Tales of the North American Indians
The people of a certain region were living together in a very large camp. Their chief had two beautiful daughters of marriageable age. Many young men had proposed to them, but all had been refused. The chief said, “Whom do my daughters wish to marry? They have refused all the men.” Sun and Star, who were brother and sister, lived in the sky, and had seen all that had happened. Sun said to his sister, “The chief’s daughters have rejected the suits of all our friends. Let us go down and arrange this matter! Let us try these girls!” They made clothes, and at night they descended to earth.
During the darkness they erected a lodge on the outskirts of the camp. It had the appearance of being very old, and of belonging to poor people. The poles were old and badly selected. The covering was tattered and patched, and made of tule mats. The floor was strewn with old dried brush and grass, and the beds were of the same material. Their blankets consisted of old mats and pieces of old robes; and their kettles and cups were of bark, poorly made. Star had assumed the form of a decrepit old woman dressed in rags; and Sun, that of a dirty boy with sore eyes.
On the following morning the women of the camp saw the lodge, and peered in. When they returned, they reported, “Some very poor people arrived during the night, and are camped in an old mat lodge. We saw two persons inside,–a dirty, sore-eyed boy; and his grandmother, a very old woman in ragged clothes.”
Now, the chief resolved to find husbands for his daughters. He sent out his speaker to announce that in four days there would be a shooting-contest open to all the men, and the best marksman would get his daughters for wives. The young men could not sleep for eagerness. On the third day the chief’s speaker announced, “To-morrow morning every one shall shoot. Each one will have two shots. An eagle will perch on the tall tree yonder; and whoever kills it shall have the chief’s daughters.” Coyote was there and felt happy. He thought he would win the prize. On the following morning an eagle was seen soaring in the air, and there was much excitement as it began to descend. It alighted on a tree which grew near one end of the camp. Then the young men tried to shoot it. Each man had two arrows. The previous evening Sun had said to Star, “Grandmother, make a bow and arrows for me.” She said, “What is the use? You cannot shoot. You never used bow and arrows.” He replied, “I am going to try. I shall take part in the contest to-morrow. I heard what the chief said.” She took pity on him, and went to a red willow-bush, cut a branch for a bow, and some twigs for arrows. She strung the bow with a poor string, and did not feather the arrows.
Coyote, who was afraid some one else might hit the bird, shouted, “I will shoot first. Watch me hit the eagle.” His arrow struck the lowest branch of the tree and fell down, and the people laughed. He said, “I made a mistake. That was a bad arrow. This one will kill the eagle.” He shot, and the arrow fell short of the first one. He became angry, and pulled other arrows from his quiver. He wanted to shoot them all. The people seized him, and took away his arrows, saying, “You are allowed to shoot twice only.” All the people shot and missed. When the last one had shot, Sun said, “Grandmother, lift the door of the lodge a little, so that I can shoot.” She said, “First get out of bed.” She pulled the lodge mat aside a little, and he shot. The arrow hit the tail of the eagle. The people saw and heard the arrow coming from Dirty-Boy’s lodge, but saw no one shooting it. They wondered. He shot the second arrow, which pierced the eagle’s heart.
Now, Wolf and others were standing near Dirty-Boy’s lodge, and Wolf desired much to claim the prize. He shouted, “I shot the bird from the lodge-door!” and ran to pick it up; but the old woman Star ran faster than he, picked up the bird, and carried it to the chief. She claimed his daughters for her grandson. All the people gathered around, and made fun of Dirty-Boy. They said, “He is bedridden. He is lousy, sore-eyed, and scabby-faced.” The chief was loath to give his daughters to such a person. He knew that Dirty-Boy could not walk. Therefore he said , “To-morrow there shall be another contest. This will be the last one, I cannot break my word. Whoever wins this time shall have my daughters.”
He announced that on the morrow each man should set two traps for fishers an animal very scarce at the place where the camp was located. If any one should catch a fisher one night, then he was to stay in the mountains another day to catch a second one. After that he had to come back. Those who caught nothing the first night had to come home at once. Only two traps were allowed to each man; and two fishers had to be caught,–one a light one, and one a dark one,–and both prime skins. When all the men had gone to the mountains, Sun said to his sister, “Grandmother, make two traps for me.” She answered, “First get out of bed!” However, she had pity on him, and made two deadfalls of willow sticks. She asked him where she should set them; and he said, “One on each side of the lodge-door.”
On the following morning all the men returned by noon; not one of them had caught a fisher. When Star went out, she found two fine fishers in the traps. Now the chief assembled the men to see if any one had caught the fishers. He was glad, because he knew that Dirty-Boy could not walk; and unless he went to the mountains, he had no chance to kill fishers. Just then the old grandmother appeared, dragging the fishers. She said, “I hear you asked for two fishers; here are two that my grandson caught.” She handed them over to him, and then left.
Coyote had boasted that he would certainly catch the fishers. When he went up the mountain, he carried ten traps instead of two. He said, “Whoever heard of setting only two traps? I shall set ten.” He set them all, remained out two nights, but got nothing.
The chief said to his daughters, “You must become the wives of Dirty-Boy. I tried to save you by having two contests; but since I am a great chief, I cannot break my word. Go now, and take up your abode with your husband.” They put on their best clothes and went. On the way they had to pass Raven’s house, and heard the Ravens laughing inside, be cause the girls had to marry Dirty-Boy. The elder sister said, “Let us go in and-see what they are laughing about!” The younger one said, “No, our father told us to go straight to our husband.” The elder one went in, and sat down beside Raven’s eldest son. She became his wife. Like all the other Ravens, he was ugly, and had a big head; but she thought it better to marry him than to become the wife of a dirty, sickly boy.
The younger one went on, entered Dirty-Boy’s lodge, and sat down by his side. The old woman asked her who she was, and why she had come. When the old woman had been told, she said, “Your husband is sick, and soon he will die. He stinks too much. You must not sleep with him. Go back to your father’s lodge every evening; but come here in the daytime, and watch him and attend him.”
Now, the Raven family that lived close by laughed much at the younger daughter of the chief. They were angry because she had not entered their house and married there, as her elder sister had done. To hurt her feelings, they dressed their new daughter-in-law in the finest clothes they had. Her dress was covered with beads, shells, elk’s teeth, and quill-work. They gave her necklaces, and her mother-in-law gave her a finely polished celt of green stone (jade) to hang at her belt. The younger sister paid no attention to this, but returned every morning to help her grandmother-in-law to gather fire-wood, and to attend to her sick husband.
For three days matters remained this way. In the evening of the third day Sun said to his sister, “We will resume our true forms to-night, so that people may see us to-morrow.” That night they transformed themselves.” The old mat lodge became a fine new skin lodge, surpassing those of the Blackfeet and other tribes, richly decorated with ornaments, and with streamers tied to the top and painted. The old bark kettle became a bright copper kettle; and new pretty woven baskets, and embroidered and painted bags, were in the house. The old woman became a fine-looking person of tall figure, with clothes covered with shining stars. Dirty-Boy became a young, handsome man of light complexion. His clothes were covered with shining copper. His hair reached to the ground and shone like the rays of the sun. In the morning the people saw the new lodge, and said, “Some rich chief has arrived, and has camped where the poor people were. He has thrown them out.”
When the girl arrived, she was much surprised to see the transformation. She saw a woman in the door, wearing a long skin dress covered with star pendants, with bright stars in her hair. She addressed her in a familiar voice, saying, “Come in and sit with your husband!” The girl then knew who she was. When she entered, she saw a handsome man reclining, with his head on a beautiful parfleche. His garments and hair were decorated with bright suns. The girl did not recognize him, and looked around. The woman said, “That is your husband; go and sit beside him.” Then she was glad.
Sun took his wife to the copper kettle which stood at the door. It contained a shining liquid. He pushed her head into it, and when the liquid ran down over her hair and body, lines of sparkling small stars formed on her. He told her to empty the kettle. When she did so, the liquid ran to the chief’s lodge, forming a path, as of gold-dust. He said, “This will be your trail when you go to see your father.”