A Pawnee Personal Medicine Shrine
Oral tradition told by George Shooter
to George Dorsey and James R. Murie
American Anthropologist, volume 7, April-June 1905, page 496-498
My father was born a poor boy while our people lived at the bend of the Republican River. As he grew up he wandered about trying to find some way to become prominent among the people. He wandered away from the village until he came to a high bluff. On the south side of the bluff was a deep ravine, with many cedars. Now, he wandered about there until he came to a place in the middle of the cedars, and there he saw a stone man, and about the man there were many presents. My father filled his pipe and smoked to the stone and asked help of him. He also placed some presents in front of the stone man, then prayed to him for success. He went off, and in a few days found a camp of the enemy. He captured many ponies and took them home.
A few days afterward he started out on the war path, taking several young men with him. On the way he told them that they must be poor in heart and must pray for success. When they came to the ravine he told the others to stay behind, and he went on by himself. He came to the place where the stone man was and offered presents and smoked to him. After he had talked to him he returned to the other young men. They continued their journey and found the tipis of some enemies, which they attacked. They killed many and took some scalps. They also captured many ponies. They returned to their village victorious.
The people wondered why my father had such success in capturing ponies and killing enemies. One of his brothers begged him to tell the secret of his success. He consented and told his brother to come with him. They started to the ravine and soon came to the place where the stone man was. About him they saw many presents of moccasins, leggings, and many other things. They made presents to the stone man and gave him smoke from their pipe. When they talked to the stone man they said: “We wish to touch you. Do not be angry with us.” They touched the stone man and found him to be made of iron-stone of a greenish color. They believed that the stone man was a god, that he had come from one of the stars in the heavens. They kept the secret for a long time. The brother went off and came to a camp of some other people, and in the night they captured many ponies and took them home.
There was one man in the tribe who did not seem to have luck in anything that he undertook to do. When he joined a war party, that party failed to capture any ponies. Everybody disliked him. Finally he was rejected by war parties. At last he gave up and was looked upon as a poor man. One day this poor man determined to beg my father to tell him why he was so successful in capturing so many ponies. One night he went to my father’s lodge. As he entered, my father greeted him with “Nawa!” and pointed to a mat for him to sit upon. The poor man placed his hands upon my father’s head, passed them down to his arms, and said: “My brother, I am poor. Take pity on me. Tell me what it is that makes you so successful in capturing ponies.” My father said: “I am glad to hear you say this. Go to your home. Have your people make moccasins for you. This night you and I shall start on a long journey, and I will show you the thing that makes me successful.” The poor man thanked my father and went to his lodge. He made preparations, then went to my father’s lodge, where he found my father smoking his pipe and waiting for him. They started. For many days they walked toward the west, and at last came to the ravine. My father said: “Now, my brother, you are the third man who will know my secret. Where we are going there rests an iron-stone man. Be sure to be poor in heart. Talk to the stone and let all your wishes be known. Say that you are poor, and keep nothing back.”
When they came to the place where the stone man had always stood, they saw that he was gone; there was only a burnt place where the stone had stood. My father said: “My brother, the thing is gone, but it is a god. Fill your pipe and place some of the tobacco upon the ground where he stood and speak to him. He is a god; he will hear your words.” The poor man, instead of filling his pipe, went to the place and knelt down. He bowed his head to the ground, then stood up, and said: “Heavens, why could you not let this god remain until I should come? He is gone, but where? I shall pray to this place where he once stood. His power must remain upon the ground.” He knelt down to the ground and said: “My Father, the big Meteor-star, I ask you to take pity on me. I am poor. My people do not like me. They call me ‘the poor man.’ Now I call upon you to take away this poor spirit of mine and put a new spirit in me. Make it for me so that I can capture many ponies. Make me brave so that I can kill the enemy, and once in a while let me take a scalp so that I may offer it to the gods. Le me become a brave, then a chief.” The poor man arose, filled his pipe, gave a few whiffs towards the heavens, then a few whiffs to where the iron-stone man had sat. As he blew the whiffs, he said: “Grant my wishes.” Then he emptied the ashes from the pipe upon the ground, where the iron-stone man had sat. My father made his offering, and they started off. After a few days’ journey they came to a village. The two men captured several ponies, then they went home.
The poor man became a great warrior. When the village was attacked by the enemy he killed many of the enemy and counted coup. Finally he was recognized as a brave man. He was one of a delegation of chiefs selected to go to Washington to make the first treaty, and when the delegation returned from Washington he wore upon his breast a medal of one of the presidents. When he saw my father, he took the medal from his breast and placed it upon him, saying: “You shall be a chief, and I shall be only an errand man for you,” – so grateful was he to my father because he had helped him when he was in trouble.