Why crows are black

Do you know that crows were once mottled gray in color? Do you know why they turned black? Then you are not a member of the Blackfoot Native American tribe. They have a charming folk legend that explains the change. And, like all great folk tales, it teaches a lesson. Greedy people will be punished. It teaches Blackfoot children to share.

Buffaloes were essential to tribal survival. They provided food, clothing and shelter. Without the buffalo, the Blackfoot people would perish so it was a calamity when all the herds suddenly disappeared.

Their chief sought out Napi, or The Old Man Of the Dawn, a wise and powerful shaman. He could turn himself into any animal or object. He believed the buffalo had been stolen by the evil sorcerer, Crow Arrow. He agreed to go and find them, but he needed someone to accompany him.

The chief's son, Little Dog, stepped forward. He also had special powers. He could change himself into a dog. Together, they set out to find the teepee of Crow Arrow. Many days later they found it on a mountain peak where Crow Arrow lived with his wife and young daughter. But there were no buffalo in sight.

To avoid detection, Little Dog became a puppy and Napi a stick. Carrying the stick in his mouth, Little Dog trotted up to the little girl. She threw the stick and he retrieved it, but each time he made a wider circle, searching for the missing herds. At last he found them. Crow Arrow had hidden all the animals in a vast cavern. Quickly, they changed back into men and stampeded the buffaloes out onto the plains. The herds had returned, but the story does not end there. Napi knew that Crow Arrow would seek revenge.

Sure enough, a few days later a giant crow swept over the grazing herds, trying to drive them away. Napi changed into a beaver. When Crow Arrow swept down to grab him, quick as lightening he changed back into a man and caught Crow Arrow's legs. The evil sorcerer could not fly away. He was a prisoner.

Napi carried Crow Arrow back to his lodge and hung him, head down, over the camp fire. There Crow Arrow hung, all day, struggling unsuccessfully to free himself. the end of the day he was a sorry mess. The smoke from the open fire had turned his mottled gray feathers a sooty black.

Napi came to lecture him. "Now, Crow Arrow, "he said, "Do you see where your greed and wickedness have brought you? There were buffalo enough for everyone, but you wanted to keep them all for yourself."

Crow Arrow begged for mercy. He admitted his guilt and promised, if he were set free, he would share whatever he had with others. Napi cut the ropes which bound him and Crow Arrow flew away. And he kept his promise. He never tried to steal the buffalo herds again. Perhaps that is because Napi left Crow Arrow a visual reminder of his oath. When he gave Crow Arrow his freedom, he did not clean the feathers. Since that time, the crow's feathers have been jet black from hanging over the fire in Napi's teepee.

Hamburger connoisseurs swear that buffalo meat tastes better than beef. You can find it in a few speciality markets. Why not treat yourself to a Buffalo Burger.


3 pounds ground buffalo

1 cup minced onion

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley

PREPARATION: Combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Shape into patties and grill to desired state of doneness.

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