Native American Legends
The Piqued Buffalo-Wife
A Blackfoot Legend
Once a young man went out and came to a buffalo-cow stuck fast
in the mire. He took advantage of her situation. After a time she
gave birth to a boy.
When he could run about, this boy would go into the Indian camps
and join in the games of the children, but would always mysteriously
disappear in the evening. One day this boy told his mother that
he intended to search among the camps for his father.
Not long after this he was playing with the children of the camps
as usual, and went into the lodge of a head man in company with
a boy of the family. He told this head man that his father lived
somewhere in the camp, and that he was anxious to find him.
The head man took pity on the boy and sent out a messenger to call
into his lodge all the old men in the camp. When these were all
assembled and standing around the lodge, the head man requested
the boy to pick out his father. The boy looked them over, and then
told the head man that his father was not among them. Then the head
man sent out a messenger to call in all the men next in age; but,
when they were assembled, the boy said that his father was not among
Again the head man sent out the messenger to call in all the men
of the next rank in age. When they were assembled, the boy looked
them over as before and announced that his father was not among
them. So once again the head man sent out his messenger to call
in all the young unmarried men of the camp.
As they were coming into the head man's lodge, the boy ran to one
of them, embracing his, said, "Here is my father."
After a time the boy told his father that he wished to take him
to see his mother. The boy said, "When we come near her, she
will run at you and hook four times, but you are to stand perfectly
The next day the boy and his father started out on their journey.
As they were going along they saw a buffalo-cow, which immediately
ran at them as the boy had predicted. The man stood perfectly still,
and the fourth time, as the cow was running forward to hook him,
she became a woman. Then she went home with her husband and her
One day shortly after their return, she warned her husband that
whatever he might do he must never strike at her with fire.
They lived together happily for many years. She was a remarkably
One evening when the husband had invited some guests, the woman
expressed a dislike to prepare food for them, he became very angry
and, catching up a stick from the fire, struck at her. As he did
so, the woman and her child vanished, and the people saw a buffalo-cow
and calf running from the camp.
Now the husband was very sorry and mourned for his wife and child.
After a time he went out to search for them. In order that he might
approach the buffalo without being discovered, he rubbed himself
with filth from a buffalo- wallow.
In the course of time he came to a place where some buffalo were
dancing. He could hear them from a distance. As he was approaching,
he met his son, who was now, as before, a buffalo-calf. The father
explained to the boy that he was mourning for him and his mother
and that he had come to take them home.
The calf-boy explained that this would be very difficult, for his
father would be required to pass through an ordeal. The calf-boy
explained to him that when he arrived among the buffalo and inquired
for his wife and son, the chief of the buffalo would order that
he select his child from among all the buffalo calves in the herd.
Now, the calf boy wished to assist his father and told him that
he would know his child by a sign, because when the calves appeared
before him, his own child would hold up its tail.
Then the man proceeded until he came to the place where the buffalo
were dancing. Immediately he was taken before the chief of the buffalo-herd.
The chief required that he first prove his relationship to the child
by picking him out from among all the other calves of the herd.
The man agreed to this and the calves were brought up. He readily
picked out his own child by the sign.
The chief of the buffalo, however, was not satisfied with this
proof and said that the father could not have the child until he
identified him four times. While the preparations were being made
for another test, the calf-boy came to his father and explained
that he would be know this time by closing one eye.
When the time arrived, the calves were brought in as before, and
the chief of the buffalo directed the father to identify his child,
which he did by the sign. Before the next trial the calf-boy explained
to his father that the sign would be one ear hanging down.
Accordingly, the calves were brought up for the father to choose,
and he again identified his child. Now, before the last trial, the
boy came again to his father and notified him that the sign by which
he was to be known was dancing and holding up one leg.
Now the calf-boy had a chum among the buffalo-calves and when the
calves were called up before the chief so that the father might
select his child, the chum saw the calf-boy beginning to dance holding
up one leg, and he thought to himself, "He is doing some fancy
dancing." So he, also, danced in the same way.
Now the father observed that there were two calves giving the same
sign and he realized he had to make a guess and he did so, but the
guess was wrong. Immediately the herd rushed upon the man and trampled
him into the dust.
Then they all ran away except the calf-boy, his mother, and an
old bull. These three mourned together for the fate of the unfortunate
man. After a time the old bull requested that they examine the ground
to see if they could find a piece of bone.
After a long and careful search they succeeded in finding one small
piece that had not been trampled by the buffalo. The bull took this
piece, made a sweat house, and finally restored the man to life.
When the man was restored, the bull explained to him that he and
his family would receive some power, some headdresses, some songs,
and some crooked sticks, such as he had seen the buffalo carry in
the dance at the time when he attempted to pick out his son.
The calf-boy and his mother then became human beings, and returned
with the man. It was this man who started the Bull and the Horn
societies, and it was his wife who started the Matoki.
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