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Article: The Old Woman Who Tricked Her Captors

As told by First Boy - James Larpenteur Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 84-86 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

One fall, so long ago nobody knows how long, a band had killed a large number of buffaloes. and the women were busy taking care of the meat. Jerked meat was made, the fat rendered, the bones crushed, and the marrow extracted by boiling. All this work fell to the women.

When, as customary, the camp crier came around and pro-claimed that the camp would be moved to another location where there was new grass for the horses and clean camp-grounds, an old woman said, "Let me stay here just one more day to finish my rendering. I will follow the day after tomorrow." So the band left her at work and moved to the new campgrounds.

It was customary for women when working late into the night to use a torch made from a wad of buffalo hair soaked in grease and attached to the end of a stick. The stick, shoved under the woman's dress at the back, extended above her head. As she leaned over her work, the light was thrown forward.

On this occasion, as the old woman sat with the torch illuminating her work, a group of eleven warriors came into her lodge. They said not a word but seated themselves as though they had been invited.

The old woman knew at once that the enemy was in her lodge, but she pretended not to be surprised. She pushed the embers to the middle of the fire and added more wood. Then she reached back and pulled a bag in front of her, from which she filled a large wooden dish with pemmican. She placed this in front of her nearest visitor, who took a large handful and then pushed the dish on to the next.

After all were served, the old woman looked up at the smoke hole. Then she glanced about the lodge, which indicated that the lodge smelled of smoke due to a change in the wind. She arose and with the torch in her hand went out as though to adjust the smoke flaps. But as soon as she was outside, she ran away from the lodge.

The enemy warriors soon noticed that she was not at the back of the lodge and rushed out. They saw the light of the torch moving away fast and knew that the old woman was in flight. Be-cause the night was so black, the small torch looked larger than it was.

A short distance from the lodge was a cut bank with a drop of several hundred feet. It was towards this that the old woman ran. She had planned her escape. She waited a moment at the edge of the cut bank until her purs9aers came close. Then she threw the torch ahead of her over the bank and stepped aside. Thinking she was running ahead over level country, the pursuers followed the torch and all of them fell to their death far below. The woman then walked on to the new campground of her band and told her story. At once the men, followed by many women, went to the scene. There eleven warriors lay dead. Scalps were taken, and coups were counted. But the honor of the kill went to the old woman who made a story that is told even to this day-the old woman who tricked her captors.