Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology



Long ago, there lived a very handsome youth. All the girls were eager to marry him, but he did not care for women. There was a good-looking girl who was living with her grandmother. She proposed to the youth, but he refused to marry her. The girl returned and complained to her grandmother. The old woman was angry, and said, "Let me stay behind when the camp moves." When the camp was broken, the old woman remained in the rear. The men went out to hunt. She allowed them to pass without saying anything. At last, when the young man came, she asked him to pack her on his back. "Why do you ask me to do this ?" "I am unable to walk. Carry me on your back and put me off near the camp." Finally, the youth consented and carried her near the camp. There he tried to set her down, but she stuck tight. He tried to throw her off, running against trees, but she still stuck to him. When he saw he could not get her off, he began to cry. Some women, hearing the noise, ran up to see what was the matter. When they tried to pull her off, the hag cried, "Don't bother me, I am his wife." They could not get her down; they went to the youth's father and told him what had happened. The old man said, "Whoever pulls off the old woman, may marry my son." A number of women tried, but all failed. Whenever they caught hold of her, the old woman cried, "Let me alone, I am married to him." There were two good-looking girls who did not say anything, but thought they could rid the youth of his burden. They went there and found him lying on his stomach. One went on either side. They began to pull. Four times they pulled, and the last time they pulled the old woman off, whereupon they killed her. The youth's back had been fouled by the woman's urine. They washed him, and doctored him in a sweat-lodge. Thus they restored him to his former condition. When he was clean again, they had him for a husband.

The Snake-Man

Two men were traveling together for a long time. They were away from camp all summer. One day they reached a big mountain. A large snake was lying in their path. They could not but cross it. One said, "Let us burn the middle part of its body." They built a fire, and thus burnt themselves a passage. One of them said, "Let us eat the part of the body that has been cooked by our fire." His comrade tried to dissuade him, but his friend cut off a slice and began to eat. After eating a large piece, he was ready to go on. On the fifth day after this adventure his body, from his feet to his knees, was changed into the skin of a yellow snake. The next night he was a snake up to his waist. The next night all his body up to his breasts was that of a snake. His companion was frightened and ran away, but the snake-man ran with him. They lay down to rest again. The next morning the snake-man roused his friend. "Sit up, I have become a different being." His friend saw that he had turned into a large snake just like that which had lain in their path. The snake-man said, "Go home, I am going to stay in this river," and plunged into the water.

One day, Thunder wished to kill this snake, but he could not find it. He only found turtles on the bank, which had developed from the spots on its skin.

Two men were traveling together. About noon they were getting hungry and tired. One of them said, "We had better turn back." On their return walk they saw something in front of them. It was a piece of burnt snake-meat. One of them said, "It looks like good meat, let us eat of it." His comrade said, "No, the old people say it is bad." Nevertheless, the man picked up a piece and ate it. They passed on. After sunset the snake-eater said, "One of my toes is getting white." The next day there were white spots all over his feet. He gradually became white up to his knees and waist. Later, he became white up to his mouth. Finally, he turned into a big snake, and said, "Friend, you had better go home, I'll stay in this river." His comrade returned to camp, and told the people what had happened.

The snake man's younger brother was getting lonesome. He was always lamenting the loss of his brother. Once he walked up a hill, crying. The Thunder asked him, "My grandchild, why are you crying?" "My brother is gone, and I am lonesome." "You cannot see your brother now, but come home with me. My tail-feathers are spread out, you can sit on them." Thus he carried there boy up a steep mountain to his house. The boy saw a pile of bones. He thought to himself, "I never eat this kind of meat." Thunder sent him away to hunt. When he returned, he cooked and ate the game. Thunder said, "You see people's bones here, they' are my children's. Some being that is all iron, except for its mouth, has slain them. If you kill this monster, I will help you to get back your brother." The boy said, "If you can't kill it, I am surely too weak." At last he said, "I need a bow and two arrows, one larger than the other." Thunder bade him get feathers and elk sinew, and himself got willow sticks. The boy made arrows out of them, but he could not get feathers. Thunder then plucked out some of his own wing feathers. When the boy was ready, Thunder said, "It is time for the ogre to come." A loud noise was heard. "That is the one that has slain my sons." Again the noise was heard. The boy prepared his arrows. The monster just showed his eyes in the west. While he was looking around, the boy who was holding the arrows in his mouth shot him, striking his heart. He rolled down like a mountain. Then Thunder split him in two with his lightning. "Now I will help you to see your brother," said Thunder. "I see him in the middle of the river as a big snake, but when I approach he will make himself little." He put the boy under his tail feathers, and they flew to the river. They saw a big snake there, but as they approached it grew small. When they got quite close, nothing could be seen but a turtle. The boy said, "All I can see is a turtle." Thunder said, "Stand close to it, I'll go away, then you will see your brother." When he had flown away, the turtle stood up as a man. "Thunder is bad, he kills people. I never kill anyone." The boy rejoiced to see his brother again, and they went home together.

Sitcon'ski was living alone on the earth. He was young and handsome, and was the best hunter. He declared, "My name shall be Caribou." He went out hunting once while it was raining and hailing. He killed and skinned a buffalo. Suddenly Thunder took him away to his lodge on a mountain top. There were people's bones there, belonging to Thunder's children. Thunder said, "Watch my young ones. I don't wish to lose them all, when the ogre comes." The ogre was all iron, except at the neck and mouth. Caribou said, "I need two arrows." Thunder brought him the arrows and departed. After a while, Caribou heard something coming. When it came close, the clanking of iron was heard. He could see the head of the ogre. It was horned and had a face both in front and in the back. When it lay down near the eyrie, Caribou shot it twice in the neck and killed it. When Thunder returned, he was very glad. He rolled the ogre's corpse down a mountain, breaking it in two. Then he took Caribou home. The people had heard the sound of the ogre rolling down the hill. Caribou told them what he had done. Then the hill was named Two-Faces-Broken-in-Two.

Caribou once asked a man to take a walk with him. They traveled together for ten days. One morning, they saw something lying in their path. It was a big snake, looking like a hill. Caribou said, "We can't cross'. We'll have to burn the snake." So they burnt it up and cooked it. Caribou wanted to eat the meat. His comrade tried to dissuade him, but Caribou tasted a piece and found it sweet. His comrade also tasted some, but did not like it, and went home, followed by this friend. In the evening they built a fire. Caribou said, "I am queer." He began to look like a snake. The other man was scared. He did not sleep, but kept walking all the night. The next day Caribou's skin was almost completely like a snake's. Both were tired and went to sleep by a river. Suddenly Caribou roused his companion, "Wake up, I am queer, I have turned into a big snake. Go home to tell the people. I shall watch this river. If anyone crosses it, he must first throw in some gift. Unless he does so, I shall devour him."2 Then Caribou dropped into the river.

Thunder wished to kill the snake, but could not catch it. It would disappear or turn into a turtle. Thunder asked for the assistance of Caribou's friend. This man made many little frogs, which killed the turtle.

The Aw-Elbow Witches.3

Two bad old women used to sleep together. Whenever anyone came to the door, they asked him to sit down inside. When the visitors tried to pass out again, the women, who had awls at their elbows, would pierce and kill the people with them. Once a man came to the door. "Grand-mothers, I wish to visit you, but you must sit back to back and must not look at me." Then he rolled up his blanket, saying, "I will sit in the middle." But instead of sitting between them, he merely put his blanket in. When the witches thought he was there, they tried to pierce him, but only stabbed and killed each other.

These women also had bad medicine tied up with pointed sticks. If they wished to kill anyone, they just unwrapped the stick and touched the person with it, and he would turn into a rotten stick. They also had another medicine for disenchanting their victims. The man who killed them touched them with their bad medicine to make sure they would not recover.

1 Maximilian, II, p. 185 (Mandan); p. 230 (Hidatsa). Cf. further: Kroeber, (e) p. 116 (Gros Ventre); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 150 (Arapaho); Simms, p. 296 (Crow); J. 0. Dorsey, (d), p. 322 (Omaha); G. A. Dorsey, (d), p. 78 (Arikara).
2 The demand for sacrifices mentioned in the myth, and the actual offering of such to the
serpent among the Mandan and Hidatsa, is vouched for by Maximilian.
3 Cf. Riggs, p. 140, (Dakota), and the last paragraph with The False Comrade, p. 205.
The motive occurs in James Bay Cree mythology (Skinner).

Assiniboin Mythology

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .

Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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