Manataka American Indian Council






Seneca Traditional Stories



Warrior Cared for by Wolves
Seneca Indian Myths by Jeremiah Curtin 1922


Among the Seneca there was a war chief named Ganogwioeon. Once, with ten men, he went on the warpath to the Cherokee country. They found the Cherokees on the watch and could do nothing.

Then the chief said to his men, "I'll go alone to their village." And after dark, leaving his men in the woods, he went to the Cherokee village.

In the first cabin he came to, he found an old woman and her granddaughter. They didn't see him. He crept into a little place where they kept wood.

After dark the old woman said to her granddaughter, "Maybe Ganogwioeon is around here. I'll shut the door," and she spoke a word of warning to  Odjú, her granddaughter. The chief heard this.

After a while the girl said, "It is time to sleep."

The chief heard this also and heard the girl going up the ladder to sleep above, meanwhile talking with her grandmother, who was below.

The old woman fastened the door of the little wood house, with bark strings and fastened the chief in, leaving the door to the cabin unfastened.

After waiting till the old woman was asleep, the chief went into the cabin.  The fire had burned down to coals but he could see the ladder that the girl had climbed. He went up. The girl was not asleep and was about to scream when he said, "If you scream I'll cut off your head. The chief of this village has a daughter. If you will get her to come into the woods with you I will spare your life." Odjú said, "In the morning, as soon as the grass is
dry, I will go to the chief's house and ask his daughter to come with me to gather wood."

Threatening to come back and kill the girl if she failed to do as planned the chief left the cabin.

Early the next morning,  Odjú went to the chief's house and said to his daughter, "Come with me and gather wood." (This was the custom in those days.)

The chief's daughter was willing to go and they started. As soon as they came to the forest the Seneca sprang out of his hiding place and ran toward them.  Odjú stood still, but the chief's daughter screamed and ran toward home. Ganogwioeon caught her, scalped her, and then, giving a war whoop, ran away. Men rushed out of their cabins and pursued him.

The Seneca saw that among the m en following him there was one good runner. He hid in a ravine and when the runner came to the entrance of the ravine he shot him with an arrow and pulling off the man's scalp held it up before the people who were following.

When the Seneca came to a second ravine another runner was ahead of the rest. He aimed at the man, but his bowstring broke. The pursuer saw this and rushed into the ravine. The Seneca ran swiftly, but the Cherokee overtook and closed with him. A second and a third man came, then others; they bound Ganogwioeon, led him to the village and summoned the people to assemble.

Among the Cherokees there were two women who were looked upon as the head women of the tribe. Each woman had two snakes tattooed on her lips -- the upper jaws of the snakes were on the woman's upper lip, and opposite each other, the lower jaws on the lower lip in the same way. When the woman opened her mouth, the snakes seemed to open theirs.

These women said, "This is the way to torment him; tie him near a fire and burn the soles of his feet till they are blistered, then let the water out of the blisters, put kernels of corn inside the skin, and chase him with clubs till he dies."

When Ganogwioeon's feet were blistered, the women stripped him and tied a bark rope around his waist. One old man said, "I want to hold the rope."

The people stood in two lines and at the end of each line were many people. The Seneca had to run between the lines. He ran so fast that he pulled the rope out of the old man's hand, then plunging to one side, he broke through the line and ran with all his strength toward the place where he had left his men.

When running he thought he was going to die, for he was naked and unarmed, far from home, and his feet were raw, but he evaded his enemies and, when night came, crept into a hollow log. In the night he heard steps on the dry leaves, and thought the Cherokees had discovered his hiding place. Whoever it was came up to the tree and said to someone who was with him, "This man is our friend."

Then he called to Ganogwioeon, "You think that you are going to die, but you will not. We will take care of you. Stick out your feet."

The chief put out his feet and right away he felt someone licking them.  After a while one of the strangers said, "We have licked his feet enough. Now we must get him warm, we will go into the tree and one of us lie down on each side of him."

It was very dark in the hollow log, but the man felt someone lie down on either side of him, and soon he was so warm and comfortable that he fell asleep.

Just before daylight the strangers crept out of the log and told the man to stick out his feet. They licked them again, and then said, "We have done all we can now. You will go on till you come to a place where you put a piece of bark. Raise the bark up, you will find something under it."

When the man came out of the log, he found that his feet were better, he could walk comfortably. At midday he came to four posts holding up a bark roof. On the ground, under the roof, was a large piece of bark. He raised the bark and found a piece of flint, a knife and an awl, then he remembered that his men had put those things there a couple of years before, when on the warpath. He took them and went on.

When it began to grow dark he looked for a hollow tree, found one and crawled into it. In the night he heard steps on the dry leaves and a voice said, "Our friend is here.

Then someone said, "Put your feet out."

He did so and again they were licked.

Then the stranger said, "That is enough, we will lie near our friend and keep him warm."

They went into the tree and lay down, but before daylight they crept out, and, after licking the man's feet again, said, "About midday you will find food."

The man went on till he found a bear that apparently had been killed only a few minutes before; it was still warm. When he had skinned the bear and cut out some of the meat, he saw, not far away, a smoldering fire, he blew it and it blazed up. He cut meat into small pieces and roasted it on sticks. When night came he lay down, and soon he heard steps on the leaves as he had the preceding nights, then a voice said, "Our friend is lying down; he isn't going to die; he has plenty to eat. We'll lick his feet."

When they finished, they said to him, "Nothing will happen to you now, you will reach home in safety." And they went away.

The next morning the man, taking some of the meat, went on toward home. That night his friends came again. They said, "Your feet are well, but you will be cold," and they lay down one on each side of him. Before daylight, when going away, they said, "At midday you will find something to eat and to wear."

The man traveled on till toward midday, then found two young bears, just killed. He skinned the bears, cooked some of the meat, tanned the skins and lay down, very tired.

The next morning he made leggings of the skins, took what meat he wanted and went on.

That night the friends came to him, and said, "To-morrow you will find something to wear on your feet."

About midday the man came upon two fawns, just killed.

He tanned the skins and made moccasins. When night came, he made a fire, cooked meat, ate, and then lay down.

Soon he heard a voice say, "Our friend, you will reach home to-morrow. Now we will tell you why we healed your feet and cared for you. Always when you have been off in the woods hunting and have killed game, you have given the best part of the animal to us, and kept the smallest part for yourself; we are thankful. In the morning you will see us and know who we are."

When daylight came the chief saw two men, as he thought. As soon as he stood up the men took leave of him and started off. Wanting to see his friends as long as he could he turned to look at them and in the twinkle of an eye he saw that one of them was a white and the other a black wolf.

The chief reached home as his friends, the wolves, said he would.


From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories

Brother Black and Brother Red

The Red Swan, John Bierhorst, editor. University of New Mexico Press,1976


There was a lodge in the forest where very few people ever came, and there dwelt a young man and his sister. The youth was unlike other persons, for one half of his head had hair of a reddish cast, while the other side was black.

He used to leave his sister in the lodge and go away on long hunting trips. On one  occasion the young woman, his sister, saw, so she thought, her brother coming down the path to the lodge. I thought you just went away to hunt," she said. "Oh I thought I would come back," said he.

Then he sat down on the bed with the sister and embraced her, acting as a lover. The sister reproached, him very angry and upset. But again he endeavored to fondle her in a familiar way - and again, of course, he was repulsed. This time he left.

The next day the brother returned and found his sister very angry indeed; she would not speak to him other than in the most cold and curt manner. He was bewildered, for previously they had always enjoyed good conversations together.

My sister," he said, "I do not understand why you treat me like this; it is not like you at all!"

"Oh you know very well why! You abused me so ... I would never have believed you could behave in such a manner," said the girl.

"I never abused you. What are you talking about?" he said.

"Oh how can you lie so! You know well that you returned yesterday and embraced me in a most improper way!" said the sister.

"My sister, I did not return here yesterday," declared the young man thoughtfully. "I am wondering though whether my friend, who resembles me very closely, visited with you yesterday and you thought that it was me."

"That is a poor story," replied his sister tartly. "Just make sure you never repeat what you did."

The brother went away again shortly after, saying that he would be gone for a full three days. Within a short time, however, the young woman saw him - or someone who looked just like him - hiding nearby, among the trees. His shirt and leggings were the same as her brother's, and his hair was exactly the same ... so she was quite certain that this was once again her brother, returned with mischief in mind. Soon the young man entered the lodge and tried to embrace her ... this time though she scratched his face with her nails, and he left, bleeding.

At the time her brother had said he would return, three days from when he left, he returned, his hunting having been successful, for he carried a deer. His sister would not speak to him, and turned away from him when he greeted her. He said, "My sister, I see you are angry with me. Has my friend visited again?"

"My brother, you have abused me physically, and now you abuse me by telling untruths as well ... I scratched your face when you sought to embrace me, and I can see that the signs of my fingernails are clearly there."

Her brother laughed, "My face? My face was torn by thorns as I hunted this deer which I have brought home. If you scratched my friend then that is why I will have been scratched too, but in my case it was by the thorns. Whatever happens to one of us happens to the other." But the sister would not believe this.

Again the brother went on a hunting trip, and again the familiar figure returned. This time the sister tore his hunting shirt from the throat down to the waistline. Moreover, she threw a bowlful of hot bear grease on the shirt. This caused him to leave very smartly!

Returning in due time, as he had said he would, the brought in his game and threw it down. Again the sister was angry and accused him, pointing to his grease-smeared and torn shirt, crying that this was all the evidence she needed to be certain that it was he and he alone who was abusing her.

"My sister," explained the brother, "I tore my shirt on a broken limb as I climbed a tree after a raccoon. Later, making soup from some bear meat, I spilled it on my shirt." Still the sister refused to believe him.

"Oh my sister," said the brother, deeply distressed, "I am much saddened that you will not believe me. Have we not lived together in harmony and respect all the years of our lives? My friend does look exactly as I do, and whatever happens to him happens to me. I will now be compelled to find him and bring him to you, and when I do I shall be compelled to kill him before you for his evil designs upon you, his disrespect to you. If you would believe me, nothing evil would befall us - but if I must do this then I myself shall die."

The sister said nothing at all ... she did not believe her brother.

The young man piled up dried meat, repaired the lodge, did all that was necessary so that there would be sufficient provisions and all would be well for a long winter ahead. When all was done, he went out into the forest unarmed, and returned with another young man who was the exact image of him; he did not just resemble him, he looked no different ... and the other young man's face bore the marks of fingernail scratches, and his clothing was torn and spotted exactly as the brothers.

Leading him to the lodge fire, the brother began to scold him in an angry manner. "You have betrayed me and our friendship, and you have abused and disrespected my sister," he said, "For this, I must take your life." Taking an arrow and fitting it swiftly to his bow, he shot his friend, his double, through the heart and killed him.

The sister saw her assailant fall to the floor, and then, in horror, watched as her brother sang his death song and fell, dead, with blood streaming from a wound in his chest over his heart.

From the Archives of Blue Panther