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Native American Legends

Buffalo Berry

A Blackfoot Legend

Old man was the one who started it, and our people have followed his example ever since. Ho! Old man made a fool of himself that day.

"It was the time when buffalo-berries are red and ripe. All of the bushes along the rivers were loaded with them, and our people were about to gather what they needed, when Old man changed things, as far as the gathering was concerned.

"He was traveling along a river, and hungry, as he always was. Standing on the bank of that river, he saw great clusters of red, ripe buffalo-berries in the water. They were larger than any berries he had ever seen, and he said:

"'I guess I will get those berries. They look fine, and I need them. Besides, some of the people will see them and get them, if I don't.'

"He jumped into the water; looked for the berries; but they were not there. For a time Old man stood in the river and looked for the berries, but they were gone.

"After a while he climbed out on the bank again, and when the water got smooth once more there were the berries -- the same berries, in the same spot in the water, that is a funny thing. I wonder where they hid that time. I must have those berries!' he said to himself.

"In he went again -- splashing the water like a Grizzly Bear. He looked about him and the berries were gone again. The water was rippling about him, but there were no berries at all. He felt on the bottom of the river but they were not there.

"'Well,' he said, 'I will climb out and watch to see where they come from; then I shall grab them when I hit the water next time.'

"He did that; but he couldn't tell where the berries came from. As soon as the water settled and became smooth -- there were the berries -- the same as before. Ho! -- Old man was wild; he was angry, I tell you. And in he went flat on his stomach! He made an awful splash and mussed the water greatly; but there were no berries.

"'I know what I shall do. I will stay right here and wait for those berries; that is what I shall do'; and he did.

"He thought maybe somebody was looking at him and would laugh, so he glanced along the bank. And there, right over the water, he saw the same bunch of berries on some tall bushes. Don't you see? Old man saw the shadow of the berry- bunch; not the berries. He saw the red shadow-berries on the water; that was all, and he was such a fool he didn't know they were not real.

"Well, now he was angry in truth. Now he was ready for war. He climbed out on the bank again and cut a club. Then he went at the buffalo-berry bushes and pounded them till all of the red berries fell upon the ground, till the branches were bare of berries.

"'There,' he said, 'that's what you get for making a fool of the man who made you. You shall be beaten every year as long as you live, to pay for what you have done; you and your children, too.'

"That is how it all came about, and that is why your mothers whip the buffalo- berry bushes and then pick the berries from the ground. Ho!"

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