Once Old Man
was fording a river, when the current carried him down
stream, and he lost his weapons. He was very hungry, so
he took the first wood he could find, and made a bow and
arrows, and a handle for his knife and spear. When he
had finished them, he started up a mountain. Pretty soon
he saw a bear digging roots, and he thought he would
have some fun, so he hid behind a log and called out,
"No-tail animal, what are you doing?" The bear looked
up, but, seeing no one, kept on digging.
Then Old Man called out again, "Hi,
you dirt-eater!" and then he dodged back out of sight.
Then the bear sat up again, and this time he saw Old Man
and ran after him.
Old Man began shooting arrows at
him, but the points only stuck in the skin, for the
shafts were rotten and snapped off. Then he threw his
spear, but that too was rotten, and broke. He tried to
stab the bear, but his knife handle was also rotten and
broke, so he turned and ran; and the bear pursued him.
As he ran, he looked about for some weapon, but there
was none, not even a rock. He called out to the animals
to help him, but none came. His breath was almost gone,
and the bear was very close to him, when he saw a bull's
horn lying on the ground. He picked it up, placed it on
his head, and, turning around, bellowed so loudly that
the bear was scared and ran away.
A small stone, which is usually a fossil
shell of some kind, is known by the Blackfeet as I-nis'-kim,
the buffalo stone. This object is strong medicine, and,
as indicated in some of these stories, gives its
possessor great power with buffalo. The stone is found
on the prairie, and the person who succeeds in obtaining
one is regarded as very fortunate. Sometimes a man, who
is riding along on the prairie, will hear a peculiar
faint chirp, such as a little bird might utter. The
sound he knows is made by a buffalo rock. He stops and
searches on the ground for the rock, and if he cannot
find it, marks the place and very likely returns next
day, either alone or with others from the camp, to look
for it again. If it is found, there is great rejoicing.
How the first buffalo rock was obtained, and its power
made known, is told in the following story.
Long ago, in the winter time, the
buffalo suddenly disappeared. The snow was so deep that
the people could not move in search of them, for in
those days they had no horses. So the hunters killed
deer, elk, and other small game along the river bottoms,
and when these were all killed off or driven away, the
people began to starve.
One day, a young married man killed
a jack-rabbit. He was so hungry that he ran home as fast
as he could, and told one of his wives to hurry and get
some water to cook it. While the young woman was going
along the path to the river, she heard a beautiful song.
It sounded close by, but she looked all around and could
see no one. The song seemed to come from a cotton-wood
tree near the path. Looking closely at this tree she saw
a queer rock jammed in a fork, where the tree was split,
and with it a few hairs from a buffalo, which had rubbed
there. The woman was frightened and dared not pass the
tree. Pretty soon the singing stopped, and the I-nis'-kim
[buffalo rock] spoke to the woman and said: "Take me to
your lodge, and when it is dark, call in the people and
teach them the song you have just heard. Pray, too, that
you may not starve, and that the buffalo may come back.
Do this, and when day comes, your hearts will be glad."
The woman went on and got some
water, and when she came back, took the rock and gave it
to her husband, telling him about the song and what the
rock had said. As soon as it was dark, the man called
the chiefs and old men to his lodge, and his wife taught
them this song. They prayed, too, as the rock had said
should be done. Before long, they heard a noise far off.
It was the tramp of a great herd of buffalo coming. Then
they knew that the rock was very powerful, and, ever
since that, the people have taken care of it and prayed
[NOTE. I-nis'-kims are usually small
_Ammonites_, or sections of _Baculites,_ or sometimes
merely oddly shaped nodules of flint. It is said of them
that if an I-nis'-kim is wrapped up and left undisturbed
for a long time, it will have young ones; two small
stones similar in shape to the original one will be
found in the package with it.]
Old Man was
very hungry. He had been a long time without food, and
was thinking how he could get something to eat, when he
saw a band of elk on a ridge. So he went up to them and
said, "Oh, my brothers, I am lonesome because I have no
one to follow me."
"Go on, Old Man," said the elk, "we
will follow you." Old Man led them about a long time,
and when it was dark, he came near a high-cut bank. He
ran around to one side where there was a slope, and he
went down and then stood right under the steep bluff,
and called out, "Come on, that is a nice jump, you will
So the elk jumped off, all but one
cow, and were killed.
"Come on," said Old Man, "they have
all jumped but you, it is nice."
"Take pity on me," replied the cow.
"My child is about to be born, and I am very heavy. I am
afraid to jump."
"Go on, then," answered Old Man;
"go and live; then there will be plenty of elk again
Now Old Man built a fire and cooked
some ribs, and then he skinned all the elk, cut up the
meat to dry, and hung the tongues up on a pole.
Next day he went off, and did not
come back until night, when he was very hungry again.
"I'll roast some ribs," he said, "and a tongue, and I'll
stuff a marrow gut and cook that. I guess that will be
enough for tonight." But when he got to the place, the
meat was all gone. The wolves had eaten it. "I was smart
to hang up those tongues," he said, "or I would not have
had anything to eat." But the tongues were all hollow.
The mice had eaten the meat out, leaving only the skin.
So Old Man starved again.