Indian Mythology | Assiniboin Mythology

The Seven Stars


The Seven Stars.1
There were seven youths on this world; one of them was red-haired. They did not know whether they had any parents. They were having a hard time of it. "What shall we turn into? "they asked one another. One said, "Let us change into the earth." The one named the Wise-One (Ksa'be) said, "No, verily the earth is mortal, it gets caved in (?)." Then another one said, "Let us become rocks." "No, they are destructible, they all break asunder." A third one said, "We must change into big trees, into very big ones." "No, they are perishable; when there is a storm, they are blown down." Again one of them said, "Let us change into water." "No, it is destructible, it dries up completely." The fifth said, "Let us change into the night." "No, the night is fleeting, soon the light appears again." The sixth boy said, "Let us be the day." "No, it is fleeting; when the sun disappears, it is dark once more." The Wise-One said, "No, the blue sky above is never dead, it is always in existence. Shining things live there. Such we shall change into. In that region let us dwell." Well, so they do. The smallest of them took them up, hoisting them by means of his spider-web. He set three on one side and three on the other, seating himself in the middle. When the last one had gotten up, he tore the web in the middle, threw it down, and gave it to the spider.

The Dipper.2

A woman had illicit intercourse with a snake. Her husband once watched her as she was fetching firewood. She pounded a tree-stump, and from its hollow a snake came out. The man decided to kill his wife. He went on a hunt, killed a moose, and returned in a zigzag line. Then he told his wife to fetch the meat, following his track. The woman obeyed. In the meantime, the husband went to the tree, killed all the snakes, gathered their blood in a cup, and boiled soup from it. When his wife returned, he gave her the soup. After she had swallowed it, he told her it was the snakes' blood. She started towards the tree and found all the snakes dead. She was furious.

The couple had seven children, one of whom was a girl. The man bade' them flee. They ran away, while he stayed in the lodge, having fastened the door-flap. He heard the woman approaching with yells. When she stuck her head inside, he cut it off with a bone knife. The head began to roll after the children, caught them, and carried them to a tipi, where they lived together. One of the boys once killed a moose and was stretching the skin. The head went out to scrape it, warning the children not to look at it. One of the boys wanted to look out, though another boy warned him. He insisted, and his brother finally yielded, saying, "Well, then look at our mother." The head knew the boy was peeping out, and said, "I will kill all my children." The children ran away, pursued by their mother's head.

The girl had an awl. She gave it to her brother, who threw it behind them. A great number of awls sprang up, and the head could not get across the points. After three days, it managed to get through, and again pursued the children. The girl gave her brother a little piece of flint. He threw it behind them, and a big fire started up. The head was burnt in the fire, all its hair being singed off. After a long while, it got through the fire and continued the pursuit. When it came near, the sister gave her brother a piece of rock. When he threw it behind them, it turned into a big mountain. The head could not get over it at first, but finally it passed across. The children came to a deep river. Two cranes were standing there. The boys said, "Let us travel across your necks to the other side." The birds allowed them to cross. Then the children asked them not to allow their mother to cross. When the head came and had passed to the middle of the crane's neck, the bird threw it into the water.

After a while, the head got out again and started after the children. The sister made a ball and said, "Let us play ball." They stood, in, a circle and threw the ball to one another. While doing so, they rose to the sky and became the Dipper. The head could not jump high enough to reach them.3

The Bear Woman4

A woman had daily intercourse with a bear. The people found out about it, and killed the bear. His wife was angry. She asked the people to give her a piece of the bear's leg-skin. Out of this she made a complete skin, covered herself with it, and killed all the people except her parents and sister. A strong man tried to kill her, and hit her in several places, nevertheless she remained unhurt. Her young sister asked, "How is it that you did not get hurt?" "I can only be hurt in the right paw." Two of the bear-woman's brothers were out hunting. Returning home, they found all the people killed. Their little sister told them their older sister had slain them all. The bear was sleeping at this time. The girl said, "If you cut her right paw, you will kill her." One of the boys stuck his arrow in her paw and killed her. Then he took out her heart, dried it in the sun, pulverized it, and sprinkled some of the powder on each of the fireplaces of the slain people. Then they all woke up again.

Some girls were playing. Another girl came along and was invited to join them. "No, I don't like to play." At last, however, she consented, saying, "Well, I will play, but don't play with my anus." They began to play. As they were playing, the girl got bigger and bigger. The others began to tease her. She got more and more like a bear. Some of the girls ran away, but she killed them. The people in the camp shot at her, but could not kill her; she killed all of them. Her young sister hid in a dog-house. At last, the bear-woman found her. The girl cried, "Don't kill me, I'll fetch water for you and comb your hair." So the bear spared her, and they lived together. During all this time, their four brothers were away. The bear used to abuse her sister and make her work hard. One day she said, "Get wood for me." The girl went out and met her four brothers. They gave her a rabbit, but she was afraid to take it, because the bear would ask her whence she had obtained it. The brothers said, "Place the rabbit down there and hit it. When she asks you how you killed it, tell her you did it that way. Also, find out which is her vulnerable spot." When the girl came home with the rabbit, her sister asked, "Where did you get that rabbit." "I killed it myself." "How did you do it? Let me see." The girl then showed her, hitting the rabbit in the eye. The girl then asked her where she was vulnerable. The bear said, "If my toes are wounded, I shall die." The girl went and told her brothers, who asked her to put a stick under the bear's toes while she was sleeping. She obeyed. Then the best marksman among them shot an arrow at each toe, thus killing the bear. They cut her to pieces, heaped up firewood, and burnt her up. Then they pounded up the bones, and sprinkled the powder on every fireplace. Then the boys shot arrows into the air, crying to the dead, "Look out for the arrows, run away!" Then all awoke and ran away.5

1 Obtained as a text at Ft. Belknap.
2 This tale may be resolved into the following elements: A, snake-paramour, B, rolling head; C, magic flight; D, crane-bridge; E, ball-game before transformation into stars. A occurs in Russell, p. 202 (Cree); Knoeber, (d), p. 185 (Cheyenne); Wissler, (c), p. 195 (Dakota); Schoolcraft, p. 265 (Ojibwa). B is found in Maclean, p. 71 (Cree); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 13 (Arapaho); Kroeber, (d), p. 185 (Cheyenne); Wissler, (c), p. 195 (Dakota); Schoolcraft, p. 265 (Ojibwa); G. A. Dorsey, (a), p. 116 (Pawnee). For C, compare Maclean, p. 71 (Cree); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 13 (Arapaho); Wissler, (c) p. 195 (Dakota); Schoolcraft, p. 249 (Ojibwa); G. A. Dorsey, (a), p. 117 (Pawnee). D occurs in Maclean, p. 72 (Cree); Lowie, p. 254 (Shoshone), Schoolcraft, p. 267 (Ojibwa); G. A. Dorsey (a), p. 117 (Pawnee). E is shared among others by the Gros Ventre, Kroeber, (e), p. 108; and the Arapaho, Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 238.
3 Another narrative consists exclusively of the details of the snake-paramour episode and the husband's revenge: A man was staying with his wife and children. For a long time, they remained in the same place. The woman used to dress up carefully, combing her hair with great nicety. Her husband was wondering for whom she dressed 'up like that. He killed a moose one day and in the morning bade her fetch the meat. The woman said, "I will first fetch the wood." "No, it is a long way off, get the meat as soon as possible." The woman finally obeyed. The man searched for her tracks when she went for wood. They led him to a big stump with a little round hole. He returned home and brought a sharp knife and a cup with him. He pounded the tree. A snake came out, and he killed it. He left its body hanging half-way out of the hollow, and gathered up the blood in his cup. He made soup of it. When his wife returned, she quickly unpacked the meat and wanted to go for firewood. Her husband said, "First eat this soup." "No, I'll get wood first." "No, you had better eat first." At last, she knelt, and gulped it down. The man said, "This is your lover's blood." The woman ran screaming to the stump. When she saw the snake's corpse, she cried, "Wherever you go, I will kill you." The man shut the lodge-door. When his wife opened it, sticking in her head, he cut it off.
4 Cf. Wissler and Duvall, p. 68 (Blackfoot); Kroeber, (e), p. 105 (Gros Ventre); Dorsey and Kroeber, p. 238 (Arapaho); Simms, p. 312 (Crow); J. 0. Dorsey, (d), p. 292 (Omaha); G. A. Dorsey, (e), p. 69 (Wichita)
5 A third Stoney version combining elements of the two other variants closes as follows: They shot at her toe, but missed it. She pursued them. "I'll kill you, wherever you go." The girl said, "Let us make a ball out of this piece of a robe." She made a ball and told her brothers to stand in a circle and play ball. They threw it to one another, and ascended to the sky, forming the Dipper.

Assiniboin Mythology

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Anthropological Papers American Museum of Natural History, 1909



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