Frances Densmore

Frances Densmore

Frances Densmore on Brave Buffalo’s wolf dream guides

Brave Buffalo [Sioux: Tatan ka-ohi tika] stated that about two years after his dream of the elk he had a dream of a wolf. This dream came to him as he was hunting alone. He had been wandering for several days in search of game when he met a pack of wolves. They formed a circle around him, and as they stood looking at him he noticed that their nostrils and paws were painted red. They came toward him, whereupon he grew dizzy. When they reached him, he was unconscious. They stood around him until he regained his senses; then they moved on, telling him to follow them. They led the way to a wolf den on top of a high hill.

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While he was there, more wolves came out of the hole, painted like the others. The wolves have always been wanderers, not knowing where they would find food. They knew he had been hunting and had had much difficulty in finding game, and they wanted to help him. They said there was a certain herb which, if dried, would enable him to catch all kinds of snakes. He was told to dry this herb, and put it on the ground where the snakes are wont to come. He did so and caught a live rattlesnake. The wolves told him to carry this live snake when giving the demonstration of his wolf dream. Instead of the mask of elk hide which he wore in his former demonstration, he used a similar mask of wolf skin, wearing practically the entire hide[1] and carrying in his hand a bent stick somewhat resembling a bow, which was painted red. A duplicate of this stick made by Brave Buffalo for the writer is shown in plate 28. Brave Buffalo stated that he carried this and the snake in the same hand, the snake coiling itself around the bow. He held the snake close to its head during the demonstration and let it go after the demonstration was closed. The wolves told him that when he was making this demonstration a live owl would alight on his back. Brave Buffalo said that this actually happened. After this dream and its demonstration he “prayed to the wolves” when he wanted to locate game, and they always told him where to secure it.
Frances Densmore in Teton Sioux Music, Bulletin 61 of the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918), p. 179. Recording available on Healing Songs of the American Indians (New York: Folkways Records, 1965).

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"Brave Buffalo stated that about two years after his dream of the elk he had a dream of a wolf."

Footnotes

[1] Cf, the wearing of a wolf hide by warriors, p. 388.