This story is told in the modern idiom by an ancient guide named ‘Calling Horse’ who came to me in meditation to explain in story the codes of conduct of his tribe.
Law Number 3: HOLD THY WORD OF HONOUR SACRED (Speak the truth, mean what you say, keep your word)
In our tribe as in all tribes we paid a lot of attention to the laws of the Great Spirit, but there were always those who would deviate from time to time. Children were carefully taught the laws, so that they knew how to conduct themselves in society and with regard to their personal development and their integrity.
Walking Cloud dreams of becoming a great hunter
In my family my mother used to tell us stories to illustrate the laws of the Great Spirit. She said she learnt them from her grandfather and said he had got them from a bear! That always puzzled me as a child because I had never heard a bear speak. However, the story about honesty included the bear and could well have come from him if he had been a talking bear!
There was once a young man called Walking Cloud. He had aspirations to become a great hunter, however other tasks always seemed to get in the way of his hunting. There were skins to clean, teepees to make, firewood to chop, fires to set up and so on. He would far rather have spent his time on the plains hunting the wild animals, than being tied up with all this domestic work. One day his mother asked him to clean off a bear skin which his brother had provided. Walking Cloud grudgingly set to work, His tools were not sharp enough and the day was calling him. After half an hour he realised that his mother was occupied and would not be returning to the camp until sunset.
This was the opportunity he had been waiting for. He downed tools and he was away. He moved quickly, flitting between the tents like a shadow, unseen. He disappeared into a thicket at the edge of camp, his bow and arrows at the ready.
Walking Cloud leaves his work to go hunting
After an hour or two he noticed the fresh traces of a small deer. His heart began to beat faster. Would he soon find it and bring it home to his family? Smelling the air he thought he could sense the direction in which the deer was moving. He followed his senses and his instincts. Suddenly there it was. It looked at him and froze. It seemed to know that its day had come. Quickly he loaded his bow and shot the little creature in the chest. With a last leap it died and fell to the ground. It was quite easy for Walking Cloud to carry the little animal. He raised it to his shoulders and set off for home. He began to wonder how he was going to explain yet another carcass to his mother. There was the strict understanding that you should not kill any more than you could use and his family was certainly not in need of any more meat at that moment. He wondered how much of the bear skin he could clean off if he returned and could not think what he would do with the deer carcass. It would be wrong to waste it; that he would not do.
On approaching the camp he passed a group of teepees belonging to a family whose father was sick. He decided he would leave the deer with them. Gratefully they accepted. Back in his own part of the camp there lay the bear skin and the blunt tools. He sighed and picked up his work. His mind was not on it as he scraped away at the remains of the fat clinging to the hide. Shortly afterwards his mother returned.
“Oh, Walking Cloud, I see you have been struggling with your work! Surely we named you well for you have been walking in the clouds again today, by the look of it, or did you go out hunting in my absence?”
“This tool is too blunt, Mother. How can I clean the skin with such a tool as this?”
“Tools do not sharpen themselves, my son. Don’t tell me you have been struggling with the knife all day in that state, rather than go and sharpen it on a stone? Is my son idle as well as dreamy? How will you ever look after a family of your own if you cannot get on with a simple task like this?’
Idle! Dreamy! This was too much for Walking Cloud!
“No, Mother, I am not idle nor dreamy, but when I have a family, I will go hunting for two families and the head of the other family will be able to stay at home he can do my domestic work.”
“So, you have been out hunting today, my son. But why? We do not need any more food, we have already shared meat with two of our neighbours.
“Yes, Mother. The call of the forest was so strong upon me, I went hunting and I caught a beautiful deer which I gave to the family of Fire Star. I am sorry.”
“Well, well, I know your inclinations only too well, my son. I know you are not lazy or idle, but you do dream of the forests and the plains when you are engaged on other work. At least you were able to help someone less fortunate than yourself today. I hope you find this other family who like to stay at home while you go out and hunt! But each man should be independent, if possible, you know.”
Walking Cloud stood up. “I am sorry , Mother,for not finishing the bear skin. I did not promise to do it however. If I had promised, I would have had it finished by now. I know I am reluctant to do all these jobs, I suppose most young men are. If you want to be sure of getting something done, you will have to get me to promise to do it, then as certain as there are more than a thousand stars in the sky, I will do it.”
His mother gave him a wry smile. “Ah, my son, so I have to tie you down to your work with honourable words now, do I? Well, well, if that’s what you think is necessary, so be it,” and she shook her head and took up the blunt knife.
“Well, let’s start as we mean to continue. Promise me you will sharpen this before you spend any more time on friend bear here!”