Let me tell you the ancient story about lniskims as I learned it from the Old Man.

The First Iniskim


In the long-ago, before the People had horses, they sometimes starved when they were unable to move their camps fast enough to keep up with the moving buffalo herds. This story takes place during such a famine. Three sisters were out gathering firewood. The youngest sister was carrying a large load of wood when her carrying strap broke. As she bent over to fix the strap, she thought she heard a voice singing. She became frightened and got up to leave, but the voice called out to her. Then she noticed in the direction of the voice an unusual- looking stone sitting up on the ground near her pile of wood. She went over to take a closer look and saw that the stone was sitting on a little bunch of buffalo hair. The voice began to sing again; it came from the stone:

"You - woman - will you take me? I am Powerful! Buffalo is our Medicine."

That night, she had a dream. The stone came to her and sang its song again. Then it told her, "I have come to you and your people because I pity you. My Power is able to communicate with the buffalo and bring them here. I have chosen you to bring to camp because you are humble and I know your thoughts are good. I will have my Power bring back the buffalo. But you must warn your People: my Power is always announced by a strong storm, and when it arrives it will look like a buffalo, a lone bull. You must tell your People not to harm him. The rest of the herd will follow as soon as he has passed safely through the camp."

The lniskim told her that he had many relatives about the prairie, and that all of them were in contact with the same Power as he. He told that any of the people who wished to have GOOD FORTUNE from this Power should look for one of his relatives and bring them home and treat them with respect.

Our Old People were always skeptical of someone who claimed to have been called upon in a dream and given Power.

With the approval of the holy men, the husband asked the young wife to sit at the head of the tipi and lead the ceremony that had been shown to her. While she covered the stone with the sacred paint she sang one of the songs:

lniskim, he says: "buffalo is my medicine." lniskim, he is saying: "I am Powerful"

The men knew that it was not an ordinary stone, but a sacred stone. They were anxious to see if it really had any Power. The woman then rubbed the lniskim over her body four times and prayed at great length. Then she sang another song:

"This lniskim, my man, it is Powerful"

Before they left, the woman told them about the warning in the dream. A crier was sent around camp telling the People to prepare for a big storm also not to harm the single bull that was to show up in camp after the storm.

Before long the breeze turned into wind, and the tipi covers flapped loudly against their poles. The unfastened tipis of those who disbelieved the woman were blown down and their contents hurled away. They heard loud hoof beats and heavy breathing in the darkened camp. It was the lone bull wandering through the camp. No one dared harm him.

In the morning the storm stopped and there was a large herd of buffalo grazing beside the camp. The People were able to bring down as many as they need, for the animals just wandered without alarm. The People cried with happiness for they had real food again. Everyone brought a tiny offering of buffalo meat or fat and placed before the sacred lniskim, which was sitting a little pile of fur inside of the cleared-earth altar at the back of the tipi.

Ever since then our People have had the Power of the lniskims.

* Abridged version from The Blood People ... Adolphe Hungry Wolf