There once lived a young couple who were very happy. The young man was
noted throughout the whole nation for his accuracy with the bow and
arrow, and was given the title of "Dead Shot," or "He who never
misses his mark," and the young woman, noted for her beauty, was named
One day a stork paid this happy couple a visit and left them a fine big
boy. The boy cried "Ina, ina" (mother, mother)
"Listen to our son,"
said the mother, "he can speak, and hasn't he a sweet voice?" "Yes,"
said the father, "it will not be long before he will be able to walk."
He set to work making some arrows, and a fine hickory bow for his son.
One of the arrows he painted red, one blue, and another yellow. The rest
he left the natural color of the wood. When he had completed them, the
mother placed them in a fine quiver, all worked in porcupine quills,
and hung them up over where the boy slept in his fine hammock of painted
At times when the mother would be nursing her son, she would look up at
the bow and arrows and talk to her baby, saying: "My son, hurry up and
grow fast so you can use your bow and arrows. You will grow up to be
as fine a marksman as your father." The baby would coo and stretch his
little arms up towards the bright colored quiver as though he understood
every word his mother had uttered. Time passed and the boy grew up to a
good size, when one day his father said: "Wife, give our son the bow and
arrows so that he may learn how to use them." The father taught his son
how to string and unstring the bow, and also how to attach the arrow to
the string. The red, blue and yellow arrows, he told the boy, were to be
used only whenever there was any extra good shooting to be done, so the
boy never used these three until he became a master of the art. Then he
would practice on eagles and hawks, and never an eagle or hawk continued
his flight when the boy shot one of the arrows after him.
One day the boy came running into the tent, exclaiming: "Mother, mother,
I have shot and killed the most beautiful bird I ever saw." "Bring
it in, my son, and let me look at it." He brought the bird and upon
examining it she pronounced it a different type of bird from any she had
ever seen. Its feathers were of variegated colors and on its head was
a topknot of pure white feathers. The father, returning, asked the boy
with which arrow he had killed the bird. "With the red one," answered
the boy. "I was so anxious to secure the pretty bird that, although I
know I could have killed it with one of my common arrows, I wanted to
be certain, so I used the red one." "That is right, my son," said the
father. "When you have the least doubt of your aim, always use one of
the painted arrows, and you will never miss your mark."
The parents decided to give a big feast in honor of their son killing
the strange, beautiful bird. So a great many elderly women were called
to the tent of Pretty Dove to assist her in making ready for the big
feast. For ten days these women cooked and pounded beef and cherries,
and got ready the choicest dishes known to the Indians. Of buffalo,
beaver, deer, antelope, moose, bear, quail, grouse, duck of all kinds,
geese and plover meats there was an abundance. Fish of all kinds, and
every kind of wild fruit were cooked, and when all was in readiness, the
heralds went through the different villages, crying out: "Ho-po, ho-po"
(now all, now all), "Dead Shot and his wife, Beautiful Dove, invite all
of you, young and old, to their tepee to partake of a great feast, given
by them in honor of a great bird which their son has killed, and also to
select for their son some good name which he will bear through life. So
all bring your cups and wooden dishes along with your horn spoons, as
there will be plenty to eat. Come, all you council men and chiefs,
as they have also a great tent erected for you in which you hold your
Thus crying, the heralds made the circle of the village. The guests soon
arrived. In front of the tent was a pole stuck in the ground and painted
red, and at the top of the pole was fastened the bird of variegated
colors; its wings stretched out to their full length and the beautiful
white waving so beautifully from its topknot, it was the center of
attraction. Half way up the pole was tied the bow and arrow of the young
marksman. Long streamers of fine bead and porcupine work waved from
the pole and presented a very striking appearance. The bird was faced
towards the setting sun. The great chief and medicine men pronounced the
bird "Wakan" (something holy).
When the people had finished eating they all fell in line and marched in
single file beneath the bird, in order to get a close view of it. By the
time this vast crowd had fully viewed the wonderful bird, the sun was
just setting clear in the west, when directly over the rays of the
sun appeared a cloud in the shape of a bird of variegated colors. The
councilmen were called out to look at the cloud, and the head medicine
man said that it was a sign that the boy would grow up to be a great
chief and hunter, and would have a great many friends and followers.
This ended the feast, but before dispersing, the chief and councilmen
bestowed upon the boy the title of White Plume.
One day a stranger came to the village, who was very thin and nearly
starved. So weak was he that he could not speak, but made signs for
something to eat. Luckily the stranger came to Dead Shot's tent, and as
there was always a plentiful supply in his lodge, the stranger soon had
a good meal served him. After he had eaten and rested he told his story.
"I came from a very great distance," said he. "The nations where I came
from are in a starving condition. No place can they find any buffalo,
deer nor antelope. A witch or evil spirit in the shape of a white
buffalo has driven all the large game out of the country. Every day this
white buffalo comes circling the village, and any one caught outside of
their tent is carried away on its horns. In vain have the best marksmen
of the tribe tried to shoot it. Their arrows fly wide off the mark, and
they have given up trying to kill it as it bears a charmed life. Another
evil spirit in the form of a red eagle has driven all the birds of the
air out of our country. Every day this eagle circles above the village,
and so powerful is it that anyone being caught outside of his tent
is descended upon and his skull split open to the brain by the sharp
breastbone of the Eagle. Many a marksman has tried his skill on this
bird, all to no purpose.
"Another evil spirit in the form of a white rabbit has driven out all
the animals which inhabit the ground, and destroyed the fields of corn
and turnips, so the nation is starving, as the arrows of the marksmen
have also failed to touch the white rabbit. Any one who can kill these
three witches will receive as his reward, the choice of two of the most
beautiful maidens of our nation. The younger one is the handsomer of the
two and has also the sweetest disposition. Many young, and even old men,
hearing of this (our chief's) offer, have traveled many miles to try
their arrows on the witches, but all to no purpose. Our chief, hearing
of your great marksmanship, sent me to try and secure your services to
have you come and rid us of these three witches."
Thus spoke the stranger to the hunter. The hunter gazed long and
thoughtfully into the dying embers of the camp fire. Then slowly his
eyes raised and looked lovingly on his wife who sat opposite to him.
Gazing on her beautiful features for a full minute he slowly dropped his
gaze back to the dying embers and thus answered his visitor:
"My friend, I feel very much honored by your chief having sent such
a great distance for me, and also for the kind offer of his lovely
daughter in marriage, if I should succeed, but I must reject the great
offer, as I can spare none of my affections to any other woman than to
my queen whom you see sitting there."
White Plume had been listening to the conversation and when his father
had finished speaking, said: "Father, I am a child no more. I have
arrived at manhood. I am not so good a marksman as you, but I will go to
this suffering tribe and try to rid them of their three enemies. If this
man will rest for a few days and return to his village and inform them
of my coming, I will travel along slowly on his trail and arrive at the
village a day or two after he reaches there."
"Very well, my son," said the father, "I am sure you will succeed, as
you fear nothing, and as to your marksmanship, it is far superior to
mine, as your sight is much clearer and aim quicker than mine."
The man rested a few days and one morning started off, after having
instructed White Plume as to the trail. White Plume got together what
he would need on the trip and was ready for an early start the next
morning. That night Dead Shot and his wife sat up away into the night
instructing their son how to travel and warning him as to the different
kinds of people he must avoid in order to keep out of trouble. "Above
all," said the father, "keep a good look out for Unktomi (spider); he is
the most tricky of all, and will get you into trouble if you associate
White Plume left early, his father accompanying him for several miles.
On parting, the father's last words were: "Look out for Unktomi, my son,
he is deceitful and treacherous." "I'll look out for him, father;" so
saying he disappeared over a hill. On the way he tried his skill on
several hawks and eagles and he did not need to use his painted arrows
to kill them, but so skillful was he with the bow and arrows that he
could bring down anything that flew with his common arrows. He was
drawing near to the end of his destination when he had a large tract of
timber to pass through. When he had nearly gotten through the timber he
saw an old man sitting on a log, looking wistfully up into a big tree,
where sat a number of prairie chickens.
"Hello, grandfather, why are you sitting there looking so downhearted?"
asked White Plume. "I am nearly starved, and was just wishing some one
would shoot one of those chickens for me, so I could make a good meal on
it," said the old man. "I will shoot one for you," said the young man.
He strung his bow, placed an arrow on the string, simply seemed to raise
the arrow in the direction of the chicken (taking no aim). Twang went
out the bow, zip went the arrow and a chicken fell off the limb, only
to get caught on another in its descent. "There is your chicken,
grandfather." "Oh, my grandson, I am too weak to climb up and get it.
Can't you climb up and get it for me?" The young man, pitying the old
fellow, proceeded to climb the tree, when the old man stopped him,
saying: "Grandson, you have on such fine clothes, it is a pity to spoil
them; you had better take them off so as not to spoil the fine porcupine
work on them." The young man took off his fine clothes and climbed up
into the tree, and securing the chicken, threw it down to the old
man. As the young man was scaling down the tree, the old man said:
"Iyashkapa, iyashkapa," (stick fast, stick fast). Hearing him say
something, he asked, "What did you say, old man?" He answered, "I was
only talking to myself." The young man proceeded to descend, but he
could not move. His body was stuck fast to the bark of the tree. In vain
did he beg the old man to release him. The old Unktomi, for he it was,
only laughed and said: "I will go now and kill the evil spirits, I have
your wonderful bow and arrows and I cannot miss them. I will marry the
chief's daughter, and you can stay up in that tree and die there."
So saying, he put on White Plume's fine clothes, took his bow and arrows
and went to the village. As White Plume was expected at any minute, the
whole village was watching for him, and when Unktomi came into sight the
young men ran to him with a painted robe, sat him down on it and slowly
raising him up they carried him to the tent of the chief. So certain
were they that he would kill the evil spirits that the chief told him to
choose one of the daughters at once for his wife. (Before the arrival
of White Plume, hearing of him being so handsome, the two girls had
quarreled over which should marry him, but upon seeing him the younger
was not anxious to become his wife.) So Unktomi chose the older one of
the sisters, and was given a large tent in which to live. The younger
sister went to her mother's tent to live, and the older was very proud,
as she was married to the man who would save the nation from starvation.
The next morning there was a great commotion in camp, and there came the
cry that the white buffalo was coming. "Get ready, son-in-law, and kill
the buffalo," said the chief.
Unktomi took the bow and arrows and shot as the buffalo passed, but the
arrow went wide off its mark. Next came the eagle, and again he shot and
missed. Then came the rabbit, and again he missed.
"Wait until tomorrow, I will kill them all. My blanket caught in my bow
and spoiled my aim." The people were very much disappointed, and the
chief, suspecting that all was not right, sent for the young man who had
visited Dead Shot's tepee. When the young man arrived, the chief asked:
"Did you see White Plume when you went to Dead Shot's camp?" "Yes, I
did, and ate with him many times. I stayed at his father's tepee all the
time I was there," said the young man. "Would you recognize him if you
saw him again?" asked the chief. "Any one who had but one glimpse of
White Plume would surely recognize him when he saw him again, as he is
the most handsome man I ever saw," said the young man.
"Come with me to the tent of my son-in-law and take a good look at him,
but don't say what you think until we come away." The two went to the
tent of Unktomi, and when the young man saw him he knew it was not White
Plume, although it was White Plume's bow and arrows that hung at the
head of the bed, and he also recognized the clothes as belonging to
White Plume. When they had returned to the chief's tent, the young man
told what he knew and what he thought. "I think this is some Unktomi who
has played some trick on White Plume and has taken his bow and arrows
and also his clothes, and hearing of your offer, is here impersonating
White Plume. Had White Plume drawn the bow on the buffalo, eagle and
rabbit today, we would have been rid of them, so I think we had better
scare this Unktomi into telling us where White Plume is," said the young
"Wait until he tries to kill the witches again tomorrow," said the
In the meantime the younger daughter had taken an axe and gone into the
woods in search of dry wood. She went quite a little distance into the
wood and was chopping a dry log. Stopping to rest a little she heard
some one saying: "Whoever you are, come over here and chop this tree
down so that I may get loose." Going to where the big tree stood, she
saw a man stuck onto the side of the tree. "If I chop it down the fall
will kill you," said the girl. "No, chop it on the opposite side from
me, and the tree will fall that way. If the fall kills me, it will be
better than hanging up here and starving to death," said White Plume,
for it was he.
The girl chopped the tree down and when she saw that it had not killed
the man, she said: "What shall I do now?" "Loosen the bark from the tree
and then get some stones and heat them. Get some water and sage and put
your blanket over me." She did as told and when the steam arose from
the water being poured upon the heated rocks, the bark loosened from his
body and he arose. When he stood up, she saw how handsome he was. "You
have saved my life," said he. "Will you be my wife?" "I will," said she.
He then told her how the old man had fooled him into this trap and took
his bow and arrows, also his fine porcupine worked clothes, and had gone
off, leaving him to die. She, in turn, told him all that had happened
in camp since a man, calling himself White Plume, came there and married
her sister before he shot at the witches, and when he came to shoot at
them, missed every shot. "Let us make haste, as the bad Unktomi may
ruin my arrows." They approached the camp and whilst White Plume waited
outside, his promised wife entered Unktomi's tent and said: "Unktomi,
White Plume is standing outside and he wants his clothes and bow and
arrows." "Oh, yes, I borrowed them and forgot to return them; make haste
and give them to him."
Upon receiving his clothes, he was very much provoked to find his fine
clothes wrinkled and his bow twisted, while the arrows were twisted
out of shape. He laid the clothes down, also the bows and arrows, and
passing his hand over them, they assumed their right shapes again. The
daughter took White Plume to her father's tent and upon hearing the
story he at once sent for his warriors and had them form a circle around
Unktomi's tent, and if he attempted to escape to catch him and tie him
to a tree, as he (the chief) had determined to settle accounts with him
for his treatment of White Plume, and the deception employed in winning
the chief's eldest daughter. About midnight the guard noticed something
crawling along close to the ground, and seizing him found it was Unktomi
trying to make his escape before daylight, whereupon they tied him to a
tree. "Why do you treat me thus," cried Unktomi, "I was just going out
in search of medicine to rub on my arrows, so I can kill the witches."
"You will need medicine to rub on yourself when the chief gets through
with you," said the young man who had discovered that Unktomi was
impersonating White Plume.
In the morning the herald announced that the real White Plume had
arrived, and the chief desired the whole nation to witness his
marksmanship. Then came the cry: "The White Buffalo comes." Taking his
red arrow, White Plume stood ready. When the buffalo got about opposite
him, he let his arrow fly. The buffalo bounded high in the air and came
down with all four feet drawn together under its body, the red arrow
having passed clear through the animal, piercing the buffalo's heart. A
loud cheer went up from the village.
"You shall use the hide for your bed," said the chief to White Plume.
Next came a cry, "the eagle, the eagle." From the north came an enormous
red eagle. So strong was he, that as he soared through the air his wings
made a humming sound as the rumble of distant thunder. On he came, and
just as he circled the tent of the chief, White Plume bent his bow, with
all his strength drew the arrow back to the flint point, and sent the
blue arrow on its mission of death. So swiftly had the arrow passed
through the eagle's body that, thinking White Plume had missed, a great
wail went up from the crowd, but when they saw the eagle stop in his
flight, give a few flaps of his wings, and then fall with a heavy thud
into the center of the village, there was a greater cheer than before.
"The red eagle shall be used to decorate the seat of honor in your
tepee," said the chief to White Plume. Last came the white rabbit. "Aim
good, aim good, son-in-law," said the chief. "If you kill him you will
have his skin for a rug." Along came the white rabbit, and White Plume
sent his arrow in search of rabbit's heart, which it found, and stopped
Mr. Rabbit's tricks forever.
The chief then called all of the people together and before them all
took a hundred willows and broke them one at a time over Unktomi's back.
Then he turned him loose. Unktomi, being so ashamed, ran off into the
woods and hid in the deepest and darkest corner he could find. This is
why Unktomis (spiders) are always found in dark corners, and anyone who
is deceitful or untruthful is called a descendant of the Unktomi tribe.