THE STORY OF THE PET CROW
Once upon a time there came to a large village a plague of crows.
So thick were they that the poor women were sorely tried keeping
them out of their tepees and driving them away from their lines of
jerked buffalo meat. Indeed they got so numerous and were such a
great nuisance that the Chief finally gave orders to his camp
criers or heralds to go out among the different camps and announce
the orders of their Chief, that war should be made upon
the crows to extermination; that their nests were to be destroyed
and all eggs broken. The war of extermination was to continue
until not a crow remained, except the youngest found was to be
brought to him alive.
For a week the war on the crows continued. Thousands of dead crows
were brought in daily, and at the end of the week not a bird of
that species could be seen in the neighborhood. Those that escaped
the deadly arrow of the warriors, flew away, never to return to
those parts again.
At the end of the war made upon the crows, there was brought to the
Chief's tepee the youngest found. Indeed, so young was the bird
that it was only the great medicine of the Chief that kept him
alive until he could hop about and find his own food. The Chief
spent most of his time in his lodge teaching the young crow to
understand and talk the language of the tribe. After the crow had
mastered this, the Chief then taught him the languages of the
neighboring tribes. When the crow had mastered these different
languages the chief would send him on long journeys to ascertain
the location of the camps of the different enemies.
When the crow would find a large Indian camp he would alight and
hop about, pretending to be picking up scraps, but really keeping
his ears open for anything he might hear. He would hang around all
day, and at night when they would all gather in the large council
tent (which always stood in the center of the village) to determine
upon their next raid, and plan for a horse stealing trip, Mr. Crow
was always nearby to hear all their plans discussed. He would then
fly away to his master (the Chief) and
tell him all that he had learned.
The Chief would then send a band of his warriors to lie in ambush
for the raiding party, and, as the enemy would not suspect anything
they would go blindly into the pitfall of death thus set for them.
Thus the crow was the scout of this chief, whose
reputation as a Wakan (Holy man) soon reached all of the different
tribes. The Chief's warriors would intercept, ambush and
annihilate every war party headed for his camp.
So, finally learning that they could not make war on this chief's
people unbeknown to them, they gave up making war on this
particular band. When meat was running low in the camp this chief
would send the crow out to look for buffalo. When he discovered
a herd he would return and report to his master; then the chief
would order out the hunters and they would return laden with meat.
Thus the crow kept the camp all the time informed of everything
that would be of benefit to them.
One day the crow disappeared, over which there was great grief
among the tribe. A week had passed away, when Mr. Crow reappeared.
There was great rejoicing upon his return, but the crow was
downcast and would not speak, but sat with a drooping head perched
at the top of the chief's tepee, and refused all food that was
offered to him.
In vain did the chief try to get the crow to tell him the cause of
his silence and seeming grief. The crow would not speak until the
chief said: "Well, I will take a few of my warriors and go out and
try to ascertain what has happened to cause you to act
as you do."
Upon hearing this, the crow said: "Don't go. I dreaded to tell you
what I know to be a fact, as I have heard it from some great
medicine men. I was traveling over the mountains west of here,
when I spied three old men sitting at the top of the highest
peak. I very cautiously dropped down behind a rock and listened to
their talk. I heard your name mentioned by one of them, then your
brother's name was mentioned. Then the third, who was the oldest,
said: 'in three days from today the lightning will kill those two
brothers whom all the nations fear.'"
Upon hearing what the crow stated the tribe became grief stricken.
On the morning of the third day the chief ordered a nice tepee
placed upon the highest point, far enough away from the village, so
that the peals of thunder would not alarm the babies of
A great feast was given, and after the feasting was over there came
in six young maidens leading the war horses of the two brothers.
The horses were painted and decorated as if for a charge on the
enemy. One maiden walked ahead of the chief's horse bearing in her
hands the bow and arrows of the great warrior. Next came two
maidens, one on either side of the prancing war steed, each holding
a rein. Behind the chief's horse came the fourth maiden. Like the
first, she bore in her hands the bow and arrows of the chief's
brother. Then the fifth and sixth maidens each holding a rein,
walked on either side of the prancing horse of the chief's brother.
They advanced and circled the large gathering and finally
stopped directly in front of the two brothers, who immediately
arose and taking their bows and arrows vaulted lightly upon their
war steeds, and singing their death song, galloped off amid a great
cry of grief from the people who loved them most dearly.
Heading straight for the tepee that had been placed upon the
highest point, adjacent to the village, they soon arrived at their
destination and, dismounting from their horses, turned, waved their
hands to their band, and disappeared within the tepee. Scarcely
had they entered the lodge when the rumblings of distant thunder
could be heard. Nearer, and nearer, came the sound, until at last
the storm overspread the locality in all its fury. Flash upon
flash of lightning burst forth from the heavens. Deafening peals
of thunder followed each flash. Finally, one flash brighter than
any of the others, one peal more deafening than those preceding it,
and the storm had passed.
Sadly the warriors gathered together, mounted their horses and
slowly rode to the tepee on the high point. Arriving there they
looked inside the lodge and saw the two brothers lying cold and
still in death, each holding the lariat of his favorite war horse.
The horses also lay dead side by side in front of the tent. (From
this came the custom of killing the favorite horse of a dead
warrior at the burial of the owner).
As the Indians sadly left the hill to return home, they heard a
noise at the top of the tepee, and looking up they saw the crow
sitting on one of the splintered tepee poles. He was crying most
pitifully, and as they rode off he flew up high in the air and his
pitiful "caw" became fainter and fainter till at last they heard it
no more. And from that day, the story goes, no crow ever goes near
the village of that band of Indians.