There was once a man who had but one
wife. He was not a chief, but a very brave warrior. He
was rich, too, so he could have had plenty of wives if
he wished; but he loved his wife very much, and did not
want any more. He was very good to this woman. She
always wore the best clothes that could be found. If any
other woman had a fine buckskin dress, or something very
pretty, the man would buy it for her.
It was summer. The berries were
ripe, and the woman kept saying to her husband, "Let us
go and pick some berries for winter." "No," replied the
man. "It is dangerous now. The enemy is traveling all
around." But still the woman kept teasing him to go. So
one day he told her to get ready. Some other women went,
too. They all went on horseback, for the berries were a
long way from camp. When they got to the place, the man
told the women to keep near their horses all the time.
He would go up on a butte near by and watch. "Be
careful," he said. "Keep by your horses, and if you see
me signal, throw away your berries, get on your horses
and ride towards camp as fast as you can."
They had not picked many berries
before the man saw a war party coming. He signaled the
women, and got on his horse and rode towards them. It
happened that this man and his wife both had good
horses, but the others, all old women, rode slow old
travois horses, and the enemy soon overtook and killed
them. Many kept on after the two on good horses, and
after a while the woman's horse began to get tired; so
she asked her husband to let her ride on his horse with
him. The woman got up behind him, and they went on
again. The horse was a very powerful one, and for a
while went very fast; but two persons make a heavy load,
and soon the enemy began to gain on them. The man was
now in a bad plight; the enemy were overtaking him, and
the woman holding him bound his arms so that he could
not use his bow.
"Get off," he said to her. "The
enemy will not kill you. You are too young and pretty.
Some one of them will take you, and I will get a big
party of our people and rescue you."
"No, no," cried the woman; "let us
die here together."
"Why die?" cried the man. "We are
yet young, and may live a long time together. If you
don't get off, they will soon catch us and kill me, and
then they will take you anyhow. Get off, and in only a
short time I will get you back."
"No, no," again cried the woman; "I
will die here with you."
"Crazy person!" cried the man, and
with a quick jerk he threw the woman off.
As he said, the enemy did not kill
her. The first one who came up counted coup and
took her. The man, now that his horse was lightened,
easily ran away from the war party, and got safe to
Then there was great mourning. The
relatives of the old women who had been killed, cut
their hair and cried. The man, too, cut off his hair and
mourned. He knew that his wife was not killed, but he
felt very badly because he was separated from her. He
painted himself black, and walked all through the camp,
crying. His wife had many relations, and some of them
went to the man and said: "We pity you very much. We
mourn, too, for our sister. But come. Take courage. We
will go with you, and try to get her back."
"It is good," replied the man. "I
feel as if I should die, stopping uselessly here. Let us
That evening they got ready, and at
daylight started out on foot. There were seven of them
in all. The husband, five middle-aged men, the woman's
relations, and a young man, her own young brother. He
was a very pretty boy. His hair was longer than any
other person's in camp.
They soon found the trail of the war party, and
followed it for some days. At last they came to the Big
River,1 and there, on the
other side, they saw many lodges. They crept down a
coulee into the valley, and hid in a small piece of
timber just opposite the camp. Toward evening the man
said: "Kyi, my brothers. Tonight I will swim across and
look all through the camp for my wife. If I do not find
her, I will cache and look again tomorrow evening. But
if I do not return before daylight of the second night,
then you will know I am killed. Then you will do as you
think best. Maybe you will want to take revenge. Maybe
you will go right back home. That will be as your hearts
As soon as it was dark, he swam
across the river and went all about through the camp,
peeping in through the doorways of the lodges, but he
did not see his wife. Still, he knew she must be there.
He had followed the trail of the party to this place.
They had not killed her on the way. He kept looking in
at the lodges until it was late, and the people let the
fires go out and went to bed. Then the man went down to
where the women got their water from the river.
Everywhere along the stream was a cut bank, but in one
place a path of steps had been made down to the water's
edge. Near this path, he dug a hole in the bank and
crawled into it, closing up the entrance, except one
small hole, through which he could look, and watch the
people who came to the river.
As soon as it was daylight, the
women began to come for water. Tum, tum, tum, tum, he
could hear their footsteps as they came down the path,
and he looked eagerly at every one. All day long the
people came and went, the young and old; and the
children played about near him. He saw many strange
people that day. It was now almost sunset, and he began
to think that he would not see his wife there. Tum, tum,
tum, tum, another woman came down the steps, and stopped
at the water's edge. Her dress was strange, but he
thought he knew the form. She turned her head and looked
down the river, and he saw her face. It was his wife. He
pushed away the dirt, crawled out, went to her and
kissed her. "Kyi," he said, "hurry, and let us swim
across the river. Five of your relations and your own
young brother are waiting for us in that piece of
"Wait," replied his wife. "These
people have given me a great many pretty things. Let me
go back. When it is night I will gather them up, steal a
horse, and cross over to you."
"No, no," cried the man. "Let the
pretty things go; come, let us cross at once."
"Pity me," said the woman. "Let me
go and get my things. I will surely come tonight. I
speak the truth."
"How do you speak the truth?"2
asked her husband.
"That my relations there
across the river may be safe and live long, I speak the
"Go then," said the man, "and get
your things. I will cross the river now." He went up on
the bank and walked down the river, keeping his face
hidden. No one noticed him, or if they did, they thought
he belonged to the camp. As soon as he had passed the
first bend, he swam across the river, and soon joined
"I have seen my wife," he said to
them. "She will come over as soon as it is dark. I let
her go back to get some things that were given her."
"You are crazy," said one of the
men, "very crazy. She already loves this new man she
has, or she would not have wanted to go back."
"Stop that," said the husband; "do
not talk bad of her. She will surely come."
The woman went back to her lodge
with the water, and, sitting down near the fireplace,
she began to act very strangely. She took up pieces of
charred wood, dirt, and ashes in her hands and ate them,
and made queer noises.
"What is it?" asked the man who had
taken her for a wife. "What is the matter with you?" He
spoke in signs.
The woman also spoke in signs. She
answered him: "The Sun told me that there are seven
persons across the river in that piece of timber. Five
of them are middle-aged, another is a young boy with
very long hair, another is a man who mourns. His hair is
The Snake did not know what to do,
so he called in some chiefs and old men to advise with
him. They thought that the woman might be very strong
medicine. At all events, it would be a good thing to go
and look. So the news was shouted out, and in a short
time all the warriors had mounted their best horses, and
started across the river. It was then almost dark, so
they surrounded the piece of timber, and waited for
morning to begin the search.
"Kyi," said one of the woman's
relations to her husband. "Did I not speak the truth?
You see now what that woman has done for us."
At daylight the poor husband strung
his bow, took a handful of arrows from his quiver, and
said: "This is my fault. I have brought you to this. It
is right that I should die first," and he started to go
out of the timber.
"Wait," said the eldest relative. "It shall not be
so. I am the first to go. I cannot stay back to see my
brother die. You shall go out last." So he jumped out of
the brush, and began shooting his arrows, but was soon
"My brother is too far on the road
alone,"3 cried another
relation, and he jumped out and fought, too. What use,
one against so many? The Snakes soon had his scalp.
So they went out, one after
another, and at last the husband was alone. He rushed
out very brave, and shot his arrows as fast as he could.
"Hold!" cried the Snake man to his people. "Do not kill
him; catch him. This is the one my wife said to bring
back alive. See! his hair is cut short." So, when the
man had shot away all his arrows, they seized and tied
him, and, taking the scalps of the others, returned to
They took the prisoner into the
lodge where his wife was. His hands were tied behind his
back, and they tied his feet, too. He could not move.
As soon as the man saw his wife, he
cried. He was not afraid. He did not care now how soon
he died. He cried because he was thinking of all the
trouble and death this woman had caused. "What have I
done to you," he asked his wife, "that you should treat
me this way? Did I not always use you well? I never
struck you. I never made you work hard."
"What does he say?" asked the Snake
"He says," replied the woman, "that
when you are done smoking, you must knock the ashes and
fire out of your pipe on his breast."
The Snake was not a bad-hearted
man, but he thought now that this woman had strong
medicine, that she had Sun power; so he thought that
everything must be done as she said. When the man had
finished smoking, he emptied the pipe on the Piegan's
breast, and the fire burned him badly.
Then the poor man cried again, not
from the pain, but to think what a bad heart this woman
had. Again he spoke to her. "You cannot be a person," he
said. "I think you are some fearful animal, changed to
look like a woman."
"What is he saying now?" asked the
"He wants some boiling water poured
on his head," replied the woman.
"It shall be as he says," said the
Snake; and he had his women heat some water. When it was
ready, one of them poured a little of it here and there
on the captive's head and shoulders. Wherever the hot
water touched, the hair came out and the skin peeled
off. The pain was so bad that the Piegan nearly fainted.
When he revived, he said to his wife: "Pity me. I have
suffered enough. Let them kill me now. Let me hurry to
join those who are already traveling to the Sand Hills."
The woman turned to the Snake
chief, and said, "The man says that he wants you to give
him to the Sun."
"It is good," said the Snake.
"Tomorrow we move camp. Before we leave here, we will
give him to the Sun."
There was an old woman in this camp
who lived all alone, in a little lodge of her own. She
had some friends and relations, but she said she liked
to live by herself. She had heard that a Piegan had been
captured, and went to the lodge where he was. When she
saw them pour the boiling water on him, she cried and
felt badly. This old woman had a very good heart. She
went home and lay down by her dog, and kept crying, she
felt so sorry for this poor man. Pretty soon she heard
people shouting out the orders of the chief. They said:
"Listen! listen! Tomorrow we move camp. Get ready now
and pack up everything. Before we go, the Piegan man
will be given to the Sun."
Then the old woman knew what to do.
She tied a piece of buckskin around her dog's mouth, so
he could not bark, and then she took him way out in the
timber and tied him where he could not be seen. She also
filled a small sack with pemmican, dried meat, and
berries, and put it near the dog.
In the morning the people rose early. They smoothed
a cotton-wood tree, by taking off the bark, and painted
it black. Then they stood the Piegan up against it, and
fastened him there with a great many ropes. When they
had tied him so he could not move, they painted his face
black, and the chief Snake made a prayer, and gave him
to the Sun.
Every one was now busy getting ready
to move camp. This old woman had lost her dog, and kept
calling out for him and looking all around. "Tsis'-i!"
she cried. "Tsis'-i! Come here. Knock the dog on the
head!4 Wait till I find him,
and I'll break his neck."
The people were now all packed up,
and some had already started on the trail. "Don't wait
for me," the old woman said. "Go on, I'll look again for
my dog, and catch up with you."
When all were gone, the old woman went and untied
her dog, and then, going up to where the Piegan was
tied, she cut the ropes, and he was free. But already
the man was very weak, and he fell down on the ground.
She rubbed his limbs, and pretty soon he felt better.
The old woman was so sorry for him that she cried again,
and kissed him. Then the man cried, too. He was so glad
that some one pitied him. By and by he ate some of the
food the old woman had given him, and felt strong again.
He said to her in signs: "I am not done. I shall go back
home now, but I will come again. I will bring all the
Piegans with me, and we will have revenge."
"You say well," signed the old woman.
"Help me," again said the man. "If,
on the road you are traveling, this camp should
separate, mark the trail my wife takes with a stick.
You, too, follow the party she goes with, and always put
your lodge at the far end of the village. When I return
with my people, I will enter your lodge, and tell you
what to do."
"I take your speech," replied the
old woman. "As you say, so it shall be." Then she kissed
him again, and started on after her people. The man went
to the river, swam across, and started for the North.
Why are the people crying? Why is
all this mourning? Ah! the poor man has returned home,
and told how those who went with him were killed. He has
told them the whole story. They are getting ready for
war. Every one able to fight is going with this man back
to the Snakes. Only a few will be left to guard the
camp. The mother of that bad woman is going, too. She
has sharpened her axe, and told what she will do when
she sees her daughter. All are ready. The best horses
have been caught up and saddled, and the war party has
started, hundreds and hundreds of warriors. They are
strung out over the prairie as far as you can see.
When they got to the Missouri
River, the poor man showed them where the lodge in which
they had tortured him had stood. He took them to see the
tree, where he had been bound. The black paint was still
From here, they went slowly. Some
young men were sent far ahead to scout. The second day,
they came back to the main body, and said they had found
a camping place just deserted, and that there the trail
forked. The poor man then went ahead, and at the forks
he found a willow twig stuck in the ground, pointing to
the left hand trail. When the others came up, he said to
them: "Take care of my horse now, and travel slowly. I
will go ahead on foot and find the camp. It must be
close. I will go and see that old woman, and find out
how things are."
Some men did not want him to do this; they said
that the old woman might tell about him, and then they
could not surprise the camp.
"No," replied the man. "It will not
be so. That old woman is almost the same as my mother. I
know she will help us."
He went ahead carefully, and near
sunset saw the camp. When it was dark, he crept near it
and entered the old woman's lodge. She had placed it
behind, and a little way off from, the others. When he
went in the old woman was asleep, but the fire was still
burning a little. He touched her, and she jumped up and
started to scream; but he put his hand on her mouth, and
when she saw who it was she laughed and kissed him. "The
Piegans have come," he told her. "We are going to have
revenge on this camp tonight. Is my wife here?"
"Still here," replied the old
woman. "She is chief now. They think her medicine very
"Tell your friends and relations,"
said the Piegan, "that you have had a dream, and that
they must move into the brush yonder. Have them stay
there with you, and they will not be hurt. I am going
now to get my people."
It was very late in the night. Most
of the Snakes were in bed and asleep. All at once the
camp was surrounded with warriors, shouting the war cry
and shooting, stabbing, and knocking people on the head
as fast as they came out of the lodges.
That Piegan woman cried out: "Don't
hurt me. I am a Piegan. Are any of my people here?"
"Many of your relations are here,"
some one said. "They will protect you."
Some young men seized and tied her,
as her husband had said to do. They had hard work to
keep her mother from killing her. "Hai yah!" the old
woman cried. "There is my Snake woman daughter. Let me
split her head open."
The fight was soon over. The
Piegans killed the people almost as fast as they came
out of their lodges. Some few escaped in the darkness.
When the fight was over, the young warriors gathered up
a great pile of lodge poles and brush, and set fire to
it. Then the poor man tore the dress off his bad wife,
tied the scalp of her dead Snake man around her neck,
and told her to dance the scalp dance in the fire. She
cried and hung back, calling out for pity. The people
only laughed and pushed her into the fire. She would run
through it, and then those on the other side would push
her back. So they kept her running through the fire,
until she fell down and died.
The old Snake woman had come out of
the brush with her relations. Because she had been so
good, the Piegans gave her, and those with her, one-half
of all the horses and valuable things they had taken. "Kyi!"
said the Piegan chief. "That is all for you, because you
helped this poor man. Tomorrow morning we start back
North. If your heart is that way, go too and live with
us." So these Snakes joined the Piegans and lived with
them until they died, and their children married with
the Piegans, and at last they were no longer Snake
1: Missouri River.
2: Blackfoot _Tsa-ki-an-ist-o-man-i?_
i.e., How you like truth?
3: Meaning that his brother's spirit, or
shadow, was travelling alone the road to the Sand Hills,
and that he must overtake him.] 4: A Blackfoot curse.
4: When the Hudson's Bay Company first
established a fort at Edmonton, a daughter of one of
these Snakes married a white employee of the company,
named, in Blackfoot, O-wai, Egg.