The Old North Trail, by Walter McClintock, , at sacred-texts.com
My meeting with Mad Wolf on the plains.—He proposes to adopt me as his son.—Mad Wolf's camp.—The ceremonial of adoption.—Mad Wolf's prayer.—He directs me to take part in the ceremonial.—Appoints a second ceremonial for giving my Indian name.
ONE afternoon in midsummer, while riding with Siksikakoan across the plains, we met Mad Wolf near Willow Creek. He was alone and signified his desire to speak with me. He was standing with his blanket drawn closely around him. His long hair tinged with gray fell loosely over his shoulders. From his neck hung a medicine whistle made from the wing-bone of an eagle. In his back hair, a single eagle feather stood erect. When I had dismounted, he warmly shook my hand. For a moment, he gazed into my face with eyes as penetrating as those of an eagle. Then, with head erect, he addressed me in a strong and earnest voice.
"The snows of two winters have now passed since you first came to live in my country. I have been watching you continually from the time when you first arrived, and my heart feels warm towards you. I have never taken a son from among the white men, but I now wish to adopt you as my son, because I believe that some day you will become a chief among your people. I am growing old, and it is probable that I will go before you to dwell with the Great Spirit, for you are still a young man. When I am gone you will then be left to help and to advise my people."
Having in a few words made known to Mad Wolf
my willingness to become his son, he waved his hand towards the North, and said:
"My lodge is out there on the plains. It is on the other side of yonder butte, and cannot be seen from here. Come to my lodge to-morrow, when the sun is high. My relatives will be there; I will hold a ceremonial, in which I will paint you with the sacred red paint, and in their presence adopt you as my son."
The developments of subsequent years have enabled me more fully to appreciate Mad Wolf's serious purpose in adopting me as his son. Prompted by the constant misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the Indian by the whites, his purpose was to seek a white man's strong friendship, hoping for an alliance that would be productive of sympathy and fidelity to the welfare of his tribe. He wanted a white representative, who had lived sufficiently long among his
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MAD WOLF (SIYEH).
Upon the day following my meeting with Mad Wolf the sky was overcast. Riding in a northerly direction, I arrived at the ridge pointed out by the chief. I paused on its crest, and looked down upon a small Indian camp. The freshening wind had begun to drive low clouds over the plains, while occasionally a furious gust shook the lodges, firmly anchored by ropes thrown around their tops. The only living thing to be seen
was a coyote, slinking away over a neighbouring butte, and the only sign of human occupation was the slender wisp of blue smoke issuing from the top of Mad Wolf's tipi. During a lull in the wind I heard the subdued and measured sounds of Indians chanting and beating upon drums. As I sat still upon my horse, my mind went back many years, and I pictured to
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LOOKED DOWN ON A SMALL INDIAN CAMP.
myself the days when the ancestors of Mad Wolf and his followers were the rulers of this entire region, and their lodges were numbered by thousands. When the song had ceased I rode down from the ridge and dismounting, raised the door. A small fire was burning in the center, and in the dim light I saw that a large number of Indians were assembled.
"Oki!" (come in), cried Mad Wolf. Upon entering I found myself in a large, well ordered tipi of about
twenty-five feet in diameter. Mad Wolf was seated at the back,—the position of honour. His relatives and friends were on either side, the men to his left, and the women to his right. He greeted me with a warm handshake and said, "Ke-a-e-es-tsa-kos-ach-kit-satope" (spread the robe out for him to sit down). He wore beaded buckskin leggings and moccasins and from his neck was suspended a medicine whistle. He had a noble countenance, and a large and shapely head, the upper part of his body was bare, his shoulders broad and well formed, and his arms strongly developed, he was in every way a magnificent specimen of Indian manhood. From his piercing glance and the firm expression of his mouth, I knew he was accustomed to command. He had a natural dignity of manner, while conducting the ceremonial, that fascinated me, and I found myself intently watching his every movement.
Next to Mad Wolf, and assisting him in the ceremonial, was Natoya Apau (Blessed Weasel). The expression of his face and eyes told me that he had a kind heart and a good disposition. On my left was Morning Plume, who gave me a smile of welcome and was careful of my comfort, spreading a robe for my seat and watching that I should male no mistake during the ceremonial. Beyond him were Isoko-yo-kinni, Double Runner, Stock-stchi, Bear Child, and Many White Horses. The latter was so named because he made a speciality of white horses and would have no other colour in his herds.
To the right of Mad Wolf lay the sacred bundle of the Beaver Medicine. 1 Next to it sat Mad Wolf's wife, Gives-to-the-Sun. From the lodge poles over their heads hung the Medicine Pipe and a raw-hide case
containing the Medicine Bonnet. 1 To the right of Gives-to-the-Sun were women and children completely filling the circle to the doorway of the lodge.
All sat silently gazing into the small fire, for they were about to commence a religious ceremony. Gives-to-the-Sun spoke in a low voice to a young woman, who arose and, bending over the fire, slowly stirred a
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large kettle containing a stew of sarvis berries and tongues. Pointing to her, Mad Wolf explained that she was his daughter who would now become my sister, saying also, "When she was small, the enemy had captured her, but I followed them and, when they were preparing to kill her, I jumped among them and, striking the enemy down on both sides, rescued her. So we named her "Strikes-on-both-sides!"
A large pipe of polished red stone was continually circulating, everyone smoking except the children. The pipe always started from Mad Wolf, who first blew four whiffs to the Sun and four to the Earth, then it was passed to Blessed Weasel on his left, who handed it to me, stem first. After smoking I passed it on to Morning Plume. On its return I handed it to Blessed Weasel, stem first as before, but was corrected by him, with the explanation that, in going towards Mad Wolf, the pipe should have been handed bowl first. No one else seemed to notice this infraction of one of their customs. I was often impressed, in gatherings of the Blackfeet, by the dignified courtesy and genuine nobility of manners on the part of their head men, in passing over, without remark, or notice, any unwitting breach of social or ceremonial observance.
Mad Wolf began the ceremonial by taking a hot coal from the fire with a long forked stick. He placed dried sweet grass upon it and the rising smoke soon filled the lodge with a pleasing fragrance. At this moment the clouds parted in the sky, and the sun came out. The bright rays, streaming down through the top of the lodge, shone upon the ground in front of Mad Wolf. Holding his hands in the sweet smoke of the incense, Mad Wolf passed them along his arms and upon his breast to purify himself, and then chanted:
"To-day, our father (Sun) shines into the lodge, his power is very strong.
"Last night our mother (Moon) shone into the lodge, her power is very strong.
"I pray the Morning Star (their Son) that, when he rises at daybreak, he too will shine in to bless us and to bring us long life."
Mad Wolf and Blessed Weasel together led a chorus in which all joined. The women held aloft their left
hands and closely watched Mad Wolf, who with bent arms held his hands folded on a level with his head. Then passing his hands along his arms alternately, after their manner of a blessing, he finally folded them upon his breast, and chanted:
"Mother Earth have pity on us, and give us food to eat!
"Father, the Sun, bless all our children, and may our paths be straight!"
Taking a sacred stick decorated with red paint, representing a cane, Mad Wolf placed it upon his right and left shoulders in turn, and prayed for long life. Blessed Weasel did likewise, handing the cane to me. I laid it upon both of my shoulders while they prayed that I might live to be old. The cane was passed around the circle, all performing the same ceremony. When the stick was returned to Mad Wolf, he and Blessed Weasel with their wives placed their hands upon it and sang a low chant.
Mad Wolf brought forth a small buckskin bag from which he took some red clay, the sacred paint which the Blackfeet believe has power to ward off sickness and to bring long life. When I saw him preparing it in his hands, I knew the moment for my adoption had arrived. There was an impressive silence as he motioned to me and said, "Here comes my white son." While kneeling before him, he painted my face on the forehead, chin and both cheeks, representing the Sun's daily course through the heavens. The forehead represented the rising, and the left cheek the setting Sun. Then taking the beaver skin, he passed it down both sides of my head, shoulders and arms to the hands, ending with an upward movement, by which he imparted his blessing and prayed:
"Before you, my father, Great Sun Chief, I now adopt this young man as my son. Let the red paint be like the sunlight to protect and bring him health and strength. May all my people be friendly and protect him that he may be happy as long as he remains among his Indian brothers and sisters. My father, the Sun, who gives us light, keep him from harm when he goes again to his home towards the East. Give him light by day, that his path may be free from danger. If he should go into the wrong trail, lead him safely back, that his path may be firm and down hill to old age. As the sweet smoke of the incense ascends towards the sky, so may our prayers arise and be acceptable to thee, O thou great Sun God!"
After the prayer Mad Wolf directed Blessed Weasel to unroll a bundle containing buffalo and elk hides, which were spread out before the men. Large rattles were also distributed among them. Mad Wolf handed me two rattles, saying "You are now my son and should take part in this ceremonial." Kneeling on the ancient buffalo hide, I joined with them in the chants and beat time on the hide with my rattles. The first chant we sang represented a porcupine sitting on a hill and watching a beaver at work. The porcupine said: "I will take my bow and arrows and kill you." But the beaver jumping into the stream swam off under the water and escaped. We also sang the song of the war eagle, describing it as soaring high in the air above the mountain peaks and at times swooping down towards the earth when seeking its prey. Mad Wolf then danced around the fire with the pipe, singing and, at intervals, blowing upon his medicine whistle. Stock-stchi took the pipe from Mad Wolf. He blew four whiffs to the North, South, East and West, and then, holding the pipe towards the Sun, prayed to the Great Spirit in the Sun for the recovery of his sick child.
Mad Wolf ended the ceremonial at sunset with the prayer:
"Great Sun God! Continue to give us your light that the leaves and grass may grow so that our cattle will increase and our children may live to be old.
"Our mother! (the Moon), give us sleep that we may rise again like our father (the Sun). May our lives be strong, and may our hearts feel good towards our white brothers, as we are all your children."
When the wife of Blessed Weasel arose to ladle out the stew, Mad Wolf directed that she set aside for his white son some of the tongue which the Blackfeet consider a delicacy. When the stew had been passed to everyone, I was preparing to eat, when Blessed Weasel motioned to me. Then I noticed that all were waiting. To my surprise it was for a blessing upon the food, for, after a short pause, Mad Wolf said: "The berries that grow are blessed, for upon them we live." He held a sarvis berry aloft in his right hand and chanted, everyone imitating his motions and joining with him in his prayer to Mother Earth that they might live to see many summers. After each person had planted a berry in the ground, a symbolic act in recognition of the source of their sustenance, they partook of the feast. None of the food was wasted. What remained was gathered together and set aside.
When I was ready to depart for my camp, Mad Wolf said, "O-mis-tai-po-kah (White Calf), the head chief, and I are selecting for you an Indian name. I ask you to come again to my lodge in one week." I replied, that next day I would start with Siksikakoan on a hunting expedition into the Rocky Mountains. He sat in silence for a moment and then said:
"It is now the moon when the leaves are beginning to turn yellow. I have adopted you as my son, and you have met my family and relatives. On the first day of the full moon, at the
time when the leaves are falling, I will be camped on the South Fork of Cutbank River. Come to my lodge on that day, for I will have there the leading chiefs and medicine men. I will hold a sacred ceremonial, and will unroll the ancient Medicine Bundle 1 of the Beavers. We will give you an Indian name, again painting you with the sacred paint, and receiving you into the tribe of the Blackfeet."
29:1 See Appendix.
30:1 See Appendix.
35:1 See Appendix.