Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

The Poor Boy


The Poor Boy

Two good-looking girls were living together. The older one wished to marry a poor boy, but he refused. The younger one also proposed to him. Then he married her, and lived together with the two sisters. The boy used a large bear for a dog, always tying him up inside the lodge. When he lived with his grandmother, he once said to her, "I wish we had a bear for a dog." She protested, saying she was afraid, but the next day, they had one. The boy was a great hunter. He used to play with other boys, none of whom had much to eat. They asked him where he got his meat, but he refused to tell. He said to his grandmother, "I wish we had another bear." The next day they had a second one. Whatever the boy wished for, he obtained. After eating, he always played with other boys. They used to remark how fat he was getting. He always kept a small piece of bearskin. Once the boy said, "I wish we had the meat of both a male and a female moose." The next day his grandmother found the meat in camp. They subsisted on the meat for four months. He made a buffalo-pound. Now some people came to live near him. The boy made many arrows, and gave one to each of the men. He told them he was going to drive the buffalo towards them. Soon they heard the trampling of buffalo, whom he drove into the pound. They shot all of them. When they were done eating the meat, he drove some more in.

Once the boy stayed away for a long time. At last, just before sunset, they heard him coming. He shouted when he got close, and all the Indians came running to the pound. He was riding on horseback, and his horse was quite exhausted. When all the buffalo were slain, the women went inside and skinned them. The last time he got buffalo, he stayed out all night. At last he brought them, but there was only half a herd. He said, "I can't get any more, they are all gone." They had gone to the mountains.1

The Orphan Brother And Sister.2

A young orphan boy was living with his sister. By his medicine he managed to kill beavers. In the winter he was in the habit of cutting the ice and putting his medicine in the water, then all the beavers would come out, and the boy caught them. Thus he obtained plenty of beaver-skins. He would hear people trying to kill beavers, but they could not do it. When they gave up the attempt, he would go there and use his medicine, which he carried about his neck. Being very strong, he tied all the beavers to a sinew string and carried them home. Once the other people tried to rob him, but he said, "Let me alone, these are my beavers." If they persisted, he seized their arms and broke them.a3 He never told his sister where he went to hunt. When the people came back to camp with broken arms, the girl said, "You never told me about breaking their arms, you must set them again." The boy was paid well for treating the people. He just touched their arms, saying, "There is nothing wrong, "and they went home cured. All the people were afraid of him now.

One day, he said to the girl, " Perhaps a lot of people will come and carry you off together with our lodge." She asked, "Supposing they take me, what will you do?" "I will put a shell in the ground, go inside, and sing." The people came and carried off the girl. They heard something within a shell. They tried to break it open by stamping on it, but only tore their feet. They tried to push it over, but could not do so. Then they just went away with the girl. The boy had two arrows. He shot them at the enemy, crying, "Avoid my sister!" The arrows killed everyone except the girl, whom her brother then took back again.

The boy went traveling. He heard a bear singing, "I am walking on the earth." The orphan sang, "I have met the stone." The bear heard him, and stopped singing. "What are you saying?" he asked. "I was not say-ing anything." "I want to know-what you were singing. How many times have you met the stone?" The bear was scared and fled, but the boy shot an arrow into his anus, splitting his back open and piercing his heart.

An orphan boy and his sister were living together. The boy had a sinew string. During the daytime he was never home. "What do you do during the day? "his sister asked. "I am trying to ensnare the sun with my sinew." One day he caught him and there was no day light. The girl asked, "What is the matter? Why is there no light?" "I have caught the sun." "You had better release him; if we don't see the daylight, we shall die." The boy approached the sun, but it got too hot for him. He returned to his sister, and said, "I cannot free him, he is too hot." At last, he sent a small mouse to gnaw up the sinew. The mouse went close. All its hair was burnt up, nevertheless it gnawed the sinew in two. Then the sun was free, and there was daylight once more.b1

A hostile tribe caught sight of a camp of about four hundred Stoney lodges. They waited until night fall when all the Stoneys were asleep. Then they killed all except a young girl and her little brother, who hid in a dog-house. After the Blackfoot were gone, the children came out of their hiding place, looked about and found that everyone was killed. The girl packed her belongings and set out with her brother to look for another Stoney band. At sunset, the girl struck fire, and they lay down without any supper. The next morning the boy asked his sister to make a bow and arrows for him. She made two of the arrows with a blunt (?) point and strung the bow with sinew. Then they traveled all day again and went to bed supperless. The boy grew perceptibly every day. He told his sister, "If I kill four rabbits, each of us will eat two." The girl agreed. The boy went off a little distance, found four rabbits in the brush, killed them, and brought them home. The girl asked how he had killed them, and he told her he had used the blunt (?) arrows. The girl skinned and roasted the rabbits. Then she said, "Let each of us eat one rabbit to-night and another in the morning." "No, each must eat two now, as I said." At last, the girl. agreed, and they ate up the rabbits. In the morning the boy had grown again. "Sister," he said, "if I kill a moose, we'll have plenty of dry meat." He traveled some distance and shot a moose. He came home. "I have killed a big moose, but it is too heavy for me to turnover for skinning." The girl took her knife and helped him to skin it. Then he seized it by the legs and carried it to the fire. The next morning he had grown again. The boy made new arrows of larger size for himself, while the girl was preparing dried meat. Every day the orphan killed some game.

One night the boy began to sing, "Before we get up in the morning, I wish we had a new lodge with new furniture. What do you think?" His sister said she also desired a new lodge. In the morning the girl woke up first and found herself in a new, well-furnished lodge. She was very glad and roused her brother. Then she built a fire. The boy said, "If I go hunting and some Indians carry you off in the meantime, what do you think of that?" She said, "Whatever you say, happens. Why do you speak like this?" The next morning he went to hunt, but did not kill any game. He stood on a hill, looking around until he got drowsy and fell asleep. In the meantime, some Indians came to the tent, stole their property and abducted the girl on horseback. While the boy was sleeping, something spoke to him, saying, "People are stealing your sister and your lodge." He woke up and ran home as fast as he could. He was very angry. There was nothing left on the site of the lodge. He followed the enemy's tracks and from a ridge saw them traveling fast. He pursued them, but could not catch up; he only saw them from afar. Being exhausted, he called out, "I am weary; come, White-Horse-with-the-Black-Mane." He walked on until he heard a voice behind. The white horse came singing. He jumped on it. It said, "Don't release my mane." Then it went as fast as a bird. When they got close to the enemy, he singled out his sister, took a blunt (?) arrow, pulled the bow-string three times, and the fourth time shot off the arrow, saying, "Pass around my sister." With two shots he killed all the people. He took his sister back. She was crying, because the enemy had consumed all their provisions. "Don't cry, we'll get some more." He dismissed his horse and walked home with the girl. In the evening he said, "I wish to have a nice lodge at sunrise." The next morning they woke up in a fine lodge. He went hunting and killed some game. "Go, get that meat," he said to his sister. "How far is it? If it is very far, I won't be able to pack it." "Don't go to-day; wait until to-morrow, then I'll get you a horse to pack it on." In the morning the girl woke up and said, "Hurry up, get me the horse." The boy set out, found four horses by a spring, and brought them home. He gave two to the girl, and said, "When you pack this one, just tell him to go straight home." Thus he brought the meat back.

The boy was ashamed to be living alone with his sister. He said, "If any young man comes near when I am out to-morrow, bid him enter." He went away. The girl saw a young man by a nearby hillock and called him to her. They married. When the boy returned, he was glad to meet his brother-in-law, and presented him with all his property and his lodge. The woman told her husband about her brother's doings. The young man had many friends whom he wished to see. "You had better come to my camp," he said to his wife and the orphan boy. "I'll get some more horses," replied the boy, and brought four pack-horses and three to ride on. His brother-in-law rode on ahead and told his father that he had found the orphans and had married the girl. He also told him about the boy's exploits. His father said, "Bring them here, I will give him my prettiest daughter." Then the husband again invited his wife and his brother-in-law home. The woman asked her brother to marry her sister-in-law, and he was willing to do so. They arrived at the camp-circle, the old man as chief lodging in the center. The boy's brother-in-law gave him many fine presents. He gave him half of his horses. The orphan boy said, "I wish I had a new house in the morning," and the next day he had a fine lodge close to that of the chief.

al This story is obviously a fragmentary version of the story of the Poor Boy hero who supplies his starving people with food. The opening sentences stand absolutely unrelated to the rest of the tale.
a2 This myth was found by Mr. Skinner among the James Bay Cree.
a3 Cf. p. 135.
b1 So far as I know, the oldest published version of this tale is that of Le Jeune, whose Relation of 1637 records it as a Montagnais myth (Jesuit Relations, Vol. 12, p. 35). Cf. also J. 0. Dorsey, (d), p. 14 (Omaha); Schoolcraft, p. 239 (Ojibwa); Hoffman, p. 181 (Menomini); Jones, p. 79 (Fox).

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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