An Arikara Legend

Published on September 21, 2010 by Alice

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An Arrikara warriorAn Arikara warrior, c. 1840-1843,
by Karl Bodmer

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The Legend of the Peace Pipes

The people came across a great water on logs tied together. They pitched their tents on the shore. Then they thought to make for themselves certain bounds within which they were to live and rules which should govern them. They cleared a space of grass and weeds so they could see each other’s faces. They sat down and there was no obstruction between them.

While they were holding a council, an owl hooted in the trees near by. The leader said, “That bird is to take part in our council. He calls to us. He offers us his aid.”

Immediately afterward they heard a woodpecker. He knocked against the trees. The leader said, “That bird calls to us. He offers us his aid. He will take part in our council.”

Then the chief appointed a man as servant. He said, “Go into the woods and get an ash sapling.” The servant came back with a sapling having a rough bark.

“We do not want that,” said the leader. “Go again and get a sapling with a smooth bark, bluish in color at the joint where a branch comes.” So the servant went out, and came back with a sapling of the kind described.

When the leader took up the sapling, and eagle came and soared about the council which was sitting in the grass. He dropped a downy feather; it fell. It fell in the center of the cleared space. Now this was the white eagle. The chief said, “This is not what we want,” so the white eagle passed on.

Then the bald eagle came swooping down, as though attacking its prey. It balanced itself on its wings directly over the cleared space. It uttered fierce cries, and dropped one of its downy feathers, which stood on the ground as the other eagle’s feather had done. The chief said, “This is not what we want.” So the bald eagle passed on.

Then came the spotted eagle, and soared over the council, and dropped its feather as a the others had done. The chief said, “This is not what we want,” and the spotted eagle passed on.

Then the imperial eagle, the eagle with the fantail, came, and soared over the people. It dropped a downy feather which stood upright in the center of the cleared space. The chief said, “This is what we want.”

So the feathers of this eagle were used in making the peace pipes, together with the feathers of the owl and woodpecker, and with other things. These peace pipes were to be used in forming friendly relations with other tribes.

When the peace pipes were made, seven other pipes were made for keeping peace within the tribe. One pipe was to prevent revenge. If one man should kill another, the chief took this pipe to the relatives and offered it to them. If the relatives of the dead man refused to accept it, it was offered again. It was offered four times. If it was refused four times, the chief said, “Well, you must take the consequences. We will do nothing, and you cannot now ask to see the pipes.” He meant if they took revenge and any trouble came to them, they could not ask for help or for mercy.

Each band had its own pipe.

Source: www.firstpeople.us

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