Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sleeping Buffalo Boulder (MT)

Legend grew up about the stone buffalo among the Gros Ventre along with similar stories found among the Assiniboine. These legends reflect the reverence in which all tribes held the stone.

According to the Gros Ventre story, the Indians during a time when the world was young, became greedy and cruel. It was a time of plenty, when living was too easy for the people. Now they knew that the buffalo had been placed on earth for the purpose of providing food, shelter and all other necessities and that for these things he must be honored. They were obsessed with a lust for killing and slaughtered the buffalo by the thousands. Meat was left to the wolves and coyotes, for their people were rich in meat and robes and had no need for more. They only cared to see their arrows strike quivering flesh and red blood gush forth upon the ground. Then there came a dream to a maiden of the tribe. In this dream the girl was told that unless the slaughter of the buffalo was stopped, the tribe and all others would hunger for many years for the taste of fat buffalo meat. The young woman went to the chief and told him of her dream. He laughed at her and continued with plans for a greater hunt than ever.

When the morning of the hunt dawned the young men appointed as scouts to locate the herds returned with word that there were no buffalo within a day's reach. The search widened and continued over a great distance for days and weeks and months. The supplies of dried meat became low, robes wore thin and teepees no longer kept out the wind, but still no buffalo were sighted.

Then one evening a scout came to the village with word that a small herd of buffalo had been seen near the Council Hill, four miles from what is now the Sleeping Buffalo Resort, at the crossing on the Milk River where the river turns to form the Big Bend. The most cunning hunters approached the place and saw quite plainly the herd of buffalo grazing on the slope of the hill. They waited until the animals had lain down and then crept closer for an attack. When the hunters were within arrow shot of the herd, they sprang up with a shout meaning to startle the buffalo to their feet so they could more surely be killed. But before their eyes a strange happening took place. The buffalo began to look less and less like living creatures and more like boulders scattered on the hillside. The frightened hunters went closer until they could touch what had been flesh but was now stone. The leader of the herd was there and the cows and calves, but all were stone.

The hunters returned to their village to report the strange happening. A council was called and it was remembered that a maiden of the tribe had dreamed a strange dream of the buffalo. She was brought before the chief medicine man and instructed to go to the place of the stone buffalo and fast there until her dream was made clear.

After three days and nights of fasting and prayer, the girl returned and told the people they had been punished for their cruelty and greediness and that henceforth, unless they killed only for the necessities of life, the buffalo and all other game would return no more to the hunting grounds. This was many generations ago and therefore the buffalo returned and became plentiful. But the people remembered the time of hunger and killed only for meat and for skins to make their lodges and robes.

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