How True Dog Came To Be

Traditional Lakota Story

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Shunka yipped as she felt herself shoved roughly into a greasy skin bag. She was barely awake, yet here she was, being grabbed by the scruff of her neck, abducted right from the doorstep of her parents' own den.

At first, she thought she was still dreaming inside the warm dugout, cuddled up beside her brothers and sisters. She had always felt quite safe beneath the roots of the large spruce tree. The children of the tree had formed a thick ring around their mother, and so provided a good place to hide a family of four furry pups. At least that is what Shunka's parents had hoped.

But Shunka wasn't dreaming.

Her parents had gone hunting, and had left an uncle by marriage nearby to watch the pups. The uncle was a younger brother of her mother's brother's wife, and was inexperienced at these things. He let his attention be drawn away to a chipmunk scampering up a fallen log, and while he was distracted, a strange creature had come into the wolf camp to grab Shunka and one of her brothers. The other pups had hidden themselves out of reach in the back of the den and so they were not taken.

Shunka and her brother were jostled and pummeled as they were carried inside of the sacks on the backs of the creatures. After a long, bumpy time, Shunka looked out over the Two-Legged's shoulder. There, in front of her was a marvelous sight. In a meadow were a group of shelters standing tall, like trees in a circle with each flap facing east, towards the rising sun. Many two-leggeds came running out to greet the grandmothers as they came back into camp. There was much noise and confusion.

Everything was a blur of new sights and new sounds and unusual smells. Wondrous smells pervaded the encampment. Shunka had known only the smells of the earthen den, the sweet milky smell of her mother, and then, later when her little white teeth had come in, the sour-meat smell of her father who disgorged breakfast for his children every morning.

It was by the smells of her father's offerings that the grandmothers had found the den. While searching for roots and for herbs, the grandmothers' noses of experience detected the pups cleverly concealed in the den beneath the tree.

Suddenly, Shunka felt herself rudely dumped upon the ground. Beside her, whimpered her brother who was scared and confused. "Don't worry," she whispered. "We have each other. I will stand by you. Say, 'huka', I am not afraid."

He was afraid anyway, despite her brave words to him, and yelped loudly when a small two-legged hugged him tightly to his chest. "A-i-i-i," he cried. The little two-legs laughed and held him up for all to see. "This is my pup," said little Two-Legs. "My grandmother has given him to me as a present."

"Yes," Grandmother Unchi, replied. "And if you care for him as well as you would your own brother, he will be your trusted companion for all of his days." At that, she picked up Shunka and talked to her softly. "Woze," said Grandmother Unchi, and she gave her some pieces of good-smelling meat from the fire.

"Shunka," she said, "I am most pleased to have found you. You are a great gift to me. From now on, I have someone to help me and a friend to keep me company."

And so it was that Shunka was taken from her family as a winu, a captive and a prisoner, and forced to live in a village of the two-leggeds for the rest of her life. But Grandmother Unchi was kind to her, and praised her and acknowledged her hard work. So, when Shunka had a family of her own, she became a kind of hunka to the Two-leggeds. She became a relative by choice, and all of her children and grandchildren did, too. Hechetu yelo. That is true.


Lakota Words:

Shunka ~ Dog
Huka ~ I am not afraid
Unchi ~ Grandmother
Winu ~ Captive, prisoner
Hunka ~ Relative by choice
Hechetu yelo ~ That is true

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