NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

The End of the World

Lakota story told by Jenny Leading Cloud (White River, Rosebud reservation, SD)
to Richard Erdoes in 1967. Typed from Erdoes and Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends

Somewhere at a place where the prairie and the Maka Sicha, the Badlands, meet, there is a hidden cave. Not for a long, long time has anyone been able to find it. Even now, with so many highways, cars and tourists, no one has discovered this cave. In it lives a woman so old that her face looks like a shriveled-up walnut. She is dressed in rawhide, the way people used to before the white man came. She has been sitting there for a thousand years or more, working on a blanket strip for her buffalo robe. She is making the strip out of dyed porcupine quills, the way ancestors did before the white traders brought glass beads to this turtle continent. Resting beside her, licking his paws, watching her all the time is Shunka Sapa, a huge black dog. His eyes never wander from the old woman, whose teeth are worn flat, worn down to little stumps, she has used them to flatten so many porcupine quills.

A few steps from where the old woman sits working on her blanket strip, a huge fire is kept going. She lit this fire a thousand or more years ago and has kept it alive ever since. Over the fire hangs a big earthen pot, the kind some Indian peoples used to make before the white man came with his kettles of iron. Inside the pot, wojapi is boiling and bubbling. Wojapi is berry soup, good and sweet and red. That soup has been boiling in the pot for a long time, ever since the fire was lit.

Every now and then the old woman gets up to stir the wojapi in the huge earthen pot. She is so old and feeble that it takes a while to get up and hobble over to the fire. The moment her back is turned, Shunka Sapa, the huge black dog starts pulling the porcupine quills out of her blanket strip. This way she never makes any progress, and her quillwork remains forever unfinished. The Sioux people used to say that if the old woman ever finishes her blanket strip, then at the very moment that she threads the last porcupine quill to complete the design, the world will come to an end.

I found this story on the internet at the url: The link dissappeared and i couldn't for the life of me find where it had been moved to. I had printed out the story to read for one of my quillworking workshops, so for lack of finding the internet site, and because the story is **such** a good one, i reproducing the story here. If anyone can find the original url/source for this story, i will replace this with the appropriate link. ~thanks, Tara

Note: I recieved this E-mail (Jan. 17, 2000) telling a bit more about this story ...

"While I was in school I had this story told to me, with these changes, it wasn't a cave but the messa (called the Grandmother in Monument Valley) that she lived on top of. She was not making a quilled belt but a buffalo robe. I had a friend that went out and stood/layed down in front of tractors to stop them from running a highway though that messa around 12-15 years ago, just thought I'd share this with you. By the way I went to a Native school in Michigan. ~ Frosty L. Chandler"

Thank you Frosty

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
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