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INDIAN WHY STORIES



WHY THE INDIANS WHIP THE BUFFALO-BERRIES FROM THE BUSHES

The Indian believes that all things live
again; that all were created by one and
the same power; that nothing was created in
vain; and that in the life beyond the grave he
will know all things that he knew here. In
that other world he expects to make his living
easier, and not suffer from hunger or cold;
therefore, all things that die must go to his
heaven, in order that he may be supplied with
the necessities of life.

The sun is not the Indian's God, but a per-
sonification of the Deity; His greatest mani-
festation; His light.

The Indian believes that to each of His crea-
tions God gave some peculiar power, and that
the possessors of these special favors are His
lieutenants and keepers of the several special
attributes; such as wisdom, cunning, speed,
and the knowledge of healing wounds. These
wonderful gifts, he knew, were bestowed as
favors by a common God, and therefore he re-
vered these powers, and, without jealousy, paid
tribute thereto.

The bear was great in war, because before
the horse came, he would sometimes charge the
camps and kill or wound many people. Al-
though many arrows were sent into his huge
carcass, he seldom died. Hence the Indian was
sure that the bear could heal his wounds.
That the bear possessed a great knowledge of
roots and berries, the Indian knew, for he often
saw him digging the one and stripping the oth-
ers from the bushes. The buffalo, the beaver,
the wolf, and the eagle--each possessed strange
powers that commanded the Indian's admira-
tion and respect, as did many other things in
creation.

If about to go to war, the Indian did not
ask his God for aid--oh, no. He realized that
God made his enemy, too; and that if He de-
sired that enemy's destruction, it would be ac-
complished without man's aid. So the Indian
sang his song to the bear, prayed to the bear,
and thus invoked aid from a brute, and not his
God, when he sought to destroy his fellows.

Whenever the Indian addressed the Great
God, his prayer was for life, and life alone. He
is the most religious man I have ever known,
as well as the most superstitious; and there are
stories dealing with his religious faith that are
startling, indeed.

"It is the wrong time of year to talk about
berries," said War Eagle, that night in the
lodge, "but I shall tell you why your mothers
whip the buffalo-berries from the bushes. OLD-
man was the one who started it, and our people
have followed his example ever since. Ho!
OLD-man made a fool of himself that day.

"It was the time when buffalo-berries are
red and ripe. All of the bushes along the rivers
were loaded with them, and our people were
about to gather what they needed, when OLD-
man changed things, as far as the gathering
was concerned.

"He was travelling along a river, and hungry,
as he always was. Standing on the bank of
that river, he saw great clusters of red, ripe
buffalo-berries in the water. They were larger
than any berries he had ever seen, and he
said:

"'I guess I will get those berries. They look
fine, and I need them. Besides, some of the
people will see them and get them, if I don't.'

"He jumped into the water; looked for the
berries; but they were not there. For a time
Old-man stood in the river and looked for the
berries, but they were gone.

"After a while he climbed out on the bank
again, and when the water got smooth once
more there were the berries--the same berries,
in the same spot in the water.

"'Ho!--that is a funny thing. I wonder
where they hid that time. I must have those
berries!' he said to himself.

"In he went again--splashing the water like
a Grizzly Bear. He looked about him and the
berries were gone again. The water was rip-
pling about him, but there were no berries at
all. He felt on the bottom of the river but
they were not there.

"'Well,' he said, 'I will climb out and
watch to see where they come from; then I
shall grab them when I hit the water next
time.'

"He did that; but he couldn't tell where
the berries came from. As soon as the water
settled and became smooth--there were the
berries--the same as before. Ho!--OLD-man
was wild; he was angry, I tell you. And in he
went flat on his stomach! He made an awful
splash and mussed the water greatly; but there
were no berries.

"'I know what I shall do. I will stay right
here and wait for those berries; that is what
I shall do'; and he did.

"He thought maybe somebody was looking
at him and would laugh, so he glanced along
the bank. And there, right over the water, he
saw the same bunch of berries on some tall
bushes. Don't you see? OLD-man saw the
shadow of the berry-bunch; not the berries.
He saw the red shadow-berries on the water;
that was all, and he was such a fool he didn't
know they were not real.

"Well, now he was angry in truth. Now he
was ready for war. He climbed out on the
bank again and cut a club. Then he went at
the buffalo-berry bushes and pounded them till
all of the red berries fell upon the ground--
till the branches were bare of berries.

"'There,' he said, 'that's what you get for
making a fool of the man who made you. You
shall be beaten every year as long as you live,
to pay for what you have done; you and your
children, too.'

"That is how it all came about, and that is
why your mothers whip the buffalo-berry bushes
and then pick the berries from the ground.
Ho!"

 


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