THE BOUND CHILDREN
There once lived a widow with two children--the elder a daughter
and the younger a son. The widow went in mourning for her husband
a long time. She cut off her hair, let her dress lie untidy on her
body and kept her face unpainted and unwashed.
There lived in the same village a great chief. He had one son just
come old enough to marry. The chief had it known that he wished
his son to take a wife, and all of the young women in the village
were eager to marry the young man. However, he was pleased with
none of them.
Now the widow thought, "I am tired of mourning for my husband and
caring for my children. Perhaps if I lay aside my mourning and
paint myself red, the chief's son may marry me."
So she slipped away from her two children, stole down to the river
and made a bathing place thru the ice. When she had washed away
all signs of mourning, she painted and decked herself and went to
the chief's tepee. When his son saw her, he loved her, and a feast
was made in honor of her wedding.
When the widow's daughter found herself forsaken, she wept
bitterly. After a day or two she took her little brother in her
arms and went to the tepee of an old woman who lived at one end of
the village. The old woman's tumble down tepee was of bark and her
dress and clothing was of old smoke-dried tent cover. But she was
kind to the two waifs and took them in willingly.
The little girl was eager to find her mother. The old woman said
to her: "I suspect your mother has painted her face red. Do not
try to find her. If the chief's son marries her she will not want
to be burdened with you."
The old woman was right. The girl went down to the river, and sure
enough found a hole cut in the ice and about it lay the filth that
the mother had washed from her body. The girl gathered up the
filth and went on. By and by she came to a second hole in the ice.
Here too was filth, but not so much as at the previous place. At
the third hole the ice was clean.
The girl knew now that her mother had painted her face red. She
went at once to the chief's tepee, raised the door flap and went
in. There sat her mother with the chief's son at their wedding
The girl walked up to her mother and hurled the filth in her
"There," she cried, "you who forsake your helpless children and
forget your husband, take that!"
And at once her mother became a hideous old woman.
The girl then went back to the lodge of the old woman, leaving the
camp in an uproar. The chief soon sent some young warriors to
seize the girl and her brother, and they were brought to his tent.
He was furious with anger.
"Let the children be bound with lariats wrapped about their bodies
and let them be left to starve. Our camp will move on," he said.
The chief's son did not put away his wife, hoping she might be
cured in some way and grow young again.
Everybody in camp now got ready to move; but the old woman came
close to the girl and said:
"In my old tepee I have dug a hole and buried a pot with punk and
steel and flint and packs of dried meat. They will tie you up like
a corpse. But before we go I will come with a knife and pretend to
stab you, but I will really cut the rope that binds you so that you
can unwind it from your body as soon as the camp is out of sight
And so, before the camp started, the old woman came to the place
where the two children were bound. She had in her hand a knife
bound to the end of a stick which she used as a lance. She stood
over the children and cried aloud:
"You wicked girl, who have shamed your own mother, you deserve all
the punishment that is given you. But after all I do not want to
let you lie and starve. Far better kill you at once and have done
with it!" and with her stick she stabbed many times, as if to kill,
but she was really cutting the rope.
The camp moved on; but the children lay on the ground until noon
the next day. Then they began to squirm about. Soon the girl was
free, and she then set loose her little brother. They went at once
to the old woman's hut where they found the flint and steel and the
packs of dried meat.
The girl made her brother a bow and arrows and with these he killed
birds and other small game.
The boy grew up a great hunter. They became rich. They built
three great tepees, in one of which were stored rows upon rows of
parfleche bags of dried meat.
One day as the brother went out to hunt, he met a handsome young
stranger who greeted him and said to him:
"I know you are a good hunter, for I have been watching you; your
sister, too, is industrious. Let me have her for a wife. Then you
and I will be brothers and hunt together."
The girl's brother went home and told her what the young stranger
"Brother, I do not care to marry," she answered. "I am now happy
"But you will be yet happier married," he answered, "and the young
stranger is of no mean family, as one can see by his dress and
"Very well, I will do as you wish," she said. So the stranger came
into the tepee and was the girl's husband.
One day as they were in their tent, a crow flew overhead, calling
They who forsook the children have no meat."
The girl and her husband and brother looked up at one another.
"What can it mean?" they asked. "Let us send for Unktomi (the
spider). He is a good judge and he will know."
"And I will get ready a good dinner for him, for Unktomi is always
hungry," added the young wife.
When Unktomi came, his yellow mouth opened with delight at the fine
feast spread for him. After he had eaten he was told what the crow
"The crow means," said Unktomi, "that the villagers and chief who
bound and deserted you are in sad plight. They have hardly
anything to eat and are starving."
When the girl heard this she made a bundle of choicest meat and
called the crow.
"Take this to the starving villagers," she bade him.
He took the bundle in his beak, flew away to the starving village
and dropped the bundle before the chief's tepee. The chief came
out and the crow called loudly:
The children who were forsaken have much meat; those who forsook
them have none."
"What can he mean," cried the astonished villagers.
"Let us send for Unktomi," said one, "he is a great judge; he will
They divided the bundle of meat among the starving people, saving
the biggest piece for Unktomi.
When Unktomi had come and eaten, the villagers told him of the crow
and asked what the bird's words meant.
"He means," said Unktomi, "that the two children whom you forsook
have tepees full of dried meat enough for all the village."
The villagers were filled with astonishment at this news. To find
whether or not it was true, the chief called seven young men and
sent them out to see. They came to the three tepees and there met
the girl's brother and husband just going out to hunt (which
they did now only for sport).
The girl's brother invited the seven young men into the third or
sacred lodge, and after they had smoked a pipe and knocked out the
ashes on a buffalo bone the brother gave them meat to eat, which
the seven devoured greedily. The next day he loaded all seven with
packs of meat, saying:
"Take this meat to the villagers and lead them hither."
While they awaited the return of the young men with the villagers,
the girl made two bundles of meat, one of the best and choicest
pieces, and the other of liver, very dry and hard to eat. After a
few days the camp arrived. The young woman's mother opened the
door and ran in crying: "Oh, my dear daughter, how glad I am to see
you." But the daughter received her coldly and gave her the bundle
of dried liver to eat. But when the old woman who had saved
the children's lives came in, the young girl received her gladly,
called her grandmother, and gave her the package of choice meat
Then the whole village camped and ate of the stores of meat all the
winter until spring came; and withal they were so many, there was
such abundance of stores that there was still much left.