Legend of the Iktomi
The firstborn son of Inyan, the Rock,
who was originally named Ksa. Iktomi is
born full-grown from an egg and is the
size of an ordinary human. He has a big
round body like a spider, with slender
feet. He dresses in clothes made of
buckskin and raccoon.
Iktomi can speak with every living thing, as well as with rocks and stones. He is capable
Iktomi convinces the Lakota to scatter instead of living close together. When enemies
predicaments. As a result, the Lakota hold a council and decide to build their camps in a
circle, with the door of each lodge pointing toward the door of the neighboring lodge.
This way everyone will know if Iktomi comes into a lodge.
Legend of the Wakinyan
Thunderbirds, the flying ones, from the root "kinyan," which means to fly. Wakinyan are
huge winged beings that human beings cannot see because they are shielded by thick
clouds. Thunder is made by the sound of their voices, and lightning is created when they
open and close their eyes. There are four kinds of Wakinyan: scarlet, black with a long
beak, yellow with no beak, and blue with no ears or eyes. The Wakinyan live in the west
and travel with the west wind. They protect people from Waziya, the North Wind.
Those who become heyoka do so because they have dreams of Wakinyan. The Wakinyan
created wild rice and a variety of prairie grasses. Unktehi, the powerful oxenlike
beings, are always fighting with the Wakinyan. Iktomi is considered to be heyoka
because he is always talking with the Wakinyan.
Spiders in Lakota Lore
The spider looms large in Lakota lore. When speak¬ing about it as an animal with
beneficial attributes that they attempted to introduce into their own lives, the Lakota
called it iktomi. The same word denoted Iktomi, their cul-ture's powerful Trickster,
who brought them into this world and also exhibited antisocial behaviors they eschewed.
There is no shortage of Lakota Iktomi stories, and this one is typical:
Iktomi was traveling when he heard singing. This made Iktomi want to sing and dance
too, but he could not tell where the music was coming from. Finally, after searching
about, he real¬ized that it came from a buffalo skull lying near by [sic]. As he came
closer, he could see through the eye of the skull that the mice were having a great
dance, and he called to them, asking if he could join them.
However, not waiting to be invited, he pushed his head into the skull, whereupon the
frightened mice fled in terror.
Then Iktomi tried to remove his head from the skull, but he could not. Iktomi was very
forlorn with the skull stuck to his head, so he went to a rock and beat the skull upon it
until it broke away. But in doing this Iktomi so bruised his head that he was very sick
and dizzy for a long time afterward.
After encountering many versions of this Iktomi tale, anthropologist Ella Deloria wrote
of another variant in which "He was told to soak the skull in water to soften it, so it
would stretch. He tried that and drowned him¬self. Still others declare that he was
told to build a fire and burn off the skull. He tried it and burned himself.