Native American Legends
Pretty Feathered Forehead
A Lakota Legend
There was once a baby boy who came into the world with a small
cluster of different colored feathers grown fast to his forehead.
From this he derived his name "Pretty Feathered Forehead."
He was a very pleasant boy as well as handsome, and he had the respect
of the whole tribe. When he had grown up to be a young man, he never,
like other young men, made love to any of the tribe's beauties.
Although they were madly in love with him, he never noticed any
of them. There were many handsome girls in the different camps,
but he passed them by.
One day he said: "Father, I am going on a visit to the Buffalo
nation." The father gave his consent, and away went the son.
The father and mother suspected the object of their son's visit
to the Buffalo nation, and immediately commenced preparing a fine
reception for their intended daughter-in-law. The mother sewed together
ten buffalo hides and painted the brave deeds of her husband on
them. She made these into a fine large tipi, and had work bags and
fine robes and blankets put inside. This was to be the dwelling
of their son and daughter-in-law. In a few weeks the son returned,
bringing with him a beautiful Buffalo girl. The parents of the boy
gave a big feast in honor of the occasion, and the son and his wife
lived very happily together.
In the course of time a son came to the young couple, and the father
was very proud of his boy. When the boy became a year old, the father
said to his wife: "I am going for a visit to the Elk nation."
The mother was very sad, as she knew her husband was going after
another wife. He returned, bringing with him a very beautiful Elk
girl. When the Buffalo woman saw the Elk girl she was very downcast
and sad, but the husband said: "Don't be sad; she will do all
the heavy work for you."
They lived quite happily together for a long time. The Elk girl
also became the mother of a fine boy. The two boys had grown up
large enough to play around. One day the Elk woman was tanning hides
outside and the two boys were playing around near their mothers,
when all at once the buffalo boy ran across the robe, leaving his
tracks on the white robe which his step-mother had nearly completed.
This provoked the Elk woman and she gave vent to her feelings by
scolding the boy: "You clumsy flat mouth, why couldn't you
run around my work, instead of across it?" The buffalo cow
standing in the door, heard every word that the Elk woman had said,
and when she heard her son called flat mouth it made her very angry,
although she did not say a word to any one. She hurriedly gathered
some of her belongings and, calling her son, she started off in
a westerly direction.
The husband being absent on a hunting expedition did not return
until late in the afternoon. Upon his return his oldest boy always
ran out to meet him, but this time as the boy did not put in an
appearance, the father feared that something had happened to the
boy. So hurriedly going to his tent he looked around, but failing
to see the boy or his mother, he asked his elk wife, where the boy
and his mother were. The elk wife answered: "She took her boy
on her back and started off in that direction," (pointing towards
the west). "How long has she been gone?" "Since early
morning." The husband hurriedly caught a fresh horse and, without
eating anything, rode off in the direction taken by his buffalo
wife and boy. Near dark he ascended a high hill and noticed a small
tent down in the valley. It was a long distance down to the tent,
so it was very late when he arrived there. He tethered his horse
and went into the tent and found the boy and his mother fast asleep.
Upon lying down beside them the boy awoke, and upon seeing his father,
motioned to him to go outside with him.
On going outside the boy told his father that it would be useless
for him to try and coax his mother to return, as she was too highly
insulted by the elk wife to ever return. Then the boy told about
what the elk wife had said and that she had called him flat mouth.
"My mother is determined to return to her people, but if you
want to follow us you may, and perhaps, after she has visited with
her relatives a little while, you may induce her to return with
you. In the morning we are going to start very early, and as the
country we will travel through is very hard soil, I will stamp my
feet hard so as to leave my tracks imprinted in the softest places,
then you will be able to follow the direction we will take."
The two went into the tent and were soon fast asleep. The father,
being very much fatigued, slept very soundly, and when he awoke
the sun was beating down upon him. The mother and boy were nowhere
to be seen. The tent had been taken down from over him so carefully
that he had not been awakened. Getting his horse, he mounted and
rode after the two who had left him sleeping. He had no trouble
in following the trail, as the boy had stamped his feet hard and
left his little tracks in the soft places.
That evening he spied the little tent again and on getting to it
found them both asleep. The boy awoke and motioned for his father
to go outside. He again told his father that the next day's travel
would be the hardest of all. "We will cross a great plain,
but before we get there we will cross a sandy hollow. When you get
to the hollow, look at my tracks; they will be deep into the sand,
and in each track you will see little pools of water. Drink as much
as you can, as this is the only chance you will get to have a drink,
there being no water from there to the big ridge, and it will be
dark by the time you get to the ridge. The relations of my mother
live at that ridge and I will come and talk to you once more, before
I leave you to join my mother's people."
Next morning, as before, he awoke to find himself alone. They had
left him and proceeded on their journey. He mounted again and when
he arrived at the sandy hollow, sure enough, there, deep in the
sand, were the tracks of his son filled to the top with water. He
drank and drank until he had drained the last one. Then he arose
and continued on the trail, and near sundown he came in sight of
their little tent away up on the side of the ridge. His horse suddenly
staggered and fell forward dead, having died of thirst.
From there he proceeded on foot. When he got to where the tent
stood he entered, only to find it empty. "I guess my son intends
to come here and have his last talk with me," thought the father.
He had eaten nothing for three days, and was nearly famished. He
lay down, but the pangs of hunger kept sleep away. He heard footsteps
outside and lay in readiness, thinking it might be an enemy. Slowly
opening the covering of the door, his son looked in and seeing his
father lying awake, drew back and ran off up the ridge, but soon
returned bringing a small parcel with him. When he entered he gave
the parcel to his father and said: "Eat, father; I stole this
food for you, so I could not get very much." The father soon
ate what his son had brought. When he had finished, the son said:
"Tomorrow morning the relatives of my mother will come over
here and take you down to the village. My mother has three sisters
who have their work bags made identically the same as mother's.
Were they to mix them up they could not each pick out her own without
looking inside so as to identify them by what they have in them.
You will be asked to pick out mother's work bag, and if you fail
they will trample you to death. Next they will tell you to pick
out my mother from among her sisters, and you will be unable to
distinguish her from the other three, and if you fail they will
bury you alive. The last they will try you on, in case you meet
the first and second tests successfully, will be to require you
to pick me out from my three cousins, who are as much like me as
my reflection in the water. The bags you can tell by a little pebble
I will place on my mother's. You can pick my mother out by a small
piece of grass which I will put in her hair, and you can pick me
out from my cousins, for when we commence to dance, I will shake
my head, flop my ears and switch my tail. You must choose quickly,
as they will be very angry at your success, and if you lose any
time they will make the excuse that you did not know, that they
may have an excuse to trample you to death."
The boy then left, after admonishing his father to remember all
that he had told him. Early next morning the father heard a great
rumbling noise, and going outside, he saw the whole hillside covered
with buffalo. When he appeared they set up a loud bellowing and
circled around him. One old bull came up and giving a loud snort,
passed on by, looking back every few steps. The man, thinking he
was to follow this one, did so, and the whole herd, forming a half
circle around him, escorted him down the west side of the range
out on to a large plain, where there stood a lone tree. To this
tree the old bull led him and stopped when he reached the tree.
A large rock at the foot of the tree served as a seat for the man.
As soon as he was seated there came four female buffaloes, each
bearing a large work box. They set the boxes down in a row in front
of the man, and the herd crowded around closer in order to get a
good view. The old bull came to the front and stood close to the
bags, which had been taken out of the four boxes.
The man stood up, and looking at the bags, noticed a small pebble
resting on the one next to the left end. Stepping over he pulled
the bag towards him and secretly pushed the little pebble off the
bag, so that no one would notice it. When they saw that he had selected
the right one, they set up a terrific bellow.
Then came the four sisters and stood in a line before the man.
Glancing along from the one on the right to the last one on the
left, he stepped forward and placed his hand on the one next to
the right. Thanks to his boy, if he hadn't put that little stem
of grass on his mother's hair, the father could never have picked
out his wife, as the four looked as much alike as four peas. Next
came the four boy calves, and as they advanced they commenced dancing,
and his son was shaking his head and flopping his ears and switching
his tail. The father was going to pick out his boy, when a fainting
spell took him, and as he sank to the ground the old bull sprang
forward on top of him, and instantly they rushed upon him and he
was soon trampled to a jelly. The herd then moved to other parts.
The elk wife concluded that something had happened to her husband
and determined upon going in search of him. As she was very fleet
of foot it did not take her long to arrive at the lone tree. She
noticed the blood splashed on the base of the tree, and small pieces
of flesh stamped into the earth. Looking closer, she noticed something
white in the dust. Stooping and picking it out of the dust, she
drew forth the cluster of different colored feathers which had been
fastened to her husband's forehead. She at once took the cluster
of feathers, and going to the east side of the ridge, heated stones
and erected a wickiup, placed the feathers inside, and getting water,
she sprinkled the stones, and this caused a thick vapor in the wickiup.
She continued this for a long time, when she heard something moving
inside the wickiup. Then a voice spoke up, saying: "Whoever
you are, pour some more water on and I will be all right."
So the woman got more water and poured it on the rocks. "That
will do now, I want to dry off." She plucked a pile of sage
and in handing it in to him, he recognized his elk wife's hand.
They went back home and shortly after the buffalo, hearing about
him coming back to life, decided to make war on him and kill him
and his wife, she being the one who brought him back to life. The
woman, hearing of this, had posts set in the ground and a strong
platform placed on top. When the buffalo came, her husband, her
son and herself, were seated upon the bough platform, and the buffalo
could not reach them. She flouted her red blanket in their faces,
which made the buffalo wild with rage. The hunter's friends came
to his rescue, and so fast were they killing the buffalo that they
took flight and rushed away, never more to bother Pretty Feather
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