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buffalo painted lodges.
From blackfeet indian stories by george bird grinnell.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
The old lodges of the Piegans were made of buffalo skin and were
painted with pictures of different kinds--birds, or animals, or
trees, or mountains. It is believed that in most cases the first
painter of any lodge was taught how he should paint it in a dream,
but this was not always the case.
Two of the most important lodges in the Blackfeet camp are known as
the [=I]n[)i]sīk[)i]m lodges. Both are painted with figures of
buffalo, one with black buffalo, and the other with yellow buffalo.
Certain of the Inisīkim are kept in these lodges and can be
kept in no others.
This story tells how these two lodges came to be made.
The painters were told what to do long, long ago, "in about the
second generation after the first people."
In those days the old Piegans lived in the north, close to the Red
Deer River. The camp moved, and the lodges were pitched on the
river. One day two old men who were close friends had gone out from
the camp to find some straight cherry shoots with which to make
arrows. After they had gathered their shafts, they sat down on a
high bank by the river and began to peel the bark from the shoots.
The river was high. One of these men was named Weasel Heart and the
As they sat there, Weasel Heart chanced to look down into the water
and saw something. He said to his comrade, "Friend, do you not see
something down there where the water goes around?"
Fisher said, "No; I see nothing except buffalo," for he was looking
across the river to the other side, and not down into the water.
"No," said Weasel Heart; "I do not mean over there on the prairie.
Look down into that deep hole in the river, and you will see a lodge
Fisher looked as he had been told, and saw the lodge.
Weasel Heart said, "There is a lodge painted with black
buffalo." As he spoke thus, Fisher said, "I see another lodge,
standing in front of it." Weasel Heart saw that lodge too--the
The two men wondered at this and could not understand how it could
be, but they were both men of strong hearts, and presently Weasel
Heart said, "Friend, I shall go down to enter that lodge. Do you sit
here and tell me when I get to the place." Then Weasel Heart went up
the river and found a drift-log to support him and pushed it out
into the water, and floated down toward the cut bank. When he had
reached the place where the lodge stood Fisher told him, and he let
go the log and dived down into the water and entered the lodge.
In it he found two persons who owned the lodge, a man and his wife.
The man said to him, "You are welcome," and Weasel Heart sat down.
Then spoke the owner of the lodge saying, "My son, this is my lodge,
and I give it to you. Look well at it inside and outside; and make
your lodge like this. If you do that, it may be a help to you."
Fisher sat a long time waiting for his friend, but at last he
looked down the stream and saw a man on the shore walking toward
him. He came along the bank until he had reached his friend. It was
Fisher said to him, "I have been waiting a long time, and I was
afraid that something bad had happened to you."
Weasel Heart asked him, "Did you see me?"
"I saw you," said Fisher, "when you went into that lodge. Did you,
when you came out of the lodge, see there in the water another lodge
painted with yellow buffalo? Is it still there?"
Weasel Heart said, "I saw it; it is there. Go you into the water as
Then Fisher went up the stream as his friend had gone and entered
the water at the same place and swam down as Weasel Heart had done,
and when Weasel Heart showed him the place he dived down and
disappeared as Weasel Heart had disappeared. He entered the
yellow-painted-buffalo lodge, and his friend saw him go into it.
In the lodge were two persons, a man and his wife. The man said to
him, "You are welcome; sit there." He spoke further, saying, "My
son, you have seen this lodge of mine; I give it to you. Look
carefully at it, inside and outside, and fix up your lodge in that
way. It may be a help to you hereafter." Then Fisher went out.
Weasel Heart waited for his friend as long as Fisher had waited for
him, and when Fisher came out of the water it was at the place where
Weasel Heart had come out. Then the two friends went home to the
When the two had come to a hill near the camp they met a young man,
and by him sent word that the people should make a sweat-house for
them. After the sweat-house had been made, word was sent to them,
and they entered the camp and went into the sweat-house and took a
sweat, and all the time while they were sweating, sand was falling
from their bodies.
Some time after that the people moved camp and went out and killed
buffalo, and these two men made two lodges, and painted them just as
the lodges were painted that they had seen in the river.
These two men had strong power which came to them from the
Once the people wished to cross the river, but the stream was deep
and it was always hard for them to get across. Often the dogs and
the travois were swept away and the people lost many of their
things. At this time the tribe wished to cross, and Fisher and
Weasel Heart said to each other, "The people want to cross the
river, but it is high and they cannot do so. Let us try to make a
crossing, so that it will be easier for them." So Weasel Heart alone
crossed the river and sat on the bank on the other side, and Fisher
sat opposite to him on the bank where the camp was.
Then Fisher said to the people, "Pack up your things now and get
ready to cross. I will make a place where you can cross easily."
Weasel Heart and Fisher filled their pipes and smoked, and then each
started to cross the river. As each stepped into the water, the
river began to go down and the crossing grew more and more shallow.
The people with all their dogs followed close behind Fisher, as he
had told them to do. Fisher and Weasel Heart met in the middle of
the river, and when they met they stepped to one side up the stream
and let the people pass them. Ever since that day this has been a
These lodges came from the Under-water
People--S[=u]īy[=e]-t[)u]pīp[)i]. They were those who had owned them
and who had been kind to Weasel Heart and Fisher.