The Wise Man of Chief Mountain
A Blackfoot Legend
Chief of the Mountains is grim, rugged, and majestic. Indeed, these are very good reasons for the Blackfeet Indians to have named the awesome peak, Chief Mountain. It is located in Montana, in the northeastern corner of Glacier National Park.
Tribal historian Yellow Wolfe of the Blackfeet tribe always enjoyed telling the following story about Chief Mountain and the people who once lived in its shadow.
Two members of the Blackfeet tribe were Wise Man and his wife. Their people called him Wise Man because he always seemed to know how to do everything right.
At that time, the Blackfeet wore the plainest kinds of clothes. Wise Man thought about this for a long time. One day he said to his wife, "Let us go away for a while. I wish to make some things that I have been planning for a long time."
Wise Man and his wife packed their travois, which was drawn by dogs, and moved to the base of the Inside Lakes. There they made their camp. He hunted and killed enough game for him and his wife and their dogs before beginning work on his plan.
First, he climbed to the high ridge between the lakes and Little River, where he dug an eagle trap. Beside the pit, he laid a deer and slashed its body to attract an eagle. When all was ready, Wise Man jumped into the pit and covered it with willow sticks and grass to make a blind. He waited for an eagle to come. Several eagles, with their wings swishing the air, sailed down upon the deer.
While the eagles ate at the deer, Wise Man reached up cautiously, snatched the legs of an eagle, and pulled it down into the pit. By repeating this method, he caught a large number of eagles. These he tied together, dragging them to his camp. There, he removed their tail feathers, their fluffy plume feathers, and other useful feathers that would help his plan.
As winter arrived, weasels appeared, and Wise Man hunted them This was more difficult than trapping eagles but he set many snares and caught about a hundred weasels.
Wise Man made himself an eagle headdress and hung white weasel fur skins upon it. Along the seams of his shirt sleeves and leggings, he hung more weasel skins. Adorned with his newly decorated clothes, he presented himself to his wife.
"Oh, you look brave and handsome!" she said. "Your new clothes with feathers and furs are the most beautiful ones I have ever seen!"
"I'm glad you like them," he replied. "Now I want to make something special for you."
Wise Man put away his new clothes, and dressed for hunting. He started out to look for elk. From these animals, he collected the skins, tusks, and teeth. He sewed them in decorative rows on the front and back of his wife's new dress. Both of them thought it most attractive.
"Now we have a fine new appearance," she said. "Shall we go home to Chief Mountain and show our people what you have accomplished?"
"Not yet," answered Wise Man. "Something is lacking, and I must discover what it is. I shall ask the Great Spirit to show me what more I must do."
On the very next day, when Wise Man walked through the timber, he found a dead porcupine. Its quills were scattered around on the ground. He examined them, thinking how he could dye the quills different colors. If he could, his wife's new dress would be even more beautiful, he thought. He shot another porcupine for its quills, and carried the animal home to cook.
"I know the yellow moss growing on pine trees will stain anything yellow," his wife suggested. "The color will not fade or wash off. I'm sure you can find other dyes for different colors, too."
He found green in another wood, and red in the juice of a certain plant. So Wise Man dyed the quills three colours--yellow, green, and red. He flattened the quills somewhat and sewed them side by side on the leather clothes, making different designs. He took a long time with his work. Finally, he had enough for his shirt and leggings, as well as for the neck the front, and the back of his wife's new dress.
Each of them were so pleased with the colorful and charming appearance of the other that they hugged and danced together for joy.
At last, Wise Man felt satisfied with the way his plan had developed. They broke camp and started home to their people near Chief Mountain. When they came within sight of their tribe, they put on their newly decorated clothes.
When their friends saw them approaching they did not at first believe they were Wise Man and his wife. But when they came closer, their people recognized them. All of the tribe crowded about Wise Man and his wife, staring, touching, and asking many questions about how their clothes were made.
Wise Man showed all of the people at Chief Mountain how he created the new ornaments. Immediately, the people began to gather the materials to make decorated clothes for themselves.
Since that time, the Blackfeet Indians have become very well known for their handsome and colorful dress. Wise Man became a strong leader in his tribe. He was acclaimed for discovering how to make everything more beautiful. This is why his people loved him and always called him Chief Wise Man of the Blackfeet tribe.
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