One day, as Old Man was walking about in
the woods, he saw something very queer. A bird was
sitting on the limb of a tree making a strange noise,
and every time it made this noise, its eyes would go out
of its head and fasten on the tree; then it would make
another kind of a noise, and its eyes would come back to
"Little Brother," cried Old Man,
"teach me how to do that."
"If I show you how to do that,"
replied the bird, "you must not let your eyes go out of
your head more than three times a day. If you do, you
will be sorry."
"Just as you say, Little Brother.
The trick is yours, and I will listen to you."
When the bird had taught Old Man
how to do it, he was very glad, and did it three times
right away. Then he stopped. "That bird has no sense,"
he said. "Why did he tell me to do it only three times?
I will do it again, anyhow." So he made his eyes go out
a fourth time; but now he could not call them back. Then
he called to the bird, "Oh Little Brother, come help me
get back my eyes." The little bird did not answer him.
It had flown away. Then Old Man felt all over the trees
with his hands, but he could not find his eyes; and he
wandered about for a long time, crying and calling the
animals to help him.
A wolf had much fun with him. The
wolf had found a dead buffalo, and taking a piece of the
meat which smelled bad, he would hold it close to Old
Man. "I smell something dead," Old Man would say. "I
wish I could find it; I am nearly starved to death." And
he would feel all around for it. Once, when the wolf was
doing this, Old Man caught him, and, plucking out one of
his eyes, he put it in his own head. Then he could see,
and was able to find his own eyes; but he could never
again do the trick the little bird had taught him.
The people had built a great pis'kun,
very high and strong, so that no buffalo could escape;
but somehow the buffalo would not jump over the cliff.
When driven toward it, they would run nearly to the
edge, and then, swerving to the right or left, they
would go down the sloping hills and cross the valley in
safety. So the people were hungry, and began to starve.
One morning, early, a young woman
went to get water, and she saw a herd of buffalo feeding
on the prairie, right on the edge of the cliff above the
pis'kun. "Oh!" she cried out, "if you will only jump off
into the pis'kun, I will marry one of you." This she
said for fun, not meaning it, and great was her wonder
when she saw the buffalo come jumping, tumbling, falling
over the cliff.
Now the young woman was scared, for
a big bull with one bound cleared the pis'kun walls and
came toward her. "Come," he said, taking hold of her
arm. "No, no!" she replied pulling back. "But you said
if the buffalo would jump over, you would marry one;
see, the pis'kun is filled." And without more talk he
led her up over the bluff, and out on to the prairie.
When the people had finished
killing the buffalo and cutting up the meat, they missed
this young woman, and her relations were very sad,
because they could not find her. Then her father took
his bow and quiver, and said, "I will go and find her."
And he went up over the bluff and out on the prairie.
After he had traveled some distance
he came to a wallow, and a little way off saw a herd of
buffalo. While sitting by the wallow, for he was tired
and thinking what he should do, a magpie came and lit
near him. "Ha! Ma-me-at-si-kim-i" he said, "you are a
beautiful bird; help me. Look everywhere as you travel
about, and if you see my daughter, tell her, 'Your
father waits by the wallow.'" The magpie flew over by
the herd of buffalo, and seeing the young woman, he lit
on the ground near her, and commenced picking around,
turning his head this way and that way, and, when close
to her, he said, "Your father waits by the wallow." "Sh-h-h!
sh-h-h!" replied the girl, in a whisper, looking around
scared, for her bull husband was sleeping near by.
"Don't speak so loud. Go back and tell him to wait."
"Your daughter is over there with
the buffalo. She says 'wait!'" said the magpie, when he
had flown back to the man.
By and by the bull awoke, and said
to his wife, "Go and get me some water." Then the woman
was glad, and taking a horn from his head she went to
the wallow. "Oh, why did you come?" she said to her
father. "You will surely be killed."
"I came to take my daughter home;
come, let us hurry."
"No, no!" she replied; "not now.
They would chase us and kill us. Wait till he sleeps
again, and I will try to get away," and, filling the
horn with water, she went back.
The bull drank a swallow of the
water. "Ha!" said he, "a person is close by here."
"No one," replied the woman; but
her heart rose up.
The bull drank a little more, and
then he stood up and bellowed, "Bu-u-u! m-m-ah-oo!" Oh,
fearful sound! Up rose the bulls, raised their short
tails and shook them, tossed their great heads, and
bellowed back. Then they pawed the dirt, rushed about
here and there, and coming to the wallow, found that
poor man. There they trampled him with their great
hoofs, hooked him and trampled him again, and soon not
even a small piece of his body could be seen.
Then his daughter cried, "Oh! ah!
Ni-nah-ah! Oh! ah! Ni-nah-ah!" (My father! My father!)
"Ah!" said her bull husband, "you mourn for your father.
You see now how it is with us. We have seen our mothers,
fathers, many of our relations, hurled over the rocky
walls, and killed for food by your people. But I will
pity you. I will give you one chance. If you can bring
your father to life, you and he can go back to your
Then the woman said to the magpie:
"Pity me. Help me now; go and seek in the trampled mud;
try and find a little piece of my father's body, and
bring it to me."
The magpie flew to the place. He
looked in every hole, and tore up the mud with his sharp
nose. At last he found something white; he picked the
mud from around it, and then pulling hard, he brought
out a joint of the backbone, and flew with it back to
She placed it on the ground,
covered it with her robe, and then sang. Removing the
robe, there lay her father's body as if just dead. Once
more she covered it with the robe and sang, and when she
took away the robe, he was breathing, and then he stood
up. The buffalo were surprised; the magpie was glad, and
flew round and round, making a great noise.
"We have seen strange things this
day," said her bull husband. "He whom we trampled to
death, even into small pieces, is alive again. The
people's medicine is very strong. Now, before you go, we
will teach you our dance and our song. You must not
forget them." When the dance was over, the bull said:
"Go now to your home, and do not forget what you have
seen. Teach it to the people. The medicine shall be a
bull's head and a robe. All the persons who are to be
'Bulls' shall wear them when they dance."
Great was the joy of the people,
when the man returned with his daughter. He called a
council of the chiefs, and told them all that had
happened. Then the chiefs chose certain young men, and
this man taught them the dance and song of the bulls,
and told them what the medicine should be. This was the
beginning of the I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi.