Manataka American Indian Council
Noquisi and the Bird
By Lee Standing Bear Moore and Takatoka ©1994-2017
It is said a long time ago there was an unhappy young girl named Noquisi (Star) who lived among the Kituwah (Cherokee) deep in the blue mountains. Noquisi's sadness was not understood by her mother and father as they were loving and kind parents who provided little Noquisi with plenty of food, good shelter and lovely clothing.
Noquisi had many cousins and friends with which to play but instead she would wander off by herself to sit at the edge of the forest and cry. Her playmates had decided Noquisi did not like them and they began to dislike her. In the family lodge, Noquisi was quarrelsome and found disfavor with everyone and almost everything. Even the drumming and dancing during time of ceremony did not cheer up the sad little Noquisi.
No one knew why Noquisi was sad, not even herself. She loved her mother and father and knew they wished for her to be happy, but she was sad anyway. She knew her cousins and friends where starting to dislike her, but there was nothing she could do about her sadness.
Noquisi was a kind and gentle girl and she loved her animal friends. She once enjoyed imitating little bird cousins, but the pleasure of singing with the birds left her a long time ago. Sadly, she did not know how to get it back again. Her miserable feelings were deep and confused. Sometimes, she was so sad that she thought about throwing herself off a mountain or running away into the forest to be eaten by Odalv Wesa (Mountain Lion). Noquisi was very sad and confused.
Then one day as Noquisi sat under a large white oak tree, the spirit of Edoda (God) spoke softly to her. "Noquisi, you may leave the world if that is your desire, but you must first go to the waters and make a Gasaqualv Etikaiele (Sacred Circle) and point a finger out in front of you."
Noquisi was stunned. Never before had the Spirit spoke to her. At first she was frightened, then as she thought about the words the Spirit spoke, she doubted her own mind and whispered to herself, "This cannot be. I am only a little girl and I do not know how to build a sacred circle." Spirit then spoke again saying, "Noquisi, you must go to the waters and make a circle. Stand in the center of the circle, close your eyes and hold a finger in front of you. You will be shown the way."
Noquisi sat silently under the tree in shock. It was getting late when she arose from deep thought and decided to go back to the village so her mother and father would not worry. On the way, she came to the trail that led to the nearby lake. Standing in the middle of both trails, she again thought about the words of the Spirit and turned down the lake trail forgetting that it was getting dark and her parents concern.
Noquisi quickly found a perfect place between two giant willows beside the lake to build a circle. She gathered forty-nine stones and carefully placed each one around the circle. She cleaned the inside of lose twigs and debris and stood in the middle of the circle surveying her work. Without hardly thinking, she did what Spirit told her to do. She closed her eyes and pointed a finger in front of her.
A few seconds later, Noquisi felt a little tickle on her finger and opened her eyes with a silent gasp. There stood a red bird perched on her finger. "Hello Noquisi, I am Red Bird" said the bird. Noquisi quickly shut her eyes again and felt like running home, but she was frozen in disbelief and wonder. It was now dark and she thought she may be imagining things out of fear. As she slowly opened her eyes again, the bird still sat on her extended finger. "Hello Noquisi, I am here to help you, to guide you on the path of your destiny. If you leave the world your destiny will not happen."
Staring in disbelief at little Red Bird, tears came to her eyes as she realized this was not a dream and she was not imagining that a bird had just spoke to her. Many thoughts raced through her mind as she tried to comprehend what Red Bird had just said. Feelings of great joy finally emerged from Noquisi's heart as she realized this was really happening. She knew it was a message from Edoda who was saying a destiny awaited her. All the sad feelings of being lost and alone left her in an instant. Wiping tears from her eyes, she and Red Bird quietly talked for a long time in the sacred circle.
As Grandmother Moon emerged from behind a cloud and the stars of the heavens shined brightly, the loving and wise words of Red Bird penetrated her mind and heart. Listening intently to every word, Noquisi barely noticed when a commotion in the woods was filtering through her consciousness. Then she realized it was her family who were looking for her. As the sound of their voices calling her name grew closer, she was fearful that Red Bird would fly away and she would never see him. At that moment, Red Bird disappeared but out of the mist hanging over the lake she heard, "Do not fear Noquisi, we will talk again. I will never leave you. Return to this place and hold out your finger and I will appear."
Noquisi turned around to see her father and cousins enter the clearing. "There you are!," they shouted. "It is time to be in the lodge," said her father as he sternly took her hand and led her home. Part way down the path, Noquisi tugged on her father's hand and stopped to face him. Looking up she said, "I love you Father," with a smile on her face. Father said, "I love you too daughter," as they continued walking down the path home. Father thought to himself that it was the first time he had seen a smile on his daughter's face in a long, long time.
From that time on, Noquisi came to her special place by the lake every day, making sure to return before dark. She brought small offerings of food for her new friend. Red Bird always appeared and gifted Noquisi with many lessons. She carefully listened as the bird reminded her that she had the power to make changes in her life. He told her about the mysteries of life and wonderful blessings she was given. They spoke about tough changes she needed to make in her life and the mountains of troubles she must endure in the future. At the end of each visit as the mist rose on the lake, Noquisi bid farewell to Red Bird and she performed a little thank you prayer ceremony in the sacred circle.
Changes began to take place in Noquisi's life. She was no longer quarrelsome with her family and friends. She happily greeted her cousins and friends each day and gave them many gifts she had made from materials gathered during visits to the forest. Mother and Father were very happy. Noquisi grew in many ways during the next two seasons.
Then one day Noquisi decided to make a special gift for Red Bird as thanks for his many lessons. Arriving early at her special place by the lake, Noquisi gathered small limbs and twigs from the willow trees and carefully peeled the bark to expose the reddish skin. Then she fashioned a bird house with a comfortable nest inside. Entering the circle she closed her eyes and extended her finger.
Red Bird immediately appeared and Noquisi happily showed her gift saying, "This is a gift in exchange for the wonderful things you have given to me."
The bird reacted by saying, "My friend, I have given you nothing that you did not have already. My purpose has been to show you ways to see within yourself and to make you understand that the power to change things comes from within. The people around you have not changed, but you changed the way you look at life. Look into this lake. Do you see the reflection of your face? You must always search for what is beneath the surface of that reflection into the depths of your soul."
With that, Red Bird disappeared and never returned again.
Noquisi spent many hours by the lake between the willow trees, sitting inside her sacred circle, waiting for Red Bird to return. "Red Bird said he would never leave me" she remembered. Knowing there must be a good answer for his disappearance, she chose instead to dwell on all the good lessons the bird taught. She learned to trust her inner feelings and disregard negative thoughts of the mind. She loved her dear little friend and wanted to ask him a thousand questions, but as she peered deeply into the lake waters, she found strength and pondered at length on ways she could use those precious words in her life.
As time went by, Noquisi grew into a fine woman and leader among her people. Noquisi became a important healer helping many of her nation and people of other tribes to use their inner-power to make positive changes for themselves and others. She was well-known throughout the blue mountains as a peacemaker and wise elder. She became a teacher and regularly took on new students to tutor in the medicine ways. Noquisi used what was in her heart to guide them.
Noquisi's answers to the problems of her people came from within her because she never forgot what Red Bird had taught. When she was not involved in the affairs of the nation, Noquisi found time to improve her childhood ability to imitate the song birds. She spent many hours twilling and chirping their language and improving their habitat.
As an old woman Noquisi became known as the "Bird Woman" because she had perfected the calls and songs of every bird in the blue mountains. It was a name she loved to hear spoken. Her hair and clothing was adorned with feathers. Her lodge became home and sanctuary to many bird species. She learned the powers and gifts of all the bird people. She never forgot to give thanks to the wonderful gift as she walked with the spirit of the bird.
Noquisi's neighbors and relatives, especially her grandchildren, love to visit her lodge. Nestled in the clearing between two giant hickory trees overlooking the lake of her childhood, Noquisi's lodge was completely covered with flowering vines and honeysuckle that made perfect cover for the nests of many types of birds. It was the perfect home for people and birds. It always seem curious to Noquisi that no red birds had ever visited her home. But, she knew their nature was to be among their own kind and they did not like being in large communities of other birds.
One early morning a student of Bird Woman's, Tsi-quo-quo Sagonigi (Blue Robin) came for another lesson. Blue Robin was the most faithful and attentive among all her students and a special bond had developed between Noquisi and Blue Robin. It seemed the connection between the two went far beyond their understanding. When the student sat quietly at her feet, Noquisi always felt Blue Robin was looking deep into her soul. On this morning, they went to the sacred circle by the lake as part of their normal ritual in preparation of the days activities. They closed their eyes and began offering prayers of thanks.
As they opened their eyes again, a red bird quickly flitted past their vision into the woods beyond. "Oh my," exclaimed Noquisi, "that is the first time I have seen a red bird here by the lake in many years!
Blue Robin looked curiously at her mentor and said, "But teacher, what about the red bird that is always sitting on your shoulder?"
The words of her insightful student grabbed her heart and shook her deep inside. Noquisi felt faint and moved to sit down at the edge of the lake. In an instant, many years of questions were answered. All the old fears she worked so hard to bury inside were gone. At last, everything in creation made sense, her life's struggles and successes were made clear. Her destiny was fulfilled.
Noquisi peered into the lake and remembered the day when Red Bird did not return and realized he really never left and had been whispering into her ear all these many years. A joy of untold depth welled up inside her as tears streamed down her cheek.
At that moment, Red Bird appeared in reflection on the surface of the lake and once again spoke to her. "Yes Noquisi, I told you that Red Bird would never leave you and I have not. On the day I did not appear on your finger and instead lit on your shoulder, you had a choice. You could have returned to being sad and miserable. Or, you could have waited for me in vain hoping my guidance would answer your every question in life. Instead, you decided to heed my words. You reminded yourself that I could not give you what you already had inside yourself. You knew the power was within to make the changes needed. You knew that healing begins and ends deep within your heart and soul. I am very proud of you. You have completed your higher purpose on earth and given much to the sacred circle of life. Now you know that Spirit is not separate from the person. We Are One."
This is a story about assimilating Spirit into ones life. It is a story about opening ones eyes to the knowledge that every heart knows from birth. The moral of this story has been taught by our ancient grandfathers and grandmothers for millenniums. And so it is. . .
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