A Native American Tale: Blackfoot (1892)
Author: George Bird Grinnell
There was once a man who had two bad wives. They had no shame. The man
thought if he moved away where there were no other people, he might teach
these women to become good, so he moved his lodge away off on the prairie.
Near where they camped was a high butte, and every evening about sundown,
the man would go up on top of it, and look all over the country to see
where the buffalo were feeding, and if any enemies were approaching. There
was a buffalo skull on the hill, which he used to sit on.
“This is very lonesome,” said one woman to the other, one day. “We have no
one to talk with nor to visit.”
“Let us kill our husband,” said the other. “Then we will go back to our
relations and have a good time.”
Early in the morning, the man went out to hunt, and as soon as he was out
of sight, his wives went up on top of the butte. There they dug a deep pit,
and covered it over with light sticks, grass, and dirt, and placed the
buffalo skull on top.
In the afternoon they saw their husband coming home, loaded down with meat
he had killed. So they hurried to cook for him. After eating, he went up on
the butte and sat down on the skull. The slender sticks gave way, and he
fell into the pit. His wives were watching him, and when they saw him
disappear, they took down the lodge, packed everything on the dog travois,
and moved off, going toward the main camp. When they got near it, so that
the people could hear them, they began to cry and mourn.
“Why is this?” they were asked. “Why are you mourning? Where is your
“He is dead,” they replied. “Five days ago he went out to hunt, and he
never came back.” And they cried and mourned again.
When the man fell into the pit, he was hurt. After a while he tried to get
out, but he was so badly bruised he could not climb up. A wolf, travelling
along, came to the pit and saw him, and pitied him. _Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!
Ah-h-w-o-o-o-o!_ he howled, and when the other wolves heard him they all
came running to see what was the matter. There came also many coyotes,
badgers, and kit-foxes.
“In this hole,” said the wolf, “is my find. Here is a fallen-in man. Let us
dig him out, and we will have him for our brother.”
They all thought the wolf spoke well, and began to dig. In a little while
they had a hole close to the man. Then the wolf who found him said, “Hold
on; I want to speak a few words to you.” All the animals listening, he
continued, “We will all have this man for our brother, but I found him, so
I think he ought to live with us big wolves.” All the others said that this
was well; so the wolf went into the hole, and tearing down the rest of the
dirt, dragged the almost dead man out. They gave him a kidney to eat, and
when he was able to walk a little, the big wolves took him to their
home. Here there was a very old blind wolf, who had powerful medicine. He
cured the man, and made his head and hands look like those of a wolf. The
rest of his body was not changed.
In those days the people used to make holes in the pis’kun walls and set
snares, and when wolves and other animals came to steal meat, they were
caught by the neck. One night the wolves all went down to the pis’kun to
steal meat, and when they got close to it, the man-wolf said: “Stand here a
little while. I will go down and fix the places, so you will not be
caught.” He went on and sprung all the snares; then he went back and called
the wolves and others,–the coyotes, badgers, and foxes,–and they all went
in the pis’kun and feasted, and took meat to carry home.
In the morning the people were surprised to find the meat gone, and their
nooses all drawn out. They wondered how it could have been done. For many
nights the nooses were drawn and the meat stolen; but once, when the wolves
went there to steal, they found only the meat of a scabby bull, and the
man-wolf was angry, and cried out: “Bad-you-give-us-o-o-o!
The people heard him, and said: “It is a man-wolf who has done all this. We
will catch him.” So they put pemmican and nice back fat in the pis’kun, and
many hid close by. After dark the wolves came again, and when the man-wolf
saw the good food, he ran to it and began eating. Then the people all
rushed in and caught him with ropes and took him to a lodge. When they got
inside to the light of the fire, they knew at once who it was. They said,
“This is the man who was lost.”
“No,” said the man, “I was not lost. My wives tried to kill me. They dug a
deep hole, and I fell into it, and I was hurt so badly that I could not get
out; but the wolves took pity on me and helped me, or I would have died
When the people heard this, they were angry, and they told the man to do
“You say well,” he replied. “I give those women to the _I-kun-uh’-kah-tsi;_
they know what to do.”
After that night the two women were never seen again.
Photo Credit: Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s ‘The North American Indian’: the Photographic Images, 2001. (original source) The Chipewyan. The Western woods Cree. The Sarsi [portfolio] ; plate no. 642 Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1928.