Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Origin Of The Bow And Arrow

From Paul Goble's "The Great Race," story from the Lakȟóta.
The Origin Of The Bow And Arrow
The First Battle

By Ohíyesa (The Winner), Dr. Charles A. Eastman
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. & S.D. - The following story comes from Dr. Charles Eastman's "Wigwam Evenings: Sioux Folktales Retold." Minor edits include spellings of Dakȟóta words using the Lakȟóta Language Consortium's standard orthography.

In both "The Great Race" and "The First Battle," man gains dominion to hunt animals, but also to care for them and honor them. Both these stories feature the introduction of the bow and arrow.
Now after some time it came about that the wamákȟaškaŋ (animals) became jealous of the greater wit of Boy Man, and as they feared that he would somehow gain mastery over them, they secretly began to plot against him.

As the wamákȟaškaŋ schemed, Boy Man who questioned his čhiyé (Older Brother), “Čhiyé, why do all the nations have weapons, such as spears upon their heads and daggers in their mouths, while I am unarmed and naked?”

He-Who-Was-First-Created sadly replied, “Misúŋkala, Little Brother, the time to give you weapons is now and I am sorry to do so. Now at last there is war in the hearts of animals and man. They are many and you are only one, therefore I am going to help you!”

Then he gave Boy Man a strong bow and arrows with flint arrowheads, then a spear with a flint head as well, and showed him how to use them.

Afterward, He-Who-Was-First-Created tossed a pebble into the air which came down as a wall of rock and enclosed their dwelling. He tossed up another and another until he and Boy Man were defended by high cliffs on every side. Boy Man spread out his new weapons upon the flat tops of the cliffs. The stone heads were destined to be scattered far and wide when the battle was over, to be sought out and preserved by men as relics of the beginning of warfare. 

The story of the Great Race features a contest between the animals and man. In both stories, man receives supernatural aid and is given an edge over the animals. In "The Great Race," man receives aid from the Uŋkčékhiȟa (Magpie).

The call to battle was announced by a single tȟatȟáŋka (bison bull), running at top speed over the prairie. Tȟatȟáŋka assigned others to various roles in the attack. The čhápa (beaver) was ordered to dig trenches under the defenses of Boy Man, so that they might flood his dwelling. The maštíŋčala (rabbits), tȟašnáheča (squirrels), and other little wamákȟaškaŋ were to gather food for the ozúye (war party), of whom the principle fighters were the matȟó (bears), šuŋgmánitu tȟáŋka (wolves), igmúgleza (lynx), and the pté (bison). The ičápšiŋpšiŋčala (swallow) served as messenger to the ziŋtkála (birds), and the swift hoğáŋwičhašašni (trout) carried the news to the hoğáŋ (fish), for all were to join in this war.

Gray dawn came, and with it hó šuŋgmánitu tȟáŋka (the wolf’s howl), the first war hoop, which broke the silence and peace of the world.

When the sun rose, dancing for an instant upon the sharp edge of the sky, one after another, all the wamákȟaškaŋ joined in the great war cry, with deep bellows of the larger wamákȟaškaŋ, howls and barks of the šuŋgmánitu tȟáŋka and šuŋgmánitu (coyotes), hissing of zuzéča (snakes), and the shrill cries of the ziŋtkála, of whom the pȟeháŋ (crane) and the huŋ’tká (loon) were the loudest.

Boy Man then stood up on top of the wall and saw the ozúye coming from all directions, as far as the eye could see. On they came with a mighty thunder of hooves. Overhead, the great war chief of the air waŋblí (eagle) commanded the ziŋtkála, while below the wablúška (bugs) began to scale the lofty defenses of Boy Man. There he stood alone and fearlessly let fly hundreds of arrows, of which every one found its mark, until the ground was covered with the fallen. 

At the end of "The Great Race" man is allowed to hunt the animals, but is charged with the responsibility of caring for them and honoring them even as he hunts them. 

Then there descended on Boy Man great hosts of the smaller ziŋtkála who had been provided with sharp poisonous weapons. Against these, his čhiyé had forgotten to warn him, but in great haste did he tell Boy Man to strike two flints together, and to catch the spark and put it upon some fallen dry leaves. Soon enough, a great cloud of smoke and flames arose toward heaven, not only drifting off the little ziŋtkála, but forcing the whole body of the enemies to retreat in confusion, for they had never before seen fire, and to this day it is feared by all but used only by man.

Thus the wamákȟaškaŋ were convinced that wičáša (man) possesses greater wit and is the hunter[i]. While they sued for peace, all agreed to give him of their flesh for food and their skins for clothing, in exchange, he promised to never wantonly kill them. Boy Man further agreed that they keep their weapons to use in their own defense.

This was the first treaty made upon the earth.


[i] The original text reads, “Thus the animals were convinced that Man is their master.” While many sentences were edited, this line of text was significantly altered to reflect the first reference to man possessing wit, the creation of weapons, and man’s use of fire.

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