In the mid-1900’s, a 70 year old Northern Arapaho woman shared the following story about a girl and a herd of wild horses. It had been told to her when she was about 12 years old by her grandmother.
“There was a man and his wife and their relatives. All these and their friends were traveling together. They had been camping together. In the fall, about September or October, they set out to find a camping place for the winter. So they broke up camp and started out.
Now, one of the daughters of this man and his wife was married to a man from another group. While they were traveling, looking for the winter camping place, this girl stopped her father and mother – they were on horseback – and told them that she had lost her pillow.
She told them to go on ahead slowly while she went back and looked for her pillow. She rode back on horseback alone and came to a drove of wild horses near some brush. When these wild horses saw this woman on horseback, they all ran toward her.
There was a stallion in the group. This girl got off her horse, got on the stallion and got away with him.
When it was about time for her to return and there was no sign of her, her people began to wonder what had happened to her. The horse she had ridden out came back, but she did not. So they waited in that place for a while. The girl’s husband rode around, off and on, looking for her.
Then they had gotten enough meat to least for a while, they decided to go back to look for the girl. The men rode out on horseback and looked all over the hills for her. They often came to where the group of wild horses were, but they never suspected anything. They passed up the horses just looking for the girl.
One man said one day, “These horses may have chased that girl’s horse and she may have knocked off her horse.”
The men then rode back to the camp. Her husband stayed and continued to look around for his wife. After awhile, he, too got back to camp. Then they all got on swift horses and again rode out to the wild horses.
These wild horses were altogether different from the horses the Indians rode and so the men made a plan. They would round up all these wild horses and drive them to their watering place in the river.
When they got them all rounded up and got them to the river, they found this girl among them. She was getting to be like a horse. She was winnowing and her body was getting hairy. Her cousins and her brother had to rope her.
She fought for her freedom, but they brought her home. She wanted to go back to those wild horses. They had the hardest time keeping her home. Even her father and her mother had to hold her. So two of her brothers led her out of the tipi and they had to use an arrow on her.
They killed her.
Her brothers were so ashamed of her. They didn’t like the looks of her. They told people not to touch her but to let her lie there and not to bury her.
My grandmother heard this story from her grandmother.”
Before you leave… here are some Arapaho cultural facts to consider.
In the old days, brothers and sisters did not talk to each other. Sisters were to show deference to their brothers, even the younger ones. When it was necessary to talk to her brother, the sister would use the least amount of words as possible and not look at them. Brothers also held authority over their sisters and even arranged their marriages. This is why it was the brothers who punished their sister and not the father as it would have been in other cultures.
The pillow the girl went back for would have been a cherished possession. They were made of softly tanned hides, stuffed with hair of deer and antelope. When it was time for bed, she would have gotten her blanket and pillow and laid down, fully clothed.
But the pillow was apparently not enough to entice her to stay with her tribe and she instead abandoned her husband and family for a life with the wild horses and their stallion.
The information for this story was taken from “Arapaho Child Life and Its Cultural Background” by Mary Inez Hilger, pages 68-69, 117. It has been reprinted and can be purchased on Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/Arapaho-Child-Life-Cultural-Background/dp/1258485605
Jackie Dorothy 2016 C