An Apache Medicine Dance
An Apache / Jicarilla Legend
This published story was found by his daughter, Kay F. Nordquist, in the effects of the late Dr. E. R. Fouts, M.D. It was a reminiscence of his 1898 internship among the Jicarilla-Apache tribes. While stationed as an intern in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he met the white anthropologist / writer Frank Russell who published this legend in December 1898. At that time white men were not allowed to witness tribal ceremonies, but an Apache friend, Gunsi, arranged to smuggle the two white men into the celebration. Gunsi, a powerful leader, provided a hiding place and explained that as long as they "played a pretend game of not being seen," they would be overlooked. Besides, Gunsi had great confidence in the doctor of white man's medicine.
At present there are no men or women among the Jicarillas who have the power to heal the sick and perform other miracles that entitle them to rank as medicine men or medicine women-at least none who are in active practice and are popular. This being the case, medicine feasts have not been held for several years on the reservation. But in August and September 1898, two such
feasts were conducted by the old Apache woman, Sotii, who now lives in Pueblo of San Ildefonso. Sotii made the journey of nearly a hundred miles to
the Jicarillas on a burro. She was delayed for some time on the way by the high waters of Chama Creek, so rumors of her arrival were repeatedly spread for some weeks, before she actually appeared.
For festive dances, the U.S. Indian Agent or his representative, the clerk at Duke, issue extra rations of beef and flour, and the Indians themselves buy all the supplies from the traders that their scanty funds will permit.
Edible supplies do not keep well in Indian camps, and successive
postponements threatened to terminate a feast without adequate provisions.
But fortunately Sotii arrived in time.
The preliminary arrangements were made by Sati, the husband of the invalid Kes-nos'-un-da, in whose behalf the ceremonies were to be performed. Sati presented Sotii with a pipe of ancient pattern, a short cylinder of clay; a few eagle feathers and a new basket as well. As the Jicarilla Apaches live in scattered tipi's and cabins about the reservation, there is no specified
place, such as the plaza of a pueblo tribe, where religious ceremonies are performed. Sotii chose a spot in La Jara Canon where Sati and his friends built a medicine lodge with an enclosure surrounded by a pine brush fence.
The lodge was begun on the morning of August 22 and the fence was completed by noon. The builders were served food by the women of Satl's family.
At noon of the 22nd, the first day, about a dozen of the older men gathered in the medicine lodge. According to Gunsi, these men were selected by Sotii because of their ability in outlining the dry paintings, which they made in the lodge under her direction. No one but Apaches are admitted to the medicine lodge, so that I have depended upon the account of it given by Gunsi in the following description:
"The ground was cleared at the back of the lodge between the fire and the western wall, over a space about six feet in diameter, and covered with a layer of clean gray sand. The sand painting the first day contained the figures of snakes only, having their heads directed toward the west, with the exception of the sun symbol, which was drawn each day during the ceremony around a shallow hole six or eight inches in diameter at the center of the painting.
"The sun was represented by a ring of white sand around the margin of the hole; next came a circle of black, and then a ring of red with white rays.
After the painting had been completed, the invalid woman, in an ordinary gown not especially prepared for the occasion, entered the enclosure, laid aside her blanket, and passed into the lodge, on the floor of which four "bear tracks" had been made, leading to the dry painting. (Presumably
because she had the snake and bear disease.)
'The patient stepped upon the footprints in going to the sand painting, on which she spread pollen [kut-u-tin] from the cattail flag, and sacred meal.
She then sat down upon the painting, facing the east. Songs were sung and prayers were offered to the sun, after which the women brought food from the camps into the enclosure. Those within the lodge seated themselves around the wall and were served by the doorkeeper, who began at the left and carried food to each in turn. After all were served, the doorkeeper gathered a morsel of food from each and threw it outside the enclosure, as a
sacrifice to the sun, followed by prayers to the sun. Then the
doorkeeper joined the others in the lodge and ate his food, as did the invalid. All others dined within the enclosure. The remaining food was gathered for the next meal. The men carried the food vessels from the lodge into the enclosure, later removed by the women.
"When darkness fell in the evening, the men again painted snakes in the medicine lodge, where a fire had been built. A young pine tree was placed at the right and another at the left of the sand painting. The children were then expelled from the enclosure.
"The patient entered as in the morning, offering pollen and meal, then seated herself upon the painting. A terrifying figure rushed into the semidarkness of the lodge, lunged toward the invalid, but seemed unable to reach her, gave forth two or three cries similar to those uttered by the
bear, and then made his exit.
"Gunsi admitted 'I was frightened, although I knew it was only one of the men in disguise, who had been painted black with charcoal and covered with pine branches. He wore no mask. Since the invalid suffered from snake and bear disease, the painting with prayer meal and pollen offerings represented
snakes and the bear was called upon to drive away the disease.'
"While the bear was in the lodge the singing men yelled at the tops of their voices to scare the bear. The invalid fell shaking to the ground. An eagle feather was waved rapidly to and fro above her head as she continued to rise, fall, shake, and cry out. I thought she was dying. "Sotii then placed a live coal in a dish of blue corn meal and allowed the invalid to inhale the smoke. This quieted her somewhat as she sat upright but staring just
like a drunk. Sotii then handed her the medicine pipe filled with 'Mexican' tobacco. After smoking this, the patient seemed to recover her senses. Two or three songs concluded the day's serious part of the ceremony. The ex-patient then moved to the north side of the lodge and remained there for the rest of the evening.
An old buffalo hide was spread over the sand painting, and the sacred basket given to Sotii was inverted with the hide over the hole in the center of the painted area. The hide was then doubled
over the basket, and the margin of the hide was held down by the feet of the men sitting around "The white basket was ornamented with conventional red butterflies.
The ex-patient removed her moccasins from a tight bundle and used them as drumsticks, striking four times upon the basket drum as a signal for the whole encampment to gather inside for the dance.
'Two notched sticks were placed upon the basket drum, a black one on the east, a white one on the west side. The sticks were laid with one end resting upon the drum and the other end upon the ground. A tarsal bone of a deer was rubbed across the notches, at the sound of which the young women
began to dance.
"The women occupied the southern portion of the enclosure and the men arranged themselves along the wall opposite them. The lodge was brilliantly lighted by a circle of fires around the inside wall. The women's dance was ended by repetition of the same drum signal by which it had begun-four strokes upon the basket drum.
"When again the drum sounded, those afflicted with ailments of any kind placed their hands upon the affected part of their bodies and made a hand gesture of casting off the disease. When the sticks were scraped again, the women chose partners from the men and boys and all danced together. This became the lighter aspect of the ceremonies: serious thoughts, the desire
to propitiate the gods, and the awe inspired by the priestess and the deity symbolized by the bear, all gave way to lighthearted, merrymaking spirit, which by no means exhausted itself before the sound of the drum ceased, about midnight, and the voice of one of the old men within the lodge was heard, directing the assembly to disperse.
"Second day ceremonies resembled those of the first, except the figures outlined upon the sand were of bears, foxes, and other animals,with here and there a snake. The same patient was not induced into a trance, nor was the general ceremony of casting off diseases performed. "The third day differed only in the character of the sand painting. Animals differed from those of the previous days. Sotii forbade representation of the horse or
elk at any time.
"On the fourth day, the figures of two deities were drawn in the dry
painting, along with all kinds of animals. A black circle outside the painting symbolized the ocean. The program of the evening consisted of two groups of men, painted and dressed in the manner prescribed by the rites in the tradition of Jicarillas.
"One party of six men were the clowns with bodies and limbs painted with white and black horizontal rings. Ragged remnants of old blankets served as loincloths. On necks and shoulders appeared necklaces and festoons of bread, which had been baked in small fantastic shapes. Four wore old buffalo-skin caps, with the skin sewed to look like buffalo horns, projecting laterally
and downward; to one horn was attached an eagle feather, to the other a turkey feather. Two men dressed their hair in the shape of horns.
'The other group of twelve men, painted white with oblique black stripes extending downward from the inner comers of their eyes, wore necklaces and an eagle feather in their hair. Bands of pine brush were wrapped around their waists, arms, and ankles.
"As on the other evenings, the women began the dance; then the general dance followed in which the women selected their partners from among the men.
Then the two deities entered the enclosure and marched directly to the medicine lodge, around which four circuits were made in a sunwise direction.
The twelve then took positions on the south side of the pathway from the gate to the lodge. Clowns ran about among the crowd. Two men led the singing and also took the lead during the exit back through the medicine lodge.
Clowns created much amusement for everyone. The dance continued until sunrise."
As the disc of the sun rose above the mountaintops, every man, woman, and child present joined in the dance. The ceremony again took on a serious nature, as the sun's rays clear and bright in that rare and arid atmosphere lit up the valley and the whole band of Jicarilla-Apaches marched in line out of the enclosure toward the sun.
Sotii led the way, carrying the two young pines from the ends of the dry sand painting, along with the sacred basket containing the meal. Each person marched past the old medicine woman, took a pinch of the meal from the basket, and cast it upon the pine trees.
The line was re-formed, facing the lodge, then one of the older men stepped forward and shook his blanket four times. At this signal, all shook their blankets to frighten away diseases
and then ran into the enclosure.
The ceremonies ended. Every tipi in that vicinity must be moved at once.
The invalid was cured, but Sotii warned her not to sleep on a rope or string or the disease would return. No one should sing the medicine songs for some time or a bear would kill the offender. Severe illness would overtake the twelve should they forget and sleep with their heads toward any clay vessel.
Sotii accepted food only as remuneration for her services. Her terms were known in advance, so a considerable quantity of provisions were laid aside for her. The only article of food that was taboo during the four-day celebration was bread baked in ashes.
I did not see the invalid after the feast, but when I left the reservation three weeks later, the Indian of whom I inquired all insisted that she was then in perfect health.
Anisga ya Tsunsdi "Little Men"
A Cherokee Legend
Always represented as beneficent wonder-makers of great power. These two sons of Kanati (first man), who are sometimes called "Thunder Boys," live in Usunhi-yi, above the sky vault. They must not be confused with the Yunwi Tsunsdi' or Little People, who are also "thunderers," but who live on the
earth and cause the short, sharp claps of thunder. The "Little Men" have reproduced themselves by striking lightening very near a woman, giving birth to a human with the same characteristics as the Little People.
There is also the "Great Thunderer," the thunder of the whirlwind, tornado and hurricane, who seems to be identical with Kanati, himself. The favorite honey locust tree, and the tree with thorns of the same species, is the home of the "Thunder-man", indicating to the Cherokee a great hidden connection between the pinnated leaves of the tree and the lightening.
Ani'tsutsä - The Boys
A Cherokee Legend
The old people tell us that when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatayû'stï game. This game is now called Chunkey, and is played by rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it.
Their mothers scolded them, but it didn't do any good. One day the mothers collected some gatayû'stï stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner.
When the boys came home their mothers dipped out the stones and said, "Since you like the gatayû'stï better than working, take the stones now for your dinner."
The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, "Since our mothers treat us this way, let's go where we will never trouble them any more." They began a dance - some say it was the Feather dance - and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them. At last
their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them.
They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse, and as they watched they noticed that their feet were off the ground, and that with every round they rose higher and higher in the air. They ran to get their children, but it was too late, for then, were already above the roof of the townhouse--all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayû'stï pole, but
he struck the ground with such force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.
The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee call Ani'tsutsä (The Boys).
The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot until the earth was damp with her tears. At last a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we call now the pine, and the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same
Apache Creation Legend
An Apache Legend
In the beginning nothing existed: no Earth, no Sky, no Sun, no Moon. Only darkness was everywhere.
Suddenly from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator, the One Who Lives Above.
As if waking from a long nap, he rubbed his eyes and face with both hands.
When he looked into the endless darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the East, he created yellow streaks of dawn. To the West, tints of many colors appeared everywhere. There were also clouds of different colors.
Creator wiped his sweating face and rubbed his hands together, thrusting them downward. Behold! A shining cloud upon which sat a little girl.
"Stand up and tell me where are you going," said Creator. But she did not reply. He rubbed his eyes again and offered his right hand to the Girl-Without- Parents.
"Where did you come from?" she asked, grasping his hand.
"From the East where it is now light," he replied, stepping upon her cloud.
"Where is the Earth?" she asked.
"Where is the sky?" he asked, and sang, "I am thinking, thinking, thinking what I shall create next." He sang four times, which was the magic number.
Creator brushed his face with his hands, rubbed them together, then flung
them wide open! Before them stood Sun-God. Again Creator rubbed his sweaty brow and from his hands dropped Small-Boy.
Creator, Sun-God, Girl-Without-Parents, and Small-Boy sat in deep thought upon the small cloud.
"What shall we make next?" asked Creator. "This cloud is much too small for us to live upon."
Then he created Tarantula, Big Dipper, Wind, Lightning-Maker, and some Western clouds in which to house Lightning-Rumbler, which he just finished.
Creator sang, "Let us make Earth. I am thinking of the Earth, Earth, Earth;
I am thinking of the Earth," he sang four times.
All four gods shook hands. In doing so, their sweat mixed together and Creator rubbed his palms, from which fell a small round, brown ball, not much larger than a bean.
Creator kicked it, and it expanded. Girl-Without-Parents kicked the ball, and it enlarged more. Sun-God and Small-Boy took turns giving it hard kicks, and each time the ball expanded. Creator told Wind to go inside the ball and to blow it up.
Tarantula spun a black cord and, attaching it to the ball, crawled away fast to the East, pulling on the cord with all his strength. Tarantula repeated with a blue cord to the South, a yellow cord to the West, and a white cord to the North. With mighty pulls in each direction, the brown ball stretched to immeasurable size--it became the Earth! No hills, mountains, or rivers were visible; only smooth, treeless, brown plains appeared.
Creator scratched his chest and rubbed his fingers together and there appeared Hummingbird.
"Fly North, South, East, and West and tell us what you see," said Creator.
"All is well," reported Hummingbird upon his return. "The Earth is most beautiful, with water on the West side."
But the Earth kept rolling and dancing up and down. So Creator made four giant posts--black, blue, yellow, and white to support the Earth. Wind carried the four posts, placing them beneath the four cardinal points of the Earth. The Earth sat still.
Creator sang, "World is now made and now sits still," which he repeated four times.
Then he began a song about the sky. None existed, but he thought there should be one. After singing about it four times, twenty- eight people appeared to help make a sky above the Earth. Creator chanted about making chiefs for the Earth and sky.
He sent Lightning-Maker to encircle the world, and he returned with three uncouth creatures, two girls and a boy found in a turquoise shell. They had no eyes, ears, hair, mouths, noses, or teeth. They had arms and legs, but no fingers or toes.
Sun-God sent for Fly to come and build a sweat house. Girl-Without-Parents covered it with four heavy clouds. In front of the East doorway she placed a soft, red cloud for a foot-blanket to be used after the sweat.
Four stones were heated by the fire inside the sweat house. The three uncouth creatures were placed inside. The others sang songs of healing on the outside, until it was time for the sweat to be finished. Out came the three strangers who stood upon the magic red cloud-blanket. Creator then shook his hands toward them, giving each one fingers, toes, mouths, eyes, ears, noses and hair.
Creator named the boy, Sky-Boy, to be chief of the Sky-People. One girl he named Earth-Daughter, to take charge of the Earth and its crops. The other girl he named Pollen-Girl, and gave her charge of health care for all Earth- People.
Since the Earth was flat and barren, Creator thought it fun to create animals, birds, trees, and a hill. He sent Pigeon to see how the world looked. Four days later, he returned and reported, "All is beautiful around the world. But four days from now, the water on the other side of the Earth will rise and cause a mighty flood."
Creator made a very tall pinion tree. Girl-Without-Parents covered the tree framework with pinion gum, creating a large, tight ball.
In four days, the flood occurred. Creator went up on a cloud, taking his twenty-eight helpers with him. Girl-Without-Parents put the others into the large, hollow ball, closing it tight at the top.
In twelve days, the water receded, leaving the float-ball high on a hilltop.
The rushing floodwater changed the plains into mountains, hills, valleys, and rivers. Girl-Without-Parents led the gods out from the float-ball onto the new Earth. She took them upon her cloud, drifting upward until they met Creator with his helpers, who had completed their work making the sky during the flood time on Earth.
Together the two clouds descended to a valley below. There,
Girl-Without- Parents gathered everyone together to listen to Creator.
"I am planning to leave you," he said. "I wish each of you to do your best toward making a perfect, happy world.
"You, Lightning-Rumbler, shall have charge of clouds and water.
"You, Sky-Boy, look after all Sky-People.
"You, Earth-Daughter, take charge of all crops and Earth-People.
"You, Pollen-Girl, care for their health and guide them.
"You, Girl-Without-Parents, I leave you in charge over all."
Creator then turned toward Girl-Without-Parents and together they rubbed their legs with their hands and quickly cast them forcefully downward.
Immediately between them arose a great pile of wood, over which Creator waved a hand, creating fire.
Great billowy clouds of smoke at once drifted skyward. Into this cloud, Creator disappeared. The other gods followed him in other clouds of smoke, leaving the twenty-eight workers to people the Earth.
Sun-God went East to live and travel with the Sun. Girl-Without-Parents departed Westward to live on the far horizon. Small-Boy and Pollen-Girl made cloud homes in the South. Big Dipper can still be seen in the Northern sky at night, a reliable guide to all.
Apache Tear Drop
An Apache / Jicarilla Legend
Apache Tear Drop is a form of black obsidian. It is a calming translucent stone, found in Arizona and other parts of the U.S. It is composed of feldspar, hornblende, biotite and quartz. It was formed by rhythmic crystallization that produces a separation of light and dark materials into spherical shapes, and is a form of volcanic glass.
There is a haunting legend about the Apache Tear Drop. After the Pinal Apaches had made several raids on a settlement in Arizona, the military regulars and some volunteers trailed the tracks of the stolen cattle and waited for dawn to attack the Apaches.
The Apaches, confident in the safety of their location, were completely surprised and out-numbered in the attack. Nearly 50 of the band of 75 Apaches were killed in the first volley of shots.
The rest of the tribe retreated to the cliff's edge and chose death by leaping over the edge rather than die at the hands of the white men.
For years afterward those who ventured up the treacherous face of Big Pacacho in Arizona found skeletons, or could see the bleached bones wedged in the crevices of the side of the cliff.
The Apache Women and the lovers of those who had died gathered a short distance from the base of the cliff where the sands were white, and for a moon they wept for their dead. They mourned greatly, for they realized that not only had their 75 brave Apache warriors died, but with them had died the
great fighting spirit of the Pinal Apaches.
Their sadness was so great, and their burden of sorrow so sincere that the Great Father imbedded into black stones the tears of the Apache Women who mourned their dead. These black obsidian stones, when held to the light, reveal the translucent tear of the Apache.
The stones are said to bring good luck to those possessing them. It is said that whoever owns an Apache Tear Drop will never have to cry again, for the Apache Women have shed their tears in place of yours.
The Apache tear drops are also said to balance the emotional nature and protect one from being taken advantage of. It can be carried as an amulet to stimulate success in business endeavors. It is also used to produce clear vision and to increase psychic powers.
Black obsidian is a powerful Meditation stone. The purpose of this gemstone is to bring to light that which is hidden from the conscious mind. It dissolves suppressed negative patterns and purifies them. It can create a somewhat radical behavior change as new positive attitudes replace old, negative, egocentric patterns.
Arikara Corn: The First To Know Maize
An Arikara Legend
The next day he rose before dawn and ran to his mysterious scene.
The buffalo was gone! Where it had stood there was a small bush. The young man approached with disappointment. A young Arikara man was the first to discover maize. While hunting atop a high hill he scouted a large bull buffalo standing at the confluence of two
rivers. While deciding how to best approach the buffalo the young man was forced to look around him closely, and was taken with the beauty of his surroundings.
Though the banks of the river were nice and timbered, the buffalo was facing north, so the young man could not take a shot from either side. He decided he would wait until the buffalo moved nearer the timbered banks or wandered into the hills or ravines where the young man could hide in shrubs.
By sundown, the buffalo had not moved at all, so the young man returned to camp disappointed. His night was not easy. He spent it thinking about how scarce food was among the people, and how much good he could have done if he had taken the buffalo.
Just before dawn the young man got up and went back to the place he left the buffalo to see if it was still nearby, had it moved at all. As the sun rose, from his spot on the high hill, the young man saw the buffalo was still in the same spot but now it faced the east. And so it stood again, all day.
Disappointed again, the young man spent another sleepless night wondering why the buffalo would stand so steadfastly in one spot without eating, drinking or lying down to rest.
The next day was the same, except the buffalo faced south and the next day west. Now the young man was determined to know why the buffalo acted in this way. He settled in to watch, and told himself the buffalo was behaving this way for some mysterious purpose, and that he, too now, was under the same
mystery. He went home to sleep and yet again spent the entire night wondering.ent, but also curiosity and awe. The plant
was nothing familiar to him, surrounded by buffalo tracks, north to east and south to west. In the center was a single buffalo track from which this strange plant grew. No buffalo tracks led away from the plant.
He ran back to camp and told the chiefs and elders of his strange experience.
They all traveled to the spot and found what he told them to be true. They saw the tracks of the buffalo at the spot, but no tracks coming or going from the site of the strange plant.
Now while all these men believed this plant had been given to the people by Wakanda for their use, they were not sure what that use might be.
Thinking it might need time to ripen like other plants they knew, they posted a guard to wait and see if more information would come. Soon a spike of flowers appeared, but they knew from other plants this was a flower and not the fruit. Soon a new growth appeared. First it appeared as if it had hair at its top, soon turning from green to brown.
They determined this growth was the fruit of the plant, and approached with caution and although they wanted to know what it would provided no one dared touch it. The young man finally spoke:
"Everyone knows how my life since childhood has been useless, that my deeds among you more evil than good. So, since no one would regret should any evil befall me, I will be first to touch the plant and taste its fruit."
The young man gave thanks and prayer and grasped the plant. He told the people it was firm and ripe and inside the husk it was red. He took a few kernels, showed them to the people and then carefully replaced the husks.
When the youth suffered no ill effects, the people were then convinced the plant was given to them as food so they would never be hungry.
The kernels were dispersed among the people and a great, fruitful harvest was gathered in the fall. The Arikaras decided to hold a feast and they invited many tribes and six came. The Arikara's shared the kernels with their guests, and so the knowledge of maize was spread among all.