Native American Legends
How the Buffalo hunt began
A Cheyenne Legend
The buffalo formerly ate man. The magpie and the hawk were on the
side of the people, for neither ate the other or the people. These
two birds flew away from a council between animals and men.
They determined that a race would be held, the winners to eat the
losers. The course was long, around a mountain.
The swiftest buffalo was a cow called Neika, "swift head."
She believed she would win and entered the race. On the other hand,
the people were afraid because of the long distance. They were trying
to get medicine to prevent fatigue.
All the birds and animals painted themselves for the race, and
since that time they have all been brightly colored. Even the water
turtle put red paint around his eyes. The magpie painted himself
white on head, shoulders, and tail. At last all were ready for the
race, and stood in a row for the start.
They ran and ran, making some loud noises in place of singing to
help themselves to run faster. All small birds, turtles, rabbits,
coyotes, wolves, flies, ants, insects, and snakes were soon left
far behind. When they approached the mountain the buffalo-cow was
ahead; then came the magpie, hawk, and the people; the rest were
strung out along the way. The dust rose so quickly that nothing
could be seen.
All around the mountain the buffalo-cow led the race, but the two
birds knew they could win, and merely kept up with her until they
neared the finish line, which was back to the starting place. Then
both birds whooshed by her and won the race for man. As they flew
the course, they had seen fallen animals and birds all over the
place, who had run themselves to death, turning the ground and rocks
red from the blood.
The buffalo then told their young to hide from the people, who
were going out to hunt them; and also told them to take some human
flesh with them for the last time. The young buffaloes did this,
and stuck that meat in front of their chests, beneath the throat.
Therefore, the people do not eat that part of the buffalo, saying
it is part human flesh.
From that day forward the Cheyenne began to hunt buffalo. Since
all the friendly animals and birds were on the people's side, they
are not eaten by people, but they do wear and use their beautiful
feathers for ornaments.
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