The Old North Trail, by Walter McClintock, , at sacred-texts.com
Bird and Animal dances.—The Grizzly Bear dance.—Many varieties of songs.—The Woman's Pipe.—Four chants towards the cardinal points.—Rules governing ownership of the Pipe.—Care of the Pipe a heavy burden.—The Indian firmly held in mental slavery by his medicine superstitions.
THE ceremonial transferring the Medicine Pipe from Lone Chief to Mu-koi-sa-po began just as the sun rose from the plains. Its bright rays streaming into the open lodge, fell upon the priests chanting the seven Thunder songs, beating on their medicine drums, and burning sweet pine as incense. After the Thunder songs, Lone Chief, as the giver up of the Pipe held it in his arms singing:
The Pipe was laid down during the tenth song, all chanting in unison:
In the eleventh, or buffalo song, all chanted:
and made the sign of the buffalo with their curved forefingers, while Mu-koi-sa-po and his wife opened the outside cover of the medicine bundle. They chanted the Antelope song and imitated with their hands the motions of an antelope walking, while the strings
of antelope raw-hide were being loosened. It was explained that the antelope is supposed to be opening the bundle with his hoofs. While loosening an inner wrapper, bound by strings of elk-hide, they chanted an Elk song and made the Elk sign, holding their hands open on either side of the head with fingers extended to represent antlers. They imitated the actions of an elk as if loosening the wrapper with his hoofs. The time had now come for the dances to be held over the
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MEDICINE PIPE PRIESTS WITH DRUMS.
skins representing the spirits of the birds and animals included in the medicine bundle. Only members of the society danced with the Pipe, although it was customary for anyone, who made a vow, to fulfil that vow by dancing with a skin provided for that purpose. Whenever a prominent chief arose to take part, or an Indian who had performed some unusual feat, he was applauded by the spectators. Mu-koi-sa-po, as the recipient of the Pipe, did not rise to dance, but remained seated beside the medicine bundle, receiving
the skins as they were turned over to him by those taking part in the ceremonial. For the Grizzly Bear dance, the drummers chanted
representing a bear making ready to come from his winter den. Lone Chief drew his robe around him and arose to dance, imitating the bear going from his den and chanting,
[paragraph continues] Placing both hands upon the Pipe, he chanted,
"Sacred Chief, (Pipe)! Every one, men, women, and children will now behold you."
[paragraph continues] Slowly raising the Pipe, he sang,
[paragraph continues] He shook the Pipe in imitation of a bear, but was careful not to handle it roughly, lest a storm should come, nor to make a miss-step in his dance, nor allow a skin, or feather to fall, lest some misfortune would befall him. He again laid the Pipe down, with the chant,
"This lodge is sacred; the ground, also, where the Chief lies is sacred."
[paragraph continues] While Lone Chief danced with the Pipe, the drummers beat time and chanted Bear songs. He imitated with his hands a bear holding up its paws, and, placing his feet together, moved backward and forward, with short jumps, making the lumbering movements of a bear running, breathing heavily and imitating his digging and turning over stones for insects. Then he blew shrilly upon his medicine whistle, representing the sounds made by
the wings of the Thunder Bird, which comes forth in the spring at the same time that the bear leaves his winter den. He held the Pipe in his right hand, spreading out the fingers of his left in imitation of the wings of the flying Thunder Bird.
During the Swan song, Bear Child danced alone, representing the chief Swan, the leader of the flock. He made the Swan sign, with both hands held before him, palms out and fingers spread in imitation of a swan sailing through the air with extended wings.
In the Antelope dance, Red Fox made motions with his hands, in imitation of an antelope walking, moving the Pipe in the same manner and looking keenly alert, as if watching for an enemy.
During the singing of the Crane song, the dancers imitated the motions of flying Cranes and gave the crane call. There were no dances for water birds, but the people remained seated, while songs were sung for the ducks and geese. Mu-koi-sa-po and his wife were painted, during the four Horse songs, sometimes called Resting songs. It was necessary to sing all the words and notes of these four songs accurately, because, if anyone made a mistake, misfortune would surely come to his horses. After a short rest, during which a pipe was passed around for a smoke, seven Owl songs were sung. They were followed by seven Buffalo songs, in honour of the power that went with the band of sacred white buffalo skin, which was to be worn around the head of the Pipe owner. Seven songs were also sung to a water bird called Good Rusher, because it runs so fast along the surface of the water and is believed to possess great power. It is said to drown people by dragging them beneath the water. The muskrat skin was used
by its owner to wipe the paint from his face accompanied with the song,
"All the water birds and little water animals are my friends."
[paragraph continues] The Bee songs are sung by the owner of the Pipe as a warning, when he is angered, because anyone that angers a bee will be stung. The Bee songs are also believed to possess, not only power for making the owner proof against any spell, or evil charm, but also to cause the evil power to react upon the enemy that is trying to injure him. The woman's pipe, which goes with the Medicine Pipe, has a plain flat stem and is not decorated. During the ceremonial, it was unrolled by Etomo-waki and was smoked only by the women. The Medicine Pipe is decorated with feathers and weasel tails. The owner begins smoking it by blowing a whiff first towards the sky and another towards the ground. The closing song of the ceremonial was the Good Luck song, which should bring good fortune to Mu-koi-sa-po. Whenever he might wish for anything, as owner of the Medicine Pipe, it would only be necessary for him to sing this song to have his desire fulfilled.
At sunset, Lone Chief led Mu-koi-sa-po and his wife, Etomo-waki, from the lodge and, facing in turn the four directions, chanted first towards the West,
"Over there are the mountains. May you see them as long as you live, for from them you must receive your sweet pine as incense";
then towards the North,
"Strength will come from the North. May you look for many years upon 'the star that never moves'" (North Star);
then towards the East,
"Old age will come from below (East) where lies the light of the sun";
then towards the South,
May the warm winds of the South bring you success in securing food."
There were many rules in which Lone Chief and his wife—the former owners, must instruct Mu-koi-sa-po and his wife, when transferring the Pipe. The long category of musts and must nots taxed both their memories and consciences to carry the burden of their observance. If not obeyed to the smallest detail, misfortune would come upon them and their family. They were as follows:
"You must not lie down until we chant the Bear song and place you in certain positions, to be retained until morning, when we will assist you to rise. You must not paint your clothes with the sacred red paint, until we first perform certain rites and chant the Buffalo song. You must not smoke a pipe, or remove your moccasins before we have given you proper instructions. You may not enter the river to wash, without having sprinkled yourself and chanted the Water Bird song. You and all your family should wear necklaces of small shells because they will bring you long life. When you enter a lodge, always take seats at the back, no matter how crowded it may be, and under no circumstances take seats near the door. No one should be allowed to sleep in your bed Firewood and burning embers must not be taken away from your lodge, because they belong to the Pipe. The firewood must lie in the same direction that the Pipe hangs. Ashes must not be removed, until the Pipe is first taken outside of the tipi. You must not be present while the ashes are being taken out, lest you become blind. When you return do not fail to burn sweet pine as incense. Permit no one to curse, or talk loud, or aim a gun inside the tipi, where the sacred pipe is kept. Allow no one to strike the tipi, or throw anything towards the owner. The word 'bear' must never be
named before the Pipe, lest it cause bad dreams and bring sickness upon your family—the word 'badger' should always be used instead. The Evil Power in such a violation may be averted by burning sweet pine as incense. You must not reply to anyone, who stands on the outside of your lodge. Insist that everyone, who wishes to speak to you, must enter. Every morning, when you arise, burn sweet pine as incense before starting the fire. When you are in a permanent camp, the Pipe may be tied over the door, but, if you are soon to move, from the tripod behind the tipi, one leg of the tripod must point in the direction you intend to go. Never allow the Pipe to hang outside in bad weather. Carry it out every morning after sunrise and hang it from the tripod behind the tipi. Always take it out on the right hand side and bring it back on the left side. Allow no one to ride, or place meat upon your Medicine Horse, or borrow its bridle and saddle. It once happened that our people captured a herd of horses from the Crows and loaded them with meat. Some of the herd suddenly sickened and died. We could not understand it, until the Crows told us, a long time afterward, that they were Medicine Horses. People should not dare to pass in front of a sacred horse. An accident is sure to befall anyone who follows its trail. Never strike a dog or horse. I once whipped my favourite horse and as a result he was afterward fatally injured. Do not cut a horse's tail. This act once caused a Pipe owner to lose five horses. You must not drink from a blackened bucket. Dangerous storms will arise if you do not drink properly, or if you throw water upon children. Never allow a dog to leap against you, for it will cause your body to ache. You must not scratch yourself with your fingers, lest it bring on a skin disease—use the sharpened stick provided in the medicine bundle. Never curse, nor swear, nor say anything injurious against the character of anyone. Never touch a dead person. Never point toward anyone with your fingers, always use the thumb. Never move anything burning with a knife,
lest it start your teeth to ache. Never pick up a lost article, without first taking care to chant,
[paragraph continues] "If you neglect to do this you will be sure to lose something. If you invite anyone to smoke, you must always furnish tobacco for four pipes. If you are not satisfied then, you must smoke four more. If you have not time for four, explain this to your guest and let him smoke alone. Never light your pipe with willow—always use cottonwood, or sarvis berry. As a member of the Society, the Pipe must be handed to you bowl first. You must always take hold of it with both hands, just as the bear does. Never smoke with a woman, nor with anyone who presses the tobacco into the pipe bowl with his fingers. A special stick must always be used for this purpose. If anyone seeks to borrow tobacco, or asks you four times for a pipe, he runs the risk of your turning the Medicine Pipe over to him. It must then be transferred with the ceremonial and paid for by him, just as if it had been taken because of a vow. The Medicine Pipe must not be opened in winter, while the snows are deep. But, in the spring, at the time of the first thunder, the Pipe should be opened and held before the people, and the tobacco changed in the Bundle."
The ceremonial and instruction by Lone Chief continued through four days. During this period Mu-koi-sa-po and Eton] o-waki learned the ceremonial prayers, chants and dances. They also fasted, that they might have dreams by night.
The Pipe ceremonial is generally given in fulfilment of a vow. If a child is sick and the father makes a vow to the Pipe, he makes his vow known and fulfils it, after the child is restored to health, by giving a feast with the ceremonials. Payment
must also be made to the owner of the Medicine Pipe. If the vow maker is not a member of the Society, he cannot dance with the Pipe itself, but he may dance with the Eagle Feathers, which are provided in the Bundle for such a case. Much of the knowledge of the Pipe is unknown to members of the Society, because they are unwilling to pay for the instruction. This knowledge is of great advantage to him who cares for his Pipe, for he, who carefully follows its laws, will have abundance, while he may lose everything, if he is negligent of its rules. In the case of Lone Chief, the knowledge he had gained about the Pipe proved to be a good investment, because his property meanwhile increased and Mu-koi-sa-po also paid him well for his instruction.
Mu-koi-sa-po was not gratified, but rather depressed, with the honour conferred upon him by the Medicine Pipe Society. Of all the Blackfeet medicines, the Pipe is believed to have the greatest power, but it also brings the greatest burden. Mu-koi-sa-po was already the owner of the Yellow Buffalo Tipi and a Beaver Bundle. It depressed him to think of the additional burden his wife would have, in caring for the Medicine Pipe, and observing its rules, during the four years it must be retained. The heavy burden, involved in Mu-koi-sa-po's acceptance of the Medicine Pipe, illustrates the mental slavery with which the Indian is bound, hand and foot, to the superstitions, exactions and penalties of his medicines. A proper consideration of these conditions should not only mitigate our race prejudice, but also convince us of the injustice of judging the Indian by our own standards of right and wrong, without allowing for the influence of his mental environment.