Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

Trickster Cycle



Long ago there was water everywhere. Sitcon'ski was traveling about in a moose-skin boat. He saw the Muskrat coming towards him, holding something in its paws. "What are you holding there?" "Nothing." "Let me see, and I'll take you into my boat." The Muskrat showed him the mud it was holding in its paws. Sitcon'ski took it, saying, "I am going to make the earth out of this." He rubbed the mud between his palms, breathed on it, and thus made the earth.1.1

At that time the Muskrat had a tail such as the Beaver now has. Sitcon'ski met them and said, "Change tails. You have a small body Muskrat, your tail is too large." This is how the Beaver got its tail.1.2


All the earth was flooded with water. Inkton'mi sent animals to dive for dirt at the bottom of the sea. No animal was able to get any. At last he sent the Muskrat. It came up dead, but with dirt in its claws. Inkton'mi saw the dirt, took it, and made the earth out of it.

Inkton'mi was wearing a wolf-skin robe. He said, "There shall be as many months as there are hairs on this skin before it shall be summer."2.4 Frog said, "If the winter lasts as long as that, no creature will be able to live. Seven months of winter will be enough." He kept on repeating this, until Inkton'mi got angry, and killed him. Still Frog stuck out seven of his toes. Finally, Inkton'mi consented, and said there should be seven winter months.

Inkton'mi then created men and horses out of dirt. Some of the Assiniboine and other northern tribes had no horses. Inkton'mi told the Assiniboine that they were always to steal horses from other tribes.



Once the whole earth was covered with snow. Inkton'mi was called to the sky by some supernatural beings, who asked him to help them get rid of the snow. "If you help us, you'll be able to fool people and to make any-thing talk excepting water."' Inkton'mi was satisfied. Then one of the beings said, "Far east, beyond the extremity of the snow-field, there is a man who keeps the summer weather, there it is always summer." Then he asked Inkton'mi to try to steal the good weather out of the owner's lodge, to one of the poles of which it was tied. The owner was very wakan', and knew immediately whenever anyone approached his lodge. For that reason it was very hard to steal the good weather. He also had servants, birds among them, to help him watch. He said if anyone stole the summer, it would be well, but until people got it by theft he would keep it for himself. Inkton'mi said to the supernatural beings, "If I go down to the earth again, I must have the power to make things talk right away." They consented. Then he declared he would get the summer, and descended to the earth.

Inkton'mi lay down on the highest point covered with snow. He was shivering, and built a fire. Seeing a jack-rabbit, he said, "Younger brother, come here." The Rabbit went to him. "Brother have you seen any animals around here?" "Yes." "Which ones ?" "The Wolf, the Coyote, the Red Fox, and some birds." "Brother, bid them come here to see me, that am their brother." "In the night Rabbit ran off, and delivered his message. The next morning all came to Inkton'mi. Inkton'mi said, "Brethren, we'll look for summer weather, steal it, and bring it to this country." One of them asked, "What is summer?" But Inkton'mi replied, "Don't ask any questions, do what I tell you, and it will be good for us. We'll start tonight."

They set out towards the east, and traveled many months. Finally, they got to the end of the snow. Inkton'mi planted a long pole there, and on the top of it placed the Tcedan', a fast-flying bird (sailing-hawk?). In front of it, on summer-ground, stood the Rabbit, before him the Coyote, in front of the Coyote the Red Fox, then the Wolf, the Fox, and the Kata'-pknada'dan (an owl-like bird). Inkton'mi encouraged his assistants, then he called the Kata'-pknada'dan and bade him fly to a large lodge facing towards the east. Inkton'mi's party had approached it from the rear. "Fly to that camp very carefully, get to the smoke-hole, and peep in to see whether the good weather is tied up anywhere inside. Don't let the owner see you." The bird flew to the tipi, and alighted on a pole. As he was looking in, the owner asked, "What are you doing?" The Kata'-pknada'dan did not reply. The man seized a firebrand and struck the bird's nose, burning it. When he lowered the stick, the bird flew off. "I wonder what they are trying to do." He summoned a servant, and bade him build a fire outside and keep watch.

Inkton'mi was waiting for the Kata'-pknada'dan's return. The bird told him that the good weather was in the lodge, and its owner was seated under it. "That is all you have to do," said Inkton'mi. "I needed you because you are a bird that can fly noiselessly." Then he encouraged the Fox, bidding him steal the good weather. Inkton'mi wore a fox-skin clout. "Follow me," he said to the Fox, "I'll go up to the servant and talk to him.

I'll stand in front, so he won't be able to see you. Then you can jump at the bag containing the summer and rush out again." Inkton'mi walked towards the lodge with his clout hanging to the ground, and the Fox following. When they approached the tipi, the servant said, "Inkton'mi is coming. What do you wish to see my brother about?" Inkton'mi took out some glue and closed the servant's mouth. Then he choked him, and threw him into the fire. '"Let us go nearer," he said to the Fox. When they got very close, he said, "Crawl in from the rear, snatch off the bag and run out. He'll pursue you, but run between my legs, get to the other animals, and pass the bag to the next in line." The Fox crawled in, while Inkton'mi waited at a distance. He seized the bag, and ran, pursued by the owner. While he was passing between Inkton'mi's outspread legs, the man caught hold of the trailing fox-skin breechclout. Inkton'mi also seized it, crying, "I have caught him!" The man turned the skin over. "You must be sitting on him." "No, I seized him, perhaps he has gone underground, let us look in there." The owner looked everywhere, but did not find anything. "Let us think about it," said Inkton'mi. They sat down, and considered, the matter. Inkton'mi' was carrying his arrows and his pipe with him.

After a while, the owner saw that the Fox had passed the bag to the Wolf, who ran on with it. The Red-Fox took it from the Wolf, and passed it to the Coyote, who ran and gave it to the Jack-Rabbit. The Jack-Rabbit carried it close to the snow bank. The owner gave chase, but all the animals disappeared underground, where he had no power. At last the Rabbit passed it to the Tcedan'. The Tcedan' rose from the top of his pole, and flew away with the heat. The owner sent wakan' birds after him. The Tcedan' first soared high up, then suddenly darted down, skimming the surface of the snow. The birds returned to the owner, telling him they could not find the fugitive. The owner cried, and returned to his home, where Inkton'mi' met him.

Inkton'mi' sprinkled water on his face, and pretended to be perspiring from his exertions in the owner's behalf. "Did you catch him? I tried to find him, but failed." He feigned great anger, tore up the earth with a knife, and threatened to kill the thief with it. "Let us track him," he suggested. The owner said, "No, I'll go back. Perhaps he has returned it to its place. See if you can get him for me." Inkton'mi' promised to pursue the thieves, and walked to the summit of a hill, where all his helpers were seated around a fire. Inkton'mi' said, "Brethren, we have it now. Bring that bag down." The Tcedan', who was coming on the wing, brought it down. "Let us see whether it is the right one." He untied the bag, and, as he spread it open, the snow on which they were seated disappeared, they were sitting on the bare ground, and the leaves were sprouting on the trees. "I think we have the right one, now let us get something to eat." All went away to hunt for food, and each returned with something to eat. The next day he said, "Let us go home." He tied up the bag, and the ground was covered with snow again.

They traveled on. Inkton'mi' said, "Stop, brethren, I'll try to do something." He opened his bag again, making a path of. bare ground ahead of them to travel on. After a while he made another path. clear of snow. Thus they continued traveling. After a while, the Wolf and the Foxes said they were tired of walking on the bare ground. "Let me know when your feet get tender, and I'll change off." So Inkton'mi' closed the bag, and made snow once more. At last, he said, "I am going to take this bag up there; when I come back to the earth, I'll have a talk with you." So Inkton'mi' ascended to the sky with his bag.

Inkton'mi' gave the bag to Otce'giyeya'bi.3.1 Otce'giyeya'bi said, "I shall call up every species of animals and ask what kind of weather they prefer, and for how long a period. For the present, I shall make summer." So he untied the bag, and it was summer. He called up all the beasts and all the birds. Frost (Wazi'ya) was there too. Otce'giyeya'bi said, "Inkton'mi will be the judge, the animals will plead." One animal said, "Let the winter last forty months." But another answered, "No, we have just had a long winter, that is not at all good." A third one suggested that there should not be any winter whatsoever. Inkton'mi looked at the last speaker, and said, "Get out of here, you come from the man we stole this from." Frost said, "You ought to have winter part of the time; summer alone would not be good, you ought to change." The Fox said he wanted snow for part of the year. The Wolf, Coyote, Rabbit and the birds all agreed with him.

Then Inkton'mi asked them in regard to human beings in the world. "How long ought they to live?" One said, "Let them live forever." "No," said another, "there would be too many, they would drive us out of the country." A third debater thought people ought to die whenever they were taken sick. A fourth said, "There is no use to put them on the earth, if they are to die." Still another said, "Let those that get sick die, but let them come back to life again after four days." At last Inkton'mi' said, "No, let there be people to enjoy the world, but when they die they shall not return. Their souls will go elsewhere, but their bodies must not come back."

Then they discussed the seasons again. Frog was there with his pipe. He was the last one to speak, and said, "Let there be six months of winter and six months of summer."3.2 Inkton'mi snatched up a club, and hit him over the head, saying, "That is too short a time." Frog stretched out his hands. Then Inkton'mi took pity on him, and helped him sit up again. "I'll do as you say, there shall be six months of winter, and six months of summer." Then he said to Frost, "All are through talking, I shall judge as best I know how. You must go far north, and stay there. When the winter comes, you may take charge for half the year. You may make some days of cold weather, but don't make it too cold, or we'll keep you here, and then there will not be any more winter." Frog agreed to these terms. Then Inkton'mi bade all the animals dive into a hole containing fat. "This will get into your bodies," he said, "and will keep you warm in the winter."

1.4. The younger Henry (Coues, p. 521) has Eth'tome causing the flood by his misconduct and then embarking in a twig-canoe with a pair of each species of animals; the Muskrat dives for earth. A similar version appeared in the Journal of American Folk-Lore,Vol.V,1892, p.73.
The Assiniboine myths here presented were all collected at Morley, Alberta and Ft. Belknap Montana. Those not credited in footnotes to the latter division of the tribe were recorded at Morley.

1.1 Cf. Petitot, p. 473 (Cree); Wissler and Duvall, p. 19 (Blackfoot); Kroeber, (e), p. 59 (Gros Ventre); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 16 (Arapaho); Simms, p. 281 (Crow); Schooleraft, p. 39 (Ojibwa); Hoffman, p. 134 (Menomini); Jones, p. 365 (Fox).
1.2 The same incident is recorded in a Cree myth, Annual Archeological Report for 1904, pp. 93-94.

2.3 Ft. Belknap.
2.4 Cf. Teit, p. 626 (Shuswap).

3.5  Ft. Belknap. Cf. Kroeber, (e), p. 65 (Gros Ventre); Simms, p. 283 (Crow). For the theft of heat, kept in a bag, cf. Petitot, p. 373, (Chipewyan), Teit, p. 624 (Shuswap).
3.1 Great Spirit?
3.2 Cf. Lowie, p. 274 (Shoshone); Simms, p. 284 (Crow).

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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