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Otoe-Missouria Tribe

Beliefs - Stories

The Birth of the People

Nothing existed at the beginning, except an abundance of water. It flowed everywhere, eventually pushing all life out of it. In time, the water receded and land surfaced. Vegetation spouted. Forests reached towering heights. In the recesses of these forests, animals and birds dwelt. All life spoke the same language.

From the life-giving waters, the Bear Clan rose and came ashore. They peered about the dry world, and thought that they were the first people here. But they were quickly disappointed when they came upon the tracks of others which were embedded in the soft mud, leading out and away from the water. Following these signs, the Bear Clan chased the Beaver Clan, whom they eventually caught. The Beaver Clan, a diplomatic people, suggested that the clans become brothers and live together in harmony, because alone life was so hard. The intent of the Bear Clan was to kill the Beaver Clan when they found them, but the Bears were soon pacified by their new kin and resigned themselves to the fact that they were not the first people. So the Bear and Beaver Clans kept each other company and were companions at the Beginning. Some time passed before the Bear and Beaver Clans met other peoples and the two were content to think no others existed. Then it happened. The Bear and Beaver Clans came upon the Elks, whom they desired to kill. But instead the Elks proposed that they be allowed to accompany the two clans. After a time, the Bear and Beaver Clans had a change of heart and agreed that all could be brothers and help one another.

Now the sky people came through the sky opening and swooped down to earth, where they found evidence of three other clans. The Eagles knew that there were more people in the other three clans than in the Eagles. The Eagles approached these clans and once more the clans grew. Having decided to live together, they began sharing among themselves certain things and knowledge that had before belonged solely to the individual clans, but it was now used to help all the clans.

In order to learn how to live, the clans called upon Waconda, the Creator. Waconda taught each clan certain things and gave each group certain scared knowledge, and therefore, rights associated with a sacred pipe that also was a gift from Waconda. In this manner (of the sacred pipe) the four clans lived.

In time the Bear, Beaver, Elk and Eagle Clans met the Buffalo(head), Snake, Owl and Pigeon Clans. The last two, like the Eagles, were from the sky. The Buffalohead, renamed Buffalo, Owl, Pigeon and Snake (now extinct) had their own pipe, and this sacred possession they offered to the Bear, Beaver, Elk and Eagle Clans. At first, this gesture was ignored by the Bears and the pipe rejected. But the Bears softened and finally Bear, Beaver, Elk and Eagle Clans accepted the pipe which was an offering of friendship and co-existence. They reciprocated, making a similar gesture of friendship. So it was in these acts that everything began… (Otoe-Missouria Tribe, pp. 26-27).

Photograph of Indian woman smoking long pipeTruman Dailey: "We don't have a lot of the old ceremonies anymore. The ceremonies were alive when the people practiced them. But when the civilized environment came over, it began to die. Now they are faded away; it's all gone. But we are singing songs today that were composed by people who are now gone. Their life ceased to exist on this earth. They composed the song. Well, we can't bury the song. The only way is forget about it in our mind. But then that song was so meaningful that we still sing it." (Otoe-Missouria Tribe, p. 30).

Photograph of Charley and George DaileyTruman Dailey: "Then there was my uncle Charley. He could carve things out of wood, and he could paint pictures. But he couldn't sell his pictures. So he kind of had a difficult time. And then he was married and his wife was going to have a baby, but before his boy was born there was something shameful took place. His mother-in-law hit him. That's a no-no. He loved his wife and all like that, but when that happened that was the same as saying, 'Get out of here. We don't want you.' So he left them. In the meantime, one of his 'brothers' that is, one of his cousins, had married this white woman. Her name was Dora. She was white, but she was raised by the Otoes. She had three children with that man, but then he died. So after awhile the folks got my uncle Charley and this white woman together. That was the system, because Charley was a "brother" to that man. And Charley was just like their own father to them children. He wasn't no stepfather, 'cause their own father and Charley, they were first cousins -- they were 'brothers.' That's the way the Indians look at it. So Charley, he lived with her about forty, fifty years, until she died. And then he married again, but in his old age. (Stanley, pp. 129-30).