Native American Legends
The "Wasna" (Pemmican) Man and the Unktomi (Spider)
A Sioux Legend
Once upon a time there appeared from out of a large belt of timber
a man attired in the fat of the buffalo. On his head he wore the
honeycomb part of the stomach. To this was attached small pieces
of fat. The fat which covered the stomach he wore as a cloak. The
large intestines he wore as leggings, and the kidney fat as his
As he appeared he had the misfortune to meet "Unktomi"
(spider) with his hundreds of starving children. Upon seeing the
fat, Unktomi and his large family at once attacked the man, who,
in order to save his life, started to run away, but so closely did
Unktomi and his family pursue him that in order to make better time
and also get a little better start, he threw off his head covering,
which the Unktomi family hastily devoured, and were again closing
in upon him. He then threw off his cloak and they devoured that,
and were close upon him again, when he threw off his leggings. These
were hastily eaten up, and, as they drew near to a lake, the man
threw off the kidney fat, and, running to the edge of the lake,
dived down into the water and kept beneath the surface, swimming
to the opposite shore. After the Unktomi family had eaten the kidney
fat they came to the water's edge, and the grease was floating on
the surface of the water which they lapped up, until there was not
a grease spot left floating on the surface.
The small morsels had only sharpened their appetites, and as they
saw the man sitting on the opposite shore, Unktomi and his family
proceeded around the lake and came upon two men sitting on the shore.
Unktomi saw that the other man was "Wakapapi" (pounded
beef). The family surrounded the two and Unktomi ordered them to
fight. Fearing Unktomi and his large family, they at once commenced
to fight and Pounded Meat was soon killed. The hungry family at
once fell to eating him. So busy were they that none noticed the
fat man sneak off and disappear.
When they had finished the pounded beef man they looked around
to fall upon the fat man, but nowhere could he be seen. Unktomi
said, "I will track him and when I find him, I will return
for you, so stay here and await my return."
He followed the fat man's tracks until farther east on the shore
of the lake he found the fat man in the act of skinning a deer,
which he had killed. (He had held on to his bow and arrows when
he jumped into the lake). "My," said Unktomi, "this
will make a fine meal for my hungry children. I will go after them,
so hurry and cut the meat up into small pieces so they each can
have a piece."
"All right, go ahead and get your family," said Fat Man.
During Unktomi's absence, the fat man hurriedly cut the meat up
into small pieces and carried them up into a tree that stood near
to the shore. When he had carried it all up he threw sand and dirt
upon the blood, and so left no trace of the deer.
On the arrival of Unktomi and his family, no signs of the fat man
or the deer could be found. They wandered about the spot looking
for tracks which might lead them to where the fat man had cached
the meat, as Unktomi said he could not have carried it very far.
Now the fat man was up in the tree and sat watching them. The reflection
of the tree was in the water, and some of the children going close
to the shore, discovered it as they looked at the reflection. The
fat man cut a piece of meat and extending it towards them, drew
back his hand and put the meat into his mouth.
"Come quick, father, here he is eating the meat," said
the children. Unktomi came and seeing the reflection, thought the
fat man was down in the lake. "Wait, I will bring him up for
you." So saying, he dived down, but soon arose without anything.
Again and again he tried, but could not reach the bottom. He told
the children to gather rock for him. These he tied around his neck
and body, and dived down for the last time. The last the children
saw of their father was the bubbles which arose to the surface of
the lake. The rocks being too heavy for him, held him fast to the
bottom, and some hungry fish soon made a feast out of the body of
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