Native American Legends
The Dog and the Stick
A Blackfoot Legend
This happened long ago. In those days the people were hungry. No
buffalo nor antelope were seen on the prairie. The deer and the
elk trails were covered with grass and leaves; not even a rabbit
could be found in the brush. Then the people prayed, saying: "Oh,
Old Man, help us now, or we shall die. The buffalo and deer are
gone. Uselessly we kindle the morning fires; useless are our arrows;
our knives stick fast in the sheaths."
Then Old Man started out to find the game, and he took with him
a young man, the son of a chief. For many days they traveled the
prairies and ate nothing but berries and roots. One day they climbed
a high ridge, and when they had reached the top, they saw, far off
by a stream, a single lodge.
"What kind of a person can it be," said the young man,
"who camps there all alone, far from friends?"
"That," said Old Man, "is the one who has hidden
all the buffalo and deer from the people. He has a wife and a little
Then they went close to the lodge, and Old Man changed himself
into a little dog, and he said, "That is I." Then the
young man changed himself into a root-digger, and he said, "That
Now the little boy, playing about, found the dog, and he carried
it to his father, saying, "Look! See what a pretty little dog
I have found." "Throw it away," said his father;
"it is not a dog." And the little boy cried, but his father
made him carry the dog away. Then the boy found the root-digger;
and, again picking up the dog, he carried them both to the lodge,
saying, "Look, mother! see the pretty root-digger I have found!"
"Throw them both away," said his father; "that is
not a stick, that is not a dog."
"I want that stick," said the woman; "let our son
have the little dog."
"Very well," said her husband, "but remember, if
trouble comes, you bring it on yourself and on our son." Then
he sent his wife and son off to pick berries; and when they were
out of sight, he went out and killed a buffalo cow, and brought
the meat into the lodge and covered it up, and the bones, skin and
offal he threw in the creek. When his wife returned, he gave her
some of the meat to roast; and while they were eating, the little
boy fed the dog three times, and when he gave it more, his father
took the meat away, saying, "That is not a dog, you shall not
feed it more."
In the night, when all were asleep, Old Man and the young man arose
in their right shapes, and ate of the meat. "You were right,"
said the young man; "this is surely the person who has hidden
the buffalo from us." "Wait," said Old Man; and when
they had finished eating, they changed themselves back into the
stick and the dog.
In the morning the man sent his wife and son to dig roots, and
the woman took the stick with her. The dog followed the little boy.
Now, as they traveled along in search of roots, they came near a
cave, and at its mouth stood a buffalo cow. Then the dog ran into
the cave, and the stick, slipping from the woman's hand, followed,
gliding along like a snake. In this cave they found all the buffalo
and other game, and they began to drive them out; and soon the prairie
was covered with buffalo and deer. Never before were seen so many.
Pretty soon the man came running up, and he said to his wife, "Who
now drives out my animals?" and she replied, "The dog
and the stick are now in there." "Did I not tell you,"
said he, "that those were not what they looked like? See now
the trouble you have brought upon us," and he put an arrow
on his bow and waited for them to come out. But they were cunning,
for when the last animal a big bull was about to go out, the stick
grasped him by the hair under his neck, and coiled up in it, and
the dog held on by the hair beneath, until they were far out on
the prairie, when they changed into their true shapes, and drove
the buffalo toward camp.
When the people saw the buffalo coming, they drove a big band of
them to the pis'kun; but just as the leaders were about to jump
off, a raven came and flapped its wings in front of them and croaked,
and they turned off another way.
Every time a band of buffalo was driven near the pis'kun, this
raven frightened them away. Then Old Man knew that the raven was
the one who had kept the buffalo cached.
So he went and changed himself into a beaver, and lay stretched
out on the bank of the river, as if dead; and the raven, which was
very hungry, flew down and began to pick at him. Then Old Man caught
it by the legs and ran with it to camp, and all the chiefs came
together to decide what should be done with it. Some said to kill
it, but Old Man said, "No! I will punish it," and he tied
it over the lodge, right in the smoke hole.
As the days went by, the raven grew poor and weak, and his eyes
were blurred with the thick smoke, and he cried continually to Old
Man to pity him. One day Old Man untied him, and told him to take
his right shape, saying: "Why have you tried to fool Old Man?
Look at me! I cannot die. Look at me! Of all peoples and tribes
I am the chief. I cannot die. I made the mountains. They are standing
yet. I made the prairies and the rocks. You see them yet. Go home,
then, to your wife and your child, and when you are hungry hunt
like any one else, or you shall die."
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