Old Man Remakes the World
The sun was just sinking behind the hills
when we started for War Eagle's lodge.
"Tomorrow will be a fine day," said
Other-person, "for grandfather says that a red sky
is always the sun's promise of fine weather,
and the sun cannot lie."
"Yes," said Bluebird, "and
he said that
when this moon was new it travelled well
south for this time of year and its points were
up. That means fine, warm weather."
"I wish I knew as much as grandfather,"
said Fine-bow with pride.
The pipe was laid aside at once upon our
entering the lodge and the old warrior said:
"I have told you that OLD-man taught
the animals and the birds all they know. He
made them and therefore knew just what
each would have to understand in order to
make his living. They have never forgotten
anything he told them - even to this day.
Their grandfathers told the young ones what
they had been told, just as I am telling you
the things you should know. Be like the
birds and animals - tell your children and
grandchildren what I have told you, that
our people may always know how things were
made, and why strange things are true.
"Yes, OLD-man taught the Beaver how
build his dams to make the water deeper;
taught the Squirrel to plant the pinenut so
that another tree might grow and have nuts
for his children; told the Bear to go to sleep
in the winter, when the snow made hard travelling for his short
legs - told him to sleep, and
promised him that he would need no meat
while he slept. All winter long the Bear
sleeps and eats nothing, because OLD-man told him that he could.
He sleeps so much in the winter that he spends most of his time
in summer hunting.
"It was OLD-man who showed the Owl how
to hunt at night and it was OLD-man that taught the Weasel all
his wonderful ways - his bloodthirsty ways - for the Weasel is
the bravest of the animal-people, considering his size. He taught
the Beaver one strange thing that you have noticed, and that
is to lay sticks on the creek-bottoms, so that they will stay
there as long as he wants them to.
"Whenever the animal-people got into
trouble they always sought OLD-man and told him about it. All
were busy working and making a living, when one day it commenced
to rain. That was nothing, of course, but it didn't stop as it
had always done before. No, it kept right on raining until the
rivers over- ran their banks, and the water chased the Weasel
out of his hole in the ground. Yes, and it found the Rabbit's
hiding-place and made him leave it. It crept into the lodge of
the Wolf at night and frightened his wife and children. It poured
into the den of the Bear among the rocks and he had to move.
It crawled under the logs in the forest and found the Mice-people.
Out it went to the plains and chased them out of their homes
in the buffalo skulls. At last the Beavers' dams broke under
the strain and that made everything worse. It was bad - very bad,
indeed. Everybody except the fish-people were frightened and
all went to find OLD-man that they might tell him what had happened.
Finally they found his fire, far up on a timbered bench, and
they said that they wanted a council right away.
"It was a strange sight to see the Eagle
sitting next to the Grouse; the Rabbit sitting close to the Lynx;
the Mouse right under the very nose of the Bobcat, and the tiny
Hummingbird talking to the Hawk in a whisper, as though they
had always been great friends. All about OLD-man's fire they
sat and whispered or talked in signs. Even the Deer spoke to
the Mountain lion, and the Antelope told the Wolf that he was
glad to see him, because fear had made them all friends.
"The whispering and the sign-making
stopped when OLD-man raised his handlike that" (here War
Eagle raised his hand with the palm outward) - "and asked
them what was troubling them.
"The Bear spoke first, of course, and
told how the water had made him move his camp. He said all the
animal-people were moving their homes, and he was afraid they
would be unable to find good camping places, because of the water.
Then the Beaver spoke, because he is wise and all the forest-people
know it. He said his dams would not hold back the water that
came against them; that the whole world was a lake, and that
he thought they were on an island. He said he could live in the
water longer than most people, but that as far as he could see
they would all die except, perhaps, the fish-people, who stayed
in the water all the time, anyhow. He said he couldn't think
of a thing to do - then he sat down and the sign-talking and
whispering commenced again.
"OLD-man thought hard. Finally he grabbed
his magic stone axe, and began to sing his war song. Then the
rest knew he had made up his mind and knew what he would do.
Swow! he struck a mighty pinetree a blow, and it fell down. Swow!
down went another and another, until he had ten times ten of
the longest, straightest, and largest trees in all the world
lying side by side before him. Then OLD-man chopped off the limbs,
and with the aid of magic rolled the great logs tight together.
With withes of willow that he told the Beaver to cut for him,
he bound the logs fast together until they were all as one. It
was a monstrous raft that OLD-man had built, as he sang his song
in the darkness. At last he cried, 'Ho! every- body hurry and
sit on this raft I have made'; and they did hurry.
"It was not long till the water had
reached the logs; then it crept in between them, and finally
it went on past the raft and off into the forest, looking for
"By and by the raft began to groan,
and the willow withes squeaked and cried out as though ghost-people
were crying in the night. That was when the great logs began
to tremble as the water lifted them from the ground. Rain was
falling. Night was there, and fear made cowards of the bravest
on the raft. All through the forest there were bad noises - noises
that make the heart cold - as the raft bumped against great trees
rising from the earth that they were leaving forever.
"Higher and higher went the raft; higher
than the bushes; higher than the limbs on the trees; higher than
the Woodpecker's nest; higher than the tree tops, and even higher
than the mountains. Then the world was no more, for the water
had whipped the land in the war it made against it.
"Day came, and still the rain was falling.
Night returned, and yet the rain came down. For many days and
nights they drifted in the falling rain; whirling and twisting
about while the water played with the great raft, as a Bear would
play with a Mouse. It was bad, and they were all afraid - even
OLD-man himself was scared.
"At last the sun came but there was
no land. All was water. The water was the world. It reached even
to the sky and touched it all about the edges. All were hungry,
and some of them were grumbling, too. There are always grumblers
when there is great trouble, but they are not the ones who become
great chiefs - ever.
"OLD-man sat in the middle of the raft
and thought. He knew that something must be done, but he didn't
know what. Finally he said: 'Ho! Chipmunk, bring me the Spotted
Loon. Tell him I want him.'
"The Chipmunk found the Spotted Loon
and told him that OLD-man wanted him, so the Loon went to where
OLD-man sat. When he got there, OLD-man said:
"'Spotted Loon you are a great diver.
body can dive as you can. I made you that
way and I know. If you will dive and swim
down to the world I think you might bring me
some of the dirt that it is made of - then
I am sure I can make another world.'
"'It is too deep, this water,'
replied the Loon, 'I am afraid I shall drown.'
"'Well, what if you do?' said
OLD-man. 'I gave you life, and if you lose it this way I
will return it to you. You shall live again!'
"'All right, OLD-man,' he answered,
'I am willing to try'; so he waddled to the edge of the
raft. He is a poor walker - the Loon, and
you know I told you why. It was all because
OLD-man kicked him in the back the night he
painted all the Duck-people.
"Down went the Spotted Loon, and
long he stayed beneath the water. All waited and
watched, and longed for good luck, but when
he came to the top he was dead. Everybody
groaned - all felt badly, I can tell you, as
OLD-man laid the dead Loon on the logs. The
Loon's wife was crying, but OLD-man told her to
shut up and she did.
"Then OLD-man blew his own breath
into the Loon's bill, and he came back to life.
"'What did you see, Brother Loon?'
asked OLD-man, while everybody crowded as close
as he could.
"'Nothing but water,' answered
the Loon, 'we shall all die here, I cannot reach the world
by swimming. My heart stops working.'
"There were many brave ones on
the raft, and the Otter tried to reach the world by
diving; and the Beaver, and the Gray Goose,
and the Gray Goose's wife; but all died in
trying, and all were given a new life by OLD-
man. Things were bad and getting worse.
Everybody was cross, and all wondered what
OLD-man would do next, when somebody laughed.
to see what there could be to laugh at, at such a time, and
OLD-man turned about just in time to see the Muskrat bid
good-by to his wife - that was what they
were laughing at. But he paid no attention
to OLD-man or the rest, and slipped from the
raft to the water. Flip! - his tail cut the
water like a knife, and he was gone. Some
laughed again, but all wondered at his daring,
and waited with little hope in their hearts;
for the Muskrat wasn't very great, they
"He was gone longer than the Loon, longer
than the Beaver, longer than the Otter or
the Gray Goose or his wife, but when he
came to the surface of the water he was
"OLD-man brought Muskrat back
to life, and asked him what he had seen on his journey.
Muskrat said: 'I saw trees, OLD-man, but I
died before I got to them.'
"OLD-man told him he was brave.
He said his people should forever be great if he suc-
ceeded in bringing some dirt to the raft; so
just as soon as the Muskrat was rested he
"When he came up he was dead,
but clinched in his tiny hand OLD-man found some dirt -
not much, but a little. A second time OLD-man
gave the Muskrat his breath, and told him
that he must go once more, and bring dirt.
He said there was not quite enough in the first
lot, so after resting a while the Muskrat tried
a third time and a third time he died, but
brought up a little more dirt.
"Everybody on the raft was anxious
now, and they were all crowding about OLD-man;
but he told them to stand back, and they did.
Then he blew his breath in Muskrat's mouth
a third time, and a third time he lived and
joined his wife.
"OLD-man then dried the dirt in
his hands, rubbing it slowly and singing a queer song.
Finally it was dry; then he settled the hand that
held the dirt in the water slowly, until the
water touched the dirt. The dry dirt began to
whirl about and then OLD-man blew upon it.
Hard he blew and waved his hands, and the
dirt began to grow in size right before their
eyes. OLD-man kept blowing and waving his
hands until the dirt became real land, and the
trees began to grow. So large it grew that
none could see across it. Then he stopped
his blowing and sang some more. Everybody wanted
to get off the raft, but OLD-man said 'no.'
"'Come here, Wolf,' he said, and
the Wolf came to him.
"'You are swift of foot and brave.
Run around this land I have made, that I may
know how large it is.'
"The Wolf started, and it took
him half a year to get back to the raft. He was very
poor from much running, too, but OLD-man
said the world wasn't big enough yet so he
blew some more, and again sent the Wolf out
to run around the land. He never came back
- no, the OLD-man had made it so big that the
Wolf died of old age before he got back to the
raft. Then all the people went out upon the
land to make their living, and they were
happy, there, too.
"After they had been on the land
for a long time OLD-man said: 'Now I shall make a man
and a woman, for I am lonesome living with
you people. He took two or three handfuls
of mud from the world he had made, and
moulded both a man and a woman. Then he
set them side by side and breathed upon them.
They lived! - and he made them very strong
and healthy - very beautiful to look upon.
Chippewas, he called these people, and they
lived happily on that world until a white man
saw an Eagle sailing over the land and came to
look about. He stole the woman - that white
man did; and that is where all the tribes came
from that we know today. None are pure of
blood but the two humans he made of clay,
and their own children. And they are the
"That is a long story and now
you must hurry to bed. Tomorrow night I will tell
you another story - Ho!"