Myths And Legends Of The Sioux
The Four Brothers; Or Inyanhoksila (stone Boy)
Alone and apart from their tribe dwelt four orphan brothers. They had erected a very comfortable hut, although the materials used were only willows, hay, birch bark, and adobe mud. After the completion of their hut, the oldest brother laid out the different kinds of work to be done by the four of them. He and the second and third brothers were to do all the hunting, and the youngest brother was to do the house work, cook the meals, and keep plenty of wood on hand at all times.
As his older brothers would leave for their hunting very early every morning, and would not return till late at night, the little fellow always found plenty of spare time to gather into little piles fine dry wood for their winter use.
Thus the four brothers lived happily for a long time. One day while out gathering and piling up wood, the boy heard a rustling in the leaves and looking around he saw a young woman standing in the cherry bushes, smiling at him.
“Who are you, and where did you come from?”
asked the boy, in surprise.
“I am an orphan girl and have no relatives living. I came from the village west of here. I learned from rabbit that there were four orphan brothers living here all alone, and that the youngest was keeping house for his older brothers, so I thought I would come over and see if I couldn’t have them adopt me as their sister, so that I might keep house for them, as I am very poor and have no relations, neither have I a home.”
She looked so pitiful and sad that the boy thought to himself,
“I will take her home with me, poor girl, no matter what my brothers think or say.”
Then he said to her:
“Come on, tanke (sister). You may go home with me; I am sure my older brothers will be glad to have you for our sister.”
When they arrived at the hut, the girl hustled about and cooked up a fine hot supper, and when the brothers returned they were surprised to see a girl sitting by the fire in their hut. After they had entered the youngest brother got up and walked outside, and a short time after the oldest brother followed him out.
“Who is that girl, and where did she come from?”
he asked his brother. Whereupon the brother told him the whole story. Upon hearing this the oldest brother felt very sorry for the poor orphan girl and going back into the hut he spoke to the girl, saying:
“Sister, you are an orphan, the same as we; you have no relatives, no home. We will be your brothers, and our poor hut shall be your home. Henceforth call us brothers, and you will be our sister.”
“Oh, how happy I am now that you take me as your sister. I will be to you all as though we were of the same father and mother,”
said the girl. And true to her word, she looked after everything of her brothers and kept the house in such fine shape that the brothers blessed the day that she came to their poor little hut. She always had an extra buckskin suit and two pairs of moccasins hanging at the head of each one’s bed. Buffalo, deer, antelope, bear, wolf, wildcat, mountain lion and beaver skins she tanned by the dozen, and piled nicely in one corner of the hut.
When the Indians have walked a great distance and are very tired, they have great faith in painting their feet, claiming that paint eases the pain and rests their feet.
After their return from a long day’s journey, when they would be lying down resting, the sister would get her paint and mix it with the deer tallow and rub the paint on her brother’s feet, painting them up to their ankles. The gentle touch of her hands, and the soothing qualities of the tallow and paint soon put them into a deep, dreamless steep.
Many such kind actions on her part won the hearts of the brothers, and never was a full blood sister loved more than was this poor orphan girl, who had been taken as their adopted sister. In the morning when they arose, the sister always combed their long black silken scalp locks and painted the circle around the scalp lock a bright vermillion.
When the hunters would return with a goodly supply of beef, the sister would hurry and relieve them of their packs, hanging each one high enough from the ground so the prowling dogs and coyotes could not reach them. The hunters each had a post on which to hang his bow and flint head arrows. (Good hunters never laid their arrows on the ground, as it was considered unlucky to the hunter who let his arrows touch the earth after they had been out of the quiver).
They were all perfectly happy, until one day the older brother surprised them all by saying:
“We have a plentiful supply of meat on hand at present to last us for a week or so. I am going for a visit to the village west of us, so you boys all stay at home and help sister. Also gather as much wood as you can and I will be back again in four days. On my return we will resume our hunting and commence getting our year’s supply of meat.”
He left the next morning, and the last they saw of him was while he stood at the top of the long range of hills west of their home. Four days had come and gone and no sign of the oldest brother.
“I am afraid that our brother has met with some accident,”
said the sister.
“I am afraid so, too,”
said the next oldest.
“I must go and search for him; he may be in some trouble where a little help would get him out.”
The second brother followed the direction his brother had taken, and when he came to the top of the long range of hills he sat down and gazed long and steadily down into the long valley with a beautiful creek winding through it. Across the valley was a long plain stretching for miles beyond and finally ending at the foot of another range of hills, the counterpart of the one upon which he sat.
After noting the different landmarks carefully, he arose and slowly started down the slope and soon came to the creek he had seen from the top of the range. Great was his surprise on arriving at the creek to find what a difference there was in the appearance of it from the range and where he stood. From the range it appeared to be a quiet, harmless, laughing stream. Now he saw it to be a muddy, boiling, bubbling torrent, with high perpendicular banks. For a long time he stood, thinking which way to go, up or down stream.
He had just decided to go down stream, when, on chancing to look up, he noticed a thin column of smoke slowly ascending from a little knoll. He approached the place cautiously and noticed a door placed into the creek bank on the opposite side of the stream. As he stood looking at the door, wondering who could be living in a place like that, it suddenly opened and a very old appearing woman came out and stood looking around her.
Soon she spied the young man, and said to him:
“My grandchild, where did you come from and whither are you bound?”
The young man answered:
“I came from east of this ridge and am in search of my oldest brother, who came over in this direction five days ago and who has not yet returned.”
“Your brother stopped here and ate his dinner with me, and then left, traveling towards the west,”
said the old witch, for such she was.
“Now, grandson, come across on that little log bridge up the stream there and have your dinner with me. I have it all cooked now and just stepped outside to see if there might not be some hungry traveler about, whom I could invite in to eat dinner with me.”
The young man went up the stream a little distance and found a couple of small logs which had been placed across the stream to serve as a bridge. He crossed over and went down to the old woman’s dugout hut.
“Come in grandson, and eat. I know you must be hungry.”
The young man sat down and ate a real hearty meal. On finishing he arose and said:
“Grandmother, I thank you for your meal and kindness to me. I would stay and visit with you awhile, as I know it must be very lonely here for you, but I am very anxious to find my brother, so I must be going. On my return I will stop with my brother and we will pay you a little visit.”
“Very well, grandson, but before you go, I wish you would do me a little favor. Your brother did it for me before he left, and cured me, but it has come back on me again. I am subject to very severe pains along the left side of my backbone, all the way from my shoulder blade down to where my ribs attach to my backbone, and the only way I get any relief from the pain is to have some one kick me along the side.”
(She was a witch, and concealed in her robe a long sharp steel spike. It was placed so that the last kick they would give her, their foot would hit the spike and they would instantly drop off into a swoon, as if dead.)
“If I won’t hurt you too much, grandmother, I certainly will be glad to do it for you,” said the young man, little thinking he would be the one to get hurt.
“No, grandson, don’t be afraid of hurting me; the harder you kick the longer the pain stays away.”
She laid down on the floor and rolled over on to her right side, so he could get a good chance to kick the left side where she said the pain was located.
As he moved back to give the first kick, he glanced along the floor and he noticed a long object wrapped in a blanket, lying against the opposite wall. He thought it looked strange and was going to stop and investigate, but just then the witch cried out as if in pain.
“Hurry up, grandson, I am going to die if you don’t hurry and start in kicking.”
“I can investigate after I get through with her,”
thought he, so he started in kicking and every kick he would give her she would cry:
“Harder, kick harder.”
He had to kick seven times before he would get to the end of the pain, so he let out as hard as he could drive, and when he came to the last kick he hit the spike, and driving it through his foot, fell down in a dead swoon, and was rolled up in a blanket by the witch and placed beside his brother at the opposite side of the room.
When the second brother failed to return, the third went in search of the two missing ones. He fared no better than the second one, as he met the old witch who served him in a similar manner as she had his two brothers.
she laughed, when she caught the third,
“I have only one more of them to catch, and when I get them I will keep them all here a year, and then I will turn them into horses and sell them back to their sister. I hate her, for I was going to try and keep house for them and marry the oldest one, but she got ahead of me and became their sister, so now I will get my revenge on her. Next year she will be riding and driving her brothers and she won’t know it.”
When the third brother failed to return, the sister cried and begged the last one not to venture out in search of them. But go he must, and go he did, only to do as his three brothers had done.
Now the poor sister was nearly distracted. Day and night she wandered over hills and through woods in hopes she might find or hear of some trace of them. Her wanderings were in vain. The hawks had not seen them after they had crossed the little stream. The wolves and coyotes told her that they had seen nothing of her brothers out on the broad plains, and she had given them up for dead.
One day, as she was sitting by the little stream that flowed past their hut, throwing pebbles into the water and wondering what she should do, she picked up a pure white pebble, smooth and round, and after looking at it for a long time, threw it into the water. No sooner had it hit the water than she saw it grow larger. She took it out and looked at it and threw it in again. This time it had assumed the form of a baby.
She took it out and threw it in the third time and the form took life and began to cry:
She took the baby home and fed it soup, and it being an unnatural baby, quickly grew up to a good sized boy. At the end of three months he was a good big, stout youth.
One day he said:
“Mother, why are you living here alone? To whom do all these fine clothes and moccasins belong?”
She then told him the story of her lost brothers.
“Oh, I know now where they are. You make me lots of arrows. I am going to find my uncles.”
She tried to dissuade him from going, but he was determined and said:
“My father sent me to you so that I could find my uncles for you, and nothing can harm me, because I am stone and my name is “Stone Boy.”
The mother, seeing that he was determined to go, made a whole quiver full of arrows for him, and off he started. When he came to the old witch’s hut, she was nowhere to be seen, so he pushed the door in and entered. The witch was busily engaged cooking dinner.
“Why, my dear grandchild, you are just in time for dinner. Sit down and we will eat before you continue your journey.”
Stone boy sat down and ate dinner with the old witch. She watched him very closely, but when she would be drinking her soup he would glance hastily around the room. Finally he saw the four bundles on the opposite side of the room, and he guessed at once that there lay his four uncles. When he had finished eating he took out his little pipe and filled it with “kini-kinic,” and commenced to smoke, wondering how the old woman had managed to fool his smart uncles. He couldn’t study it out, so when he had finished his smoke he arose to pretend to go.
When the old woman saw him preparing to leave, she said:
“Grandson, will you kick me on the left side of my backbone. I am nearly dead with pain and if you kick me good and hard it will cure me.”
“All right, grandma,”
said the boy. The old witch lay down on the floor and the boy started in to kick. At the first kick he barely touched her.
“Kick as hard as you can, grandson; don’t be afraid you will hurt me, because you can’t.”
With that Stone Boy let drive and broke two ribs. She commenced to yell and beg him to stop, but he kept on kicking until he had kicked both sides of her ribs loose from the backbone. Then he jumped on her backbone and broke it and killed the old witch.
He built a big fire outside and dragged her body to it, and threw her into the fire. Thus ended the old woman who was going to turn his uncles into horses.
Next he cut willows and stuck them into the ground in a circle. The tops he pulled together, making a wickieup. He then took the old woman’s robes and blankets and covered the wickieup so that no air could get inside. He then gathered sage brush and covered the floor with a good thick bed of sage; got nice round stones and got them red hot in the fire, and placed them in the wickieup and proceeded to carry his uncles out of the hut and lay them down on the soft bed of sage.
Having completed carrying and depositing them around the pile of rocks, he got a bucket of water and poured it on the hot rocks, which caused a great vapor in the little wickie-up. He waited a little while and then listened and heard some breathing inside, so he got another bucket and poured that on also. After awhile he could hear noises inside as though some one were moving about.
He went again and got the third bucket and after he had poured that on the rocks, one of the men inside said:
“Whoever you are, good friend, don’t bring us to life only to scald us to death again.”
Stone boy then said:
“Are all of you alive?”
said the voice.
“Well, come out,”
said the boy. And with that he threw off the robes and blankets, and a great cloud of vapor arose and settled around the top of the highest peak on the long range, and from that did Smoky Range derive its name.
The uncles, when they heard who the boy was, were very happy, and they all returned together to the anxiously waiting sister. As soon as they got home, the brothers worked hard to gather enough wood to last them all winter. Game they could get at all times of the year, but the heavy fall of snow covered most of the dry wood and also made it very difficult to drag wood through the deep snow.
So they took advantage of the nice fall weather and by the time the snow commenced falling they had enough wood gathered to last them throughout the winter. After the snow fell a party of boys swiftly coasted down the big hill west of the brothers’ hut. The Stone boy used to stand and watch them for hours at a time.
His youngest uncle said:
“Why don’t you go up and coast with them?”
The boy said:
“They may be afraid of me, but I guess I will try once, anyway.”
So the next morning when the crowd came coasting, Stone boy started for the hill. When he had nearly reached the bottom of the coasting hill all of the boys ran off excepting two little fellows who had a large coaster painted in different colors and had little bells tied around the edges, so when the coaster was in motion the bells made a cheerful tinkling sound. As Stone boy started up the hill the two little fellows started down and went past him as though shot from a hickory bow.
When they got to the end of their slide, they got off and started back up the hill. It being pretty steep, Stone boy waited for them, so as to lend a hand to pull the big coaster up the hill. As the two little fellows came up with him he knew at once that they were twins, as they looked so much alike that the only way one could be distinguished from the other was by the scarfs they wore. One wore red, the other black. He at once offered to help them drag their coaster to the top of the hill. When they got to the top the twins offered their coaster to him to try a ride. At first he refused, but they insisted on his taking it, as they said they would sooner rest until he came back.
So he got on the coaster and flew down the hill, only he was such an expert he made a zigzag course going down and also jumped the coaster off a bank about four feet high, which none of the other coasters dared to tackle. Being very heavy, however, he nearly smashed the coaster. Upon seeing this wonderful jump, and the zigzag course he had taken going down, the twins went wild with excitement and decided that they would have him take them down when he got back. So upon his arrival at the starting point, they both asked him at once to give them the pleasure of the same kind of a ride he had taken.
He refused, saying:
“We will break your coaster. I alone nearly smashed it, and if we all get on and make the same kind of a jump, I am afraid you will have to go home without your coaster.”
“Well, take us down anyway, and if we break it our father will make us another one.”
So he finally consented. When they were all seated ready to start, he told them that when the coaster made the jump they must look straight ahead.
“By no means look down, because if you do we will go over the cut bank and land in a heap at the bottom of the gulch.”
They said they would obey what he said, so off they started swifter than ever, on account of the extra weight, and so swiftly did the sleigh glide over the packed, frozen snow, that it nearly took the twins’ breath away. Like an arrow they approached the jump.
The twins began to get a little nervous.
“Sit steady and look straight ahead,”
yelled Stone boy. The twin next to Stone boy, who was steering behind, sat upright and looked far ahead, but the one in front crouched down and looked into the coulee. Of course, Stone boy, being behind, fell on top of the twins, and being so heavy, killed both of them instantly, crushing them to a jelly.
The rest of the boys, seeing what had happened, hastened to the edge of the bank, and looking down, saw the twins laying dead, and Stone boy himself knocked senseless, lying quite a little distance from the twins. The boys, thinking that all three were killed, and that Stone boy had purposely steered the sleigh over the bank in such a way that it would tip and kill the twins, returned to the village with this report. Now, these twins were the sons of the head chief of the Buffalo Nation. So at once the chief and his scouts went over to the hill to see if the boys had told the truth.
When they arrived at the bank they saw the twins lying dead, but where was Stone boy? They looked high and low through the gulch, but not a sign of him could they find. Tenderly they picked up the dead twins and carried them home, then held a big council and put away the bodies of the dead in Buffalo custom.
A few days after this the uncles were returning from a long journey. When they drew near their home they noticed large droves of buffalo gathered on their side of the range. Hardly any buffalo ever ranged on this east side of the range before, and the brothers thought it strange that so many should so suddenly appear there now.
When they arrived at home their sister told them what had happened to the chief’s twins, as her son had told her the whole story upon his arrival at home after the accident.
“Well, probably all the buffalo we saw were here for the council and funeral,”
said the older brother.
“But where is my nephew?” (Stone boy)
he asked his sister.
“He said he had noticed a great many buffalo around lately and he was going to learn, if possible, what their object was,”
said the sister.
“Well, we will wait until his return.”
When Stone boy left on his trip that morning, before the return of his uncles, he was determined to ascertain what might be the meaning of so many buffalo so near the home of himself and uncles. He approached several bunches of young buffalo, but upon seeing him approaching they would scamper over the hills. Thus he wandered from bunch to bunch, scattering them all. Finally he grew tired of their cowardice and started for home.
When he had come to within a half mile or so of home he saw an old shaggy buffalo standing by a large boulder, rubbing on it first one horn and then the other. On coming up close to him, the boy saw that the bull was so old he could hardly see, and his horns so blunt that he could have rubbed them for a year on that boulder and not sharpened them so as to hurt anyone.
“What are you doing here, grandfather?”
asked the boy.
“I am sharpening my horns for the war,”
said the bull.
asked the boy.
“Haven’t you heard,”
said the old bull, who was so near sighted he did not recognize Stone boy.
“The chief’s twins were killed by Stone boy, who ran them over a cut bank purposely, and the chief has ordered all of his buffalo to gather here, and when they arrive we are going to kill Stone boy and his mother and his uncles.”
“Is that so? When is the war to commence?”
“In five days from now we will march upon the uncles and trample and gore them all to death.”
“Well, grandfather, I thank you for your information, and in return will do you a favor that will save you so much hard work on your blunt horns.”
So saying he drew a long arrow from his quiver and strung his bow, attached the arrow to the string and drew the arrow half way back. The old bull, not seeing what was going on, and half expecting some kind of assistance in his horn sharpening process, stood perfectly still.
Thus spoke Stone boy:
“Grandfather, you are too old to join in a war now, and besides if you got mixed up in that big war party you might step in a hole or stumble and fall and be trampled to death. That would be a horrible death, so I will save you all that suffering by just giving you this.”
At this word he pulled the arrow back to the flint head and let it fly. True to his aim, the arrow went in behind the old bull’s foreleg, and with such force was it sent that it went clear through the bull and stuck into a tree two hundred feet away.
Walking over to the tree, he pulled out his arrow. Coolly straightening his arrow between his teeth and sighting it for accuracy, he shoved it back into the quiver with its brothers, exclaiming:
“I guess, grandpa, you won’t need to sharpen your horns for Stone boy and his uncles.”
Upon his arrival home he told his uncles to get to work building three stockades with ditches between and make the ditches wide and deep so they will hold plenty of buffalo.
“The fourth fence I will build myself,”
The brothers got to work early and worked until very late at night. They built three corrals and dug three ditches around the hut, and it took them three days to complete the work. Stone boy hadn’t done a thing towards building his fence yet, and there were only two days more left before the charge of the buffalo would commence. Still the boy didn’t seem to bother himself about the fence. Instead he had his mother continually cutting arrow sticks, and as fast as she could bring them he would shape them, feather and head them.
So by the time his uncles had their fences and corrals finished he had a thousand arrows finished for each of his uncles. The last two days they had to wait, the uncles joined him and they finished several thousand more arrows. The evening before the fifth day he told his uncles to put up four posts, so they could use them as seats from which to shoot.
While they were doing this, Stone boy went out to scout and see how things looked. At daylight he came hurriedly in saying,
“You had better get to the first corral; they are coming.”
“You haven’t built your fence, nephew.
” Whereupon Stone boy said:
“I will build it in time; don’t worry, uncle.”
The dust on the hillsides rose as great clouds of smoke from a forest fire. Soon the leaders of the charge came in sight, and upon seeing the timber stockade they gave forth a great snort or roar that fairly shook the earth. Thousands upon thousands of mad buffalo charged upon the little fort. The leaders hit the first stockade and it soon gave way. The maddened buffalo pushed forward by the thousands behind them; plunged forward, only to fall into the first ditch and be trampled to death by those behind them. The brothers were not slow in using their arrows, and many a noble beast went down before their deadly aim with a little flint pointed arrow buried deep in his heart.
The second stockade stood their charge a little longer than did the first, but finally this gave way, and the leaders pushed on through, only to fall into the second ditch and meet a similar fate to those in the first. The brothers commenced to look anxiously towards their nephew, as there was only one more stockade left, and the second ditch was nearly bridged over with dead buffalo, with the now thrice maddened buffalo attacking the last stockade more furiously than before, as they could see the little hut through the openings in the corral.
“Come in, uncles,”
shouted Stone boy. They obeyed him, and stepping to the center he said:
“Watch me build my fence.”
Suiting the words, he took from his belt an arrow with a white stone fastened to the point and fastening it to his bow, he shot it high in the air. Straight up into the air it went, for two or three thousand feet, then seemed to stop suddenly and turned with point down and descended as swiftly as it had ascended. Upon striking the ground a high stone wall arose, enclosing the hut and all who were inside. Just then the buffalo broke the last stockade only to fill the last ditch up again. In vain did the leaders butt the stone wall. They hurt themselves, broke their horns and mashed their snouts, but could not even scar the wall.
The uncles and Stone boy in the meantime rained arrows of death into their ranks.
When the buffalo chief saw what they had to contend with, he ordered the fight off.
The crier or herald sang out:
“Come away, come away, Stone boy and his uncles will kill all of us.”
So the buffalo withdrew, leaving over two thousand of their dead and wounded on the field, only to be skinned and put away for the feasts of Stone boy and his uncles, who lived to be great chiefs of their own tribe, and whose many relations soon joined them on the banks of Stone Boy Creek.