Origin of the Sacred Arrow

Published on April 29, 2013 by Amy

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Sacred Rain Arrow
Sacred Rain Arrow

Charred Body had his origin in the skies. There was a big village up there and this man was a great hunter. He used to go out and bring in Buffalo, Elk, Antelope until the Buffalo became scarce – they scattered out far from the village. So one day he told his close relatives, “The Buffalo seem to have gone far away from here, and I am tired of hunting them so long. Some day they may multiply again, but now I am going to build a mound to sit on and look over the country.” He made a practice of going up to his mound at intervals of three or four days to survey the land and listen to its sounds. One day toward nightfall he heard Buffalo bellowing. He was excited. He could not tell from what direction the sound came. He was in the habit of changing himself into an arrow shot from a bow and thus making in one day a journey such as a man would ordinarily make in ten days. The next day he went out to the mound, changed himself into an arrow, and went into every direction, but found no Buffalo. Back on the mound he again heard the Buffalo, and they seemed so close that he thought it strange he could not place them. The next day when he went out to the mound he took an arrow and stuck it into the ground, and as the ground opened up a crack, he worked the hole. There below he saw Buffalo as if the Chokeberries are half ripe, and the bulls were fighting and bellowing. This was the sound he had heard.

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He went back to his lodge and told his relatives that he had seen the Buffalo, thousands upon thousands, but since, if he went down below, it would be difficult to pack the meat back, he decided to go down ahead and build a dwelling and his brothers and sisters-in-law should follow afterwards. They could themselves see by looking down the hole that there would be Buffalo enough for all.

The chief of the village was named Long Arm. He was regarded as a holy man. He usually knew what was going on from day to day. Charred Body told him of the land he had found, so beautiful and plentiful in game. Charred Body said, “I want to leave this place and go down there, but it will not be possible to pack the meat back up here or to drive the Buffalo up here from the Earth. So I shall go down there to live and take with me all those near relatives of mine who are bound to me like a thread of the Spider web, and we shall make our home there.” Long Arm said neither yes nor no; he uttered no word. The hunter went back to the hole, transformed himself into an arrow and flew through the air to Earth.

He came down so swiftly that as he landed on the ground the arrow struck the Earth, and it seemed as if he were stuck there for good. The place where he landed was near Washburn by a creek some People call Turtle, but which we call Charred Body Creek. There was an evil spirit in the creek whose moccasin tops were like a flame of fire so that when he went through the forest the Cottonwood Trees would burn down. He would undo the flap of the moccasin when he went to Windward and wave it back and forth over the ground; when he tied it up again the flame ceased. This man feared the man from Heaven lest he establish villages or take away his land or even kill him, so he caused a Windstorm and set the Prairie on fire and the flames charred the arrow here and there. Hence the name “Charred Body” is derived. Since the arrow could not pull himself out, he decided to make a spring; thus he loosened himself. So he decreed that the spring would flow as long as the World would last; you can see even today where the spring is.

Charred Body established thirteen lodges, First, he looked about and found a good site and established one lodge, then another, until he had thirteen built. Then he went back into the heavens and told what had happened and how the old man with flame about the foot had tried to kill him, how he had found the spring and how good the game was. He made it sound so attractive. He said that he went by the arrow and hence could take down only as many families as there were parts to the arrow. He would take his nearest relatives only, with their children. The groove at the end of the arrow to put the string into was one lodge. The three feathers were regarded as lodges; that made four. The two sinews bound about it were two others, making six. The three points of the arrowhead were three other lodges, making nine. The three grooves circling around the arrow in a spiral made twelve. The arrow itself was the thirteenth; there were thirteen lodges all told. The spiral is considered as Lightning; hence the arrows power. If it does not come into contact with a bone, it will penetrate the Buffalo right through.

He called his nearest relatives and embraced them, and in embracing them he gave them the power of the arrow and encouraged them to follow him. First, he went down, then all came after and he assigned them lodges. When they first came down, the mysterious bodies down there knew that he was also mysterious and tried to kill him, but when he pulled himself out (of the hole made by the arrow point) they knew that they had no power against him. Before coming down, the People had made preparations and they brought seeds of corn, beans and so forth and began to plant corn on the ground by the river and to build scaffolds for drying the corn the meat. So they lived happily for a long time. You can see today the remains of their thirteen villages, but obscured by high water and the ploughing farmers. I have heard that People have found arrowheads in the thirteen villages.

After a number of years, First Creator happened to come to the village. He asked some boys playing outside who was chief. They showed him the way to the large lodge in the center which was Charred Body’s lodge. He asked Charred Body how he came there and Charred Body told him. He said it was well and that he wished to make friends with Charred Body; when there were two they could talk matters over and act more effectively (than one), three were even better, but two were strong. They must therefore love one another. So they became friends, ate and talked together, and First Creator stayed in the lodge several nights before he went on again.

When he came back, he reported that there was a big village East of them whose chief had a beautiful daughter. It was the custom in that village afternoon for the maidens to go along a wide path to the river for water and for the men to line up along the path and do their courting. The married women would go along the path outside the row. When a young girl came opposite a man who like her, he would clear his throat and if the girl liked him, it was a good sign. The next day he would ask a drink, and if she gave him a drink it was a better sign. So People took notice, and if a girl gave a man a drink it became a matter of gossip, the parents came together to find out whether the two were industrious and able to run a household, and if everything was favorable, they were married. Now the chief’s daughter had a strong will and never looked at the young men. When they tried to catch her eye she paid them no attention. “Now, my friend,” said First Creator, “You are handsome, not too slender, too tall or too short. Your hair is long and beautiful. No one could find a blemish upon you. You would certainly make a hit with the girl, so lets go over and try our luck. If you can get her and be a son-in-law to a great chief, you will be a renowned man.”

So it was agreed, and when they came to the edge of the village to a place where the moles had dug up a mound of earth, they began to dress themselves up. Charred Body mixed the dirt with water and daubed mud across his chin from ear to ear and upon his cheeks, brought his hair together in a big pompadour in front and stuck a plume in at the place where he tied it up. This feather the wind waved to and fro. His robe he wore open with his bow and arrows inside. Today we say of a person who combs his hair to the side in a pompadour that “he wears his hair like Charred Body.”

They went to a certain lodge in the village and were kindly received. When First Creator told them who Charred Body was they said, “We have heard about him and how he had a beautiful land in the skies and liked the country down here.” When he said that they had come courting, the People said, “It is well.” They went down to the path by the river and stood opposite each other and Coyote, which is another name for First Creator, said he would give a signal when the chief’s daughter came so that his friend would pay no attention to the others. She came dressed in tanned white Deerskin with a robe of Elkskin from which the hair had been scraped, light and pliable as a plume. Charred Body stepped in front of her and she swerved. He turned also and she swerved again. When he was almost in front of her he said, “I wish to drink out of your cup.” She said, “What you have done is not according to our custom; you should not have moved from the line but just cleared your throat, and I shall give you no drink!” “Do you make those streaks across your face in imitation of the charring?” He was angry, took out his bow and arrows and, as she turned to flee, shot her twice in the back and killed her. A tumult arose and the two visitors fled back to the village.

Coyote warned Charred Body that he had done an evil deed and that this would not be the end of it. The chief was not likely to sit still and do nothing. He had owned the land before Charred Body came there, and Charred Body must therefore build barricades and protect himself. Charred Body paid little attention to him. “I go by the arrow and it can pierce through them.” he said. “Even then, ” said Coyote, “You are often out hunting, and while you are away they may send out scouts and kill all in the village. More than one village may combine against you. You may think that you can fight them single-handed, but you have done a bad deed and this will cause your mind to stray, and while it is occupied with other things, they will overcome you. So whatever you do, don’t let anything distract your attention or you may be destroyed.”

Day after day, Charred Body would go and sit on top of a hill where he had a mound and look over in the direction of the village where he had committed the crime. He told the young men to cut up sticks for arrows and sort them out into bundles and put them under his bed. When they came back, the sticks would be already made into arrows. Soon all the young men were supplied. But he was always in deep thought, first because of the crime he had committed and second lest the village come against him. One day Coyote offered to go over the village and find out what they were planning. He said that it would take corn-balls and pemmican and spread them on the outskirts of the village, and if anyone was wounded he would give him the food and tell him it was Good Medicine for wounds. He would pretend that he had left Charred Body because of his crime. He met them on the way in such numbers as completely to surround the village. All who had children remained. When he had passed them, on the other side of the hill, he saw Meadowlark and sent him on an errand to fly to Charred Body on his mound and tell him to prepare four barricades as a great force was coming against him to avenge his crime. Meadowlark carried the message, but as soon as Charred Body got back to the village to prepare the barricades, he forgot all about it. The enemy employed a Holy Man to make him forgetful; the Holy Man raised his hand against him and Charred Body forgot what was to happen. Three times Coyote sent Meadowlark with the message, and three times Charred Body forgot it as soon as he reached the village. The fourth time Meadowlark told him to make some sign on his body to attract attention. Charred Body stuck a bunch of grass in his hair and went back to the village. Again he forgot the message. He went back to the lodge, but his head itched; he told his wife to scratch his head, and she found the grass and said. “This is the cause of your itching!” He gave a groan and sent word to the People that the next day the enemy would come against them; they must prepare a barricade, get arrows ready and be brave even to death. He went out and cut Bog Brush, put them under his bed and commanded it to turn to June Bushes. When he took it out, it had become June Bush, and he peeled the bark and made more arrows.

Coyote (in the enemy’s camp) said, “You have been sending out scouts but their reports are not clear. I will go myself to see what is going on.” He started on a run, fell with his foot out of joint, and claimed it was too painful to put in again and that he was now too disabled to fight with them in the attack against the village. He said, “Way down on the river they are performing rites for Medicine, so I will go there and bring back corn-balls and pemmican.” He caused an announcement to be sounded at a distance (He must been a ventriloquist) which said; “All you who have Medicine Bags and Mysteries, come and join in this ceremony to be performed.”

He told them that he had an adopted son in the enemy’s camp who was Mysterious in battle. He could not be shot by an arrow and they must keep away from him. “You will find him dressed with a bladder covering his head daubed with white clay. His body will have streaks lengthwise and crosswise. His quiver is a Coyote’s hide. He will wound many of you, but I will bring a hide for the wounded to lie on and feed them corn-balls and pemmican.” As soon as he was out of sight, he threw away his crutch, set his foot again, turned into a Coyote and ran around another way into the village and became a man again. He asked after Charred Body and learned that he was making arrows. But a weasel had just been in to see Charred Body, and it had scattered and trampled arrows. Charred Body had been angry and struck four times at the weasel; the fourth time it ran out and Charred Body after it. “I told him whatever happened, not allow anything to distract him!” said Coyote. “But never mind, I am here. Don’t turn into women!” Charred Body’s sister was at this time with child, and Coyote told her to go inside a celler-hole, and he would cover her over so that she would not be burned.

When the battle took place, there were four among the enemy’s band who had supernatural power. One had no head, but only a big mouth from shoulder to shoulder into which he sucked his enemies; another was an old woman with a basket which. whenever she turned, sucked in People or birds of the air; a third was the man with the flaming moccasins; a fourth was a Beaver (called Tail-With-A-Knife) whose tail was sharp both sides. These four helped the enemy. Tail-With-A-Knife chopped down the barricade, Flame-Around-His-Ankle encircled the village and set it on fire. Coyote was in the thick of the battle dressed as he had described. When he saw that all was lost, he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Meanwhile, Charred Body was still chasing Yellow Weasel. It seems that there was a transformation of the Earth so that Charred Body found himself far to the North. Yellow Weasel said “Look back and see your own village!” He looked and saw the smoke. He wanted to get back as quickly as possible. His eyesight would be too slow, for he would have to stop at the end of each sight, so he used his thinking power, transformed himself into thought, and wished himself back to his village. There he found the place in flames.

Now after the battle, the enemy had withdrawn and were relating their exploits. It seemed to them as if Coyote had fought in the battle, and Coyote heard their word as he came limping back with the hide, corn-balls and pemmican. An old bear was appointed to discover whether Coyote had been in the battle. The way he did this was to lift up his paw and put it on a person, then put his paw to his nose and smell it. When Coyote entered, the paw was raise to test him, but Coyote put a corn-ball into the paw, saying, “You greedy fellow, you want this all to yourself!” then he had the wounded brought in and laid upon the robe, and gave them corn-ball and pemmican. He said, “However wounded you may be yourselves, you have destroyed the village and enticed Charred Body away.” And he said, “These People were just like relatives to me, and I want to go back there and walk through the place where young men and maidens formally walked, and think about their sports and laughter and mourn there for them.” So they consented and he went on his way.

Close to the village he saw Charred Body walking among the dead. As was the custom in those days, Coyote walked up to him, put his arm about his neck, and wept over him. Then he told him where he had hidden the sister, and they went to the cellar to see if she were alive. When they lifted up the hide she came out, but when she saw the desolation of the village she wept and the men with her. Coyote proposed that they have a lodge, to live in together. He faced the North, raised both eyes, and he said, “I wish for a lodge facing South furnished with bedding and all things necessary and with a scaffold in front.” When they opened their eyes, there it stood just like Coyote had said. There was no food, so Coyote said, “There is all kinds of food on the hoof; let us go out and see what we can take.” They followed up the creek and killed Buffalo, cut it up, left the backbone, head and shoulders and took the best pieces. The kidney, back-gut and liver they washed to be eaten raw. These raw parts are considered a tonic today to keep one from sickness. The woman at the lodge cooked for them. She began to slice the meat and roast the ribs close to the fire and they felt themselves at home once more.

After they had lived thus from day to day, bringing in game until there was plenty, Coyote went away to the enemy’s camp to see what the People were doing, promising to return again. It is an old custom with both Mandan and Gros Ventre that when a sister is alone in the house, a brother must not enter out of respect to his sister. Only if someone else is with her is it right for him to enter. Hence Charred Body did not think it was right to stay alone with his sister, so he went off hunting by day to bring in his choice bits of food for her and told his sister on no account to let anyone into the house if anyone should come round asking for at the door. “No one can come in if you do not take out the crossbar,” he said. One day when he came back from hunting, he saw his sister outside looking as if she were laughing, and he took the meat and waited for her, but she did not come in.

This is what happened………..

While he was away on the hunt she had heard a voice crying, “Tuk, tuk, tuk! my daughter, where can the door be?” She forgot that her brother had told her and undid the door for the stranger. There entered a headless monster. He said, “Place me on the West side between the pillows.” She said, “Grandfather, what will you have to eat?” He said, “The best is the fat of the stomach. When I eat this fat I must have a pregnant woman lie on her back and then I place the hot fat upon her and eat in this way.” The woman was frightened and only half cooked it. He held it himself to the fire, and the flames wrapped his hands but he did not seem to feel it. He made her lie down on the floor and place the hot fat upon her. The woman screamed and twins were born and the woman died. The monster took one by the leg and threw it into the center of the lodge and said, “Lodge center, make this boy your slave!” The other he threw into the spring and said, “Spring, take this child for yours!” Then he took the door-posts which forked and set them outside and place the woman against them and held out her lips with two sticks as if she were laughing. Then he gathered up all the food and was gone.

When Charred Body knew that his sister was dead, he made a burial scaffold for her and by means of a crude lattice he placed her body upon it and cried bitterly. In the evening he came home and was preparing an evening meal when he heard a wee voice from the center of the lodge say, “Brother, give me something to eat.” Twice this happened; then he investigated. He cut up a splinter and wrapped fat into it and, using a torch, he looked into the dark spot from which the voice came and found a baby boy. He brought the child to his knee. This was the child who called him “brother”

When Coyote drifted back, he found to his amazement that their sister had been killed, and he mourned her loss. One day he said, “Can’t we do something for our brother here? Let us take this baby up and wish that he grow to a certain height.” This is the song that Charred Body sang: First he took sweet grass and smoked him; then he raised him up and sang, “I want my child to grow high!” Coyote did the same. Charred Body raised him again and sang and he became a boy of twelve. Coyote got up and raised him and sang, “I want my brother to be the height of a man,” and he became like a boy of eighteen. And at the same time, since the boys were twins, the Spring-Boy attended the same height also.

Since the boy was now grown, he was left to look after the lodge when the two went hunting, and every time this happened, Spring-Boy came out and played with him. The name of the Lodge-Boy was A-tu-tish, which means, “Near-the-edge-of-the-lodge” and Spring-Boy was Ma-hash from Ma-ha, meaning “Spring” He was dark and his brother was light and a little taller than Spring-Boy. The two men kept Buffalo tongues strung up and wondered why they disappeared so rapidly. “Are there two of you?” they asked, but the boy denied it. They had to bite the tongue, and compared the mark left by Spring-Boy’s teeth, and they were different. At last, Lodge-Boy confessed that he had known all the time what happened when his mother was killed by the stranger and he was taken by the leg and given to the edge of the wall as a slave, and his brother had been thrown into the spring. The brother did not recall this. Spring-Boy seems to have been a kind of maverick – he did not belong to anyone. He had a long tusk and lived on water creatures and was influenced by his wild life in the spring. If anyone tried to catch him, he would tear him to pieces with his tusk. They arranged a plan to catch him. The boys used to play with gambling sticks and a round stone with a hole bored through. The men fixed up two Buffalo hides as a kind of armor with a lace down the back to hold it tight. In the game there was to be a dispute, and when the boy got down on his knees to look and see if the ring lay on the stick, Lodge-Boy was to jump on his back, tangle up his hair and thrust a stick to which a bladder was fastened. If he ran for the spring, they would catch him by the bladder. They then prepared a sweat lodge with hot stones and water ready, and transformed themselves into arrowheads. Spring-Boy came trotting up, quick and agile, and encircled the lodge to see if there was anyone about. He complained of smelling his brother, but Lodge-Boy told him that was because they had been there before going out hunting. He came into the lodge and was surprised to see the bladder; Lodge-Boy told him it was used to separated the marrow from the bones. He asked about the sweat-bath and was told it was for the men when they came home from hunting. They began to play, and when Spring-Boy knelt down to see how the ring had fallen, Lodge-Boy jumped upon him, wound his legs about his body, and the two boys rolled on the ground, and Spring-Boy’s tusk could be heard snapping at his brother. The two men dashed in, dragged him to the sweat-bath and began to switch him, crying, “What kind of a person are you? You are a human being and you should behave like one.” Spring-Boy cried out, “I am coming to myself!” They drew him out and examined his mouth, but the tusk still showed. Three times they returned him to the bath and poured water and switched his flesh; the fourth time the tusk disappeared and he lay exhausted. So they fastened up his hair and thrust a stick through it, to which the bladder was attached. The moment he was released he ran to the spring and jumped in, but was unable to go under because of the bladder. After the fourth time of trying to get under water, he surrendered. They gave him water to drink, inserted two fingers into his mouth, and he vomited up all the water creatures which he had eaten and was restored to the ways of the men.

Now there were four occupants of the lodge. Several days passed before Spring-Boy came entirely to his senses. The men he was accustomed to call, “Your brothers” and one day he said, “I wish you would tell your brothers to make bow and arrows, two painted red and two black for me and the same for you.” Lodge-Boy said, “You always talk indirectly to our brothers, but we are twins. We are from the Sky. There is a big village where we came from. The chief is Long-Arm and he knows everything that is going on and is called a Holy Man. When our brother Charred Body wanted to come down here to this Earth, he asked permission, and although Long-Arm said neither yes nor no, he took it upon himself to come down here, and this had led to the destruction of all our relatives. But the Holy Man knows what is going on below there. Our brother and Coyote went courting and our brother killed the chief’s daughter. So there was a fight, but our brother Coyote stowed our mother away in a cellar, and I knew all these things that were going on. One of the formidable men who took part in the fight was a monster with no head but a big mouth from shoulder to shoulder who lives around the bend of the creek. He killed our mother, and I knew all about it and thought that you did too.” Spring-Boy said that through living in the spring, he had forgotten all these things. The arrows he had asked for the men made for the boys. Then they went through a ceremonial and Spring-Boy said that these arrows, one painted black and one red for each boy, were to be kept sacred and used in an emergency, and they were to have other arrows for daily use.

One day as they walked near their mother’s grave, Spring-Boy proposed that they use the sacred arrows to bring their mother to life. The two brothers had watched the arrow rite. When the two hunters had gone out before sunrise, they took down the arrows from the quiver, burned sweet grass and sang the arrow song. They did the same for the bow, resting one end of the bow on Buffalo bull manure while they strung it. Then they went out where their mother lay. Spring-Boy placed one arrow in position, sang the arrow song and let it fly. They could see it go up into the sky like a streak of flame. As it fell the boys cried, “Mother! Mother! Look out! The arrow is going to hit you!” The figure began to move. Spring-Boy sent the third arrow, and this time mother sat up. Lodge-Boy shot the fourth arrow and the mother yawned and stretched her arms. She said, “I must have slept a long time; I feel tired.” The boy set up a ladder to the scaffold and the mother came down to embrace them and said, “My spirit remained here and was about to return to my People when you sent the arrow. You are motherless and it is a joy that you have done this for me and my spirit has returned to my body.” When they returned to the lodge, she noticed at once how the meat was cut in strings, not in the nice flat pieces that a woman is accustomed to cut. So she ate a hearty meal. In time came Charred Body and Coyote home from hunting, and as Charred Body threw down his pack he recognized his sister and they all cried for joy, and she told him how her spirit had pitied the children and had lingered about until it had been restored to her body by means of the sacred arrows.

Charred Body warned the boys that although they had more supernatural power than he did, they must never lie down to take a nap without setting four arrows in the ground, one at each of the four directions, and lying within the arrows with the head resting to the North or to the West (for even the ordinary person should never rest his head South or to the East) and they must place their moccasins to point to the West, not toward the East, because all spirits go to the East. Among Mandan and Gros Ventre a dead person is always placed with the head to the East.

On day the boys went out to survey the country and they came to an old man who they knew to be Flame-Around-The-Ankle. They stood side-by-side and asked him to give them a demonstration of his power. He loosened the strings of his moccasin, let the flap fall, and they saw flames leaping. They asked him to run about a cottonwood tree; he trotted about the tree; he trotted about it in a circle and the tree fell over in flames. Spring-Boy asked to try the moccasin. “Surely you may!” He ran about a tree, then back to his brother, and then all at once he circled the old man and burned him to ashes. Then the boys ran shouting and laughing home to their mother pretending that Flames was chasing them.

Again the boys wandered out, and as they followed up the creek, Lodge-Boy said, “Brother, right in that dense timber on the side of the hill lives the monster without a head who carried his mouth on his shoulders. Let us go over and have a look at him!” They approached cautiously; then turning into Chickadees, they flew over the monster’s den and, perching on a tree, began to call. They filled a water bag made out of a Buffalo paunch and had a heated stone red-hot and caused it to shrink so that they could carry it in the curve of a stick. They first got a big stone, then went into their Mysteries and rubbed it until it became small. To this day, when we heat a stone red-hot for the sweat-bath we call it “The Chickadees’ stone.” When the monster came out and opened his mouth to swallow them, they dropped the hot stone. As it went down his gullet, he thought, It must be their claws that scratch so! “Enlarge, enlarge!” called the boys to the stone. He snatched the water-bag to drink and they said, “Enlarge yourself and hold more water!” The water began to boil in his stomach and the monster burst. The boys burned up his lodge, skinned him and placed the skin on Spring-Boy and ran back to the lodge as if the monster were after them. Its body was black; it had two tails and claws like a wildcat’s. The mother was so delighted with the victory that she danced with joy, so from that time they dance when one wins a victory, generally the women but sometimes both women and men.

There was another mysterious spot where an old woman sucked People into a basket hung upon a post. They asked her to demonstrate her power. The woman was afraid of them, knowing they had supernatural power. A flock of birds was passing; she waved her basket to and fro and then to the side, and brought down the birds into the basket. Spring-Boy asked her to let him try. He took the basket, waved it as the old woman had done, and drew the woman into the basket. Thus he killed her. Great was the joy of their mother when he brought her home dead in the basket.

All those Mysterious beings lived in the vicinity of Turtle Creek, which the People called Charred Body Creek, just about a couple of miles from Washburn.

Some time later the boys heard about the Beaver-With-Tail-Like-A-Knife, who could tear open the Earth with a blow. Even today you can see where his tail struck the Earth; it looks something like a shell-hole. The Beaver had sharp ears, but the boys laid in wait for him and Lodge-Boy shot an arrow through his head as if it were a big pumpkin. When the Beaver was dead they cut off his tail and brought it home.

These were the beings who lived about Washburn and had allied themselves with the enemy. There might be others living at a distance, but those who lived near were all destroyed. So their mother’s brothers urged them to attempt no more such exploits, and the boys agreed that their mother’s safety was now assured. The wished, however, to wander further into the country, so they told their mother not to worry if they did not return and took their leave.

While all this was going on down below, the People in the Sky became uneasy lest the boys who had killed so many Mysterious beings below come up to the Sky and kill them. So they held a council and asked Long-Arm to bring Spring-Boy, who was dark and reckless, up into the Sky and put him to death. Long-Arm told them he saw nothing wrong with the boys and did not wish their death. They belonged to their own People. The father and mother had had hard treatment and they avenged themselves justly. But the People cried out all the more against Spring-Boy and Long-Arm accordingly used his magic power to throw the boys into a sleep in the moon. That is the origin of daytime napping. The boys grew sleepy and, remembering their brother’s instruction, they set up the arrows and placed their moccasins Westward with the bow and arrow beside them and went to sleep. Sun cast his direct rays upon them, making them sleepy. Then Long-Arm reached down to Earth to where Spring-Boy lay and picked him up and carried him up into the air.

The People arranged for Spring-Boy’s death. They dug a hole and the chief bade them set up a tree there with forked branches, but all feared to cut the tree lest Spring-Boy come out alive and destroy the one who cut it down. They tried to persuade the woman to cut it, but they said, “If you are afraid, how much more should we weak women fear!” Then the chief decreed that a hermaphrodite should cut the three on which Spring-Boy was to be hung. As soon as Long-Arm brought Spring-Boy up, the People rushed upon him and beat him until he was nearly dead. They had already prepared the form of death he was to die. A rawhide was stretched across the arms of the crotch and wound around the tree while it was wet; when dry it was much tighter. The boy’s arms were lanced next to the bone and his feet through the cords and rawhide strips were run through and brought right around the tree so that they hung by wrists and feet. After he was securely tied, they raised the tree and set it forth into the hole. They had put an Antelope hide, tanned soft, about his waist so that it hung below the knee, this on account of the number of women present. Over the tree they erected a kind of bower, the cross-pieces of which were inserted into the rawhide at the top of the tree. The hole was covered in leaves. All this time the boy said nothing, but now he spoke: “I have been delivered into your hands and I do not think evil of you, for my mother was one of you and I do not wish to destroy you. If this were done by an enemy it would not be strange, but as you are my own People, it does not seem right for you to cause me this agony. But you need not fear me.” The People did not answer; they could not accuse him of nothing. (Today they do not put up a man, but kill a Buffalo and cut a strip along the back leaving the tail and raise it as if the Buffalo were angry and on the other end they put the Buffalo skull without the horns and hang this up to represent the Buffalo. They set up a bower about it and gather up the earth into a ridge on the North side and stick bog bush into it, beginning at each end leaving a place vacant between. They use to leave this space so that when the boy died his body could be laid down. Today they lay there the sacred Weasel or other Animals used in the ceremony. To the ridge of the West side sits the Holy Man in a robe worn hair side out.)

For three days Spring-Boy hung on the tree, then he began to get weary. Now when Lodge-Boy awoke from sleep he could not see his twin brother, he was alarmed and, taking the shape of flaming arrow, he flew over the Earth even to both sides of the Ocean, calling the name of Spring-Boy and, finding nothing, he returned to the place from which his brother had vanished. There he lay looking up into the sky, when he saw a streak of light at the point where Spring-Boy had been taken through. Flying through the air he entered at the same place and saw that the land was empty where all the multitudes had flocked after Spring-Boy. So he changed himself into a little boy with shaggy, uncombed hair and a big belly, who was nevertheless old enough to talk, and followed the People to the field where they massed about the bower. At the edge of the field was a lodge in which an old woman was sitting. He asked her for food and the old woman adopted him as a grandson; he waited upon her and she was glad. All this time they could hear singing going on in the bower. He said, “Grandmother, what is going on there?” So she related the whole story of Charred Body’s descent to Earth and his crime and how the People feared the boys and especially Spring-Boy because he was dark of color and reckless and how they had cut a tree and what Spring-Boy had said about his own People destroying him. “This is the third day and night and tomorrow at noon they will place his body on the ridge of the bower,” she said, and she told him how they danced in the morning, at noon and in the evening and sang ten songs in rotation, and how they could not stop dancing until the ten songs were sung or extend the dance beyond them. For a drum they used a long rawhide without hair which they beat with sticks, and the dancers whistled to the rhythm of the song. The best singers beat with sticks on four small round drums of wood covered with string on one side like a tambourine, which were to indicate the four nights of the dance. It was difficult to remember the order of the songs correctly. These four led the singing and the whole society must sing with the leader.

So the little boy asked the women to take him to the bower. At the door she picked him up so that he could see and asked the People to make way for her and her grandchild. They were singing a song and dancing with whistles in their mouths and shouting to the man on the tree, “Be a man for one day more,” As Spring-Boy looked about and saw his brother, a light shone about his head and he began to move and stretch as if he had been strengthened. Lodge-Boy, fearing he would be recognized, begged the old woman to take him outside. That evening they heard again the sound of songs and dancing. An announcer came through the village warning the young men and maidens not to sleep that night, but to keep watch lest Lodge-Boy come to his brother’s rescue, for the Holy Man thought when he saw the light that Spring-Boy’s brother must have come there to strengthen him. “My grandchild, did you hear what he was saying? He says Lodge-Boy is here!” said the grandmother. There she was, speaking to Lodge-Boy in person!

Rows of People slept at the bower to watch the place. When the old woman was snoring, the boy got up, took some Buffalo fat and went over to the place. Some slept, others were talking and moving about. It seemed impossible to reach his brother. He changed himself into a great Spider and crawled up to the post where his brother was. With the fat he greased his wounds, then he cut the thongs and the came down to the ground. There he found a stone hatchet with eyes, the very one used to cut the pole, and the Holy Man knew all about it but could do nothing because the two together were too powerful for him. Long-Arm went and placed his hand over the hole by which they passed through so as to catch them. Spring-Boy made a motion with the hatchet as if to cut it off the wrist and said, “This is the second time your hand has committed a crime, and it shall be a sign to the People on Earth.” So it is today that we see the hand in the heavens. Some People call it Orion. The belt is where they cut across the wrist: the thumb and fingers also show; they are hanging down like a hand. “The Hand Star” it is called.

The boys went back to the place where they had left the arrows sticking in the ground, pulled out the arrows. and went home to their mother. She told them that the People in the sky where like birds; they could fly about as they pleased. Since the opening was made in the heavens, they may come down to Earth. If a person lives well on Earth, his spirit takes flight to the skies and is able to come back again and be reborn, but if he is evil, he will wander about the Earth and never leave it for the skies. A baby born with a slit in the ear at the place where earrings are hung is such a reborn child from the People in the skies.

While the People sang and danced about Spring-Boy in the bower, he had ten songs learned and he instituted the ceremony on Earth in order to get power from the skies. In place of a man’s body he told them to use a Buffalo skin. They should hang themselves at the wrist and tied cords to their bodies and suspend the cords to the nose of the Buffalo skull and hang there just as he had been suspended. He said, “The person who performs the ceremony in memory of me may have the picture of the Sun on his chest and the half moon on his back. The Sun causes things to grow and the moon causes the moisture. Since I have named the Buffalo hide as my own body, the Buffalo shall range where People are. In regard to the tree, the maidens of the village must be examined, and one who is a virgin shall cut down the tree and a young man, brave and unblemished, shall help her haul the tree to the dance place. In course of time they shall marry and their seed multiply so that the People may live and not go out of existence.”

The Gros Ventre (Hidatsa) People have believed in those rites. You can see where I have lanced across the chest in those ceremonies. They took hold of the flesh, lanced it through with a sharp knife and thrust a Juneberry stick cut about four inches long and wet with saliva through the lance-thrust and tied it with buckskin so that it would not slip off, then pushed back the chest. It hurt at first but not later. As I ran around (after being suspended to the tree) my feet would leave the Earth and I was suspended in air. Above my head I heard sounds like those made by Spirits and I believed them to be the Spirits of my helpers.

The chief celebrant at these ceremonies has usually killed an enemy. He cuts off the hand, brings it home, skins it, removes the bones and fills it with sand. After it dies he empties out the sand and wears it at the back of the neck where it flaps up and down at the back and a white Antelope hide about his loins just as Spring-Boy wore it. Every night he uses the ridge of earth as a pillow. Since Spring-Boy hung on a tree for three days, and it took a fourth to escape back to the lodge, the ceremony lasts four days. The men lanced have to fast. The man who sleeps with his head on the ridge is naked and sage is strewn. The ceremony is called the Sundance in some tribes, but among the Hidatsa it is the “Hide-Beating”

The boys were worried for their mother’s safety and the mother for that of the boys, so they sent the two older men and the mother to join the People in the sky and take back the hatchet and give it to the owner. The boys promised their mother to stay below and help the People on Earth in spirit as long as the world lasted and at the end of the world she would see them again. The greasing of Spring-Boy’s wounds by Lodge-Boy was the origin of the use of grease and tallow to heal wounds.

Source: firstpeople

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