The Son-In-Law's Tests
Sitcon'ski had a beautiful daughter, whom everyone sought to marry.
One day a young man came and married her. She warned him against her
father. "He kills every young man that comes here. He has already
killed three." It was in the winter. Sitcon'ski said to
his son-in-law, "Let us two travel together." They traveled for two
days. On the second evening, before going to sleep, they built a
fire and hung their wet moccasins over it. While the old man slept,
the youth, divining his intentions, exchanged the two pairs of
moccasins. Sitcon'ski1 woke
up in the course of the night, took what he supposed to be his
son-in-law's moccasins, and burnt them up. The next day he was going
to don his moccasins. "'These are mine," said the youth. "0, I get
crazy sometimes, I have burnt up my moccasins," said Sitcon'ski.'
He was very sorry, for it was a cold day. He said to the youth, "Go
back, and ask my wife to make moccasins for me. Return with them as
soon as you can, and, for the present, heap up a lot of firewood for
me." The young man only piled up a few sticks, then chose a
roundabout way to go home, so that it took him four days to get
there. He bade the old woman make moccasins and follow his own
tracks in bringing them to her husband. When she finally arrived,
she found him frozen stiff, but a big fire restored him.
The young man's wife said, "He will test you again." In the summer
Sitcon'ski said, "Let us go to the island to get eggs."
They paddled over in a canoe. They gathered eggs. Sitcon'ski said,
"I'll go to the other side to gather different eggs." He stole away
and paddled homewards, singing. At first, the young man cried. After
a while he killed a gull, put on its skin, took his eggs, and flew
over the lake with the gulls. The birds were playing directly above
Sitcon'skis head. Sitcon'ski cried, "You bad
birds, why are you playing above my head?" Then his son-in-law
defecated on him. Sitcon'ski repeatedly tried to hit him, but failed
every time. His son-in-law defecated on him four times. Sitcon'ski
said, "This bird defecates like a man, the odor is human."'
The youth got back first, doffed his skin, and walked home. When
Sitcon'ski approached, his son-in-law's child asked him,
"Why are you so late? My father has been back for a long time." "I
have left your father on the island." "No, my father is in the
lodge." When Sitcon'ski saw his son-in-law with the eggs
he was angry, but henceforth he let him alone.
An old man had a pretty daughter, who was married to a young man. He
did not like his son-in-law. He was a great dreamer, and used to
kill people by his power. Once he said to the young man, "Get some
willow-sticks for making arrows; but before you get the willows,
drink from the spring near the trees." The youth went and drank of
the spring water. Suddenly a mountain-lion leapt out of the spring,
pulled him down, and killed him. A friend of the slain young man
married his widow. He was also sent for willow-sticks, and perished
in the same way. A third youth married the girl and was sent to the
spring. When he had drunk, the mountain-lion came out, but the youth
said, "My grandfather, don't kill me." The lion left him alone, and
he returned with the willow-branches. The old man could not sleep,
because he had failed to kill his son-in-law. At last he said, "Go
and kill the big elk in the woods, so that I can make use of his
horns." The young man started out, but the elk charged on him and
hooked him to death.
A fourth man married the widow. He was sent for
willow-sticks, but this time the mountain-lion did not come out at
all. When the son-in-law returned, the old man sent him to kill the
big elk. Before he got there, he met a little old mouse. He said,
"My grandmother, I am trying to kill the elk, make a hole in the
ground for me." The mouse consented to do so. She dug a tunnel below
the spot where the elk usually lay down. She said, "He is too wild,
he will kill you." The youth answered, "I want to kill him. If you
help me, I will give you all the meat." When the elk lay down, the
mouse gnawed away all the hairs around his heart. The man was
standing below. She returned, telling him she was through with her
work. He went to the tunnel. He could hear the elk's heart .beating
like a drum. He shot an arrow into the animal's heart. The elk
seeing no one, ran about in search of the enemy. At last,-he came
back to his old resting-place and turned over to the other side.
Then the youth shot again, and killed him. He brought the antlers to
The old man was getting weak because two of his dream-helpers had
failed. He bade his wife erect a sweat-lodge. He sweated, then he
said, to the young man, "Let us go to the island to get feathers for
the arrows." They paddled over. When they had arrived, the
father-in-law said, "We'll walk in different directions." They tied
up the boat, and separated, but the old man ran back to the canoe
and paddled away, abandoning his son-in-law. The youth cried out,
"Come back to me," but the old man, instead of heeding him, merely
replied, "You have killed my helpers, you will die on the island."
The young man cried. A bird came flying. "What are you crying for?"
''I can't get out of this island." The bird changed him into a bird
like itself, and he flew home. The old man was paddling, and heard
the birds above him. He glanced up. Then his son-in-law defecated
directly in his eye. The son-in-law got home before the old man.
When the latter finally arrived, the young man's son asked him,
"Grandfather, why do you come home so late? My father has been home
for a long time."
The old man sweated once more. Then he asked his son-in-law to
accompany him on a trip to the other Indians. They started out with
snowshoes on a cold winter day. They traveled for two days. On the
third evening they lay down on different sides of the fireplace.
Their moccasins were wet and had been hung up over the fire. The
young man was watching his father-in-law. When he saw him sleeping,
he exchanged his moccasins for the old man's. When the old man woke
up, his son-in-law pretended to be asleep. The old man made a bigger
fire, and, taking his own moccasins for his son-in-law's, cast them
into the fire. When daylight came, the young man claimed his own
moccasins. His father-in-law said, "I am sorry, my moccasins have
been burnt up. Go back to camp, bid my wife make new ones, and bring
them as soon as possible. Before you go, pile up plenty of wood
here." The young man pretended to obey, but merely heaped up a pile
of little shavings that were quickly consumed. He walked home in a
zigzag path, so that he did not arrive before ten days. He told his
mother-in-law, "The old man has burned up his moccasins and wants
new ones. Follow my tracks, and you will find him." She obeyed.
After ten days she got to-the place, but only found her husband's
corpse, huddled together on the ashes of the fireplace and frozen
The old woman returned to camp while her son-in-law was hunting. She
wished to marry the young man herself. She constructed a swing over
the river, concealing a cut in the rope. Then she asked her daughter
to get into the swing. The girl asked her mother to swing first, but
finally she sat down and began to swing. When she was swinging the
second time, the rope tore, and she fell into the water. Her mother
cried, "I am feeding the fish in the lake." A big fish came and
seized her daughter.
The old woman donned her daughter's clothes. She did not show her
face, so that her son-in-law mistook her for his wife. He brought
some moose-meat. The first night he did not discover who she was.
The next day, the drowned woman's baby cried all day, and the old
woman's son also cried for his lost sister. Hearing the child's'
wailing, the drowned woman rose out of the water to nurse it. Her
body, from the waist down, was that of a fish. The next night the
man discovered that the woman he was sleeping with was not his wife.
He asked his brother-in-law, "Where is your sister?" "My mother
threw her into the water." "What part of the lake did you see her
in?" The boy told him. Then the man trans-formed himself into a
stick standing by the water, and his brother-in-law called his
sister, bidding her nurse the infant. Her husband wished to kill the
big fish that had stolen her. The woman rose from the water. "I have
never seen that stick before," she said. Her brother cried, "Come
nearer!" She approached and nursed her baby. Suddenly her husband
seized her, cut off the fish-moiety of her body, and took her home.
The old woman fled.
The Evil Parents-In-Law
An old woman was living with her grandson. One day
he said, "1 should like to get a wife." "Which way are you going?"
"I am going towards the sunrise." "If you go far, you will meet evil
people." Nevertheless, he set out. He found people camping. "What
are you looking for?" "I am seeking the man that has an only
daughter." They pointed out the way. At last he got there and asked
for the girl. Her father said, "She is my only daughter. I am
getting old. Only if you do as I bid you, may you marry her."
The first task he set for the youth was to cut down all the big
trees on a hill. The boy's grandmother had told him to call on her
in any difficulty. He now called her, and immediately the sound of
falling trees was heard. He could not see any one. When all the
trees were on the ground, he returned and told his father-in-law
that the task was done. "That is good work. Now I am going to cook
two cows. Each of us will have to eat up an entire cow." The old man
cooked the meat, then they sat down back to back. The youth dug a
large hole in the ground, and pretending to eat, put all the food
into the pit. Accordingly, he was the first to get through. The old
man was perspiring. He said, "We'll try another match. I have two
pistols. Take one, and let us see which of us can destroy the
other." They took the pistols. "After pulling the triggers, we'll
shut our eyes." The old man shot first. He hit his son-in-law in the
middle of the fore-head, but the shot did not hurt him. The youth's
shot also had no effect, but in a second exchange the young man
killed his opponent. He went home, and told his girl, "Your father
is dead, he killed himself while shoot-ing chickens."
The old man's wife said, "You two may dance inside the lodge, but
you may not yet sleep together." The young man was eager to sleep
with his wife, so he called on his grandmother for aid. She sent
lots of people into the lodge to dance instead of the young couple,
while the lovers were sleeping together. The next day the
mother-in-law said, "You must dance another night, then you may go
home." Again he called on his grand-mother for help, and she
assisted him as before. The youth said to the girl, "Let us flee."
"My mother is wicked, she will somehow kill us." The boy was not
afraid, however; he transformed himself and his wife into tumna'
tafigagan (a species of birds), and away they flew.
When the old woman discovered their flight, she cried, "Wherever you
go, I shall kill you." They could hear her coming. The girl cried,
"Do something, I wish to live." Her husband took her into a
snake-hole. The pursuer went around the hole, searching for their
tracks. At last she said, "I am going home now, to-morrow I shall
pack their flesh." The next day they continued their flight. When
she pursued them, they turned into prairie-chickens. After a while,
they transformed themselves into mosquitoes. The old woman missed
their tracks, and they heard her saying, "To-morrow I shall catch
them." The next day they fled as grouse. They reached a gopher hole,
crawled in, and begged the gophers to stay outside and cover their
tracks. The old woman could not find their tracks.
"If I do not catch you by to-morrow, I'll let you go," she said. The
following day the fugitives fled to a bull-dog flies' nest. The
woman knew they were there, but the flies were buzzing outside and
would not allow her to approach. Finally the old woman said, "I'll
let you alone now, I am going home," and went away.
a1 For the preceding incident, see
Schooleraft, p. 209 (Ojibwa).
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