Native American Legends
The origin of Tobacco
A Crow Legend
A long time ago the Indians roamed the West like the buffalo, one
family scattered and returned by change. There were no separate
One of the Indians was a woman of powerful beauty. She gave birth
to twin sons, but she did not know who their father was. The beautiful
woman sang her sons to sleep with a heartbreaking lullaby, and everyone
who heard it took pity on her.
Finally, the Earth agreed to claim the first son, and the stars
took the second son as one of their own. From then on, the people
called them Earth-Boy and Star-Boy.
When the boys were near manhood, they began to behave a little
differently from their friends. Earth-Boy stopped following the
buffalo everywhere and began to stay close beneath the willows of
his home, searching for pretty rocks and carefully observing the
slow growth of the plants. Star-Boy also grew lax in his hunting,
but rather then staying at home he began to wander far beyond the
buffalo. He slept during the days so that at night he could watch
the travels of his star family.
One day Star-Boy's wanderings brought him to the foot of the highest
mountain. No one had climbed it before, but Star-Boy started the
slow climb upward without hesitating. Somewhere near the sky, Star-Boy
fainted. A shining silver man appeared to him.
The man was a star. He told Star-Boy that he was his father but
that he spent his life traveling far beyond the Earth, and he said
he would not pass near the mountain again in his son's lifetime.
"And so to show my love and concern for you, my son, I will
give you a gift of great strength and colors of the sunset. Keep
this plant with you wherever you wander, and in the springtime plant
it everywhere you go. Tend the scarred beds, and harvest them when
they are tall." With these words, the star plunged his hands
into his own silver chest. When he pulled them out again, they were
full of tobacco.
He told Star-Boy that tobacco would make everyone in their family
strong and free. To share the tobacco and its power, people must
be adopted into Star- Boy's family. Star-Boy listened carefully,
but he was too overwhelmed to speak. he nodded his head gratefully,
and his father burst away from him, back to the sky.
When Star-Boy came down from the mountains, he found his brother
Earth- Boy, and offered to adopt him and share the tobacco.
Earth-Boy laughed, and said, "Brother, you don't need to climb
mountains to have visions. While you were gone, I met my Father
Earth and he taught me some secrets of my own. Your family may become
powerful wanders, but mine is going to become a family of peaceful
farmers. We will grow everything except tobacco and you will grow
"I don't want to grow anything more," said Star-Boy,
"I will follow the buffalo, and be strong as an eagle, and
as free as wind."
Earth-Boy smiled. "I will be strong as rock, my brother,"
he said "and steady as sunrise. But no matter how different
our families become, we will never quarrel. Your father has given
you tobacco, and mine has given me the way of the Medicine Pipe.
When we smoke together, your plant with my pipe, our fathers will
give us peace and colors of the sunset."
Earth-Boy brought forward a beautiful pipe made from the rock and
willow of his home. Star-Boy filled it with tobacco from the heart
of the star, and the brothers smoked together.
When Star-Boy left, some of the people went with him, hoping to
be adopted into his family. Even before they learned the secrets
of tobacco, the people who followed Star-Boy took a name, and called
themselves the Crow.
The ones who stayed with Earth-Boy to learn to farm were called
after the willows of their home, Hidatsa.
And so the people were divided into tribes, but the power of tobacco
and the pipe kept them from becoming enemies.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends