Buffalo Woman, A Story of Magic
Native American Lore
Snow Bird, the Caddo medicine man, had a handsome son. When the boy was old
enough to be given a man's name, Snow Bird called him Braveness because of
his courage as a hunter. Many of the girls in the Caddo village wanted to
win Braveness as a husband, but he paid little attention to any of them.
One morning he started out for a day of hunting, and while he was walking
along looking for wild game, he saw someone ahead of him sitting under a
small elm tree. As he approached, he was surprised to find that the person
was a young woman, and he started to turn aside.
"Come here," she called to him in a pleasant voice. Braveness went up to her
and saw that she was very young and very beautiful.
"I knew you were coming here," she said, "and so I came to meet you."
"You are not of my people," he replied. "How did you know that I was coming
"I am Buffalo Woman," she said. "I have seen you many times before, from
afar. I want you to take me home with you and let me stay with you."
"I can take you home with me," Braveness answered her, "but you must ask my
parents if you can stay with us."
They started for his home at once, and when they arrived there Buffalo Woman
asked Braveness's parents if she could stay with them and become the young
man's wife. "If Braveness wants you for his wife, we will be pleased," said
Snow Bird, the medicine man. "It is time that he had someone to love."
And so Braveness and Buffalo Woman were married in the custom of the Caddo
people and lived happily together for several moons. One day she asked him,
"Will you do whatever I may ask of you, Braveness?"
"Yes," he replied, "if what you ask is not unreasonable."
"I want you to go with me to visit my people."
Braveness said that he would go, and the next day they started for her home,
she leading the way. After they had walked a long distance they came to some
high hills, and all at once she turned round and looked at Braveness and
said: "You promised me that you would do anything I say."
"Yes," he answered.
"Well," she said, "my home is on the other side of this high hill. I will
tell you when we get to my mother. I know there will be many coming there to
see who you are, and some may provoke you and try to make you angry, but do
not allow yourself to become angry with any of them. Some may try to kill
"Why should they do that?" asked Braveness.
"Listen to what I am about to tell you," she said. "I knew you before you
knew me. Through magic I made you come to me that first day. I said that
some will try to make you angry, and if you show anger at even one of them,
the others will join in fighting you until they have killed you. They will
be jealous of you. The reason is that I refused many who wanted me."
"But you are now my wife," Braveness said.
"I have told you what to do when we get there," Buffalo Woman continued.
"Now I want you to lie down on the ground and roll over twice."
Braveness smiled at her, but he did as she had told him to do. He rolled
over twice, and when he stood up he found himself changed into a Buffalo.
For a moment Buffalo Woman looked at him, seeing the astonishment in his
eyes. Then she rolled over twice, and she also became a Buffalo. Without
saying a word she led him to the top of the hill. In the valley off to the
west, Braveness could see hundreds and hundreds of Buffalo.
"They are my people," said Buffalo Woman. "This is my home."
When the members of the nearest herd saw Braveness and Buffalo Woman coming,
they began gathering in one place, as though waiting for them. Buffalo Woman
led the way, Braveness following her until they reached an old Buffalo cow,
and he knew that she was the mother of his beautiful wife.
For two moons they stayed with the herd. Every now and then, four or five of
the young Buffalo males would come around and annoy Braveness, trying to
arouse his anger, but he pretended not to notice hem. One night, Buffalo
Woman told him that she was ready to go back to his home, and they slipped
away over the hills.
When they reached the place where they had turned themselves into Buffalo,
they rolled over twice on the ground and became a man and a woman again.
"Promise me that you will not tell anyone of this magical transformation,"
Buffalo Woman said. "If people learn about it, something bad will happen to
They stayed at Braveness's home for twelve moons, and then Buffalo Woman
asked him again to go with her to visit her people. They had not been long
in the valley of the Buffalo when she told Braveness that the young males
who were jealous of him were planning to have a foot-race. "They will
challenge you to race and if you do not outrun them they will kill you," she
That night Braveness could not sleep. He went out to take a long walk. It
was a very dark night without moon or stars, but he could feel the presence
of the Wind spirit.
"You are young and strong," the Wind spirit whispered to him, "but you
cannot outrun the Buffalo without my help. If you lose, they will kill you.
If you win, they will never challenge you again.
"What must I do to save my life and keep my beautiful wife?" asked
The Wind spirit gave him two things. "One of these is a magic herb," said
the Wind spirit. "The other is dried mud from a medicine wallow. If the
Buffalo catch up with you, first throw behind you the magic herb. If they
come too close to you again, throw down the dried mud."
The next day was the day of the race. At sunrise the young Buffalo gathered
at the starting place. When Braveness joined them, they began making fun of
him, telling him he was a man buffalo and therefore had not the power to
outrun them. Braveness ignored their jeers, and calmly lined up with them at
the starting point.
An old Buffalo started the race with a loud bellow, and at first Braveness
took the lead, running very swiftly. But soon the others began gaining on
him, and when he heard their hard breathing close upon his heels, he threw
the magic herb behind him. By this time he was growing very tired and
thought he could not run any more. He looked back and saw one Buffalo
holding his head down and coming very fast, rapidly closing the space
between him and Braveness. Just as this Buffalo was about to catch up with
him, Braveness threw down the dried mud from the medicine wallow.
Soon he was far ahead again, but he knew that he had used up the powers
given him by the Wind spirit. As he neared the goal set for the race, he
heard the pounding of hooves coming closer behind him. At the last moment,
he felt a strong wind on his face as it passed him to stir up dust and keep
the Buffalo from overtaking him. With the help of the Wind spirit, Braveness
crossed the goal first and won the race. After that, none of the Buffalo
ever challenged him again, and he and Buffalo Woman lived peacefully with
the herd until they were ready to return to his Caddo people.
Not long after their return to Braveness's home, Buffalo Woman gave birth to
a handsome son. They named him Buffalo Boy, and soon he was old enough to
play with the other children of the village. One day while Buffalo Woman was
cooking dinner, the boy slipped out of the lodge and went to join some other
children at play. They played several games and then decided to play that
they were Buffalo. Some of them lay on the ground to roll like Buffalo, and
Buffalo Boy also did this. When he rolled over twice, he changed into a real
Buffalo calf. Frightened by this, the other children ran for their lodges.
About this time his mother came out to look for him, and when she saw the
children running in fear she knew that something must be wrong. She went to
see what had happened and found her son changed into a Buffalo calf. Taking
him up in her arms, she ran down the hill, and as soon as she was out of
sight of the village she turned herself into a Buffalo and with Buffalo Boy
started off toward the west.
Late that evening when Braveness returned from hunting he could find neither
his wife nor his son in the lodge. He went out to look for them, and someone
told him of the game the children had played and of the magic that had
changed his son into a Buffalo calf.
At first, Braveness could not believe what they told him, but after he had
followed his wife's tracks down the hill and found the place where she had
rolled he knew the story was true. For many moons, Braveness searched for
Buffalo Woman and Buffalo Boy, but he never found them again.
The Buffalo Dance
Native American Lore
The most exciting event of the year's festival was the Buffalo Dance. Eight
men participated, wearing buffalo skins on their backs and painting
themselves black, red, and white. Dancers endeavoured to imitate the buffalo
on the prairie.
Each dancer held a rattle in his right hand, and in his left a six-foot rod.
On his head, he wore a bunch of green willow boughs. The season for the
return of the buffalo coincided with the willow trees in full leaf.
Another dance required only four tribesmen, representing the four main
directions of the compass from which the buffalo might come. With a canoe in
the centre, two dancers, dressed as grizzly bears who might attack the
hunters, took their places on each side. They growled and threatened to
spring upon anyone who might interfere with the ceremony.
Onlookers tried to appease the grizzlies by tossing food to them. The two
dancers would pounce upon the food, carrying it away to the prairie as
possible lures for the coming of the buffalo.
During the ceremony, the old men of the tribe beat upon drums and chanted
prayers for successful buffalo hunting.
By the end of the fourth day of the Buffalo Dance, a man entered the camp
disguised as the evil spirit of famine. Immediately he was driven away by
shouts and stone-throwing from the younger Mandans, who waited excitedly to
participate in the ceremony.
When the demon of famine was successfully driven away, the entire tribe
joined in the bountiful thanksgiving feast, symbolic of the early return of
buffalo to the Mandan hunting-grounds.
Buffalo and Eagle Wing
Native American Lore
A long time ago there were no stones on the earth. The mountains, hills, and
valleys were not rough, and it was easy to walk on the ground swiftly. There
were no small trees at that time either. All the bushes and trees were tall
and straight and were at equal distances. So a man could travel through a
forest without having to make a path.
At that time, a large buffalo roamed over the land. From the water, he had
obtained his spirit power--the power to change anything into some other
form. He would have that power as long as he only drank from a certain pool.
In his wanderings, Buffalo often traveled across a high mountain. He liked
this mountain so much that one day he asked it, "Would you like to be
changed into something else?"
"Yes," replied the mountain. "I would like to be changed into something
nobody would want to climb over."
"All right," said Buffalo. "I will change you into something hard that I
will call 'stone.' You will be so hard that no one will want to break you
and so smooth that no one will want to climb you."
So Buffalo changed the mountain into a large stone. "And I give you the
power to change yourself into anything else as long as you do not break
Only buffaloes lived in this part of the land. No people lived here. On the
other side of the mountain lived men who were cruel and killed animals. The
buffaloes knew about them and stayed as far away from them as possible. But
one day Buffalo thought he would like to see these men. He hoped to make
friends with them and persuade them not to kill buffaloes.
So he went over the mountain and traveled along a stream until he came to a
lodge. There lived an old woman and her grandson. The little boy liked
Buffalo, and Buffalo liked the little boy and his grandmother. He said to
them, "I have the power to change you into any form you wish. What would you
like most to be?"
"I want always to be with my grandson. I want to be changed into anything
that will make it possible for me to be with him, wherever he goes."
"I will take you to the home of the buffaloes," said their guest. "I will
ask them to teach the boy to become a swift runner. I will ask the water to
change the grandmother into something, so that you two can always be
So Buffalo, the grandmother, and the little boy went over the mountain to
the land of the buffalo.
"We will teach you to run swiftly," they told the boy, "if you will promise
to keep your people from hunting and killing buffalo."
"I promise," said the boy.
The buffaloes taught him to run so fast that not one of them could keep up
with him. The old grandmother could follow him wherever he went, for she had
been changed into Wind.
The boy stayed with the buffaloes until he became a man. Then they let him
go back to his people, reminding him of his promise. Because he was such a
swift runner, he became a leader of the hunters. They called him Eagle Wing.
One day the chief called Eagle Wing to him and said to him, "My son, I want
you to take the hunters to the buffalo country. We have never been able to
kill buffaloes because they run so very fast. But you too can run fast. If
you will kill some buffaloes and bring home the meat and the skins, I will
adopt you as my son. And when I die, you will become chief of the tribe."
Eagle Wing wanted so much to become chief that he pushed from his mind his
promise to the buffaloes. He started out with the hunters, but he climbed
the mountain so fast that they were soon left far behind. On the other side
of the mountain, he saw a herd of buffaloes. They started to run in fright,
but Eagle Wing followed them and killed most of them.
Buffalo, the great one who got his power from the water, was away from home
at the time of the hunt. On his way back he grew so thirsty that he drank
from some water on the other side of the mountain not from his special pool.
When he reached home and saw what the hunter had done, he became very angry.
He tried to turn the men into grass, but he could not. Because he had drunk
from another pool, he had lost his power to transform.
Buffalo went to the big stone that had once been a mountain.
"What can you do to punish the hunter for what he has done?" he asked Stone.
"I will ask the trees to tangle themselves so that it will be difficult for
men to travel through them," answered Stone. "I will break myself into many
pieces and scatter myself all over the land. Then the swift runner and his
followers cannot run over me without hurting their feet."
"That will punish them," agreed Buffalo.
So Stone broke itself into many pieces and scattered itself all over the
land. Whenever the swift runner, Eagle Wing, and his followers tried to run
over the mountain, stones cut their feet. Bushes scratched and bruised their
That is how Eagle Wing was punished for not keeping his promise to Buffalo.
How the Buffalo Hunt Began
Native American Lore
The buffalo formerly ate man. The magpie and the hawk were on the side of
the people, for neither ate the other or the people. These two birds flew
away from a council between animals and men. They determined that a race
would be held, the winners to eat the losers.
The course was long, around a mountain. The swiftest buffalo was a cow
called Neika, "swift head." She believed she would win and entered the race.
On the other hand, the people were afraid because of the long distance. They
were trying to get medicine to prevent fatigue.
All the birds and animals painted themselves for the race, and since that
time they have all been brightly colored. Even the water turtle put red
paint around his eyes. The magpie painted himself white on head, shoulders,
and tail. At last all were ready for the race, and stood in a row for the
They ran and ran, making some loud noises in place of singing to help
themselves to run faster. All small birds, turtles, rabbits, coyotes,
wolves, flies, ants, insects, and snakes were soon left far behind. When
they approached the mountain the buffalo-cow was ahead; then came the
magpie, hawk, and the people; the rest were strung out along the way. The
dust rose so quickly that nothing could be seen.
All around the mountain the buffalo-cow led the race, but the two birds knew
they could win, and merely kept up with her until they neared the finish
line, which was back to the starting place. Then both birds whooshed by her
and won the race for man. As they flew the course, they had seen fallen
animals and birds all over the place, who had run themselves to death,
turning the ground and rocks red from the blood.
The buffalo then told their young to hide from the people, who were going
out to hunt them; and also told them to take some human flesh with them for
the last time. The young buffaloes did this, and stuck that meat in front of
their chests, beneath the throat. Therefore, the people do not eat that part
of the buffalo, saying it is part human flesh.
From that day forward the Cheyenne began to hunt buffalo. Since all the
friendly animals and birds were on the people's side, they are not eaten by
people, but they do wear and use their beautiful feathers for ornaments.
Another version adds that when coyote, who was on the side of buffalo,
finished the race, the magpie who even beat the hawk, said to coyote, "We
will not eat you, but only use your skin."
How the Buffalo Were Released on Earth
Native American Lore
In the first days a powerful being named Humpback owned all the buffalo. He
kept them in a corral in the mountains north of San Juan, where he lived
with his young son. Not one buffalo would Humpback release for the people on
earth, nor would he share any meat with those who lived near him.
Coyote decided that something should be done to release the buffalo from
Humpback's corral. He called the people to a council. "Humpback will not
give us any buffalo," Coyote said. "Let us all go over to his corral and
make a plan to release them."
They camped in the mountains near Humpback's place, and after dark they made
a careful inspection of his buffalo enclosure. The stone walls were too high
to climb, and the only entrance was through the back door of Humpback's
After four days Coyote summoned the people to another council, and asked
them to offer suggestions for releasing the buffalo. "There is no way," said
one man. "To release the buffalo we must go into Humpback's house, and he is
too powerful a being for us to do that."
"I have a plan," Coyote said. "For four days we have secretly watched
Humpback and his young son go about their daily activities. Have you not
observed that the boy does not own a pet of any kind?"
The people did not understand what this had to do with releasing the
buffalo, but they knew that Coyote was a great schemer and they waited for
him to explain. "I shall change myself into a killdeer," Coyote said. "In
the morning when Humpback's son goes down to the spring to get water, he
will find a killdeer with a broken wing. He will want this bird for a pet
and will take it back into the house. Once I am in the house I can fly into
the corral, and the cries of a killdeer will frighten the buffalo into a
stampede. They will come charging out through Humpback's house and be
released upon the earth."
The people thought this was a good plan, and the next Morning when
Humpback's son came down the path to the spring he found a killdeer with a
crippled wing. As Coyote had foreseen, the boy picked up the bird and
carried it into the house.
"Look here," the boy cried. "This is a very good bird!"
"It is good for nothing!" Humpback shouted. "All the birds and animals and
people are rascals and schemers." Above his fierce nose Humpback wore a blue
mask, and through its slits his eyes glittered. His basket headdress was
shaped like a cloud and was painted black with a zig-zag streak of yellow to
represent lightning. Buffalo horns protruded from the sides.
"It is a very good bird," the boy repeated.
"Take it back where you found it!" roared Humpback, and his frightened son
did as he was told.
As soon as the killdeer was released it returned to where the people were
camped and changed back to Coyote. "I have failed," he said, "but that makes
no difference. I will try again in the morning. Perhaps a small animal will
be better than a bird."
The next morning when Humpback's son went to the spring, he found a small
dog there, lapping at the water. The boy picked up the dog at once and
hurried back into the house. "Look here!" he cried. "What a nice pet I
"How foolish you are, boy!" Humpback growled. "A dog is good for nothing.
I'll kill it with my club."
The boy held tight to the dog, and started to run away crying.
"Oh, very well," Humpback said. "But first let me test that animal to make
certain it is a dog. All animals in the world are schemers." He took a coal
of fire from the hearth and brought it closer and closer to the dog's eyes
until it gave three rapid barks. "It is a real dog," Humpback declared. "You
may keep it in the buffalo corral, but not in the house."
This of course was exactly what Coyote wanted. As soon as darkness fell and
Humpback and his son went to sleep, Coyote opened the back door of the
house. Then he ran among the buffalo, barking as loud as he could. The
buffalo were badly frightened because they had never before heard a dog
bark. When Coyote ran nipping at their heels, they stampeded toward
Humpback's house and entered the rear door. The pounding of their hooves
awakened Humpback, and although he jumped out of bed and tried to stop them,
the buffalo smashed down his front door and escaped.
After the last of the shaggy animals had galloped away, Humpback's son could
not find his small dog. "Where is my pet?" he cried. "Where is my little
"That was no dog," Humpback said sadly. "That was Coyote the Trickster. He
has turned loose all our buffalo."
Thus it was that the buffalo were released to scatter over all the earth.
This Legend posting is dedicated to Honor Looking Horse, Carrier of the
Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations as
he leads us all towards World Peace.
"The White Buffalo Woman"
The Sioux are a warrior tribe, and one of their proverbs says, "Woman shall
not walk before man." Yet White Buffalo Woman is the dominant figure of
their most important legend. The medicine man Crow Dog explains, "This holy
woman brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could be no
Indians without it. Before she came, people didn't know how to live. They
knew nothing. The Buffalo Woman put her sacred mind into their minds." At
the ritual of the sun dance one woman, usually a mature and universally
respected member of the tribe, is given the honor of rerpresenting Buffalo
Though she first appeared to the Sioux in human form, White Buffalo Woman
was also a buffalo---the Indians' brother, who gave its flesh so that the
people might live. Albino buffalo were sacred to all Plains tribes; a white
buffalo hide was a sacred talisman, a possession beyond price.
One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the Oceti-Shakowin, the
seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Oyate, the nation, came together
and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game and the people
were starving. Every day they sent scouts to look for game, but the scouts
Among the bands assembled were the Itazipcho, the Without-Bows, who had
their own camp circle under their chief, Standing Hollow Horn. Early one
morning the chief sent two of his young men to hunt for game. They went on
foot, because at that time the Sioux didn't yet have horses. They searched
everywhere but could find nothing. Seeing a high hill, they decided to climb
it in order to look over the whole country. Halfway up, they saw something
coming toward them from far off, but the figure was floating instead of
walking. From this they knew that the person was waken, holy.
At first they could make out only a small moving speck and had to squint to
see that it was a human form. But as it came nearer, they realized that it
was a beautiful young woman, more beautiful than any they had ever seen,
with two round, red dots of face paint on her cheeks. She wore a wonderful
white buckskin outfit, tanned until it shone a long way in the sun. It was
embroidered with sacred and marvelous designs of porcupine quill, in
radiant colors no ordinary woman could have made. This wakan stranger was
Ptesan-Wi, White Buffalo Woman. In her hands she carried a large bundle and
a fan of sage leaves. She wore her blue-black hair loose except for a strand
at the left side, which was tied up with buffalo fur. Her eyes shone dark
and sparkling, with great power in them.
The two young men looked at her open-mouthed. One was overawed, but the
other desired her body and stretched his hand out to touch her. This woman
was lila wakan, very sacred, and could not be treated with disrespect.
Lightning instantly struck the brash young man and burned him up, so that
only a small heap of blackened bones was left. Or as some say that he was
suddenly covered by a cloud, and within it he was eaten up by snakes that
left only his skeleton, just as a man can be eaten up by lust.
To the other scout who had behaved rightly, the White Buffalo Woman said:
"Good things I am brining, something holy to your nation. A message I carry
for your people from the buffalo nation. Go back to the camp and tell the
people to prepare for my arrival. Tell your chief to put up a medicine lodge
with twenty-four poles. Let it be made holy for my coming."
This young hunter returned to the camp. He told the chief, he told the
people, what the sacred woman had commanded. The chief told the eyapaha, the
crier, and the crier went through the camp circle calling: "Someone sacred
is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her." So the
people put up the big medicine tipi and waited. After four days they saw the
White Buffalo Woman approaching, carrying her bundle before her. Her
wonderful white buckskin dress shone from afar. The chief, Standing Hollow
Horn, invited her to enter the medicine lodge. She went in and circled the
interior sunwise. The chief addressed her respectfully, saying: "Sister, we
are glad you have come to instruct us."
She told him what she wanted done. In the center of the tipi they were to
put up an owanka wakan, a sacred altar, made of red earth, with a buffalo
skull and a three-stick rack for a holy thing she was bringing. They did
what she directed, and she traced a design with her finger on the smoothed
earth of the altar. She show them how to do all this, then circled the lodge
again sunwise. Halting before the chief, she now opened the bundle. the holy
thing it contained was the chanunpa, the sacred pipe. She held it out to the
people and let them look at it. She was grasping the stem with her right
hand and the bowl with her left, and thus the pipe has been held ever since.
Again the chief spoke, saying: "Sister, we are glad. We have had no meat for
some time. All we can give you is water." They dipped some wacanga, sweet
grass, into a skin bag of water and gave it to her, and to this day the
people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water and sprinkle it on a person
to be purified.
The White Buffalo Woman showed the people how to use the pipe. She filled it
with chan-shasha, red willow-bark tobacco. She walked around the lodge four
times after the manner of Anpetu-Wi, the great sun. This represented the
circle without end, the sacred hoop, the road of life. The woman placed a
dry buffalo chip on the fire and lit the pipe with it. This was
peta-owihankeshini, the fire without end, the flame to be passed on from
generation to generation. She told them that the smoke rising from the bowl
was Tunkashila's breath, the living breath of the great Grandfather Mystery.
The White Buffalo Woman showed the people the right way to pray, the right
words and the right gestures. She taught them how to sing the pipe-filling
song and how to lift the pipe up to the sky, toward Grandfather, and down
toward Grandmother Earth, to Unci, and then to the four directions of the
"With this holy pipe," she said, "you will walk like a living prayer. With
your feet resting upon the earth and the pipe stem reaching into the sky,
your body froms a living bridge between the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred
Above. Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because now we are as one: earth, sky,
all living things, the two-legged, the four-legged, the winged ones, the
trees, the grasses. Together with the people, they are all related, one
family. The pipe holds them all together."
"Look at this bowl," said the White Buffalo Woman. "Its stone represents the
buffalo, but also the flesh and blood of the red man. The buffalo represents
the universe and the four directions, because he stands on four legs, for
the four ages of man. The buffalo was put in the west by Wakan Tanka at the
making of the world, to hold back the waters. Every year he loses one hair,
and in every one of the four ages he loses a leg. The Sacred Hoop will end
when all the hair and legs of the great buffalo are gone, and the water
comes back to cover the Earth.
The wooden stem of this chanunpa stands for all that grows on the earth.
Twelve feathers hanging from where the stem- the backbone- joins the bowl-
the skull- are from Wanblee Galeshka, the spotted eagle, the very sacred who
is the Great Spirit's messenger and the wisest of all cry out to Tunkashila.
Look at the bowl: engraved in it are seven circles of various sizes. They
stand for the seven ceremonies you will practice with this pipe, and for the
Ocheti Shakowin, the seven sacred campfires of our Lakota nation."
The White Buffalo Woman then spoke to the women, telling them that it was
the work of their hands and the fruit of their bodies which kept the people
alive. "You are from the mother earth," she told them. "What you are doing
is as great as what warriors do."
And therefore the sacred pipe is also something that binds men and women
together in a circle of love. It is the one holy object in the making of
which both men and women have a hand. The men carve the bowl and make the
stem; the women decorate it with bands of colored porcupine quills. When a
man takes a wife, they both hold the pipe at the same time and red cloth is
wound around their hands, thus tying them together for life.
The White Buffalo Woman had many things for her Lakota sisters in her sacred
womb bag; corn, wasna (pemmican), wild turnip. She taught how to make the
hearth fire. She filled a buffalo paunch with cold water and droped a
red-hot stone into it. "This way you shall cook the corn and the meat," she
The White Buffalo Woman also talked to the children, because they have an
understanding beyond their years. She told them that what their fathers and
mothers did was for them, that their parents could remember being little
once, and that they, the children, would grow up to have little ones of
their own. She told them: "You are the coming generation, that's why you are
the most important and precious ones. Some day you will hold this pipe and
smoke it. Some day you will pray with it."
She spoke once more to all the people: "The pipe is alive; it is a red being
showing you a red life and a red road. And this is the first ceremony for
which you will use the pipe. You will use it to Wakan Tanka, the Great
Mystery Spirit. The day a human dies is always a sacred day. The day when
the soul is released to the Great Spirit is another. Four women will become
sacred on such a day. They will be the ones to cut the sacred tree, the
can-wakan, for the sun dance."
She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes, and for that
reason Tunkashila had bestowed upon them the holy chanunpa. They had been
chosen to take care of it for all the Indian people on this turtle
She spoke one last time to Standing Hollow Horn, the chief, saying,
"Remember: this pipe is very sacred. Respect it and it will take you to the
end of the road. The four ages of creation are in me; I am the four ages. I
will come to see you in every generation cycle. I shall come back to you."
The sacred woman then took leave of the people, saying: "Toksha ake
wacinyanktin ktelo, I shall see you again."
The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she had
come, outlined against the red ball of the setting sun. As she went, she
stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she turned into a black
buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third into a red one; and finally,
the fouth time she rolled over, she turned into a white female buffalo calf.
A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter.
The White Buffalo Woman disappeared over the Horizon. Sometime she might
come back. As soon as she had vanished, buffalo in great herds appeared,
allowing themselves to be killed so tha the people might survive. And from
that day on, our relations, the buffalo, furnished the people with everything
they needed, meat for their food, skins for their clothes and tipis, bones
for their many tools.
Two very old tribal pipes are kept by the Looking Horse family at Eagle
Butte in South Dakota. One of them is the Sacred Pipe brought to the people
by White Buffalo Woman.
The Buffalo Rock
Native American Lore
The buffalo rock, as called by the Blackfeet Indians, was usually a fossil
shell of some kind, picked up on the prairie. Whoever found one was
considered fortunate, for it was thought to give a person great power over
buffalo. The owner put the stone in his lodge, near the fire, and prayed
over it. This story reveals not only the use of such a rock, but also a
common method of hunting buffalo before the Indians had horses.
There was once a very poor woman, the second wife of a Blackfeet. Her
buffalo robe was old and full of holes; her buffalo moccasins were worn and
ripped. She and her people were camped not far from a cliff that would be a
good place for a buffalo drive. They were very much in need of buffalo, for
they were not only ragged but starving.
One day while this poor woman was gathering wood, she heard a voice singing.
Looking around, she found that the song was coming from a buffalo rock. It
sang, "Take me. Take me. I have great power."
So the woman took the buffalo rock. When she returned to her lodge, she said
to her husband, "Call all the men and have them sing to bring the buffalo."
"Are you in earnest?" her husband asked.
"Yes, I am," the woman replied. "Call the men, and also get a small piece of
the back of a buffalo from the Bear Medicine man. Ask some of the men to
bring the four rattles they use."
The husband did as his wife directed. Then she showed him how to arrange the
inside of the lodge in a kind of square box with some sagebrush and buffalo
chips. Though it was the custom for the first wife to sit next to her
husband, the man directed his second wife to put on the dress of the other
woman and to sit beside him. When everything was ready, the men who had been
summoned sat down in the lodge beside the woman and her husband. Then the
buffalo rock began to sing, "The buffalo will all drift back. The buffalo
will all drift back."
Hearing this song, the woman asked one of the young men to go outside and
put a great many buffalo chips in line. "After you have them in place, wave
at them with a buffalo robe four times, and shout at them in a singsong. At
the fourth time, all the buffalo chips will turn into buffaloes and go over
The young man followed her directions, and the chips became buffaloes. At
the same time, the woman led the people in the lodge in the singing of
songs. One song was about the buffalo that would lead the others in the
drive. While the people were chanting it, a cow took the lead and all the
herd followed her. They plunged over the cliff and were killed.
Then the woman sang,
More than a hundred buffalo
Have fallen over the cliff.
I have made them fall.
And the man above the earth hears me singing.
More than a hundred buffalo
Have fallen over the cliff.
And so the people learned that the rock was very powerful. Ever since that
time, they have taken care of the buffalo rock and have prayed to it.
The Buffalo and the Field Mouse
Native American Lore
Once upon a time, when the Field-Mouse was out
gathering wild beans for the winter, his neighbor, the
Buffalo, came down to graze in the meadow. This the
little Mouse did not like, for he knew that the other
would mow down all the long grass with his prickly
tongue, and there would be no place in which to hide.
He made up his mind to offer battle like a man.
"Ho, Friend Buffalo, I challenge you to a fight! "he
exclaimed in a small, squeaking voice.
The Buffalo paid no attention, thinking it only a joke.
The Mouse angrily repeated the challenge, and still his
enemy went on quietly grazing. Then the little Mouse
laughed with contempt as he offered his defiance. The
Buffalo at last looked at him and replied carelessly:
"You had better keep still, little one, or I shall come
over there and step on you, and there will be nothing eft! "
"You can't do it! "replied the Mouse.
"I tell you to keep still," insisted the Buffalo, who was
getting angry. "If you speak to me again, I shall
certainly come and put an end to you! "
"I dare you to do it! "said the Mouse, provoking him.
Thereupon the other rushed upon him. He trampled the
grass clumsily and tore up the earth with his front hoofs.
When he had ended, he looked for the Mouse, but he could not see him
"I told you I would step on you, and there would be nothing left! "he
Just then he felt a scratching inside his right ear. He
shook his head as hard as he could, and twitched his
ears back and forth. The gnawing went deeper and
deeper until he was half wild with the pain. He pawed
with his hoofs and tore up the sod with his horns.
Bellowing madly, he ran as fast as he could, first straight
forward and then in circles, but at last he stopped and
stood trembling. Then the Mouse jumped out of his ear, and said:
"Will you know now that I am master? "
"No! "bellowed the Buffalo, and again he started toward
the Mouse, as if to trample him under his feet. The little
fellow was nowhere to be seen, but in a minute the
Buffalo felt him in the other ear. Once more he became
wild with pain, and ran here and there over the prairie,
at times leaping high in the air. At last he fell to the
ground and lay quite still. The Mouse came out of his
ear, and stood proudly upon his dead body.
"Eho! "said he, "I have killed the greatest of all beasts.
This will show to all that I am master! "
Standing upon the body of the dead Buffalo, he called
loudly for a knife with which to dress his game.
In another part of the meadow, Red Fox, very hungry,
was hunting mice for his breakfast. He saw one and
jumped upon him with all four feet, but the little Mouse
got away, and he was terribly disappointed.
All at once he thought he heard a distant call: "Bring aknife! Bring a knife
When the second call came, Red Fox started in the
direction of the sound. At the first knoll he stopped and
listened, but hearing nothing more, he was about to go
back. Just then he heard the call plainly, but in a very
thin voice, "Bring a knife!" Red Fox immediately set out
again and ran as fast as he could.
By and by he came upon the huge body of the Buffalo
lying upon the ground. The little Mouse still stood up on the body.
"I want you to dress this Buffalo for me and I will give
you some of the meat," commanded the Mouse.
"Thank you, my friend, I shall be glad to do this foryou,"he replied,
The Fox dressed the Buffalo, while the Mouse sat upon
a mound near by, looking on and giving his orders. "You
must cut the meat into small pieces," he said to the Fox.
When the Fox had finished his work, the Mouse paid
him with a small piece of liver. He swallowed it quickly and smacked his
"Please, may I have another piece?" he asked quite humbly.
"Why, I gave you a very large piece! How greedy you
are!" exclaimed the Mouse. "You may have some of the
blood clots," he sneered. So the poor Fox took the blood
clots and even licked off the grass. He was really very hungry.
"Please may I take home a piece of the meat?" he
begged. "I have six little folks at home, and there is nothing for them to
"You can take the four feet of the Buffalo. That ought
to be enough for all of you!"
"Hi, hi! Thank you, thank you!" said the Fox. "But,
Mouse, I have a wife also, and we have had bad luck in
hunting. We are almost starved. Can't you spare me a little more?"
"Why," declared the Mouse, "I have already overpaid
you for the little work you have done. However, you can take the head, too!"
Thereupon the Fox jumped upon the Mouse, who gave
one faint squeak and disappeared.
If you are proud and selfish you will lose all in the end.