November 14, 2014

How the Ponca aquired horses


Long ago, the people followed the Missouri River northward to a place where they could step over the water. Then they turned, and were going across the land. Then they met the Padouca [Comanche].


At that time the Ponca had no animals but dogs to help them carry burdens. Wherever they went they had to go on foot, but the people were strong and fleet. They could run a great distance and not be weary.

One day when they were hunting buffalo, they met the Padouca. Then they had many battles with them. The Padouca were mounted on strange animals. At first the Ponca thought it was all one animal. The Padouca had bows made from elk horn. They were not very long, nor were they very strong.

They boiled the horn until it was soft; then they scraped it, and bound it together with sinews and glue. Their arrows were tipped with bone. They fought also with a stone battle-ax. The handle was a sapling; a grooved stone ax head, pointed at both ends, was fastened to this with rawhides.

So the Padouca were terrible fighters. They protected their horses with a covering of thick rawhide cut in round pieces, and put together like fish scales. They spread glue over the outside and then sand. So when the Comanches fought, the arrows of their enemies glanced off the horses’ armor.

Then the Padouca made breastplates for themselves like those of the horses.

When the Ponca met these terrible warriors, they were afraid. They thought man and horse were one. They named it “Kawa” because they noticed the odor of the horse. Then they knew by this odor when the Padouca were coming.

When a man smelled the horses, he would run to the camp and say, “The wind tells us the Kawa are coming.” Then the Ponca would make ready to defend themselves.

The Ponca had many battles with the Comanches. They did not know how to use the animals, so they killed the horses as well as the men. Neither could they find out where the Padouca lived.

One day the two tribes had a great battle. The people fought all day. Sometimes the Ponca were driven back, sometimes the Padouca.

Then at last a Ponca shot a Padouca so that he fell from his horse. Then the battle ceased. After this, one of the Padouca came toward the Ponca and said in plain Ponca,

“Who are you? What do you call yourselves?”

The Ponca replied, “We call ourselves Ponca. You speak our language, are you of our tribe?”

The other said, “No. I speak your language as a gift from a Ponca spirit. One day I lay on a Ponca grave after a battle. Then a man rose from the grave and spoke to me. So I know your language.”

Then it was agreed to make peace. The tribes visited each other. The Ponca traded their bows and arrows for horses. They finally knew where the Padouca lived. Then the Padouca taught the Ponca how to ride, and how to put burdens on the horses.

When the Ponca had learned how to ride, and had horses, they went to war again. They attacked the Padouca in their own village. They attacked them so many times and stole so many of their horses that at last the Padouca fled.

We do not know where they went. The Ponca followed the Platte River toward the rising sun; then they came back to the Missouri, and they brought their horses with them.

Ponca Legends
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