The Wolf Clan
by: Dennis R. Humphreys
The family meal was over and the children typically all gathered afterwards around the Story Teller's fire by his lodge. It was usual, at this time of night each evening, to see the children of the tribe gather for his tales. He was old and lived a long life. The Story Teller had much to say about what he had seen and what he had experienced. The children were eager to hear and learn of past events.
“So children,” the Story Teller asked, “what would you like to hear about tonight?”
The children all looked each other disagreeing and some nodding affirmatively before one of them spoke.
“We'd like to hear about why we are called the Wolf Clan,” the slightly older boy asked after prompting form the others.
“Ah, then you wish to hear about 'He Who Runs with Wolves', the old man stated for you could not tell one story without the other.
The children all shook their heads 'yes' with some shouting but all had expectant smiles on their faces and shinning eyes in expectation of the old story.
“Well then it begins this way:
A long time ago a boy was born of this tribe. It was before our knives were made of metal. They were made of stone. It was before our people rode horses for the hunt or for war. It was a time before the white man came,” he began.
“I wish the white man never came here,” one young girl interjected to the consternation of her peers. They didn't want the story interrupted.
“Our people hunted this land for game. We did not know how to hunt anything large and the few who tried often died for it was very dangerous. But there came a time, as the tribe grew, the small game became less plentiful. It took more and more time to hunt for what we needed. The people did not want to leave this land they had come to love it as a child.
The one we call He Who Runs with Wolves was the fifth generation to begin in the land where we are now. His great great grandfather took his people from a distant land walking over the ocean. Then he traveled downwards to a warmer land a good distance before coming here. When he saw this place with its abundance of animals and foliage he stopped and his tribe built their huts. He liked the fact there were few people. There were some, good for trading but very few. The land was wide open. A free person could be truly free and not accountable to anyone as we are now held accountable to the white man.
When He Who Runs With Wolves was born there was an omen in the skies. A star fell from the heavens onto this land. Our people knew it was a sign from the Creator that this land was promised us for all time. This male child born that day would be important in guarding that promise.
He Who Runs With Wolves, grew like any other child. Like you, and you and all the rest of you. He did his chores and was taught how to survive in this world by his elders. He played too the games children played and he became bigger and stronger.
When he became of age, he was expected to be a man, not just not to act like one. It was the tradition when passing from child to man that one go into the wilderness for ten days with nothing but a stone knife, made of obsidian, and a bow, taking nothing else...no food or water.
Runs With Wolves wandered for three days and found a creek providing water. Along the way he killed rabbits. It was on the fourth day, after having killed a rabbit by the creek and was preparing it to cook, he heard a growl behind him. When he looked it was a wolf who was also hungry. He yelled and threw his hands up at the wolf and it scared him momentarily. But this was a hungry wolf and was not ready to run away. Instead he attacked the young man.
The young warrior face the wolf on his back, holding his attacker's head back as best he could while he searched the ground for his knife had been cleaning the rabbit with. When he found it he stabbed the wolf in its belly but the wolf was relentless and having released his hold on the wolf to stand and face him the wolf attacked again and bit him savagely. Again the young warrior stabbed the wolf and finally the wolf lay mortally wounded and bleeding too death.
But Runs With Wolves was badly bitten and cut, not enough to kill him but enough to make him cut short his test and go home. This the warrior was not ready to do but decided to stay where he was and finish his test before going home.
Two days later, the young warrior decided it was time to go home. He did not feel well. He had nightmares at night and he sweated even in the cool nights. He hoped he could find his way home in such a condition.
At the end of the tenth day he stumbled slowly towards camp. Younger children saw him in the distance and alerted the others. Most of the tribe watched as he struggled to camp. Three elders went to meet him and saw he was bitten and cut. They were not new wounds they noticed and they realized the young warrior suffered them to finish his test of manhood. This greatly impressed them. They helped him to the lodge of the Healer where she would take care of him. In those days the young warrior was called Wise Star and had yet become 'He Who Runs With Wolves'.
The Healer knew immediately the wolf had infected the boy and his life was in peril. She knew what she had to do so she did it.
When man first walked the earth, the Creator grew to love him more and more. He wished to share with him his love and he wanted their love in return but to experience this He knew there must be a special connection. He gave these people a soul like He had, creating them like him, except they had bodies. But this was the only way to provide that connection between spirit and flesh.
The Creator would call people back to him when he felt it was time by their soul. The only thing the healer could do to save Wise Star was to take his soul so the Creator would not feel it was time to bring the young man to Him.
So she did and she placed his soul in a gourd. She plugged the end with a piece of wood and tallow to completely seal the gourd to keep his soul from escape.
For three days Wise Star fought the infection and finally on the fourth his ever broke and he ate some ground hog stew. Now that he was feeling better the Healer asked him.
"On your journey in the other world what visions did you have?" she asked. It ws important then as it is now to study your dreams when you cross between life and death as Wise Star did. It is also part of the healing process to think of them and try to understand them. Mind and body must be at peace.
"I had a dream to follow the wolves and live with them a time. They will help my people to survive hardships," he told her.
"Then you must complete your dreams or you mind will never be at rest and your body will suffer," the medicine woman told him.
"I understand," he told her.
"You are a man now and you must do as men do for the sake of everyone. I have something for you. Keep it safe until you are ready to accept it again," she informed him as she got the gourd and handed it to him.
"What is this?" he asked.
"It is your soul sealed within the gourd. I had to take it and place it here to make you better before the Creator knew you were sick and called you to Him. It is coated in a protective dust to keep the evil ones from taking it. Keep it safe and dry. If the dust is washed off of it the evil ones will come and try to take it.
Wise Star took the gourd to his lodge others in the tribe had built for him having past the man test while he lay sick. He took and hung it from a high pole inside where he could guard it and keep it safe.
The next day he travelled to where the tribe knew a pack of wolves lived. He knew it would be dangerous and he didn't want anything top happen to the gourd so he asked his father, Raven, to watch over it.
It was a half day's journey to wear the pack of wolves lived in an area of rocks and caves. Wise Star planned to watch them and learn as in his dream but stay his distance. All that first day he watched them come and go. He followed them when they went hunting and saw they hunted small game they hunted alone but when larger game like the elk and the deer were near, several of them stayed together but each took a responsibility in the kill acting as one.
He watched from a distance as an elk was killed the second day. One of the wolves, after the wolf leader fed, tore a piece of the carcass from the elk and carried it towards Wise Star. The young warrior wasn't sure what to do. After just being saved from death by the bite of a wolf he didn't another attack.
This time was different as the wolf showed no aggression but carried the meat within feet of the warrior and dropped it on the ground. He stood there a moment looking at Wise Star and then returned to the others. He had given the meat to the warrior.
The warrior watched as the wolf left and he thanked him. Then he ate the meat as he was hungry and had not yet hunted since going there. He watched as the others ate and then tore of large pieces of meat to take back to their dens. Before leaving they turned an looked at Wise Star and seemed to invite him, so he followed them.
Wise Star did not understand what was happening. He followed the hunters back to their dens and walked among them without attack. They seemed to have accepted him as one of them. So the young warrior stayed that night and made a small fire to keep warm. The wolves watched him with interest and without fear. When Wise Star awoke in the morning he found one of the young wolves lying asleep beside him.
For the next seven days Wise Star ran, played and hunted with them as part of the pack. Hey taught him much...how to hunt large game and how to find water in ways his people never knew. Oddly the warrior's senses seemed to have improved being with them, more like those of the wolf. He could smell his prey in the wind.
Something happened as time went on though. As the time came for the new moon the warrior became more sensitive and more agitated. his smell, taste, eyesight, and hearing became more pronounced. There were times he would hear things before the others in the pack did.
The day before the full moon everything was heightened beyond anything he imagined and that night he discovered why...he became a wolf. For three days he hunted with the pack as a wolf not as a man hunting with them but as their equal. He looked, acted, thought, ate, drank and ran as a wolf. When once again Wise Star became a man he returned home. He went directly to the Healer and told her his story.
“Ahh...that is why you had your dream. You now have two tribes...this people and that of the wolf. The wolf that had bitten you gave you his power because he was dying. You now have his spirit within you living next to your own spirit,” she told him.
“What of my soul?” he asked her.
“Your soul still remains in the gourd until you release it but if you do the Creator will sense the spirit of the wolf is inside you and know something is wrong. He may call you to Him then,” she clarified as he absorbed what she told him.
Wise Star did not want to be called by the Creator because he felt he had much to do with the knowledge he now had for his tribe. He decided to keep things the way they were.
He hunted the deer and the elk with the tribe and one day a great herd of buffalo migrated
through their land. Wise Star showed them how to bring down the large animals by a group hunting as one. The tribe were happy because there was an abundance of food. They found as a group they were able to kill the bear which they had never hunted before because they were so wise and powerful. Wise Star changed that.
When the night of the full moon approached, the young warrior traveled to his other family, the wolves. He had a longing to see them again and felt he would undergo the transformation he did before. He feared hurting someone in his tribe so he thought it best to spend the next few days there.
Sure enough, the night before the full moon Wise Star became one with the wolves again.
Even after becoming a man again he decided to stay with them awhile. His father was worried and took a few warriors with him to search for his son. Before they got to the home of the wolves they saw Wise Star running with the wolves to bring down a large mule deer. They separated one from the herd and led it others in hiding, surrounding it at the right time and then attacking it in unison. Soon it was down and the wolves howled joyfully at the kill, but then so did Wise Star. It was then it was decided to change Wise Star's name to He Who Runs With Wolves. His father and the warriors went home then since his son was fine.
In time 'Wise Star' went home, being gone for two weeks. His time home would be short to leave before the change. He went home to much cheering as word spread about the young warrior. He was called to council where he was told his new name would be 'He Who Runs With Wolves'. There was celebration and dancing to honor the warrior. This was the beginning of a story to be told around campfires.
Two moons later the remains of a small hunting party returned. Six had left but only two returned. They had traveled towards the forbidden land to hunt and stayed a distance away but they were hunted themselves by a race of evil giants that lived there that saw them in the distance miles from their homes. They had a taste for human flesh and they had left in search of it. These giants were the sons and daughters of those who had fallen from the skies a long time ago. They were covered in red hair and many had one eye in the center of their foreheads. They had six fingers and six toes and were terrible to see. They were even more terrible when they came after the men and killed four of the hunters. The two who had escaped watched from afar as their friends were torn apart and devoured.”
These men whose ancestors fell from the sky were enemies of our people.
“Story Teller!” one little girl interrupted. “Are these the same giants we trade with?”
“No child, you're thinking of Big Foot. We have always had good relations with them. They do not get along with the white man though. Big Foot is large but not as much as the giants I speak of. He is also covered with hair and has five fingers and five toes like you or me. They are a kind people, gentle unless provoked. They stay to themselves and do not interfere. They still live to this day but the giants I speak of were killed over time. He Who Runs With Wolves was very much a part of their elimination.
The tribe gathered a war party together to attack these giants in their home which were the great caves to the south. There were three days of preparation and war dance asking the Creator to favor us. We knew if our hearts were good He would, for He was at odds with these giants as well since those cast from the heavens were told not to lie with human women but they ignored Him. They bore a whole new race of which men the world over were plagued. They were soulless creatures with great evil within them.
The war party traveled to the land of the giants and once there they watched their caves. They saw them come and go carrying food of all kinds into them to eat...buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and men. There was much screaming coming from the caves as they slaughtered them. They had built cages outside too where they kept people from different tribes for their meals.
Our people descended on two fo the giants as they wandered a distance from the others. They went into the rocks above them and struck them with arrows, spears and rocks. They were hard to kill being without souls but finally the two were killed. He Who Runs With Wolves suggested then piling the outside of the cave where the others lived, with piles of sage brush and other material and the pile ablaze at night as they slept to kill them. The war party thought this a good idea and so they did this. The young warrior realized the three days of running with the wolves was upon him and he needed to leave but he couldn't because of his obligation to his people.
They set fire to the brush and the sage burned quickly into a large fire. Soon there was monstrous screaming coming from the cave as the giants badly feared fire and they were incapable of breathing. Two of them managed to crash through the burning pile to escape but were badly burned and maddened to kill their attackers. The war party had to withdraw to safety. These two with superhuman strength threw boulders as high as men at them and tracked them to get even.
He Who Runs With Wolves retreated with the men north but away from the settlement to tire the giants in their anger and planned to retaliate and kill these last two monstrosities. Finally they camped for the night without campfires so as not to fall prey to the two giants. But this was the night the young warrior expected to be with the wolves and as the moon cast its light there was a shadow of a wolf leaving the warriors' camp. A few of the warriors saw this and were greatly frightened. When the figure was gone they alerted the others and when they looked He Who Runs With Wolves was missing.
There must have been a great fight that night. The warriors sat and listened for half the night. There was great screaming and shouting of thunderous voices in anger and pain. If one listened closely there was the growling of a wolf. Finally the sounds subsided and there was nothing more so the warriors went to sleep not knowing what to expect in the morning.
When the sun rose, so did the warriors to eat something and discuss what they would do that day. They found He Who runs With Wolves asleep where he had been absent the night before. He was covered in blood and blood streamed from his mouth but it was not his blood. When awakened he looked startled but the reality of what happened that night came to him first as a memory of a dream but then as a true memory.
The others went out to find the giants but what they found were their bodies torn apart and spread about the area. Wolf prints covered the ground and they knew it was the member of their own tribe, He Who Runs With Wolves, that was responsible for this.
When the people returned to camp the stories unfolded and by the end of that day, their young warrior was fast becoming a legend even at his young age. He killed two giants single handedly. The young warrior was no longer worried for his tribe when he turned into a wolf because for two more nights upon their return he became one with the wolf. He ran with other wolves in the area but did not attack his own kind.
In time He Who Runs With Wolves became his people's chief. The tribe knew they were safe with him. The chief still kept the gourd tied to his lodge pole fearing if something happened the Creator would ask him to come to Him. He did not wish to leave his people. They needed him. Other tribes were beginning to move into the area and a few began starting small wars in an attempt to take what his people had worked for generations to achieve. He Who Runs With Wolves led his people against such intrusions and he never lost a battle.
Time and time again their chief led his people into battle and was wounded many times but could not be killed. Many came to think of him as something greater than human.
The legend of the warrior grew many tribes became aware of what he was capable and many feared him. They wondered what his secret in avoiding death. Eventually other tribes left the Wolf Clan alone fearing retribution and some moved nearby feeling they would have access to his protection. Peace seemed to descend on all the tribes throughout the area.
One day a family came to the Wolf Clan from their nation but not of the same clan. Theirs had been wiped out by one of the Sioux clans for their land and they were the only survivors. No where else to go they sought out He Who Runs With Wolves' clan having heard many things about it.
They were welcomed with open arms by Wolf Clan. The head of the family was Angry Fox his wife was Low Cloud, and they had a son, Broken Path, and two daughters, Rising Sun and Morning Star. When the chief of the Wolf Clan saw Morning Star he was immediately taken by her and could not help but stare at the young maiden. She saw his interest and smiled coyly back. Runs With Wolves had a wife for three years but suddenly he couldn't even remember her name!
The chief would watch her in the mornings especially when she did her chores. He would make sure he was in her path as she went with the other women to the river to wash clothes. One day he watched as the women laughed and splashed while they washed clothes. The others left as they finished their things but Morning Star stayed behind pretending she didn't know the chief was there. She disrobed to bathe in river and swam back and forth from the shore to a small island in the river.
Runs With Wolves could not take his eyes from her. She was beautiful. He got as close as he could trying to hide as she stood in the shallows and washed.
“Mighty chief...head of the Wolf Clan, fearsome in battle who has never been defeated...are you afraid to make your interest known to a simple maiden?” she spoke aloud for him to hear since her back was turned to him.
As she turned then, Runs With Wolves came from behind the bush where he hid. Seeing each other face-to-face he approached her braver now, and walked into the water and kissed her. In a short while he was naked too and they swam together to the small island where the laid in each other's embrace for quite some time.
This went on like this several times and one day as they lay under a tree on the small island, she asked him the secret of his alluding death though he had been seriously wounded many times in battle. At first he would not say, but as they met several more times and laid under the tree after their love making, she asked again and again.
Finally, one day, completely smitten with the young maiden, he felt he could trust her.
“When I was young I was bitten by a wolf. I almost died from that bite but the Healer took my soul and sealed it in a gourd so the Creator would not know I was so ill. If He knew, He might have called my to Him. I wanted to help my clan in the many battles we had and thought if I kept my soul sealed in the gourd the Creator would never know when I was wounded to the point of dying and would not call me to Him,” he exposed himself to the maiden.
“That is incredible,” she said sliding her hands up and down his back. “Where do you keep this gourd to protect it so well over all these years?”
Runs With Wolves hesitated a moment, thinking.
“My lover doesn't trust me after all these times we have been together? I have given you myself freely and never questioned your intent,” she told the chief making him feel bad.
“I keep the gourd in my lodge hanging from the highest pole there, protected from breaking and to keep the medicine women's powder it is coated with, from washing off. That keeps the evil one from opening it,” he told her but was then suddenly wishing he hadn't. He sat there watching the water of the river as it traveled. Then they swam back to the water's edge where their clothes were and they dressed.
As the chief righted himself and stood straight he felt his obsidian knife pierce his chest and he fell in pain. He laid there as the maiden ran back to the camp directly to the chief's lodge. No one was there so she went in and looked up at the highest lodge pole. There was the gourd as he told her. She took a walking stick leaning against the wall and she hooked the gourd with it.
Quickly she went back to the river where the chief was lying and she stretched out the walking stick with the gourd and dipped it into the river a few times to wash the medicine woman's powder from it. The chief watched this as she worked not able to stop her because of his wound which had pierced his heart. Satisfied the gourd was cleansed, she brought the stick back and released the gourd. She watched as 'He Who Runs With Wolves' looked in horror at the young maiden take a rock and smash the gourd.
It was then that 'He Who Runs With Wolves' finally surrendered his soul to the Creator who called him to Him.