The Sioux Legend The Rabbit And The Elk

1685 words - 7 pages

Animals have always been mentors to humans, informing them about upcoming dangers, and teaching them how to hunt, gather, and find fresh water. The animals’ ways were of such a magnitude of importance that the Native Americans began to use stories based on these animals to teach lessons in life. Stories about these animals have emphasized the virtues of the animals, and repeatedly taught children to be, “wise, gentle, brave, or cheerful in the same manner as certain birds and animals” (Caduto and Bruchac, XI). An animal of great importance to the tribes of North America, was and still is, the elk. The elk was not only a source of food but also for clothes, tools, glue, and even teepee coverings. The teeth of the elk were used a jewelry to be worn only by the women of the tribes, also as a currency among the Native Americans. By scrutinizing Native American stories and scientific facts we can see how elks’ physical traits and ecological interactions can be traced to the culture of the Native American people.
The elk is thought to be a prey animal, seeing the elk eats only vegetation and is not a predator of any sorts. In the Sioux legend The Rabbit and the Elk, the elk is a complete jokester. He tricks the rabbit into thinking the rabbit had killed an elk in his trap. When the rabbit came to check his trap he saw the “dead” elk and ran home to tell his grandmother of the good news. “Grandmother, I have trapped a fine elk. You shall have a new dress from his skin. Throw the old one in the fire” (First People of America). When the rabbit came back to the trap, the elk got up and said “Ho, friend rabbit. You thought to trap me; now I have mocked you,” as he ran into the thicket. This is a prime example of anthropomorphism because neither the rabbit nor the elk obtains the ability to speak, and also the rabbit is unable of catching an elk. By having the elk trick the rabbit, the Sioux were basically teaching the virtue of not crying wolf. To cry wolf is to say something is happening when it really isn’t, so when it really does happen no one is going to believe you. The rabbit believed he caught himself an elk, but in reality the elk was just playing a cruel joke. In this legend, rabbit’s grandmother lost her old dress to the fire because of a false alarm or crying wolf. The grandmother should not have taken such a risk of throwing her beloved dress into the fire, in the hopes of getting a new one.
Reciprocity essentially is a mutual exchange. An example of reciprocity is when you take something from nature you replace it with an object of equal or greater value. It can also mean when one nice thing is done, another is also done in return for this great deed. In the Piegan version of the Blackfoot story The Elk-Woman, an Elk is deserted by his wife. Elk is very angry at his wife and wishes to kill her, although, when he tries “she began to sing a song, and as she did so she turned into a woman” (Wissler and Duvall, 84). With becoming a woman the...

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