When white men first penetrated the Western wilderness of America they
found the tribes of
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
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.
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
It needed but faint pretext for his companion to
begin a quarrel, and he did so in this fashion: "Why does a stranger
drink the water at the spring that his children may drink it
undefiled. I am Ausaqua, chief of
and I drink at the head-water.
are brothers. Let them drink together."
pays tribute to the
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 drink."
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
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
appeals for vengeance. May the water of thy tribe be rank and bitter
in their throats."
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 region.
By Charles Skinner, 1896. Compiled and
of America, updated March, 2017.
About the Author: Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the
complete nine volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in
1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, which are
now in the public domain.