Native American Legends
How Catfish got a flat head
A Dakota Sioux Legend
Long ago, when the fish and the animals could talk, the chief of
the catfish called council. He said to all, "Hau, brothers.
I am very tired of eating things from the mud at the bottom of the
lake. I think we should have meat as do the wolves. Let us watch
for the moose when he wades into the lake to eat the lily pads and
let us spear him and kill him for meat. He comes when the sun is
at the edge of the sky, so we will hide among the lilies and grasses
and spear him when he comes."
The other old catfish agreed and the whole tribe hid along the
lake where the lilies and pads grew the thickest.
When the sun was at the edge of the sky the moose came. He did
not go into the lake right away but ate at the edge where the sweet
grasses were. At last he entered the lake and the chief catfish
said, "Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets further
from the shore where the water is deeper."
They all waited until the moose was in deep water and then the
Catfish chief speared him as hard as he could!
The big moose bellowed with pain and jumped around in the water.
He was hurt and frightened at the same time.
"Ho!", he said. "Ho! What is this? Who has speared
me in my leg? I will find out who has done this!"
He then stuck his head right down into the water until he could
see beneath the surface. There, in the grasses, he saw the catfish
tribe getting ready to spear him again.
They were going to kill him for his meat! This made him very angry!
His eyes turned red and his heart was bad toward the catfish tribe.
He bellowed his war cry and said, "Ho! Listen to me! Catfish
has speared me in my leg! I will make war on them! I will trample
this tribe into the mud! Ho! Hear me! I will go to war!"
He began to jumped up and down all over the edge of the lake and
trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his
big hooves and trampled them deep into the mud, shouting, "Ho!
Catfish speared me in the leg! Ho! I will trample his tribe into
He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy
bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong
done to him.
After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out
of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and
rivers but every one has a flat head because of the war from the
big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers.
In old times there were very large catfish but now they are very
small. They still all carry spears. To this day, they are black
and are flat headed and they are so afraid that they stay hidden
in the daytime and only swim at night, which serves them right for
trying to kill the big moose long ago.
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