Native American Legends
First Creator and Lone Man
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.
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