Dakota - Legends of the Origins of the Buffalo Ceremony
Oglala Division of the Teton Dakota
(Told by Antoin Herman, a mixed-blood Oglala.)
Iktomi, wandering in the west, came to the tipi of Tatanka who invited him into his lodge and gave him an abundance of food. Then Iktomi said, "My friend, you are large and strong, and very wise, while I am small and weak, but I am also very wise. I am often very hungry and if you will teach me the good things you eat to keep you so fat, I will teach you many wonderful things." Then Tatanka said, "Buffalo grass is very good. That is what I eat to keep me fat." Iktomi said, "Sage is very good to eat and it Will make you fatter." Then Tatanka knew Chat Iktomi was trying to play a trick on him, for he knew that sage is a bitter medicine, so he said to himself, "I will think well on what Iktomi says to me." Iktomi said, "My friend, let us prove that our hearts are good towards each other. I will tell you what I fear more than anything else and you tell me what you fear the most."
Tatanka said , "How." Iktomi said, "I am the oldest, therefore you should tell first." Tatanka feared that Iktomi wished to play a trick on him, so he said, "I fear more than anything else to be shot by an arrow in the forehead, because the breath of my life is in my forehead and my mysterious Power lies in my horns which grow from my forehead." Then Iktomi said, "My mysterious power lies in my hair, and I fear more than anything else to have my hair broken, for that would kill me." Soon after this Iktomi saw a lone hunter and said to him, "My friend, are you very hungry?" The hunter said, "I am very hungry." Iktomi said, "If you will divide the fat meat with me I will tell you how to kill Tatanka." The hunter said "How?" Iktomi said, "Hide yourself on this trail and I will bring Tatanka near you when you must shoot an arrow into his forehead and that will kill him." The hunter hid himself on the trail and Iktomi went to Tatanka and said to him, "My friend, I have found where there is a great plenty of buffalo grass. Come with me and I will show it to you."
Tatanka followed Iktomi, watching him closely, and trying to learn what trick he was about to play. Soon they came to Where the hunter was hidden, and he shot an arrow into Tatanka's forehead. But. Tatanka had been performing his ceremony in a wet wallow and the hair on his forehead was thickly matted with mud which had dried hard, so the arrow did him no harm.
When he saw what the hunter had done he said to Iktomi, "This is the trick that you have played on me. Because you have tried to have me killed I will chew your hair and kill you." So he began to chew Iktomi's hair. Iktomi screamed and acted as if he suffered much, and after a little time he fell down as if he were dead. Then Tatanka said to the hunter, "Iktomi played a trick on you; for he knew that if you wounded me I would gore you to death. Let us be friends. I will do something for you to show you that my heart is good toward you." The hunter said, "How. Iktomi has fooled my people very often and I am glad he is dead. To show you that my heart is good toward you I will do something for you." Tatanka said, "You may do this. Shoot an arrow where I ask you. What can I do for you?" The hunter said, "Teach me the ceremony you perform in the wallow." Iktomi jumped up and said, "I want to be friend to each of you." Tatanka said to the hunter, "Shoot an arrow through his heart." Tatanka said to the hunter, "Hereafter you may wear a circle of red paint over your heart as a sign that you are a good hunter. Whenever a hunter kills an animal by shooting it through the heart he will be entitled to wear such a circle as a sign of honor. Go to your camp and seek a vision, and I will tell you how to perform the ceremony.
The hunter returned to his camp and asked a wise Shaman to help him in seeking a vision. So the Shaman went into the sweatlodge with him and used powerful medicine and mysterious incantations and told him he must purify himself by going into the sweatlodge four times. Then he must go naked and alone to a high hill, taking with him only a robe, a pipe, and willow bark to smoke. There he must invoke the Sun, Maka, Inyan, and Wakan Ska. Then he must call the spirit of Tatanka, who would tell him what to do. The hunter did as the Shaman had instructed him and when he had invoked the four great mysteries he covered himself with the robe and lay on the ground with his face covered.
He offered the smoke of the pipe to the spirit of Tatanka and then called it to help him as it had promised. A great white buffalo came and said to him, "What do you want more than any other thing?" He said, "I am a young man and I want more than anything else, a good woman, one who win be industrious, hospitable, and virtuous, and who will bear me children." The buffalo said to him, "I will teach you my ceremony and show you how to perform it. A girl is good. She has not yet formed her habits. When she has her first menstrual flow she then becomes a woman. At that time she is very mysterious and is susceptible to the influences of the spirits. I will teach you how to drive the evil influences away and how to invoke the good influences so that she may become a good woman. When a girl has her first menstrual flow her family and her friends should give a feast. They should choose a wise Shaman who will teach her how to be hospitable, industrious, and virtuous. He will invoke my spirit as you have invoked it. He must first burn sage to drive away Iktomi and the spirit of the coyote and all evil influences. He must burn sweetgrass to please the good spirits. The first menstrual flow of a woman is powerful for good and evil, but she must not destroy it. She must place it where it may be known what it is and where animals cannot get at it. When she has so placed the blood from her flow, then In y ceremony may be performed over her. The Shaman will drive away the evil influences and invoke the good influences on that day. He will sing mysterious songs and teach mysterious things. He will sing this song first:--
“A man coming from the west.
A man coming from the west.
Listen to him.
A man coming from the west.
Speaking he says mysterious things.
Listen to him.”
All the girl's family and all her friends should listen to the Shaman and the girl should remember what he says."
The hunter returned to his camp and told the Shaman what the white buffalo had said. They called the people together and performed the Buffalo ceremony as the white buffalo had taught the hunter to do. The following is a liberal translation of another version of the same legend.
Iktomi was very hungry. He schemed, to kill a bull buffalo, so as to get plenty of fat meat. He said to the bull, "You are fat in the summer and you are lean in the winter. I will show you what to eat so you will be fat all the time. The bull knew that Iktomi would play a prank, so he agreed, but said that Iktomi must eat first. Iktomi showed wild hyacinth and ate of it. He began to swell. He said, "See how fat it makes me." The buffalo said, "You are poisoned and wish to poison us." Then he gored Iktomi through the stomach. He left him as dead, but he only let the wind out of Iktomi's stomach. He was well again. The bull saw this. He said to a hunter, "My friend, if you will do something for me I will do something for you." The hunter agreed. The buffalo said, "Hide and I will bring Iktomi. When he is near you must shoot an arrow through his heart." When they came near the hunter shot an arrow through the heart of Iktomi. Iktomi said, "This is an evil thing you have done; no one will believe me when they see the arrow in my heart." So the hunter pitied him and drew the arrow out. The blood flowed and made a red circle around the wound. Iktomi said that ever after when a hunter shot a bull buffalo through the heart he shall wear a red circle around his heart. The bull then said to the hunter, "What do you want?" The hunter said, "I want a good woman who will bear many children." The buffalo said, "I perform the ceremony in the wallow. I will show you how to perform this ceremony to make all your women good." The buffalo showed the hunter how to perform the Buffalo ceremony when a girl first lives alone. This makes the influences good. If she does as they influence she will be good. Good hunters will desire her. Brave warriors will desire her. It was long ago when the buffalo bull showed how to perform the buffalo ceremony.