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The Punishment of the Stingy and Other Indian Stories, by George Bird Grinnell, [1901], at

p. ix

The Stories and the Story-Tellers

THE stories in this book deal with peoples of widely different surroundings and habit—some with dwellers on the sea-shore, whose skies are often obscured by rain and fog, who draw their living from the sea, and are at home on the water; and others with inhabitants of the high plains, where the air is pure and dry, and the summer sun is rarely hidden by clouds.

As the Indians have no written characters, memorable events are retained only in the minds of the people, and are handed down by the elders to their children, and by these again transmitted to their children, so passing from generation to generation. Until recent years, one of the sacred duties of certain elders of the tribes was the handing down of these histories to their successors. As they repeated them, they

p. x

impressed upon the hearer the importance of remembering the stories precisely as told, and of telling them again exactly as he had received them, neither adding nor taking away anything. Thus early taught his duty, each listener strove to perform it, and to impress on those whom he in turn instructed a similar obligation.

In transcribing stories such as these, care must be used to take down just what the narrator says. The stories must be reproduced as they are told; otherwise they lose that primitive flavor which is often one of their chief charms. In their true form they are full of human nature, full of unconscious suggestion as to how the primitive mind worked, and full also of hints as to the customs and life of the people in the old days.

Seated by the flickering fire in Blackfoot skin-lodge, or in Pawnee dirt-house, or in sea-shore dwelling on the northwest coast, I have received these stories from the lips of aged historians, and have set them down here as I have heard them.

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