Apache: The Man Who Traveled with the Buffalo

As Goddard explains in a note to this story, the fight with the Buffalo chief is connected to a ceremony for infants. When infants are four day sold, they are placed on a buffalo blanket during the ceremony which introduces them to the world and its powers. The narrator of this story omitted how the man kills the white buffalo because it is the basis for the ceremony, and the storyteller did not want to share that information.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Apache unit. Story source: Jicarilla Apache Texts edited by Pliny Earle Goddard (1911).

The Man Who Traveled with the Buffalo

At another time, they were on a war expedition going toward the enemy's country. It was very hot and they had now gone a long way without finding the enemy. They turned back, dying from thirst. There was only one who had not died and he was weak from thirst. When it was dark he lay down where a clump of trees was standing.

Ravens were living in the trees under which he lay. Near morning, he woke up and heard the ravens talking. "This is the man who killed the buffalo. They have been killing a great many of them over there." Up above him, he heard the ravens naming the men one by one. "This man, he killed one, over there," they were saying. "Another man killed one here. This man killed a very fat buffalo. This man also killed a very fat buffalo." When morning came, the ravens had mentioned the killing of very many.

The man was very thirsty.

About noon he came to a prairie dog village where he lay down. A prairie dog came up out of his hole and brought him a small dish of water. He drank that and again started on his journey.

After a time, he saw a buffalo calf standing. The man traveled along with the buffalo calf. They came where the red mountain ridge stands up horizontally. The buffalo was then about so large (four feet high). When they came to the red place, the buffalo was fully grown. There was a plain there and very many buffalo among which the two went. At evening the ground was white with their tipis. The man lay down in the doorway and spent the night. The next morning the buffalo all went off away from him. There were no tents, only signs that buffalo had been lying there.

The buffalo went off toward the east, and the man followed after them. That evening, he came to their camp again. He lay down again in a tipi by the door. The next morning instead of their camp there were only signs of buffalo having lain there. They went off again and the man followed them. At evening he came again to their camp and lay down for the night in the doorway. The next day he followed after them again and came to their camp at evening.

When it was dark, a buffalo who was chief said, "You have married a very brave man's wife." It was a white buffalo who spoke thus as a chief. He had said, "If any man is braver than I, he may marry my wife."

Then the chief came to his house and said, "Make arrows and feather them with the tail feathers of the falcon. Make some also and feather them with mixed feathers. Make a bow of locust, one of mulberry wood and another of cedar." Then he made arrows and feathered them. "Make a bow also," he told him.

Then the chiefs all gathered at one place. The man and the largest buffalo stood facing each other. "Do not be afraid," he said; "shoot with these arrows." He commenced shooting and continued until he had used up those he made first. Then he began to shoot with the other kind and used them all. He gave them all to him.

Then he said to him, "The Pecos River will be your chief; the Canadian River will be your chief; the Rio Grande will be your chief; the Chama River will be your chief."

(600 words)

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