Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

The Deserted Children


Whenever a certain young man defecated, he discharged beads. Some little girls were playing at erecting a model tipi. The youth purposely defecated near them, and went home. A younger brother of his, who was playing with the children, bade the girls fetch some water and meat. The girls looked at the excrement and picked up the beads. The young man who had been watching them from afar, went home. For a while he re-fused to speak. His father asked him why he was silent. At last, he said, "Some bad girls have played with my excrements after I had defecated, and by their magic they are plotting to destroy us all. We must flee and abandon them here."

Accordingly, all the people packed their travois, muzzled their dogs, and ran away. The girls, who were playing with other children, did not know what had occurred. About the time of sunset one boy asked the girls to fetch some meat. Two boys who had gone to the camp returned, saying, "All the people have gone away." The girls did not believe it, and the oldest asked her sister to go with the boys. She said, "It is impossible that our mothers have abandoned us." The girl returned crying. "All are gone." The oldest girl said, "We had better follow them." The people had gone to a thick wood. The children could not find the tracks, though one old woman who pitied them had hung up moss to point the way.

At last, they came to an old cannibal witch. The bead-maker had dreamt of her and promised her the children for food. The girls asked her, "Where have our parents gone?" She answered, "You had better camp with me to-night." Being tired, the children were satisfied, and were going to stretch out near the lodge-poles, but the witch said, "There are lots of mice there, you had better sleep near the fire." She began boiling water in a kettle, then she cut off the oldest girl's head and cooked it. She cut off the heads of nearly all the children, and ate them. There was one girl who had been carrying her little brother. She knew the woman was a witch, so she had told her brother, "Watch while I sleep, the old woman may be bad." When the boy saw the witch severing the children's heads, he pinched his sister, but she continued sleeping. At last he bit her ear, and she woke up. When she saw what had happened, she implored the witch to spare her. "Don't kill me, I'll work for you and fetch your water and wood." The old woman consented to let her live. The first day the girl fetched firewood, but it was wet, and did not burn well. "Look for dry wood; if you bring bad wood, I will kill you. Leave your brother here." The girl said, "He is not cleanly, he may dirty you." "Well, take him with you, but come back soon." The girl went out with the little boy and found a buffalo skull. The skull said, "Come here, I am going to tell you something. You had better run after your parents. When you strike a big river, you will see two white swans there. Pick the, lice from the swan's head and chew them. Then just say, 'They are sweet."'

The children ran to the river, and followed directions. The swans then put their necks together, forming a bridge, on which they crossed. The witch called out, "Granddaughter, bring in the wood." The skull answered, "Wait, my brother has dirtied me." She called again, and again the skull answered for the fugitive. At last she got angry, took her axe, and went out. She could not see anyone and cried out, "Where are you, my grandchild?" Again the skull gave answer. She finally discovered that the skull was speaking, and said, "I'll break you in two." She tried to split it, but could not. Then she cried out to the girl, "Wherever you may go, I shall catch you." She tracked her until she got to the bank. She asked the swans to let her cross. One swan said, "Pick and chew my lice, or I won't let you cross." The witch obeyed, but when she chewed them, she cried, "They stink, I don't like them." "You are abusing me, you don't like me," said the swan. Nevertheless, the birds made a bridge, but instead of joining necks, they joined backs. The witch started to cross, but when she was in the middle of the stream, the swans raised their heads, and she fell into the river and was drowned.

The girl caught up to the people. She was perspiring from running so fast. Her mother said, "You bad girl, go back." The girl begged her father to let her stay with them, but he refused. At last, the good old woman who had hung up the moss said, "Bring your brother to my lodge." She allowed them to sleep there. The bead-maker said to the people, "Because that girl is with us, a cannibal is going to come here. You had better tie the boy and girl to two trees, urinate on them, and abandon them once more." The old woman remonstrated, but was told she might be abandoned too. She had a dog called Muskrat. She spoke to him as follows: "After I have fastened the tipi to your back, go into the brush. After the people are gone, return, untie the children, and let them have the tipi. Also lick the people's urine from their bodies." Then she went with the people. The dog stayed behind. His mistress pretended to call him, but he did not come. At last, he appeared without the lodge. The people searched for it. When they could not find it, the old woman said, "It is lost," and pretended to whip her dog.

The deserted girl put up the lodge. The boy asked her, "My sister, what ought we to eat?" "Buffalo meat, the meat of the animal of which we saw the skull." "In the morning a nice fat buffalo will be at our door," said he. "That is impossible." But the next morning, when she got up, she found a buffalo at the door. ,She was glad, skinned it, and dried the meat. Her brother said, "Make me a sweat-lodge." "No, you are too young." At last, however, she made one. He went in, and prayed. After a while, she noticed a change in his voice, as though it were that of a larger boy. He opened the door, and was a little taller than before. Every time he opened the door, he had grown somewhat. The fourth time he was a well-sized youth. He said, "To-morrow morning a big bear will lie at our door." "Bears are wild, how can we get his meat?" The next morning, never the less, she found a big bear at the door. She roused her brother, and told him about it. They had plenty of meat now. He said, "Tomorrow we shall have a handsome lodge." When she woke up the next morning she found herself in a beautiful lodge.

The boy said, "I am going to travel a little now." "Don't go far, or you will get lost." He made some arrows of willow-sticks, and feathered them. His sister gave him sinew. He made one arrow with a round head. Then he declared he was going to cross the mountains. "A big bear dwells there. He always kills people, he will kill you." He said, "I will go in another direction," but went straight towards the bear, singing, "I should like to meet something half-stone, half-bear." When he reached the cave, the bear came out. "What are you saying about me?" The boy repeated his song. "You are a wretched boy, I'll swallow you." "I'll kill you with my round-headed arrow." The bear said, "Yonder are four big trees. Stand over here and try to split them with one shot." "I can do that, the wood is not hard." He shot his arrow, and broke them easily. The bear became frightened. There was a big rock near his cave. "Shoot at this stone and break it," he said. "That is not hard," said the boy. He shot off an arrow, and the splinters flew like snow-flakes. The bear was afraid now, and ran away. The boy said to his arrow, "Enter his anus, go up to his neck, and break him in two." Thus the arrow killed the bear. The boy cut off his claws, and brought them to his sister. "Are these the claws of the bear you spoke of?" "How did you kill him?" "With this bow and arrows." "You always go to evil beings. Don't go to the giant. He kills moose and just puts them in his belt. He also carries a large staff."

The boy set out to meet the giant. He found his tracks. At last he saw him coming with moose in his belt. The giant said, "Who is this little man? I'll put him into my glove." He put him inside, and tried to crush him. with his clenched fist, but the boy tore his glove. Then he said, "I'll kill you with my staff." "You can't kill me that way." The giant held him in one hand, and tried to strike him with the other, but the boy held his other hand, so that the giant could not hurt him. The giant was perspiring. The boy said, "I thought you were strong." Taking his staff, he truck the giant's back, breaking it in two. He took one of his gloves, and went home. "Is this the one you called a strong man?" "How did you get this glove?" "I played with the giant, and split him in two with his own staff." "That giant has killed my people."

The boy said, "Some people are going to come to our camp." A short time after, a brother of theirs came there. He looked thin and starved. The girl fed him with pemmican and gave him food to take to his people. He did not recognize them, but told his people he had met a handsome man and his sister, who had given him all kinds of food. The people, who were famishing, came to the boy's lodge, but the girl would not give them any food. At last, the good old woman came with her dog, Muskrat. The girl called her. The dog knew her, and wagged his tail for joy. The girl fed both hospitably. Then her father came and begged for some food. She said, "Chew this up." He tried to eat some, but it was as hard as bones. Then the girl hit her father in, the neck with the dry meat. After this, she and her brother lived together with the old woman and her dog.

The Two Brothers.1

Two orphan brothers were traveling together along the shore of a big lake. They saw an old man paddling a canoe. The younger boy was playing with a white-tailed deer's hoofs, which he threw into the air and caught in his hands. The old paddler approached the shore. When the boy threw one of his hoofs into the air, it fell into the canoe, but the old man refused to give it up. The boy began to cry. The older brother demanded the toy, but still the old man refused. At last, he stretched out his paddle, bridging the distance between the shore and his canoe, and said, "Stand there, and I'll hand it to you." The youth obeyed, but the old man pulled in the paddle, so that he fell into the canoe. He cried, "Wait for my younger brother."' But the old man would not listen to him, and paddled away. The younger boy cried, running along the shore. Then he called out to his brother, "I am going to turn my feet into a wolf's."

The old man took his captive home. When they had landed, he turned his boat upside down, covering the young man with it. He then told the older of his two daughters to bring in her husband. She ran to the canoe, turned it over, and looked at him; but, as she did not like him, she turned the boat upside down again. When she returned to the lodge, her father asked, "Where is the young man?" She said he was too ugly for her. Her father said, "No, he is good-looking." He looked ugly because his eyes were swollen with crying. The father now asked the younger girl to bring him in. She took him home, washed his face, and combed his hair. He lived with her as her husband. Every day he went out hunting. His father-in-law had many manitou helpers. The youth killed one of them every day. In consequence, the old man grew tired and sickly. One day, the youth killed the last of the helpers, and the next day the old man did not wake up from his sleep.

The young man then set out to find his lost brother. He went to the spot where he had last seen him, and found the track to be that of a boy on one side and of a wolf on the other. Whom ever he met, he asked concerning his brother's whereabouts. At last, he was told, "He is living far away among the wolves." "Can't any of you bring him to me?" "No one can get him, he is too fast a runner to be caught." Then the youth said, "I'll turn myself into a dead moose. Tell the animals and the wolves, too."' They obeyed, and all the animals came. The wolves were there, and the wolf-boy among them. The wolf-boy recognized his older brother and refused to go to the carcass. The other wolves told him to eat without fear. Then, although he was afraid, he began to eat the buttocks. After a while, his brother jumped up in human shape, and seized him by the legs. The wolf struggled, but was overcome.

The two brothers then lived together, but were not on good terms with each other. The older boy sent his brother out to drive moose, himself following with his bow and arrows. One day they went out for moose. A fat moose ran into a lake, and the wolf followed. When the hunter saw this, he ran along the shore to where he expected both to land. When he got there, he only found moose tracks leading from the lake. He began to cry. At last he saw a bald-headed eagle on a tree inclined toward the lake. "What are you looking at?" he asked him. "I am watching the dogfish playing with a wolf-skin," replied the eagle. "How do these dog-fish live?" "About the time of dawn they come up to sleep on a sand-bank." The youth went to the sandbank where he found many dogfish rolling about. When they had fallen asleep, he approached and began shooting those nearest the water. He killed many of them, but others he merely wounded, and they fell back into the water with the arrows sticking in their bodies.

As he was standing by the shore, waiting for more fish to kill, he heard someone singing. He listened to the words, and walked towards the singer. He beheld a large toad with a reddened rattle slung across his breast and singing, "I am going on the warpath to cure." When the youth was close to the toad, he asked, "Where are you going?" The toad answered, "I am going to doctor the dogfish in the lake. Some one has killed many of them, and wounded others, whom I am going to treat." The youth asked when and where the toad was expected. When the toad had told him, he asked, "What are you going to do to cure the dogfish?" "I'll sing, 'I am going on the warpath to cure."' The young man slew the toad, flayed him, donned his skin, and walked on, singing his song. He went to the dogfish, who were waiting for the toad. He sang the toad's words, but instead of pulling out the arrows he killed the dogfish with them.2

1 Cf. Wissler and Duvall, p. 138 (Blackfoot); Kroeber, (e), p. 102 (Gros Ventre); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 286 (Arapaho); Kroeber, (d), p. 185 (Cheyenne); J. 0. Dorsey, (d), p. 92 (Omaha); G. A. Dorsey, (c), p. 36 (Osage); Id., (a), p. 97 (Pawnee).
2 For the "sham doctor" episode, cf. Maclean, p. 73 (Cree); Grinnell, (c), p. 152; Curtis. III, p. 116 (Dakota); J. 0. Dorsey, (d), p. 241 (Omaha); Schooleraft, p. 37 (Ojibwa); Hoffman, p. 133 (Menomini); G. A. Dorsey, (a), p. 250 (Pawnee); Jones, p. 357 (Fox).


Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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