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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Tale Of The Swift Fox And The Amazing Bag
by Brett French of the Billings (MT) Gazette

The swift fox is honored by the Assiniboine Tribe for helping to bring summer to Montana.

Robert Four Star, chief of the Assiniboine's Red Bottom clan, related this tale:

In the beginning, the Assiniboine Tribe lived in the north where there was nothing but ice. On a trip south, members of the tribe came across a lodge. Inside were four men lying around a tripod that held a leather bag filled with water. As the water dripped on the ground, grass and flowers would grow.

The Assiniboines returned to their people and told them of the amazing bag and its contents.

The tribe worked with various animals, because each had unique and useful traits. The swift fox was chosen to be the animal to enter the lodge and steal the bag, since he was quiet and quick. But after the swift fox had grabbed the bag, his tail brushed one of the sleeping men and he awoke. A chase began.

Although the men eventually caught the fox, he had already handed the bag off in what would be a relay race back to the Assiniboine people. The men could never retrieve the bag because as it was carried north, the ice thawed and the men couldn't cross the now rushing rivers.

In the end, the men struck a deal with the tribe. The Assiniboine would keep the bag for six months of the year before returning it to the men. The tribe credits the sandhill crane with carrying the bag back and forth, so when warm weather is slow to return to Montana in the spring, the cranes are blamed for the delay.

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