Native American Legends
The bound children
A Sioux Legend
There once lived a widow with two children; the elder a daughter
and the younger a son. The widow went in mourning for her husband
a long time. She cut off her hair, let her dress lie untidy on her
body and kept her face unpainted and unwashed.
There lived in the same village a great chief. He had one son just
come old enough to marry. The chief had it known that he wished
his son to take a wife, and all of the young women in the village
were eager to marry the young man. However, he was pleased with
none of them.
Now the widow thought, "I am tired of mourning for my husband
and caring for my children. Perhaps if I lay aside my mourning and
paint myself red, the chief's son may marry me."
So she slipped away from her two children, stole down to the river
and made a bathing place through the ice. When she had washed away
all signs of mourning, she painted and decked herself and went to
the chief's tipi. When his son saw her, he loved her, and a feast
was made in honor of her wedding.
When the widow's daughter found herself forsaken, she wept bitterly.
After a day or two she took her little brother in her arms and went
to the tipi of an old woman who lived at one end of the village.
The old woman's tumble down tipi was of bark and her dress and clothing
were of old smoke-dried tent cover. But she was kind to the two
waifs and took them in willingly.
The little girl was eager to find her mother. The old woman said
to her: "I suspect your mother has painted her face red. Do
not try to find her. If the chief's son marries her she will not
want to be burdened with you."
The old woman was right. The girl went down to the river, and sure
enough found a hole cut in the ice and about it lay the filth that
the mother had washed from her body. The girl gathered up the filth
and went on. By and by she came to a second hole in the ice. Here
too was filth, but not so much as at the previous place. At the
third hole the ice was clean.
The girl knew now that her mother had painted her face red. She
went at once to the chief's tipi, raised the door flap and went
in. There sat her mother with the chief's son at their wedding feast.
The girl walked up to her mother and hurled the filth in her mother's
"There," she cried, "you who forsake your helpless
children and forget your husband, take that!"
And at once her mother became a hideous old woman.
The girl then went back to the lodge of the old woman, leaving
the camp in an uproar. The chief soon sent some young warriors to
seize the girl and her brother, and they were brought to his tipi.
He was furious with anger.
"Let the children be bound with lariats wrapped about their
bodies and let them be left to starve. Our camp will move on,"
he said. The chief's son did not put away his wife, hoping she might
be cured in some way and grow young again.
Everybody in camp now got ready to move; but the old woman came
close to the girl and said, "In my old tipi I have dug a hole
and buried a pot with punk and steel and flint and packs of dried
meat. They will tie you up like a corpse. But before we go I will
come with a knife and pretend to stab you, but I will really cut
the rope that binds you so that you can unwind it from your body
as soon as the camp is out of sight and hearing."
And so, before the camp started, the old woman came to the place
where the two children were bound. She had in her hand a knife bound
to the end of a stick which she used as a lance. She stood over
the children and cried aloud, "You wicked girl, who have shamed
your own mother, you deserve all the punishment that is given you.
But after all I do not want to let you lie and starve. Far better
kill you at once and have done with it!" and with her stick
she stabbed many times, as if to kill, but she was really cutting
The camp moved on; but the children lay on the ground until noon
the next day. Then they began to squirm about. Soon the girl was
free, and she then set loose her little brother. They went at once
to the old woman's hut where they found the flint and steel and
the packs of dried meat.
The girl made her brother a bow and arrows and with these he killed
birds and other small game.
The boy grew up a great hunter. They became rich. They built three
great tipi's, in one of which were stored rows upon rows of parfleche
bags of dried meat.
One day as the brother went out to hunt, he met a handsome young
stranger who greeted him and said to him, "I know you are a
good hunter, for I have been watching you; your sister, too, is
industrious. Let me have her for a wife. Then you and I will be
brothers and hunt together."
The girl's brother went home and told her what the young stranger
"Brother, I do not care to marry," she answered. "I
am now happy with you."
"But you will be yet happier married," he answered, "and
the young stranger is of no mean family, as one can see by his dress
"Very well, I will do as you wish," she said. So the
stranger came into the tipi and was the girl's husband.
One day as they were in their tent, a crow flew overhead, calling
out loudly, "Kaw, Kaw, They who forsook the children have no
The girl and her husband and brother looked up at one another.
"What can it mean?" they asked. "Let us send for
Unktomi (the spider). He is a good judge and he will know."
"And I will get ready a good dinner for him, for Unktomi is
always hungry," added the young wife.
When Unktomi came, his yellow mouth opened with delight at the
fine feast spread for him. After he had eaten he was told what the
crow had said.
"The crow means," said Unktomi, "that the villagers
and chief who bound and deserted you are in sad plight. They have
hardly anything to eat and are starving."
When the girl heard this she made a bundle of choicest meat and
called the crow.
"Take this to the starving villagers," she bade him.
He took the bundle in his beak, flew away to the starving village
and dropped the bundle before the chief's tipi. The chief came out
and the crow called loudly, "Kaw, Kaw! The children who were
forsaken have much meat; those who forsook them have none."
"What can he mean?" cried the astonished villagers.
"Let us send for Unktomi," said one, "he is a great
judge; he will tell us."
They divided the bundle of meat among the starving people, saving
the biggest piece for Unktomi.
When Unktomi had come and eaten, the villagers told him of the
crow and asked what the bird's words meant.
"He means," said Unktomi, "that the two children
whom you forsook have tipi's full of dried meat enough for all the
The villagers were filled with astonishment at this news. To find
whether or not it was true, the chief called seven young men and
sent them out to see. They came to the three tipi's and there met
the girl's brother and husband just going out to hunt (which they
did now only for sport).
The girl's brother invited the seven young men into the third or
sacred lodge, and after they had smoked a pipe and knocked out the
ashes on a buffalo bone the brother gave them meat to eat, which
the seven devoured greedily. The next day he loaded all seven with
packs of meat, saying, "Take this meat to the villagers and
lead them hither."
While they awaited the return of the young men with the villagers,
the girl made two bundles of meat, one of the best and choicest
pieces, and the other of liver, very dry and hard to eat.
After a few days the camp arrived. The young woman's mother opened
the door and ran in crying: "Oh, my dear daughter, how glad
I am to see you." But the daughter received her coldly and
gave her the bundle of dried liver to eat. But when the old woman
who had saved the children's lives came in, the young girl received
her gladly, called her grandmother, and gave her the package of
choice meat with marrow.
Then the whole village camped and ate of the stores of meat all
the winter until spring came; and withal they were so many, there
was such abundance of stores that there was still much left.
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