CHAPTER XIV. FOLK-LORE OF BLACKFEET.
The folk-lore of the Blackfeet is very voluminous and full of humour. Of course, as in other tribes, superstition and enchantment make up the basis of their stories; and it will be noticed by the student of their traditions, that there is that same marked similarity to those related in the lodges of widely separated tribes, indicating a common origin for them all. Two of the more interesting of these tales are "The Lost Children" and "The Wolf-Man."
Once a camp of people stopped on the bank of a river. There were but a few lodges of them. One day the little children in the camp crossed the river to play on the other side. For some time they stayed near the bank, and then they went up over a little hill and found a bed of sand and gravel; and there they played for a long time.
There were eleven of these children. Two of them were daughters of the chief of the camp, and the smaller of these wanted the best of everything. If any child found a pretty stone she would try to take it for herself. The other children did not like this, and they began to tease the little girl, and to take her things away from her. Then she got angry and began to cry, and the more she cried the more the children teased her; so at last she and her sister left the others and went back to camp.
When they got there they told their father what the other children had done to them, and this made the chief very angry. He thought for a little while and then got up and went out of the lodge, and called aloud, so that everybody might hear, saying: "Listen! listen! Your children have teased my child and made her cry. Now we will move away and leave them behind. If they come back before we get started they shall be killed. If they follow us and overtake the camp they shall be killed. If the father and mother of any one of them take them into their lodge I will kill that father and mother. Hurry now, hurry and pack up, so that we can go. Everybody tear down the lodges as quickly as you can."
When the people heard this they felt very sorry, but they had to do as the chief said; so they tore down the lodges and quickly packed the dog travois, and started off. They packed in such a hurry that they left many little things lying in camp - knives and awls, bone needles and moccasins.
The little children played about in the sand for a long time, but at last they began to get hungry; and one little girl said to the others, "I will go back to the camp and get some dried meat and bring it here, so that we may eat." And she started to go to the camp. When she came to the top of the hill and looked across the river she saw that there were no lodges there, and did not know what to think of it. She called down to the children and said, "The camp is gone"; but they did not believe her, and went on playing. She kept on calling and at last some of them came to her, and then all saw that it was as she had said. They went down to the river and crossed it, and went to where the lodges had stood. When they got there they saw on the ground the things that had been left out in the packing; and as each child saw and knew something that had belonged to its own parents it cried, and sang a little song, saying: "Mother, here is your bone needle; why did you leave your children?" "Father, here is your arrow; why did you leave your children?" It was very mournful, and they all cried.
There was among them a little girl who had on her back her baby brother, whom she loved dearly. He was very young, a nursing child, and already he was hungry and beginning to fret. This little girl said to the others: "We do not know why they have gone, but we know they have gone. We must follow the trail of the camp and try to catch up with them." So the children started to follow the camp. They travelled on all day; and just at night they saw a little lodge near the trail. They had heard the people talk of a bad old woman who killed and ate people, and some of the children thought that this old woman might live here; and they were afraid to go to the lodge. Others said: "Perhaps some one lives here who has a good heart. We are very tired and very hungry, and have nothing to eat, and no place to keep warm. Let us go to this lodge."
They went to it; and when they went in they saw an old woman sitting by the fire. She spoke kindly to them, and asked them where they were travelling; and they told her that the camp had moved on and left them, and that they were trying to find their people, that they had nothing to eat, and were tired and hungry. The old woman fed them and told them to sleep there to-night, and to-morrow they could go on and find their people. "The camp," she said, "passed here to-day when the sun was low. They have not gone far. To-morrow you will overtake them." She spread some robes on the ground and said: "Now lie here and sleep. Lie side by side with your heads towards the fire, and when morning comes you can go on your journey." The children lay down and soon slept.