Buffalo Hunting of the Plains
A Cochiti Legend
We went from here in August. We had horses with three poles fastened to them for a travois, and we had one wagon drawn by oxen. We went a day's journey and slept in a canyon. Next day we came to Pecos. In the morning we went on again and came to San José. The next night we camped at Turkey River. After that we traveled day and night. We came out on the Plains at a great body of water that was called Green Lake. From there we went north all the time. We camped at a rocky place called the Cross. A day's journey north from there we came to a camp of Mexicans. I said to Antonio (his chum), "Here is lots of meat." These Mexicans were good hunters and they gave us food.
In the morning our leader told us, "Be ready to hunt." He took his long buffalo stick and tied a piece of his fringed leggings to the top of it. I said to Antonio, "Let us go after the hunter and see him kill the buffalo." He went out. We saw a solitary buffalo coming to a pond to drink. He waded in, and when he was fast in the mud, the leader went up close on horseback and noosed him. He drew the rope tight and pulled him out of the pond. He spread out the carcass and took the skin and some of the meat, but he left the greater part because it would spoil. He went back to camp.
Next day we rested. That night we went to the Mexican camp and told them to get their people together; we would form a party together to go out hunting on the plains. The Mexicans received us well, and said, "Tomorrow we will go." He (Mexican leader) guided us a whole day's trip. At midnight we came to the camping place. There was a lot of water there and we were all thirsty. He said, "Go and drink." We went down to the water but the brush grew so thick we could not reach it.
Next day we went on. The Indians and the Mexicans separated, the Mexicans going one way and the Indians another. At a place called Kapolina we came upon the buffalo. Two of the men had bows and arrows, the leader had a spear, and I had a gun. We were all on horseback and we killed six buffalo. We cut them and skinned them and packed the meat and skins on the four horses. It was late when we got to the place where we had camped. There were lots of people there and we hid, for we were frightened. Then we saw that they were hunters from Santo Domingo and from Santa Clara and from Sandia, who had arrived that day. We all stayed four days there. The Indians of the other pueblos asked our leader if he would lead their hunting party; we held a council with them and planned to go hunting together.
That night we cut the six buffalo in strips and spread the meat on the grass to dry it. The fat we hung from the cedar bushes.
We made a feast for all the three pueblos, and put slabs of meat on the coals and cracked the bones for the marrow.
After four days we went out all together on a hunt. It was a big hunt for all the other pueblos were with us. We went north. As we were passing an arroyo I saw a buffalo coming and I went after him. I killed it in the arroyo. A Santo Domingo Indian came up and said, "Shall I help you cut it up?" "No, this buffalo is only three years old. I can manage it by myself." We all came back to camp bringing the buffalo we had killed. That night we sliced the meat and hung the fat to dry. Each man was given the same amount and the one who worked fastest went to bed first. We stayed there a week.
Every night the people of the other pueblos came to the Cochiti camp and danced, and were paid with meat. We had great piles of dried buffalo meat all ready to carry home. All our provisions were gone, and we ate nothing but buffalo meat. The buffalo fat we used just like bread. It snowed and we went hunting again. It was very cold. Two Santa Clara hunters and two Sandia hunters were nearly frozen. They could not go any farther through the snow. We went out to look for them, and found them sitting in the snow with their legs frozen. We took them to camp. They hobbled on sticks.
Next night we were ready to come home. We sent messengers ahead to the home pueblos to tell them we were starting back. Antonio told me how to lead the horses, how to pile dry meat on the buffalo skin and place the load on the horses and tie it up. Next day we started, and that night we came to the place where we had killed the buffalo that was stuck in the mud. We rested that day. Then we started again. That day we traveled on soft dirt, but the next day we had a hard road. We traveled night and day for three days and three nights. Finally we came to Tucumcare. We stayed all day and rested.
The next day we got to Red Paint place, and we gathered paint to bring home (as always, when they made this trip). We got to Pajarito that night. We danced all night and told stories. The next day we got to Turkey River (Mexican settlement). We stayed there all day. We had the tongue of the wagon repaired and paid for it with meat. We traded two or three oxen that were exhausted, for fresh oxen.
The next day the messenger from Cochiti returned. He said that our message had come to Cochiti and that they were getting ready for us there. He brought food to each of the Cochiti hunters from our wives. I had a little baby. My wife had taken the hand of our baby and marked the dough with it, and the bread in my lunch was marked with our baby's hand. The messenger told me, "Hurry, your father and mother are very homesick for you." I could not wait to get home. I started on alone, and that night I slept alone at San José River. I went on to Baca Ojo. People had told me, "Be careful, my friend, there are lots of thieves there." I traveled all day alone, and got to Baca Ojo. They begged me to stay there, and asked me to put my mule in the barn.
I came on the next day to Galisteo, and from there I came in one day to Cochiti. In the morning I came to a Mexican settlement. They said, "Buffalo hunter, give me some grease, give me some meat." They took me to their houses. I said, "I will give you some, I am not as hungry as you Mexicans are." They took me into their houses and gave me good things to eat and let me, rest a little. They were hungry for the buffalo meat. I came to La Bajara Canyon. At home they were watching for me, and went to my mother and father and told them that their son was coming. My people were excited, and they went down to the river to meet me. My father was very old, and my mother and father cried when they saw me. I said to them, "Why are you thinking so much about me? I am well. I've grown fat." We all went together to my house.
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