Sleeping Snake

Sleeping Snake

At one time there was a brave called Sleeping Snake. When he grew tired of continually sharpening his father-in-law’s elk-horn scraper, he told his wife to have her mother make many moccasins so that they could travel south to get some ditilli or iron (ditilli is a term applied to the original word for Flint).  However, the people warned him against going, for the chief who possessed it liked pretty women and would steal his wife.

Soon the couple left with their dogs who dragged a travois. At their second camp they met some people who gave them some ditilli. However, they were advised to turn back. The brave knew that he must meet the powerful Chief, even if he were to be beaten.

On the morning of the fourth camp, the brave told his beautiful wife to mess up her hair and cover her face in dirt so that she would appear to be ugly. Soon Tsa-Muhl-Tahkaiya, the chief of the camp, saw the tipi and sent one of his wives to see who occupied it. The wife reported back that the man and woman were both very ugly. The chief sent a younger wife to invite them to eat. Sleeping Snake told his wife to clean herself up and then he gave her a wolverine’s tongue to use as a charm.

When they got to the chief’s tipi, Tsa-Muhl-Tahkaiya saw that the brave’s wife was beautiful and told her to come and sit by him. However, she sat by the door and placed the wolverine’s tongue on the ground beside her.

On each side of the door two rattle snakes prepared to strike but stood back on Sleeping Snake’s command The chief gave his visitors a drink of poison, but before  Sleeping Snake put the drinking vessel to his mouth, he blew on it and the poison vanished. The chief than gave his visitor a pipe with a rattle snake in it while telling him that he must leave his wife in the tipi. Sleeping Snake lit the pipe and the snake shot out. He then took his wife and left the tipi.

When Tsa-Muhl-Tahkaiya went to follow them outside, the wolverine tongue leaped from the ground and pierced his heart. By sunset he was dead and the people made a great fire on his body, which broke into pieces of flint. The people gave Sleeping Snake great quantities of ditilli, then he packed his tipi and journeyed home with his beautiful wife.

From the book Tsuu T’ina by William McLennan

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