Manataka American Indian Council



How Spirituality Came

Into The World

By Na`ape Graycloud


Long ago, after Grandfather made the world and every creature in it, each of the Totem Spirits gave gifts to the different creatures. 

Coyote gave to men the gift of fire. But men grew greedy and disobedient and fought amongst themselves. So to punish them, Coyote decided to take back his gift and he sent the Flame Spirit in the shape of a great Elk to run around and scoop up all their fires onto his horns and bring them back to him. 

Among the people at this certain village there was someone called One Man, who was a great hunter and leader of his people.  One Man saw saw Elk scooping up the fires and shot him in the heart with his bow and arrow.  Coyote was very angry and demanded that One Man make amends by giving to Elk his own heart.

"But how am I to live without a heart?" One Man asked.  Coyote plucked a stone from the ground and said, "This will be your heart." So One Man delivered up his heart and put the stone in it's place and returned to his people. 

But the stone was so heavy, he could no longer hunt and feed his people and they turned against him and cast him out.  For many years he wandered alone and was avoided by all because of the story of his stone heart and how he got it.  No one would befriend him and no one would feed him, and so eventually he avoided all contact with others and lived by eating only what he could scavenge. 

One day Coyote spied him drinking from a river, and still angry with him, hurled a bolt of lightning at him.  The brush all around One Man caught fire and the only escape was across the river. The river flowed fast and dangerously.  There were some stepping stones but the nearest one had been swept away.  One Man thought that if he used every bit of his strength he might just be able to leap out onto the next one. 

As he was about to jump he heard a terrible wailing and he looked down and there was a mouse sitting at the water's edge.  "Help me! Help me!" he cried," Or I will drown or perish in the fire!"  One Man felt bad about this, that the poor mouse would die because of him.

So One Man offered to carry him but warned the mouse that even the little bit of his added weight might be too much and they might both end up drowning in the river.

"Then find another stone, you fool!" cried the ungrateful mouse (who was, after all, Grandfather in disguise).  One Man looked around but there were no stones to be seen and the fire was burning closer and closer.  Then he remembered the stone that was his heart.  And without hesitation he took it from his chest and tossed it into the water to make the first stepping stone.  The mouse hopped onto the stone and scampered across all the other stones to the far side where he disappeared into the woods. 

One Man tried to follow but because he now had no heart at all he had not even the strength to make it to the first stone, his own heart.  And he sank to his knees and prepared to die in the fire.  Then, behind him, in the burning bushes, he heard a sound and he looked up over his shoulder and saw the Flame Spirit Elk with his blazing horns standing over him.  He had been sent by Grandfather and he gathered up One Man and put him on his back and jumped across the river in one bound. 

And because One Man had shown such courage and generosity to the mouse, Coyote saw his value and forgave him and was no longer angry.  Grandfather broke off a piece of Elk's fiery horn and placed it in One Man's chest for a heart.  And One Man went home to his people and told them the story and his story lit fires in their hearts as well.  This fire we call Spirituality and Faith.

Courtesy of:  Na`ape Graycloud,