Friday, 23 October 2020 12:15

COLUMN: The legend of Running Deer Part I

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COLUMN: The legend of Running Deer Part I J.A. Bolton

In times long past, many different tribes or bands of Native Americans lived along the Pee Dee River. They were mostly Eastern Siouan such as the Catawba, Keyauwee, Waccamaw, and Cheraw tribes. 

Most Native Americans lived in small groups, but there were larger ceremonial towns also. One such town was located in northern Richmond County, and is now called Indian Mound. Like most native encampments, Indian Mound was located close to a stream. In this case, it was Little River.

Most folks today might think that early Native Americans lived in tepees. But in our area, most natives lived in small rounded lodges made of mud, sticks, animal hides and straw.

The old Uwharrie mountain range was the home site for many native villages. The mountains provided all types of natural foods and fresh water. Its soil was lush and rich and provided the natives with food plots filled with things such as corn, squash and beans.

Smaller rivers, like the Uwharrie and Little River provided canoe passage to the mighty Pee Dee. Along with transportation, the river provided fresh fish and mussels that the natives used to supplement their diet. The natives built V-shaped fish traps made with rocks to help pen the fish in one area.

Wild game like deer, bear and other animals, plus birds, were hunted. The meat was eaten and the animal hides were used for clothing and to make shelters. Nothing was wasted. Why, the natives even used animal antlers or other animal parts for tools or for ceremonial purposes.

A lot of natives even took their own names from different types of animals and birds. Names like Flying Eagle, Running Bear and White Dove were just a few examples, although they were pronounced in their native tongue.

Storytelling was a big part of the Native American culture. As they sat around their campfires, tales of great battles, animals, and stories were told which held great meaning to each tribe. Young and old alike listened as storytellers weaved their stories from the past.

One of the stories might have been the legend of a very young native called “Running Deer.” This story took place in the northern part of what is now Richmond County, probably along the banks of Little Buffalo Creek.

The story opens long ago when two young Native Americans fell in love. Their names were translated into First Moon and Beautiful Flower. First Moon had become a fierce warrior and great hunter, while Beautiful Flower was just like her name implied — beautiful. She was also known to be a very brave young native maiden.

As time went by, the young brave and maiden got married and built themselves a small lodge along the banks of Little Buffalo Creek.

It wasn’t long before a little brave was born to the couple. They called him Running Deer. The boy had his father’s facial features but had his mom’s beautiful eyes. The couple and their young son were so happy together.

First Moon was a good provider. He had cleared a small new ground to plant their vegetables. He also hunted deer and speared fish for their meat supply. 

Time went on and young Running Deer was growing like a weed. His mother taught him how to gather berries, skin and cook game, make rope, gather their firewood and dance the corn dance as well other native dances. His father showed him how to make spears and arrows and even made him a small bow. First Moon also made his son a small tomahawk and told him never to lose it. 

Later on, Young Running Deer was taught to track game and run like the wind. Both parents taught him why things like snakes and skunks were to be avoided. They showed him the moon and stars and how to find his way through the woods at night. Running Deer was a quick learner and was proving to be of great help to his mother and father.

Like in today’s world, good times can’t go on forever. In Running Deer’s case, the bad times started out in the form of a drought. The crops failed and the streams began to dry up. Wild game became scarce and hunting parties had to venture out farther to find their prey. Sometimes, First Moon would be gone for days, only to return with only small amounts of food. 

Seems sometimes hard times bring out the worse in people. The local tribes were seeing more encroachment on their hunting and fishing lands from far away tribes. War was looming on the horizon. 

The danger of raiding parties was all too real. Several local braves had been killed or captured while their families were taken off as prisoners by other warring tribes.

 Although First Moon was a great warrior, one day he and several of his hunting party were overcome by a large raiding party lying in wait just across the western bank of the Pee Dee River.

Days and then months went by as Running Deer and his mom waited for First Moon to return. They were left to fend for themselves in that unforgiving world of theirs.

Living only from day to day, Running Deer took on even more responsibilities of helping feed and protect his mom. Even with some help from their kinsman, it was a hard row to hoe for this mother and her son.

As the cold winds of winter began to blow and the winter rains came, Running Deer and his mom suffered from hunger, but they found some comfort by their small fire within their small lodge. Little did they know that even more danger awaited them just across the swift waters of the Pee Dee.

Next week we will learn how Running Deer was taken captive and how his heroic mother came to his rescue.

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book, “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Last modified on Friday, 23 October 2020 17:47