Story telling is an important form of passing knowledge from one generation to another.
Robes of the Plains First Nations
One of the many forms of recording warrior exploits were on tanned buffalo hides. Stories of battles, coups, and accomplishments were told through pictograph paintings. Earlier recordings referred to as ‘winter counts’ can also be found on tipi covers, shields, and in some cases ledger books that were provided by the Indian Agents. These drawings were made by the tribe's historian and record an important event for each year. These accounts, called winter counts, are historical textbooks. More frequently, however, pictographs recorded stories of battles, horse raids, or some other important endeavors. These stories are recorded in two ways. On the one hand, the recorder painted stories he had heard recounted by warriors. These paintings are strictly historical documentation. In other cases, the men painted accounts of their own feats as they retold stories about their lives. With each telling, the man would recall the Power that helped him in a particular circumstance and ask that all who heard his story be blessed similarly by the Power.
The Frog who Rewarded the Man
By Clement Bear Chief
This story is told to children to teach them that if they are kind to others and help them they will be rewarded.
Once upon a time there was an old man who was camping near a lake. Every morning he would go to look for his horses. One morning he couldn’t find them anywhere, so he crossed the lake. Soon he came near a place where he saw a huge frog who seemed to be jumping very hard on something. The man was curious and thought to himself, “I’ll go over and find out what that jumping is about”. He walked over towards the frog. There he saw four goose eggs that the frog was trying to break so he could eat them. The man broke the eggs for him and the frog started eating them. When he finished eating the goose eggs he stood up and faced the old man and started waving his right foot to the west, as if he was telling the old man where to look for his horses. He started walking to the west and sure enough there were his horses and that was the reward he got from the frog for breaking the eggs for him!
This story was told to the young mothers to teach them about rearing and caring for their children and that the Creator loved the little ones.
A long, long time ago, or as far back as anyone can remember this story took place. There was a group of people who lived in a certain part of this land. They all had many children and lived quite well and prospered for many years. There was always plenty of game for the men to hunt and to provide food, clothing and shelter for everyone. Their children loved to dance and sing in their Pas’ka’nists, or their powwows. For a long time they lived happily. However, one night they saw a big star fall, trailing a tail of light, from the night sky. The next day some of the people who saw the big star went to the old people to see what they thought of the night visitor. The Elders all got together to discuss this new fallen star. Out of that gathering the word came that this star was the great carrier of bad things, whose name was, "Pahstsi-misina". One day, they saw, in the distance, a figure of a man approaching their camp. The young warriors were instructed to ride over to escort the stranger back to camp so the Elders could see what he wanted. The stranger told them that his name was Pahstsi-misina. When the elders heard this they tried to talk him into leaving and go somewhere else but he said he loved the place and the people. They tried to drive him out but he had very strong medicine. Over many years the people started to change their good ways and their attitudes to one another. What frightened them most was the great change in how the young mothers and fathers cared for their children. They began to be left on their own most of the time and they became unruly when they grew up. From then on the people who obeyed the teachings of those who were still good began to fight with those that did not. Finally, the Creator heard the cries of the people and children. He came to them and warned them that if they didn’t follow the original teachings through his Elders he would curse them. As time went on things got worse and there was great division among the people. Those that followed the good ways chased out those who did not. Some went to the forest to live, and some went to the area where the badlands are today. These families were never heard from again. Hence, back when I was young I was told that those disobedient mothers were changed to hoodoos. This is why the people called these hoodoos Ma’tapiiks or the people.
The spiritual beliefs of the Siksika rested upon the traditional knowledge of the spiritual leaders and ceremonialists. In the Blackfoot world view the explanation for the origin and function of the universe, as well as for man and his relationship with his environment, can to be found in stories or myths of the distant past.
The Blackfoot embraced his relationship with all beings, and the cosmic world through ritual and song. The grandfathers welcomed the sunrise through the sacred smudge of sweet grass and asked for guidance and good fortune during the Sun’s journey over the tall grasses of Blackfoot land. When evening came the smudge was again lit and in humbleness the grandfathers gave thanks to Creator for his generosity.
Myth Note: First Nations mythology varies from tribe to tribe. These myths contain great gods, tricksters, heroes, and other mythical beings. The creator gods and heroes usually establish or restore order. Characters such as tricksters and animals can have either positive or negative qualities. Sometimes they are helpful and entertaining; at other times, they are unpredictable, deceptive, or violent. Mythic figures do not always fall into the same category. A trickster may act as a culture hero, a culture hero may be an animal, an animal may be a creator figure, and a creator may have a capacity for destruction.