In many tribes an elk was associated with love and credited with the creation of the flute. The flute then would be used to woo a woman in the Native American Culture. The legend, “The Gift of the Elk Men,” is a Santee Lakota legend that reminds the Plains tribes of the importance of the elk (1). It goes like this……
“There was this young man who was very shy and very brave. During battle he had not a problem facing down enemy warrior but when it came to talking to the girl he loved; he became tongue tied. He became quite frustrated and decided he needed some time away from the camp. Undecided on which way to go, he decided to shoot an arrow into the air and which way it landed that would be the direction of his journey. To his amazement the arrow stayed in the air only going as fast as he could walk. This continued until it was time to set up camp for the night. The arrow then fell to ground near a clear clean stream where he set up camp for the night.
The next morning he decided to shoot the arrow back up and see which way he should continue his journey. Just like the day before the arrow stayed in the air all day only falling when it was time to set up camp. This continued for four days. On the fourth day he had become very tired from all the walking he had done. He fell asleep quickly. During the night he awoke and heard the rustling of leaves, the sound of a hoof against a stone and then the sound of voices. One voice said, “you tell him” the other replied, “no, we both tell him.” He then opened his eyes and saw two Elk Men standing before him painted black and yellow with great antlers upon their heads. Together the Elk Men say, “We have come to help up woo the woman you love.” “We have brought you this, a flute;” and they began to play. The sound was so beautiful that for that moment it felt like time had stopped. The Elk Men then said, “The birds and animal, including us have put our voices into the flute. The flute will help you win the heart of the woman you love”. With the flash of the Elk Men’s eye the young man was temporarily blinded. When he could see again, two young bull elk where running into the bushes.
The next morning he awoke to find a flute lying on a bed of sage next to him. He decided it was time to go home. On his way home he practiced his flute and listened to the animals and birds around him. They helped him learn their sounds and he was able to weave their songs with his own. By the evening of the fourth day he arrived at his camp. The breeze helped carry the music he made from his flute to the ear of the girl he loved. She had always loved the shy young man, more now that she realized what he had done to earn her love” (2) .
“Elk Men” played important roles during many ceremonies in Plains tribes, and men who are successful with the ladies where thought to have “elk medicine” (1).
(1) “Native American Elk Mythology.” Native American Indian Elk Legends, Meaning and Symbolism from the Myths of Many Tribes. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. http://www.native-languages.org/legends-elk.htm.
(2) “The Gift of the Elk Men Legend.” Sun Dog Flutes RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. http://www.sundogflutes.com/flute-information/the-gift-of-the-elk-men-legend/.
Picture - http://www.naturestapestryjlm.com/animals/
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