Old-man, or Napa, as he was called by the Blackfeet, is an extraordinary character in Indian folklore. He appears in different guises: god or creator, fool, thief, clown. Subordinate to Manitou, the Deity, Old-man is both powerful and fallible. The world he made is marvelous but filled with mistakes. As a result, tension between the haves and have-nots explodes in "Indian Why Stories". Because all creation shimmers with spirit, the consequences are cosmic. Frank B. Linderman kept as close as possible to the Indian style of storytelling, using only the tales told to him by elders of the Blackfeet, Chippewa, and Cree tribes in the early days of the 20th century. This collection of stories recalls a timeless scene: in the early evening a medicine man sits before a lodge fire, relating tales of the old days to attentive youngsters of the tribe. He tells about the animal people - the deer and antelope in a footrace, the dancing fox who convulses the buffalo with laughter, the white beaver and ghost-people, the huge snake in love with the moon, the sparrow hawk of conscience, and many more.
These stories have a moral framework, revealing a reverence for life, emphasis on honesty, and the unity of creation.
Frank B. Linderman (1869-1938) spent his adult life in Montana, first as a trapper and then as a publisher, politician, and businessman. He lived closely with the Flatheads, Blackfeet, Crows, and other Native Americans in the region for many years. Celeste River is a Montana scholar, photographer, and research consultant who has lectured throughout the state on the life and writings of Linderman.