Sunday, June 8, 2014

Blackfoot: The Smart Woman Chief

This story is part of the Blackfoot unit. Story source: Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915).

The Smart Woman Chief

Long ago, they tell me, men and women did not know each other. Women were put in one place and men in another. They were not together; they were apart.

He who made us made women first. He did not make them very well. That is why they are not so strong as men. The men he made better so that they were strong.

The women were the smartest. They knew the most. They were the first to make piskuns, and to know how to tan hides and to make moccasins. At that time men wore moccasins made from the shank of the buffalo's leg and robes made of wolfskin. This was all their clothing.

One day when Old Man was travelling about, he came to a camp of men and stayed there with them for a long time. It was after this that he discovered there were such beings as women.

One time, as he was travelling along, he saw two women driving some buffalo over a cliff. When Old Man got near them, the women were very much frightened. They did not know what kind of animal it was that was coming. Too much scared to run away, they lay down to hide.

When Old Man came up to them, he thought they were dead and said, "Here are two women who are dead. It is not good for them to lie out here on the prairie. I must take them to a certain place." He looked them all over to see what had killed them but could find no wound. He picked up one of the women and carried her along with him in his arms. She was wondering how she could get away. She let her arms swing loose as if she were dead, and at every step Old Man took the arm swung and hit him in the nose, and pretty soon his nose began to bleed and to hurt, and at length he put the woman down on the ground and went back to get the other woman, but while he was gone, she had run away, and when he came back to get the first one, she was gone too; so he lost them both. This made him angry, and he said to himself, "If these two women will lie there again, I will get both of them."

In this way women found out that there were men.

One day Old Man stood on a hill and looked over toward the piskun at Woman's Falls where the women had driven a band of buffalo over the cliff and afterward were cutting up the meat. The chief of the women called him down to the camp and sent word by him to the men, asking if they wanted to get wives. Old Man brought back word that they did, and the chief woman sent a message, calling all the men to a feast in her lodge to be married.

The woman asked Old Man, "How many chiefs are there in that tribe?"

He answered, "There are four chiefs. But the real chief of all that tribe you will know when you see him by this--he is finely dressed and wears a robe trimmed, and painted red, and carries a lance with a bone head on each end." Old Man wanted to marry the chief of the women and intended to dress in this way, and that is why he told her that.

Old Man had no moccasins; his were all worn out. The women gave him some for himself and also some to take back to give to the men, and he went back to the men's camp.

When he reached it, word went out that he had returned, and all the men said to each other, "He has got back; Old Man has come again." He gave the men the message that the woman had sent, and soon the men started for the woman's camp to get married.

When they came near it, they went up on a bluff and stood there, looking down on the camp. Old Man had dressed himself finely and had put on a trimmed robe painted red, and in his hand held a lance with a bone head on each end.

When the women saw that the men had come, they got ready to go and select their husbands. The chief of the women said, "I am the chief. I will go first and take the man I like. The rest wait here."

The woman chief started up the hill to choose the chief of the men for her husband. She had been making dried meat, and her hands, arms, and clothing were covered with blood and grease. She was dirty, and Old Man did not know her. The woman went up to Old Man to choose him, but he turned his back on her and would not go with her.

She went back to her camp and told the women that she had been refused because her clothes were dirty. She said, "Now, I am going to put on my nice clothes and choose a man. All of you can go up and take men, but let no one take that man with the red robe and the double-headed lance."

After she was nicely dressed the chief woman again went up on the hill. Now, Old Man knew who she was, and he kept getting in front of her and trying hard to have her take him, but she would not notice him and took another man, the one standing next to Old Man. Then the other women began to come, and they kept coming up and choosing men, but no one took Old Man, and at last all the men were taken and he was left standing there alone.

This made him so angry that he wanted to do something, and he went down to the woman's piskun and began to break down its walls, so the chief of the women turned him into a pine-tree.




(900 words)






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