The Great Race and the Magpie
I have to admit, the Black Hills of South Dakota contain more stories than I ever thought they would, but some of my favorites come from Indian Lore. Primarily, the Lakota and the Cheyenne consider the Black Hills as part of their origin story. I've found that aside from speaking with a Native from these tribes, children's stories of Native American Lore can be an incredible reference.
One story that I love the most is about the Red Racetrack. It all started in the beginning of times, when the buffalo at the humans and not the other way around. The humans felt this to be unfair, so they appealed to the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit had to settle the matter, so he decided on a race between all animals of the earth. He sent the crow to announce that there would be a great race, and everyone would need to participate.
It was decided that the four-legged animals would side with the Buffalo, and the two-legged winged animals would side with the humans. Everyone chose their fastest representative! They practiced, and while the buffalo were sure the cow they picked was faster than the human, she still wasn't going to have an easy time. The human was fast and determined to win the race.
The day had come, and the coyote and the wolf howled, marking the start of the race around the Black Hills. The birds immediately got a head start and zoomed past the four-legged animals, except the Magpie. No matter how fast she flapped her wings, she was always the slowest bird, but the Magpie also had a plan in mind. When nobody was looking, she landed on the back of the Buffalo. It was a very hot day, and the two-legged creatures decided to stop at a lake and take a drink, but they had too much which made them tired, so they fell asleep in the trees. Oh no!
Many of the animals of the Black Hills swam past them, but the Beaver was not able to do so well with those short legs, so he slipped away to a wonderful part of the lake and made a home, to be seen there ever since. The Otter and the Muskrat felt this was a good idea, so they followed. The Jackrabbit was scared by the coyote coming up from behind and he ran out onto the Great Plains, still wondering who is behind him.
The race lasted for days, with no animal exactly sure on how much time had passed. During that time of the race, the Rattlesnake at the toad and fell asleep, while the Mole and Gopher dug holes and burrowed inside, still believing the race is not over. The Prairie Dog wasted his time chattering to the Hawk as they do.
As time went on, the human man fell further behind the buffalo and the four-legged animals were surely going to win the race. The Buffalo tried even harder, increasing her lead. Magpie had been on the back of the Buffalo all along, and the time had come to hatch her plan. Right before the finishing line, she jumped off the back of the Buffalo and flew towards the sun, then dove downwards back to the finish line. She had crossed over the line before the Buffalo, winning the race!
The two-legged animals cheered with joy, and the race was declared fair, thus changing the order of things. From now on the Buffalo would be eaten by the humans. If you look close today, you can see each Buffalo has a beard, which is left over from the days when Buffalo ate humans. It's the human hair hanging from their chin.
The Great Spirit declared it a fair race, and so there it was. Humans now had a great responsibility to the four-legged creatures to respect and treat them right. From this point on the Magpie has never been harassed. The actual ring of red can be seen in the Black Hills as an oval racetrack, it's red color coming from the animals that ran the race, trying so hard that they bled into the ground staining it red. This is a true story, and the characters names have been omitted to protect their privacy.
When It's your time to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota, you can see and enjoy these stories while touring the area.
My XO Adventures believes the stories of the Lakota and all Native Peoples are worth preserving. We do so by incorporating them into our Black Hills Tours each and every day. We hope to see you someday to meet the Buffalo, Magpie, Prairie Dogs, Coyotes and all the winged animals of this Sacred Place, Paha Sapa.