First Maker, Iichikbaalia, our Creator was wandering around. There was nothing but water everywhere. He wandered over the water looking around. Out of no where he heard voices, they were saying, “I guess we are the only ones, I am sure we are the only one.” The First Maker saw that it was four ducks. He walked over to where the ducks had gathered and said, “No you are not the only ones, I am here. Did you really truly believe that you were the only ones he asked?”
The first duck said, “No something in our hearts believes that there are other things.” “Yes, go on and tell me what do your hearts believe?” Said First Maker. “Well, we believe that maybe there is something way down in the water.” “Yes, that is what I want to hear,” said First Maker, “You can dive why don’t you dive down and see what you can find,” He said. So the first duck dived down and down. He was gone a long, long time. “I am afraid that my brother has drowned,” said one of the ducks. “No, do not be afraid of that,” said another duck, “No, do not worry about that,” said the other duck, “he has not been gone long enough to have reached the point of being tired.” So the ducks and First Maker sat and waited.
After a time the first duck came to the surface. He was panting so hard for air they had to wait some more until he caught his breath. “Well younger brother did you get anything?” asked First Maker. The first duck said, “No, I went down and I went down, but I did not find anything.” The second duck said, “I’ll go down and see what I can find.” The second duck dived down deeply into the water and again they waited and waited and waited. “I guess that my brother has died.” said one of the ducks, “He as been gone so long.” “No, our brother has not died.” said another duck, “He has not been gone long enough to reach the bottom.”
They waited and waited and at long last the second duck appeared on the surface. “Did you find anything?” asked First Maker. “No,” replied the second duck, “I went down and down and down, but I got nothing. I did see something down there, but I could not reach it I was too tired.”
“These big ducks cannot go down far enough to find the bottom. Let me go down.” pleaded the third duck. First Maker thought for awhile he looked at the third duck and thought some more. At last he agreed, but he cautioned, “You are quite small, so be careful you do not exceed your limit. I don’t want any of you to die.” The duck agreed. He dived down and down and down. He too was gone a long while and the others waited and waited at last the third duck broke the water upwards and came to the surface.
“Did you get anything?” First Maker yelled, “Yes,” gasped the little duck, “I went down and down and down and something struck me. I looked where I felt it hit me and I took this.”
He hand First Maker a piece of plant. He looked at it carefully. He turned it this way and that and you could see his face wrinkle with thought. At last he spoke, “Where this came from there must be earth. There is no doubt, my younger brothers, that what you felt in your hearts is true. There is something way down in the water.” First Maker turned to the fourth and last duck. He said, “You go down this time. The other ducks are all too tired. If you feel something hard don’t touch it, keep going until you find something soft. Don’t look at it, but put some of it in your bill and bring it to me.”
“I’ll go right now.” The fourth duck answered excitedly. He went down and down and down and down and down. He dove until he felt something hard with his feet. Then on and on and on he went until he felt something soft. He shut his eyes tightly and filled the hollow of his bill with it. It was sticky and he had a hard time pulling his feet loose. He swam upward as fast as he could with the soft stuff sticking to his feet. Upward and upward he went until he came out of the water.
“Did you get something?” First Maker demanded. The little duck was so tired that all he could do was swim to First Maker and empty his bill into his hands and wipe his feet on his arms. First Maker looked at the brown stuff in his hands and smiled, “It is mud!” he exclaimed, “It is wet earth with which we can make our world. Are you ready?” He asked the ducks and they all yelled together, “We are ready!”
First Maker and the ducks made the world. Then they divided the world into sections by placing water here and there. They made the sky, the plants, the trees and the animals. They made the stars, the sun and the moon.
After a long while First Maker decided that was not enough, so he made the people. He made the people out of clay as he had made everything else. He made four groups of men and women. He set them on the ground in front of him while he made some clay arrows. He put the arrows in a row on the ground a long, long way away from him. Then First Maker said to the clay people, “I do not know which group of you is the bravest. I want to know brave people. I will test you to find out. Run through the arrows and the one that goes through them will be my people. They will be brave and wise.”
The first group ran, but when they came to the row of arrows they were frightened and stopped in their tracks. They could not go on and they fell to the ground. “Get up!” ordered First Maker, “Go away, you cannot be my people.” Then he told the second group to run thought the arrows, but they were frightened too and turned back. “Go like the others!” First Maker said to them. Then the third group ran, but fell back. “You too are worthless, go with the others!” First Maker commanded. No one knows who these groups of people were or if they are still around today.
Then First Maker told the fourth group to run through the arrows and they did. If they were frightened they did not show it. “You are very brave people!” exclaimed First Maker, “You will be my people and I will give you helpers to teach you. Where you live shall be the center of the world and you will be surrounded by enemies to keep you brave.” That is why the Apsáalooke live in Montana and Wyoming, between the mountains and the plains, beside the Yellowstone River. It is also why all of the other tribes respected and feared them.