Long ago, the Great Bear wandered freely throughout the sky. His massive paws took him far across the boundless ceiling of the world. He hunted and fished, feeding there in the rivers of the sky. All throughout the first spring he did this, until his belly was full and he was happy.
Little did he know that three braves had discovered him feeding that spring and they sought his meat and pelt to feed their families in the long winter that they knew was coming.
Without warning, the braves ran out after the bear. The Great Bear took off running, trying to escape from the hunters. All through the long summer he ran, trying to get away. The braves, however, were very cunning and strong. It was in the first autumn when their arrows pierced the Great Bear and he died.
The blood of the bear spilled out of the sky and tinged all of the leaves with red and orange. The trees then dropped all of their leaves in mourning for their friend.
The Great Bear was reborn the following spring as is the way of bears, and the braves set out after him again. They do this each year. If you look into the sky and watch, you can see the three braves trailing behind the Great Bear as he runs from them towards the horizon, only to do it again with the coming of spring.
An Iroquois Legend
Adapted by Harriet Maxwell Converse
There was a time, says the Iroquois grandmother, when it was not needful to plant the corn- seed nor to hoe the fields, for the corn sprang up of itself, and filled the broad meadows. Its stalks grew strong and tall, and were covered with leaves like waving banners, and filled with ears of pearly grain wrapped in silken green husks.
In those days Onatah, the Spirit of the Corn, walked upon the earth. The sun lovingly touched her dusky face with the blush of the morning, and her eyes grew soft as the gleam of the stars on dark streams. Her night-black hair was spread before the breeze like a wind-driven cloud.
As she walked through the fields, the corn, the Indian maize, sprang up of itself from the earth and filled the air with its fringed tassels and whispering leaves. With Onatah walked her two sisters, the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean. As they passed by, squash-vines and bean-plants grew from the corn-hills.
One day Onatah wandered away alone in search of early dew. Then the Evil One of the earth, Hahgwehdaetgah, followed swiftly after. He grasped her by the hair and dragged her beneath the ground down to his gloomy cave. Then, sending out his fire-breathing monsters, he blighted Onatah’s grain. And when her sisters, the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean, saw the flame- monsters raging through the fields, they flew far away in terror.
As for poor Onatah, she lay a trembling captive in the dark prison-cave of the Evil One. She mourned the blight of her cornfields, and sorrowed over her runaway sisters.
“O warm, bright sun!” she cried, “if I may walk once more upon the earth, never again will I leave my corn!”
And the little birds of the air heard her cry, and winging their way upward they carried her vow and gave it to the sun as he wandered through the blue heavens.
The sun, who loved Onatah, sent out many searching beams of light. They pierced through the damp earth, and entering the prison-cave, guided her back again to her fields.
And ever after that she watched her fields alone, for no more did her sisters, the Spirits of the Squash and Bean, watch with her. If her fields thirsted, no longer could she seek the early dew. If the flame-monsters burned her corn, she could not search the skies for cooling winds. And when the great rains fell and injured her harvest, her voice grew so faint that the friendly sun could not hear it.
But ever Onatah tenderly watched her fields and the little birds of the air flocked to her service. They followed her through the rows of corn, and made war on the tiny enemies that gnawed at the roots of the grain.
And at harvest-time the grateful Onatah scattered the first gathered corn over her broad lands, and the little birds, fluttering and singing, joyfully partook of the feast spread for them on the meadow-ground.
Hear me, four quarters of the world– a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth. Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only, can I face the winds.
Great Spirit…all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. With tenderness have these come up out of the ground. Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.
This is my prayer ~ hear me!
~Black Elk, Sioux Indian
Message of Purification from the Yukon Territory January 23, 2007
“Hothooka Caunotka “Sign Of Purification”
Saugh-he, a sign of purification has been sent to the people, that
The Morning Star will start to be seen right before the night and
Light dances together. This is clear to the people of understanding
And balance. This message of purification from Creator is speaking
That end times are near, as people know it.
In the days that follow, people will look at the sky nation and
Witness and feel the return of two brothers that helped create Earth
Mother in the birthing time.
One brother who has the care of the top of Earth Mother and his
Brother who has the care for the bottom of Earth Mother. In these
Days the Morning Star will come and be with the two brothers and they
Will start to return Earth Mother to her natural rotation.
This has been shown for ages in many Petroglyphs within the Mayan and
Egyptian pyramids and the carving and inscription on many rocks and Bones.
Earth Mother has been manipulated and characterized throughout the
Ages by people that are not so suggestive of doing good for Earth
Mother and Creators creations.
The two brothers will work and walk with the Hothooka. The Hothooka
Caunotka as my ancestors spoke of them, will dance with the wind and
Find the ones that remember the original teachings of the old ways.
The Hothooka Caunotka walks strong with Earth Mother’s purification Dance.
The return of the Morning Star and Hothooka Caunotka, is a message to
All that a new day and new way of life on Earth Mother is here and
The purification has started.
Some changes will begin when the feeling of fire burn within the
People. Their fires will burn with desires and conflicts if they
Don’t remember the original old ways of teachings.
With this time of purification on Earth Mother, all life as humans
Have known will be changed. There will be messages and messengers
That will precede the Morning Star dance. These feelings and messages
Are for those on Earth Mother who understand the old ways and the
Teachings of Creator and Earth Mother.
The feelings and messages will be found in the rocks within their
Sacred grains and the waters. Creator will issue a great light with
The Hothooka Caunotka dance. Things will change in their manner of
Being. Every living thing will be offered the opportunity to change
From the largest to the smallest of creation.
Those that have returned to the old ways that understand the original
Teachings, they live and walk in a natural way; will not be harmed by
The coming of the Morning Star and Hothooka Caunotka dance. They will
Survive and work together to purify and help each other re-build
Earth Mother. In the ancient teachings of the old ways will they have
The ability to understand these messages to be given from Creator and Earth Mother.
It is important to understand that these messages will be found in
And on every living thing, all will carry these messages.
All life forms receives these feelings and messages from the Creator
And Hothooka Caunotka; those that walk, fly, swim, crawl or stand.
The appearance of the Hothooka Caunotka will be the opportunity for
All to change their ways; everything that will be experience will be
A matter of their choice.
Many will appear to have lost their souls in these times. So intense
Will the nature of the changes be that those who are weak in
Spiritual understanding will not maintain their balance of thinking,
For their walk was nothing without faith.
People will disappear, for they were only hollow vessels for the
Darkness to use. Things will be so dark and out of balance in the
Cities, that many will choose to leave.
Only those who return to the values of the teachings of the old ways
Will be able to find peace of mind and balance during this Purification.
It will be a hard time for people with children; they will be avoided
Deliberately and in some manner treated with force. Many of the
Children in these times will act and be un-natural. Some will be from
The star nation. Some from past worlds, some will be created by
People, in an un-natural manner and will have no soul.
Many of people in this time will be empty in faith, they will have no
Life force in their eyes or balance or their actions.
As the time gets closer to the purification, there will be those who
Walk as ghosts through the cities and canyons they have constructed
In their self-made mountains.
Those that walk through these places will be very heavy in their
Walk; it will appear almost painful as they take each step. These are
Disconnected souls from their faith, Creator and Earth Mother’s Understanding.
After the arrival of the Hothooka Caunotka, they will begin to vanish
before your eyes like smoke from the coals of a fire. Others will
have great deformities, both in the mind and on their bodies; because
the fake gateways that protected these people will be opened, there
will be much confusion between sexes and children and the adults.
Life will get and be very perverted and there will be little social
order in these times. Many will ask for their misery to end and still
others will appear as if untouched by what is occurring. The ones who
remember the old ways of teachings and reconnected their souls and
faith are those who remember who their mother and father are.
The Hothooka Caunotka will show people many signs in the sky nation.
In this way people will know that Creator is not a dream. Even the
people who do not feel their connection to faith will see the faces
of the Grandfather across the sky nation.
Many things will begin to occur with people that will not make sense,
for reality will be shifting in and out of their dream time. There
will be many paths to the lower world that will open at this time.
Things long forgotten will come back to remind people of the past
creations. All living and forgotten things want to be present for the
great day of purification when the forever cycle of Earth Mother starts.
The People will receive many warnings allowing them to change their
paths from below the Earth Mother as well as above. Then one morning
in a moment, the purification will awaken. Many things will then
begin to happen that people want to be sure of their exact nature;
for much of what reality was, will not be seen in the now, it will be gone.
There will be many different animals on Earth Mother in these days of
the Hothooka Caunotka dance, some that have never been seen before.
The nature of humans will appear strange in these times. The people
will walk between worlds and they will house many spirits even within
their bodies. After a time people will walk with the Hothooka
Caunotka from the top and bottom of Earth Mother and start to
rebuild, but not until the Hothooka Caunotka has left their mark on Earth Mother.
Nothing living will go untouched. The way through this time can be
found in your heart and reuniting with your soul. Getting simple and
returning to living with and on Earth Mother in harmony with all
creations. Remember, people are the caretakers of Earth Mother and
the fire keepers of our own faith and soul.
Our Ancestors that walk with Hothooka Caunotka are coming home to see
how their Ancestors have fared on their journey, walk with peace.
~Creator as Chief, Grayeagle
The taking of life brings serious thoughts.
We have come thus far, my brothers. We have already laid our plans. With magic power the trail is made easy, bordered with flowers, grass, and trees.
The enemy saw the apparent bounty of nature and assembled, laughing, to gather the seeds and plants. It was the power of the distant magician which made the enemy enjoy his fancied prosperity.
In the center of our council ground the fire burned and, lighting a cigarette, I puffed smoke toward the east. Slowly a vision arose before me …
On the mountain tops was a yellow-spider magician, upon where I called for help. He went to the enemy, darkened their hearts, tied their hands and their bows, and made them grow weak as women.
Then he pushed us on to destroy the enemy. We rushed upon the Apaches and killed them without difficulty.
With gladness in my heart I gathered the evidences of my victory and turned toward home.
You may think this over, my relatives. The taking of life brings serious thoughts of the waste; the celebration of victory may become riotous.
~A Pima Poem
The act of Counting Coup signifies a victory over an enemy or an accepted challenge. The Warrior Clans of Native America used many methods of stealth, guile, surprise, planning, and physical strength to claim prizes from their opponents. The Traditional prizes taken on raids were Horses, Eagle feathers, Medicine Bundles, Medicine Shields, tomahawks, bows, and other weapons. Scalps were not honorable prizes of Counting Coup before the Boat People came to Turtle Island.
Trappers and traders sold scalps to European curiosity seekers saying that the “savages” in the new world cut each other’s scalp off, when, in fact the practice of scalping was started by those who sought money from the wealthy in Europe. As the scalping horror spread and Native women and children were being killed and scalped or scalped alive, the Warrior Clans began to retaliate.
The men of any race or Tribe were of the Warrior Clan in the eyes of Native Americans and were charged with the honor of protecting women and children. It was the highest form of shame for a Warrior to have the women and children under his protection hurt in any way.
Anger and hatred began to grow on all sides, Tribe against Tribe and Indian against white. The act of Counting Coup had been soiled and the honor normally between Warriors and soldiers had been cast aside. In the original meaning, Counting Coup had been an act of victory. A Warrior would steal something from the Brave he had bested to show how strong his Medicine was against his rivals.
This practice varied among Tribes. Members of the Warrior Clan among the Plains Indians often had a Coup Staff or Stick, much like a shepherd’s crook that was placed inside his lodge and carried the reminders of his personal victories. The Coup Staff had various prizes tied to it. These objects could include Horse hair (if he had stolen the mount of another Warrior), Eagle feathers, a piece of material, beads, or a Medicine Pouch, which had been tied to the mane of an opponents Horse. Later with the practice of scalping, a scalp could also be seen hanging from a Coup Stick.
In marking a victory, there were certain things that a Brave was then allowed to do that would tell others of his Counting Coup. He could use the designs in his face paint which added honor to his status and told those who knew how to read its meaning that he had one or more acts of bravery added to his name. These symbols could also be added to his Horse’s warpaint when he rode into battle again. The more Coups Counted, the stronger the Medicine of that Warrior.
Four to six major types of Coups were Counted among the Sioux, the Crow, the Blackfoot, the Apache, the Cherokee, the Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Flathead, the Ute, the Arapahoe, the Pawnee, the Shoshone, and others.
- The first in importance was to strike an enemy with bow and arrow, tomahawk, or later a rifle’s bullet.
- Another important Coup was “riding the enemy down.” To ride an enemy down was to knock the Warrior off his Horse and finish him off with hand-to-hand combat.
- To steal an enemy’s Horse was another important Coup. Stealing Horses was to steal the means of retaliation, and therefore, steal Warrior-power, or strength.
- The fifth was to steal some of the enemy’s Medicine, which could be his Shield, his Eagle feathers, his Medicine pouch, a beaded medallion, a Buffalo-bone chestplate, or scalplock.
A scalplock is one tiny piece of hair that is braided with some kind of Medicine representing that person’s Allies, connections, or strengths. A scalplock can have a strip of hide, a feather, a tooth, beads, and/or other small objects tied to it. To cut the braided scalplock from a Warrior’s hair was to strip him of his war medicine.
- The final recognized form of Counting Coup was to destroy a Warrior’s Lodge or Tipi, take his woman, or personal possessions. This form of Counting Coup was not as honorable and was used only as a last resort, to humiliate rather than to conquer another Warrior’s Medicine.
Among the Plains Indians, if a death occurred, the raiding party would smear black paint on their faces when returning to camp. The women would start their mourning trills and cries at the first sight of the Black Faces. The grieving family would be relieved from the duties of daily life and work for four days.
The four days of mourning honored the Winds of the Four Directions, which would take the loved one to the Sky Lodge after having “dropped his robe” (dying). If the raid was not victorious, the entire Tribe observed the death with mourning. If the Warriors had Counted Coup, the grieving family was taken care of and waited upon, but the Coup celebration would continue for the other Tribal members.
At the Coup feast, the leader of the war party or raiding band would give those who had witnessed the individual victories of their friends the honor of telling the events. A Warrior was honored by his friends and was not allowed to tell the story himself.
This practice added another dimension to the celebration since a friend’s pride in another Brother’s accomplishments came into play. This insured the participation of those who had not accomplished an act of Coup personally and made them part of the celebration as well. It also ruled out any embellishments on the part of those actually involved.
To speak in an exaggerated manner was considered prideful and to lie was to lose face. A true witness was bound by honor to speak honestly of a Brother’s courage or lack of it.
If someone had shamed the Warrior Clan, it was spoken of in the Council of that Clan and never in front of the entire Tribe. A loss of courage was a blemish on all of the Brothers of the Warrior Clan and since they acted as an elite group or unit, “shame-faces” were not allowed to continue as members.
“To add a Coup Feather to one’s Bonnet” is an expression that comes from the idea of personal achievement or accomplishment that will aid or assist the whole. In the concept of Counting Coup, jealousy and envy have no place. There is no victory when anyone is belittled through the boasting of another. There is no honor in self-importance.
Actions speak louder than words when victory is sought. A Coup Feather is never awarded to someone who intended to do something but did not follow through. Walking One’s Talk is the essence of true victory. As reflected by our Ancestors, the victory of the Coup Feather is based upon the high ideals of Eagle. Those ideals are followed by action. Just as Eagle marks and kills its prey, so must we mark and attack the weaknesses that keep us from fulfilling our words.
As Counting Coup is a personal victory that affects the whole, so is the war we wage on the old patterns that keep us from knowing world peace. These enemies can be ignorance, inner conflict, envy, jealousy, willful pride, laziness, fear, bitterness, hatred, greed, bigotry, gossip, resentment, and broken promises.
Our modern Medicine Shields are made from truth, our weapons are living that truth, and our prize is our future, bringing the healing of Earth Mother’s children. Every Two-legged has been asked to accomplish these Coups through the discovery and healing of the Self.
According to Crow tradition, a man must fulfill certain requirements to become chief of the tribe: command a war party successfully, enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse, wrestle a weapon away from his enemy and touch the first enemy fallen, without killing him. Joe Medicine Crow was the last person to meet that code, though far from the windswept plains where his ancestors conceived it.
During World War II, when he was a scout for the 103rd Infantry in Europe, he strode into battle wearing war paint beneath his uniform and a yellow eagle feather inside his helmet. So armed, he led a mission through German lines to procure ammunition. He helped capture a German village and disarmed — but didn’t kill — an enemy soldier. And, in the minutes before a planned attack, he set off a stampede of 50 horses from a Nazi stable, singing a traditional Crow honor song as he rode away.
Joseph Medicine Crow (October 27, 1913 – April 3, 2016) was a war chief, author and historian of the Crow Nation of Native Americans. His writings on Native American history and reservation culture are considered seminal works, but he is best known for his writings and lectures concerning the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Légion d’honneur for service during World War II, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
He was the last surviving war chief of the Crow Nation, and was the last living Plains Indian war chief. He was a founding member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth.
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