A Sioux/Dakota myth from Clark Wissler,ís Some Dakota Myths, published in the Journal of American Folklore 20 (Jan-Mar 1907), 195-206.
Read an Overview by Avi Frishman
Read an Overview by Shantala Paul
Once a man lived with his two wives and a brother. One day the brother went out to hunt, and as he was coming back he shot an owl, which he brought home with him. As he was coming up toward the brother's tepee, his sister-in-law met him and asked for the owl. The brother refused to give it to her. Then she cried. She took a sharp stone, scratched her face and thighs, and came before her husband in that condition. She related that her brother-in-law had inflicted these wounds trying to lie with her. This made her husband very angry. So he sent for a friend, and directed him to take his brother out to an island and leave him there. The friend did this, and when he returned received the woman who caused the trouble for his wife.
The brother lived alone on the island. He could find nothing to eat but rose berries. He soon ate all of these, but was still very hungry. One day, while he was sleeping, he heard a noise near him, and, looking down, saw three wild turnips pushing up from the ground. He took these and they supplied him with food for several days. But at last they were eaten, and he became very hungry again. One day, while he was sleeping, he heard a noise, and, looking around, saw a small animal. He caught this animal, took out his paint bag, and painted him, praying to him for some kind of power to get to the mainland. Then he released the animal. It at once plunged into the lake, disappeared under the water, and presently there arose in its place a very large animal with large horns. This monster addressed the brother, directed him to climb upon his back and take hold of his horns. "Now," said the monster, "I shall take you to the shore, but you must watch the sky, and if you see a cloud you must tell me." So they started out, the man holding the monster's horns. When they were near the shore, the brother saw a cloud. Now the brother was afraid that if he told the monster about the cloud, the monster would dive into the water and he would be drowned. So he kept still and said nothing about the cloud. Just as they reached the shore, and the brother sprang off on dry land, the thunder came down from the cloud and killed the monster.
As the brother walked on he heard some women cry. They said, "Our grandfather is killed! Our grandfather is killed!" Looking around, the brother finally made out that the noise came from a buffalo skull lying on the ground. Looking inside, he saw a great many mice. "What are you doing in there?" he said. Then he took them out and killed all of them.
Then the brother went on his way, and presently came to a lodge where an old woman lived. As soon as the old woman saw him she cried out, "Oh! My son, my lost son!" She called the young man inside and cooked some meat for him. Now the brother was very sleepy, but was suspicious of the woman, so he lay quietly and watched. After a while the woman took some paint and began to rub it on one of her legs. As she did so, the leg became exceedingly large. This was the way the old woman killed people. While she was doing this, the brother sprang upon her and stabbed her with a crane's bill, which he always carried with him. The old woman screamed, and the brother sprang out of the lodge as quickly as possible. Presently he came back, and, peeping in, saw the body of the old woman lying in the fire. Then he gathered together much wood and threw it into the fire. In this way he burned up, not only the body of the old woman, but the entire lodge. If he had not done this, women would still have the power to increase the size and the strength of their legs to such an extent that they could kill men with them.
After this he went on his journey and came to another lodge. Looking in, he saw a woman. When she saw him, she invited him to come in, and began to cook some meat for him. As he sat watching her, he saw that she had a hole in the top of her head. As she cooked she took out some of her brains and mixed them with the meat in the pot. Now the brother called up his friend the gopher. This was the animal that helped him to get away from the island. The brother directed the gopher to watch the woman at her cooking, and if the food was dangerous, to gnaw a hole in the bottom of the pot so that the soup might run down into the ground. Then the brother lay down as if to sleep. The gopher gnawed a hole in the bottom of the pot so that the food all ran down into his hole in the ground. Then the brother pretended to eat from the pot. Then he lay down on his bed as if in deep sleep. This is the way woman killed people. She mixed poisonous soup for them, and after they had eaten they became unconscious and died. Now the brother watched the woman, and when she lay down to sleep he arose, and taking a hot stone from the fire, dropped it into the hole in her head. The woman sprang up, the hot stone sputtered and sizzled. The woman reeled, screamed, and fell down dead. Then the brother threw the body into the fire and burned it up, together with all her belongings. If he had not done this, women would still mix the poison of their brains with the food they cook.
As the brother went on again he came to another lodge. An old woman was looking out, and he heard her say, "There comes a man." A voice from the inside said, "I have seen such a thing before." The old woman invited him to enter. Fine food was set before him. There were two beautiful girls there. Each had a bed on opposite sides of the lodge. When night came each invited the brother to bed. As he did not move, the girls fell to disputing as to which he would choose. At last the brother settled the argument by going to one of the beds. Now these girls had teeth in the vagina, and when they were in erythrism the teeth could be heard grating upon each other. The brother heard the noise. He took his crane's bill, thrust it into the vagina and upward, killing the girl. Then he went over to the other bed and did the same. Soon he went on his way. If he had not done this to these girls, all women would be dangerous to their lovers.
Then he continued his journey, and presently saw a cloud on the top of a hill. As he came on, he turned about and saw many animals following him. They were of all kinds, and he was afraid. Then he saw there was a woman with them. He threw away his clothes, painted hi body with mud, and, taking a cane, walked along bent over like an old person. Then the woman called all the animals back saying, "You must not hurt such an old man." Then the woman spoke to the brother and told him that he would find some old weak animals in the rear that would serve him as food. When the man went to look for them, he found nothing but skunks, porcupines, and badgers. He killed some of them, however, and ate them. This is the way that people came to eat the flesh of animals.
As he went on he came to another lodge. He saw a poor woman going out for water. When he came up to her, he saw that she was his sister. She told him that her husband was very cruel to her and always beat her when he came home. Now the brother told her to go in to her husband as before and say nothing. The brother stood outside. When the man began to beat the woman he sprang into the lodge and struck down the cruel husband. Because he did this it has come to pass that cruel husbands are punished by their wife's relatives,
As he continued on his way, he came at last to the camp of his people. His brothers lived here and also his father, who was now very old. They were all glad to see their long-lost brother, and the father was so glad that he died from the excitement. One day the young man went out to hunt and killed a great many buffalo. He killed so many that when the meat was piled up it looked like a hill. Then he returned to the camp, told his people to take their horses and go out for the meat. When they came to the place they found that birds and animals in great numbers had come from every direction to eat the meat. When the people came up the animals fell upon them, and all the people were destroyed. This is why animals now eat the flesh of men.
. . .
Cannupa: the sacred pipe:
Myths and Legends of the Sioux (e-text):
Indian Legends (Zitkala-Sa)
Rats and Mice in Native American Lore:
Native Web Indian Origin Stories
Native American Myths of Creation
Native American Myths: Creation by Women
Oral and Traditional Literature Online