Native American Legends
A Blackfoot Legend
Chill breezes had long forewarned the geese of the coming cold
season, and the constant cry from about of "honk, honk,"
told the Indians that the birds' migration was in progress.
The buffalo-hunters of the Blackfoot, an Algonquin tribe, were
abroad with the object of procuring the thick robes and the rich
meat which would keep them warm and provide good fare through the
desolate winter moons.
Sacred Otter had been lucky. Many buffaloes had fallen to him,
and he was busily occupied in skinning them. But while the braves
plied the knife quickly and deftly they heeded not the dun, lowering
clouds heavy with tempest hanging like a black curtain over the
Suddenly the clouds swooped down from their place in the heavens
like a flight of black eagles, and with a roar the blizzard were
upon them. Sacred Otter and his son crouched beneath the carcass
of a dead buffalo for shelter, but he knew that they would quickly
perish unless they could find some better protection from the bitter
So he made a small tipi, or tent, out of the buffalo's hide, and
both crawled inside. Against this crazy shelter the snow quickly
gathered and drifted, so that soon the inmates of the tiny lodge
sank into a comfortable drowse induced by the gentle warmth. As
Sacred Otter slept he dreamed.
Away in the distance he saw a great tipi, crowned with a color
like the gold of sunlight, and painted with a cluster of stars symbolic
of the North. The ruddy disc of the sun was pictured on the back,
and to this was affixed the tail of the Sacred Buffalo. The skirts
of the tipi were painted to represent ice, and on its side had been
drawn four yellow legs with green claws, typical of the Thunder-bird.
A buffalo in glaring red frowned above the door, and bunches of
crow-feathers, with small bells attached, swung and tinkled in the
Sacred Otter, surprised at the unusual nature of the paintings,
stood before the tipi lost in admiration of its decorations, when
he was startled to hear a voice say: "Who walks around my tipi?
Come in---come in!"
Sacred Otter entered, and beheld a tall, white-haired man, clothed
all in white, sitting at the back of the lodge, of which he was
the sole occupant. Sacred Otter took a seat, but the owner of the
tipi never looked his way, smoking on in stolid silence. Before
him was an earthen altar, on which was laid juniper, as in the Sun
His face was painted yellow, with a red line in the region of the
mouth, and another across the eyes to the ears. Across his breast
he wore a mink-skin, and round his waist small strips of otter-skin,
to all of which bells were attached.
For a long time, he kept silence, but at length he laid down his
black stone pipe and addressed Sacred Otter as follows: "I
am Es-tonea-pesta, the Lord of Cold Weather, and this, my dwelling,
is the Snow-tipi, or Yellow Paint Lodge. I control and send the
driving snow and biting winds from the Northland. You are here because
I have taken pity on you, and on your son who was caught in the
blizzard with you. Take this Snow-tipi with its symbols and medicines.
Take also this mink-skin tobacco-pouch, this black stone pipe, and
my supernatural power. You must make a tipi similar to this on your
return to camp."
The Lord of Cold Weather then minutely explained to Sacred Otter
the symbols of which he must make use in painting the lodge, and
gave him the songs and ceremonies connected with it. At this juncture
Sacred Otter awoke.
He observed that the storm had abated somewhat, and as soon as
it grew fair enough he and his son crawled from their shelter and
tramped home waist-high through the soft snow. Sacred Otter spent
the long, cold nights in making a model of the Snow-tipi and painting
it as he had been directed in his dream.
He also collected the "medicines" necessary for the ceremony,
and in the spring, when new lodges were made, he built and made
the Snow-tipi. The power of Sacred Otter waxed great because of
his possession of the Snow- lodge which the Lord of Cold had vouchsafed
to him in dream.
Soon was it proved.
Once more while hunting buffalo he and several companions were
caught in a blizzard when many a weary mile from camp. They appealed
to Sacred Otter to utilize the "medicine" of the Lord
Directing that several women and children who were with the party
should be placed on sledges, and that the men should go in advance
and break a passage through the snow for the horses, he took the
mink tobacco-pouch and the black stone pipe he had received from
the Cold, maker and commenced to smoke. He blew the smoke in the
direction whence the storm came and prayed to the Lord of Cold to
have pity on the people.
Gradually the storm-clouds broke and cleared and on every side
the blue sky was seen. The people hastened on, as they knew the
blizzard was only being held back for a space. But their camp was
at hand, and they soon reached it in safety.
Never again, however, would Sacred Otter use his mystic power.
For he dreaded that he might offend the Lord of Cold. And who could
afford to do that?
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