WHEN this earth was very young, only two people lived on it,--a man called A'taam and a woman called Iim. The Chief (or God) lived in the upper world, and the Outcast (or Devil) lived in the lower world. They were enemies to each other, and tried to do each other harm, but God was the more powerful. He frequently visited the earth and talked with A'taam and Iim.
One day the Devil created an animal like a horse, and made it appear before the man and woman. When the latter saw it, she said, "That is God come to visit us"; but A'taam said it was not. At last, however, he believed it must be God, and they went and spoke with it. Soon afterwards God appeared, and then they recognized the difference. He was angry and said, "Why do you mistake the Devil for me and converse with him? Have I not told you he is evil, and will do you harm?" Then, looking at the animal, he said to the couple, "Well, since this beast is here, I will so transform him that he will be useful to you." He wetted both his thumbs, pressed them on the animal's front legs, and thus marked him, saying, "Henceforth you will be a horse and a servant and plaything of the people, who will ride you, and use you for many purposes. You will be a valuable slave of man."
Now the mosquitoes were tormenting the horse very much, so God plucked some long grass which grew near by, and threw it at the animal's backside, and it became a long tail. He also threw some on the horse's neck, and it became a mane. He said, "Henceforth you will be able to protect yourself from the mosquitoes." Then he plucked out more grass, and threw it ahead of the horse, saying, "That will be your food." It turned into bunch grass, which soon spread over the whole country.
Now God departed, telling the man and woman he would soon return and show them which trees bore the proper kinds of food to eat. Hitherto they had eaten no fruit, for they did not know the edible varieties. At that time all trees bore fruit, and the pines and firs in particular had large sweet fruit. Now the Devil appeared, and, pretending to be God, he took the large long fruit of the white pine, and gave it to Iim. She thought he was God, ate the fruit as directed, and gave some to A'taam. Then the Devil disappeared; and all the fruit on the trees withered up, and became transformed into cones. Some kinds shrivelled up to a small size, and became berries. When God came and saw what had happened, he sent the woman to live with the Devil, and, taking A'taam, he broke off his lower rib, and made a woman out of it. This rib-woman became A'taam's wife, and bore many children to him.
God came down to the earth, and found it was very dirty, and full of bad things, bad people, mysteries, and cannibals. He thought he would make a flood to clean the earth, and drown all the bad people and monsters. The flood covered the tops of the mountains; and all the people were drowned, except one man and his two daughters, who escaped in a canoe. When the water receded, they came ashore and found that the earth was clean. They were starving, and looked for food, but nothing edible could they see. No plants grew near by, only some trees of several varieties. They crushed a piece of fir with stones, and soaked it in water. They tried to eat it, and to drink the decoction; but it was too nasty, and they threw it away. Thus they tried pine, alder, and other woods, and at last they tried service-berry wood, which tasted much better. The women drank the decoction, and found that it made them tipsy. They gave some to their father, and he became quite drunk. Now they thought to themselves, "How is the earth to be peopled!" And they each had connection with their father without his knowing it. As the water receded, they became able to get more and more food; but they still continued to drink the service-berry decoction, and, as their father was fond of it, they frequently made him drunk, and had connection with
him. Thus they bore many children, and their father wondered how they became pregnant. These children, when they grew up, married one another, and thus was the earth repeopled. The animals and birds also became numerous again.
Many generations ago Aba, the good spirit above, created many men, all Choctaw, who spoke the language of the Choctaw, and understood one another. These came from the bosom of the earth, being formed of yellow clay, and no men had ever lived before them. One day all came together and, looking upward, wondered what the clouds and the blue expanse above might be. They continued to wonder and talk among themselves and at last determined to endeavor to reach the sky. So they brought many rocks and began building a mound that was to have touched the heavens. That night, however, the wind blew strong from above and the rocks fell from the mound. The second morning they again began work on the mound, but as the men slept that night the rocks were again scattered by the winds. Once more, on the third morning, the builders set to their task. But once more, as the men lay near the mound that night, wrapped in slumber, the winds came with so great force that the rocks were hurled down on them.
The men were not killed, but when daylight came and they made their way from beneath the rocks and began to speak to one another, all were astounded as well as alarmed -they spoke various languages and could not understand one another. Some continued thenceforward to speak the original tongue, the language of the Choctaw, and from these sprung the Choctaw tribe. The others, who could not understand this language, began to fight among themselves. Finally they separated. The Choctaw remained the original people; the others scattered, some going north, some east, and others west, and formed various tribes. This explains why there are so many tribes throughout the country at the present time.
Many thousands of years ago the Cheyenne inhabited a country in the far north, across a great body of water. For two or three years they had been overpowered by an enemy that outnumbered them, and they were about to become the enemy's slaves, and they were filled with sorrow. Among their number was a great medicine-man who possessed a wooden hoop, like those used in the games of to-day. On one side of the hoop were tied magpie feathers, while opposite them, on the other side of the hoop, was a flint spear head, with the point projecting toward the center of the hoop. One night the great chief told the people to come to a certain place.
When they were assembled he led them away. He kept in advance of them all the time, and in his left hand he held a long staff, and in his right hand he held his hoop horizontally in front of him, with the spear head of the hoop pointing forward. No one was allowed to go in front of him. On the fourth night of their journey they saw, at some distance from the ground, and apparently not far in front of them, a bright light. As they advanced the light receded, and appeared always a little farther beyond. They traveled a few more nights, and the fire preceded them all the way, until they came to a large body of water. The medicine-man ordered the Cheyenne to form in a line along the edge of the water, and they obeyed. He then told them that he was going to take them across the water to another land, where they would live forever. As they stood facing the water the medicine-man asked them to sing four times with him, and he told them that as they sang the fourth time he would lead them across the water. As he sang the fourth time he began to walk forwards and backwards and the fourth time he walked directly into the water. All the people followed him. He commanded them not to look upward, but ever downward. As they went forward the waters separated, and they walked on dry ground, but the water was all around them. Finally, as they were being led by night the fire disappeared, but they continued to follow the medicine-man until daylight, when they found themselves walking in a beautiful country.
In the new country they found plenty of game to live on. The medicine-man taught the Cheyenne many things, but they seemed to be of weak minds, though they were physically strong. Out of these Cheyenne there sprang up men and women who were large, tall, strong, and fierce, and they increased in number until they numbered thousands. They were so strong that they could pick up and carry off on their backs the large animals that they killed. They tamed panther and bear and trained them to catch wild game for them to eat. They had bows and arrows, and were always dressed in furs and skins, and in their ignorance they roamed about like animals. In those days there were very large animals. One variety of these animals was of the form of a cow, though four times as large; by nature they were tame and grazed along the river banks; men milked them. Boys and men to the number of twenty could get upon their backs without disturbing them. Another variety of these large animals resembled in body the horse, and they had horns and long, sharp teeth. This was the most dangerous animal in the country. It ate man, had a mind like a human being, and could trail a human being through the rivers and tall grasses by means of its power of scent. Of these there were but few. In the rivers there were long snakes whose bodies were so large that a man could not jump over them.
The Cheyenne remained in the north a long time, but finally roamed southward, conveying their burdens by means of dogs. While they were traveling southward there came a great rain and flood all over the country. The rivers rose and overflowed, and still the rain kept falling. At last the high hills alone could be discerned. The people became frightened and confused. On a neighboring hill, and apart from the main body of the Cheyenne, were a few thousand of their number, who were out of view, and had been cut off from the main body by the rising water. When the rains ceased and the water subsided the part who were cut off looked for their tribesmen, but they found no sign of them; and it has ever since been a question among the Cheyenne whether this band of people was drowned, or whether it became a distinct tribe. Long afterward the Cheyenne met a tribe who used many of their words, and to-day they believe that a part of their people are still living in the north. Nearly all the animals were either drowned or starved to death. The trees and fruit upon which the people had formerly subsisted
were destroyed. A few large gray wolves escaped with them, for they had crossed with the tame dogs. The dogs were so large that they could carry a child several miles in a day. After the flood had subsided the senses of the Cheyenne seemed to be awakened. They became strong in mind but weak in body, for now they had no game to subsist on. They lived on dried meat and mushrooms, which sustained them for a long time.