Native American Legends
A Little Brave and the Medicine Woman
A Lakota Legend
A village of Indians moved out of winter camp and pitched their
tents in a circle on high land overlooking a lake. A little way
down the hill was a grave. Choke cherries had grown up, hiding the
grave from view. But as the ground had sunk somewhat, the grave
was marked by a slight hollow.
One of the villagers going out to hunt took a short cut through
the choke cherry bushes. As he pushed them aside he saw the hollow
grave, but thought it was a washout made by the rains.
But as he moved to step over it, to his great surprise he stumbled
and fell. Made curious by his mishap, he drew back and tried again;
but again he fell. When he came back to the village he told the
old men what had happened to him. They remembered then that a long
time before there had been buried there a medicine woman or conjurer.
Doubtless it was her medicine that made him stumble.
The story of the villager's adventure spread through the camp and
made many curious to see the grave. Among others were six little
boys who were, however, rather timid, for they were in great awe
of the dead medicine woman. But they had a little playmate named
Brave, a mischievous little rogue, whose hair was always unkempt
and tossed about and who was never quiet for a moment.
"Let us ask Brave to go with us," they said.And they
went as a group to see him.
"All right," said Brave; "I will go with you. But
I have something to do first. You go on around the hill that way,
and I will hasten around this way, and meet you a little later near
So the six little boys went on as bidden until they came to a place
near the grave. There they halted.
"Where is Brave?" they asked.
Now Brave, full of mischief, had thought to play a joke on his
little friends. As soon as they were well out of sight he had sped
around the hill to the shore of the lake and sticking his hands
in the mud had rubbed it over his face, plastered it in his hair,
and soiled his hands until he looked like a new risen corpse with
the flesh rotting from his bones. He then went and lay down in the
grave and awaited the boys.
When the six little boys came they were more timid than ever when
they did not find Brave; but they feared to go back to the village
without seeing the grave, for fear the old men would call them cowards.
So they slowly approached the grave and one of them timidly called
out, "Please, grandmother, we won't disturb your grave. We
only want to see where you lie. Don't be angry."
At once a thin quavering voice, like an old woman's, called out,
"Han, han, takoja, hechetuya, hechetuya! Yes, yes, that's right,
The boys were frightened out of their senses, believing the old
woman had come to life.
"Oh, grandmother," they gasped, "don't hurt us;
please don't, we'll go."
Just then Brave raised his muddy face and hands up through the
choke cherry bushes. With the oozy mud dripping from his features
he looked like some very witch just raised from the grave. The boys
screamed outright. One fainted. The rest ran yelling up the hill
to the village, where each broke at once for his mother's tipi.
As all the tents in a Dakota camping circle face the center, the
boys as they came tearing into camp were in plain view from the
tipi's. Hearing the screaming, every woman in camp ran to her tipi
door to see what had happened. Just then little Brave, as badly
scared as the rest, came rushing in after them, his hair on end
and covered with mud and crying out, all forgetful of his appearance,
"It's me, it's me!"
The women yelped and bolted in terror from the village. Brave dashed
into his mother's tipi, scaring her out of her wits. Dropping pots
and kettles, she tumbled out of the tent to run screaming with the
rest. Not a single villager come near poor little Brave until he
had gone down to the lake and washed himself.
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