Native American Tales

The Old Woman of the Spring

The Old Woman of the SpringThe Old Woman of the Spring


A group was playing with sticks and hoops, but two of the men were dressed exactly alike. They accused one another of copying the other, but then they sat down and tried to figure out what was going on. It turned out that they had both gone into a spring coming out of a hillside and met an old woman who told them how to dress. They had both been told to dress exactly alike.

They returned to the spring and spoke with the old woman. She told them that there would be buffalo in abundance; she would make it happen. She also gave them food and told them they should eat it with their tribe that night. All the men, except for one orphan boy should eat first, then all the women, except for one orphan girl should eat seconds, then the two orphans should eat the rest. There would be buffalo.

That night they did as directed and while they were sleeping, buffalo came out of the stream. There were so many. The people had enough buffalo to eat for a while, but they also planted corn, which they had in plenty, for a time. On day they discovered a neighboring tribe had stolen their corn. They went out to look for it, but they never found the culprit. It was a long time before the Cheyenne planted corn again.


I wonder if this game they were playing with the hoops and sticks was any fun.

I looked it up. The idea was that someone would roll a hoop along the ground and one, or more someones, attempted to throw a stick/spear/pole through the hoop as it was rolling along the ground. A person got points for getting their stick through the hoop, but sometimes for how the stick went through the hoop. Some hoops were even divided into multiple sections with strings or nets, making the game more difficult.


The authors who compiled these tales include short little explanations about each tale. This one notes that the Cheyenne were at one point planters, but went back to hunting buffalo. Obviously, the land changes and the weather changes. There are years some plants do good, while other years the plants are horrible. Some years there are plenty of animals, while other years there are not. It stands within reason that perhaps there were several years in a row that the Cheyenne probably had bad yields in their corn and thought that hunting buffalo would have been easier.

Corn can get diseases. The weather can be bad. Believe it or not, the weather changed from decade the decade before the idea of global warming even came into the picture. Some periods it was just hotter and some periods it was cooler. When the pilgrims landed, North America was going through a cooler period in history. Without other food, years of leanness in corn crops would have been very difficult on the Cheyenne, so, yes, it stands within reason that they would get their food however was necessary, even if it meant switching from a settled lifestyle of planting to a more nomadic lifestyle of buffalo hunting.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.


Just don’t dress like the other guy if you go to a hoop/stick competition…such drama.

Weigh In

What would you do if someone else was dressed exactly like you?

Would you give up corn in favor of buffalo?


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