Native American Stories
Once upon a time, long ago,
the animals had tribes and chiefs just like the people. Porcupine was
the head chief of all the tribes because nothing could ever get near enough
to hurt him.
One night, Porcupine
sent out word calling all the animals together for a great council of
the tribes. He had a very important matter for them to consider, he
said. From far and wide, from treetops and holes in the ground, the
animals came hurrying in answer to their chieftain's summons.
They built a great blazing
council fire in the forest and seated themselves around in a big ring.
Then Porcupine stood up to address them. His quills quivered and gleamed
in the firelight, and for a minute or two, he did not speak. He looked
very much worried indeed.
"I cannot decide," he
said, finally. "I cannot decide whether or we shall have night or daylight
all the time."
Well, that started a
great commotion. Everyone had something different to say. Some wanted
it daytime always and some wanted it night. They all talked at once,
and they all talked very loud
so you could not hear
what any of them were saying, except Bear. He rocked to and fro on his
hind legs, trying to drown out the others by rumbling in a big deep
voice, "Always night! Always night! Always night!"
A little chipmunk who
had been sitting on the outskirts of the council became annoyed. Chipmunks
hate to sit still for any time. "You can talk all you like," he shrilled
out in his tiny squeaky voice. "You can talk all you like, but the light
will come whether you want it or not. The light will come."
The other animals did
not pay any attention to him but went on bawling and roaring and growling
until they were hoarse. Chipmunk danced with excitement on the outskirts
of the crowd shrieking, "The light will come! The light will come!"
And before they knew
it, a faint flush had crept up the sky, and the golden disc of the sun
rose above the tree-tops. Shafts of sunlight touched the tops of the
open space where the council met. The fire looked weak and pale. It
An astonished silence
settled upon the gathered council of the animals. Could it be possible
that it was daylight whether they wished it or not?
A shrill voice suddenly
piped up from the edge of the assembly.
"What did I tell..."
Chipmunk was gone like
a flash through the trees with Bear after him. Bear was clumsy and Chipmunk
so quick that he slipped into a hold in a tree before Bear could catch
him. But, just before he disappeared, Bear struck at him with his paw.
The black stripes that
run down the chipmunk's sides today show where Bear's claws hit him
long ago at the council when the animals tried to decide whether they
should have darkness or daylight all the time.
Two Ojibwa Indians in a canoe
had been blown far from shore by a great wind. They had gone far and were
hungry and lost. They had little strength left to paddle, so they drifted
before the wind. At last their canoe was blown onto a beach and they were
glad, but not for long. Looking for the tracks of animals, they saw some
huge footprints which they knew must be those of a giant. They were afraid
and hid in the bushes. As they crouched low, a big arrow thudded into
the ground close beside them. Then a huge giant came toward them. A caribou
hung from his belt, but the man was so big that it looked like a rabbit.
He told them that he did not hurt people and he like to be a friend to
little people, who seemed to the giant to be so helpless.
He asked the two lost
Indians to come home with him, and since they had no food and their
weapons had been lost in the storm at sea, they were glad to go with
him. An evil Windigo spirit came to the lodge of the giant and told
the two men that the giant had other men hidden away in the forest because
he like to eat them. The Windigo pretended to be a friend, but he was
the one who wanted the men because he was an eater of people. The Windigo
became very angry when the giant would not give him the two men, and
finally the giant became angry too. He took a big stick and turned over
a big bowl with it. A strange animal which the Indians had never seen
before lay on the floor, looking up at them. It looked like a wolf to
them, but the giant called the animal 'Dog.' The giant told him to kill
the evil Windigo spirit. The beast sprang to its feet, shook himself,
and started to grow, and grow, and grow. The more he shook himself,
the more he grew and the fiercer he became. He sprang at the Windigo
and killed him; then the dog grew smaller and smaller and crept under
The giant saw that the
Indians were much surprised and please with Dog and said that he would
give it to them, though it was his pet. He told the men that he would
command Dog to take them home. They had no idea how this could be done,
though they had seen that the giant was a maker of magic, but they thanked
the friendly giant for his great gift. The giant took the men and the
dog to the seashore and gave the dog a command. At once it began to
grow bigger and bigger, until it was nearly as big as a horse. The giant
put the two men onto the back of the dog and told them to hold on very
tightly. As Dog ran into the sea, he grew still bigger and when the
water was deep enough he started to swim strongly away from the shore.
After a very long time,
the two Ojibwa began to see a part of the seacoast which they knew,
and soon the dog headed for shore. As he neared the beach, he became
smaller and smaller so that the Indians had to swim for the last part
of their journey. The dog left them close to their lodges and disappeared
into the forest. When the men told their tribe of their adventure, the
people though that the men were speaking falsely. "Show us even the
little mystery animal, Dog, and we shall believe you," a chief said.
A few moons came and
went and then, one morning while the tribe slept, the dog returned to
the two men. It allowed them to pet it and took food from their hands.
The tribe was very much surprised to see this new creature. It stayed
with the tribe.
That, as the Indians
tell, was how the first dog came to the earth.
-- An Ojibwa story, thanks
to Harold Stein
Often, around the fire in
the long house of the Iroquois, during the Moon of the Long Nights, this
tale is told.
Three Arrows was a boy
of the Mohawk tribe. Although he had not yet seen fourteen winters he
was already known among the Iroquois for his skill and daring. His arrows
sped true to their mark. His name was given him when with three bone-tipped
arrows he brought down three flying wild geese from the same flock.
He could travel in the forest as softly as the south wind and he was
a skillful hunter, but he never killed a bird or animal unless his clan
needed food. He was well-versed in woodcraft, fleet of foot, and a clever
wrestler. His people said, 'Soon he will be a chief like his father.'
The sun shone strong in the heart of Three Arrows, because soon he would
have to meet the test of strength and endurance through which the boys
of his clan attained manhood. He had no fear of the outcome of the dream
fast which was so soon to take. His father was a great chief and a good
man, and the boy's life had been patterned after that of his father.
When the grass was knee-high,
Three Arrows left his village with his father. They climbed to a sacred
place in the mountains. They found a narrow cave at the back of a little
plateau. Here Three Arrows decided to live for his few days of prayer
and vigil. He was not permitted to eat anything during the days and
nights of his dream fast. He had no weapons, and his only clothing was
a breechclout and moccasins. His father left the boy with the promise
that he would visit him each day that the ceremony lasted, at dawn.
Three Arrows prayed to
the Great Spirit. He begged that soon his clan spirit would appear in
a dream and tell him what his guardian animal or bird was to be. When
he knew this, he would adopt that bird or animal as his special guardian
for the rest of his life. When the dream came he would be free to return
to his people, his dream fast successfully achieved.
For five suns Three Arrows
spent his days and nights on the rocky plateau, only climbing down to
the little spring for water after each sunset. His heart was filled
with a dark cloud because that morning his father had sadly warned him
that the next day, the sixth sun, he must return to his village even
if no dream had come to him in the night. This meant returning to his
people in disgrace without the chance of taking another dream fast.
That night Three Arrows,
weak from hunger and weary from ceaseless watch, cried out to the Great
Mystery. 'O Great Spirit, have pity on him who stands humbly before
Thee. Let his clan spirit or a sign from beyond the thunderbird come
to him before tomorrow's sunrise, if it be Thy will.' As he prayed,
the wind suddenly veered from east to north. This cheered Three Arrows
because the wind was now the wind of the great bear, and the bear was
the totem of his clan. When he entered the cavern he smelled for the
first time the unmistakable odor of a bear: this was strong medicine.
He crouched at the opening of the cave, too excited to lie down although
his tired body craved rest. As he gazed out into the night he heard
the rumble of thunder, saw the lightning flash, and felt the fierce
breath of the wind from the north. Suddenly a vision came to him, and
a gigantic bear stood beside him in the cave. Then Three Arrows heard
it say, 'Listen well, Mohawk. Your clan spirit has heard your prayer.
Tonight you will learn a great mystery which will bring help and gladness
to all your people.' A terrible clash of thunder brought the dazed boy
to his feet as the bear disappeared. He looked from the cave just as
a streak of lightning flashed across the sky in the form of a blazing
arrow. Was this the sign from the thunderbird ?
Suddenly the air was
filled with a fearful sound. A shrill shrieking came from the ledge
just above the cave. It sounded as though mountain lions fought in the
storm; yet Three Arrows felt no fear as he climbed toward the ledge.
As his keen eyes grew accustomed to the dim light he saw that the force
of the wind was causing two young balsam trees to rub violently against
each other. The strange noise was caused by friction, and as he listened
and watched fear filled his heart, for, from where the two trees rubbed
together a flash of lightning showed smoke. Fascinated, he watched until
flickers of flames followed the smoke. He had never seen fire of any
kind at close range nor had any of his people. He scrambled down to
the cave and covered his eyes in dread of this strange magic. Then he
smelt bear again and he thought of his vision, his clan spirit, the
bear, and its message. This was the mystery which he was to reveal to
his people. The blazing arrow in the sky was to be his totem, and his
new name - Blazing Arrow.
At daybreak, Blazing
Arrow climbed onto the ledge and broke two dried sticks from what remained
of one of the balsams. He rubbed them violently together, but nothing
happened. 'The magic is too powerful for me,' he thought. Then a picture
of his clan and village formed in his mind, and he patiently rubbed
the hot sticks together again. His will power took the place of his
tired muscles. Soon a little wisp of smoke greeted his renewed efforts,
then came a bright spark on one of the stick. Blazing Arrow waved it
as he had seen the fiery arrow wave in the night sky. A resinous blister
on the stick glowed, then flamed - fire had come to the Six Nations
-- An Iroquois story,
thanks to Harold Stein
So long ago that the time
could not be counted by suns or moons, a band of Cowichan Indians was
drying deer meat in the sun. They spoke of how good it would be if they
only had a small sun to warm them when the big sun left to let darkness
come. They thought that they would never get that thing because what they
wanted would take much power and magic, more than even their most powerful
As the people wished
and talked, a little bird chirped loudly close by. It flew close to
the people and they saw that it was a beautiful brown bird with a bright
red tail which seemed to flicker even when the bird sat still. The bird
looked down on the Indians from a branch just over their heads.
'What do you want, little
bird?' asked an old man who had power to speak with birds.
'Nothing do I wish, Wise
One, but I bring you what you wish,' it replied. 'I have something which
is called fire on my tail, which is hot like a small sun. It will comfort
you when the winds of winter blow, cook your meat, and bring cheer when
the sun has gone, but it must be earned. Tell your tribe to meet me
here when the sun comes again and ask each one to bring a little dry
branch with pitch pine on it.'
Before the people could
ask why, the bird suddenly disappeared. 'We should obey the wishes of
that bird,' the old man counseled. 'It may bring much good fortune to
When the sun shone again,
the people awaited the coming of the bird. Each carried a pine branch
with pitch pine on it, as they had been told. A loud tweet made the
people look upward. The brown bird sat on a branch above their heads,
though nobody had seen it come. It asked in a language that all understood,
'Are you ready?'
They answered, 'Yes!'
'Then you must follow
me, and the one who first catches up with me will be given fire, but
only if the one who does so is one who does right, is patient, and tries
hard without losing courage. Come!'
The bird flew off over
rough ground and thick forest. The chase proved too hard for many and
they gave up. Over fast-flowing streams and dangerous marshes and swamps,
the bird flew. More and more of the people had neither the strength
nor courage to keep on and they were forced to drop out of the chase.
'Too hard!' 'Too difficult!' 'Too dangerous!' they gasped as they fell
on the ground to rest.
At last one young warrior
got close enough to call to the bird, 'Give me of your fire, little
bird. I have followed you far and well and I have done no wrong.'
'It is not as you say,'
said the bird, flying higher and faster than before. 'You think only
of yourself. That is bad. You shall not have my fire.'
A second young man caught
up with the bird. 'Share your fire with me,' he called. 'I am a good
'A good man does not
take that which belongs to another,' the bird answered, flying faster
and faster. Soon, seeing it was no longer followed, the bird flew to
the ground and perched beside a woman who was nursing an old man who
looked very sick. 'Bring a dry branch with pitch pine on it,' said the
brown bird. 'Fire have I on my tail and you shall have it. It will keep
your sick man warm and cook your food.'
The woman was afraid
of a bird that could speak. When she found her voice, she said, 'You
are good, little one, but I deserve not a magic gift. What I do, I do
because it is right. The inner voice tells me that I must take care
of one who is sick.'
'Much good I know you
do,' said the bird, 'and it is greater good than that done by many people
because the good you do, you think is only your duty. Come, bring a
branch and take of my fire. You think first of others, so you may share
the gift with them.'
The woman gladly brought
a branch and lit it at the little fire which flickered on the bird's
tail. Since that time, the Indians have had fire.
-- A Cowichan Story,
thanks to Harold Stein
There was once a great chief
of the Plans who had very tender feet. Other mighty chiefs laughed at
him; little chiefs only smiled as he hobbled past; and though they did
not dare to smile, the people of the tribe also enjoyed the big chief's
discomfort. All of them were in the same canoe, having no horses and only
bare feet, but luckily very few of them had tender feet. The unhappily
medicine man who was advisor to the Chief-of-the- Tender-Feet was afraid
and troubled. Each time he was called before the chief he was asked, 'What
are you going to do about it?" The 'it' meant the chief's tender feet.
Forced by fear, the medicine
man at last hit upon a plan. Though he knew that it was not the real
answer to the chief's foot problem, nevertheless it was a good makeshift.
The medicine man had some women of the tribe weave a long, narrow mat
of reeds, and when the big chief had to go anywhere, four braves unrolled
the mat in front of him so that he walked in comfort. One day, the braves
were worn out from seeing that the chief's feet were not worn out. They
carelessly unrolled the mat over a place where flint arrowheads had
been chipped. The arrowheads had long ago taken flight, but the needle-sharp
chips remained. When the big chief's tender feet were wounded by these
chips, he uttered a series of whoops which made the nearby aspen tree
leaves quiver so hard that they have been trembling ever since.
That night the poor medicine
man was given an impossible task by the angry chief: 'Cover the whole
earth with mats so thick that my feet will not suffer. If you fail,
you will die when the moon is round.'
The frightened maker
of magic crept back to his lodge. He did not wish to be put to death
on the night of the full moon, but he could think of no way to avoid
it. Suddenly he saw the hide of an elk which he had killed pegged to
the ground, with two women busily scraping the hair from the hide, and
an idea flashed into his groping mind. He sent out many hunters; many
women were busy for many days; many braves with hunting knives cut,
and women sewed with bone needles and rawhide sinews.
On the day before the
moon was round, the medicine man went to the chief and told him that
he had covered as much of the earth as was possible in so short a time.
When the chief looked from the door of his lodge, he saw many paths
of skin stretching as far as he could see. Long strips which could be
moved from place to place connected the main leather paths. Even the
chief thought that this time the magic of the medicine man had solved
tenderfoot transportation for all time - but this was not to be !
One day, as the big chief
was walking along one of his smooth, tough leather paths, he saw a pretty
maiden of the tribe gliding ahead of him, walking on the hard earth
on one side of the chief's pathway. She glanced back when she heard
the pitter- patter of his feet on the elk hide pathway and seemed to
smile. The chief set off on the run to catch up with her, his eyes fixed
on the back of She-Who-Smiled, and so his feet strayed from the narrow
path and landed in a bunch of needle-sharp thorns! The girl ran for
her life when she heard the hideous howls of the chief, and Indians
in the distant village thought that they were being attacked by wildcats.
Two suns later, when
the chief was calm enough to speak again, he had his medicine man brought
before him and told the unhappy man that next day, when the sun was
high, he would be sent with all speed to the land of shadows.
That night, the medicine
man climbed to the top of a high hill in search of advice from friendly
spirits on how to cover the entire earth with leather. He slept, and
in a dream vision he was shown the answer to his problem. Amid vivid
flashes of lightning, he tore down the steep hillside, howling louder
than the big chief at times, as jagged rocks wounded his bare feet and
legs. He did not stop until he was safely inside his lodge. He worked
all night and until the warriors who were to send him on the shadow
trail came for him, just before noon the next day. He was surrounded
by the war-club armed guards. He was clutching close to his heart something
tightly rolled in a piece of deerskin. His cheerful smile surprised
those who saw him pass. 'Wah, he is brave!' said the men of the tribe.
'He is very brave!' said the women of the tribe.
The big chief was waiting
just outside his lodge. He gave the guards swift, stern orders. Before
the maker of magic could be led away, he asked leave to say a few words
to the chief. 'Speak!' said the chief, sorry to lose a clever medicine
man who was very good at most kinds of magic. Even the chief knew that
covering the entire earth with leather was an impossible task.
The medicine man quickly
knelt beside the chief, unrolled the two objects which he took from
his bundle and slipped one of them on each foot of the chief. The chief
seemed to be wearing a pair of bear's hairless feet, instead of bare
feet, and he was puzzled at first as he looked at the elk hide handicraft
of his medicine man. 'Big chief,' the medicine man exclaimed joyfully,
'I have found the way to cover the earth with leather! For you, O chief,
from now on the earth will always be covered with leather.' And so it
was. -- A Plains Indian story, thanks to Harold Stein
One day, on his wanderings
in the land of the Swampy Cree, Wesukechak, know as Bitter Spirit, saw
a big, round stone lying beside the rocky path. Because Bitter Spirit
could talk and understand the language of nature, he always spoke to the
birds and beasts and many other things. Now he spoke to the stone. 'Can
you run fast?' he asked.
'Oh, yes,' answered the
stone. 'Once I get started, I can run very fast.'
'Good!' Bitter Spirit
cried. "Then you must race me.'
'I will,' answered the
stone, 'if you can push me to where I can start.'
With great difficulty,
the maker of magic did so, and without waiting, the stone started to
roll downhill, going faster and faster.
Wesukechak caught up
with it almost at ground level and mocked it as he ran past. 'You are
a turtle,' he laughed. 'You cannot travel fast.'
The stone was very angry
but did not reply.
Bitter Spirit ran and
ran until he was so tired that he fell down on his face and slept soundly.
The stone caught up with him at last and rolled up his legs and then
onto his back, where it was stopped by his shoulders. It could roll
no further. Being a big and very heavy stone, it held Bitter Spirit
on the ground so that he could not move. The maker of magic had awakened
in pain when the stone rolled onto his legs but he could not escape
in time. 'Roll off my back, stone,' he shouted angrily. 'You are heavy;
I hurt, and I cannot move.'
'You mocked me when you
passed me,' said the stone, 'but you see I have caught up with you.
Now that I have stopped, I cannot move until someone sets me rolling
again. I must stay here.'
For many, many moons,
the stone rested on the back of Bitter Spirit and the make of magic
could not help himself to get free. At last, Thunder decided to send
some of his bolts of lightning to smash the stone and set Bitter Spirit
'And so, O stone, you
are punished for holding me here so long,' cried the wondermaker as
he continued on his way.
His clothes had been
torn and worn, so Bitter Spirit threw them into a bark lodge which he
saw nearby, ordering that they be mended. They were thrown outside so
quickly and had been so well repaired that Bitter Spirit cried out in
surprise. 'Who are you in that lodge? Come out, so that I may see and
reward you.' The maker of magic was much surprised when he saw a lithe
mouse creep out of the lodge. It was an ugly, fat, rough-haired little
creature in those days, with a short, stubby nose.
Bitter Spirit picked
the mouse up very gently and stroked its little blunt nose until it
became pointed. 'Now you will be able to smell out your food better,'
Next, he brushed and
combed its rough hair with his fingers until the hairs of the little
creature became soft as down and smooth as the fur of an otter. 'Now
you will be able to run more easily into little holes in tree trunks
when your enemies come,' Wesukechak said, and so it was.
To this day, the mouse
is soft and furry and it sniffs daintily with its long nose.
-- Thanks to Harold Stein
It must be remembered that
the animals which appear in Indian myths and legends are not the same
as those which exist now. When the world began, animals were much bigger,
stronger and cleverer than their present counterparts but, because of
man's cruelty and aggression, these left the earth and took the rainbow
path to Galunlati, the Sky Land, where they still remain. The animals
which came after them - those we know today - are but poor, weak imitations
of those first creatures.
In the beginning, before
this happened, all living things - men, animals, plants and trees -
spoke the same language and behaved in much the same way. Animals, like
people, were organized into tribes. They had chiefs, lived in houses,
held councils and ceremonies.
Many animals had characteristics
which we would not recognize today. The rabbit, for example, was fierce,
bold and cunning, and a great mischief maker. It was through Rabbit's
the deer lost his sharp
wolf-like teeth, the buzzard his handsome topknot of feathers and the
opossum his long, bushy tail.
Opossum was very proud
of his tail which, in those days, was covered with thick black fur.
He spent long hours cleaning and brushing it and composing songs about
its beauty and vigor. Sometimes, when he walked through the village,
he carried his tail erect, like a banner rippling in the breeze. At
other times, he swept it low behind him, like a train. It was useful
as well as beautiful, for when Opossum lay down to sleep, he tucked
it under him to make a soft bed, and in cold weather he folded it over
his body to keep himself warm.
Rabbit was very jealous
of Opossum's tail. He, too, had once had a long bushy tail but, during
the course of a fight with Bear, he had lost most of it and now had
only a short fluffy tuft. The sight of Opossum strutting before the
other animals and swirling his tail ostentatiously, filled Rabbit with
rage and he made up his mind to play a trick on him at the first opportunity.
At this time, when the
animals still lived harmoniously together, each had his appointed station
and duty. Thus, Frog was leader in the council and Rabbit, because of
his speed, was employed to carry messages and announcements to the others.
As was their custom from
time to time, the animals decided to hold a great council to discuss
important matters and Rabbit, as usual, was given the task of arranging
the gathering and delivering the invitations. Councils were also occasions
for feasting and dancing and Rabbit saw a way of bringing about Opossum's
When Rabbit arrived with
the news of the meeting, Opossum was sitting by the door of his lodge
engaged in his favorite occupation - grooming his tail.
'I come to call you to
the great council tomorrow, brother Opossum,' said Rabbit. 'Will you
attend and join in the dance ?'
'Only if I am given a
special seat,' replied the conceited Opossum, carefully smoothing some
untidy hairs at the tip of his tail. 'After all,' he went on, grinning
maliciously at Rabbit, 'I have such a beautiful long tail that I ought
to sit where everyone can see and admire it.'
Rabbit was almost beside
himself with fury, but he pretended not to notice the jibe and said,
'But of course, brother Opossum! I will personally see to it that you
have the best seat in the council lodge, and I will also send someone
to dress your tail specially for the dance.'
Opossum was delighted
by this suggestion and Rabbit left him
singing the praises of
his tail even more loudly than usual.
Next, Rabbit called on
the cricket, whom Indians call the barber, because of his fame as an
expert hair-cutter. Cricket listened with growing amazement as Rabbit
recounted his conversation with Opossum. Like all the other animals,
he found Opossum's vanity and arrogance very tiresome.
He began to protest,
but Rabbit held up a paw and said, 'Wait a moment. I have a plan and
I need your help. Listen...', and he dropped his voice as he told Cricket
what he wanted him to do.
Early next morning Cricket
presented himself at Opossum's door and said that he had been sent by
Rabbit to prepare the famous tail for the council that evening. Opossum
made himself comfortable on the floor and stretched out his tail. Cricket
began to comb it gently.
'I will wrap this red
cord round your tail as I comb it,' he explained, 'so that it will remain
smooth and neat for the dance tonight.'
Opossum found Cricket's
ministrations so soothing that he fell asleep, awakening just as Cricket
was tying the final knot in the red cord which now completely swathed
'I will keep it bound
up until the very last moment,' thought Opossum gleefully. 'How envious
the others will be when I finally reveal it in all its beauty!'
That evening, his tail
still tightly wrapped in the red cord, Opossum marched into the council
lodge and was led to his special seat by a strangely obsequious Rabbit.
Soon it was time for
the dancing to take place. The drums and rattles began to sound. Opossum
stood up, loosened the cord from his tail and stepped proudly into the
center of the dance floor. He began to sing.
'Look at my beautiful
tail!' he sang as he circled the floor. 'See how it sweeps the ground!'
There was a great shout
from the audience and some of the animals began to applaud. 'How they
admire me!' though Opossum and he continued dancing and singing loudly.
'See how my tail gleams in the firelight!'
Again everyone shouted
and cheered. Opossum began to have just the merest suspicion that all
was not quite as it should be. Was there possibly a hint of mockery
in their voices ? He dismissed such an absurd idea and continued dancing.
'My tail is stronger
than the eagle's, more lustrous than the raven's!'
At this the animals shrieked
so loudly that Opossum stopped in his tracks and looked at them. To
his astonishment and chagrin they were all convulsed with laughter,
some leaning weakly on their neighbor's shoulders, others rolling on
the ground in their mirth. Several were pointing at his tail.
Bewildered, Opossum looked
down and saw to his horror that his tail, his beautiful, thick, glossy
tail, was now balk and scaly like that of a lizard. Nothing remained
of its former glory. While pretending to comb it, the wily Cricket had
snipped off every single lair.
Opossum was so overcome
with shame and confusion that he could not utter a sound. Instead he
rolled over helplessly on his back, grimacing with embarrassment, just
as opossums still do today, when taken by surprise.
-- A Cherokee story,
thanks to Harold Stein
It was the height of summer,
the time of year called Hadotso, the Great Heat. All day long, from a
blue and cloudless sky, the blazing sun beat down upon the earth. No rain
had fallen for many days and there was not the slightest breath of wind
to cool the stifling air. Everything was hot and dry. Even the rose-red
cliffs of the canyons and mesas seemed to take on a more brilliant color
The animals drooped with
misery. They were parched and hungry, for it was too hot to hunt for
food and, panting heavily, they sought what shade they could under the
rocks and bushes.
Rabbit was the unhappiest
of all. Twice that day the shimmering heat had tempted him across the
baked earth towards visions of water and cool, shady trees. He had exhausted
himself in his desperate attempts to reach them, only to find the mirages
dissolve before him, receding further and further into the distance.
Now, tired and wretched,
he dragged himself into the shadow of an overhanging rock and crouched
there listlessly. His soft fur was caked with the red dust of the desert.
His head swam and his eyes ached from the sun's glare.
'Why does it have to
be so hot?' he groaned. 'What have we done to deserve such torment?'
He squinted up at the sun and shouted furiously, 'Go away! You are making
everything too hot!'
Sun took no notice at
all and continued to pour down his fiery beams, forcing Rabbit to retreat
once more into the shade of the rock. 'Sun needs to be taught a lesson,'
grumbled Rabbit. 'I have a good mind to go and fight him. If he refuses
to stop shining, I will kill him!'
His determination to
punish Sun made him forget his weariness and, in spite of the oppressive
heat, he set off at a run towards the eastern edge of the world where
the Sun came up each morning.
As he ran, he practiced
with his bow and arrows and, to make himself brave and strong, he fought
with everything which crossed his path. He fought with the gophers and
the lizards. He hurled his throwing stick at beetles, ants and dragonflies.
He shot at the yucca and the giant cactus. He became a very fierce rabbit
By the time he reached
the edge of the world, Sun had left the sky and was nowhere to be seen.
'The coward!' sneered
Rabbit. 'He is afraid to fight, but he will not escape me so easily,'
and he settled to wait behind a clump of bushes.
In those days, Sun did
not appear slowly as he does now. Instead he rushed up over the horizon
and into the heavens with one mighty bound. Rabbit knew that he would
have to act quickly in order to ambush him and he fixed his eyes intently
on the spot where the Sun usually appeared.
Sun, however, had heard
all Rabbit's threats and had watched him fighting. He knew that he was
lying in wait among the bushes. He was not at all afraid of this puny
creature and he thought that he might have some amusement at his expense.
He rolled some distance
away from his usual place and swept up into the sky before Rabbit knew
what was happening. By the time Rabbit had gathered his startled wits
and released his bowstring, Sun was already high above him and out of
Rabbit stamped and shouted
with rage and vexation. Sun laughed and laughed and shone even more
fiercely than before.
Although almost dead
from heat, Rabbit would not give up. Next morning he tried again, but
this time Sun came up in a different place and evaded him once more.
Day after day the same
thing happened. Sometimes Sun sprang up on Rabbit's right, sometimes
on his left and sometimes straight in front of him, but always where
Rabbit least expected him.
One morning, however,
Sun grew careless. He rose more leisurely than usual, and this time,
Rabbit was ready. Swiftly he drew his bow. His arrow whizzed through
the air and buried itself deep in Sun's side.
Rabbit was jubilant!
At last he had shot his enemy! Wild with joy, he leaped up and down.
He rolled on the ground, hugging himself. He turned somersaults. He
looked at Sun again - and stopped short.
Where his arrow had pierced
Sun, there was a gaping wound and, from that wound, there gushed a stream
of liquid fire. Suddenly it seemed as if the whole world had been set
ablaze. Flames shot up and rushed towards Rabbit, crackling and roaring.
Rabbit paused not a moment
longer. He took to his heels in panic and ran as fast as he could away
from the fire. He spied a lone cottonwood tree and scuttled towards
'Everything is burning!'
he cried. 'Will you shelter me?'
The cottonwood shook
its slender branches mournfully. 'What can I do?' it asked. 'I will
be burned to the ground.'
Rabbit ran on. Behind
him, the flames were coming closer. He could feel their breath on his
back. A greasewood tree lay in his path.
'Hide me! Hide me!' Rabbit
gasped. 'The fire is coming.'
'I cannot help you,'
answered the greasewood tree. 'I will be burned up roots and branches.'
Terrified and almost
out of breath, Rabbit continued to run, but his strength was failing.
He could feel the fire licking at his heels and his fur was beginning
to singe. Suddenly he heard a voice calling to him.
'Quickly, come under
me! The fire will pass over me so swiftly that it will only scorch my
It was the voice of a
small green bush with flowers like bunches of cotton capping its thin
branches. Gratefully, Rabbit dived below it and lay there quivering,
his eyes tightly shut, his ears flat against his body.
With a thunderous roar,
the sheet of flame leaped overhead. The little bush crackled and sizzled.
Then, gradually, the noise receded and everything grew quiet once more.
Rabbit raised his head
cautiously and looked around. Everywhere the earth lay black and smoking,
but the fire had passed on. He was safe!
The little bush which
had sheltered him was no longer green. Burned and scorched by the fire,
it had turned a golden yellow. People now call it the desert yellow
brush, for, although it first grows green, it always turns yellow when
it feels the heat of the sun.
Rabbit never recovered
from his fright. To this day, he bears brown spots where the fire scorched
the back of his neck. He is no longer fierce and quarrelsome, but runs
and hides at the slightest noise.
As for Sun, he too was
never quite the same. He now makes himself so bright that no one can
look at him long enough to sight an arrow and he always peers very warily
over the horizon before he brings his full body into view.
-- A Hopi story
As scouts we often visit
the woods, but don't really spend a lot of time in the wilderness, especially
not alone. One often wonders what it would be like to spend long periods
of time alone in the woods. Could you cope?
Our native Indians believe
that one advantage to spending time alone in the wilderness, is that
you might meet your spirit animal. They believe that everyone has their
own specific spirit animal, and to meet your spirit animal is to make
your life more complete. An Indian might be canoeing alone across a
lake, when he spies a bear on the shore. And as the bear looks into
his eyes, he'll just know, that that's his spirit animal. Of course
you can only meet your spirit animal when you're alone.
One kind of white man
often spends a lot of time in the bush, and that's a trapper. It's a
very lonely existence, spending weeks on the trap lines, as you go from
lake to lake, trail to trail, collecting furs. They tell the story of
one particular trapper who worked in the Haliburton area. One evening
he was sitting near his campfire enjoying his coffee just after sundown.
He'd had a good day, a lot of good furs, and now he was almost ready
for bed. He stared into the embers of the campfire as it slowly faded
away, thinking of how bright the fire was and how it always made the
surrounding area look so very dark.
He thought he saw something
at the edge of the fire.... No it was nothing. Then he saw it again.
At the edge of the firelight was a raccoon, sitting very still and staring
at him. ''That's odd'', he thought, ''this isn't how raccoons normally
act.'' He hissed at the raccoon, but it wouldn't go away. So he ignored
it for a little why, expecting it would move on. After a few minutes
he glanced back, and the raccoon was still there staring at him with
those eerie animal eyes. This time he picked up a rock and threw it
at the raccoon. ''WHAT!!?'', he thought, ''I could have sworn I hit
that coon!'', but the rock seemed to have passed through the animal.
The trapper was now getting
very nervous. He completely ignored the spot where the raccoon had been
(or maybe still was). He put out the fire, and headed in darkness for
his tent, the half full moon in the clear sky illuminating the way.
''A good night's sleep and everything will be fine in the morning'',
he thought. Something caught his eye and his head jerked sharply to
the right. There it was on the side of path: the raccoon, sitting still
and staring at the trapper. He ignored and it and quickly turned away.
BUT there it was on his left now. He hurried on to the tent now, only
a few yards away, looking only at this feet. As he reached the tent
he glanced up. THERE IT WAS. the raccoon sitting between him and his
About three weeks later
they found him running through the woods, nearly naked and his body
had been heavily bruised and torn. He'd been living like a wild savage,
eating dirt or leaves, even worse than most animals. Although he spent
the next twenty years in an insane asylum, he never regained the use
of his mind. Some say he just snapped after spending too much time alone,
especially in the woods............. Some think he met his spirit animal.
-- Thanks to Blair Madore,
University of Waterloo, Canada
As a young boy, often times,
Indians are sent away, in search of a vision. This was the case of this
one particular young Indian boy. He started to go up to the top of the
mountain in search of his vision ... And as he climbed up the mountain,
the air got cooler and cooler ... And he came upon a snake laying in the
path. The snake was shivering, and said to the young Indian boy. "Please
help me ... I can't move, I am so cold that I can no longer make it any
further down the mountain." The young Indian boy said to the snake "No
way! You're a snake, if I pick you up, you'll bite me!" The snake replied
... "No, no I won't, I promise I won't bite you if you'll only pick me
up and help get me down the mountain..." So the young Indian boy picked
up the snake, put him in his shirt, continued climbing to the top of the
mountain in search of his vision ... When he got back down to the bottom
of the mountain, he reached in, took out the snake, and the snake bit
this young Indian boy. The boy replied to the snake "Hey! You bit me,
you said that if I'd help you out, that you wouldn't bite me!" the snake
replied to the young Indian boy ... "But you knew what I was when you
picked me up!"
-- Thanks to Brad George,
SM BSA Troop #23 OKC/OKLA
The weasel, Sihkooseu, once
played a bad trick on the Bitter Spirit, Wesukechak. That is whey they
are not friends.
The important chief Bright
Nose, Wastasekoot, of the Swampy Cree tribe, had a lovely daughter who
was admired by many chiefs who wished to marry her. Though she loved
one of the chiefs, here father decided to hold a council and the first
chief to guess her secret name could marry her. She agreed because the
thought that the only one who knew her name was the one she loved.
Bitter Spirit decided
to enter the contest with everyone else. Since he did not know her name,
he made a plan to discover it. He went to the old net maker, the spider,
and asked him to call on the girl and, by some trick, discover her name.
Spider agreed. He climbed a tall tree, spun a long thread, and floated
on it until he neared the camp of the chief with the beautiful daughter.
Then he floated down onto the top of the chief's wigwam, peeped down,
and saw the father and daughter talking about the contest, and heard
the chief whisper to his daughter, 'Nobody will ever guess that your
secret name is For-ever-and- ever.' In this way, the Spider discovered
her name. He was very pleased with himself at learning this so soon,
and set off to tell his friend.
Spider walked many days
through the forest because there was no suitable flying wind. He began
to worry that he would arrive back too late. Then he saw the weasel
and begged his help. He asked Weasel to hurry and tell Bitter Spirit
the girl's secret name and Weasel agreed. But as Weasel started running,
he began to think things over and decided to use the information for
himself instead of telling it to Bitter Spirit as he had promised. The
more he thought about this, the more he liked the idea.
Weasel went to the chief's
camp when the guessing contest was being held. One by one, the guessers
failed. Since the girl's suitor knew her secret name, he felt safe and
did not go early, so Weasel was there before him. When Weasel's turn
came, he told the chief that the girl's name was For-ever-and-ever.
The chief was amazed and the daughter fainted. Being honorable, the
chief accepted Weasel as his son-in-law-to-be and set the date for the
marriage. Weasel was very happy, so happy that he forgot about his mean
The spider finally reached
home and asked Bitter Spirit when his wedding was to take place. Bitter
Spirit replied that he did not go to the council, since he did not have
the name in time, but he had heard that Weasel had won the girl.
Spider was very angry
and told Bitter Spirit what really had happened. Bitter Spirit became
very angry and told the girl's father about it. Then the chief became
angry with Spider for
listening and with Weasel
for his trick. He decided that they were all at fault and his daughter
could choose for herself. The happy girl did so.
Weasel heard that he
was to be punished, so he ran away. He ran and ran. Even today, he stops
and listens and trembles, as though Bitter Spirit is still chasing him.
-- A Swampy Cree story,
thanks to Harold Stein
Long before missionaries
ever arrived in the New World, the Indians had ancient legends of a great
flood, similar to that of Noah. This is the one the Cowichan tell.
In ancient times, there
were so many people in the land that they lived everywhere. Soon hunting
became bad and food scarce, so that the people quarreled over hunting
Even in those days, the
people were skilled in making fine canoes and paddles from cedars, and
clothing and baskets from their bark. In dreams their wise old men could
see the future, and there came a time when they all had similar bad
dreams that kept coming to them over and over again. The dreams warned
of a great flood. This troubled the wise men who told each other about
their dreams. They found that they all had dreamed that rain fell for
such a long time, or that the river rose, causing a great flood so that
all of the people were drowned. They were much afraid and called a council
to hear their dreams and decide what should be done. One said that they
should build a great raft by tying many canoes together. Some of the
people agreed, but others laughed at the old men and their dreams.
The people who believed
in the dreams worked hard building the raft. It took many moons of hard
work, lashing huge cedar log canoes together with strong ropes of cedar
bark. When it was completed, they tied the raft with a great rope of
cedar bark to the top of Mount Cowichan by passing one end of the rope
through the center of a huge stone which can still be seen there.
During the time the people
were working on the raft, those who did not believe in the dreams were
idle and still laughed, but they did admire the fine, solid raft when
it was at last finished and floated in Cowichan Bay.
Soon after the raft was
ready, huge raindrops started falling, rivers overflowed, and the valleys
were flooded. Although people climbed Mount Cowichan to avoid the great
flood, it too was soon under water. But those who had believed the dreams
took food to the raft and they and their families climbed into it as
the waters rose. They lived on the raft many days and could see nothing
but water. Even the mountain tops had disappeared beneath the flood.
The people became much afraid when their canoes began to flood and they
prayed for help. Nothing happened for a long time; then the rain stopped.
The waters began to go
down after a time, and finally the raft was grounded on top of Mount
Cowichan. The huge stone anchor and heavy rope had held it safe. As
the water gradually sank lower and lower, the people could see their
lands, but their homes had all been swept away. The valleys and forests
had been destroyed. The people went back to their old land and started
to rebuild their homes.
After a long time the
number of people increased, until once again the land was filled and
the people started to quarrel again. This time they separated into tribes
and clans, all going to different places. The storytellers say this
is how people spread all over the earth.
-- A Salish story, thanks
to Harold Stein
Long ago, when the world
was still quite new, there were no winds at all, neither the gentle breeze
of summer nor the fierce winter gale. Everything was perfectly still.
Nothing disturbed the marsh grass on the shore and, when snow fell, it
fell straight to earth instead of blowing and swirling into drifts as
it does now.
At that time, in a village
near the mouth of the Yukon River, there lived a couple who had no children.
This made them very sad. Often the woman would sigh and say, 'How happy
we would be if only we had a child!'
Her husband would sigh
too and answer, 'Yes, if we had a son, I would teach him to stalk bears
and seals over the ice-floes, and to make traps and snares. What will
become of us in our old age with no one to provide for us ? Who will
give festivals for our souls when we are dead ?'
These thoughts troubled
them deeply and on many a long winter evening they sat in the flickering
firelight, imagining how different life might be if they had a child.
One night the woman had
a strange dream, in which she saw a sled pulled by three dogs, one brown,
one white and one black, draw up outside her door. The driver leaned
from his seat and beckoned her. 'Come,' he said. 'Sit here by me. I
will take you on a journey.'
Wondering and fearful,
the woman did as she was told. No sooner had she seated herself than
the driver cracked his whip and the sled rose high into the air. Through
the night-black sky they flew, faster and faster, past stars sparkling
like hoar-frost. The woman was no longer afraid for she knew that this
must be Igaluk, the Moon Spirit, who often comes to comfort those in
Suddenly the sled stopped
and the panting dogs lay down to rest. On all sides, as far as the eye
could see, lay a great plain of smooth ice, the glittering expanse broken
only by one small stunted tree.
Igaluk pointed and said,
'You who so desire a child, look at that tree over there. Make a doll
from its trunk and you will find happiness.'
Before she could learn
more, the woman awoke. So vivid was her dream that she at once roused
her husband. She told him what she had seen and begged him to find the
The man rubbed the sleep
from his eyes. 'What would be the point?' he grumbled. 'It would only
be a doll, not a real child.' But the woman persisted and finally, for
the sake of peace, the man shouldered his axe and set out to look for
At the edge of the village
where the snow lay thick and untrodden, he saw a bright path stretching
far into the distance. It was now full day, yet the path shone like
moonlight and the man knew that this was the direction which he must
For many hours he journeyed
along the path of light until at last, on the horizon, he saw something
shining very brightly. As he came nearer he saw that it was the tree
of which his wife had spoken. The man cut it down with his axe and carried
That evening, while he
carved the figure of a small boy from some of the wood, his wife made
a little suit of sealskin and, when the doll was finished, she dressed
it and set it in the place of honor on the bench opposite the door.
From the remaining wood the man carved a set of toy dishes and some
tiny weapons, a spear and a knife, tipped with bone. His wife filled
the dishes with food and water and set them before the doll.
Before going to bed,
the couple sat and gazed at the doll. Although it was no more than six
inches high, it was very lifelike, with eyes made from tiny chips of
'I cannot think why we
have gone to all this trouble,' said the man gloomily. 'We are no better
off than before.'
'Perhaps not,' replied
his wife, 'but at least it will give us some amusement and something
to talk about.'
During the night the
woman awoke suddenly. Close at hand she heard several low whistles.
She shook her husband and said, 'Did you hear that? It was the doll!'
They jumped up and, by
the glow of their hastily lit lamp, they saw that the doll had eaten
the food and drunk the water. They saw it breathe and its eyes move.
The woman picked it up in her arms and hugged it.
They played with the
doll for some time until it grew sleepy. Then they carefully returned
it to the bench and went back to bed, delighted with their new toy.
In the morning, however,
when they awoke, the doll had gone. Rushing outside, they saw its footprints
leading away through the village. They followed as fast as they could,
but at the edge of the village the tracks stopped and there was no trace
of the doll. Sadly the couple returned home.
Although they did not
know it, the doll was traveling along the path of light which the man
had taken the day before. On and on he went until he came to the eastern
edge of day where the sky comes down to meet the earth and walls in
Looking up, the doll
saw a hole in the sky wall, covered over with a piece of skin. The cover
was bulging inwards, as if there was some powerful force on the other
side. The doll was curious and, drawing his knife, he slashed the cords
holding the cover in place and pulled it aside.
At once a great wind
rushed in, carrying birds and animals with it. The doll peered through
the hole and saw the Sky Land on the other side, looking just like earth,
with mountains, trees and rivers.
When he felt that the
wind had blown long enough, the doll drew the skin cover back over the
hole, saying sternly, 'Wind, sometimes blow hard, sometimes soft, and
sometimes not at all.' Then he went on his way.
When he came to the south,
he saw another piece of skin covering an opening in the sky wall and
bulging as before. Again the doll drew his knife and this time a warmer
wind blew in, bringing more animals, trees and bushes. After a time
the doll closed up the opening with the same words as before and passed
on towards the west.
There he found yet another
opening like the others, but this time, as soon as the cords were cut,
the wind blew in a heavy rainstorm with waves and spray from the great
ocean on the other side. The doll hastened to cover up the hole and
instructed this wind as he had one the others.
When he came to the north,
the cold was so intense that he hesitated for some time before he dared
to open the hole in the sky there. When he finally did so, a fierce
blast whistled in, with great masses of snow and ice, so that the doll
was at once frozen to the marrow and he closed that opening very quickly
Admonishing the wind
as before, the doll now turned his steps inwards, away from the sky
wall and traveled on until he came to the very center of the earth's
plain. There he saw the sky arching overhead like a huge tent, supported
on a framework of tall slender poles. Satisfied that he had now traveled
the whole world over, the doll decided to return to the village from
which he started.
His foster-parents greeted
him with great joy, for they feared that he had gone forever. The doll
told them and all the people of the village about his travels and how
he had let the winds into the world. Everyone was pleased for with the
wind came good hunting. The winds brought the birds of the air and the
land animals, and they stirred up the sea currents so that seals and
walrus could be found all along the coast.
Because he had brought
good fortune as the Moon Spirit had predicted, the doll was honored
in special festivals afterwards. Shamans made dolls like him to help
them in their magic and parents also made dolls for their children,
knowing that they bring happiness to those who care for them.
-- Alaskan Eskimo legend,
thanks to Harold Stein
Long ago, Rabbit was a great
hunter. He lived with his grandmother in a lodge which stood deep in the
Micmac forest. It was winter and Rabbit set traps and laid snares to catch
game for food. He caught many small animals and birds, until one day he
discovered that some mysterious being was robbing his traps. Rabbit and
his grandmother became hungry. Though he visited his traps very early
each morning, he always found them empty.
At first Rabbit thought
that the robber might be a cunning wolverine, until one morning he found
long, narrow footprints alongside his trap line. It was, he thought,
the tracks of the robber, but they looked like moonbeams. Each morning
Rabbit rose earlier and earlier, but the being of the long foot was
always ahead of him and always his traps were empty.
Rabbit made a trap from
a bowstring with the loop so cleverly fastened that he felt certain
that he would catch the robber when it came. He took one end of the
thong with him and hid himself behind a clump of bushes from which he
could watch his snare. It was bright moonlight while he waited, but
suddenly it became very dark as the moon disappeared. A few stars were
still shining and there were no clouds in the sky, so Rabbit wondered
what had happened to the moon.
Someone or something
came stealthily through the trees and then Rabbit was almost blinded
by a flash of bright, white light which went straight to his trap line
and shone through the snare which he had set. Quick as a lightning flash,
Rabbit jerked the bowstring and tightened the noose. There was a sound
of struggling and the light lurched from side to side. Rabbit knew b
the tugging on his string that he had caught the robber. He fastened
the bowstring to a nearby sapling to hold the loop tight.
Rabbit raced back to
tell his grandmother, who was a wise old woman, what had happened. She
told him that he must return at once and see who or what he had caught.
Rabbit, who was very frightened, wanted to wait for daylight but his
grandmother said that might be too late, so he returned to his trap
When he came near his
traps, Rabbit saw that the bright light was still there. It was so bright
that it hurt his eyes. He bathed them in the icy water of a nearby brook,
but still they smarted. He made big snowballs and threw them at the
light, in the hope of putting it out. As they went close to the light,
he heard them sizzle and saw them melt. Next, Rabbit scooped up great
paw-fulls of soft clay from the stream and made many big clay balls.
He was a good shot and threw the balls with all of his force at the
dancing white light. He heard them strike hard and then his prisoner
Then a strange, quivering
voice asked why he had been snared and demanded that he be set free
at once, because he was the man in the moon and he must be home before
dawn came. His face had been spotted with clay and, when Rabbit went
closer, the moon man saw him and threatened to kill him and all of his
tribe if he were not released at once.
Rabbit was so terrified
that he raced back to tell his grandmother about his strange captive.
She too was much afraid and told Rabbit to return and release the thief
immediately. Rabbit went back, and his voice shook with fear as he told
the man in the moon that he would be released if he promised never to
rob the snares again. To make doubly sure, Rabbit asked him to promise
that he would never return to ear, and the moon man swore that he would
never do so. Rabbit could hardly see in the dazzling light, but at last
he managed to gnaw through the bowstring with his teeth and the man
in the moon soon disappeared in the sky, leaving a bright trail of light
Rabbit had been nearly
blinded by the great light and his shoulders were badly scorched. Even
today, rabbits blink as
though light is too strong
for their eyes; their eyelids are pink, and their eyes water if they
look at a bright light. Their lips quiver, telling of Rabbit's terror.
The man in the moon has
never returned to earth. When he lights the world, one can still see
the marks of the clay which Rabbit threw on his face. Sometimes he disappears
for a few nights, when he is trying to rub the marks of the clay balls
from his face. Then the world is dark; but when the man in the moon
appears again, one can see that he has never been able to clean the
clay marks from his shining face.
-- Thanks to Jim Speirs
Big Blue Heron was standing
in the marsh looking at his reflection in the water. He raised his black-crested
head to listen.
Two little White Weasels
had come along to the river. They were mother and son. When they saw
Blue Heron, they stopped to look.
'What a beautiful big
bird-person!' said the son.
'He is called Blue Heron.
He carries his head high!'
'Yes, Mother, he is tall
as a tree. Were I so tall, I could carry you across this swift river.'
Blue Heron was pleased
to hear himself so praised. He liked to hear other say that he was big.
He bent down low and
spoke to the two. 'I will help you go across. Come down to where you
see that old tree lying in the stream. I will lie down in the water
at the end and put my bill deep into the bank on the other side. You
two run across the tree. Then use my body as a bridge and you will get
to the other side.'
They all went to the
old tree lying in the water. Blue Heron lay down in the water at the
end and stuck his bill deep into the bank on the other side. Mother
and son White Weasel ran lightly and quickly across the log, over Blue
Heron, and were safe and dry on the other side. They thanked Blue Heron
and said they would tell all the persons in the woods how fine Blue
Heron was. Then they went on their way.
Old Wolf had been standing
on the riverbank watching how the weasels had gotten across.
'What a fine way it would
be for me to cross the river. I am old and my bones ache.'
When Blue Heron came
back to the marsh, Wolf said to him, 'Now I know why you Blue Herons
are in the marsh - so you can be a bridge for persons to cross the rive.
I want to go across, but I am old and my bones hurt. Lie down in the
water for me so I can cross.'
Blue Heron was angry.
He didn't like being called a bridge. Old Wolf saw he had spoken foolish
words and decided to use honeyed words.
'You are big and strong,
Blue Heron, and that is why you body is such a fine bridge. You could
carry me across like a feather.'
Blue Heron smiled at
Wolf and said, 'Old Wolf, get on my back and I'll carry you across.
Wolf grinned from ear
to ear thinking how easily he had tricked Blue Heron.
He jumped on the bird's
back and Heron went into the rushing river. When he got to the middle,
'Friend Wolf,' said Blue
Heron, 'you made a mistake. I am not strong enough to carry you across.
For that you need two herons. I can carry you only halfway. Now you
must get another heron to carry you the rest of the way.'
He gave his body a strong
twist and Wolf fell into the water.
'You wait here, Wolf,
for another heron to come and carry you to the other side.' Then he
flew into the marsh.
The water ran swiftly.
No heron came, so where did Wolf go ? To the bottom of the river...
Since that day, no wolf
has ever trusted a heron.
-- Algonquin Legend,
thanks to Jim Speirs
One time there lived a giant
Mosquito. He was bigger than a bear and more terrifying. When he flew
through the air, the Sun couldn't be seen and it became dark as night.
The zooming of his wings was wilder than a storm. And when he was hungry,
he would fly into a camp and carry off an Indian or two and pick their
Again and again the Tuscarora
tried to destroy the wild beast but their arrows fell off him like dew
drops off a leaf. They did not know what to do.
So the chief and the
medicine men in the tribe ordered a big meeting to pray to the Great
Father in Heaven to take pity on them and help them destroy the monster
Mosquito. They burned great fires and they sang, and they danced and
The Great Father in Heaven,
the Sky Holder, heard their loud cry for help and decided to come to
their rescue. He came down from the sky, looking for the monster to
do battle with him and destroy him.
The great Mosquito heard
this and he knew he could not beat the Sky Holder, so he decided to
run away. He flew and he flew and he flew so fast no one could see him.
He was faster than lightning. The only sound was the wild zooming of
his wings through the air. But Sky Holder was after him just as fast.
The giant monster flew
around lakes, over rivers and over mountains toward the East. Sky Holder
kept after him, never tiring.
When Sun was going down
in a red mist at the end of the sky, the great monster came to the large
lakes of the East. He turned to look and saw the Great Father was coming
Swiftly and wildly, at
the speed of eagles, the monster flew toward the Salt Lake and there
the Sky Holder reached him. The battle was short and the monster Mosquito
was destroyed. His blood spattered and flew in all directions. And...
a strange thing happened. From the blood were born small mosquitoes
with sharp stingers.
No sooner were they born
than they attacked Sky Holder without fear. They stung him so hard he
was sorry for what he had done, but he could not undo it. These small
mosquitoes with the sharp stingers multiplied a thousand fold.
It happened long ago,
but to this day we have thousands of mosquitoes with sharp stingers.
-- Tuscarora Legend,
thanks to Jim Speirs
Far up in the cold North,
where winds blow sharply and snow falls thickly, an Indian hunter lived
all alone. His only friends were Sun, Wind, Snow and Stars.
When he got up in the
morning, he had to prepare his own food and clean his house. When he
came home, he had to scrape his own skin- clothing and his skin-boots
and hand them out to dry. And he had to do his own cooking and washing.
It was not an easy life for him.
One day, when daylight
was sinking into darkness, he came home and stopped at his door. To
his great surprise, everything was in order as it had never been before.
The earthen floor was swept and the food in the pot was steaming hot
and ready to eat. Everything was in order as if a good wife had done
Who had done it ? He
looked all over - everywhere - inside and outside. There was no one
around. He ate the good food and lay down to sleep, wondering who had
done this good deed for him.
The next morning he went
out to hunt as he always did, and when he came home... he found his
home all in fine order again, and his food was ready for him - just
as the day before. His skin- clothing was scraped and his boots were
hanging up to dry. Again he looked and looked to find who was so kind
to him, but he couldn't find tracks anywhere. He just couldn't understand
Day after day the hunter
found his house and clothes cared for. Then he said to himself, "I must
find out who does all these things for me. Only a good wife would do
it and I have no wife. Who can it be? I must find the person."
Next morning he went
out hunting as he always did, but he only went a little distance and
then turned back and hid near the house to watch.
Pretty soon a sleek fox
with a long red tail came loping along. It ran right up to the house
and went in.
"That fox is going into
my house to steal my food," the Indian said to himself.
He crept up to his house
and looked in, ready to slay the fox. But when he saw what was there,
he stopped in great surprise.
Right in the middle of
the room there was a beautiful girl, dressed in the finest skin-clothes
he had ever seen. And on the wall he saw hanging... the skin of a fox!
"Who are you?" the Indian
cried. "What are you doing here? Why do you clean my house? Did you
cook my food? Is it you who cleaned my skins and boots ?"
"Yes, I have cleaned
this house and cooked your food. I have scraped these skins and dried
your boots. I have done what I do well," the beautiful girl said. "Now
you see how life can be made easier. I hope you are please. I do what
I can do well. Then I feel happy and proud."
"I am pleased," said
the hunter. "Will you stay with me all the time? I would be proud to
share this life and my home with you. Then I too could do what I do
"Very well, I will stay.
But you must promise never to complain about me, or to ask from where
The hunter promised.
From then on, they were happy to be together as husband and wife. He
did the hunting while she prepared the skins and took care of their
Everything was fine.
They were good and hard workers.
One day, the man smelled
a strange, musky odor that he did not like.
"Woman," the man said,
"there is a strange, musky odor in the house since you have come here.
You must have brought it with you."
"Yes, it came with me,
and it is a good smell."
"Where have you brought
it from?" asked the hunter.
"You have broken the
promises you made! You said you would not complain about me. And you
promised not to ask from where I came. Now I must leave you."
The woman threw away
her skin-dress and put on her fox skin that had been hanging on the
wall. Then she slipped out of the house as a fox.
From that time on, the
man lived alone. He had to do everything himself, just as before the
Fox Woman had come to him. And she never returned.
-- Labrador Eskimo Legend,
thanks to Jim Speirs
The Indians in the Pacific
Northwest traveled mainly by water, because the forest were so thick it
was difficult to travel by land. This story tells how they were able to
find their way back to shore.
One day, a little girl
went deep into the forest. She walked until she found a family of loons.
She stopped and played with the loons. In fact, she stayed for several
days, becoming good friends with the loons. They taught her many things.
But, soon, she new it was time to return to her family, so she said
good bye and returned to her village.
In time, this little
girl grew to be a Mother and then Grandmother. One day she was out in
a canoe with her two Grandchildren. All of the sudden the fog rolled
in. [pause] They couldn't see the shore. [pause] They heard a splashing
off in the distance. [pause] The children thought it was a sea monster.
[pause] But, the Grandmother new it was something far worse. [pause]
It was hunters from a tribe farther north. If they captured them, they
would take them as slaves. The children would never see their family
or village again.
The Grandmother told
the children to get down in the canoe and be quiet. The other canoe
passed by them with out seeing them. The children were still hiding
in the bottom of the canoe. But, how would they find their way back
to the village? [pause] How would the avoid the hunters in the other
The Grandmother started
to sing. This was a strange song. The Grandmother sung often, and the
children new all of her songs. They thought. The children looked up.
Where their Grandmother had been sitting, there was a giant loon. It
spread its wings and flew out of the canoe. It circled the canoe and
then flew off. The children watched it fly off into the fog. Soon, the
loon returned and circled again. When it left, this time, the children
followed it. It lead them safely back to their village. For you see,
only the loon has eyes that can see though the fog.
When the Grandmother
was a girl, playing with the loons, they thought her a song. If see
ever sang that song, [pause] she would change into a loon [pause] FOREVER.
So when the Indians were canoeing in the fog, they always listen for
Grandmother loon to guide them back to shore.
-- Thanks to Chief Lalooska,
recorded from memory by Rick Clements
Long ago, near the beginning
of the world. Gray Eagle was the guardian of the sun and moon and stars,
of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept
these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without
Gray Eagle had a beautiful
daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. At that time Raven was a
handsome young man. He changed himself into a snow-white bird, and as
a snow-white bird he pleased Gray Eagle's daughter. She invited him
to her father's lodge.
When Raven saw the sun
and the moon and the stars and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle's
lodge, he knew what he had to do. He waited for his chance to seize
them when no one was watching.
He stole all of them,
and a brand of fire also, and he flew out of the lodge though the smoke
As soon as Raven got
outside, he hung the sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he
was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When
the sun set, he fastened the moon up in the sky and hung the stars around
in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with
him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.
He flew back over land.
When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had
stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the
fresh-water streams and lakes in the world.
Then Raven flew on, holding
the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over
his white feathers and make them black. When his bill began to burn,
he had to drop the firebrand. It struck the rocks and went into the
rocks. That is why, if you strike two stones together, fire will drop
Raven's feathers never
became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand.
That is why Raven is now a black bird.
-- This story is from
a tribe in the Puget Sound area recorded in Indian Legends of the Pacific