Marriage: Splinter-Foot-Girl

This is a story of the Arapaho people who traditionally lived in Colorado and Wyoming in a close alliance with the Cheyenne. In the 19th-century, the Arapaho split between the Northern Arapaho who now live on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, while the Southern Arapaho live in Oklahoma. You can find out more at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Native American Marriage Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).


It was in winter and a large party was on the war-path. Some of them became tired and went home, but seven continued on their way. Coming to a river, they made camp on account of one of them who was weary and nearly exhausted. They found that he was unable to go farther. Then they made a good brush hut in order that they might winter there. From this place they went out and looked for buffalo and hunted them wherever they thought they might find them.

During the hunting one of them ran against a thorny plant and became unable to hunt for some time. His leg swelled very much in consequence of the wound, and finally suddenly opened. Then a child issued from the leg.

The young men took from their own clothes what they could spare and used it for wrapping for the child. They made a panther skin answer as a cradle. They passed the child around from one to the other, like people smoking a pipe. They were glad to have another person with them and they were very fond of the child.

While they lived there they killed very many elk and saved the teeth. From the skins they made a dress for the child, which was then old enough to run about. The dress was a girl's, entirely covered with elk teeth. They also made a belt for her. She was very beautiful. Her name was Foot-stuck-child.

A buffalo bull called Bone-bull heard that these young men had had a daughter born to them. As is the custom, he sent the magpie to go to these people to ask for the girl in marriage.

The magpie came to the young men and told them what the Bone-bull wished, but he did not meet with any success. The young men said, "We will not do it. We love our daughter. She is so young that it will not be well to let her go."

The magpie returned and told the Bone-bull what the young men had said. He advised the bull to get a certain small bird which was very clever and would perhaps persuade the young men to consent to the girl's marriage with him.

So the small bird was sent out by the bull. It reached the place where the people lived and lighted on the top of the brush house. In a gentle voice it said to the men, "I am sent by Bone-bull to ask for your daughter."

The young men still refused, giving the same answer as before. The bird flew back and told the bull of the result. The bull said to it, "Go back and tell them that I mean what I ask. I shall come myself later." It was known that the bull was very powerful and hard to overcome or escape from.

The bird went again and fulfilled the bull's instruction, but again returned unsuccessfully. It told the bull: "They are at last making preparations for the marriage. They are dressing the girl finely." But the bull did not believe it.

Then, in order to free itself from the unpleasant task, the bird advised him to procure the services of someone who could do better than itself, someone that had a sweet juicy tongue. So the bull sent another bird, called "fire-owner," which has red on its head and reddish wings. This bird took the message to the young men. Now at last they consented.

So the girl went to the bull and was received by him and lived with him for some time. She wore a painted buffalo robe. At certain times the bull got up in order to lead the herd to water. At such times he touched his wife, who, wearing her robe, was sitting in the same position as all the rest, as a sign for her to go too.

(600 words)

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