Chief Two Leggings Speaks:
Crow Creation Myths
Now I must tell you some sacred stories which were told to me by our chiefs and medicine men and came from their
many winters. So I will begin at the time when there was no earth, when there was nothing but water.
We have always believed in one creator of everything and call him First Worker. One day First Worker was looking
over the world and did not like all this water. He made a duck dive down and bring him some mud. After rubbing
this between his palms he blew it everywhere, creating the land and mountains and rivers. First Worker wanted to make
human beings and formed the mud into many groups of clay people. To test them he made arrows and stuck them into the
gound pointing east. When he ordered the first group of clay people to charge the arrows, they fell back. The
next group also pierced by the arrows, they ran on through. These different clay peoples became the different Indian
tribes, and the bravest, who had charged through, became the Crows.
First Worker was proud fo them because they were not afraid to die. He told the other groups to spread out and
live in different places but he placed the Crows in the center so that whatever direction they traveled they would always
meet other tribes.
First Worker alsr created two boys and ordered them to teach the Crows how to live and to give them their religion.
These boys were First Worker's servants and that is why when we dream and have visions we receive both a medicine and a sacred
helper to guide us through life. Except for important ceremonial occassions and when we fast for visions, we address
our prayers to our sacred helper, who will pray for us to First Worker. These helpers are different for each of us as
we all have different dreams.
Our medicine men, the chiefs, and our parents wanted us to fast for a medicine when we felt the need. Sometimes
powerful dreams were seen by a child who did not understand them until years later. But the stories we heard in the
winter tipis and around the summer campfires were usually enough to make us want power and protection in our future lives
and war trails.
Once I remember a leading medicine man asking through the camp four our young men to fast in the mountains. Our
enemies had been repeatedly successful. He hoped one of us would receive a medicine and take revenge.
Many of our women fasted and some obtained powerful medicines. But usually they did not fast until they had married
or were old enough to be married, and then it was because they were mourning someone's death or because of an unhappy love
The sweat bath was the first medicine First Worker and his two boy servants gave us. In the old days it was our
most sacred medicine and came before all fasts and important ceremonies. It cleansed our bodies, and when we burned
incense the sweat lodge while praying to First Worker, it cleansed our souls.
The two boys told us that the sweat lodge represented First Worker's body. The steam from the heated stones, or
the smoke from the incense, was his image. It used to be taken as a cure for an illness, but not it is used at any time,
like a bath. They still pour the four, seven, ten, and countless number of cupfuls on the red-hot stones, but mamy do
not know what this means. The first four cupfuls are First Worker's arms and legs. They are also the four main
supporting willows of the sweat lodge. The next seven are the pipe-pointer star (The Big Dipper). The ten cupfuls
represents the cluster stars, and the countless number means the Other Side Camp, where we live after we die.
If we were preparing for a fast we followed the sweat bath by carefully washing our bodies in a stream and scrubbing
our nails. Then we purified ourselves in a sacred smudge of burning pine needles. After that we took no food or
water. This also cleansed our minds and took away as much as possible our human smell. The Without Fires do not
like the smell of men, and we fasted for them to favor us.
The two boy servants taught us to weep and pray as we fasted for our own medicine. If there was no reason to weep
we were to torture ourselves and sprinkle the earth with our tears and blood. We were told that First Worker's birds
like to eat, and when we cut a piece of our flesh it softens their hearts so they will help us and perhaps become our medicine.
If we fasted on a mountaintop we built a small bed of rocks running east and west, spread it with pine branches, and
faced east as we lay down. Then we covered ourselves with a freshly tanned buffalo robe rubbed with white clay to show
cleanliness. For four days we lay there, sleeping and watching the sun until we saw our vision.
The Two Boys sent by First Worker taught us how to make medicine bundles after we had received our vision. The
bundles contained the skins of animals we had seen in our dreams. If the sun, the moon, clouds, or other things appeared
in those dreams, the boys showed us how to represent them in different ways.
The Two Boys servants taught us that there is another world like our earth, the Other Side Camp. The same animals,
birds, fishes, and plants live there. The same rivers flow and the same mountain rise to the sky.
The Other Side Camp is divided into two clans and together they are called the Without Fires. One contains the
animals, the sun and the moon and the stars, except for the star with a tail which sometimes appear during the summer months,
and the souls of the dead--the little whirlwinds which dance over the plains. All the water animals of both our world
and this Other Side Camp world belong to this clan, and so do the birds, the thunder, and the dwarfs. Old Man Coyote
is its chief.
The other Without Fire clan is made up of everything that comes from the earth: the plants, flowers, trees, and rocks.
This earth clan has four chief spirits: the wind, the fire, the water, and the earth itself.
The earth is our mother; our body is born from it and returns to it after we die. Our breath is wind and it is
also our soul. Our words are our breath and they are sacred.
Each of the two clans is divided into many clans represented by different Without Fires. When we receive a medicine
we join the Other Side Camp clan of our helper. Sometimes we fasted many times, dreaming of different helpers.
Then all these and the dreamer made one personal medicine clan.
The Without Fire chiefs also have their servants. The sun is the chief of all the sky beings and its most important
servant is the eagle. The moon is a lesser chief and has the owl for its servant. The lightning, wind, and rain
also have birds as their helpers.
The chief helpers of the most powerful Without Fires can choose who among the lesser Without Fires will belong to the
dreamer's medicine bundle. He will be told this in his vision. The objects within a medicine bundle are the actual
dwelling places of the members of the dreamer's medicine clan. Many different things are found in each bundle because
every item represents one of the Without Fires or something the dreamer was promised; only he can explain them.
I have seen a shield on which there were pictures of the sun, rain, clouds, and an eagle with lightning striking from
its claws. The dreamer who was told in his vision to make that medicine may have only had a vision of an eagle.
But the sun, lightning, wind, and rain belonged to the eagle's Other Side Camp and he pictured them also.
Certain things in a medicine bundle always means the same: Horsehair represents the hope for horses, elk teeth or beads
mean wealth, and a strip of otter skin means water because the otter is the chief of all water animals.
All Crows have a sacred helper from the time of their birth, but some do not know him because they never receive their
own medicine or because their dreams are not powerful. In that case they can buy a duplicate medicine bundle from a
well-known medicine man or warrior. Some of us bought powerful medicine bundles from well-known medicine men even if
we had a vision of our own because we wanted their power and their sacred helpers. But the owner would rarely duplicate
all of his bundle. He would hold a little power over his copies, as was right.
We are fond of gambling and the Two Boys taught us this. The Two Boys Without Fires clans like to gamble each other
and their stakes are the lives of the Indians they have adopted through the medicine dreams. Wen a clan member loses,
his adopted child is "eaten" by the winning clan.
The man who dies fighting is lucky. He was looked after with special care by some Without Fire father who had won
his life in the gambling. After he dies his soul is dressed with all the honors of a warrior. He becomes one with
the helper who won him and will live an honored life in the Other Side Camp.
We did not want to receive a vision of the sun because he is a bad gambler. Although the dreamer usually became
a powerful medicine man, he almost always died young. We preferred the moon which gambles often but rarely loses; its
adopted children lead long lives.
The clans of the Without Fires also have a servant. He looks like an Indian but has pine trees growing out of his
lower eyelids. He arranges war parties, brings enemies together, and leads the souls of the dead to be adopted by the
winning members. If no one is killed in these battles he is disappointed and tired as he returns home.
Old age is not an honorable death, but most people want it. It proves that a sacred helper was powerful and fond
of his child. It also shows that he was a good gambler and never lost a game during his child's earlier life.
When the time comes and we old men go to the Other Side Camp to live in peace and happiness, we are one with our sacred helpers.
Many men die young on the battlefield. This shows that their sacred helper was not very powerful and lost his game
early in the life of his adopted child. Or perhaps the adopted man did not obey his sacred father. When we receive
a medicine our sacred helper gives us certain instructions. Sometimes we must not do certain things, like eating certain
foods. If we disobey we may have bad luck or sickness or suffer a wound in battle. If we keep disobeying our sacred
helper he will grow angry and place the life of his child as a stake against some powerful opponent who always wins.
The souls of people whi die this way are of a lower kind, but they are allowed to enter the Other Side Camp. However,
the souls of suicides and murderers must roam the earth as ghosts.
When the Black Robes came to us they talked about the devil but we could not find him in the things we knew. We
think that everything is good and bad and that no person or thing is all good or all bad. I have known mane men who
had the ghosts as their medicine.
But we are afraid of ghosts because they may have a grudge against someone and plant a cactus needle in his body, making
him sick. This can only be pulled out by a medicine man and that costs many presents.
Rock medicines were also given to us by First Worker's Two Boy helpers. Before First Worker created people there
were only himself, Old Man Coyote, and a man who was the spirit of all rocks. This man wandered over the earth looking
for a mate, but without any luck. Then he met Old Man Coyote and told him about his search. Old Man Coyote advised
him to go to the tabacco plant. Inside its husk were seeds, and Old Man Coyote said that these were the female people.
The spirit of all rocks went to the tabacco plant and entered the husk. There he found a mate and took her to his home.
They were the origin of life.
When the Two Boy helpers gave the Crows the sweat lodge and the Sun Dance they also gave us the tobacco-planting ceremony
and the rock medicines. Four is our sacred number and that is why they gave us four medicines.
Rock medicines are both male and female because they began with the marriage of the male rock and the female tobacco
plant. Sometimes we place a male rock medicine with a female one and do not disturb them for a year. By the time
a little rock will have come into the medicine bundle.
If we pass a strangely shaped rock we will often stop and pray to it, asking it for good luck and health and happiness.
Sometimes we will carry that rock home, hoping it may appear in a dream. If we do not dream about it, we forget it.
But if we do, we believe it is a medicine rock. We make it into a bundle and pray to it.
Our bundles, the songs belonging to them, and the ceremony for using them were all taught to us in our dreams.
Together they made our medicine. A man who ordered his life with this help was a good and happy man and lived for a