Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

Mythology Comparisons


Inkton'mi (Stoney: Inktu'mni) is obviously merely a dialectic variation of the Dakota name Unktomi, Ikto or Iktomi, and the character itself corresponds to the Omaha Ictinike. Unfortunately, the Dakota material available for comparison is-extremely meager. However, we can combine all the trickster tales of the Crow, Dakota, Omaha and Osage, and it may then become permissible to offer some suggestions as to the relation of the Inkton'mi cycle to the corresponding body of Siouan folklore. Making this comparison, we find but relatively few elements that are shared by the Assiniboine with their Siouan congeners. Of these, the story of the hood-winked dancers is found among practically all the tribes of the Plains and Central Algonkian groups, and the earth-diver incident is likewise too widely diffused to serve as a criterion of historical significance. In fact, there is not a single incident common to the Assiniboine and Siouan tribes that is not also found outside the pale of this linguistic stock. On the other hand, the influence of contact with the Cree is manifest; of about thirty Assiniboine episodes of comparative interest, seventeen are also found among the Cree, and this in spite of our extremely unsatisfactory knowledge of Cree mythology. The hardly less noticeable number of similarities with the Blackfoot and Arapaho-Gros Ventre also indicates the overshadowing effect of relatively recent contact in the elaboration of the Inkton'mi myth. That some of the incidents have been directly adopted from the Cree even where they are lacking in published collections of Cree folklore is indicated by the distribution of the "day-year visitors"' motive. Found only among the Central Algonkian and referred to Cree heroes in one of the Stoney versions, it may safely be regarded as a modern Cree intrusion. The relation of the Assiniboine Inkton'mi to the Santee Unktomi is thus of the vaguest character. Pending further researches into Dakota mythology, it might be said that, in harmony with the original conception of the character, numerous trickster tales appear to have been adopted into the cycle from neighboring tribes, while others have probably disappeared, so that nothing but the name and the trickster type of character remain. It may also be pointed out that the Assiniboine trickster is by no means the uniformly malevolent character pictured by Riggs.1 In the distribution of ceremonials, in the instruction of mankind, the slaying of the giant and the theft of summer, he appears at times as the culture-hero, or at least as the transitional figure described by Professor Boas.2

To myths not connected with the trickster cycle, the Cree appear to have contributed a fair share, without taking the first place in point of influence. Treating the Assiniboine poor boy and snake-paramour stories as units, about one-third of the tales shared with any tribe what so ever are common to the Assiniboine and Cree. Proceeding on the assumption previously made -that stories recorded exclusively among Central Algonkian tribes and the Assiniboine have been introduced by the Cree-the percentage is not noticeably increased. The relationship is strongest with the other western Algonkian. Treating the Arapaho and Gros Ventre as one people and disregarding the Cheyenne, whose folklore is but inadequately known, we find that each of the three western Algonkian divisions shares Assiniboine myths in approximately equal measure. About the same percentage of homologies is found on comparison with the Omaha. For some of these, such as-the sun-catcher and "two brothers" myths, there is fair reason to assume an Algonkian rather than a Siouan origin, certainly so far as their appearance among the Assiniboine is concerned. While therefore, in the absence of much more complete data from the Crow and the Dakota, it may appear premature to generalize, the conclusion seems warranted, on the basis of available material, that Assiniboine mythology bears but weak testimony to the historically and linguistically known relation of the Assiniboine to the Sioux, rather emphasizing the influence of recent contact with other tribes.

1 Riggs, p. 138.
2 Boas, Introduction to Teit's Traditions of the Thompson River Indians of British Columbia.

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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