Native American Legends
A Lakota Legend
Alone within his tipi sat Iktomi. The sun was but a hands breadth
from the western edge of land. "Those, bad, bad gray wolves!
They ate up all my nice fat ducks!" muttered he, rocking his
body to and fro. He was cuddling the evil memory he bore those hungry
At last he ceased to sway his body backward and forward, but sat
still and stiff as a stone image. "Oh! I'll go to Inyan, the
great-grandfather, and pray for food!" he exclaimed. At once
he hurried forth from his tipi and, with his blanket over one shoulder,
drew nigh to a huge rock on a hillside. With half- crouching, half-running
strides, he fell upon Inyan with outspread hands.
"Grandfather! pity me. I am hungry. I am starving. Give me
food. Great- grandfather, give me meat to eat!" he cried. All
the while he stroked and caressed the face of the great stone god.
The all-powerful Great Spirit, who makes the trees and grass, can
hear the voice of those who pray in many varied ways. The hearing
of Inyan, the large hard stone, was the one most sought after. He
was the great-grandfather, for he had sat upon the hillside many,
many seasons. He had seen the prairie put on a snow-white blanket
and then change it for a bright green robe more than a thousand
Still unaffected by the myriad moons he rested on the everlasting
hill, listening to the prayers of Indian warriors. Before the finding
of the magic arrow he had sat there. Now, as Iktomi prayed and wept
before the great- grandfather, the sky in the west was red like
a glowing face. The sunset poured a soft mellow light upon the huge
gray stone and the solitary figure beside it. It was the smile of
the Great Spirit upon the grandfather and the wayward child.
The prayer was heard. Iktomi knew it.
"Now, grandfather, accept my offering; 'tis all I have,"
said Iktomi as he spread his half-worn blanket upon Inyan's cold
shoulders. Then Iktomi, happy with the smile of the sunset sky,
followed a footpath leading toward a thicketed ravine. He had not
gone many paces into the shrubbery when before him lay a freshly
"This is the answer from the red western sky!" cried
Iktomi with hands uplifted. Slipping a long thin blade from out
his belt, he cut large chunks of choice meat. Sharpening some willow
sticks, he planted them around a wood-pile he had ready to kindle.
On these stakes he meant to roast the venison.
While he was rubbing briskly two long sticks to start a fire, the
sun in the west fell out of the sky below the edge of land. Twilight
was over all. Iktomi felt the cold night air upon his bare neck
and shoulders. "Ough!" he shivered as he wiped his knife
on the grass. Tucking it in a beaded case hanging from his belt,
Iktomi stood erect, looking about. He shivered again.
"Ough! Ah! I am cold. I wish I had my blanket!" whispered
he, hovering over the pile of dry sticks and the sharp stakes round
about it. Suddenly he paused and dropped his hands at his sides.
"The old great-grandfather does not feel the cold as I do.
He does not need my old blanket as I do. I wish I had not given
it to him. Oh! I think I'll run up there and take it back!"
said he, pointing his long chin toward the large gray stone.
Iktomi, in the warm sunshine, had no need of his blanket, and it
had been very easy to part with a thing which he could not miss.
But the chilly night wind quite froze his ardent thank-offering.
Thus running up the hillside, his teeth chattering all the way,
he drew near to Inyan, the sacred symbol.
Seizing one corner of the half-worn blanket, Iktomi pulled it off
with a jerk. "Give my blanket back, old grandfather! You do
not need it. I do!"
This was very wrong, yet Iktomi did it, for his wit was not wisdom.
Drawing the blanket tight over his shoulders, he descended the hill
with hurrying feet. He was soon upon the edge of the ravine.
A young moon, like a bright bent bow, climbed up from the southwest
horizon a little way into the sky. In this pale light Iktomi stood
motionless as a ghost amid the thicket. His woodpile was not yet
kindled. His pointed stakes were still bare as he had left them.
But where was the deer - the venison he had felt warm in his hands
a moment ago? It was gone.
Only the dry rib bones lay on the ground like giant fingers from
an open grave. Iktomi was troubled. At length, stooping over the
white dried bones, he took hold of one and shook it. The bones,
loose in their sockets, rattled together at his touch. Iktomi let
go his hold. He sprang back amazed. And though he wore a blanket
his teeth chattered more than ever.
Then his blunted sense will surprise you, little reader; for instead
of being grieved that he had taken back his blanket, he cried aloud,
"Hin-hin-hin! If only I had eaten the venison before going
for my blanket!"
Those tears no longer moved the hand of the Generous Giver. They
were selfish tears. The Great Spirit does not heed them ever.
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