Native American Tales

How the Crow Came to be Black

How the Crow Came to be BlackHow the Crow Came to be Black

Brule Sioux

Crows used to be white and they were friends with the buffalo. They would fly high ahead and alert the buffalo anytime human hunters were near. Then the humans would starve and would have to find some other type of food.

One day it was decided that Crow was going to learn a lesson. A young warrior wore a buffalo hide. It still had the head and everything. He crept into the herd of buffalo and they did not know he was not one of them. The hunters made as to come near the herd and crow came and warned them, as always, but the one buffalo stayed. Crow landed on his head and asked if he was deaf, but the warrior reached up and grabbed Crow’s feet and tied them so he couldn’t get away.

They were trying to decide what to do with Crow. It was finally decided that they should burn him, but the rope holding Crow soon burned through and Crow flew away. Crow did not escape unscathed. His feathers had been singed and turned black, from that point forward, crows were black. Crow promised never to help the buffalo again.


Some birds and some large animals do have symbiotic relationships, usually it’s of the pest-picking off/eating kind. I don’t know if birds will actively warn other animals if there are predators. I do know that guinea birds will send up a warning, even if they’re hanging out with a bunch of chickens. There is a possibility that this was a real symbiotic relationship observed by some of the natives. Maybe crows and buffalo really did hang out together and maybe it was beneficial to both of them.


I think this story is kind of sad. Crow didn’t necessarily do anything bad, but was punished for what he did do, which was probably more along the lines of a good deed. He ended up having his appearance completely changed for helping someone out. You know, sometimes, we do, as humans, tend to judge some people who help other people out rather harshly. There are even feelings so extreme that we don’t consider that person one of “us” anymore. We have tried to deter some people from helping others because we don’t like those specific people.

I think I’m correct in saying this doesn’t occur as often in everyday life these days, but scenarios like this are still around. People don’t want to harbor refugees from Syria and look down on anyone who thinks it would be the good thing to do. Unlike this story, we’re not praying upon the people/creatures that need protected, but it still isn’t very nice of us to berate someone for trying to help.


Poor buffalo. Poor Crow.

Weigh In

Was it wrong for the relationship between Crow and the buffalo to end?

Do you think Crow should have stopped his relationship with the buffalo just because he had turned black?


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