Here is one story the Plains Indians are familiar with, the I-nis'kim (buffalo rock), which has been passed down from generation to generation and is as old as the I-nis'kim itself...
Long ago in the winter time, the buffalo suddenly disappeared. The snow was so deep that the people could not move in search of them, for in those days they had no horses. So the hunters killed what they could, either deer or elk or small game along the river banks, until most of the game were killed or driven away. The people began to starve.
One day, a young married man killed a jack-rabbit. He was so hungry, he ran home as fast as he could, and told one of his wives to get some water to cook it.
As usual the younger wife left, and while she was walking along the path near the river, she heard a beautiful song. It sounded very close by, but as she looked around there was no one to be seen.
The song seemed to come from a cottonwood tree near the path. She looked
closely at the tree and saw a queer rock jammed in a fork, where the tree was split. With it were a few strands of hair from a buffalo, which had rubbed there.
The woman was scared and did not want to pass the tree. Pretty soon the singing stopped, and the I-nis'kim (buffalo rock) spoke to the woman and said, "Take me to your lodge and when it is dark, call in the people and teach them the song you have just heard. Remember to pray, too, so that you, and the people will not starve and the buffalo may come back. Do this, and when the morning comes, your hearts will be glad."
The young woman got the water and she took the rock and gave it to her husband, and told him about the song and what the rock had said. As soon as it got dark, the, man called the chiefs and all the elders to his lodge, and his wife taught them the song.They also prayed, in accordance with what the rock had told the woman. Before long, they could hear a noise in the distance.
It was the rumbling of a great herd of buffalo coming. Then they knew the great power of the rock, and, since then, the people have taken care of it and prayed to it.
l-nis'kims (buffalo rocks) are weird shapes of small stone. Some are even shaped like a buffalo.
The ones I remember seeing were an off-white colour with red ochre stained all around. I once saw one with a hole in it so it could be worn like a necklace.
As the story mentioned, people really take care of I-nis'kims, by keeping them warm by means of wrapping them in cloth or a piece of buffalo hide. Some even sort of feed them by putting food and water beside them, while others keep them out on a shelf wrapped in a cloth, or kept in a safe place.
Reprinted from Alberta Native News, December 2001