Niitssitapi is in the minds and hearts of all who live in the Blackfeet cosmos, those who understand the stories of Oral History and know the Blackfeet gods and their ceremonies.

The story began : “Thunder abducted the wife of the Half Earth Being, Man, her name is Niitssitapi.” Man was crying and the other beings noticed. They gathered among themselves and asked why is Man so pitiful? The sound of his weeping was very disturbing. When Bear explained the cause of Man’s grief, everyone seemed to become afraid. There was no question Niitssitapi had to be rescued, because until she was returned to Man, everyone’s life was hanging in the balance. But who would go against Thunder?

This question was put to another Half Being, Eagle, who knew the road to, and sometimes shared Thunder’s realm in the sky. These two had counciled together in the past.

Eagle said “It cannot be me, for I am Thunder’s relation. Let it be Raven who corrects my cousin’s wrong.”

Raven knew the trail to Thunder’s realm as well, however she would not go there. But Raven stated to Eagle “I will do it. First you must pass along a message, from me to Thunder, you will be my Runner.”

Eagle agreed “This, I am allowed to do.”

Raven then stated “I must go to my lodge, I will not be prepared until the afternoon of the fifth Man Day. Eagle, you must find me then, alone, on the prairie between the meeting place of the Old Man and Lakes Inside Rivers.”

These Beings Peoples then dispersed and Raven went home to make ceremony and paint a glyph on a bit of Aspen bark.

Sak Wo Ma Oui Aki Kwan stood alone on the prairie with her back to the rivers place of coming together.

Eagle arrived at the appointed time and circled above, calling out five times ‘EeKiii’: “Have you seen Raven?”

The Woman Warrior, her Black, Black hair turned loose in the wind, called back to Eagle “Look at the feather tied upon the left side of my glory in this wind, for I AM Raven.”

Eagle then landed at the woman’s feet. He said “Your ceremony is strong. But I will not warn my cousin Thunder.”

Raven gave the painted glyph to Eagle with the warning: “Do not look at this, it would destroy you. When you have delivered it to Thunder, quickly move to the side, before he can have the chance to clearly see it. That is all.”

Eagle said nothing, but took off into the sky with the glyph grasped in his talons, his great wings working hard into the climbing circle, until a thermal updraft lifted him high, soaring to a speck and then finally, out of sight.

Soon, very soon after Eagle had gone out of view, a great Black Boiling Cloud began forming before Sak Wo Ma Oui Aki Kwan: ‘The Woman Who Stood Alone and Challenged the Enemy.’

Thunder’s great rage of wind at this Woman was terrifying to behold, but Raven stood her ground against it. When he came into range, Thunder drew arrows from his quiver and shot them from his bow, the arrows strikes against the ground were deafening… and each one missed! Raven, now a Woman, now a bird, woman-bird, woman-bird, enraged Thunder as never before, Thunder repeatedly fired at a woman, but only to see his strikes evaded by a bird that hopped!

Raven, facing Thunder, had hopped forward one hop, to the south, with each arrow Thunder had sent at her. As she hopped farther and farther away from the place where the rivers joined, she felt Ichs Stui approaching from behind her, and Thunder, whose rage was so great, did not notice.

Ichs Stui’s icy hand took the remaining arrows from Thunder’s quiver and the fight was over. Raven had won. Now they had to sit together, Sak Wo Ma Oui Aki Kwan, Ichs Stui, and Thunder, where the Old Man and Lakes Inside rivers meet, and make the Peace.

Terms of the peace

Sak Wo Ma Oui Aki Kwan sat in the west, looking into the east, Ichs Stui sat in the north, looking into the south and Thunder sat in the east, looking into the west. The south stood open to this lodge they created with their positions. The protocol called for Sak Wo Ma Oui Aki Kwan to speak, Thunder did not like it but he had no choice, for the Woman Warrior was victor.

She first placed a tanned Elk skin bag on the prairie grass before Ichs Stui and then the Woman Warrior spoke to Thunder: “I have brought this Cermonial Stone, a gift to you from Raven handed through my Ceremony and Vision, those things preparing me for this fight, now, to make this peace. It is in the shape of the Man Being when he is a Creator. This is to remind you, Thunder, Niitssitapi is forever free to make her own choice of her mate.”

With these words, the Woman Warrior changed in her body and became pregnant. Her beauty softened. The anger went out of Thunder’s face. He felt compassion and a brother’s love for Niitssitapi as he gazed at her sitting across from him.

“Now, as Niitssitapi”, she continued: “I give this Stone into the keeping of Ichs Stui, on your behalf, my half brother, he will keep it safely for you in his winter home. Each Moon of the Willows Return, Ichs Stui will bring out this Stone and you will use it in ceremony, to commemorate this meeting, and my right to live in Human Dignity, and you will commerate all of my future children’s right to live in Human Dignity, whether my Woman children or my Half Man Being children. Each Moon of the Ripened Cherries, Ichs Stui, whom you cannot stand against, will come and collect this Ceremonial Stone for safe keeping and I will thank Raven who will gather herself again and hop south to remind you.”

This story is my rendition of the Blackfoot story on the origin of matriarchy; ‘The Law of the Black Stone’ or also could be called ‘The Law of the Ninawaki.’ The Blackfoot word for ‘wife’ is ‘ninaki’ (translates ‘Boss’) which is the lesser from of ‘ninawaki’ or the highest form of Blackfoot chief in ancient times. A ninawaki could only be a woman. The term ‘niitsitapi’ is reference to Blackfoot citizenship or all those who adhere to this law.

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Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories