Native American Legends
The story of the Pet Crow
A Sioux Legend
Once upon a time there came to a large village a plague of crows.
So thick were they that the poor women were sorely tried keeping
them out of their tepees and driving them away from their lines
of jerked buffalo meat. Indeed they got so numerous and were such
a great nuisance that the Chief finally gave orders to his camp
criers or heralds to go out among the different camps and announce
the orders of their Chief, that war should be made upon the crows
to extermination; that their nests were to be destroyed and all
eggs broken. The war of extermination was to continue until not
a crow remained, except the youngest found was to be brought to
For a week the war on the crows continued. Thousands of dead crows
were brought in daily, and at the end of the week not a bird of
that species could be seen in the neighborhood. Those that escaped
the deadly arrow of the warriors, flew away, never to return to
those parts again.
At the end of the war made upon the crows, there was brought to
the Chief's tepee the youngest found. Indeed, so young was the bird
that it was only the great medicine of the Chief that kept him alive
until he could hop about and find his own food. The Chief spent
most of his time in his lodge teaching the young crow to understand
and talk the language of the tribe. After the crow had mastered
this, the Chief then taught him the languages of the neighboring
tribes. When the crow had mastered these different languages the
chief would send him on long journeys to ascertain the location
of the camps of the different enemies.
When the crow would find a large Indian camp he would alight and
hop about, pretending to be picking up scraps, but really keeping
his ears open for anything he might hear. He would hang around all
day, and at night when they would all gather in the large council
tent (which always stood in the center of the village) to determine
upon their next raid, and plan for a horse stealing trip, Mr. Crow
was always nearby to hear all their plans discussed. He would then
fly away to his master (the Chief) and tell him all that he had
The Chief would then send a band of his warriors to lie in ambush
for the raiding party, and, as the enemy would not suspect anything
they would go blindly into the pitfall of death thus set for them.
Thus the crow was the scout of this chief, whose reputation as a
Wakan (Holy man) soon reached all of the different tribes. The Chief's
warriors would intercept, ambush and annihilate every war party
headed for his camp.
So, finally learning that they could not make war on this chief's
people unbeknown to them, they gave up making war on this particular
band. When meat was running low in the camp this chief would send
the crow out to look for buffalo. When he discovered a herd he would
return and report to his master; then the chief would order out
the hunters and they would return laden with meat. Thus the crow
kept the camp all the time informed of everything that would be
of benefit to them.
One day the crow disappeared, over which there was great grief
among the tribe. A week had passed away, when Mr. Crow reappeared.
There was great rejoicing upon his return, but the crow was downcast
and would not speak, but sat with a drooping head perched at the
top of the chief's tepee, and refused all food that was offered
to him. In vain did the chief try to get the crow to tell him the
cause of his silence and seeming grief. The crow would not speak
until the chief said: "Well, I will take a few of my warriors
and go out and try to ascertain what has happened to cause you to
act as you do."
Upon hearing this, the crow said: "Don't go. I dreaded to
tell you what I know to be a fact, as I have heard it from some
great medicine men. I was traveling over the mountains west of here,
when I spied three old men sitting at the top of the highest peak.
I very cautiously dropped down behind a rock and listened to their
talk. I heard your name mentioned by one of them, then your brother's
name was mentioned. Then the third, who was the oldest, said: 'in
three days from today the lightning will kill those two brothers
whom all the nations fear.'"
Upon hearing what the crow stated the tribe became grief stricken.
On the morning of the third day the chief ordered a nice tepee placed
upon the highest point, far enough away from the village, so that
the peals of thunder would not alarm the babies of the camp.
A great feast was given, and after the feasting was over there
came in six young maidens leading the war horses of the two brothers.
The horses were painted and decorated as if for a charge on the
enemy. One maiden walked ahead of the chief's horse bearing in her
hands the bow and arrows of the great warrior. Next came two maidens,
one on either side of the prancing war steed, each holding a rein.
Behind the chief's horse came the fourth maiden. Like the first,
she bore in her hands the bow and arrows of the chief's brother.
Then the fifth and sixth maidens each holding a rein, walked on
either side of the prancing horse of the chief's brother. They advanced
and circled the large gathering and finally stopped directly in
front of the two brothers, who immediately arose and taking their
bows and arrows vaulted lightly upon their war steeds, and singing
their death song, galloped off amid a great cry of grief from the
people who loved them most dearly.
Heading straight for the tepee that had been placed upon the highest
point, adjacent to the village, they soon arrived at their destination
and, dismounting from their horses, turned, waved their hands to
their band, and disappeared within the tepee. Scarcely had they
entered the lodge when the rumblings of distant thunder could be
heard. Nearer, and nearer, came the sound, until at last the storm
overspread the locality in all its fury. Flash upon flash of lightning
burst forth from the heavens. Deafening peals of thunder followed
each flash. Finally, one flash brighter than any of the others,
one peal more deafening than those preceding it, and the storm had
Sadly the warriors gathered together, mounted their horses and
slowly rode to the tepee on the high point. Arriving there they
looked inside the lodge and saw the two brothers lying cold and
still in death, each holding the lariat of his favorite war horse.
The horses also lay dead side by side in front of the tent. (From
this came the custom of killing the favorite horse of a dead warrior
at the burial of the owner).
As the Indians sadly left the hill to return home, they heard a
noise at the top of the tepee, and looking up they saw the crow
sitting on one of the splintered tepee poles. He was crying most
pitifully, and as they rode off he flew up high in the air and his
pitiful "caw" became fainter and fainter till at they
heard it no more. And from that day, the story goes, no crow ever
goes near the village of that band of Indians.
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