Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

The Buffaloes' Ward


There once lived an orphan boy, who was raised by his grandfather and grandmother. One day his grandmother packed her travois, strapped the boy to the frame, and went to fetch wood. The dog gave chase to a jack-rabbit, and ran away with the baby. After a long while, he returned, but the child had fallen off. The old woman came home crying and told her husband what had happened. The old man asked the herald to announce that he wished some one to help him in searching for the child, and that he would reward those who aided him. Several young men came to his assistance, but their search was in vain.

The same evening a buffalo-bull was grazing with three cows and several calves. They found the lost baby. The bull picked it up, pitying it, and carried it the first day on their westward route. The next day a cow carried the infant, and nursed it. They took turns at carrying it. At last they arrived at a large lodge, the home of the buffaloes. There they brought up the foundling. When the boy was large enough to run about, one buffalo asked him, "Do you remember where you came from?" "No." Then the buffalo told him that he was different from them, not having any fur or hoofs. He pointed at the pemmican and berries they had kept for him, saying, "This is the food we raised you with, but we eat grass." He told him that he was born among the Indians, that this mother had died soon after, how his granny had strapped him to the travois, how he had been lost and found, and that he ought to see his own people. The boy did not know what "people" meant, so they explained it to him. They encouraged him to go through several ceremonies and promised to take him home. He answered, "I don't like to leave you, but if you take me to my own tribe, I shall be willing to go." They traveled with him for several days. When close to the camp, they halted. "Beyond that hill your grandfather is still living." A man walking on the outskirts of the camp discovered the boy. He offered to take him home. When the boy's grandparents heard a boy had been found, they thought this might be their lost grandson. They remembered cases where babies had been raised by foreign tribes and had ultimately returned. They went to the boy and questioned him, and he told the whole story. "The buffalo told me I had grandparents here." Then they made themselves known to him, and took him home.

At night, while the boy was resting, a voice was heard exhorting him to do what he had been told. In the morning, the old woman would ask what had happened. One day he made the following announcement. "I am going to call my grandfathers, and I want the people to aid me. I am going to call four buffaloes. Let a lodge be erected in the middle of the camp-circle. Let all that wish to help me bring new feathers, and beads, and shells and calico." The lodge was erected, and the gifts were heaped up inside. Then the boy started out over the hill and called four buffaloes from the herd that had raised him. They appeared in the distance. The boy went back to camp, and bade all the people tie up their dogs. Then four buffaloes came nearer in single file. They went right to the lodge. All the people looked at them. The boy entered also, put flannel around their necks, tied feathers to their hair, and divided the other gifts among them, telling them this was their reward for rescuing him.

The buffaloes went away. The boy told the people his friends would come the next morning. Early the next morning the buffalo occupied the entire camp-circle. So far as anyone could look, nothing but buffalo were to be seen. The people were scared. They entreated the boy to save them and not have the buffalo trample them down. He replied, "They will not hurt you, they are only coming as visitors. Don't chase them now." He took what goods had remained, and distributed them among the buffalo. That night all the herd disappeared. The boy also vanished. He was not seen any more.

The Buffalo Boy

A Blood Indian dug a hole in the ground; in it he left meat to bait eagles, which he caught by the legs and killed. Thus he killed a great many, and brought them to camp. When he was about to go again, his father warned him. "You have enough, don't go back for more." The youth disregarded the warning. He went back, erected a four-post frame near the hole, and tied himself thereto in order not to be carried away by the birds. He heard a noise in the air, and noticed a big red eagle descending. He tried to catch him in the usual way, but the bird seized his hands and carried him to a mountain, where he left him astride on a saddle-shaped crag. For four days he was left there without food or drink. At last the eagle came and took him back to the earth again. Before leaving, he gave him some of his wing-feathers. He bade him go home with them, leaving the feathers on the ground while he was sleeping. Every morning they would indicate the direction in whish he was to travel. On the fourth day he was to get to a hole in the ground, enter, and offer the feathers to whatever being he might

The boy obeyed. On the fourth day he went into a pit, and met a large buffalo, to whom he presented a feather. The buffalo did not hurt him, but said, "When you meet another buffalo, present him also with a feather." He met the second buffalo, and gave him a feather and also some sweet-grass obtained from the eagle. He got to a buffalo wallow. Following the bird's directions, he pulled out some moss. He saw the buffalo in their camp. To each he gave a portion of sweet-grass, and a feather. One old buffalo said, "I will give you my blanket; when you get to the hill, put it on. Then lie on the ground, turn over, and shake yourself." He did, and turned into a buffalo.

After a while he returned home. His parents thought he had died. They had cut their hair, and were lamenting his loss. He came upon them and asked, "Why are you crying?" They recognized him. They erected a lodge for him, and placed some grass within. He ate the grass like a buffalo. His father noticed it and bade his wife cut more grass for their son to eat. The young man's wife was frightened. She thought her husband also snorted like a buffalo, but he quieted her. For four days he continued to eat grass, then he ate the food of ordinary men.1

The Grizzly And His Ward.2

The people were hunting. One boy was sent for meat, but did not return. For several days they were looking for him, but could not find him. The boy had lost his way and could not get back. He walked along crying. After some time he met a grizzly bear. The bear asked, "Why are you crying?" "I have lost my way." "Stay with me." He stayed with the bear all summer, feeding on berries. In the fall the Bear said, "We ought to look for some place to hibernate in." They went into a cave and spent the winter there. At the end of the winter, the Bear said, "Spring is coming. Your parents are lonesome, I shall give your father my blanket."

One day the Bear and the boy heard a man coming. He stopped near the cave, heard the Bear moving within, and reported the fact to his people, saying, "Let us try to kill the bear." The Bear knew what he was saying and instructed the boy not to be frightened when they would shoot him. Many Indians were heard coming. The Bear hid the boy in one corner of the cave. Then he lay down with his arms before his face. One man shot the Bear through the head. The frightened boy screamed aloud. They pierced the Bear's cheeks and inserted a rope to pull him out with, but he was too heavy. Then one man went inside to push from the rear. -He found the boy covering his face with his arms. He addressed him, but the boy would not answer, for he loved the dead Bear. At last, the boy's father said, "This is the boy I lost."

1 A Stoney tale presents a combination of 'elements found in this and the preceding story. A baby boy, strapped to a travois, is lost, raised by a buffalo and ultimately recaptured by the Indians. He puts on a buffalo-robe with a horn headdress, eats grass for a long time, and expresses his preference for a buffalo life. In another Stoney version, the buffalo present the boy with a buffalo-scalp and a medicine pipe. The pipe would turn every night so as to indicate the direction he was to follow for his next' day's journey. By putting on the scalp and rolling on the ground he could transform himself into a buffalo and thus flee from enemies. Returning to his parents, he eats grass in the night. He becomes chief of the buffalo-pen, and his descend-ants inherit the office.
2 Cf. Wissler and Duvall, p. 93 (Blackfoot).


Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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