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The Division Of Two Tribes


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

When white men first penetrated the Western wilderness of America they
found the tribes of Shoshone and Comanche at odds, and it is a legend of
the springs of Manitou that their differences began there. This Saratoga
of the West, nestling in a hollow of the foot-hills in the shadow of the
noble peak of Pike, was in old days common meeting-ground for several
families of red men. Councils were held in safety there, for no Indian
dared provoke the wrath of the manitou whose breath sparkled in the
medicine waters. None? Yes, one. For, centuries ago a Shoshone and a
Comanche stopped here on their return from a hunt to drink. The Shoshone
had been successful; the Comanche was empty handed and ill tempered,
jealous of the other's skill and fortune. Flinging down the fat deer that
he was bearing homeward on his shoulders, the Shoshone bent over the
spring of sweet water, and, after pouring a handful of it on the ground,
as a libation to the spirit of the place, he put his lips to the surface.
It needed but faint pretext for his companion to begin a quarrel, and he
did so in this fashion: Why does a stranger drink at the spring-head
when one of the owners of the fountain contents himself with its
overflow? How does a Shoshone dare to drink above me?

The other replied, The Great Spirit places the water at the spring that
his children may drink it undefiled. I am Ausaqua, chief of Shoshones,
and I drink at the head-water. Shoshone and Comanche are brothers. Let
them drink together.

No. The Shoshone pays tribute to the Comanche, and Wacomish leads that
nation to war. He is chief of the Shoshone as he is of his own people.

Wacomish lies. His tongue is forked, like the snake's. His heart is
black. When the Great Spirit made his children he said not to one, 'Drink
here,' and to another, 'Drink there,' but gave water that all might

The other made no answer, but as Ausaqua stooped toward the bubbling
surface Wacomish crept behind him, flung himself against the hunter,
forced his head beneath the water, and held him there until he was
drowned. As he pulled the dead body from the spring the water became
agitated, and from the bubbles arose a vapor that gradually assumed the
form of a venerable Indian, with long white locks, in whom the murderer
recognized Waukauga, father of the Shoshone and Comanche nation, and a
man whose heroism and goodness made his name revered in both these
tribes. The face of the patriarch was dark with wrath, and he cried, in
terrible tones, Accursed of my race! This day thou hast severed the
mightiest nation in the world. The blood of the brave Shoshone appeals
for vengeance. May the water of thy tribe be rank and bitter in their

Then, whirling up an elk-horn club, he brought it full on the head of the
wretched man, who cringed before him. The murderer's head was burst open
and he tumbled lifeless into the spring, that to this day is nauseous,
while, to perpetuate the memory of Ausaqua, the manitou smote a
neighboring rock, and from it gushed a fountain of delicious water. The
bodies were found, and the partisans of both the hunters began on that
day a long and destructive warfare, in which other tribes became involved
until mountaineers were arrayed against plainsmen through all that

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