Native American Technology and Art

The Sun Dogs of Winter



Last winter, in the time of Popping Trees, I left my home near the meeting place of the Big River (the Missouri) and the On-The-Far-Side Bear River (the Musselshell). I traveled south to the valley of the Elk River (Yellowstone) in order to do some trading for provisions with the people there.

It was the coldest part of the winter. It had been two winters since I had seen days as cold as that day. It was cloudy with somewhat of a breeze and an occasional hint of snow flurries. As I traveled south I couldn't help but fear the coldness of the coming night, and pray to make it safely to shelter before dark.

As I progressed along and many miles passed behind me, I began to think of stories about unusual natural occurrences here on the prairie. I remembered many conversations concerning Sun Dogs. I couldn't help but think how exciting it would be to see something I had never seen before, something I had never even seen a likeness of.

Sun Dogs had been described to me by locals as spots on either side of the sun. That was about it. In all my reading of Indian stories and legends, and more modern texts on atmospheric abnormalities, I had never seen or heard a description of anything that even came remotely close.

The grayness of the sky suddenly brightened in the east and as I looked toward that direction, I found myself in the company of the Sun and her two Sun Dogs!

The fact I had only moments before wondered about them made the sighting of them even more spectacular to behold. I stopped and was amazed by it. I will try my best to describe what I saw in less than the most grand scale in which I witnessed it. I don't even own an image- maker that would have done her and her dogs justice.

As I said, the sky was gray in color, the clouds seemed to all blend into one. There was a slight breeze with just a hint of snow flurries. When we think of rainbows, we imagine an arch which reaches far into the sky. Now imagine a rainbow in the shape of a sphere,with the same height, only sitting upon the ground. The sky on the outside of the rainbow sphere was still the same gray color but the sky inside the sphere was a darker, blue/ gray. In the middle of the darker sphere, and filtered almost enough to look directly at, was the sun. On a horizonal line with the sun, and on the opposite, outer side of the rainbow were the two Sun Dogs. They were much smaller in comparison, such as the difference between a cherry and a grapefruit. I gazed at it for several minutes before it began to fade.

I felt fortunate to have witnessed it, knowing it must have been such strong medicine for the Indian nations here on the plains. As far as I know this is the only place it occurs, perhaps I'm wrong. If anyone can direct me to information, legends etc. on Sun Dogs I would appreciate it very much. Send info to: Longtrail, HCR 67 box 11, Mosby, Montana 590588; or send E-mail to:

Poems and Stories Menu

© 1996 Victoria Orchard. E-mail:

NativeTech Home Page

© 1996 Tara Prindle.