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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

How Medicine Man Resurrected Buffalo


At one time an Arapaho Medicine Man named Black-Robe wanted very much to be able to make magic because his people were very hungry. How could he lure the buffaloes back to the Arapaho hunting grounds? Buffalo meat was their principal food.

Black-Robe decided to ask Cedar-Tree for his help. "Go west and hunt buffalo for our people. Try very hard to find at least one buffalo."

Cedar-Tree hunted hard as he was asked to do. After a long time, he saw some black objects at a distance. "Could they be buffaloes?" he wondered.

Encouraged, he walked faster, but as he drew closer he was less sure the black objects were buffaloes. Suddenly, he saw the black things fly toward the sky. By then, Cedar-Tree seemed certain the objects were oversized ravens.

Disappointed, he returned to his village, reporting to Black-Robe what he had seen. The Medicine Man scolded him for not believing that what he had seen were buffaloes.

"If you had only believed strong enough, the buffaloes would not have changed to ravens," said Black Robe.

By now the Arapahoes were desperately hungry. One woman on the verge of starving made soup from the soles of her moccasins. The next day her uncle, Trying-Bear, set out early to hunt for anything edible. He had no weapons. Fortunately, on the way he met Black-Robe who loaned him a bow and some arrows.

"Tomorrow morning, I will come to your tent to learn of your success," said Black-Robe. "You must even try to find a dried buffalo, if not a live one."

After hunting a long time to the northwest, Trying-Bear finally found a dried buffalo. He ran home swiftly to tell his people. Black-Robe painted his white pony black and wrapped a black buffalo robe about himself. He stuck his lucky eagle-feather in his hair, mounted his black pony, and took off in a rush to find the dried buffalo.

"Follow me, Trying-Bear," Black-Robe called.

Because he wanted to see what Black-Robe would do with the dried buffalo, Trying-Bear followed rapidly. Medicine Man arrived about midday at the place of the dead buffalo. He dismounted, took aim with his magic eagle-feather, and threw it straight at the carcass. Immediately, a live buffalo jumped to its feet!

Black-Robe turned and saw Trying-Bear. "Shoot it!" commanded Medicine Man. Trying-Bear shot it dead.

"Let's skin it and carry everything eatable back to our people," said Black-Robe.

A feast of thanksgiving and rejoicing followed. Black-Robe had saved his people from starvation. Arapahoes still love to tell this story of how their Medicine Man resurrected the dead buffalo with his magic eagle feather-medicine!




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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.


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