First People :: American Indian Legends : M-O
Cookies | Privacy Policy

First Creator and Lone Man (Version 1)

A Mandan Legend

It is our custom to tell an old-time story when the corn is ripe. We have a man called Lone Man. As he was walking along he came to himself. He stood and thought. A pipe was laying in front of him, over his head flew a raven. And his sang a song which said, "Where did I come from?" He thought, "Where did I come from? How did I happen to come here?" The Earth about him was Sandy and he could plainly see his own tracks, so he followed them back to see where he came from. He came to a wet spot, then farther on to a great water, beside which was a plant with spotted leaves. A Buffalo Bug was jumping about in the sand. The plant said, "I am your mother, it was I that bore you; that is your father." And the Weed-mother told Lone Man that he was born to arrange matters on the Earth. "Go back to the wet spot and there you will find a tall Weed. This is your pipe. I am just a Weed, this is all I am for. If anyone has a sore eye or stomach trouble, let him take me and boil me up for medicine. Go ahead and create things in the world." When he came to himself he had a Wolf blanket and a cane with feathers tied to the end. He came to the wet spot, and there grew a tall Tobacco Weed and around it buzzed a Tobacco Fly -- buzz, buzz. The bug said, "I am a blowing your tobacco plant -- use it to smoke." Again he sang the same song -- "Where did I come from?" And he pulled up the tobacco plant.

As he was trotting along at a gentle pace, another man came up suddenly. The two argued as to which was the eldest. They agreed: "You lie here and I there and the first one that gets up will be the youngest." Lone Man said he would leave his cane standing as the other turned about and laid down, and Lone Man sang the same song -- "Where did I come from?" He went on his way, and traveled over the whole world from one end to the other. Then he thought of his cane, and returning to the spot where it stood, he found it tottering and ready to fall. Grass grew where the other lay. He said, "This fellow can never get up again!" He took his cane and it became like new and he sang his song and was about to trot away again when the other man got up from the heap of dust where his body had been and said, "I told you that I was older than you!"

The two traveled to create the world. They looked for mud, but there was sand alone. They came to a great lake where there were two Mud Hens, a male and female. They called them over and made them their servants, and the Mud Hens dived and brought mud, and the men made all creatures. They would throw the mud in the air and at once it became a bird. One bird had no place to go, so it flew over to the stony places and became a Nighthawk. Another stuck its head into the red paint, saying it was hungry, and when it pulled its head out, the head was red, so they said it should have a hard time to get a living out of rotten trees. This was the Woodpecker.

They made many kinds of different birds and animals and at last a grandmother frog came and said, "You are making too many animals; we must make death so that the first ones may pass away and new ones come." The two said, "You have nothing to say about our business!" And they picked up a stone and heat grandmother frog on the back. This is why her legs spread out so. This is how death started, and the child of grandmother frog was the first to die. Grandmother frog came to the men and said "I am sorry! Let us take it back and have no deaths!" But the men said, "No, it is impossible; it must be so."

The two said, "Let us improve the Earth -- it is all sand!" So they took the mud that was left and Lone Man took his lump and smoothed it over the Earth and the Earth was flat. First Creator took a little bit and put it here and there and formed hills and bluffs. Lone Man used his cane and leveled the north side of the Earth and made lakes. The First Creator's idea was that when the snow flies there should be rough land and trees and springs to protect men and animals from the cold. First Creator made nothing but Buffalo to roam over the land and in every herd he made a White Buffalo and he said that this White One should be precious. From the East this way Only Man created and First Creator created the South side of the Earth. Thus it has been told from generation to generation.

After the creation Lone Man was never seen again. First Creator turned him into a Coyote and from him came the Coyote today. He never knew where he came from.

Return to Mandan Legends
top of page.