A time long since past, there was a young warrior of the Blackfoot Nation experienced a vision of a far away lake where large and unique animals called home. The Ancestors spoke to him and shared the knowledge of these great animals that could be gentle, loyal, strong able to pull the peoples travois or carry packs.
“Travel to this lake,” he was told,” take rope with you so that you can catch these great animals.”
When the young warrior woke he gathered rope that was made of strips of a bull buffalo’s hide to ensure its strength. He traveled beyond the Sweetgrass Hills to a large lake he had seen in his vision. Digging a hole in the sandy beach he concealed himself so he could watch without disturbing the life cycle. Animals came to the lake to drink the clean fresh water, deer, coyotes, elk and buffalo all respectfully shared what nature offered them to survive.
Soon the winds began to stir. Waves rose upon the lake and began to roll and splash across the beachfront. Then suddenly a herd of large animals, unlike any the young warrior had ever seen walked before him. Their size was that of an elk but they had long tails that hung to the ground. There were some that were white, black, red and even spotted ones. They had young ones with them that stayed close to their mothers. Soon they reached the water and bent their heads to drink.
The Ancestors then whispered, “Throw your rope and catch one.”
The young warrior did as he was instructed and threw his rope, catching one of the largest of the animals. It struggled and pulled and dragged the man around and soon he found he was not strong enough to hold the animal. With one sudden jerk of its head it pulled the rope out of the young warrior’s hands, and led the whole herd into the lake disappearing beneath the water. With great sadness he chose to return to his village, heading into his lodge praying for help to the Ancestors who had shared the vision with him.
The Ancestors heard his prayers and said, “Four times you may try to catch these animals. If in four times trying you do not catch them, you will never see them again.”
Before going to sleep, the young warrior once again prayed for the Ancestors to help him, and while he slept told him he was not strong enough to catch one of the big animals they instructing him instead to try and catch one of the younger animals, and then perhaps you will be able to hold it.”
As soon as he awoke the next morning, the young warrior traveled beyond the Sweetgrass Hills to the large lake again digging a hole in the sand staying hidden
while the deer, the coyotes, the elk and the buffalo came to drink.
At last the wind began to stir and the waves rolled and splash upon the beach.
Then came the herd of strange animals to drink at the lake, and again the young warrior threw his rope. This time he caught one of the young animals and was able to hold on to it. One by one he caught all the young animals from the herd and led them back to his village.
After the young ones had been there for a short time, the mares the mothers of these foals came trotting into the camp looking for their young, as their udders were filled with milk for the foals to drink. Not long after the mares came, the stallions of the herd followed.
At first the people of the village were afraid of these new animals not wanting to go near them, but the young warrior told everybody that they would not harm them and soon the animals became so tame that they followed the people everywhere. As the people moved their camp from place to place, season to season they would place packs on them. They called this animal po-no-kah- mita, or elk dog, because they were big reminding them of the elk and could carry a pack like a dog.
This is how the Ancestors and a young warrior brought horses to the Blackfoot Nation.
This was how the story was shared with me, and I too share with you…