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Bacbi'awak: 'Made To Die'

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Chief Plenty Coups

CHIEF PLENTY COUPS
Crow


 
Spirit of Chief Plenty-Coups:  Be not only as good as the best, but the best!
 
" . . . `Why did young men not marry until twenty-five or until they had counted coup?'" I asked Plenty- Coups.

Because a man who has counted coup or one who has reached the age of twenty-five is strong and healthy," he replied. "We breed our horses with great care even today, but we have forgotten ourselves in this respect. Now any man may marry any woman whenever he can. No law prevents this, and sometimes imperfectly formed children are born. I never heard of a deformed child when I was young."

He then told of the old law governing marriage. No man might marry a woman belonging to the same clan as his own, but instead must choose a mate from another clan. Children always belonged to the clan of their mother, and this prevented the possibility of in-breeding, because when they grew up and married they must mate with those of another group. Besides, occasionally there was new blood brought to the Crows from other tribes, so that the race did not decline. He spoke in high praise of the law that permitted men to marry under twenty-five if they had counted coup. "This rule," he said, "made us strive to be strong and brave, and a man can be neither without health." But even though the law permitted a man who had reached the age of twenty-five years and had not counted coup to take a wife, he might not "paint his woman's face;" so that even here tribal distinction was withheld, and the incentive to bravery kept to the fore. "Nothing was finer than to see a pretty young woman with her face painted, riding ahead of her man," said Plenty- coups. "She looked so proud and happy, carrying his lance and shield, riding his best war-horse, to tell everybody that `her' man was a warrior who had distinguished himself in battle. The way of all young men was alike, and difficult. Most of them turn out to be able."

(Chapter VII. Pp. 117-119)

"We Crows had only one man killed, and he was not exactly a Crow. He was a Cree who had lived with us for years, so that we looked upon him as a Crow." (Chapter X. p170)

"Ho! I knew him! His name was The-Bull. He had once left his own people, the Pecunies [Black-Feet], to live with us. He had taken a Crow woman and then, after a while, left her with children to support. These children yet live on this reservation. I see them quite often. Ho! I knew The-Bull. My heart was bad toward him. He had betrayed us and, knowing our country, was even now leading a war-party against us."

( Chapter XIII. p. 210)

"Habit is strong with all men, and even when they borrow customs to fool others they become careless, so that natural habits give them away."

He turned to Coyote-runs, spoke rapidly and with glee, reminding him of some incident; then he said to me: "The white man, even with all his smartness, cannot long make his trail look like an Indian's, any more than an Indian can fool his own people by pretending to be white. Both will at last forget the game they are playing and do some natural thing. Then they get caught."

(Chapter XV. p.244)

"I have explained that to keep other tribe out of our territory we sent clans to its four points to tell encroaching men they might hunt on our lands if afterward they would go away to their own parts again. One of these clans sent us word that the River Crows had been attacked by Crees and Yanktonese Sioux, who together had killed several men, besides taking a band of horses from our brethren. We did not wait, but started out to find and fight the enemy.

"the berries were red and weather was very hot. We swam the Big River, running right into a large camp of River half-bloods, who were killing buffalo. They were badly frightened, but after we had assured them we were not at war with them, they gave us some meat and tobacco, besides telling us where might find a large Sioux village east of them.

"Of course our Wolves had seen the half-blood camp with its high-wheeled carts and countless dogs that were half wolf, but our main party had not, so that when we came out of the river right into it we frightened them enough to make us laugh; and the meeting even startled us a little. They had every kind of woman, from every tribe. We soon found one who could speak Crow as well as talk signs. We were glad of the news they gave us, but did not trust them
very much, telling them plainly that if they sent any messenger to the Sioux village warning them of our coming, we would hold them responsible and punish them. This made them careful not to ride too far from their camp for a while.

These mixed-bloods of the Red River were a tribe of people to themselves. Neither red nor white, they traveled and camped together, wearing bright-colored white men's clothes mixed, like their blood, with the regular apparel of our own people. Their habits were more nearly like ours than like those of white men, except that they used Red River carts drawn by horses, carts that
squeaked and screamed across the plains like a herd of crying things looking for rest. And they packed dogs often, just as our fathers did before they got horses to carry their things. Their women were either full-bloods from the different tribes they visited or half-bloods like themselves; and no tribe made war against them, though none trusted them as friends or allies in times of bad trouble."

(Chapter XVII. Pp. 267-268)

(Taken from "Plenty-Coups: Chief Of The Crows." By Frank B. Linderman)

To get the book, click:
http://www.bookfinder.us/review0/0803280181.html
 
 
Little People Speaking to Plenty-Coups:
 
'In you, as in all men, are natural powers.  You have a will: learn to use it.  Make it work for you.  Sharpen your senses as you sharpen your knife.  Remember the wolf smells better than you do because he has learned to depend on his nose.  It tells him every secret the winds carry because he uses it all the time, make it work for him.  We can give you nothing: you already posses everything necessary to be Great.  Use your powers.  Make them work for you, and you will become a great Chief. 
  
---------------------------------
 
Sore-Belly Spirit:
 
'When I went fasting [for a vision] I would lie down in diverse places.  I thought to myself: 'If I get a vision and my Crow, my people, are ever in distress, no matter where I may be I shall protect them.'  That is why I lay down in diverse places.  I fasted, I thirsted, on behalf of my Crow I shed my tears.  .  .  .  Now the Man with Stench in his Hair [unflattering reference to the Cheyenne Chief] is afflicting our people, he is making some of them cry, he is causing them grief.  I have had enough of that Man.  It is not yet time to go against him, but I'll go soon.   .  .  .  The Cheyenne Man yonder thinks that he alone is brave; he causes my poor [captive] people to sit where the water drips on them [from the paunches hung up near the door].  He strikes them, he kills them at his pleasure.  Well, now there's an end of it.  My young men, drink your fill, thin out your blood.  We will challenge the Man.  When men meet, they kill each other.  Whether he kills us, whether we'll kill him, we'll have a decision.  .  .  .'
 
Sore-Belly Continues:
 
'Well, a day has come such as I have never experienced so long as I can remember.  My manhood, my visions, my wailings--I have them all now.  Well, I am ready.  Go out (Good Herald/ Crow-Crier) your Crow want to hear something; well, let them hear something.'
 
Good Herald Speaks:
 
'Crow in distress, get up, drink your fill, thin out your blood.  Get up, women, cook, feed your young men.  Foxes, breakfast is ready in the lodge over there; get up, take a swim, go thither.  Lumpwoods, in yonder lodge breakfast is ready, they are waiting for you; get up, swim, all of you go there and eat!  Big Dogs, in that lodge breakfast is ready, go thither, eat there!  Poor Crow, whatever you do, hasten!  A man is ever enslaving you.  Your captive kin have surely been looking hither.  'Would that they helped us!'  they keep thinking to themselves.  The end has come.  Nothing Lasts Forever.  Even the trees, rooted as they are, fall down.  You are not like them, you have no roots, your soles barely skim the ground.  The Enemy acts as if he alone were brave.  He strikes your distressed kin at his pleasure, he kills them at his pleasure.  This is the end.  We'll challenge him.  Whem men meet, they kill each other.  Whether he kills us, whether we kill him, it will be settled."
 
Next Good-Herald gave directions to the three military clubs, specifying a few picked men who were to be mounted while the majority of the members remained afoot.  In the middle of the camp a pile of stones was heaped up.  The Crier now introduced the horsemen to the people at large as their chief champions.  To quote the narrative:
 
'Then the Foxes came out and advanced; with drums thundering they approached.  Near the pile they came to a halt.  The mourners came.  Good-Herald shouted: "He, he, he!"  He took the horse of Young-white-buffalo [of the Fox club] by the reins, led him away from the crowd, and brought him to the middle [of the camp] .  .   .  .   He tapped him on the chest.  'Distressed Crow, your protector is here, look at him well!  When we were little and strange children came to strike us and ran away, our elder brother would chase them and avenge us.  Thus Young white-buffalo.  Crow, wheresoever the enemy may abuse you, this Young-white-buffalo is the avenger, he is your protector.   Look at him, distressed Crow, even now he will on your behalf inflict some harm upon [the Cheyenne].  That is what I wanted you to hear.'  He dismissed him.  Next he took Small-back's horse by the reins, took him to the center, and said:  'Here is the one named Small-back, look at him!' He tapped his chest.  'Tomorrow, when you meet the Cheyenne and one of them dismounts, fully bent on slaughter, Small-back will not possibly be afraid of him.  At once bumping against his side, he will snatch his gun away and bring it with him.  This Cheyenne who considered himself dangerous will have no way of being dangerous.  The one who makes what is dangerous not dangerous is Small-back.  .  .  .'  He dismissed him and took Passes-women next.  'Tomorrow he is bound to domething.  Crow, of all your possessions, he is the most precious.  Look at him.'
 
"Now came the Big Dogs, their drums a-thundering.  They came to this pile [of stones].  The mourners came.  Good-Herald came.  He led Wants-to-die's horse and brought him to the center. 'This is the one called Wants-to-die.  Look at him!  Distressed Crow, he is your protector.  Tomorrow, when you meet the enemy, he will run among them.  They, too, are but human; what will they be tarryig for?  They will flee.'  Then Wants-to-die spoke [to the crier]:  'My elder brother, please be silent for a while, I will sing for you.'  Good-Herald cried out: 'Distressed Crow, this Wants-to-die has just spoken.  I'll tell you what he said.  Keep still, be silent.  He says he is going to sing for us, that's what he said.'  He rode about singing.  At once the old men began to chant songs of praise.  'That's the way, Wants-to-die,' they said.  At the same time the women gave their call.  There was a confusion of songs.  Wants-to-die stopped singing.  'I'll say a few words, I'll tell you something.  Even were I the bullet-plug, they could not hit me.  There is no one like this [invulnerable] on the other side of the hill, of all the people on the earth I am the only one.  That is what I wanted you to hear.'  .  .  .   Then Double-Face came; Good-Herald was leading his horse, he led him to the center of the circle.  'Distressed Crow, your protector is here, look at him!'  Good-Herald tapped Double-Face chest.  'This is he.  Take a tree with big branches standing by swift water, the roots facing upstream, the branches downstream.  Because it is very heavy, it does not flow away.   Because of the swift water, small driftwood and flotsam circles around on the sheltered side; it does not float away but gets entangled.  This Double-Face is the sheltered side you run to.  Tomorrow wherever they chase us, he will dismount, he'll be our sheltered side.  There we shall be entangled, he will shield you.  .  .  . '  Double-Face Spoke: 'Well, do not speak!  I'll make them hear my words.  Women in labor hold on to a digging-stick; when they scream we think they are delivered of the child, yet for a long time the child remains unborn.  [I am not delaying like that].  I want to take part in your battle, I am eager.  Now, somehow I might die before the fight, for persons may die from guns by accident, and I might die by some other accident.  For my sake, by the love you bear your children, Sore-Belly, go out to battle on this very day.  I want to see that Man.  He thinks he is the only man.  I want to pierce the bellies of some of his followers.   .   .   .'  When he had spoken, Good-Herald answered:  'Double-Face, I will tell you Sore-Belly's opinions about this speech of yours to him  and about your question.  When our mourning is over, we'll ponder it and I'll tell you our opinion, he said; that is what Sore-Belly said.'
 
"Then the Lumpwoods came, drums a-thundering.  .   .  .   Good-Herald went out and spoke.  He led the horse of Plays-with-his-face to the middle of the circle.  'Dear Crow, here is the one name Plays-with-his-face, look at him.  What is called death he is not at all afraid of, he knows nothing about such fear.  It is a marvel we own.  Tomorrow or thereabouts he will not be among us.  When the madcap goes into battle, he will be killed.  Your own will be torn to pieces, the strewn fragments will be lying there.'"
 
At this point in the tradition Plays-with-his-face addresses the women in the audience and in extravagant verbiage boasts of his virility, which he contrasts with the meager capacities of all other men.  Then, turning to the chief, he, too, begs Sore-Belly to attack the enemy at once.  Good-Herald, answering for the chief, bids every one go home and enjoy life until the morrow:
 
Good-Herald Speaks:
 
"In speaking I am not speaking for myself; when I tell you something, the words are Sore-Belly's.  Today go home, prepare food, cook what you like best and serve your young men.  Hallo, all you young men, all you young women!  I want you to listen.  First I'll talk to you, young women.  Tomorrow or thereabouts you will no longer see some half of your young men.  Tonight keep not watch on your husbands, turn them loose.  Don't reproach them, pay no attention to them whatever they do.  Now, young men, it is your turn.  After tomorrow I sall not see half of you again.  If you are any decent sort of men, let your wife use her best clothing today.  All of you Crow, wear your best clothing, eat your best food, in your speech with one another be as amiable as possible.  Your women, you want to see your sweethearts; young men, you want to do likewise.  Meet one another openly.  This is all now, these are Sore-Belly's words.  .  .  . "
 
.   .   .   .   [Sore-Belly predicts Victory for the Crows!  But no one is to shoot at little birds or they will die in battle.]
 
 
.   .   .   Sore-belly now unfolded his plan.  He was going to send a few active young men to lure the Cheyenne into an ambush.  There were two river-beds, and he filled both with men for a great distance.  At the junction there was a big hill.  The decoys were to keep clear of the coulees and to draw the enemy on through the intervening territory.  The main body saw the Cheyenne coming.  Sore-Belly urged them to hide till they got near the hill, then they were suddenly to cut off the rear of the Cheyenne from the van.  The Crow hidden in the riverbeds then suddenly rushed up and attacked the enemy, who tried to retreat.  "It was just like a whirlwind, there was dust and fog everywhere, and the report of guns was heard till the dust settled."  Double-Face, Eager-To-Die, Plays-With-His-Face, Passes-Women all attacked the enemy.  The Crow pursued the Cheyenne, killing them as they went along.
 
The Chief of the Cheyenne was named Striped-elk.  He scolded his followers because they had not obeyed his warning against giving chase to the small Crow party.  The Crow saw him from a distance and recognized him.  They hated him because of the way he had abused Crow captives.  Thus, a story was current that a Crow woman had been made to climb a tall cottonwood tree, which was then chopped down.  One Crow, Sits-in-the-middle-of-the-ground, struck his side, produced a magical bullet and powder, then shot the Cheyenne chief.  Though beyond the range of an old-fashioned gun, Stripped-elk was hit.  He tottered on his horse amidst the mouth-clapping of the Crow  and fell to the ground.  His companions fled.  The Crow ran towards him, took his scalp, and capture his horse.  They riddled Sitting-elk with shots and crushed his skull into fragments.
 
Sore-Belly said, "It is enough, let us stop."  Others wanted to pursue the fleeing Cheyenne: 'This is the fist chance we have had, let us go right away, take their children, their wives, their horses, their property.' But Sore-Belly insisted, and they stopped.  "How many have we killed?"  they asked.  They turned back and began to count up to a hundred.  Then someone said, "well, stop, it is dangerous to go on."  They had not counted half of the slain.  Then all met.  "Well, it seems none of us has been killed."  The younger brother of the old woman who had killed the meadow lark was missing; they did not know whether he had been killed or not.  No one else was killed, only some men were wounded, and some horses.  "They reached camp, they were happy, they had had their revenge.  They sang, they danced." 
 
Crow Cradle Song:
 
'Every day go out to fight the enemy.
Every day be very strong and brave.
Be fleet of foot
And sure with bow and arrow,
Make the enemy run.
 
'Got to be a warrior!
Got to be a man!
Got to be a Strong man
and brave!'
 
 

Spirit of Pretty-Eagle!

Pretty Eagle's Story:

 

The Crows love their land.  That valley of the Echeta Casha* which the White Father in Washington has given them to be theirs as long as there is one Crow left to claim it belonged to them many hundreds of snows ago--before moccasin of white man ever pressed the plains.  White Eagle [William Allen] knows I do not speak with crooked tongue.

I nodded. He went on:

'Nowhere else is to be found such beauty of mountain and valley. There sparkling streams of cold water never dry nor does tall, rich buffalo grass ever wither.  The Crows have never feared winter cold nor summer heat for they have had many buffalo and elk to give them food and to clothe them to shelter them from falling snows and sun's rays.  They have had wild geese and ducks and sage hens, deer and antelope.  The Great Spirit placed along the streams for His children plum thickets, service bushes, chokecherry and bull-berry bushes.  The mouths of our papooses are red in spring with strawberries.  Everything man needs for his health and happiness is to be found in the valley of the Echeta Casha--the land of the Crows.

'All this White Eagle, friend of the Crow people, already knows.  This our enemy, Sioux and Blackfeet and Pawness, also knew.  And, though the Crows said nothing when enemy came to hunt our buffalo, yet the enemy were not satisfied.  They wished to possess our beautiful land for their own.

'It is said by our fathers, who were told by their father's fathers, that once the Absarokees, known to the pale faces as 'The Crows', were part of the Gros Ventre tribe, speaking the same language, and that we all came from the Dakotas.  We know now only that for many long snows we have lived in this valley extending from the Big Horn Mountains and the Pryors down to the Echeta Casha which the palefaces call the 'Yellowstone River.' 

'I tell you as my father's father told him and as he told me.  Three hundred and fifty snows ago there was a young brave of the Absorokee people named 'Rolling Thunder,' the son of big Chief Sits-Down-Spotted.  This young brave went into a Pawnee camp to take from them picketed horses and make coup.  There he saw a Pawnee girl.  Her voice was like the soft music of wind in pine trees.  Her beauty was the beauty of the sun as it slips down behind the mountains.  Her eyes spoke to him and he took her to be his woman and the he forgot the land of his fathers and became a member of the Pawnee tribe.  Soon he learned their language and was appointed headman and even became member of the Pawnee Soldier's Lodge.

'Ane when he looked upon his woman his heart sang, but when he gazed across the valley to the far peaks that sheltered the tepee of Sits-Down-Spotted his heart was heavy.

'Then one day as he, with the members of the Pawnee Soldier's Lodge, met in council with men of the Shoshones and Sioux and Nez Perces and Blackfeet--men of all tribes except the Absorokees--Rolling Thunder learned that which made his heart cold.  They were gathered about the fire--all these wise men--and they talked the sign language, lest even the trees and rocks hear their wicked plans.  And he learned that all the tribes meant to band together, after cold had turned the leaves of trees red, and fight the Absarokees, known now as Crows, and take from them their beautiful land.

'When Rolling Thunder learned that, he could not speak.  But he knew that more than all esle--more than women or children--he loved his own people and the land that for hundred of snows had belonged to them.  He was married to a Pawnee woman.  He had been taken into Pawnee tribe.  They trusted him. But he knew now that he could not fight with them against people of his own blood.

'Silently when the council meeting was over he got up and went away, out into the woods where it was still.  He wished to be alone so that he could think what was best for him to do.

'His Pawnee woman, Breeze-of-the-South-Wind, followed him. "Where are you going?"

'He looked down at her.  She was beautiful and he loved her.  He said: "I am sick.  I go to the great warm springs".  (Thermopolis)

'She gazed into his face. "I wish to go with you," she said, for she knew that he spoke with crooked tongue.

'Rolling Thunder could not meet her eyes.  "No," he said.  "There are enemy on the warpath.  They are scattered like fallen leaves in the wind."

"Yes," she said. "I know.  And that is why I wish to go with you."

'He shook his head.  "I am not going to the warm springs. I go to hunt buffalo."

"I can ride," the Pawnee girl said. "Not like a woman, like a brave.  Even though we meet many enemies, with you I feel no fear."

'Then he knew he must speak the truth to his woman.  He loved her; they were young; they had known happiness together.  "There is to be war," he said. "Your people against my people.  You are a Pawnee.  I am an Absarokee.  I go.  You stay."

'She looked at him with flashing eyes.  "Your heart does not speak," she said, "only your lips.  I am your woman; you are my man."

'He thought she did not understand.  "I am going back to my father", he told her, "and I will fight with him against your people."

"Absarokee--nothing", she answered, "Pawnee--nothing.  Where you go, I go also."

'So that night, when all the camp was asleep, Rolling Thunder and his woman stole away.  They rode swift buffalo ponies and led a pack of horse loaded with food and clothing, for it was a journey of many sleeps from the Pawnee camp to that of the Absarokee up in the Pryor Mountains.  They wound close to the foot of the mountains so they might rush up into ca`nons and hide if enemy approached, and they traveled the dark trail, resting in the day time far back among the pines.

'As they rode on, Rolling Thunder and his woman, his heart was warm with joy.  Many snows had passed since he had left his people.  Now he was returning to them and with him was the beautiful Pawnee woman.  He could not keep the song from his lips but he said to her often during that journey:

"You will not grieve for your people?"

'And she would answer him: "Once, for me, you gave up your people. Now, for you, I give up my people. I ask only that if there is war you spare my father.  He had been kind to you.  He is old."

'And Rolling Thunder promised.

'After many sleeps they came to Pryor Pass which was then, more than three hundred snows ago, just as it is now, a narrow valley with mountains on one side and a high wall of buttes on the other.  The blood of the young braves flowed swift and warm in his veins because he was once more in the land of his fathers where every rock and tree and running stream recalled to him adventures of his boyhood.

'But now, as he gazed about, and saw far up the valley, another sleep away, the village of the Absarokees and the big tepee of his father with the golden eagle flashing on its topmost pole, his lips no longer sang.  For he knew that the enemy, all the Pawnees and Blackfeet and Cheyennes and Sioux, meant to join and come rushing through that narrow pass and along the valley to attack his people.  And he knew that in the valley his people, so few in number, would be slaughtered and their beautiful land lost to them forever.

'He rode on heavy heart, crossed Pryor Creek, and came to that narrow, high-walled ca`non that runs west toward the setting sun.  White Eagle remembers the canon of which I speak?'

"Yes," I told him, "I remember the place."

'Rolling Thunder stopped and looked about him, back at the pass and the widening valley through which the enemy would come from the north, and then at the ca`non.  He signed for his woman to wait and rode a little way up into the ca`non.  When he returned she saw that there was a smile upon his lips.

'We love deeply.  Our enemies we hate, but love for our own sinks down into our hearts and remains there forever. '

There was feasting and dancing in the village of the Absarokee that night, for the son of their chief had returned.  A crier rode through the village chanting strange words until all the people came running out from tepees to hear his message. 

'And he cried:

"Rolling Thunder has returned and has brought with him a Pawnee woman, Breeze-of-the-South-Wind, daughter of chief Red Tomahawk.

'Then all the Mountain Crows and all the River Crows put on their feast customes and gathered around the campfire and there was feasting and dancing and singing and speech-making.

'But when the feasting was over and women and children had gone to their tepees, when there remained around the fire only chiefs and headmen and medicine men, runners and wolves, then Rolling Thunder spoke.

"My heart sings," he told them, "because I am once more with my own people."

'The the father, Chief Sits-Down-Spotted, drew a few puffs from his red stone pipe and touched the bowl to the ground.  He held it aloft and gazed at it in silence.  Then he pointed the stem to the east, the west, the north, the south.

'After the peace-pipe smoke Rolling Thunder rose and spoke: "I have come from the land of the Pawnees, the land of our enemy.  The enemy are as many as the blades of grass on our plains.  They know that though we, the Absarokee, are brave of heart, we are few.  They desire our land with its many fat buffalos and deer and mountain sheep, its tall grasses and running streams.  Before another moon they will come down from the north, through the pass into our valley, Pawnees and Cheyennes and Sioux and Blackfeet, to take from us our horses and our land, to slaughter our women and children.  They have already started on the warpath and have come as far as Clarks Fork and the mouth of Wind River.  There they have camps.  From these camps they send signals and, at the proper moment, they will join and rush in upon us.  We cannot escape.  There are mountains where the sun rises and mountains where the sun sets.  They will trap us in ous valley like bear in a cave.  I have spoken."

'Rolling Thunder sat down.

'His father, Sits-Down-Spotted, asked him: "All this you know?  You speak no idle woman talk?"

" 'All this I know," said Rolling Thunder. "I have heard members of the Soldier's Lodge make plans. My woman, Breeze-of-the-South-Wind, heard Pawnee wolves talk after they had been on lookout peaks where they could see all the valley of the Absarokee.  Before another moon they will be upon us.' "

.  .  .  'I tell you the story as my father's father told it to him.

'In the valley south of Pryor Pass, near Pryor Creek, even today, are mounds covered with stones and overgrown with greasewood, two very high mounds and many smaller ones.  Some say they are to mark an old trail, but that is not so.  No paleface knows their history.  All Indians riding by, even to this day, add a stone to the pile, though few understand why.  They do not know they are erecting a monument to Crow Warriors killed in the fiercest battle fought by Indian tribes.

'It was the time when wild geese fly south to winter sun.  Runners were sent to warn River Crows and soon they came to join the Mountain Crows, bringing with them women and children, horses and dogs.  And yet, though all the valley between mountain ranges was covered with tepees of our people, we were to our enemy as but one star in the Blue.  Wolves stationed on high points looking across rivers and ca`nons and valleys watched for approach of the foe, while swift runners waited their signals, ready to dash into camp with messages.

'In Crow village everyone was busy, hearts heave with anxiety.  For, if our enemy won in the terrible battle soon to take place, then those of our people who were left would be driven from their land of plenty and must take with them all they could carry of food and clothing.  So the women worked from rising sun to its setting, worked for their men and children and the country they loved.  They cut up the meat the hunters were bringing in daily from the kill and hung it up to dry.  They gathered bull-berries for pemmican--enough to fill all their parfleche boxes.  They made moccasins and bed robes and body robes and covers of buffalo hides for the tepees.

'Meanwhile some of the men hunted buffalo and other made war clubs and strong bows and many sharp arrows.  And each night, when Old Woman has high in the Blue, all the wise men gathered around the council fire and talked war talk.  And some thought they should do this and some thought they should do that.  But Rolling Thunder said:

"We dare not fight our enemy in the open for we are too few."

'The eyes of Chief Sits-Down-Spotted flashed. 

"Would you have us run from the enemy as buffalo runs from the hunter?"

'Rolling Thunder sprang from his feet. "I have a plan!  As I, with my Pawnee woman, came from the south through Pryor Pass I saw a ca`non. narrow and high, running west from the valley.  I would have all our warriors, save fifty young men, gather in that ca`non with food for many days and war clubs and arrows.  I would have our women fix bushes and small trees across the opening as though they grew there.  Then, when our wolves tell us the enemy is approaching from Wind River and Clark Fork, I would lead fifty young braves close to the Pass through which they must come.  We would be mounted on the swiftest of buffalo ponies.  We would seem to the enemy not warriors, only young men hunting.  They would pursue us and we would lead them on, though beyong reach of their arrows, until they had shot them all toward us.  Then, when all their arrows were used, we would dash past the mouth of the ca`non and the Crow Warriors hidden there could spring out upon them.  If our medicine is strong and if the Great Spirit is kind to us we shall save our land for our children and our children's children forever.  I have spoken."

'Old Chief Sits-Down-Spotted saod nothing, but his heart sang for it was his son who had spoken wise words.

'One of the warriors said: "The heart of Rolling Thunder is young but his head is old.  We will do in all things as he advises."

'Then, said Rolling Thunder, "Let us waken women and children and move camp at once, traveling the dark trail, so enemy wolves cannot see and guess our plans."

'As the young brave had said, so it was done.  Before another sleep all our Crow people, except fifty young men, were concealed back in the ca`non along Pryor Creek with horses and dogs and food to last many sleeps.  And while they waited behind the blind of pine trees that our women had thrust into the ground, many times the Old Woman rose high in the Blue and sank behind mountain peaks.  And still our wolves on lookout points saw no sign of approaching enemy.

'But, after many sleeps, one morning early the Crows heard a dull rumbling they knew to be the beat of thousands of hoofs upon the earth.  Soon large herds of buffalo came pouring through the pass and into the valley as though they were being driven.  Soon all the valley was dark with them.

'Women said: "The Great Spirit is kind to his children, the Crows.  He loves us best.  He is sending all the buffalo in the world to us."

'But Rolling Thunder said: "The time has come.  Our enemy must be advancing in such vast numbers that they cover all the valley of Echeta Casha Asha, driving buffalos ahead of them.  Now I, with my fifty braves, will hurry to the pass and pretend to hunt buffaloes and lead the enemy to the ca`non.

'He was about to leap upon his horse, but the Pawnee woman, Breeze-of-the-South-Wind, ran up to him and stood before him, her hand upon his arm.

" 'Your are going to fight my people,' she said.  "It is well, for I am your woman and my heart is with your people, the Absarokees.  But my father, Red Tomahawk, Chief of the Pawnees, is old.  His heart beats slow, hiw sinews are tired.  He desired peace with your people but when his young men talked big war talk he could do nothing.  If you win in today's battle I ask that you spare my father. 

'Rolling thunder looked down into the face of his woman, looked long, for he might never see her again.  His heart was heavy.  He said: "If I live I will bring your father back to you."

"And if an enemy's arrow pierces your heart, then another shall pierce mine and I will join you in the Happy Hunting Ground, for I would not wish to remain long upon the earth without you."

'The Rolling Thunder and his fifty braves rode slowly on southward toward Pryor Pass, shooting at buffalo, a song upon their lips.  They followed the trail past the high peak of red stone which stands there today, just as it did three hundred snows ago.  And things happened as they had planned.  The enemy came pouring through Pryor Pass like waters of a great river, all the tribes of the south, joined against the Absarokees.  They came yelling their war cries and waving their tomahawks.  They wore war bonnets that trailed on the ground.  Their faces were ugly with paint.

'And when they saw the little band of young Crow hunters running from them like rabbits making their holes, they rent the air with war whoops.  They quirted their horses and filled the air with arrows that fell harmlessly just back of the fleeing Crows.  And the Crows scurried this way and that across the valley, trying to dodge arrows, trying to lead the enemy on toward the ca`non.

'You Palefaces know that valley.  Your cattle graze there.  You go to built camp fires on Pryor Creek and make coffee and then lie down to sleep where all is peace and stillness, without thought of fear.  None of you know of that day three hundred and fifty years ago when hearts beat fast with fear, when the air was loud with shrieks of warriors, when the long grass was stained red with blood of Crow, Sioux, Pawnee and Cheyenne, when the pure waters of the creek were damned by heaped-up bodies of the dying, staggering there, mad with thirst.

'You speak of the beautiful valley as "The Crow Reservation," given us by the White Father.  You do not know that the Crows bought that land with their lives, paid for it in suffering and blood. 

'Some few of Rolling Thunder's braves fell that day under shower of enemy arrows.  When he thought that most of the arrows had been spent, he, with those of his men who were left, dashed back across Pryor Creek and past the mouth of the ca`non.  On he went with his small band, the enemy close at heel, yelling, ready to spring on them with war clubs and scalping knives, riding into the trap set for them.

'Suddenly the thick forest of little trees fell as though before a strong wind and from out the ca`non, closing in upon the surprised enemy, poured all the hidden Crow Warriors.  They were still out-numbered three to one, but their horses were fresh and their arrows many and they were fighting for that which was nearest their hearts--Home and Children.

'All though the long day they fought until the air was filled with the whine of flying arrows and shrieks of wounded horses and moans of dying men.  Men pulled arrows our of dead bodies to use them over again.  They fought hand-to-hand with war clubs and knives.  They fought until, as the sun sank down behind the mountains, those of the enemy who were spared went crawling back through the Pass to their camps on Wind River, leaving dead and dying.

'Then the victorious Crows killed dying warriors and dying horses, to end their suffering.  And they placed bodies in piles--both the enemy and their own people--one at the foot of Red Rock Peak, another farther north along the trail and still others as they fell, here and there across the valley.  They placed beside them strips of dried meat to last them on the journey across the Slippery Log, and war clubs, and the bodies of their horses.  Then they covered all with mounds of earth and stone.  That was three hundred years ago but the mounds are still there.  White Eagle has seen them.'

'I, Pretty Eagle, Chief of the Mountain Crows, have told this to my white brother, White Eagle.  It is the story of the fiercest battle ever fought between Indian tribes.  He will put it in a book for palefaces to read so they may understand why the Absarokees whom they speak of as 'Crows' love their land, the valley of the Echeta Casha Asha, with such deep love.  It was purchased with the blood of brave men.  I have spoken.'

'But say, what happened of Red Tomahawk?' {Allen asked}

The big chief sighed and smiled.  "Rolling Thunder captured him early in the battle and hid him safely in the ca`non back of the trees.  That night he was led to the camp of the Crows and there, with his daughter and Rolling Thunder, he lived out his days in peace and happines."

 

Taken From:
'Blankets and Moccasins: Plenty Coups and His People, the Crows'

FLAG OF THE CROW NATION

Double-Face Spirit:
 
'Then this day Double-face was lying around; he stripped, he was nervous, he was uncomfortable.  whatever he undertook turned out ill.  The reason he was upset was that there was to be a battle and he was nervous: whether because of eagerness or fear, whatever the cause, that is why he was upset.  He would smoke, he would sit up, he lay down, he got up and bathed, he would return and stroll about, then he sat down.  Now he had an elder brother, Deer-Neklace, and him he sent for.  He came and entered.  'Sit there.'  This man who had just entered said, 'Well, why are you calling me?'  Well, I am upset now, that is why I am calling you.  There are three things I am now eager to do:  I want to sing a sacred song; I want to sing a Big Dog song; I want to cry.  Why is it thus?' Double-face asked.  This man answered: 'You are about to go to battle, your medicines are anxious, that is why.  Wait!' He boiled wild-carrot root . . .  and mixed it with a little white clay.  Double-Face took it .  .  .  and swallowed it.  'That is all, I'll go now.'  This man went out and away.
 
'Double-Face got very hot, he began to perspire.  His horse had been standing. 'I have been upset, but I shall accomplish my purpose,' he said and went out.  He took his horse, marked it, fitted on his medicines, painted himself, and went out mounted to wail within the camp-circle:
 
"' I used to think that since my birth I had had many sorrows.  It turns out that there was something in store for me.  I was grieving, but I did not know that today all manner of sorrow would be coming to a head.  The women at my home are miserable, I daresay.  'How are the captive Crow faring?' they are ever thinking to themselves.  My poor dear housemates, my distressed kin, the enemy makes them sit under the dripping water, he is ever abusing them, he thinks his men are the only ones to be brave.  What can I do to distress him, I wonder?
 
" 'You Above, if there be one who knows what is going on, repay me today for the distress I have suffered.  Inside the Earth, if there be anyone there who knows what is going on, repay me for the distress I have suffered.  The One Who causes things, whoever he be, I have now had my fill of life.  Grant me Death, my sorrows are overabundant.  Though children are timid, they die deaths, it is said.  Though women are timid, You make them die harsh deaths.  I do not want to live long; were I to live long, my sorrows would be overabundant, I do not want it!'
 
"Double-Face went crying," the tale continues, "and those who heard him all cried."
 
We have reached the peak of the Crow Spirit.  With a splendid gesture the hero turns away from the earthly goods that figure so largely in Crow Prayer; he has no thought even of glory, he thinks only of his suffering kin in a hostile camp.  Bruised by the problem of evil that in retrospect seems to have dogged him from infancy, he asks only for release from his torture.  Why linger?  Earth and sky are everlasting, but men must die; old age is a scourge and death in battle a blessing. 

Taken from:

The Crow Indians

by Robert H. Lowie

Buffalo Boy
 
A small, dirty boy prowled the Crow Indian camp, crying.  His wails bothered everyone, yet for some reason no one had seen him distinctly.  When the camp moved, no one paid any attention when he stayed behind, hunting for old buckskin, worn moccasins, and such.  His food was what he could find laying about the deserted camp.  He warmed himself at the nearly dead fire and filled his traveling sack with broken arrows and arrow points.  He would follow the moving camp.
 
When he caught up with the frequently moving camp, he always stopped at the last teepee.
 
There he would hide under the tanned buffalo robes which were sometimes left outside the teepees.  Before the camp woke in the morning, he would slip away and hide in the woods or in the brush until night.
 
This went on until he was old enough to feel shame at being so poor and alone.
 
Finally, he decided to go to the mountains and fast.  Perhaps, then, the Great Spirit would help him do something that was of value.  Something that would help the camp as well as himself.
 
At sundown, he started around the camp, crying mournfully.  He went around it four times, then started toward the distant mountains.  On the fourth day, he was on a high peak.  He was beginning to feel weak.  He had not eaten since he started.  He lay down by a big tree and tried to sleep.
 
Some time later, an old buffalo came to him and said.  'My son, stop wailing; it bothers me.  I cannot sleep.  Why do you cry so long and so loud?'
 
'I am ashamed,' said the boy.  'I am very poor.  I do not have any arrows.  I have no one who cares for me.  I am a sorry sight, but I do not want to live this way.  That is why I am here to fast and pray and to tell the Great Spirit about myself.  Maybe he will help me change so people will know me and I will be able to do something to help my people, as they, too, are hungry most of the time.'
 
The Old Buffalo said, 'I will help you, but you must stop crying.  There is a man in the camp who will help you if you tell him that I sent you.  His name is Deer Hoofs.  You ask him to make you four arrows, and you paint them yourself; he will show you how.  He will also make you a bow.  Paint the arrows red and the points black.  The bow will be white on the outside; green on the inside.  Since I am your helping spirit, you must dress as I do.  When you go to war, wear buffalo hide with hair always on the outside as a mark of courage.  You may have my coup stick and my rattle.  Keep these always.  They will kepp you brave and strong and give you much luck.  Walk straight and never do an unkind thing to anyone.  You will grow old and much loved and respected.'
 
The Buffalo turned to leave; the boy cried after him, 'Old Buffalo, where will I find you again?'
 
The Old Buffalo said, 'I will come to you, as I will always know where you are.  Keep well these instructions so you can always be my son.  Now sleep!'
 
When the boy wakened, the sun was shinning in his eyes.  He lay pondering the wonderful dream and the coup stick and rattle which lay at his side.
 
Four days later, the boy stumbled into the Indian Camp and went to find Deer Hoofs to tell him the dream and to show his treasures.  He also asked for the arrows and bow.
 
Deer Hoofs said, 'My son, you must be my son if Old Buffalo sent you.  I will do as you ask, but first you must clean your body.  While you do that, I'll hunt you a new buffalo robe to wear and new moccasins to keep your "last walk."  Will you live in my teepee?'
 
'NO, father, Old Buffalo said that I should make my own teepee in the trees and work hard to become one of the wolves of the camp.'
 
(A wolf was a scout sent out by the chief to keep an eye on the enemy, and to tell the hunters where the game was most plentiful.)
 
'That is as you wish, my son, and from now on you will be called "Buffalo Boy."  Be steadfast and quick, and you will soon be a warrior.  You shall have your bow and arrows soon.'
 
One day, the camp wolves came home much excited.  They had seen a large number of enemy Indians coming toward the camp. 
 
The warriors were called together and given their orders by the chief, 'Morning Sun.'
 
Buffalo Boy asked the chief if he, too, could be a warrior.  When he was asked where his horse was, he hung his head in shame.  The chief was a kind man, and he had learned that Buffalo Boy could be trusted.  He gave the boy one of his own horses, but warned him to be very careful to return with the horse.
 
Buffalo Boy was the first to meet the enemy.
 
His arrow brought down one of their great leaders-- a man who had many coups and good medicine.  Buffalo Boy took his medicine bag and coup stick.  During that battle, Buffalo Boy made many coups and came home with mane horses of his own. 
 
A few nights later, he slipped quietly upon an enemy camp.  He stampeded their horses toward his own camp.  In the noise and confusion he also took the chief's own coup stick and arrows.
 
Buffalo Boy was not the camp hero.  His heart sang like the brook as it ran over the rocks nearby.  The camp now had many horses.  Their wolves could see the enemy fleeing back to their own country.
 
The chief called Buffalo Boy to him and said, 'My son, I have a daughter.  She is willing to cook on your fire and tan the hides of the game you bring in.  She is waiting!'
 
Buffalo Boy bowed his head and said, 'I know her, but I cannot take a wife yet.  Old Buffalo has one great thing for me to do.  Later, I can take her if she will wait.'
 
'My son, go ask her.  Then go do this thing Old Buffalo asks.'
 
With a full heart, Buffalo Boy ran to his teepee. She waited just in front of the teepee.  She had on a white robe.  He stopped to tell her what he had told the Chief.
 
Four days later, Buffalo Boy was again on the mountain peak, waiting for Old Buffalo to tell him what the great task was to be.  He walked a circle until his legs trembled with tiredness and his vision blurred.
 
He stumbled and fell near a big rock and lay there, too weary and weak to get up.
 
Some time later, he heard voices, but they spoke in a language he knew not.  Then he saw the men--big and queer, looking at him.
 
One of the men came over to him and laughed at his weakness.  Then he said to the boy, 'The buffalo are leaving.  Listen, and we will tell you where they are going.  If you hurry, you might be able to save some.'
 
'They are going into a great mountain opening, and if it closes and you do not keep any back, you will never see another buffalo--go--we have spoken!'
 
The men seemed to fade away, but the boy could hear the buffalo rushing from him.  He slipped and slid down the mountain; he fell into a great bunch of rushing, snorting buffalo--all going toward another big mountain far away.
 
He caught the tail of one big buffalo and held on tightly, hoping to follow them that way and perhaps chase some back.  Many times, he nearly lost his hold.  Animals kicked him--their horns scratched him, but still he held on.
 
It suddenly became dark and voices called to the boy to turn the buffalo.  The door would soon close and all--even he--would be there forever.
 
He let go of the tail and hit at some of the buffalo that were pushing at him.  He seemed to have great strength; he pushed many back until they were in the light again.  He kept pushing them back, away from the great door.
 
He saw a big limb laying by the door, so he pulled it up in front to make a barrier to keep these animals out.
 
Suddenly, the ground beneath his feet seemed to sway and slip.  The great door slid shut.  The boy could hear the buffalo in the mountain, bellowing and pawing and traveling away from the door.  Rocks were falling about him.  The ground again trembled beneath his feet.
 
The boy bowed his head and cried bitterly because he thought he had failed in his great task. 
 
The door was closed forever and the buffalo were gone.  What would his people do now?
 
After a time, the ground stopped trembling; rocks no longer rolled down the mountain.  The boy looked about him.
 
Where the great door had been only a big scar was to be seen.  The rocks lay in piles in front of it.
 
The few buffalo he had kept out lay huddled and frightened in a clump of ash and cedar trees.  He did not recognize this place--he was lost!
 
'My son,' said a voice, 'you follow the sun, chasing these buffalo before you, and you will find your people.  You saved enough buffalo to help, but there will never again be great herds of buffalo.  There is other game, though!'
 
When Buffalo Boy came to the camp and told the wise men his great story, they were sad indeed.  They knew it meant the buffalo was soon to be few and they must save what they had for all time to come.
 
Buffalo boy went to his teepee and was met by the chief's daughter in the white robe.  He entered in, saying, 'Our home will be happe, our family big.  We will always remember Old Buffalo.  He has been good to us."
 
Taken from:
'The Little People: Crow Legends of Creation.'  By Flora Hatheway
 
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