Native American Legends
The Ghosts' Buffalo
A Blackfoot Legend
A long time ago there were four Blackfeet, who went to war against
the Crees. They traveled a long way, and at last their horses gave
out, and they started back toward their homes. As they were going
along they came to the Sand Hills; and while they were passing through
them, they saw in the sand a fresh travois trail, where people had
One of the men said: "Let us follow this trail until we come
up with some of our people. Then we will camp with them." They
followed the trail for a long way, and at length one of the Blackfeet,
named E-kus'-kini, a very powerful person, said to the others: "Why
follow this longer? It is just nothing." The others said: "Not
so. These are our people. We will go on and camp with them."
They went on, and toward evening, one of them found a stone maul
and a dog travois. He said: "Look at these things. I know this
maul and this travois. They belonged to my mother, who died. They
were buried with her. This is strange." He took the things.
When night overtook the men, they camped.
Early in the morning, they heard, all about them, sounds as if
a camp of people were there. They heard a young man shouting a sort
of war cry, as young men do; women chopping wood; a man calling
for a feast, asking people to come to his lodge and smoke, all the
different sounds of the camp. They looked about, but could see nothing;
and then they were frightened and covered their heads with their
robes. At last they took courage, and started to look around and
see what they could learn about this strange thing. For a little
while they saw nothing, but pretty soon one of them said: "Look
over there. See that pis'kun. Let us go over and look at it."
As they were going toward it, one of them picked up a stone pointed
arrow. He said: "Look at this. It belonged to my father. This
is his place." They started to go on toward the pis'kun, but
suddenly they could see no pis'kun. It had disappeared all at once.
A little while after this, one of them spoke up, and said: "Look
over there. There is my father running buffalo. There! he has killed.
Let us go over to him." They all looked where this man pointed,
and they could see a person on a white horse, running buffalo. While
they were looking, the person killed the buffalo, and got off his
horse to butcher it. They started to go over toward him, and saw
him at work butchering, and saw him turn the buffalo over on its
back; but before they got to the place where he was, the person
got on his horse and rode off, and when they got to where he had
been skinning the buffalo, they saw lying on the ground only a dead
mouse. There was no buffalo there. By the side of the mouse was
a buffalo chip, and lying on it was an arrow painted red. The man
said: "That is my father's arrow. That is the way he painted
them." He took it up in his hands; and when he held it in his
hands, he saw that it was not an arrow but a blade of spear grass.
Then he laid it down, and it was an arrow again.
Another Blackfoot found a buffalo rock, I-nis'-kim.
Some time after this, the men got home to their camp. The man who
had taken the maul and the dog travois, when he got home and smelled
the smoke from the fire, died, and so did his horse. It seems that
the shadow of the person who owned the things was angry at him and
followed him home. Two others of these Blackfeet have since died,
killed in war; but E-k[=u]s'-kini is alive yet. He took a stone
and an iron arrow point that had belonged to his father, and always
carried them about with him. That is why he has lived so long. The
man who took the stone arrow point found near the pis'kun, which
had belonged to his father, took it home with him. This was his
medicine. After that he was badly wounded in two fights, but he
was not killed; he got well.
The one who took the buffalo rock, I-nis'-kim, it afterward made
strong to call the buffalo into the pis'kun. He would take the rock
and put it in his lodge close to the fire, where he could look at
it, and would pray over it and make medicine. Sometimes he would
ask for a hundred buffalo to jump into the pis'kun, and the next
day a hundred would jump in. He was powerful.
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