Native American Legends
The Four Brothers; or Inyanhoksila (Stone Boy)
A Sioux Legend
Alone and apart from their tribe dwelt four orphan brothers. They
had erected a very comfortable hut, although the materials used
were only willows, hay, birch bark, and adobe mud. After the completion
of their hut, the oldest brother laid out the different kinds of
work to be done by the four of them. He and the second and third
brothers were to do all the hunting, and the youngest brother was
to do the house work, cook the meals, and keep plenty of wood on
hand at all times.
As his older brothers would leave for their hunting very early
every morning, and would not return till late at night, the little
fellow always found plenty of spare time to gather into little piles
fine dry wood for their winter use.
Thus the four brothers lived happily for a long time. One day while
out gathering and piling up wood, the boy heard a rustling in the
leaves and looking around he saw a young woman standing in the cherry
bushes, smiling at him.
"Who are you, and where did you come from?" asked the
boy, in surprise. "I am an orphan girl and have no relatives
living. I came from the village west of here. I learned from rabbit
that there were four orphan brothers living here all alone, and
that the youngest was keeping house for his older brothers, so I
thought I would come over and see if I couldn't have them adopt
me as their sister, so that I might keep house for them, as I am
very poor and have no relations, neither have I a home."
She looked so pitiful and sad that the boy thought to himself,
"I will take her home with me, poor girl, no matter what my
brothers think or say." Then he said to her: "Come on,
tanke (sister). You may go home with me; I am sure my older brothers
will be glad to have you for our sister."
When they arrived at the hut, the girl hustled about and cooked
up a fine hot supper, and when the brothers returned they were surprised
to see a girl sitting by the fire in their hut. After they had entered
the youngest brother got up and walked outside, and a short time
after the oldest brother followed him out. "Who is that girl,
and where did she come from?" he asked his brother. Whereupon
the brother told him the whole story.Upon hearing this the oldest
brother felt very sorry for the poor orphan girl and going back
into the hut he spoke to the girl, saying: "Sister, you are
an orphan, the same as we; you have no relatives, no home. We will
be your brothers, and our poor hut shall be your home. Henceforth
call us brothers, and you will be our sister."
"Oh, how happy I am now that you take me as your sister. I
will be to you all as though we were of the same father and mother,"
said the girl. And true to her word, she looked after everything
of her brothers and kept the house in such fine shape that the brothers
blessed the day that she came to their poor little hut. She always
had an extra buckskin suit and two pairs of moccasins hanging at
the head of each one's bed. Buffalo, deer, antelope, bear, wolf,
wildcat, mountain lion and beaver skins she tanned by the dozen,
and piled nicely in one corner of the hut.
When the Indians have walked a great distance and are very tired,
they have great faith in painting their feet, claiming that paint
eases the pain and rests their feet.
After their return from a long day's journey, when they would be
lying down resting, the sister would get her paint and mix it with
the deer tallow and rub the paint on her brother's feet, painting
them up to their ankles. The gentle touch of her hands, and the
soothing qualities of the tallow and paint soon put them into a
deep, dreamless steep.
Many such kind actions on her part won the hearts of the brothers,
and never was a full blood sister loved more than was this poor
orphan girl, who had been taken as their adopted sister. In the
morning when they arose, the sister always combed their long black
silken scalp locks and painted the circle around the scalp lock
a bright vermilion.
When the hunters would return with a goodly supply of beef, the
sister would hurry and relieve them of their packs, hanging each
one high enough from the ground so the prowling dogs and coyotes
could not reach them. The hunters each had a post on which to hang
his bow and flint head arrows. (Good hunters never laid their arrows
on the ground, as it was considered unlucky to the hunter who let
his arrows touch the earth after they had been out of the quiver).
They were all perfectly happy, until one day the older brother surprised
them all by saying: "We have a plentiful supply of meat on
hand at present to last us for a week or so. I am going for a visit
to the village west of us, so you boys all stay at home and help
sister. Also gather as much wood as you can and I will be back again
in four days. On my return we will resume our hunting and commence
getting our year's supply of meat."
He left the next morning, and the last they saw of him was while
he stood at the top of the long range of hills west of their home.
Four days had come and gone and no sign of the oldest brother.
"I am afraid that our brother has met with some accident,"
said the sister. "I am afraid so, too," said the next
oldest. "I must go and search for him; he may be in some trouble
where a little help would get him out." The second brother
followed the direction his brother had taken, and when he came to
the top of the long range of hills he sat down and gazed long and
steadily down into the long valley with a beautiful creek winding
through it. Across the valley was a long plain stretching for miles
beyond and finally ending at the foot of another range of hills,
the counterpart of the one upon which he sat.
After noting the different landmarks carefully, he arose and slowly
started down the slope and soon came to the creek he had seen from
the top of the range. Great was his surprise on arriving at the
creek to find what a difference there was in the appearance of it
from the range and where he stood. From the range it appeared to
be a quiet, harmless, laughing stream. Now he saw it to be a muddy,
boiling, bubbling torrent, with high perpendicular banks. For a
long time he stood, thinking which way to go, up or down stream.
He had just decided to go down stream, when, on chancing to look
up, he noticed a thin column of smoke slowly ascending from a little
knoll. He approached the place cautiously and noticed a door placed
into the creek bank on the opposite side of the stream. As he stood
looking at the door, wondering who could be living in a place like
that, it suddenly opened and a very old appearing woman came out
and stood looking around her. Soon she spied the young man, and
said to him: "My grandchild, where did you come from and whither
are you bound?" The young man answered: "I came from east
of this ridge and am in search of my oldest brother, who came over
in this direction five days ago and who has not yet returned."
"Your brother stopped here and ate his dinner with me, and
then left, traveling towards the west," said the old witch,
for such she was. "Now, grandson, come across on that little
log bridge up the stream there and have your dinner with me. I have
it all cooked now and just stepped outside to see if there might
not be some hungry traveler about, whom I could invite in to eat
dinner with me." The young man went up the stream a little
distance and found a couple of small logs which had been placed
across the stream to serve as a bridge. He crossed over and went
down to the old woman's dugout hut. "Come in grandson, and
eat. I know you must be hungry."
The young man sat down and ate a real hearty meal. On finishing
he arose and said: "Grandmother, I thank you for your meal
and kindness to me. I would stay and visit with you awhile, as I
know it must be very lonely here for you, but I am very anxious
to find my brother, so I must be going. On my return I will stop
with my brother and we will pay you a little visit."
"Very well, grandson, but before you go, I wish you would
do me a little favor. Your brother did it for me before he left,
and cured me, but it has come back on me again. I am subject to
very severe pains along the left side of my backbone, all the way
from my shoulder blade down to where my ribs attach to my backbone,
and the only way I get any relief from the pain is to have some
one kick me along the side." (She was a witch, and concealed
in her robe a long sharp steel spike. It was placed so that the
last kick they would give her, their foot would hit the spike and
they would instantly drop off into a swoon, as if dead).
"If I won't hurt you too much, grandmother, I certainly will
be glad to do it for you." said the young man, little thinking
he would be the one to get hurt.
"No, grandson, don't be afraid of hurting me; the harder you
kick the longer the pain stays away." She laid down on the
floor and rolled over on to her right side, so he could get a good
chance to kick the left side where she said the pain was located.
As he moved back to give the first kick, he glanced along the floor
and he noticed a long object wrapped in a blanket, lying against
the opposite wall. He thought it looked strange and was going to
stop and investigate, but just then the witch cried out as if in
pain. "Hurry up, grandson, I am going to die if you don't hurry
and start in kicking". "I can investigate after I get
through with her," thought he, so he started in kicking and
every kick he would give her she would cry: "Harder, kick harder."
He had to kick seven times before he would get to the end of the
pain, so he let out as hard as he could drive, and when he came
to the last kick he hit the spike, and driving it through his foot,
fell down in a dead swoon, and was rolled up in a blanket by the
witch and placed beside his brother at the opposite side of the
When the second brother failed to return, the third went in search
of the two missing ones. He fared no better than the second one,
as he met the old witch who served him in a similar manner as she
had his two brothers.
"Ha! Ha!" she laughed, when she caught the third, "I
have only one more of them to catch, and when I get them I will
keep them all here a year, and then I will turn them into horses
and sell them back to their sister. I hate her, for I was going
to try and keep house for them and marry the oldest one, but she
got ahead of me and became their sister, so now I will get my revenge
on her. Next year she will be riding and driving her brothers and
she won't know it."
When the third brother failed to return, the sister cried and begged
the last one not to venture out in search of them. But go he must,
and go he did, only to do as his three brothers had done.
Now the poor sister was nearly distracted. Day and night she wandered
over hills and through woods in hopes she might find or hear of
some trace of them. Her wanderings were in vain. The hawks had not
seen them after they had crossed the little stream. The wolves and
coyotes told her that they had seen nothing of her brothers out
on the broad plains, and she had given them up for dead.
One day, as she was sitting by the little stream that flowed past
their hut, throwing pebbles into the water and wondering what she
should do, she picked up a pure white pebble, smooth and round,
and after looking at it for a long time, threw it into the water.
No sooner had it hit the water than she saw it grow larger. She
took it out and looked at it and threw it in again. This time it
had assumed the form of a baby. She took it out and threw it in
the third time and the form took life and began to cry: "Ina,
ina" (mother, mother). She took the baby home and fed it soup,
and it being an unnatural baby, quickly grew up to a good sized
boy. At the end of three months he was a good big, stout youth.
One day he said: "Mother, why are you living here alone? To
whom do all these fine clothes and moccasins belong?" She then
told him the story of her lost brothers. "Oh, I know now where
they are. You make me lots of arrows. I am going to find my uncles."
She tried to dissuade him from going, but he was determined and
said: "My father sent me to you so that I could find my uncles
for you, and nothing can harm me, because I am stone and my name
is "Stone Boy."
The mother, seeing that he was determined to go, made a whole quiver
full of arrows for him, and off he started. When he came to the
old witch's hut, she was nowhere to be seen, so he pushed the door
in and entered. The witch was busily engaged cooking dinner.
"Why, my dear grandchild, you are just in time for dinner.
Sit down and we will eat before you continue your journey."
Stone boy sat down and ate dinner with the old witch. She watched
him very closely, but when she would be drinking her soup he would
glance hastily around the room. Finally he saw the four bundles
on the opposite side of the room, and he guessed at once that there
lay his four uncles. When he had finished eating he took out his
little pipe and filled it with "kini-kinic," and commenced
to smoke, wondering how the old woman had managed to fool his smart
uncles. He couldn't study it out, so when he had finished his smoke
he arose to pretend to go. When the old woman saw him preparing
to leave, she said: "Grandson, will you kick me on the left
side of my backbone. I am nearly dead with pain and if you kick
me good and hard it will cure me." "All right, grandma,"
said the boy. The old witch lay down on the floor and the boy started
in to kick. At the first kick he barely touched her. "Kick
as hard as you can, grandson; don't be afraid you will hurt me,
because you can't." With that Stone Boy let drive and broke
two ribs. She commenced to yell and beg him to stop, but he kept
on kicking until he had kicked both sides of her ribs loose from
the backbone. Then he jumped on her backbone and broke it and killed
the old witch.
He built a big fire outside and dragged her body to it, and threw
her into the fire. Thus ended the old woman who was going to turn
his uncles into horses.
Next he cut willows and stuck them into the ground in a circle.
The tops he pulled together, making a wickiup. He then took the
old woman's robes and blankets and covered the wickiup so that no
air could get inside. He then gathered sage brush and covered the
floor with a good thick bed of sage; got nice round stones and got
them red hot in the fire, and placed them in the wickiup and proceeded
to carry his uncles out of the hut and lay them down on the soft
bed of sage. Having completed carrying and depositing them around
the pile of rocks, he got a bucket of water and poured it on the
hot rocks, which caused a great vapor in the little wickie-up. He
waited a little while and then listened and heard some breathing
inside, so he got another bucket and poured that on also. After
awhile he could hear noises inside as though some one were moving
about. He went again and got the third bucket and after he had poured
that on the rocks, one of the men inside said: "Whoever you
are, good friend, don't bring us to life only to scald us to death
again." Stone boy then said: "Are all of you alive?"
"Yes," said the voice. "Well, come out," said
the boy. And with that he threw off the robes and blankets, and
a great cloud of vapor arose and settled around the top of the highest
peak on the long range, and from that did Smoky Range derive its
The uncles, when they heard who the boy was, were very happy, and
they all returned together to the anxiously waiting sister. As soon
as they got home, the brothers worked hard to gather enough wood
to last them all winter. Game they could get at all times of the
year, but the heavy fall of snow covered most of the dry wood and
also made it very difficult to drag wood through the deep snow.
So they took advantage of the nice fall weather and by the time
the snow commenced falling they had enough wood gathered to last
them throughout the winter. After the snow fell a party of boys
swiftly coasted down the big hill west of the brothers' hut. The
Stone boy used to stand and watch them for hours at a time. His
youngest uncle said: "Why don't you go up and coast with them?"
The boy said: "They may be afraid of me, but I guess I will
try once, anyway." So the next morning when the crowd came
coasting, Stone boy started for the hill. When he had nearly reached
the bottom of the coasting hill all of the boys ran off excepting
two little fellows who had a large coaster painted in different
colors and had little bells tied around the edges, so when the coaster
was in motion the bells made a cheerful tinkling sound. As Stone
boy started up the hill the two little fellows started down and
went past him as though shot from a hickory bow.
When they got to the end of their slide, they got off and started
back up the hill. It being pretty steep, Stone boy waited for them,
so as to lend a hand to pull the big coaster up the hill. As the
two little fellows came up with him he knew at once that they were
twins, as they looked so much alike that the only way one could
be distinguished from the other was by the scarfs they wore. One
wore red, the other black. He at once offered to help them drag
their coaster to the top of the hill. When they got to the top the
twins offered their coaster to him to try a ride.
At first he refused, but they insisted on his taking it, as they
said they would sooner rest until he came back. So he got on the
coaster and flew down the hill, only he was such an expert he made
a zigzag course going down and also jumped the coaster off a bank
about four feet high, which none of the other coasters dared to
tackle. Being very heavy, however, he nearly smashed the coaster.
Upon seeing this wonderful jump, and the zigzag course he had taken
going down, the twins went wild with excitement and decided that
they would have him take them down when he got back. So upon his
arrival at the starting point, they both asked him at once to give
them the pleasure of the same kind of a ride he had taken. He refused,
saying: "We will break your coaster. I alone nearly smashed
it, and if we all get on and make the same kind of a jump, I am
afraid you will have to go home without your coaster."
"Well, take us down anyway, and if we break it our father
will make us another one." So he finally consented. When they
were all seated ready to start, he told them that when the coaster
made the jump they must look straight ahead. "By no means look
down, because if you do we will go over the cut bank and land in
a heap at the bottom of the gulch."
They said they would obey what he said, so off they started swifter
than ever, on account of the extra weight, and so swiftly did the
sleigh glide over the packed, frozen snow, that it nearly took the
twins' breath away. Like an arrow they approached the jump. The
twins began to get a little nervous. "Sit steady and look straight
ahead," yelled Stone boy. The twin next to Stone boy, who was
steering behind, sat upright and looked far ahead, but the one in
front crouched down and looked into the coulee. Of course, Stone
boy, being behind, fell on top of the twins, and being so heavy,
killed both of them instantly, crushing them to a jelly.
The rest of the boys, seeing what had happened, hastened to the
edge of the bank, and looking down, saw the twins laying dead, and
Stone boy himself knocked senseless, lying quite a little distance
from the twins. The boys, thinking that all three were killed, and
that Stone boy had purposely steered the sleigh over the bank in
such a way that it would tip and kill the twins, returned to the
village with this report. Now, these twins were the sons of the
head chief of the Buffalo Nation. So at once the chief and his scouts
went over to the hill to see if the boys had told the truth.
When they arrived at the bank they saw the twins lying dead, but
where was Stone boy? They looked high and low through the gulch,
but not a sign of him could they find. Tenderly they picked up the
dead twins and carried them home, then held a big council and put
away the bodies of the dead in Buffalo custom.
A few days after this the uncles were returning from a long journey.
When they drew near their home they noticed large droves of buffalo
gathered on their side of the range. Hardly any buffalo ever ranged
on this east side of the range before, and the brothers thought
it strange that so many should so suddenly appear there now.
When they arrived at home their sister told them what had happened
to the chief's twins, as her son had told her the whole story upon
his arrival at home after the accident.
"Well, probably all the buffalo we saw were here for the council
and funeral," said the older brother. "But where is my
nephew?" (Stone boy) he asked his sister. "He said he
had noticed a great many buffalo around lately and he was going
to learn, if possible, what their object was," said the sister.
"Well, we will wait until his return."
When Stone boy left on his trip that morning, before the return
of his uncles, he was determined to ascertain what might be the
meaning of so many buffalo so near the home of himself and uncles.
He approached several bunches of young buffalo, but upon seeing
him approaching they would scamper over the hills. Thus he wandered
from bunch to bunch, scattering them all. Finally he grew tired
of their cowardice and started for home. When he had come to within
a half mile or so of home he saw an old shaggy buffalo standing
by a large boulder, rubbing on it first one horn and then the other.
On coming up close to him, the boy saw that the bull was so old
he could hardly see, and his horns so blunt that he could have rubbed
them for a year on that boulder and not sharpened them so as to
"What are you doing here, grandfather?" asked the boy.
"I am sharpening my horns for the war," said the bull.
"What war?" asked the boy.
"Haven't you heard," said the old bull, who was so near
sighted he did not recognize Stone boy. "The chief's twins
were killed by Stone boy, who ran them over a cut bank purposely,
and the chief has ordered all of his buffalo to gather here, and
when they arrive we are going to kill Stone boy and his mother and
"Is that so? When is the war to commence?"
"In five days from now we will march upon the uncles and trample
and gore them all to death."
"Well, grandfather, I thank you for your information, and
in return will do you a favor that will save you so much hard work
on your blunt horns." So saying he drew a long arrow from his
quiver and strung his bow, attached the arrow to the string and
drew the arrow half way back. The old bull, not seeing what was
going on, and half expecting some kind of assistance in his horn
sharpening process, stood perfectly still. Thus spoke Stone boy:
"Grandfather, you are too old to join in a war now, and besides
if you got mixed up in that big war party you might step in a hole
or stumble and fall and be trampled to death. That would be a horrible
death, so I will save you all that suffering by just giving you
this." At this word he pulled the arrow back to the flint head
and let it fly. True to his aim, the arrow went in behind the old
bull's foreleg, and with such force was it sent that it went clear
through the bull and stuck into a tree two hundred feet away.
Walking over to the tree, he pulled out his arrow. Coolly straightening
his arrow between his teeth and sighting it for accuracy, he shoved
it back into the quiver with its brothers, exclaiming: "I guess,
grandpa, you won't need to sharpen your horns for Stone boy and
Upon his arrival home he told his uncles to get to work building
three stockades with ditches between and make the ditches wide and
deep so they will hold plenty of buffalo. "The fourth fence
I will build myself," he said.
The brothers got to work early and worked until very late at night.
They built three corrals and dug three ditches around the hut, and
it took them three days to complete the work. Stone boy hadn't done
a thing towards building his fence yet, and there were only two
days more left before the charge of the buffalo would commence.
Still the boy didn't seem to bother himself about the fence. Instead
he had his mother continually cutting arrow sticks, and as fast
as she could bring them he would shape them, feather and head them.
So by the time his uncles had their fences and corrals finished
he had a thousand arrows finished for each of his uncles. The last
two days they had to wait, the uncles joined him and they finished
several thousand more arrows. The evening before the fifth day he
told his uncles to put up four posts, so they could use them as
seats from which to shoot.
While they were doing this, Stone boy went out to scout and see
how things looked. At daylight he came hurriedly in saying, "You
had better get to the first corral; they are coming." "You
haven't built your fence, nephew." Whereupon Stone Boy said:
"I will build it in time; don't worry, uncle." The dust
on the hillsides rose as great clouds of smoke from a forest fire.
Soon the leaders of the charge came in sight, and upon seeing the
timber stockade they gave forth a great snort or roar that fairly
shook the earth. Thousands upon thousands of mad buffalo charged
upon the little fort. The leaders hit the first stockade and it
soon gave way. The maddened buffalo pushed forward by the thousands
behind them; plunged forward, only to fall into the first ditch
and be trampled to death by those behind them. The brothers were
not slow in using their arrows, and many a noble beast went down
before their deadly aim with a little flint pointed arrow buried
deep in his heart.
The second stockade stood their charge a little longer than did
the first, but finally this gave way, and the leaders pushed on
through, only to fall into the second ditch and meet a similar fate
to those in the first. The brothers commenced to look anxiously
towards their nephew, as there was only one more stockade left,
and the second ditch was nearly bridged over with dead buffalo,
with the now thrice maddened buffalo attacking the last stockade
more furiously than before, as they could see the little hut through
the openings in the corral.
"Come in, uncles," shouted Stone boy. They obeyed him,
and stepping to the center he said: "Watch me build my fence."
Suiting the words, he took from his belt an arrow with a white stone
fastened to the point and fastening it to his bow, he shot it high
in the air. Straight up into the air it went, for two or three thousand
feet, then seemed to stop suddenly and turned with point down and
descended as swiftly as it had ascended. Upon striking the ground
a high stone wall arose, enclosing the hut and all who were inside.
Just then the buffalo broke the last stockade only to fill the last
ditch up again. In vain did the leaders butt the stone wall. They
hurt themselves, broke their horns and mashed their snouts, but
could not even scar the wall.
The uncles and Stone boy in the meantime rained arrows of death
into their ranks.
When the buffalo chief saw what they had to contend with, he ordered
the fight off. The crier or herald sang out: "Come away, come
away, Stone boy and his uncles will kill all of us."
So the buffalo withdrew, leaving over two thousand of their dead
and wounded on the field, only to be skinned and put away for the
feasts of Stone boy and his uncles, who lived to be great chiefs
of their own tribe, and whose many relations soon joined them on
the banks of Stone Boy Creek.
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