Posts made in April, 2016

“The Owl Man” as told by Dickie Moss

“The Owl Man” as told by Dickie Moss

 Dickie Moss was the oldest son of the Northern Arapaho Storyteller, Paul Moss, and brother to Alonzo Moss, one of our tribe’s Arapaho linguists. Dickie learned storytelling from his Dad and shared the following story with Professor Andrew Cowell. You will notice that he begins each section by saying “Wohei” which translates into English as “and then”. The Owl Man Told by Dickie Moss, June 8, 2003 This is the story they told about the owl. The people were living nomadically. Whenever they all camped together, one [man] would camp off by himself. A little farther on down the stream, that’s where he camped. He stayed alone. The others camped together in a cluster. Wohei this one man camped out alone, away from everyone else. Wohei when it was dark, an owl could come around and bother people. And the dogs as well, it would bother the dogs. They barked, and chased after it. They didn’t know that [the man who camped alone] was the owl. Wohei once again they moved camp farther along. They set up camp again somewhere. They were roaming about and camping, various places, hunting, picking berries and so forth. But the one man would camp apart. He camped apart from the others. And when it was dark, well the dogs would pursue [the owl]. It called out in a strange, unnatural way. Wohei they don’t know that it’s the man who camps alone. Everyone moved camp farther along, but he would move camp along with them. Yet again they moved camp farther along. They had lots of jerked meat and berries, and they were being laid out to dry and otherwise [prepared]. They were getting them ready for wintertime, so that they could eat during the winter when they couldn’t hunt very much or when there wouldn’t be any berries on the bushes and so forth. They camped, and then again they moved camped farther along. They made camp again, and this one man camped apart. But this time, the night was bright. The moon was shining like it was daytime. And again the dogs chased after [the owl]. “Wohei, let’s see what I can do,” said one man. “The dogs just chase after it. I’m going to try and figure out what’s really going on.” Then he went outside; he got his gun and went outside. And in a particular tree, he saw an owl. It was sitting in plain view in the moonlight. “Ha! So there it is! So there it is!” Just at that moment, it flew from its perch. It swooped down towards him. The dogs once again chased after it. “So that’s the owl which is always coming to...

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Myths of the Night Sky

The old Arapaho looked to the night sky and named many of the fixed stars above them. They explained that the comets were stars with tails and told stories to explain the stars’ significance. The three stars in linear position in Orion were thought to be “three buffalos in a row.” When they were in the west, the Arapaho knew that dawn was near. In 1876, the Arapaho Indian Scout, Wolf Moccasin, told Captain William Philo Clark that the Milky Way was the path taken to the afterlife by warriors killed in battle. “They believed that after death they went to the land of the rising sun; this land was far way beyond and below all mountains, a level country near the ocean. An Arapaho killed in battle did not have to travel over this long road, or rather, the road of the warriors killed in battle (Milky Way).” Clark, 1885, Indian Sign Language, p. 41 The Milky Way has an Arapaho legend tied to it of a race to the death between a young horse and a young buffalo bull. It was recorded in Oklahoma in 1893 by Albert Gatschet, the Swiss-American ethnologist who was a pioneer in the field of Native American languages. Many of the details are significant such as the color of victory is black and youth is said to be impetuous and prone to poor decision-making in traditional Arapaho culture. “A black bob-tailed horse raced with a young buffalo bull. If this buffalo wins, the horse will always be eaten. And if the black bobtailed horse wins, the buffalo will be consumed. The black bobtailed horse won. That long white streak across [the night sky] is where he came running through. And that (streak) above which turns off to the side, that’s where the buffalo came running through. When he was beaten, he ran off to the side.” Some Arapaho versions of this popular story state that the Milky Way is made up of the dust raised by their running hooves. Below is the Myth of the Milky Way with the Arapaho translation. Special thanks to Professor Andrew Cowell and Arapaho Elders Alonzo Moss and William C’Hair for providing this story and the significance of the details. Ni’hwatä´n washî´nit hiwa´xāx ni’hnanü’hti´wat waxathöü. Nih-wo’téén-wo’ošííni-t hiwóxhoox nih-nonouhtííw-oot wooxo3ou’u. A black bob-tailed horse raced with a young buffalo bull.   Nihî-îthi-ihî´thine´nna nähä-i´theinan haye´hak hatetcha´nibinît hithēina´n. Nih-‘ii-3i’ hihíí3inén-no’, nehe’ híí3einoon hoyéí-hok, hoot-tecó’oni-biini-t hii3einóón.[i] The Indians[ii] said, if this buffalo wins, the horse will always be eaten.   Na’hwotä´nwash haye´hak hi´thena atna´tawit. noh wo’téén-wo’oš hoyéí-hok, híí3einoon hootnó-ótoowu-t. And if the black bobtailed horse wins, the buffalo will be consumed.   Watä´nwash ni’ha-a´yēt. Wo’téén-wo’oš nih-‘óyei-t. The black bobtailed horse won....

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Chief Sharp Nose

Sharp Nose was an admired warrior, scout and chief of the Northern Arapaho as the tribe moved to their permanent reservation home on the reservation from the nomadic life they had known for generations. He was among the leaders that believed peace with the non-Indians was the best option for their tribe’s survival even if it meant going against their traditional allies. In the winter of 1876 to 1877, Sharp Nose served as a scout under Colonel Crook during the second Powder River winter campaign against the Arapaho allies, the Cheyenne and Sioux. It was during this time that Sharp Nose earned the respect of the non-Indian soldiers he fought with. As they waited for the surrender of Crazy Horse, Captain Bourke was especially impressed with the Arapaho warrior. Bourke stated, “In all that galaxy of gallant soldiers, white and copper-colored, whom I met… none stands out more clearly in my recollection than Sharp Nose. He was the inspiration of the battlefield. He reminded me of a blacksmith; he struck with a sledgehammer, but intelligently, at the right spot and at the right moment. He handled men with rare judgment and coolness, and was as modest as he was brave.” In 1877, Sharp Nose traveled with other chiefs to Washington where he met President R. Hayes and obtained official permission for his people to be placed on to the Shoshone Reservation. By 1891, Sharp Nose was an ardent follower of the Ghost Dance religion, a cult that Chief Black Coal did not look favorably on. This religion preached the coming of a new age for the Native Americans. Wovoka, the messiah of this cult, said that dancing would bring the buffalo and old way of life back and the non-Indians would leave. Black Coal, a Catholic convert, sent out a scout to check out the new religion and concluded through Yellow Eagle’s eyewitness reports that it was not a good thing. This, however, did not stop Sharp Nose and many others of the tribe believing in the hope this cult was giving them. Although Black Coal did not himself believe, he allowed the dancing to continue because it was the tribe’s right to choose for themselves their own religion. Along with others, Sharp Nose sang Ghost Dance songs and danced for days about their despair, clinging to a desperate hope that things would soon change –   My Father, have pity on me! I have nothing to eat. I am dying of thirst – Everything is gone.   Sharp Nose belonged to the “Bad Pipes” band of the Northern Arapaho and succeeded Black Coal as the head chief in 1893. At this time, the Arapaho were living on the...

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Chief Black Coal

Black Coal was born in 1840 to the Antelope band of the Northern Arapaho tribe otherwise known as the Long Legs. They were so named because they were always on the move. In reservation days, they were known as the Forks-of-the-River band because their new home was in the area of “Lower Arapaho” on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Black Coal earned his name after a victorious fight against the Ute tribe. He had rolled in the ashes of the battlefield until he was all black, the color of victory. Years later, when he lost three fingers in a fight against the U.S. army, he earned another name, Fingers Cut Off. In October 1867, Black Coal participated in the first Fort Laramie treaty. He later became the principal chief in 1871 after the death of Medicine Man. In the summer of 1874, two women were murdered in present day Lander. This attack and other raids, though never proved, were attributed to the Northern Arapaho. In an effort to locate and subdue the hostiles, Captain A. E. Bates took a company of 2nd Cavalry from Camp Brown. Their Shoshones scouts guided them to an Arapaho camp outside of present day Thermopolis. Black Coal’s band had been traveling with two other Platte River tribes from the Black Hills to raid against the Shoshonis. On the way, they argued and separated, with Black Coal deciding not to make a raid against the Shoshonis and to honor the peace treaties other Northern Arapaho had made with their former enemy. He then made camp at Nowood, a tributary of Wind River. On the dawn of July 4th, 1874, Black Coal’s village was alerted to the Cavalry by the war cries of the Shoshoni. The Arapahos poured out of their tipis and made it to the heights above their village, gaining the advantage in the ensuing battle. They were able to rain shots down and keep the soldiers back. Captain Bates captured and held the village for half an hour. During this time, the post surgeon cared for the wounded in a tipi before being forced to evacuate. The Shoshonis ran off about 250 head of horses and 50 Arapaho died, some on the battle field and others from their wounds in days following. When Bates began to run out of ammunition and two men were killed and an officer seriously injured, the Captain retreated and the Arapaho counted themselves as the victor of the battle. Afterwards, Black Cole and his band returned to the Red Cloud agency where they were taunted by their Sioux allies for not keeping the original plan to attack the Shoshonis. Two years later, Black Coal joined with other Northern...

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Chief Black Bear

Chief Black Bear played a prominent role in the Indian Wars in Wyoming even though he attempted for most his time as leader to find peace with the non-Indians. This did not mean, however, that he was as willing to give up his warring ways with enemy tribes. In 1856, Black Bear was leading forty Arapaho warriors on the warpath. They were on the trail of “thieving Utes” and had been following them for 500 miles from the Platte River to the Black Hills when they met up with a troop of soldiers under Col. Johnston on the Utah Expedition. To show their willingness for peace, the warriors unsaddled their horses, turned them loose and sat down for a talk interpreted by Friday. Private John Pulsipher later wrote how impressed he was of these men and how well-dressed they were. By 1859, Black Bear was one of the main chiefs at the Council of Deer Creek where the Northern Arapaho made a plea for their own reservation and farming equipment. They stated that the vast buffalo herds had been depleted and would not return to the same place after scenting a white man. In 1860, the Northern Arapaho met with Governor Evans several times in an attempt to secure a reservation in the Cache la Poudre area. Governor Evans spoke of the folly of war and the chiefs agreed. Their bands by now were poor and hungry and continued to make a stand for peace towards the non-Indians. Black Bear was among the leaders of the Northern Arapaho who signed a statement that they would abide by any treaty made with the U.S. government. In exchange for their signatures, they were given rations for their families. In late August of 1865, Black Bear and his camp were attacked at Tongue River and lost most their belongings to the U.S. army and Pawnee scouts. (See the blog post, Black Bear, Battle of Tongue River) On April 29, 1868, Black Bear was one of the first signers of the Ft. Laramie Treaty. He, along with Medicine Man, Sorrell Horse and Little Shield agreed to accept as a “permanent home” some portion of the country set aside at Medicine Lodge or a portion of the reservation of the Sioux. Later in June, twenty-one other Northern Arapaho added their mark to the treaty, a treaty that was never fulfilled. By February 17, 1870, Black Bear was instrumental in a peace treaty between the Shoshone and the Arapaho. Largely through his efforts and that of Medicine Man and Little Wolf, the Northern Arapaho could now travel unmolested in the Shoshone country. The Shoshones refused to permit the Arapaho to settle on their reservation and...

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