Somewhere at a place where the prairie and the Makošíča (the Badlands) meet there is a hidden cave. Not for a long, long time has anyone been able to find it.
Even now, with so many highways, cars and tourists, no one has discovered this cave. In it lives a woman so old that her face looks like a shriveled-up walnut. She is dressed in rawhide the way people used to before the white man came. She has been sitting there for a thousand years or more, working on a blanket strip for her buffalo robe. She is making the strip out of dyed porcupine quills the way her ancestors did before the white traders brought glass beads to this turtle continent.
Resting beside her, licking his paws, watching her all the time is Šúŋka Sápa (a huge black dog). His eyes never wander from the old woman, whose teeth are worn flat – down to little stumps because she has used them to flatten so many porcupine quills.
A few steps from where the old woman sits working on her blanket strip, a huge fire is kept going. She lit this fire a thousand or more years ago and has kept it alive ever since.
Over the fire hangs a big earthen pot, the kind some Indian peoples designed before the white man came with his iron kettles. Inside the pot, wójapi is boiling and bubbling. Wójapi is berry soup, good and sweet and red. That soup has been boiling in the pot for a long time, ever since the fire was lit.
The old woman gets up to stir the wójapi in the huge earthen pot now and then. She is so old and feeble that it takes a while to get up and hobble over to the fire. The moment her back is turned, Šúŋka Sápa starts pulling the porcupine quills out of her blanket strip. This way, she never makes any progress, and her quillwork remains forever unfinished.
The Sioux people used to say if the old woman ever finishes her blanket strip, then when she threads the last porcupine quill to complete the design, the world will come to an end.
Available in our store: The Great Race
American Indian Myths and Legends; Edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz. New York: Pantheon, 1984, page 390-392