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Folktales

Iktomi

by Laughing Deer

Amongst the Lakotas there lives a man called Ik-to-mi (Spiderman.) This man does things backwards and his clownish ways cause the people to laugh at him, but he is also a sly and cunning man and a teacher. He plays an important role in all the stories and also in the oral history. We also have Coyote in our stories. In most of the jokes and in the children's stories both these two characters are present. In most stories Ik to mi comes out on top because he is so wise, cunning and sly. Because of these characteristics sometimes he outsmarts himself and the Coyote comes out on top. Amongst the Lakotas Ik to mi has two meanings. One is spider and the other is that when a man has the instincts of this insect he is Ik to mi - Spiderman. He has mysterious, supernatural powers both good and bad. He might predict something and if he senses that the people have doubts about his prediction, he makes it come true. Sometimes he displays his mysterious powers in front of his enemies like in this one story I was told when I was a kid.

My grandfather said, "Grandson long ago when this country was wild and free several of the Lakotas went out on a mission to prey upon the toh kas (enemies) to take away their horses. As they were traveling wi-oki-se som-iya (sun past mid day) and as they were crossing an open space the leader of this group told everybody to be on the alert and to stay together because, as he said, 'We are in a toh-ka territory and we are subject to a suprise attack any time.' Ik to mi was amongst them and all the time they were traveling he always was the last one he was always lagging behind so the leader told him to stay right in the middle of the group. They were crossing a big open space and Ik to mi was riding a spotted horse. His horse always looked like he wanted to go to sleep the way he drooped his head and slowed down. Ik to mi would have to kick his horse with his heels hard not once but two or three times he had to lay the whip on his horse's rump to get him going. As they were getting close to where there were some small rolling hills on each side of the trail from out of nowhere they heard war cries. Before they realized what was taking place the toh kas were swooping down upon them and they were outnumbered five to one. The only thing they could do was to turn their horses around and make a dash towards the small rolling hills which are to one side of the trail."

My grandfather explained, "They said that they left Ik to mi behind as though he were standing still and just as they looked back to see how far the toh kas were behind them they saw the toh kas surround Ik to mi like bees around honey. The toh kas were whooping it up and it seemed as though every one of them tried to be the first one to count coup by touching Ik to mi with their coup stick. In so doing they were getting in one another's way. While they were all milling around him and whooping it up, a short distance away from them Ik to mi somehow had popped up from out of the ground and had dashed of in another direction. His horse was so slow that he was trying to make him go faster by kicking him with his heels. At the same time he was laying the whip on both sides oh his horse's rump back and forth. From afar he looked like a big bird with a broken wing trying to fly away. Two of the toh kas saw him. They let out a war cry and took after him. Others soon joined in the chase and it didn't take any time to catch up with him. They were on him like bees again some of them yelling as though coup had been counted. Others let out war whoops and as they were milling around, a short distance away, again Ik to mi came out of the ground and dashed off in a different direction. Again the chase was on. Ik to mi had such a mysterious power that he was simply disappearing into the cracks of the ground with his horse only to reappear again. A distance away the Lakotas were watching. On the seventh time the toh kas surrounded Ik to mi he disappeared and reappeared a distance away from them and dashed off in another direction again. No war cry was heard nor was there any yelling from the toh kas. Instead all of them stood there watching him in awe. They knew that they were messing around with something that they didn't want any part in. As the toh kas stood watching Ik to mi he rode up to the Lakotas and said, "Ho ka he!" The Lakotas charged downhill towards the toh kas. The toh kas stood there dumbfounded.

They didn't know whether to charge or turn and run. When the Lakotas were almost upon them they suddenly realized what was happening to them and the only thing they could do was to turn their horses around and to take off. The Lakotas caught up with them from behind and they were knocking them off their horses. They took their horses away from them. That day the Lakotas counted many coups and took many horses all because of Ik to mi's mysterious power."


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