The Bird That Turned The Meat Bitter
A Mandan Legend
Looking about the lodges in the village, Coyote saw strings of jerked meat, but the people were lean. He asked why this was. The people said, "When we go hunting, only the fastest butchers can get their meat home in good condition. There is a Raven which flies over calling "Get bitter! Get bitter!" (gi-ba in Mandan) and the meat turns bitter." Coyote asked for a sample. He chewed but could not swallow the meat, it was so bitter. He said, "I must have this thing righted." He sent the young girl after firewood and had it piled ready to light, first laying down manure because it keeps the flame a long time. Then he had the men get timber rope and make a snare. He filled up his pipe and asked help of his fellow creatures. The big Spider came to his aid, and he lighted the pipe for the Spider to smoke. Now the Raven lived in a hollow tree out of which it flew when the men were butchering. Big Spider said, "It is easy to snare that bird. Be ready to snare him into the fire and let him burn. Some of his feathers will fly into the air and turn into birds. When you see a white Raven fly out a cry 'At the end of the world there shall be seen a white Raven as a sign that the world is coming to an end' that will be the last of it."
They sent out young men into the hills scouting. These reported Buffalo. They made ready for the hunt. The fastest runners went ahead to encircle the herd. Buffalo always run towards the wind, but the runners drove them towards the other hunters. These formed a corral where they slaughtered the whole herd. The men with large families packed meat home; others followed behind. Meanwhile, some watched by the hollow tree. When the bird came out, before it could cry, Coyote caught it by the neck and pulled it to the ground. It had the head of a man and the body of a bird. The face was human but had no hair. The body had wings and a long neck. It was a frightful thing to see. Coyote clubbed the bird and threw it into the flames. Feathers flew up and turned into birds and flew away. The unburned bones Coyote crushed with his club. Finally out flew a white Raven and said, "When the world is about to end I will come to you again!" So Coyote told the people that was to be a sign to them.
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