Origin of the Winds
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 distress.
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 tree.
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 the tree.
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 take.
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 it home.
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 honour 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 ivory.
‘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 travelling 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 the light.
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 indeed.
Admonishing the wind as before, the doll now turned his steps inwards, away from the sky wall and travelled on until he came to the very centre 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 travelled 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 honoured 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.
Origin of the Iroquois Nations
About 1390, today’s State of New York became the stronghold of five powerful Indian tribes. They were later joined by another great tribe, the Tuscaroras from the south. Eventually the Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to form the great Iroquois Nation. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation.
The Five Nations
Long, long ago, one of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the earth. As he travelled over it, he found it beautiful, and so he created people to live on it. Before returning to the sky, he gave them names, called the people all together, and spoke his parting words:
“To the Mohawks, I give corn,” he said. “To the patient Oneidas, I give the nuts and the fruit of many trees. To the industrious Senecas, I give beans. To the friendly Cayugas, I give the roots of plants to be eaten. To the wise and eloquent Onondagas, I give grapes and squashes to eat and tobacco to smoke at the camp fires.”
Many other things he told the new people. Then he wrapped himself in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the Sun. There his return caused his Brother Sky Spirits to rejoice.
The Six Nations
Long, long ago, in the great past, there were no people on the earth. All of it was covered by deep water. Birds, flying, filled the air, and many huge monsters possessed the waters.
One day the birds saw a beautiful woman falling from the sky. Immediately the huge ducks held a council.
“How can we prevent her from falling into the water?” they asked.
After some discussion, they decided to spread out their wings and thus break the force of her fall. Each duck spread out its wings until it touched the wings of other ducks. So the beautiful woman reached them safely.
Then the monsters of the deep held a council, to decide how they could protect the beautiful being from the terror of the waters. One after another, the monsters decided that they were not able to protect her, that only Giant Tortoise was big enough to bear her weight. He volunteered, and she was gently placed upon his back. Giant Tortoise magically increased in size and soon became a large island.
After a time, the Celestial Woman gave birth to twin boys. One of them was the Spirit of Good. He made all the good things on the earth and caused the corn, the fruits, and the tobacco to grow.
The other twin was the Spirit of Evil. He created the weeds and also the worms and the bugs and all the other creatures that do evil to the good animals and birds.
All the time, Giant Tortoise continued to stretch himself. And so the world became larger and larger. Sometimes Giant Tortoise moved himself in such a way as to make the earth quake.
After many, many years had passed by, the Sky-Holder, whom Indians called Ta-rhu-hia-wah-ku, decided to create some people. He wanted them to surpass all others in beauty, strength, and bravery. So from the bosom of the island where they had been living on moles, the Sky-Holder brought forth six pairs of people.
The first pair were left near a great river, now called the Mohawk. So they are called the Mohawk Indians. The second pair were told to move their home beside a large stone. Their descendants have been called the Oneidas. Many of them lived on the south side of Oneida Lake and others in the valleys of Oneida Creek. A third pair were left on a high hill and have always been called the Onondagas.
The fourth pair became the parents of the Cayugas, and the fifth pair the parents of the Senecas. Both were placed in some part of what is now known as the State of New York. But the Tuscaroras were taken up the Roanoke River into what is now known as North Carolina. There the Sky-Holder made his home while he taught these people and their descendants many useful arts and crafts.
The Tuscaroras claim that his presence with them made them superior to the other Iroquois nations. But each of the other five will tell you, “Ours was the favoured tribe with whom Sky- Holder made his home while he was on the earth.”
The Onondagas say, “We have the council fire. That means that we are the chosen people.”
As the years passed by, the numerous Iroquois families became scattered over the state, and also in what is now Pennsylvania, the Middle West and southeastern Canada. Some lived in areas where bear was their principal game. So these people were called the Bear Clan. Others lived where beavers were plentiful. So they were called the Beaver Clan. For similar reasons, the Deer, Wolf, Snipe and Tortoise clans received their names.
Origin of Medicine
At one time, animals and people lived together peaceably and talked with each other. But when mankind began to multiply rapidly, the animals were crowded into forests and deserts.
Man began to destroy animals wholesale for their skins and furs, not just for needed food. Animals became angry at such treatment by their former friends, resolving they must punish mankind.
The bear tribe met in council, presided over by Old White Bear, their Chief. After several bears had spoken against mankind for their bloodthirsty ways, war was unanimously agreed upon. But what kinds of weapons should the bears use?
Chief Old White Bear suggested that man’s weapon, the bow and arrow, should be turned against him. All of the council agreed. While the bears worked and made bows and arrows, they wondered what to do about bowstrings. One of the bears sacrificed himself to provide the strings, while the others searched for good arrow-wood.
When the first bow was completed and tried, the bear’s claws could not release the strings to shoot the arrow. One bear offered to cut his claws, but Chief Old White Bear would not allow him to do that, because without claws he could not climb trees for food and safety. He might starve.
The deer tribe called together its council led by Chief Little Deer. They decided that any Indian hunters, who killed deer without asking pardon in a suitable manner, should be afflicted with painful rheumatism in their joints.
After this decision, Chief Little Deer sent a messenger to their nearest neighbours, the Cherokee Indians.
“From now on, your hunters must first offer a prayer to the deer before killing him,” said the messenger. “You must ask his pardon, stating you are forced only by the hunger needs of your tribe to kill the deer. Otherwise, a terrible disease will come to the hunter.”
When a deer is slain by an Indian hunter, Chief Little Deer will run to the spot and ask the slain deer’s spirit, “Did you hear the hunter’s prayer for pardon?”
If the reply is yes, then all is well and Chief Little Deer returns to his cave. But if the answer is no, then the Chief tracks the hunter to his lodge and strikes him with the terrible disease of rheumatism, making him a helpless cripple unable to hunt again.
All the fishes and reptiles then held a council and decided they would haunt those Cherokee Indians, who tormented them, by telling them hideous dreams of serpents twining around them and eating them alive. These snake and fish dreams occurred often among the Cherokees. To get relief, the Cherokees pleaded with their Shaman to banish their frightening dreams if they no longer tormented the snakes and fish.
Now when the friendly plants heard what the animals had decided against mankind, they planned a countermove of their own. Each tree, shrub, herb, grass, and moss agreed to furnish a cure for one of the diseases named by the animals and insects.
Thereafter, when the Cherokee Indians visited their Shaman about their ailments and if the medicine man was in doubt, he communed with the spirits of the plants. They always suggested a proper remedy for mankind’s diseases.
This was the beginning of plant medicine from nature among the Cherokee Indian nation a long, long time ago.
Origin of the Buffalo
Long ago, a tribe of Cheyenne hunters lived at the head of a rushing stream, which eventually emptied into a large cave.
Because of the great need for a new food supply for his people, the Chief called a council meeting.
“We should explore the large cave,” he told his people. “How many brave hunters will offer to go on this venture? Of course, it may be very dangerous, but we have brave hunters.” No one responded to the Chief’s request.
Finally, one young brave painted himself for hunting and stepped forth, replying to the Chief, “I will go and sacrifice myself for our people.”
He arrived at the cave, and to his surprise, First Brave found two other Cheyenne hunters near the opening, where the stream rushed underground.
“Are they here to taunt me,” First Brave wondered? “Will they only pretend to jump when I do?”
But the other two braves assured him they would go.
“No, you are mistaken about us. We really do want to enter the cave with you,” they said.
First Brave then joined hands with them and together they jumped into the huge opening of the cave. Because of the darkness, it took some time for their eyes to adjust. They then discovered what looked like a door. First Brave knocked, but there was no response. He knocked again, louder.
“What do you want, my brave ones?” asked an old Indian grandmother as she opened her door.
“Grandmother, we are searching for a new food supply for our tribe,” First Brave replied. “Our people never seem to have enough food to eat.”
“Are you hungry now?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, kind Grandmother, we are very hungry,” all three braves answered.
The old grandmother opened her door wide, inviting the young braves to enter.
“Look out there!” she pointed for them to look through her window.
A beautiful wide prairie stretched before their eyes. Great herds of buffalo were grazing contentedly. The young hunters could hardly believe what they saw!
The old grandmother brought each of them a stone pan full of buffalo meat. How good it tasted, as they ate and ate until they were filled. To their surprise, more buffalo meat remained in their stone pans!
“I want you to take your stone pans of buffalo meat back to your people at your camp,” said the old grandmother. “Tell them that soon I will send some live buffalo.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind Grandmother,” said the three young Cheyenne braves.
When the young hunters returned to their tribe with the gifts of buffalo meat, their people rejoiced over the new, good food. Their entire tribe ate heartily from the old grandmother’s three magic pans, and were grateful.
When the Cheyennes waked at dawn the next day, herds of buffalo had mysteriously appeared, surrounding their village! They were truly thankful to the old Indian grandmother and to the Sky Spirits for their good fortune.
Origin of the Clans
A long time ago, when the Hopi Tribe was emerging from the First World, their people started to hunt for the land of the rising sun. Moving in related groups, they thought it fun to play a name game.
When the first band came upon a dead bear, immediately they thought it a sign for them to become the Bear Clan. Another Hopi band came upon the same skeleton but saw little gopher holes surrounding the carcass. They agreed among themselves to become the Gopher Clan.
In the same way, other Hopis found a nest of spiders and they named themselves the Spider Clan. Far ahead the Bear Clan travelled with Chief Bahana leading. Always, the Bear Clan seemed to move faster in many ways.
Spider Clan trailed all the clans because they had so many children. One day they came upon a friendly spider sitting near her large web. The Spider Clan encircled her as she spoke to their Chief, “I am Spider Woman, possessed of Supernatural Power. Since you are named for my people, I will help you in any way I can.”
“Thank you, Spider Woman,” replied the Chief. “We are travelling to find the land of the rising sun. Other clans of our Hopi Tribe are much farther ahead of us. We wish we could travel faster, but we have much to pack on our backs as we have so many children.”
“Perhaps I can make something to ease your travel,” said Spider Woman.
“What do you have in mind?” asked the Chief.
“First, I need something of yourself,” said Spider Woman. “You must go into my secret room where you will find a large water jug. You must wash yourself all over and save the dust and skin that rolls off and fetch it to me.”
Because of many travel days, the Chief was so hot and dusty that he made a sizeable ball of dirt, which he gave to Spider Woman. With this she began her magic creation. She spread a white, fleecy cloth in front of her, placing the ball in the Centre. Then she rolled it up carefully into a white ball.
Spider Woman sang her ceremonial creation song four times, while the Spider Clan sat in a circle and waited expectantly. Now and then, she touched the fleecy ball with her magic web and looked to see if any signs of life were evident within the ball. Again, Spider Woman sang another magic song four times and behold!–the fleecy, white ball moved back and forth and rolled about. To everyone’s surprise, through the fleecy cover emerged a tiny gray animal stretching forth four tiny legs.
Spider Woman called it a burro. At the sight of it, the Spider Clan knew that it needed to grow much stronger before it could be of any help to them. Spider Woman kept the young animal warm and gave it some of her magic food. She spent much time massaging its tiny legs with her magic salve to make them grow faster.
After only four days, the burro was ready to travel with the Spider Clan. They packed the sides of the burrow with their excess supplies and started on their way to the land of the rising sun.
Later, Spider Woman decided to create a man who should know more about caring for the burro than the Hopis. This she did and sent the man to catch up with the Spider Clan, to teach them how better to care for the burro.
But that man was selfish. Instead of helping the people, he ran away one dark night, taking the burro with him. Even though saddened over the loss of their helpful burro, Spider Clan continued their trek to the land of the rising sun, shouldering their heavy packs as before.
Of course, the Bear Clan arrived at their destination first. They set about establishing their village. Gradually the other Hopi Clans joined them, making their villages nearby. There the Hopi Tribe grew and prospered.
But the Spider Clan, which arrived last in the land of the rising sun, became the largest and most prosperous of all the Hopi Clans, because they had so many children during the following years.
Origin of the Sweat Lodge
The Piegan tribe was southernmost at the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana, a subtribe belonging to the Siksika Indians of North Saskatchewan in Canada. Piegans were of the Algonquian linguistic family, but warlike toward most of their neighbouring tribes, since they had horses for raiding and were supplied with guns and ammunition by their Canadian sources. Piegans also displayed hostility toward explorers and traders. Several smallpox epidemics decimated their population. Now they are gathered on reservations on both sides of the border.
A girl of great beauty, the Chief’s daughter, was worshipped by many young handsome men of the Piegan tribe. But she would not have any one of them for her husband.
One young tribesman was very poor and his face was marked with an ugly scar. Although he saw rich and handsome men of his tribe rejected by the Chief’s daughter, he decided to find out if she would have him for her husband. When she laughed at him for even asking, he ran away toward the south in shame.
After travelling several days, he dropped to the ground, weary and hungry, and fell asleep. From the heavens, Morning-Star looked down and pitied the young unfortunate youth, knowing his trouble.
To Sun and Moon, his parents, Morning-Star said, “There is a poor young man lying on the ground with no one to help him. I want to go after him for a companion.”
“Go and get him,” said his parents.
Morning-Star carried the young man, Scarface, into the sky. Sun said, “Do not bring him into my lodge yet, for he smells ill. Build four sweat lodges.”
When this was done, Sun led Scarface into the first sweat lodge. He asked Morning-Star to bring a hot coal on a forked stick. Sun then broke off a bit of sweet grass and placed it upon the hot coal. As the incense arose Sun began to sing, “Old Man is coming in with his body; it is sacred,” repeating it four times.
Sun passed his hands back and forth through the smoke and rubbed them over the face, left arm, and side of Scarface. Sun repeated the ceremony on the boy’s right side, purifying him and removing the odours of earthly people.
Sun took Scarface into the other three sweat lodges, performing the same healing ceremony. The body of Scarface changed color and he shone like a yellow light.
Using a soft feather, Sun brushed it over the youth’s face, magically wiping away the scar. With a final touch to the young man’s long, yellow hair, Sun caused him to look exactly like Morning-Star. The two young men were led by Sun into his own lodge and placed side by side in the position of honour.
“Old Woman,” called the father. “Which is your son?”
Moon pointed to Scarface, “That one is our son.”
“You do not know your own child,” answered Sun.
“He is not our son. We will call him Mistaken-for-Morning-Star,” as they all laughed heartily at the mistake.
The two boys were together constantly and became close companions. One day, they were on an adventure when Morning-Star pointed out some large birds with very long, sharp beaks.
“Foster-Brother, I warn you not to go near those dangerous creatures,” said Morning-Star. “They killed my other brothers with their beaks.”
Suddenly the birds chased the two boys. Morning-Star fled toward his home, but Foster-Brother stopped, picking up a club and one by one struck the birds dead.
Upon reaching home, Morning-Star excitedly reported to his father what had happened. Sun made a victory song honouring the young hero. In gratitude for saving Morning-Star’s life, Sun gave him the forked stick for lifting hot embers and a braid of sweet grass to make incense. These sacred elements necessary for making the sweat lodge ceremony were a gift of trust.
“And this my sweat lodge I give to you,” said the Sun. Mistaken- for-Morning-Star observed very carefully how it was constructed, in his mind preparing himself to one day returning to earth.
When Scarface did arrive at his tribal village, all of his people gathered to see the handsome young man in their midst. At first, they did not recognize him as Scarface.
“I have been in the sky,” he told them. “Behold me, Morning-Star looks just like this. The Sun gave me these things used in the sweat lodge healing ceremony. That is how I lost my ugly scar.”
Scarface explained how the forked stick and sweet grass were used. Then he set to work showing his people how to make the sweat lodge. This is how the first medicine sweat lodge was built upon earth by the Piegan tribe.
Now that Scarface was so very handsome and brought such a great blessing of healing to his tribe, the Chief’s beautiful daughter became his wife.
In remembrance of Sun’s gift to Scarface and his tribe, the Piegans always make the sweat lodge healing ceremony an important part of their annual Sun Dance Celebration.
Origin of Summer and Winter
The Acoma chief had a daughter named Co-chin-ne-na-ko, called Co- chin for short, who was the wife of Shakok, the Spirit of Winter. After he came to live with the Acomas, the seasons grew colder and colder. Snow and ice stayed longer each year. Corn no longer matured. The people soon had to live on cactus leaves and other wild plants.
One day Co-chin went out to gather cactus leaves and burn off the thorns so she could carry them home for food. She was eating a singed leaf when she saw a young man coming toward her. He wore a yellow shirt woven of corn silk, a belt, and a tall pointed hat; green leggings made of green moss that grows near springs and ponds; and moccasins beautifully embroidered with flowers and butterflies.
In his hand he carried an ear of green corn with which he saluted her. She returned the salute with her cactus leaf. He asked, “What are you eating?” She told him, “Our people are starving because no corn will grow, and we are compelled to live on these cactus leaves.”
“Here, eat this ear of corn, and I will go bring you an armful for you to take home with you,” said the young man. He left and quickly disappeared from sight, going south. In a very short time, however, he returned, bringing a large bundle of green corn that he laid at her feet.
“Where did you find so much corn?” Co-chin asked.
“I brought it from my home far to the south,” he replied. “There the corn grows abundantly and flowers bloom all year.”
“Oh, how I would like to see your lovely country. Will you take me with you to your home?” she asked.
“Your husband, Shakok, the Spirit of Winter, would be angry if I should take you away,” he said.
“But I do not love him, he is so cold. Ever since he came to our village, no corn has grown, no flowers have bloomed. The people are compelled to live on these prickly pear leaves,” she said.
“Well,” he said. “Take this bundle of corn with you and do not throw away the husks outside of your door. Then come tomorrow and I will bring you more. I will meet you here.” He said good-bye and left for his home in the south.
Co-chin started home with the bundle of corn and met her sisters, who had come out to look for her. They were very surprised to see the corn instead of cactus leaves. Co-chin told them how the young man had brought her the corn from his home in the south. They helped her carry it home.
When they arrived, their father and mother were wonderfully surprised with the corn. Co-chin minutely described in detail the young man and where he was from. She would go back the next day to get more corn from him, as he asked her to meet him there, and he would accompany her home.
“It is Miochin,” said her father. “It is Miochin,” said her mother. “Bring him home with you.”
The next day, Co-chin-ne-na-ko went to the place and met Miochin, for he really was Miochin, the Spirit of Summer. He was waiting for her and had brought big bundles of corn.
Between them they carried the corn to the Acoma village. There was enough to feed all of the people. Miochin was welcome at the home of the Chief. In the evening, as was his custom, Shakok, the Spirit of Winter and Co-chin’s husband, returned from the north. All day he had been playing with the north wind, snow, sleet, and hail.
Upon reaching the Acoma village, he knew Miochin must be there and called out to him, “Ha, Miochin, are you here?” Miochin came out to meet him. “Ha, Miochin, now I will destroy you.”
“Ha, Shakok, I will destroy you,” replied Miochin, advancing toward him, melting the snow and hail and turning the fierce wind into a summer breeze. The icicles dropped off and Shakok’s clothing was revealed to be made of dry, bleached rushes.
Shakok said, “I will not fight you now, but will meet you here in four days and fight you till one of us is beaten. The victor will win Co-chin-ne-na-ko.”
Shakok left in a rage, as the wind roared and shook the walls of White City. But the people were warm in their houses because Miochin was there. The next day he left for his own home in the south to make preparations to meet shakok in combat.
First he sent an eagle to his friend Yat-Moot, who lived in the west, asking him to come help him in his fight with Shakok. Second, he called all the birds, insects, and four-legged animals that live in summer lands to help him. The bat was his advance guard and shield, as his tough skin could best withstand the sleet and hail that Shakok would throw at him.
On the third day Yat-Moot kindled his fires, heating the thin, flat stones he was named after. Big black clouds of smoke rolled up from the south and covered the sky.
Shakok was in the north and called to him all the winter birds and four-legged animals of winter lands to come and help him. The magpie was his shield and advance guard.
On the fourth morning, the two enemies could be seen rapidly approaching the Acoma village. In the north, black storm clouds of winter with snow, sleet, and hail brought Shakok to the battle. In the south, Yat-Moot piled more wood on his fires and great puffs of steam and smoke arose and formed massive clouds. They were bringing Miochin, the Spirit of Summer, to the battlefront. All of his animals were blackened from the smoke. Forked blazes of lightning shot forth from the clouds.
At last the combatants reached White City. Flashes from the clouds singed the hair and feathers of Shakok’s animals and birds. Shakok and Miochin were now close together. Shakok threw snow, sleet, and hail that hissed through the air of a blinding storm. Yat-Moot’s fires and smoke melted Shakok’s weapons, and he was forced to fall back. Finally he called a truce. Miochin agreed, and the winds stopped, and snow and rain ceased falling.
They met at the White Wall of Acoma. Shakok said, “I am defeated, you Miochin are the winner. Co-chin-ne-na-ko is now yours forever.” Then the men each agreed to rule one-half of the year, Shakok for winter and Miochin for summer, and that neither would trouble the other thereafter. That is why we have a cold season for one-half of the year, and a warm season for the other.
Long, long ago before the white man came to the West, a large happy tribe of peaceful Indians lived among the trees of beautiful Oak Canyon. This spectacular place is now known as Yosemite Valley, situated in Yosemite National Park, California.
In the beginning these peaceful Indians were called Ah-wah-nees, meaning “Deep Grass Valley,” which was the first name given to Yosemite Valley.
It is of interest to note that because of a printer’s error at a later date, the spelling of the tribe’s name was inadvertently changed to Yosemite. Now Yosemite National Park identifies the original home of the Ah-wah-nee band (Yosemite), southern division of the Miwok Tribe.
Today, the California State flag carries a picture of the grizzly bear as a reminder of the State’s official animal, Yo Semitee.
Ah-wah-nees were proud of their Chief, a tall and young athletic man. Early one spring morning, he started off with his spears in hand to hunt for trout in the nearby lake known as Sleeping Water.
Imagine his astonishment when he rounded a large boulder and came face to face with an enormous grizzly bear, probably just out of its winter hibernation!
Such an unexpected meeting caused both of them to rear back in stunned surprise. Immediately, however, all of the fighting spirit within each arose. They attacked one another furiously! The Chief realized his fighting power was not equal to the great strength of the grizzly.
“What can I do to help myself?” he wondered.
At that moment, he saw an oak limb within reach and grabbed it for a weapon.
“I must do everything possible to subdue this bear, even if it means my own death,” he thought while he fought. “I am determined that future Ah-wah-nee children will always remember the proud and brave blood that flowed in the veins of their ancestors.”
He pounded heavy blows, one after another, upon the head of the grizzly bear. In return, the young Chief received innumerable cuts from the bear’s teeth and claws. They exchanged blows that could have been death blows to either one, if each had not been determined to survive. The grizzly bear’s hunger drove him to attack; the Chief’s pride, courage, and great height strengthened his defense.
On and on they fought. Then when the Chief saw the eyes of the bear glaze with a cold stare, he knew his great moment had come. With his club raised overhead, the Chief brought down a whopping smash upon the head of the bear, who then slowly slumped to the ground. The Chief charged in to finish the task, making sure the grizzly bear was dead.
Exhausted, the young Chief withdrew a short way to rest, but kept his eyes upon the grizzly bear in case it revived. After some time, when he was certain of the bear’s death, the Chief stepped forward and skinned the animal.
Later, dragging the bearskin behind him, the Chief returned to his village and proclaimed his victory. Young and old braves gathered to welcome him and to praise his success. The young braves took off, following the trail where the bearskin dragged upon the ground. They found the grizzly bear before any other wild animal had a chance to claim it. Immediately, they set to work and butchered the bear and then carried the parts back to their camp.
In the meantime, the braves prepared a huge fire and sent young runners to the outlying camps, inviting all the people to an evening of feasting.
The victory of their young Chief over the enormous grizzly bear astounded all of the Ah-wah-nees. They cheered and cheered their admiration for their great Chief. They renamed their hero, Chief Yo Semitee, which means “Grizzly Bear.”
Following the feast, the entire tribe gathered for a victory dance, attired in all their fine beads and fine feathers. Chief Yo Semitee sat and overlooked the celebration, smoking the peace pipe with his tribal council. More feasting and dancing continued most of the night, as Ah-wah-nees showed their affection for their young and strong Chief.
Yo Semitee’s children, and finally all of the tribe, became known as Yo Semitees in honour of their brave Chief.
Long, long ago, two young and handsome Lakota were chosen by their band to find out where the buffalo were. While the men were riding in the buffalo country, they saw someone in the distance walking toward them.
As always they were on the watch for any enemy. So they hid in some bushes and waited. At last the figure came up the slope. To their surprise, the figure walking toward them was a woman.
When she came closer, she stopped and looked at them. They knew that she could see them, even in their hiding place. On her left arm she carried what looked like a stick in a bundle of sagebrush. Her face was beautiful.
One of the men said, “She is more beautiful than anyone I have ever seen. I want her for my wife.”
But the other man replied, “How dare you have such a thought? She is wondrously beautiful and holy–far above ordinary people.”
Though still at a distance, the woman heard them talking. She laid down her bundle and spoke to them. “Come. What is it you wish?”
The man who had spoken first went up to her and laid his hands on her as if to claim her. At once, from somewhere above, there came a whirlwind. Then there came a mist, which hid the man and the woman. When the mist cleared, the other man saw the woman with the bundle again on her arm. But his friend was a pile of bones at her feet.
The man stood silent in wonder and awe. Then the beautiful woman spoke to him. “I am on a journey to your people. Among them is a good man whose name is Bull Walking Upright. I am coming to see him especially.
“Go on ahead of me and tell your people that I am on my way. Ask them to move camp and to pitch their tents in a circle. Ask them to leave an opening in the circle, facing the north. In the centre of the circle, make a large tepee, also facing the north. There I will meet Bull Walking Upright and his people.”
The man saw to it that all her directions were followed. When she reached the camp, she removed the sagebrush from the gift she was carrying. The gift was a small pipe made of red stone. On it was carved the tiny outline of a buffalo calf.
The pipe she gave to Bull Walking Upright, and then she taught him the prayers he should pray to the Strong One Above. “When you pray to the Strong One Above, you must use this pipe in the ceremony. When you are hungry, unwrap the pipe and lay it bare in the air. Then the buffalo will come where the men can easily hunt and kill them. So the children, the men, and the women will have food and be happy.”
The beautiful woman also told him how the people should behave in order to live peacefully together. She taught them the prayers they should say when praying to their Mother Earth. She told him how they should decorate themselves for ceremonies.
“The earth,” she said, “is your mother. So, for special ceremonies, you will decorate yourselves as your mother does–in black and red, in brown and white. These are the colours of the buffalo also.
“Above all else, remember that this is a peace pipe that I have given you. You will smoke it before all ceremonies. You will smoke it before making treaties. It will bring peaceful thoughts into your minds. If you will use it when you pray to the Strong One above and to Mother Earth you will be sure to receive the blessings that you ask.”
When the woman had completed her message, she turned and slowly walked away. All the people watched her in awe. Outside the opening of the circle, she stopped for an instant and then lay down on the ground. She rose again in the form of a black buffalo cow. Again she lay down and then arose in the form of a red buffalo cow. A third time she lay down, and arose as a brown buffalo cow. The fourth and last time she had the form of a spotlessly white buffalo cow. Then she walked toward the north into the distance and finally disappeared over a far-off hill.
Bull Walking Upright kept the peace pipe carefully wrapped most of the time. Every little while he called all his people together, untied the bundle, and repeated the lessons he had been taught by the beautiful woman. And he used it in prayers and other ceremonies until he was more than one hundred years old.
When he became feeble, he held a great feast. There he gave the pipe and the lessons to Sunrise, a worthy man. In a similar way the pipe was passed down from generation to generation. “As long as the pipe is used,” the beautiful woman had said, “Your people will live and will be happy. As soon as it is forgotten, the people will perish.”