Every time the Shawnee set out to hunt buffalo, Crow would warn them and they would escape before the hunters arrived. Photo NPS.

The Shawnee needed buffalo for food and skins. But every time the Shawnee went out to hunt buffalo, Crow would warn them and they would escape.

Crow was pure white in the beginning. He was brother to the buffalo.

One day the Shawnee hunting party gathered around the campfire to prepare for a hunt.

Cawanemua said, “We must do something about Crow. I will dress as a buffalo and when Brother Crow comes to warn the buffalo of our hunt, I will grab him.”

The next day, Cawanemua pulled a buffalo skin over himself and joined the buffalo herd grazing near-by.

Sure enough, Crow flew in warning the buffalo as the Shawnee hunters approached.
Crow was crying, “Caw, Caw, hunters afar!”

Cawanemua jumped up, grabbed Crow by the legs and carried him back to camp.

That night, around the fire as the hunters discussed the fate of Crow

Panseau , the smallest brave listened and watched Crow.

Some wanted to kill and eat Crow, since they were very hungry and Crow had spoiled the hunt by warning the buffalo.

Others wanted to let Crow go, thinking that he had learned his lesson and would not warn the buffalo again.

Cawanemau was getting more and more angry. He grabbed crow and threw him in the fire.

Little Panseau seeing crow turning black from the fire and soot, grabbed him out of the flames.

Cawanemau was furious with Panseau. 

He shouted, “Crow deceives us. We are hungry and cold because he warns buffalo!!! Yet you save him from the flames!!”

Panseau, in a small voice, quietly said, “Crow warns his brother. Just as I would warn you, my brother.”

Crow, who was shaken and blackened from the flames, heard Panseau and felt hope.

Everyone was very still, thinking about what Panseau the smallest brave had said.

Crow spoke, ” I am blackened for warning buffalo, who is my brother. I now say Shawnees are my brothers also.

“I will never again warn buffalo of your hunt. And you, Brother Shawnee, will remember to give thanks to buffalo for giving himself to you for food to fill your belly and skins to keep you warm.”

Cawanemau stood. “Crow is our brother. Buffalo is our brother also.

“We will only hunt buffalo when we need food and skins. We will remember to always give thanks.

“Brother Crow will remain black, so he too can remember and remind us of his promise to never warn our Brother Buffalo.”

This is how Crow became black and made good friends with both Buffalo and Humans.
(Archived on Shawnee site.)

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

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