Contemporary Lakota Folklore and Legend
“My travels with Indians began some years ago with the discovery that most traditional communities in North America know of a messenger who appears in evil times as a warning from the Creator that man’s disrespect for His sacred instructions has upset the harmony and balance of existence; some say that the messenger comes in sign of a great destroying fire that will purify the world of the disruption and pollution of earth air, water, and all living things. He has strong spirit powers and sometimes takes the form of a huge hairy man; in recent years this primordial being has appeared near Indian communities from the northern Plains states to far northern Alberta and throughout the Pacific Northwest. –Peter Mathiessen
“There’s a lot going on up in that country now,” said Archie Fire, referring not only to the threat to the Great Plains from widespread mining but to recent appearances of the big hairy man at Little Eagle, on the Standing Rock Reservation, who came in sign, some people said, of those days at the world’s end “when the moon will turn red and the sun will turn blue” and the Lakota people will resume their place at the center of existence”
“Turtle Mountain was among the many Indian communities that had been visited in recent years by the “Rugaru”, as the Ojibway call the hairy man who appears in symptom of danger or psychic disruption in the community. Mary’s son Richard talked a little about the appearance of these beings in recent years to Lakota people at Little Eagle, South Dakota. “There were just too many sightings down there to ignore. I mean, a lot of people saw it. Around here, we didn’t have many reports; most of them were right here where we live now.” He waved his hand to indicate the woods outside, where I camped that night along the lake edge.” –Peter Mathiessen
“A few weeks before, the big, hairy man had appeared in Little Eagle for the third straight year, and more than forty people had seen him. “I think that the Big Man is kind of the husband of Unk-ksa, the Earth, who is wise in the way of anything with its own natural wisdom. Sometimes we say that this One is a kind of big reptile from the ancient times, who can take a big, hairy form: I also think he can change into a coyote. He is very powerful. Some of the people who saw him did not respect what they were seeing, they did not honor him, and they are already gone.” –Joe Flying By
“We’ve come to an age where we should know better what we are doing,” Pete Catches resumed softly, in a silence that followed some meditations on the Big Man, who was trying to save mankind, he said, from the great cataclysm the Indian people knew was coming. “We must now try to understand what is wrong with us, why we have to tamper with and change the forests and the land. We have done this too long–not us, but the white man. Let’s not walk on the moon, then fail to understand what this Creation is all about. This is life, this is beautiful, everything is the way it should be.”
–Ogala Lakota Medicine Man Pete Catches
“On the early morning of June 25, Jean Bordeaux, Norman Brown, and Jimmy Zimmerman were sitting up late, down by the creek. ‘Maybe around three or four o’clock,’ Jean says, ‘not long before the sun, we heard something very big walking in the creek. It wasn’t any animal, either, and it wasn’t like somebody tossing in big rocks; it was plunk-plunk-plunk, like that, big steady steps. Zimmerman was so scared he just ran off, he wanted to wake up Joe, because him and Joe was living in one tent. Norman Brown said it was the Big Man, and that his people over in Arizona knew all about it, but we were all too scared to go down there and look.’ In the evening of that day huge dark thunderheads gathered over the Black Hills, followed by wild angry winds and lashing rain that caused property damaged all over the western part of South Dakota. –Mathiessen, The U.S. Puppet Government, p 149.
“Along the creek the pale clay mud was crisscrossed by the sharp prints of raccoons, and near the water was a tree gnawed long ago by a beaver. I told Sam about the big footsteps in the creek heard on the night before the shoot-out by Jean Bordeaux and Jimmy Zimmerman and Norman Brown, and he nodded, saying, “That was a warning.”
‘There is your Big Man standing there, ever waiting, ever present, like the coming of a new day,’ Peter Catches had told me two years earlier, here on Pine Ridge. “He is both spirit and a real being”- he had slapped the iron of his cot for emphasis–“but he can also glide through the forest, like a moose with big antlers, as if the trees weren’t there. At Little Eagle, all those people came, and they went out with rifles and long scopes, and they couldn’t see him, but all those other people at the bonfire, he came up close to them, they smelled him, heard him breathing: and when they tried to get too close, he went away. He didn’t harm no one; I know him as my brother. I wanted to live over there at Little Eagle, go out by myself where he was last seen, and come in contact with him. I want him to touch me, just a touch, a blessing, something I could bring home to my sons and grandchildren, that I was there, that I approached him, and he touched me.
It doesn’t matter what you call him; he has many names. I call him Brother, Ci-e, and that’s what the Old People would call him, too. We know that he was here with us for a long time; we are fortunate to see him in our generation. We may not see him again for many many generations. But he will come back, just when the next Ice Age comes into being.”