The Orphan Boy and the Elk Dog

The Orphan Boy and the Elk DogThe Orphan Boy and the Elk Dog

Blackfoot

A long time ago there were not horses and dogs carried everything. A brother and a sister lived among a tribe. They were orphans. The brother was deaf and everyone thought he was stupid. No one wanted him. The sister was the only one who cared for someone, but someone soon adopted her from another village. The brother was left to fend for himself. He stole what leftover food and clothing that he could and slept in a grass dugout away from everyone else. One day all the food was gone and the village moved somewhere else, they told him that he had to stay, but after several days, he ran out of food, so he decided that he must go and be with his people.

He started running after them. He felt a pop and a worm-like thing came out of his left ear. As he was running, there was another pop and a worm-like thing came out of his right ear. He could hear. When he caught up with his village he met an old man named Good Running. Good Running saw him and offered him some food. He said that he knew people thought he was stupid, but he didn’t think he was stupid. Good Running soon adopted the boy whose original name had been Long Arrow. Good Running’s wife was not happy about having to take care of the boy, but the boy turned out to be good. He learned fast and soon surpassed all the other boys his age. He grew into a fine hunter.

As he was grown up he asked Good Running if there was anything he could do for him. Good Running told him about a place where he could get a strange animal. It was by a lake. No one had been able to do it yet. He told Long Arrow that he would have to travel for four days to a lake and talk to the being that lived in the lake.

Long Arrow left with his best dog in search of this strange animal. He came to a lake four days later. At the lake he met a man and told him he was looking for an elk dog. The man said he could not help him, but if Long Arrow traveled four times four days he would meet one of the man’s uncles who might talk to Long Arrow.

Long Arrow traveled on and soon came to the next lake and met the next man. The next man could not help him either, but if he traveled four times four days, his grandfather might help Long Arrow.

Long Arrow traveled on to the biggest lake he had ever seen, it was the great mystery lake. There he met a boy. The boy said his grandfather was below the lake and he might be able to help Long Arrow. The boy turned into a king fisher and dove into the water. Long Arrow was not very sure about going into the deep water, but figured that this was what he had come to do so he might as well do it. The waters parted for him and he was able to walk through the water down, down, and down until he reached the center where there was a tipi.

Inside the tipi was an old man who wore a great black robe and had a long white beard. The old man fed Long Arrow quite well in his well-appointed tipi. He told Long Arrow that not many were brave enough to come this far. He said to go to a meadow with his grandson to see the elk dogs. Long Arrow went with the boy and the elk dogs were nothing like he had ever seen. The boy showed Long Arrow how to ride the elk dogs. He also offered Long Arrow some advice. He told Long Arrow that if he could get a good look at his grandfather’s feet, he could ask for three things–the old man’s black medicine robe, his medicine belt, and a herd of elk dogs.

Long Arrow tried and tried to see the old man’s feet, but kept failing. Finally, on the fourth day, a bit of the robe got caught at the opening of the tipi and Long Arrow was able to see the old man’s feet. They were not regular feet and legs, but were feet and legs of the elk dog. The old man asked Long Arrow what he wanted and Long Arrow told him. The old man said he would give Long Arrow these things and would also give him a rope made from white buffalo.

The old man told him that the medicine belt would teach Long Arrow the songs and prayers of the elk dogs and he must learn them. The elk dogs would not follow him right away. He must walk for four days without turning back. The elk dogs would come up to his left on the fourth day. At that time Long Arrow would be able to use the black robe and the rope to catch elk dogs. He caught one to ride and one to carry his things.

When he arrived back at his village, people were afraid of the elk dogs, but Long Arrow was there and taught the people about them. They would be able to ride them and carry heavier things. Long Arrow was revered in the community. Some time later, Long Arrow was asked to take the people back to the great mystery lake. He did, but he could no longer walk through the waters and there seemed to be nothing underneath the lake at all except for a few fish.

Observations

Horses were not always in the Americas, according to history books. They were brought over by the Spaniards and some got free and began to multiply. The natives also traded for them and trained them. These days there are large groups of wild mustangs in various places in the United States, although some of those numbers are dwindling and some are even caught and killed, for what reasoning, I’m not sure. Not too far away from where I’m at, there are wild horses on the coast, in the Corolla and Roanoke areas of North Carolina. Okracoke island even has its own little sub-set of the wild horses. They’re currently cared for the government.

A horse must have been a great revelation when you only had dogs before.

Themes

This is an origin story, which probably isn’t true– I hate to break your bubble, horses probably didn’t come from a magical man living in the bottom of a lake, but it’s still a cool story.

I don’t have a lot of personal experience with horses, but I do know that a person needs to be gentle with them and have a certain manner with them if they expect those horses to train well and have a good relationship with them. Horses are highly intelligent. You can train a horse by whipping it, but is it going to have that relationship with you that you want? Nope. That horse is going to hate your guts. Horses can kill.

Long Arrow learned how to be gentle with horses. I hate to say it, but he learned how to whisper them. He was told to learn the songs and prayers of the elk dogs, which is basically saying that he was told that he had to learn to treat horses with respect. He was essentially taught to approach the horses in the right manner with the proper communication. The natives learned to keep horses and take care of them in a fitting way. The horses became an important part of their community because they recognized their intelligence and treated them with respect.

Overall

Don’t eat horse meat people, horses are just too smart.

Weigh In

Do you think you could train a horse?

Do you think the others didn’t make it because they couldn’t grasp how to treat a horse?

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