what had been handed down to them. The people of this clan had different sorts of minds, just as there are different species of birds.
Some have the minds of wood-peckers, others of crows, others of
pigeons, eagles, chicken hawks, horned owls, common owls, buzzards, screech owls, day hawks, prairie hawks, field larks, red-tailed hawks, red birds, wrens, hummingbirds, speckled woodpeckers, cranes, bluebirds, blackbirds, turkeys, chickens, quails, tcowe eak (birds found only in winters and looking like martins), yellow hammers, whip-poor-wills, and like all other kinds of birds.
Some have homes and some have not, as is the case with birds. It
seems as though the best people of the Bird clan were wiser than
any others. They do not work at all, but have an easy time going
through life and go anywhere they want to.
They have many offspring as birds have. They do whatever they desire, and when anything happens to them they depend on persons of their own house group without calling in strangers.
This is the end of the story of the Birds, although much more might
be written about them.


These people dressed differently from others but in most of their customs they were similar. They had a certain habit, however, in which they were unique and that was that they would kill one other.
Their taste in the matter of food was also peculiar. They liked to dance as well as any other people and would rather dance the Raccoon dance then eat. When they were going to have a dance they would send out a messenger to announce the fact, and afterwards the old men and old women would dance all night. When they were preparing for a dance they would boil certain roots to make a kind of tea which they considered stimulating. They could dance all night without feeling any ill effects. The foods of which they were fondest were fish and all kinds of fruits such as grapes.
When fruit was plentiful they like that best which ripens early in the winter. In the spring they ate every kind of thing that was eatable. In the fall they hung bunches of grapes up to dry and then stored them away for winter’s use. In summer they dried green corn for the winter.
Some made shuck (or blue) bread, some made cold flour, and some laid away meal out of which porridge is made. Some foods would last as long as they desired.
These people were very cunning. They knew just what to do and how to do it and could not be cheated by others, except for the younger people, who were easily deceived. They would not undertake anything of which they were not sure in advance. They would not let other clans intermarry with theirs.
They had clever ways of finding out what they wanted to know, and they depended very much upon a conjurer (apoloma), who could excel in the game of hiding-the-bullet, in horse racing, and in the ball game.
Sometimes the conjurer was called a wizard (ieta holo). They had great faith in him and he was not afraid of undertaking any task assigned to him, yet he was not as good as a doctor (alektci). He could imitate any sort of animal or bird, but he could work only among his own people, or near his own side, fearing lest the opponents would kill him. The others did not know what he might do. Whatever the conjurer chose to do was considered right, but some conjurers were afraid to do as they ought by their own side lest the opponents should injure them afterwards. The conjurer foretold what was going to happen to the ball players and those that heeded his advice did not get into trouble, but some would forget and suffer injuries and be sorry that they had not been obedient.
When the people headed the conjurer’s warning they usually won, i.e., if their conjurer was better than that on the side of the opponents.
These people had great faith in their leaders and most of them would heed their advice, but there were a few who would not listen to the advice of the older people, and through these in course of time all went to the bad.
Some would not visit the sick or have anything to do with them though they were under oath to assist them. They were too proud. They became utterly incompetent because they would listen neither to the conjurer nor the old people.
Sometimes, too, the conjurer told them lies and they found it out and for that reason would not listen to him.



ONCE in the hot Summer weather, a lovely girl, named Feather Woman, was sleeping among the tall prairie grasses by the side of her lodge. She awoke just as the Morning Star was rising. As she gazed at its brightness, it seemed so beautiful that she loved it with all her heart. She roused her sister, who was sleeping beside her, and said: "Oh, sister, look at the Morning Star! I will never marry anybody except that Star!"

The sister laughed at her, and, getting up, ran into the camp, and told what Feather Woman had said, and the people all mocked and laughed. But Feather Woman paid no heed to their unkind words, but rose each day at dawn, and gazed on the Morning Star.

One morning early, as she went alone to the river, to fetch water for the lodge, she beheld a bright youth standing in the river-path.

"Feather Woman," said he, smiling, "I am Morning Star. I have seen you gazing upward, and am now come to carry you back with me to my dwelling."

At this Feather Woman trembled greatly. Then Morning Star took from his head a rich yellow plume. He placed it in her right hand, while in her other hand he put a branch of Juniper. And he bade her close her eyes, and she did so.

When she opened her eyes, she was in the Sky Land, standing in front of a shining lodge, and Morning Star was by her side. This was the home of his parents, the Sun and the Moon.

The Sun was away, casting his hottest Summer rays on the parched Earth, but the Moon was at home, and she welcomed Feather Woman kindly. She dressed the girl in a soft robe of buckskin trimmed with Elk-teeth. And when the Sun came back that night, he called Feather Woman his daughter.
So she was married to Morning Star, and they lived happily in the shining lodge. In time they had a little son, whom they named Star-Boy.

One day the Moon gave Feather Woman a root-digger, and told her to go about the Sky Land, and dig up all kinds of roots; but on no account to touch the Great Turnip that grew near the lodge. For if she did so, unhappiness would come to them all.

So day after day, Feather Woman went out and dug roots. She often saw the Great Turnip, but though she never touched it, her heart was filled with a desire to see what lay beneath it.

One day as she was wandering near the lodge, she was so overcome by curiosity, that she laid Star-Boy on the ground, and taking her root-digger, began to dig around the Great Turnip. But the digger fastened itself in the side of the Turnip, and she could not withdraw it. Just then two large Cranes flew over her head, and she called them to help her. They sang a magic song, and the Great Turnip was uprooted.
Then Feather Woman looked down through the hole where the Turnip had been, and, lo, far below she saw the camp of the Blackfeet, where she had lived. The smoke ascended from the lodges, and she could hear the laughter of the playing children, and the songs of the women at work. The sight filled her with homesickness, and she went back weeping to the shining lodge.

As she entered, Morning Star looked earnestly at her, and said, "Alas! Feather Woman, you have uprooted the Great Turnip!"

The Sun and the Moon, also, were troubled, when they knew she had been disobedient to their wishes; and they said that she must return at once to Earth. So Morning Star took Feather Woman sadly by the hand, and placing little Star-Boy upon her shoulder, led her to the Spider Man who lived in the Sky Land.
Then the Spider Man wove a web through the hole made by the Great Turnip, and let Feather Woman and her child down to the Earth. And her people saw her coming like a falling Star.

She was welcomed by her parents, and they loved little Star-Boy. And though after that Feather Woman always lived with her people, she was not happy; but longed to return to the Sky Land, and see Morning Star. But her longings were in vain, and soon her unhappy life was ended.

Omukoatassim, Sarcee

Sarcee (Tsuu T'ina)
The Tsuu T'ina or Sarcee are an Athapaskan or DENE Nation whose reserve adjoins the southwestern city limits of Calgary. The name "Sarcee" is believed to have originated from a Blackfoot word meaning boldness and hardiness. The Sarcee people call themselves Tsuu T'ina (also Tsúùt'ínà), translated literally as "many people" or "every one (in the Nation)."
Photo: Image PairsCreate a new pairPairs created by visitors : 0
Omukoatassim, Sarcee, near Calgary, AB, about 1885
William Hanson Boorne
About 1885, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
20 x 25 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. T. E. Stevenson
© McCord Museum

The Sarcee are also considered part of the Blackfoot nation but are of Athapaskan linguistic stock. This small tribe divided from the subarctic Beaver in the mid-1800s and integrated themselves with the Blackfoot in customs, lifestyle, and marriage but retained their original tongue.
Photo: Chief Roy Whitney - Sarcee

Big Plume's camp, Sarcee

When Diamond JENNESS visited the reserve in 1921, the Nation consisted of five bands: Big Plumes, Crow Childs, Crow Chiefs, Old Sarcees and Many Horses. Before they were confined to the reserve, each BAND, led by a chief, camped in TIPIS and hunted along the edge of the forest during the winter. During summer all bands met in the open prairie to hunt buffalo, collect berries and engage in ceremonies, dances and festivals.
The only photograph I can find of the five bands named above. If you find one or have one, please post in the comment section.
Photo: Photograph
Big Plume's camp, Sarcee, near Calgary, AB, about 1885
William Hanson Boorne
About 1885, 19th century

Story Of The Red Fox Clan

A Chickasaw Legend
Red Fox (Tcula) was once found in a cave asleep by a hunter. The hunter crept up to him and saw that it was Tcula. As he lay there asleep he looked red all over, and in consequence the hunter called him Red Fox.
From that time on his descendants have been known as the Red Fox clan.
Some time after this Red Fox took up with a woman belonging to the Wildcat clan. Their descendants were known as Tcula homa iksa, and they lived only in the woods. They made a living by stealing from other people, and that was why they wanted to live in the timber continually. If this clan had been handed down through the women, it would have been numerous to-day; but since it depended on the father’s side it did not last long.
They kept on stealing until about 1880, when the other people got tired of them and killed nearly all, so that there are now only a few remaining among the Choctaw and Chickasaw.
A person of the Red Fox clan did whatever he liked.
Once a man of this clan went hunting. He did not return that day nor the next day after. In fact he was gone for several days, and presently the people thought something had happened to him and chose three men to send in search of him.
These men at length reached a place where they expected to find him, but when they got close to it he was not there. They discovered that he had taken up with a woman of the Bird clan; that was why he had not returned home. When they at length came to the place where he was living, he told them that he did not think it was harmful to take any woman, whether she was of the same clan or not.
Therefore, when he met this woman and found that he liked her and that she liked him, they lived together. The men told him that it was against the will of his people and contrary to their customs, but he could not be persuaded and after a while they left him.
Before he left his people he had already been married. Afterwards he wanted to go back to live with them as he had before, but they would not listen to him.
It was the belief of the people of the Red Fox clan that one should not marry outside, and it was their law that if one did so they would not have anything to do with him. They would not help him in any way but he who obeyed their customs was held in respect among them. They believed that things moved on as was intended by the Creator, but some people did not have any regard for this and did not care what happened to them.
The customs and habits of the Red Fox clan are different from those of any other, and the same was true of those of the Double Mountain people. Anyone who wanted to learn their ways must marry one of their women (which, judging by what was said in the last paragraph in the case of the Red Foxes, would seem to have been difficult).

When winter was approaching and these people wanted to go on a hunt, they began their preparations a considerable time in advance. Some of them would get together and decide how many were to go and how long they would be gone.
Then these persons would fast for four days and meanwhile the women would cook food for them to take, enough to last for the time determined upon. They made sacks into which to put cold flour (banaha). While the men were fasting they would not sleep with their wives, for if one did he thought that luck would abandon him and he would kill no deer.
Some would not observe these rules and in consequence they were usually excluded from the party. If such a person were permitted to go, the deer would see him first and run off. But those who obeyed the regulations would have good luck and kill many deer and bear to bring home.
When they killed a deer they dried the meat to last them through the winter. When they went after bear they hunted about until they discovered his lair and then one of the hunters went into it bearing a pine torch.

John R. Swanton, 44th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1926

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


A hunter was out one day in search of game. All of a sudden, a big black bear out of a bush.
The hunter had only his spear and knife to defend herself.
"Awassos, I'm not here to hurt you, I let you in peace. "
But the bear, Awassos had something else in mind and advance towards the hunter. The latter, fearing for his life away. The bear knew he was stronger than the hunter and began pursuit.
To protect themselves, the hunter ran away with the tip of his spear toward the back.
Seeing a thick grove, He ran through it hoping that the branches will slow the bear.
Then the hunter realizes that his spear was taken in an ivy.
In a desperate attempt to clear his spear, the hunter takes over all his strength.
Then, suddenly, while the bear caught him, the hunter escapes his spear flew towards the bear.
The ivy was used to propel the spear.
To the surprise of the hunter, spear s' sinks into the chest of the animal, inflicting a mortal wound.
"IAHI! "Exclaimed the hunter.
"Wliwni, Kchi Niwaskw! "
"Thank you, Great Spirit, for saving my life, giving me food and clothes for my family. "
It's thanking the Great Spirit that the hunter realizes he could make a new weapon.
"Enni! "Enthuses the hunter.
Rather than using a tree, it could now use a tree branch and instead ivy, he could use a rope made with milkweed.
The hunter thanked the Great Spirit for having provided this new hunting tool.

And so the bow and arrow were created!

Joseph Bruchac
Poet of the Nation Abenaki Indian

Art: Bev Dolittle "Doubled Back - Grizzly Bear"

Cheyene Legend

Previously, bison ate men. There was then a board organized by the magpie and the hawk, human friends, who decided that a race would be held among the animals and eat the winners beaten.
The magpie and the hawk represent men.
The planned tour was long, it was the turn of the mountain. The most agile bison called Neika (agile head) and he was sure to win the race. All the animals and all the birds were covered with paint for the race and that is why since that time they have attractive colors.
They rushed and ran as fast as possible. All the little birds, turtles, rabbits, coyotes, wolves, flies, ants, insects and snakes were soon outdistanced ...
the approach of the mountain, the bison was in the lead then came the magpie and the hawk, and the rest of the animals stretched along the road in a cloud of dust.
Around the mountain bison led the race, but near the finish the two birds swooped and won the race for men.
The buffalo said to his small to hide men because they were likely to hunt, and they ate human flesh for the last time. Young bison did this by placing the meat in front of their chest below their throat.
That's why we do not eat that part of the bison.
Since that day, the Cheyenne hunting buffalo.
Like birds, friends of the men had helped them, they do not eat them but they wear their pretty feathers as ornaments.