This happened long ago. In
those days the people were hungry. No buffalo nor
antelope were seen on the prairie. The deer and the elk
trails were covered with grass and leaves; not even a
rabbit could be found in the brush. Then the people
prayed, saying: "Oh, Old Man, help us now, or we shall
die. The buffalo and deer are gone. Uselessly we kindle
the morning fires; useless are our arrows; our knives
stick fast in the sheaths."
Then Old Man started
out to find the game, and he took with him a young man,
the son of a chief. For many days they traveled the
prairies and ate nothing but berries and roots. One day
they climbed a high ridge, and when they had reached the
top, they saw, far off by a stream, a single lodge.
"What kind of a person can it be," said the
young man, "who camps there all alone, far from
"That," said Old Man, "is the one who has hidden
all the buffalo and deer from the people. He has a wife
and a little son."
Then they went close to the lodge, and Old Man
changed himself into a little dog, and he said, "That is
I." Then the young man changed himself into a
root-digger, 1 and he said,
"That is I."
Now the little boy, playing about, found the
dog, and he carried it to his father, saying, "Look! See
what a pretty little dog I have found." "Throw it away,"
said his father; "it is not a dog." And the little boy
cried, but his father made him carry the dog away. Then
the boy found the root-digger; and, again picking up the
dog, he carried them both to the lodge, saying, "Look,
mother! see the pretty root-digger I have found!"
"Throw them both away," said his father; "that
is not a stick, that is not a dog."
"I want that stick," said the woman; "let our
son have the little dog."
"Very well," said her husband, "but remember, if
trouble comes, you bring it on yourself and on our son."
Then he sent his wife and son off to pick berries; and
when they were out of sight, he went out and killed a
buffalo cow, and brought the meat into the lodge and
covered it up, and the bones, skin and offal he threw in
the creek. When his wife returned, he gave her some of
the meat to roast; and while they were eating, the
little boy fed the dog three times, and when he gave it
more, his father took the meat away, saying, "That is
not a dog, you shall not feed it more."
In the night, when all were asleep, Old Man and the
young man arose in their right shapes, and ate of the
meat. "You were right," said the young man; "this is
surely the person who has hidden the buffalo from us."
"Wait," said Old Man; and when they had finished eating,
they changed themselves back into the stick and the dog.
In the morning the man sent his wife and son to
dig roots, and the woman took the stick with her. The
dog followed the little boy. Now, as they traveled along
in search of roots, they came near a cave, and at its
mouth stood a buffalo cow. Then the dog ran into the
cave, and the stick, slipping from the woman's hand,
followed, gliding along like a snake. In this cave they
found all the buffalo and other game, and they began to
drive them out; and soon the prairie was covered with
buffalo and deer. Never before were seen so many.
Pretty soon the man came running up, and he said
to his wife, "Who now drives out my animals?" and she
replied, "The dog and the stick are now in there." "Did
I not tell you," said he, "that those were not what they
looked like? See now the trouble you have brought upon
us," and he put an arrow on his bow and waited for them
to come out. But they were cunning, for when the last
animal a big bull was about to go out, the stick grasped
him by the hair under his neck, and coiled up in it, and
the dog held on by the hair beneath, until they were far
out on the prairie, when they changed into their true
shapes, and drove the buffalo toward camp.
When the people saw the buffalo coming, they drove
a big band of them to the pis'kun; but just as the
leaders were about to jump off, a raven came and flapped
its wings in front of them and croaked, and they turned
off another way.
Every time a band of buffalo was driven near the
pis'kun, this raven frightened them away. Then Old Man
knew that the raven was the one who had kept the buffalo
So he went and changed himself into a beaver, and
lay stretched out on the bank of the river, as if dead;
and the raven, which was very hungry, flew down and
began to pick at him. Then Old Man caught it by the legs
and ran with it to camp, and all the chiefs came
together to decide what should be done with it. Some
said to kill it, but Old Man said, "No! I will punish
it," and he tied it over the lodge, right in the smoke
As the days went by, the raven grew poor and
weak, and his eyes were blurred with the thick smoke,
and he cried continually to Old Man to pity him. One day
Old Man untied him, and told him to take his right
shape, saying: "Why have you tried to fool Old Man? Look
at me! I cannot die. Look at me! Of all peoples and
tribes I am the chief. I cannot die. I made the
mountains. They are standing yet. I made the prairies
and the rocks. You see them yet. Go home, then, to your
wife and your child, and when you are hungry hunt like
any one else, or you shall die."
1: A carved and painted stick about
three feet long, shaped like a sacking needle, used by
women to unearth roots.]
One day Old Man went out hunting and
took the fox with him. They hunted for several days, but
killed nothing. It was nice warm weather in the late
fall. After they had become very hungry, as they were
going along one day, Old Man went up over a ridge and on
the other side he saw four big buffalo bulls lying down;
but there was no way by which they could get near them.
He dodged back out of sight and told the fox what he had
seen, and they thought for a long time, to see if there
was no way by which these bulls might be killed.
At last Old Man said to the fox:
"My little brother, I can think of only one way to get
these bulls. This is my plan, if you agree to it. I will
pluck all the fur off you except one tuft on the end of
your tail. Then you go over the hill and walk up and
down in sight of the bulls, and you will seem so funny
to them that they will laugh themselves to death."
The fox did not like to do this,
but he could think of nothing better, so he agreed to
what Old Man proposed. Old Man plucked him perfectly
bare, except the end of his tail, and the fox went over
the ridge and walked up and down. When he had come close
to the bulls, he played around and walked on his hind
legs and went through all sorts of antics. When the
bulls first saw him, they got up on their feet, and
looked at him. They did not know what to make of him.
Then they began to laugh, and the more they looked at
him, the more they laughed, until at last one by one
they fell down exhausted and died. Then Old Man came
over the hill, and went down to the bulls, and began to
butcher them. By this time it had grown a little colder.
"Ah, little brother," said Old Man
to the fox, "you did splendidly. I do not wonder that
the bulls laughed themselves to death. I nearly died
myself as I watched you from the hill. You looked very
funny." While he was saying this, he was working away
skinning off the hides and getting the meat ready to
carry to camp, all the time talking to the fox, who
stood about, his back humped up and his teeth chattering
with the cold. Now a wind sprang up from the north and a
few snowflakes were flying in the air. It was growing
colder and colder. Old Man kept on talking, and every
now and then he would say something to the fox, who was
sitting behind him perfectly still, with his jaw shoved
out and his teeth shining.
At last Old Man had the bulls all
skinned and the meat cut up, and as he rose up he said:
"It is getting pretty cold, isn't it? Well, we do not
care for the cold. We have got all our winter's meat,
and we will have nothing to do but feast and dance and
sing until spring." The fox made no answer. Then Old Man
got angry, and called out: "Why don't you answer me?
Don't you hear me talking to you?" The fox said nothing.
Then Old Man was mad, and he said, "Can't you speak?"
and stepped up to the fox and gave him a push with his
foot, and the fox fell over. He was dead, frozen stiff
with the cold.