Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

The Game Thief


An old man was living with his son-in-law. Every day the young man went out hunting, but could not get any game. One day he saw a man skinning a big moose. He felt ashamed. The successful hunter covered his meat with willow-leaves and went home. The young man stole the meat and carried it to the other side of the hill. He traced a moose-track with one of the legs. When he brought the meat home, his father-in-law rejoiced. "Where did you kill it?" "Over there, by the spring." The old man moved to where the meat was and began to roast it, while the women were dressing the skin. The owner of the meat appeared with his wives and claimed the property. The old man was ashamed of his son-in-law. The hunter said, "I just want the skin, you may keep the meat. In our camp there is plenty of meat, our people are not hungry." He went away. In the evening the young man returned with' some game he had really killed. "Where did you steal this meat again?" The young man asked, "What did I ever steal before?" "Yesterday you stole the other man's moose. To-day he claimed it. He only wants the skin, you may have the meat. Where did you steal this game?" The young man pro-tested that he had killed it himself. The old man looked for the tracks, then he believed him. Thereafter the young man was a good hunter.

The Meeting In A Cave1

A Blood Indian was traveling alone. In the night he stopped in a cave. A Kootenay was also traveling all by himself. He went into the same cave, not knowing that anyone was inside. lie found the Blood there. Both remained within until daylight., Then they caught hold of each other's arms and passed outside. Not understanding each other's language, they communicated by means of signs and thus discovered to what tribe each belonged. They spread a blanket, smoked, and agreed to stay together as comrades. A long while afterwards, the Kootenay said, "I should like to return home, but let us first have a wrestling-match." They bet their property against each other. The Blood threw the Kootenay and won the stakes. Then the Kootenay wagered his scalp against the lost property, threw his comrade, and won everything back. Then the Blood staked his scalp. The Kootenay won again, tied a string around the Blood's scalp, and cut it off. Next they wagered their lives. The Kootenay won again, killed the Blood, and went back to his home across the mountains.

The Gambling Contests2

The people were living together in a camp circle. The chief had two sons, the older of whom cared very much for the fox-dance. One day the fox dance was to be performed, and all the members prepared for it in their dance-lodge. They went around the circumference of the camp. The younger brother thought he would take his older brother's horse and watch. He did so, and followed the dancers. When his brother saw him, he pushed him off the horse, saying that he did not wish anyone but him-self to ride it. The young man walked home, picked up some moccasins made for his older brother, and sneaked away, being ashamed of what had happened. His father asked the people to search for him, but he could not be found.

The first night the young man slept out on the prairie. The next day he traveled on. Towards evening, he reached a small herd of buffalo. He said, "I am going around to see whether I can hit one of these buffalo with an arrow." He got ahead of them, and when close to the buffalo he shot one, hitting him in the side so that the arrow stuck in it. The buffalo staggered and fell. The man picked up his robe and approached the dead animal. It had been hit by another marksman on the other side. Each man butchered half of the animal, then they built a fire of buffalo-chips. The other man's name was Crow. They cooked their food. Crow brought his share to the young man, saying, "Friend, eat what I have cooked." The young man reciprocated. They ate. Crow went west, without wait-ing for the young man, who followed after him. In the evening, they found the same herd ahead of them. The boy sneaked up and killed one buffalo; as he was going up to butcher it, he found that it had also been shot by Crow from the other side. Again they built a fire and cooked. Crow waited on the boy, then the latter reciprocated, as before. When they had eaten, Crow departed. The next day the boy traveled on. Late in the evening he reached a small herd. Sneaking up, he shot an arrow at one of the buffalo. Going to butcher it, he again found Crow's arrow sticking in the other side. They cooked and exchanged their shares again, then they ate without speaking to each other. Crow departed. The next day the boy continued his journey. In the evening he got to a small herd of buffalo. He killed one, which had also been shot by Crow. They cooked, exchanged their shares, and ate, then Crow left. The next morn-ing the boy continued traveling. About noon he saw a man approaching, so he sat down. Crow sat down in front of him. "To-morrow noon," said Crow, "we will play a game, but before that we will smoke." He filled a black pipe and offered it to the boy. The boy took out his red pipe, filled it, and handed it to Crow. Both smoked, exchanging pipes from time to time. Crow said, "Do you understand what I told you? To-morrow we are going to play a game." The boy agreed. Crow went off. The boy slept.

Early the next day Crow came and said, "To-day we will play a game." They were near a rock. Crow untied a bundle, containing a netted wheel and two darts. He gave one stick to the boy, and said, "When I roll this wheel, it will be your turn to throw." Each wagered some of his clothes. The boy hit the net, Crow missed. They walked back. Crow rolled the hoop again. The boy hit it, Crow missed again. Crow rolled it again The boy hit it, Crow missed. Crow said, "If you hit it again, you win the first game." They threw the darts again; Crow missed, while the boy hit the net and won the first game. Crow bet again. "It will now be my turn to throw first."' The boy rolled the hoop, Crow hit the net, and the boy missed. Four times Crow hit the net, and the boy missed. Thus Crow retrieved what he had lost. The boy now staked all his belongings except his clout on the next game. Crow said, "This will be the last of our games. If you win, you get all my clothes. We will do more, we will wager our scalps." The boy took the hoop and rolled it. Crow hit it, and the boy missed. Crow won four times in succession. "I have beaten you," said Crow, and scalped the boy. Then he said, "I don't want to see you go bare-headed, I will cover you with a buffalo robe." And he covered him with a robe. "What will you do now?" he asked. "Eight days from now I shall bring more stakes to wager against you. My father is a big chief, and I have many relatives." Crow said, "The first one to get here shall plant a stick in the ground." They separated.

The boy quickly traveled homewards. It had taken him five days and four nights to reach the gambling-site, but he made the return trip so as to get home on the fourth evening. Instead of going to his father, he went to another chief, who was sitting with bowed head before the fire. The chief said, "Old woman, rise, a visitor has come." She stirred the fire. "Who are you, stranger?" "I am So-and-so's lost son." The chief raised him and kissed him. He told the boy that everyone had sought him in vain and that he himself had vowed to adopt him as a son if he were found, not having any children of his own. They arranged his bed, and gave him fine clothes to wear. The boy said, "Father, I have come to get people to accompany me to a place where I was beaten in a game. I should like your band to go there." The crier was summoned to herald the news. All traveled to the gambling-site. On the fourth morning, the boy said, "I'll go ahead to yonder big rock." He dressed up, took a stick that was painted red, and with his tobacco pouch and pipe he rode up to the rock. At a short distance, he saw Crow approaching from the other side with the boy's scalp suspended from a pole. The boy arrived first and planted his stick. When Crow got there, he put his stick next to the boy's. The boy filled his pipe, and they smoked each other's pipes. Both Crow's and the boy's followers camped near-by. The two opponents went to their respective bands. The boy said to his father, "I should like to have a couple of women." The chief appointed an old man to get two of the prettiest girls. The boy was satisfied with them. "I want ten women that have never been married." The women were called. "I want eight young men." The eight young men came. "Now I want some one to ride a race-horse for me." A herd of horses was around the chief's camp. The boy said, "If anyone wishes to ride for me, I will fill my pipe for him and give him a bucketful of food. After the race is over, he may marry the ten women and I will give him ten horses from this herd." He passed the pipe to the young men present, but none accepted it. He then asked his father to send for more young men. Again he filled and passed the pipe, but the young men went out without smoking. Then he had the young boys summoned. He passed the pipe, making the same offer as before, but no one accepted it.

At last, a poor boy living with his grandmother rode up on his crippled horse and inquired why the pipe was being passed. When he heard the reason, he accepted the pipe and smoked it. All those within the lodge raised their hands (as a token of their gratitude). The poor boy ate the berries set before him. He had a wooden whistle suspended from his neck by a buckskin string painted red. His hair was unkempt and lousy. The chief's son had the boy combed, then every one went to the race-ground. From the other side, Crow and his people were approaching. The chief's son said, "I will choose my game, we shall have a horse-race." Crow selected a rider. The boy said, "We will just run once. I bet everything belonging to me; if you win, you can strip me naked and drive me away." Crow accepted these terms. The riders started. There was a long ridge there leading to a cut-bank; ropes were stretched at the bank to prevent the horsemen from tumbling down. They started. The orphan was in the rear. Suddenly he got ahead. He took his whistle, blew it, turned into a hawk, and, clinging to his horse's mane, leapt over the rope and descended with ease. Crow's rider turned back when he reached the bank. The boy won. All Crow's people cried. The boy approached Crow and spread a blanket. "Give me my scalp first." Taking out his knife, he scalped Crow. Then he had all the property belonging to Crow's people taken away and put in his camp. Crow's people were put into an enclosure and ordered to strip. They were told to walk away naked. All of them were crying. All the clothes were laid in a pile. The boy bade Crow wait a while. He called his people together; to his horseman he gave ten horses and two of the largest lodges. He asked him what else he wanted, and granted all his wishes. He gave the orphan sixty horses. He divided the stallions among his relatives and gave the mares and colts to the old women and children.

He divided all his property among the people. He had forty horses brought, and also some game. Taking pity on Crow, he told him he could take these things along. "You won the first contest, I have won the second contest. If you wish to wager your people, I am willing to play you again." Crow declined, and moved away with his people. The victor's older brother, hearing of his success, came with the horse from which he had pushed the boy and offered it to him. "No, I don't want it, you have thrown me down. You loved your horse better than me."

The camp was broken. The next day they set out to chase buffalo. All started. The chief's son saddled up, and went towards the buffalo. He saw his older brother chasing buffalo and knocked him down. "Never mind, "he said to his people, "he threw me away, now I will throw him away. Let none help him." Everyone went home with the meat. The-boy was the last to go home. For several days they dried meat and enjoyed themselves dancing. They went home and pitched their camp. The boy's real and his adopted father were the head-chiefs. One day a young man came in and told the boy he was going to make a new kind of dance, but before starting it he wanted to tell how he had obtained it. "Yesterday I was out on the hills and lay down. Beyond the hill I heard a man and a woman singing. It sounded as if they were coming towards me. I walked towards them slowly, thinking it might be enemies. A male and a female prairie-dog were coming along. I greeted them, "Hau!" He answered, "Hau!" I asked where they were going. The male answered that he was coming to show people a new kind of dance. "I'll show you, follow me." I followed them into a big hole. There was a lodge inside with a smoke-hole. I saw ropes stretched across, and feathered dance-ornaments were hanging from them. The prairie-dog went to the next lodge, and lots of young men came in. The prairie-dog told them he was going to give a dance to the people. He had the young men singing several songs for him. He asked me whether I had learned them, then he bade me look at the buckskin strings and feather ornaments, and I looked at everything. The men put on the ornaments and danced. When they were through, he asked whether I could make a dance like it. One rule is always to camp in the same place (?). The prairie-dog then told me to go home and get up the dance. Accordingly, I came out and told you about it." Many young men were invited and were taught the new dance. They learned their songs, then they were told to bring their guns and arrows. Each man was delegated to kill such and such a bird or other animal. They separated and brought back hawks, crows, owls, gophers, prairie-dogs, badgers, and buffalo-hoofs. The skins were dried and tanned, cut in strips, and hung on ropes. The next day they began the dance. All the young men came to watch or to join in the performance. When they were through dancing, the performers took off their apparel and gave it away. The master of ceremonies told them this was the Big Dog dance. Many people joined the society.

After a long time a messenger came to the chief's son, asking him to visit Crow. Crow said, "I have been prosperous and as well off as ever. We must not gamble any more, but we must scalp as long as people live. That is what I wanted to tell you." Thus warfare originated.3

1 Cf. Grinnell, (c), p. 63, and Wissler and Duvall, p. 132 (Blackfoot).
2 Ft. Belknap.
3 The equivalence of gambling and fighting is the closing sentiment of a Blackfoot myth (Wissler and Duvall, p. 133).

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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