Native American Legends
A Cheyenne Legend
Arrow Boy, the wonderful boy, gives a magic performance still enacted
during Sioux Yuwipi ceremonies, in which the medicine man is tied
up with a rawhide thong and covered with a star blanket (formerly
a buffalo robe) while eerie lights flicker and invisible rattles
and strange voices are heard.
The pottery-making Pueblos have another version of this tale that
they call the legend of the Water-Olla Boy.
After the Cheyenne had received their corn, and while they were
still in the North, a young man and woman of the tribe were married.
The woman became pregnant and carried her child in the womb for
four years. The people watched with great interest to see what would
happen, and when the woman gave birth to a beautiful boy in the
fourth year, they regarded him as supernatural. Before long the
woman and her husband died, and the boy was taken in by his grandmother,
who lived alone.
He learned to walk and talk very quickly. He was given a buffalo
calf robe and immediately turned it inside out so that the hair
side was outward, the way medicine men wore it.
Among the Cheyenne there were certain medicine men of extraordinary
wisdom and supernatural powers. Sometimes they would come together
and put up a lodge. Sitting in a large circle, they chanted and
went through curious rituals, after which each man rose and performed
wonders before the crowd.
One of these magic dances were held when the boy was about ten.
He made his grandmother ask if he could take part, and the medicine
men let him enter the lodge.
"Where do you want to live?" the chief of the medicine
men asked, meaning "Where do you want to sit?"
Without ceremony the boy took his seat beside the chief. To the
man who had ushered him in, the child gave directions to paint his
body red and draw black rings around his face, wrists, and ankles.
The performance began at one end of the circle. When the boy's
turn came, he told the people what he was going to do. He used sweet
grass to burn incense. Then he passed his buffalo sinew bowstring
East, South, West, and North through the smoke. He asked two men
to assist him and told them to tie his bowstring around his neck,
cover his body with his robe, and pull at the ends of the string.
They pulled with all their might, but they could not move him.
He told them to pull harder, and as they tugged at the string, his
head was severed. It rolled out from under the robe, and the men
put it back.
Next the men lifted the robe up. Instead of the boy, a very old
man was sitting in his place.
They covered the old man with the robe and pulled it away again,
this time revealing a pile of human bones with a skull.
A third time they placed the robe over the bones and lifted it.
Nothing at all was there.
But when for a fourth time they spread the robe over the empty
space and removed it, the wonderful boy sat in his place as if nothing
After the magic dance, the Cheyenne moved their camp to hunt buffalo.
When a kill had been made, the wonderful boy led a crowd of boys
who went hunting for calves that might return to the place where
they last saw their mothers. The boys found five or six calves,
surrounded them, and killed a two-year-old with their arrows.
They began to skin it very carefully with bone knives, keeping
the hide of the head intact and leaving the hooves on, because the
wonderful boy wanted the skin for a robe.
While they worked, a man driving a dog team approached them. It
was Young Wolf, head chief of the tribe, who had come to the killing
ground to gather what bones had been left.
He said, "My children have favored me at last! I'll take charge
of this buffalo; you boys go on off." The children obeyed,
except for the wonderful boy, who kept skinning as he explained
that he wanted only the hide for a robe. The chief pushed the wonderful
boy aside, but the boy returned and resumed skinning.
Then the chief jerked the boy away and threw him down. The boy
got up and continued his work. Pretending that he was skinning one
of the hind legs, he cut the leg off at the knee and left the hoof
When the chief shouldered the boy out of the way and took over
the work, the wonderful boy struck him on the back of the head with
the buffalo leg.
The chief fell dead. The boys ran to the camp and told the story,
which caused great excitement. The warriors assembled and decided
to kill the wonderful boy.
They went out to look for him near the body of their chief, but
the boy had returned to camp. He was sitting in his grandmother's
lodge while she cooked food for him in an earthen pot, when suddenly
the whole tipi was raised by the warriors.
Quickly the wonderful boy kicked the pot over, sending the contents
into the fire. As the smoke billowed up, the boy rose with it. The
old woman was left sitting alone.
The warriors looked around and saw the boy about a quarter of a
mile away, walking off towards the East. They ran after him but
could not seem to draw closer. Four times they chased him with no
success, and then gave up.
People became afraid of the wonderful boy. Still, they looked for
him everyday and at last saw him on top of a nearby hill. The whole
camp gathered to watch as he appeared on the summit five times,
each time in a different dress.
First he came as a Red Shield warrior in a headdress made out of
buffalo skin. He had horns, a spear, a red shield. and two buffalo
tails tied to each arm.
The second time he was a Coyote warrior, with his body painted
black and yellow and with two eagle feathers sticking up on his
The third time he appeared as a Dog Men warrior wearing a feathered
headdress and carrying an eagle-bone whistle, a rattle of buffalo
hoof, and a bow and arrows.
The fourth time he was a Hoof Rattle warrior. His body was painted,
and he had a rattle to sing by and a spear about eight feet long,
with a crook at one end and the shaft at the other end bent in a
The fifth time his body was painted white, and on his forehead
he wore a white owl skin.
After this the wonderful boy disappeared entirely. No one knew
where he went, people thought him dead, and he was soon forgotten,
for the buffalo disappeared and famine came to the Cheyenne.
During this time the wonderful boy traveled alone into the highest
ranges of the mountains. As he drew near a certain peak, a door
opened in the mountain slope.
Might this also be the reference made by the Sioux as to where
the buffalo disappeared when they "went inside a mountain"?
Note that almost ALL tribes have legends of a mountain or mountains
with a "door" in it - that leads to other places. It,
and some of the connecting tunnels - some of which are literally
hundreds of miles long, extend underground to various places all
over South America, and may also be the place to which Moctezuma
alluded, when he told his people to take the remaining gold to other
lands by going "inside the mountains", after the Spanish
broke their promises, and then later killed him,...
They never did solve the mystery though, of where such enormously
huge quantities of gold disappeared to in such a short time!!!).
He passed through into the Earth, and the opening closed after
him. There inside the mountain he found a large circle of men. Each
represented a tribe and was seated beneath that tribe's bundle.
They welcomed the wonderful boy and pointed out the one empty place
under a bundle wrapped in fox skin.
"If you take this seat, the bundle will be yours to carry
back to the Cheyenne," the head man said. "But first you
will remain here four years, receiving instruction in order to become
your tribe's prophet and counselor."
The wonderful boy accepted the bundle, and all the men gave thanks.
When his turn came to perform the bundle ceremony, they took it
down and showed him its sacred ceremonies, songs, and four medicine
arrows, each representing certain powers.
Then for four years under the mountain peak, they taught him prophecies,
magic, and ceremonies for warfare and hunting.
Meanwhile the Cheyenne were weak with hunger, threatened by starvation.
All the animals had died, and the people ate herbs.
One day as the tribe was traveling in search of food, five children
lagged behind to look for herbs and mushrooms. Suddenly the wonderful
boy, now a young man bearing the name of Arrow Boy, appeared before
"My poor children, throw away those mushrooms," he said.
"It is I who brought famine among you, for I was angry with
your people when they drove me from their camp. I have returned
to provide for you; you shall not hunger in the future. Go and gather
some dried buffalo bones, and I will feed you."
The children ran away and picked up buffalo bones, and the wonderful
boy, Arrow Boy, made a few passes that turned them into fresh meat.
He fed the children with fat, marrow, liver, and other strengthening
parts of the buffalo. When they had eaten all they wanted, he gave
them fat and meat.
"Take this to your people," he said. "Tell them
that I, Motzeyouf, Arrow Boy, have returned."
Though the boys ran to the camp, Motzeyouf used magic to reach
it first. He entered the lodge of his uncle and lay down to rest,
for he was tired. The uncle and his wife were sitting just outside,
but they did not see Arrow Boy pass by.
The boys arrived in camp with their tale, which created great excitement.
The uncle's wife went into the lodge to get a pipe, and it was then
that she saw Arrow Boy lying covered with a buffalo robe. The robe,
and his shirt, leggings, and his moccasins, all were painted red.
Guessing that he was Motzeyouf, the men went into the lodge, asked
the stranger to sit up, and cried over him.
They saw his bundle, and knowing that he had power, they asked
him what they should do. Motzeyouf told the Cheyenne to camp in
a circle and set up a large tipi in the center.
When this had been done, he called all the medicine men to bring
their rattles and pipes. Then he went into the tipi and sang the
sacred songs that he had learned. It was night before he came to
the song about the fourth arrow.
In the darkness the buffalo returned with a roar like thunder.
The frightened Cheyenne went in to Arrow Boy and asked him what
to do. "Go and sleep," he said, "for the buffalo,
your food, has returned to you."
The roar of the buffalo continued through the night as long as
he sang. The next morning the land was covered with buffalo, and
the people went out and killed all they wanted. From that time forth,
owing to the medicine arrows, the Cheyenne had plenty to eat and
The medicine arrows brought down from the mountains by Motzeyouf
still exist and are cared for by the Arrow Keeper of the Southern
Cheyenne in Oklahoma.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends