Native American Legends
The youth who joined the Deer
A Thompson Legend
There was a man who was a great deer-hunter. He was constantly
hunting, and was very successful. He thought continually of the
deer, and dreamed of them. They were as friends to him. Probably
they were his manitou. He had two wives, one of whom had borne him
no children, while the other one had borne a male child.
One day while hunting, he came on the fresh tracks of a doe and
fawn, which he followed. They led to a knoll on which he saw a young
woman and child sitting. The tracks led directly to them. He was
surprised, and asked the woman if she had seen any deer pass. She
answered, "No." He walked on, but could not find the tracks.
On his return, he said to the woman, "You must have seen the
deer; the tracks seem to disappear where you are, and they are very
fresh." The woman laughed, and said, "You need not trouble
yourself about the tracks. For a long time I have loved you and
longed for you. Now you shall go with me to my house." They
walked on together; and the hunter could not resist the attraction
of the woman, nor help following her. As he went along, he thought,
"It is not well that I am acting thus. My wives and my child
are at home awaiting me." The woman knew his thoughts at once,
and said, "You must not worry or think that you are doing wrong.
You shall be my husband, and you will never regret it."
After the two had traveled a long way, they reached a hilly country.
Then the man saw an entrance which seemed to lead underground. When
they had gone some distance underground, they found themselves in
a large house full of people who were just like Indians. They were
of both sexes and all ages. They were well dressed in clothes of
dressed skin, and wore deer-skin robes. They seemed to be very amiable
and happy. As the travelers entered, some of the people said, "Our
daughter has brought her husband." That night the woman said
to the hunter, "You are my husband, and will sleep with me.
You may embrace me, but you must not try to have intercourse with
me. You must not do so before the rutting-season. Then you may also
go with my sisters. Our season comes but once a year, and lasts
about a month. During the rest of the year we have no sexual connections."
The hunter slept with his new wife.
On the following day the people said, "Let our son-in-law
hunt. He is a great hunter. Let him get meat for us. We have no
more meat." The hunter took his bow and arrows and went hunting.
Two young deer, his brothers-in-law, ran ahead and stood on a knoll.
Presently the hunter saw them, and killed both of them. He cut them
up and carried them home, leaving nothing but their manure. The
chief had told him in the morning to be careful and not to throw
away any part of the game.
Now the people ate and were glad. They saved all the bones and
put them away in one place. They said to the hunter, "We always
save every bone." When the deer were eaten, the bones were
wrapped in bundles, and the chief sent a man to throw them into
the water. He carried the bones of the two deer that the hunter
had killed, and of another one that the people were eating when
the hunter first arrived. The hunter had missed his two brothers-in-law,
and thought they were away hunting. When the man who had carried
the bones away returned, the two brothers-in-law and another man
were with him. They had all come to life when their bones were thrown
into the water. Thus these Deer people lived by hunting and killing
each other and then reviving. The hunter lived with his wife and
her people, and hunted whenever meat was required. He never failed
to kill deer, for some of the young deer were always anxious to
be killed for the benefit of the people.
At last the rutting-season came on, and the chief put the body
of a large old buck on the hunter, and so transformed him into a
buck. He went out with his wife and felt happy. Some other younger
bucks came and beat him off and took his wife. He did not like others
to have his wife; therefore he went home and felt downcast. That
night the people said, "What is the matter with our son-in-law,
that he does not speak?" Some one said, "He is downcast
because a young man took his wife." The chief said, "Do
not feel sad. We shall give you ornaments tomorrow which will make
you strong, and then nobody can take your wife away from you."
On the following morning he put large antlers on him, and gave him
the body of a buck in its prime. That day the hunter beat off all
the rival bucks, and kept his wife and also all her sisters and
cousins for himself. He hurt many of his brothers-in-law in fighting.
The Deer people had shamans who healed the wounds of those hurt
in battle, and they were busy throughout the rutting-season.
In this way they acted until the end of the rut, and the hunter
was the champion during the whole season. In due time his wife gave
birth to a son. When the latter was growing up, she said, "It
is not fair to your people that you live entirely with my people.
We should live with them for a while." She reduced a large
quantity of deer-fat to the size of a handful. She did the same
with a large quantity of dried venison, deer-skins, and dressed
Now she started with her child and her husband, who hunted on the
way, and killed one of his brothers-in-law whenever they required
food. He put the bones into the water, and they revived. They traveled
along as people do; but the woman thought this too slow; therefore
they transformed themselves into deer. Now they went fast, and soon
reached the country where her husband's people lived. She said to
her husband, "Do not approach the people at once, or you will
die. For eight days you must prepare yourself by washing in a decoction
Presently they saw a young woman some distance away from the lodges.
The hunter recognized her as his sister, showed himself, and called,
"O sister! I have come back, but no one must come near me for
eight days. After that I shall visit you; but you must clean your
houses, so that there may be in them nothing old and no bad smell."
The people thought him dead, and his childless wife had married
again. After the hunter had become like other people, he entered
his lodge with his new wife and his son. His wife pulled out the
deer-fat from under her arm, and threw it down on long feast-mats
that had been spread out by the people. It assumed its proper dimensions
and covered all the mats. She did the same with the dried meat and
the deer-skins, which almost filled a lodge. Now the people had
a feast, and felt happy and pleased. The hunter staid with his people
for a considerable time. Whenever they wanted fresh meat, he gave
his bow and arrows to his son and told him to hunt. The youth always
took with him his half-brother, the son of his father by his Indian
wife. They killed deer, for the deer were the boy's relatives and
were willing to be killed. They threw the bones into the water,
and the deer came back to life. The Deer-Boy taught his half-brother
how to hunt and shoot deer, how to hold his bow and arrows so that
he would not miss, how to cut up and preserve the meat; and he admonished
him always to throw the bones into the water, so that the deer might
Finally the Deer-Woman said to her husband, "We have been
here now for a long time. Let us return to my people." She
invited the people to accompany them, but they said they had not
a sufficient number of moccasins to undertake the long journey.
The woman then pulled out a parcel of dressed skins, threw it on
the ground, and it became a heap of fine skins for shoes. All the
women worked night and day making moccasins, and soon they were
ready to start. The first day of the journey the hunter said to
his wife, "Let us send our son out, and I will shoot him."
He hunted, and brought home a young deer, which the people ate.
They missed the Deer-Boy, and wondered where he had gone. At night
the hunter threw the bones into the water, and the boy came to life.
On the next day the hunter's wife went out, and he killed her and
fed the people. They missed her, and wondered where she had gone.
At night he threw the bones into the water, and she came to life.
She told her husband it would be better not to continue to do this,
because the people were becoming suspicious and would soon discover
what they were doing. She said, "After this kill your brothers-in-law."
The people traveled slowly, for there were many, and the hunter
killed deer for them every day.
After many days they reached the Deer people's house. They were
well received. After a time they made up their minds to return;
and the Deer-Boy said he would return with his half-brother's people,
and hunt for them on the way, so that they might not starve. He
accompanied them to their country, and never returned. He became
an Indian and a great hunter. From him the people learned how to
treat deer. He said to them, "When you kill deer, always see
to it that the bones are not lost. Throw them into the water. Then
the deer will come to life. A hunter who does this pleases the deer.
They have affection for him, are not afraid of him, and do not keep
out of his way, for they know that they will return to life whenever
they give themselves into his power. The deer will always remain
plentiful, because they are not really killed. If it is impossible
to throw the bones into water, then burn them. Then the deer will
really die, but they will not find fault with you. If a man throws
deer-bones about, and takes no care of them, if he lets the dogs
eat them, and people step on them, then the deer will be offended
and will help him no more. They will withhold themselves, and the
hunter will have no luck in hunting. He will become poor and starve."
The hunter never returned to the people. He became a deer.
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