|THE BUFFALO HUNT
One morning the crier came around the circle of the village calling out that we were going to break
camp. The advisers were in the council tepee, and he cried to them: "The advisers, come forth to the
center and bring your fires along." It was their duty to save fire for the people, because we had no
"Now take it down, down!" the crier shouted. And all the people began taking down their tepees, and
packing them on pony drags.
Then the crier said, "Many bison, I have heard; many bison, I have heard! Your children, you must
take care of them!" He meant to keep the children close while traveling, so that they would not scare
Then we broke camp and started in formation, the four advisers first, a crier behind them, the chiefs
next, and then the people with the loaded pony drags in a long line, and the herd of ponies following.
When the sun was high, the advisers found a place to camp where there was wood and also water;
and while the women were cooking all around the circle I heard people saying that the scouts were
returning, and over the top of a hill I saw three horsebacks coming. They rode to the council tepee in
the middle of the village and all the people were going there to hear. I went there, too, and got up
close so that I could look in between the legs of the men. The crier came out of the council tepee and
said, speaking to the people for the scouts: "I have protected you; in return you shall give me many
gifts." The scouts then sat down before the door of the tepee and one of the advisers filled the sacred
pipe with chacun sha sha, the bark of the red willow, and set it on a bison chip in front of him, because
the bison was sacred and gave us both food and shelter. Then he lit the pipe, offered it to the four
quarters, to the Spirit above and to Mother Earth, and passing it to the scouts he said: "The nation has
depended upon you. Whatever you have seen, maybe it is for the good of the people you have seen."
The scouts smoked, meaning that they would tell the truth. Then the advisor said: "At what place have
you stood and seen the good? Report it to me and I will be glad."
One of the scouts answered: "You know where we started from. We went and reached the top of a
hill and there we saw a small herd of bison." He pointed as he spoke.
The adviser said: "Maybe on the other side of that you have seen the good. Report it." The scout
answered: "On the other side of that we saw a second and larger herd of bison."
Then the adviser said: "I shall be thankful to you. Tell me all that you have seen out there."
The scout replied: "On the other side of that there was nothing but bison all over the country."
Then the crier shouted like singing: "Your knives shall be sharpened, your arrows shall be
sharpened. Make ready, make haste; your horses make ready! We shall go forth with arrows. Plenty of
meat we shall make!"
Everybody began sharpening knives and arrows and getting the best horses ready for the great
making of meat.
Then we started for where the bison were. The soldier band went first, riding twenty abreast, and
anybody who dared go ahead of them would get knocked off his horse. They kept order, and
everybody had to obey. After them came the hunters, riding five abreast. The people came up in the
rear. Then the head man of the advisers went around picking out the best hunters with the fastest
horses, and to these he said: "Good young warriors, my relatives, your work I know is good. What you
do is good always; so today you shall feed the helpless. Perhaps there are some old and feeble people
without sons, or some who have little children and no man. You shall help these, and whatever you kill
shall be theirs." This was a great honor for young men.
Then when we had come near to where the bison were, the hunters circled around them, and the cry
went up, as in a battle, "Hoka hey!" which meant to charge. Then there was a great dust and
everybody shouted and all the hunters went in to kill - every man for himself. They were all nearly
naked, with their quivers full of arrows hanging on their left sides. Everybody was very happy.
They hung the meat across the horses' backs and fastened it with strips of fresh bison hide. On the
way back to the village all the hunting horses were loaded, and we little boys who could not wait for the
feast helped ourselves to all the raw liver we wanted. Nobody got cross when we did this.
During this time, women back at camp were cutting long poles and forked sticks to make drying racks
for the meat. When the hunters got home they threw their meat in piles on the leaves of trees.
Then the advisers all went back into the council tepee, and from all dirctions the people came
bringing gifts of meat to them, and the advisers all cried "Hya-a-a-a!" after which they sang for those
who had brought them the good gifts. And when they had eaten all they could, the crier shouted to the
people: "All come home! It is more than I can eat!" And people from all over the camp came to get a
little of the meat that was left over.
The women were all busy cutting the meat into strips and hanging it on the racks to dry. You could
see red meat hanging everywhere. The people feasted all night long and danced and sang. Those
were happy times.
|From "Black Elk Speaks, Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
as Told to John G. Neihardt;" 1961; University of Nebraska Press.