Manataka American Indian Council

 


 

 

CAMPFIRE 

STORIES

 

THE FIRST FIRE

 

In the beginning of the world, there was no fire. The animal people were often cold. Only the Thunders, who lived in the world beyond the sky arch, had fire. Then, Shooting Star Fire was given a message by the Creator:  “You must go to my people and show them the way of the fire.”  So, Shooting Star Fire went to the Thunders and said, "We will create a brother from the air of your breath and the sacred waters of the Mother Earth and your brother shall be known as Lightening.  Shooting Star Fire had great patience and taught  Lightening, his new little brother, many holy things, secrets of the power they held, and ways of Wind spirits.

At last when Shooting Star Fire knew his student Lightening was ready, he sent Lightening down to an island. Lightening put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree.  

The animal people knew that the fire was there because they could see smoke rising from the top of the tree. But they could not get to it because of the water. So they held a council to decide what to do. Everyone that could fly or could swim was eager to go after the fire.  

Raven said, "Let me go. I am large and strong."   At that time Raven was white. He flew high and far across the water and reached the top of the sycamore tree. While he sat there wondering what to do, the heat scorched all his feathers black. The frightened Raven flew home without the fire, and his feathers have been black ever since.  

Then the council sent Screech Owl. He flew to the island.  But while he was  looking down into the hollow tree, a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes. He flew home and to this day, Screech Owl's eyes are red.   

Then Hooting Owl and Horned Owl were sent to the island together. But the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had to come home, and were never able to get rid of the white rings.  

Then Little Snake swam across to the island, crawled through the grass to the tree, and entered it through a small hole at the bottom. But the smoke and the heat were too much for him, too. He escaped alive, but his body had been scorched black. And it was so twisted that he doubled on his track as if always trying to escape from a small space.

Big Snake, the climber, offered to go for fire, but he fell into the burning stump and became as black as Little Snake. He has been the great blacksnake ever since. 

At last Water Spider said that she would go. Water Spider has black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of water and she could dive to the bottom. She would have no trouble in getting to the island.


"But you are so little, how will you carry enough fire?" the council asked.  "I'll manage all right," answered Water Spider. "I can spin a web." So she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a little bowl and fastened the little bowl on her back. Then she crossed over to the  island and through the grass. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl and brought it across to the people. Ever since, we have had fire. And the Water Spider still has her little bowl on her back.

Today, we give thanks to the Creator, Shooting Star Fire, Thunder and Lightening for giving us Fire.

 

THE ORIGIN OF BEARS
told by Night Owl (Svnoi Uguku)

 

In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan called the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi (Ahnee-jah-goo-hee), and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while he went oftener and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, but started off at daybreak and did not come back until night. His parents scolded, but that did no good. The boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would not even eat at home.

Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon I am going into the woods to stay all the time."

His parents were worried and begged him not to leave them, but he said, "It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you will never have to work for it, but  if you want to come, you must first fast seven days."

The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said they decided, "Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work. We will go with him." So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning at Ani-Tsa-gu-hi left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.

When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. 

The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, "We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called Yonv(a) (bears), and when you are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall come to give your our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always." Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.   

 

Aho! We Are All Related!



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