Quills and Feathers


Pretty bird, you saw me and took pity on me;

You wish me to survive among the people.

O Bird People, from this day always you shall be my relatives!

Flicker, Northern

Colaptes auratus

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Sitting Bull, the Lakota holy man (wicasha wakan), was a lifelong interlocutor with the birds, including the flicker and the meadowlark, the former saving his life as a young man—celebrated in the song above—and the latter forecasting his imminent death on a North Dakota reservation. The flicker song was composed after the bird's hammering on a tree alerted Sitting Bull in time to save himself from a grizzly bear. From that time on, he was indeed a "relative" of the birds.

Bibliographical information

Author: Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iotanka) (1831-1890), quoted in Vestal, Stanley (1887-1957)

Book: Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux

Date: 1957 [1932]

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Project Information

Genre: Song