Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

First Meeting with the Cree


Once nearly all the Stoneys were sick. The sick ones were put into one lodge; nearly all of them died. The dead were not buried, but left on the ground, and the camp was abandoned. A few people ran away; only an old couple and two boys not related to them remained there. They subsisted on whatever food they could get. In the summer, the old man tried to kill beavers and was assisted by the boys. But, after skinning the animals, the old woman gave the boys no food, so they nearly starved. The next day they were given just a little piece. After the middle of the summer, the boys traveled a little. The older boy had a knife. They killed birds for food. From time to time they returned to the old couple. The second time they stayed with them longer than before. In the fall they went traveling again. They saw many ducks and geese, and also heard the sound of laughing and singing. Going nearer, they struck a big lake, where they found the birds making the noise. The birds felt lone-some, because they were unable to find people. They began to fly around. Their chief said, "We'll give some food to these poor boys." They went close to the boys, and one of them fell right down at the boy's feet to be eaten by them. When they were through eating, they returned to the old couple. They slept there one night, then they traveled again. This time a white goose heard them and supplied them with food as the other bird had done. They returned to the Stoney couple, but as they did not give them any food they went traveling again. They again went to the birds, and as they came nearer, they heard the sound of shooting. Walking in that direction, they found a horse's tracks, and going further some buffalo meat, which they cooked. Then they continued following the tracks and met a party of Cree making a buffalo-pen. The Cree adopted them, and they did not return to the old couple. The old people quarreled about them. The man said, "You did not give them enough to eat, that is why they did not return." The woman said, "We will track them." Accordingly, they tracked them to the Cree camp. They asked for the boys, but the Cree answered, "You did not feed them well, we will keep the boys." This is how the Stoneys first met the Cree.

First Meeting With Whites

Once Inkton'mi was traveling about with many Indians. He struck the Saskatchewan river. There he killed five big moose-bucks,, skinned them, and made a boat. He descended the river, passing some falls. After a while he got to the sea. He tied five, canoes together, and continued traveling for eight days. He reached an island. There he met the first White people ever seen by the Indians. They traded with him, and he returned. Prior to this, the Indians only had buckskin garments, now they had cloth garments. It was spring when Inkton'mi set out; when he returned it was fall.

A Stoney once went out hunting with his bow and arrows. He walked eastward and struck a river. There he met a White man carrying a gun slung across his shoulder. The Stoney was frightened by the stranger's beard, and ran away. The White man called after him, "Wait, don't run away." The Indian stopped, and the White man shook hands with him. The Indian. tried to run away again. The White man saw the Stoney's bow and arrows; he thought the Indian was poor and gave him his gun and powder. He invited the Indian home. They got to three other White men. The White man made a mark and tried to teach the Indian to shoot, but as soon as the Stoney heard the report of the gun he was terrified and ran away. The White man brought him back and showed him how to aim straight and how to pull the trigger. The Stoney, how-ever, ran away again when he heard the report.

The Punitive Expedition

Some people were camping in the winter. They had no feathers for their arrows. An old man told his three sons and son-in-law to try to get feathers from his brother, who lived in another camp. On their way, they saw lots of feathers in a place where geese had been killed. They picked them up. The youngest man looked around and saw a crane's head. He struck it with his bow, and it made a noise. He told his companions, "This crane's head is saying that we'll get into trouble. You can get all the feathers you want in the camp, but don't touch a lame girl there, or you'll be killed." They all listened to what the crane was saying when he struck its head again. They then Went to the camp. The three boys told their uncle that their father had sent them to get feathers. He gave them all he had. One of them, before going home, wanted to steal the lame woman. His brother-in-law warned him, "Don't touch the lame woman." Nevertheless, he abducted her. They went homeward, pursued by their hosts. The lake was frozen; they caught up to them there. The oldest was killed first. The second had shot off all his arrows and asked his uncle for more arrows. "Yes, I'll give you a spear too." He threw the spear at him and killed him. The old man tried to kill the youth who had dreamt about the crane, but the spear would not pierce him. He said, "If I wanted to live, you could never kill me, but as my brothers are dead I also wish to be dead. Cut my little fingers, and I shall die." They cut his fingers, and thus killed him.

The old man's son-in-law was the only one to return home. For a while he did not speak for grief. His father-in-law questioned him. At last he said, "I come back alone, all my brothers-in-law have been killed." The old man sent him to other bands with tobacco. All came to his camp. The bad old man2 was camping close by the lake. He was continually watching in all directions, except towards the lake. The people came in canoes, unobserved. It was a fine, calm day. At last the old man saw the water stirring. He was frightened and warned the people not to sleep that night. The son-in-law's father was in the camp to be attacked. The young man begged his companions to spare his father's life. They bade him tell his father to stay in the dog-house during the fight, but in the darkness he mistook the bad old man for his father and warned him instead. The bad old man did not tell any of his people, but hid in the dog-house.

The people attacked the camp and killed their enemies. The son-in-law killed more than any one else. His father was also killed. He went to the dog-house and said, "Come out." They pulled him out and found their enemy. The young man said, "Don't kill him directly, cut him up bit by bit." So they severed limb after limb from his body. The young man was mourning his father's death. "If I see the one who killed him, I shall do this to him," he said. Saying which, he slashed and killed himself with his knife.1

In the spring, the old man prepared a great deal of tobacco and sweet-grass then he sent his son and his son-in-law to look for people. They visited six different bands, inviting each to join them in their war-expedition. The warriors from the six bands all gathered together, then the young man sent a messenger to bid his father join them. At noon, they all set. out to avenge the murder of the five boys. They got to a big river, which they crossed in two hundred canoes. One of the enemies had a wild dog, which was generally tethered. When the surviving son saw him, he said, "That dog belongs to the murderer of my brothers." The owner of the dog did not feed him well in order to keep him wild. The boys' father also had a fight-ing dog. The enemy retreated to the woods. The attacking party landed and tied up their canoes. The adopted boy had been born among the enemy; 'he sought his real father and told him they were going to fight. His father asked him, whether he had a wife, and he said he had, though this was not true. Some of the enemy did not believe him. The owner of the dog released his animal. The boy gave him plenty to eat to render him less savage. Returning to his own side, he said, "We had better turn back, those people have a wild dog." The people got scared and turned back. Crossing the river, there was a violent gale. One man was frightened, thinking they were going to be capsized. Then the old man counseled them to land again. They returned to shore, tied up their knives, and got ready to fight. In the night, when all the enemy were asleep, they approached quietly, tore the lodges down, and killed a great number of the sleepers. The owner of the dog was roused by the noise and released his dog, which killed many of the assailants. They could not kill him either with knives or arrows, so half of them fled. The adopted boy, finding his father slain, committed suicide. Two of the people were hiding in a canoe. The dog scented and killed them, and ate them up. One man hid in the dog's house, where the dog did not find him. One of the assailants paddled along the shore to catch up to his retreating friends, bidding them wait for him. But they took him for an enemy. The runner cried, "That's the man that killed my brothers," so they killed him.

1 The following fragmentary version was also told at Morley: A man was living with his six children and his son-in-law. He was making bows and arrows, but had no feathers, so he asked two of his sons to get them. They went to the gulls' camp. One gull had died, and his corpse was lying there. The younger boy took up the skull and sounded it. It said that the boys would steal gull women and would have to fight. They tracked the gulls. When they reached the camp, the chief asked, "You bad boys, why are you tracking us?" "We are hunting for feathers." The chief asked the birds to give their feathers to the boys, then he moved camp. The boys stayed in the camp of an old woman, who lived with her granddaughter. The old woman joined her people and told them the boys had stolen the girl. The gulls returned, killed the boys, and took back the woman. The father of the boys wanted to fight the gulls, but his people were afraid and let them alone.

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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