Legends and Folklore
Through the years stories have served to provide man with a way of passing on their heritage, their values, and can tell the story of the development of whole cultures. These were particularly important before man had written language. The history of a civilization was passed down from generation to generation by such stories. Much can be learned about a people from their folklore and legends. Below is a small sampling of Native American stories, excerpted from StoneE's Weblodge. Many more fascinating tales and information can be found at his site on the links page.
Earth is floating on the waters like a big island, hanging from four rawhide ropes fastened at the top of the Sacred four directions. The ropes are tied to the ceiling of the sky, which is made of hard rock crystal. When the ropes break, this world will come tumbling down, and all living things will fall with it and die. Then everything will be as if the earth had never existed, for water will cover it. maybe the white man will bring this about.
Well, in the beginning also, water covered everything. Though living creatures existed, their home was up there, above the rainbow, and it was crowded. "We are all jammed together," the animals said. "We need more room." Wondering what was under the water, they sent Water Beetle to look around. Water Beetle skimmed over the surface but couldn't find any solid footing, so he dived to the bottom and brought up a little dab of soft mud. Magically the mud spread out in the four directions and became this island we are living on - this earth. Someone Powerful then fastened it to the sky ceiling with cords.
In the beginning the earth was flat, soft, and moist. All the animals were eager to live on it, and they kept sending down birds to see if the mud had dried and hardened enough to take their weight. But the birds all flew back and said that there was still no spot they could perch on.
Then the animals sent Grandfather Buzzard down. He flew very close and saw that the earth was still soft, but when he glided low over what would become Cherokee country, he found that the mud was getting harder. By that time Buzzard was tired and dragging. When he flapped his wings down they made a valley where they touched the earth; when he swept them up, they made a mountain. The animals watching from above the rainbow said, "If he keeps on, there will only be mountains," and they made him come back. That's why we have so many mountains in Cherokee land.
At last the earth was hard and dry enough, and the animals descended. They couldn't see very well because they had no sun or moon, and someone said,
"Lets grab Sun from up there behind the rainbow! Lets get him down too!"
Pulling Sun down, they told him, "Here's a road for you," and showed him the way to go....from east to west.
Now they had light, but it was much to hot, because Sun was too close to the earth. The crawfish had his back sticking out of a stream, and Sun burned it red. His meat was spoiled for ever, and the people still won't eat crawfish. Everyone asked the sorcerers, the shamans, to put Sun higher. They pushed him up as high as a man, but it was still to hot. So they pushed him farther, but it wasn't far enough. They tried four times, and when they had sun up to the height of four men, he was just hot enough. Everyone was satisfied, so they left him there.
Before making humans, Someone Powerful had created plants and animals and had told them to stay awake and watch for seven days and seven nights. (This is just what young men do today when they fast and prepare for a ceremony.) But most of the plants and animals couldn't manage it, some fell asleep after one day, some after two days, some after three. Among the animals, only the Owl and the Mountain Lion were still awake after seven days and nights. That is why they were given the gift of seeing in the dark so that they can hunt at night.
Among the trees and other plants, only the cedar, pine, holly, and laurel were still awake on the eighth morning. Someone Powerful said to them, "Because you watched and kept awake as you had been told, you will not lose your hair in the winter." So these plants stay green all the time.
After creating plants and animals, Someone Powerful made man and his sister.
The man poked her with a fish and told her to go give birth. After seven days she had a baby, and after seven more days she had another, and every seven days another came. The humans increased so quickly that Someone Powerful, thinking there would soon be no more room on this earth, arranged things so that a woman could have only one child every year. And that's how it was.
Now, there is still another world under the one we live on. You can reach it by going down a spring, a water hole; but you need underworld people to be your scouts and guide you. The world under our earth is exactly like ours, except that it's winter down there when its summer up here. We can see that easily, because spring water is warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer.
"The Legend of the Flute "
Well, you know our flutes, you've heard their sounds and seen how beautifully they are made. That flute of ours, the siyotanka, is for only one kind of music, love music. In the old days the men would sit by themselves, maybe lean hidden, unseen, against a tree in the dark of night.
They would make up their own special tunes, their courting songs.
We Indians are shy. Even if he was a warrior who had already counted coup on a enemy, a young man might hardly screw up courage enough to talk to a nice-looking winchinchala -- a girl he was in love with. Also, there was no place where a young man and a girl could be alone inside the village. The family tipi was always crowded with people. And naturally, you couldn't just walk out of the village hand in hand with your girl, even if hand holding had been one of our customs, which it wasn't. Out there in the tall grass and sagebrush you could be gored by a buffalo, clawed by a grizzly, or tomahawked by a Pawnee, or you could run into the Mila Hanska, the Long Knives, namely the U.S. Cavalry.
The only chance you had to met your winchinchala was to wait for her at daybreak when the women went to the river or brook with their skin bags to get water. When that girl you had your eye on finally came down to the water trail, you popped up from behind some bush and stood so she could see you.
And that was about all you could do to show her that you were interested, Standing there grinning, looking at your moccasins, scratching your ear, maybe
The winchinchala didn't do much either, except get red in the face, giggle, maybe throw a wild turnip at you. If she liked you, the only way she would let you know was to take her time filling her water bag and peek at you a few times over her shoulder.
So the flutes did all the talking. At night, lying on her buffalo robe in her parents tipi, the girl would hear that moaning, crying sound of the siyotanka. By the way it was played, she would know that it was her lover who was out there someplace. And if the Elk Medicine was very strong in him and her, maybe she would sneak out to follow that sound and meet him without anybody noticing it.
The flute is always made of cedarwood. In the shape it describes the long neck and head of a bird with a open beak. The sound comes out of the beak, and that's where the legend comes in, the legend of how the Lakota people acquired the flute.
Once many generations ago, the people had drums, gourd rattles, and bull-roarers, but no flutes. At that long-ago time a young man went out to hunt. Meat was scarce, and the people in his camp were hungry. He found the tracks of an Elk and followed them for a long time. The Elk, wise and swift, is the one who owns the love charm. If a man possesses Elk Medicine, the girl he likes can't help sleeping with him. He will also be a lucky hunter. This young man I'm talking about had no Elk Medicine. After many hours he finally sighted his game. He was skilled with bow and arrows, and had a fine new bow and a quiver full of straight, well-feathered, flint-tipped arrows. Yet the Elk always managed to stay just out of range, leading him on and on. The young man was so intent on following his prey that he hardly noticed where he went.
When night came, he found himself deep inside a thick forest. The tracks had disappeared and so had the Elk, and there was no moon. He realized that he was lost and that it was too dark to find his way out. Luckily he came upon a stream with cool, clear water. And he had been careful enough to bring a hide bag of wasna, dried meat pounded with berries and kidney fat, strong food that will keep a man going for a few days. After he had drunk and eaten, he rolled himself into his fur robe, propped his back against a tree, and tried to rest. But he couldn't sleep, the forest was full of strange noises, and the cries of night animals, the hooting owls, the groaning of trees in the wind. It was as if he heard these sounds for the first time.
Suddenly there was a entirely new sound, of a kind neither he nor anyone else had ever heard before. It was mournful and ghost like. It made him afraid, so that he drew his robe tightly about himself and reached for his bow to make sure that it was properly strung. On the other hand, the sound was like a song, sad but beautiful, full of love, hope, and yearning. Then before he knew it, he was asleep. He dreamed that the bird called wagnuka, the redheaded woodpecker, appeared singing the strangely beautiful song and telling him, "Follow me and I will teach you."
When the hunter awoke, the sun was already high. On a branch of the tree against which he was leaning, he saw a redheaded woodpecker. The bird flew away to another tree, and another, but never very far, looking back all the time at the young man as if to say, "Come on!" Then once more he heard that wonderful song, and his heart yearned to find the singer. Flying toward the sound, leading the hunter, the bird flitted through the leaves, while its bright red top made easy to follow. At last it lighted on a cedar tree and began hammering on a branch, making a noise like the fast beating of a small drum. Suddenly there was a gust of wind, and again the hunter heard that beautiful sound right above him.
Then he discovered that the song came from the dead branch that the woodpecker was tapping his beak. He realized also that it was the wind which made the sound as it whistled through the hole the bird had drilled.
"Kola, friend," said the hunter, "let me take this branch home. You can make yourself another."
He took the branch, a hollow piece of wood full of woodpecker holes that was about the length of his forearm. He walked back to his village bringing no meat, but happy all the same.
In his tipi the young man tried to make the branch sing for him. He blew on it, he waves it around, no sound came. It made him sad, he wanted so much to hear that wonderful new sound. He purified himself in the sweat lodge and climbed to the top of a lonely hill. There, resting with his back against a large rock, he fasted, going without food or water for four days and nights, crying for a vision which would tell him how to make the branch sing. In the middle of the fourth night, wagnuka, the bird with the bright red top, appeared, saying, "Watch me," turning himself into a man, showing the hunter how to make the branch sing, saying again and again, "Watch this, now." And in his dream the young man watched and observed very carefully.
When he awoke, he found a cedar tree. He broke off a branch and, working many hours, hollowed it out with a bowstring drill, just as he had seen the woodpecker do in his dream. He whittled the branch into the shape of the birds with a long neck and a open beak. He painted the top of the birds head with washasha, the sacred red color. He prayed. He smoked the branch up with incense of burning sage, cedar, and sweet grass. He fingered the holes as he had seen the man-bird do in his vision, meanwhile blowing softly into the mouthpiece. All at once there was the song, ghost like and beautiful beyond words drifting all the way to the village, where the people were astounded and joyful to hear it. With the help of the wind and the woodpecker, the young man had brought them the first flute.
The Sun Dance
The tribes who lived on the Great Plains of North America believed that supernatural power was to be found in everything around them. It was in the wind, rain, thunder and other forces of nature. It was in the sun, moon and stars, and in animals and birds. The Sioux Indians called this all-pervading power Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery.
For the Sioux, it was Wakan Tanka who was the creator and controller of the universe, but other tribes had their own tales about how the world had come into being. According to Crow myth, for example, the whole world had originally been covered with a sheet of water. There had been nothing at all until Old Man Coyote sent down birds into the depths to fetch mud from which he formed the earth. The Pawnee believed that Tirawa, the spirit who dwelled in the highest part of the heavens, had created all things by sending his messengers, Wind, Cloud, Thunder and Lightning, to shape the world, sow seeds and make rivers.
The Indians believed that these beings not only controlled the natural world, but could also use their powers to benefit mankind. If men practiced the proper rituals to honor and please the spirits, they would gain power themselves and be able to perform great exploits in hunting and war. Gifts and prayers were offered to the spirits in order to obtain their good will and to bring happiness and prosperity to the tribe.
All sorts of customs and ceremonies were claimed to have been received from the spirits in dreams and visions. There were ceremonies to make a man invincible in battle, to help him steal horses or call buffalo. Many of these ceremonies were carried out by the warrior societies to which most of the men of the tribe belonged. The members of these societies protected their village against enemy attack and formed war parties to raid other villages. They organized communal buffalo hunts and sometimes acted as a police force to keep law and order in the camps. For their ceremonies they wore elaborate costumes and face paint and performed spectacular dances before the rest of the tribe.
For many of the Plains tribes, the most important ceremony was that held each year in spring or early summer when the tribe came together after the winter. The Sioux name for this ceremony was Dance Facing the Sun and, because of this, white men called it the Sun Dance. Despite this name, it was not held to worship the sun, but because someone who had been in trouble during the previous year had pledged to sponsor such a ceremony if the spirits came to his aid.
It was a very complicated ritual in which every movement had a special meaning. First, a Sun Dance Lodge had to be built. Then a tall tree was felled and set up in the camp. A bundle of twigs, buffalo skin and offerings was placed in the forks at the top of the tree. This was said to represent the nest of an eagle or thunder bird.
The dance itself usually lasted several days. During that time, the dancers, neither eating nor drinking, circled the pole, gazing steadfastly at its top and praying for power. Some, in order to win the sympathy of the spirits, tortured themselves, piercing their skin with skewers or cutting off a finger. Often, through hunger, pain and exhaustion, they gained the vision which they sought.
The Indians explained the origins of such ceremonies in their myths. The Sun Dance, it was said, was first brought to the plains by a poor Orphan boy, the offspring of a star and a human girl, who's travel led to the Star Country and was instructed in its mysteries by the great Sun himself.
The Morning Star
It was a warm summer's night and many of the Indians had forsaken their airless tipis to sleep under the open sky among the cool, sweet smelling prairie grass. One, a young girl called Feather Woman, awoke early. It was not yet dawn and the morning star had just begun to rise above the distant horizon. The girl propped herself on one elbow and watched the star as it climbed steadily into the dark sky. She thought that she had never seen anything quite so beautiful.
'I love the morning star,' she whispered to herself. 'How clear and bright it is! If only I could find a husband half as handsome as that star, how happy I should be!' Her loving gaze followed the star until it faded into the paler light of the coming day.
The camp was busy that summer. The buffalo were plentiful and there was always meat to be cooked and dried, and skins to be dressed and made into warm clothing for the winter. There was little time to be fanciful and Feather Woman thought no more about the morning star.
She thought no more, that is, until one day in autumn when she left the camp to collect firewood. Intent on her task, she wandered far from the camp. Suddenly, she became aware that she was no longer alone. A young man, a stranger, stood before her. He was tall and handsome, dressed in a robe of soft white buckskin embroidered with porcupine quills. He wore eagle feathers in his hair and, in one hand, he carried a small juniper bush festooned with cobwebs.
Startled, Feather Woman turned to flee, but the young, man caught her arm and said gently, 'Wait, Feather Woman, do you not recognize me? I am Morning Star. One night in summer I looked down and saw you lying among the grass by your tipi. I fell in love with you then and heard you say that you loved me too. Do not return to your village. Forget your own people. Come with me now to the sky, to the land of the Star People.'
Feather Woman looked at him shyly and knew that she loved him now as she had loved him on that summer night when she had watched him rise, bright and shining, into the sky, and, although it grieved her to leave her parents and friends with no word of farewell, she agreed to go with him as he asked.
Morning Star laid the juniper bush on the ground before her. He told her to place her feet on the lowest strand of the cobweb and to close her eyes tightly. Feather Woman felt herself being carried swiftly upwards and, when she reopened her eyes, she found herself in the Star Country, Morning Star by her side.
It was a land very like the earth below. On all sides the grassy plains rolled away to meet the distant hills. Here and there lay circles of tipis, the smoke from their campfires drifting into the clear air.
Morning Star pointed to a tipi which stood nearby. 'That is the lodge of Spiderman,' he said. 'It is he who weaves the ladders by which the Star People travel between earth and sky. Tread warily here, lest you damage his webs. Then he led Feather Woman to the large, splendid tipi which was the home of his parents, Sun and Moon.
As it was still day, Sun was on his travels, but Moon was at home and welcomed her son's bride kindly, offering her refreshment of water and berries. While Feather woman ate, however, Moon drew Morning Star aside.
'I fear that your father will not approve of this marriage,' she said with a worried frown. 'Take care that she does not anger him, for he is a stern man and will not hesitate to banish her if she does wrong.'
When Sun returned in the evening, he was indeed far from pleased to see his son's new wife. He had no very high opinion of the Earth People, considering them weak and stupid, but, despite his misgivings, he greeted Feather Woman courteously. 'Learn our customs, daughter,' he said gruffly, 'and obey our laws, and you will be happy here.'
Feather Woman was nervous of Sun, but she grew to love the kind and gentle Moon. Moon instructed her in all the ways of the Star People. She taught her how to tan deerskins so that they became as soft and white as snow, and how to extract the juices of herbs and flowers to make colorful dyes. She gave her a digging stick of ash wood, sharpened and hardened in the fire, and showed her where to hunt out the edible plants and roots which nestled close to the earth--the wild potato and turnip, the camus root, the milk vetch and the evening primrose.
For a long time Morning Star and Feather Woman lived happily together in the Star Country. When their son, Star Boy was born, their happiness was complete.
One day, as Moon and Feather Woman were out gathering roots and berries, the girl noticed a very large turnip half-buried in the ground. It was so enormous that its green leafy top came almost to her waist.
Moon, following her gaze, said, 'Take care! That is one root which you must never touch, for it is sacred to the Star People and great sorrow and distress will come to anyone who tries to uproot it. You must leave it where it is.'
In the days that followed, Feather woman frequently passed by the giant turnip, but, although she wondered much about it, she was mindful of Moon's warning and left it well alone. One day, Moon fell ill. She lay on her bed pale and wan, and so Feather Woman took her digging stick and went to gather roots on her own. By chance, she found herself once more by the giant turnip. She gazed at it, speculating on what lay beneath it.
'What secret can it hide?' she wondered. 'Perhaps it is a great treasure of some kind. Surely it would do no harm to peep below, only for a moment. If I replaced it very carefully, no one need ever know that I had disturbed it.'
Her curiosity at last got the better of her, and she drove her digging stick into the earth at the base of the root and pushed with all her might. She gripped the tall green top with both hands and tugged as hard as she could, but, in spite of her efforts, the turnip remained immovable. When she finally paused for breath, it was as firmly rooted as before.
She was about to give up the struggle when two large white cranes swooped from the sky and landed beside her. 'Your poor digging stick will never move that great root!' cried one. 'Let us help you. Our strong beaks will soon have it out.'
Feather Woman accepted their offer gratefully, for she was not to know that the cranes were the sworn enemies of the Star People. One of their favorite tricks was to tear down the ladders woven by Spider Man so that the stars tumbled to earth and were killed. The Indians believed that the puff-balls which they found on the ground were the remains of stars which had fallen from the sky in this way. The cranes began to lever and prod with their long, sharp beaks until at last the great tulip, creaking and groaning, was loosened from its bed of earth and, with a mighty crash, rolled over on its side.
'There !' cried the cranes triumphantly. 'Now you can see what lies below,' and they flew off, delighting in the damage they had caused.
Where the giant turnip had been, there was now a huge crater. Feather Woman knelt down and peered into it. Far, far below lay her old home, the earth. She saw the wide prairies, the woods, rivers and mountains.
She saw men hunting buffalo and girls gathering berries on the hillsides. In the camps the women were tanning skins or preparing food, while the children played between the tip is. The smoke from the campfires rose up to her and she heard again the voices of her own people. Homesickness overcame her and she longed to return.
Night was falling when she finally turned away. She rolled the giant turnip back into place as best she could and, with a heavy heart, made her way home.
Her sad and guilty face aroused Sun's suspicions at once and he demanded to know what had happened. When he learned the truth, he flew into a terrible rage.
'I knew that no good would come of this!' he stormed, stamping the ground so that the whole tipi shook with his fury. 'Have I not always said that Earth People were not to be trusted? They are all the same, these creatures, constantly meddling in what does not concern them!' He towered over Feather Woman and she shrank back in terror. 'Well, my girl, since you like to look at the earth, you had better return there.
You cannot remain here any longer!'
Morning Star and Moon pleaded with him and Feather Woman wept bitter tears of remorse, but Sun remained implacable. Feather Woman was banished from the Star Country forever.
Sadly, Morning Star led his wife to where Spider Man wove his gauze ladders. He put Star Boy in her arms and wrapped a white buffalo robe around them both. Spider Man fastened a strong line about her and let her down from the sky.
It was evening and the Indians sat by their tipis, resting after their day's work. Suddenly a boy pointed upwards. 'Look!' he cried. 'A shooting star!' and the people saw a bright light descending from the sky. They ran to where it fell and there they found Feather Woman and her son, wrapped in the white buffalo robe. They recognized her as the girl who, long ago, had gone to gather firewood and had never returned, and they led her back to her father's tipi.
So Feather Woman came back to her own people, but she found no happiness there. She thought constantly of her husband and her home in the distant star Country. Every night, with Star Boy on her breast, she climbed far up into the western hills and sat, waiting and watching, until Morning Star came into view. She longed to speak to him, but he seemed so cold and distant that for a long time she did not dare.
At last, she plucked up her courage and cried out, 'Morning Star, my husband! Forgive me! Take me back!' Morning Star looked down at her.
'Too late, too late,' he answered sorrowfully. 'You disobeyed. You can never return,' and he went on his way.
Lonely and unhappy, Feather Woman grew paler and thinner day by day, until finally she died, her heart broken.
The Great Flood
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 territories.
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 centre 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.
How the Hopi Indians Reached Their World
When the world was new, the ancient people and the ancient creatures did not live on the top of the earth. They lived under it. All was darkness, all was blackness, above the earth as well as below it.
There were four worlds: this one on top of the earth, and below it three cave worlds, one below the other. None of the cave worlds was large enough for all the people and the creatures.
They increased so fast in the lowest cave world that they crowded it. They were poor and did not know where to turn in the blackness. When they moved, they jostled one another. The cave was filled with the filth of the people who lived in it. No one could turn to spit without spitting on another. No one could cast slime from his nose without its falling on someone else. The people filled the place with their complaints and with their expressions of disgust.
Some people said, "It is not good for us to live in this way."
"How can it be made better?" one man asked.
"Let it be tried and seen!" answered another.
Two Brothers, one older and one younger, spoke to the priest- chiefs of the people in the cave world, "Yes, let it be tried and seen. Then it shall be well. By our wills it shall be well."
The Two Brothers pierced the roofs of the caves and descended to the lowest world, where people lived. The Two Brothers sowed one plant after another, hoping that one of them would grow up to the opening through which they themselves had descended and yet would have the strength to bear the weight of men and creatures. These, the Two Brothers hoped, might climb up the plant into the second cave world. One of these plants was a cane.
At last, after many trials, the cane became so tall that it grew through the opening in the roof, and it was so strong that men could climb to its top. It was jointed so that it was like a ladder, easily ascended. Ever since then, the cane has grown in joints as we see it today along the Colorado River.
Up this cane many people and beings climbed to the second cave world. When a part of them had climbed out, they feared that that cave also would be too small. It was so dark that they could not see how large it was. So they shook the ladder and caused those who were coming up it to fall back. Then they pulled the ladder out. It is said that those who were left came out of the lowest cave later. They are our brothers west of us.
After a long time the second cave became filled with men and beings, as the first had been. Complaining and wrangling were heard as in the beginning. Again the cane was placed under the roof vent, and once more men and beings entered the upper cave world. Again, those who were slow to climb out were shaken back or left behind. Though larger, the third cave was as dark as the first and second. The Two Brothers found fire. Torches were set ablaze, and by their light men built their huts and kivas, or traveled from place to place.
While people and the beings lived in this third cave world, times of evil came to them. Women became so crazed that they neglected all things for the dance. They even forgot their babies. Wives became mixed with wives, so that husbands did not know their own from others. At that time there was no day, only night, black night. Throughout this night, women danced in the kivas (men's "clubhouses"), ceasing only to sleep. So the fathers had to be the mothers of the little ones. When these little ones cried from hunger, the fathers carried them to the kivas, where the women were dancing. Hearing their cries, the mothers came and nursed them, and then went back to their dancing. Again the fathers took care of the children.
These troubles caused people to long for the light and to seek again an escape from darkness. They climbed to the fourth world, which was this world. But it too was in darkness, for the earth was closed in by the sky, just as the cave worlds had been closed in by their roofs. Men went from their lodges and worked by the light of torches and fires. They found the tracks of only one being, the single ruler of the unpeopled world, the tracks of Corpse Demon or Death. The people tried to follow these tracks, which led eastward. But the world was damp and dark, and people did not know what to do in the darkness. The waters seemed to surround them, and the tracks seemed to lead out into the waters.
With the people were five beings that had come forth with them from the cave worlds: Spider, Vulture, Swallow, Coyote, and Locust. The people and these beings consulted together, trying to think of some way of making light.
Many, many attempts were made, but without success. Spider was asked to try first. She spun a mantle of pure white cotton. It gave some light but not enough. Spider therefore became our grandmother.
Then the people obtained and prepared a very white deerskin that had not been pierced in any spot. From this they made a shield case, which they painted with turquoise paint. It shed forth such brilliant light that it lighted the whole world. It made the light from the cotton mantle look faded. So the people sent the shield-light to the east, where it became the moon.
Down in the cave world Coyote had stolen a jar that was very heavy, so very heavy that he grew weary of carrying it. He decided to leave it behind, but he was curious to see what it contained. Now that light had taken the place of darkness, he opened the jar. From it many shining fragments and sparks flew out and upward, singeing his face as they passed him. That is why the coyote has a black face to this day. The shining fragments and sparks flew up to the sky and became stars.
By these lights the people found that the world was indeed very small and surrounded by waters, which made it damp. The people appealed to Vulture for help. He spread his wings and fanned the waters, which flowed away to the east and to the west until mountains began to appear.
Across the mountains the Two Brothers cut channels. Water rushed through the channels, and wore their courses deeper and deeper. Thus the great canyons and valleys of the world were formed. The waters have kept on flowing and flowing for ages. The world has grown drier, and continues to grow drier and drier.
Now that there was light, the people easily followed the tracks of Death eastward over the new land that was appearing. Hence Death is our greatest father and master. We followed his tracks when we left the cave worlds, and he was the only being that awaited us on the great world of waters where this world is now.
Although all the water had flowed away, the people found the earth soft and damp. That is why we can see today the tracks of men and of many strange creatures between the place toward the west and the place where we came from the cave world.
Since the days of the first people, the earth has been changed to stone, and all the tracks have been preserved as they were when they were first made.
When people had followed in the tracks of Corpse Demon but a short distance, they overtook him. Among them were two little girls. One was the beautiful daughter of a great priest. The other was the child of somebody-or-other. She was not beautiful, and she was jealous of the little beauty. With the aid of Corpse Demon the jealous girl caused the death of the other child. This was the first death.
When people saw that the girl slept and could not be awakened, that she grew cold and that her heart had stopped beating, her father, the great priest, grew angry.
"Who has caused my daughter to die?" he cried loudly.
But the people only looked at each other.
"I will make a ball of sacred meal," said the priest. "I will throw it into the air, and when it falls it will strike someone on the head. The one it will strike I shall know as the one whose magic and evil art have brought my tragedy upon me."
The priest made a ball of sacred flour and pollen and threw it into the air. When it fell, it struck the head of the jealous little girl, the daughter of somebody-or-other. Then the priest exclaimed, "So you have caused this thing! You have caused the death of my daughter."
He called a council of the people, and they tried the girl. They would have killed her if she had not cried for mercy and a little time. Then she begged the priest and his people to return to the hole they had all come out of and look down it.
"If you still wish to destroy me, after you have looked into the hole," she said, "I will die willingly."
So the people were persuaded to return to the hole leading from the cave world. When they looked down, they saw plains of beautiful flowers in a land of everlasting summer and fruitfulness. And they saw the beautiful little girl, the priest's daughter, wandering among the flowers. She was so happy that she paid no attention to the people. She seemed to have no desire to return to this world.
"Look!" said the girl who had caused her death. "Thus it shall be with all the children of men."
"When we die," the people said to each other, "we will return to the world we have come from. There we shall be happy. Why should we fear to die? Why should we resent death?"
So they did not kill the little girl. Her children became the powerful wizards and witches of the world, who increased in numbers as people increased. Her children still live and still have wonderful and dreadful powers.
Then the people journeyed still farther eastward. As they went, they discovered Locust in their midst.
"Where did you come from?" they asked.
"I came out with you and the other beings," he replied.
"Why did you come with us on our journey?" they asked.
"So that I might be useful," replied Locust.
But the people, thinking that he could not be useful, said to him, "You must return to the place you came from."
But Locust would not obey them. Then the people became so angry at him that they ran arrows through him, even through his heart. All the blood oozed out of his body and he died. After a long time he came to life again and ran about, looking as he had looked before, except that he was black.
The people said to one another, "Locust lives again, although we have pierced him through and through. Now he shall indeed be useful and shall journey with us. Who besides Locust has this wonderful power of renewing his life? He must possess the medicine for the renewal of the lives of others.
He shall become the medicine of mortal wounds and of war." So today the locust is at first white, as was the first locust that came forth with the ancients. Like him, the locust dies, and after he has been dead a long time, he comes to life again-- black. He is our father, too. Having his medicine, we are the greatest of men. The locust medicine still heals mortal wounds.
After the ancient people had journeyed a long distance, they became very hungry. In their hurry to get away from the lower cave world, they had forgotten to bring seed. After they had done much lamenting, the Spirit of Dew sent the Swallow back to bring the seed of corn and of other foods. When Swallow returned, the Spirit of Dew planted the seed in the ground and chanted prayers to it. Through the power of these prayers, the corn grew and ripened in a single day.
So for a long time, as the people continued their journey, they carried only enough seed for a day's planting. They depended upon the Spirit of Dew to raise for them in a single day an abundance of corn and other foods. To the Corn Clan, he gave this seed, and for a long time they were able to raise enough corn for their needs in a very short time.
But the powers of the witches and wizards made the time for raising foods grow longer and longer. Now, sometimes, our corn does not have time to grow old and ripen in the ear, and our other foods do not ripen. If it had not been for the children of the little girl whom the ancient people let live, even now we would not need to watch our cornfields whole summers through, and we would not have to carry heavy packs of food on our journeys.
As the ancient people traveled on, the children of the little girl tried their powers and caused other troubles. These mischief-makers stirred up people who had come out of the cave worlds before our ancients had come.
They made war upon our ancients. The wars made it necessary for the people to build houses whenever they stopped traveling. They built their houses on high mountains reached by only one trail, or in caves with but one path leading to them, or in the sides of deep canyons. Only in such places could they sleep in peace.
Only a small number of people were able to climb up from their secret hiding places and emerge into the Fourth World. Legends reveal the Grand Canyon is where these people emerged. From there they began their search for the homes the Two Brothers intended for them.
These few were the Hopi Indians that now live on the Three Mesas of northeastern Arizona.