White Caribou

 

 

 

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by Ernest Thompson Seton

The Medicine Man begins by giving three thumps on his drum to call attention; then says in a loud, singing voice: "The Caribou have not come on our hunting grounds for three snows. We need meat. Thus only can we bring them back, by the big medicine of the Caribou Dance, by the power of the White Caribou."

 He rolls his drum, then in turn faces each of the Winds, beckoning, remonstrating, and calling them by name:

 Kitchinodin (West); 

Keeway-din (North);

 Wabaninodin (East) ;

 Shawani-nodin (South).

 Calling last to the quarter whence the caribou are to come, finishing the call with a long Ko-Kee-Na. Then as he thumps a slow single beat the four caribou come in at a stately pace timed to the drum. Their heads are high, and they hold the horns on their heads, with one hand, as they proudly march around. After going round once in a sun circle (same way as the sun), they go each to a corner. The drum stops; all four approach to salute the Great Mystery in the middle, the fire. They bow to it together, heads low, tails high, uttering a long bellow.

 Then they circle once, close to the fire; stop on opposite sides of it, backing outward, each to a corner or compass point; and then turning quickly, face outward, bow or honor that wind with a short bellow.

Now the Medicine Man begins. any good dance song and beats double time. The caribou dance around once in a circle. The music stops. The first and second, and third and fourth, close in combat. They lower their heads, lock horns held safely away from the head, snort, kick up the dust, and dance around each other two or three times.

 The music begins again, and they circle once.

 The music stops. Now the first and fourth and second and third lock horns and fight.

 After a round or so the music begins again and they circle, dancing as before.

 Now the howling of wolves is heard in the distance, from the fellows already posted.

 The caribou rush toward that side and face it in a row, threatening, with horns low, as they snort, stamp, and kick up the dust.

 The wolf-howling ceases. The caribou are victorious. They turn away and circle once to the music, holding their heads high.

 The wolf-howling, panther-yelling (or other menacing sound) is now heard in the other direction.

 Again the caribou line up and defy it. When it ceases, they dance proudly around, heads up, chests out as they step, for they have conquered every foe.

 But a band of hunters appears, crawling flat on their breasts and carrying bows. They crawl half around the ring, each telling those behind by signs,

 "Here they are; we have found them,"

 "Four big fellows,"

 "Come on," etc.

 When they come opposite the caribou, the first hunter lets off a short "yelp." The caribou spring to the opposite side of the ring, and then line up to defy this new noise; but do not understand it, so gaze in fear.

 The hunters draw their bows together, and make as though each let fly an arrow, then slap their hands to make a loud "crack." The first caribou drops, the others turn in fear and run around about half of the ring, heads low, and not dancing; then they dash for the timber. The hunters run forward with yells. The leader holds up the horns. All dance and yell around the fallen caribou and then drag it off the scene.

 The Medicine Man says: "Behold, it never fails; the Caribou dance brings the Caribou. It is great medicine. Now there is meat in the lodge."

The Birch Bark Roll

 

 

   

 

 


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Last modified: October 15, 2016.