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A Fish Story


There occurred in those days a great drought. Rain had not come for many, many days. The crops were dying and the water in the lake was going down and down. Prayers had to be offered to the Great Spirit. This was the duty of the fish people, so they all assembled in the kiva to pray and offer sacrifices to the rain gods.

The custom was to fast and say in the kiva until the rain came. A woman by the name of Fee-ne-nee was given the duty tto feed the fish people, which she did each day at noon. Since the men were fasting, she served them only a small amount of food and a few drops of water.

On the third night of the third day, however, one of the men could no longer stand the isolation. When the others went to sleep, he sneaked out of the kiva and ran to a nearby lake. There he drank and drank, swallowing all othe water he had been thinking about for three days.

After filling his body with water, he returned to the kiva. He entered slowly and stepped quietly down the stairs so that he would not be heard. Midway between the roof and the floor, however, he burst. Water poured out of his head, eyes, mouth, arms, body and legs. When this happened, the people who were inside turned into fish, frongs, and all kinds of water animals, and he kiva was filled with wate.

The next day at noon, the woamn who was in charge of feding the men went to the kiva. She could not believe what she saw; water was gushing from it straight up into the air, and suspended in the torrent were fish, frogs, eels, snakes and ducks.

Sadly, with her basket still in her hand, she slowly returned to the village. The first house she visited was that of an untidy old couple. She placed her basket in the center of the room and silently sat by the grinding stone. After making one stroke of the stone, she too turned into a snake.

Seeing this, the old man and his wife both said, "Something terrible has happened at the kiva. The man ran to find out what was wrong and at the kiva he saw ducks, beavers, and frogs swimming in the water at the bottom.

The old man knew that this was a bad omen for the people of the village. When he reached hom, he told his wife, "One of the men failed us, and all of them turned into ducks, frogs, eels, snakes and beavers."

"We can no longer live here," his wife replied. "You must let our people know. We must also make preparations to take this snake, our friend Fee-ne-nee, where she belongs."

The old woman prepared a basket filled with blue cornmeal and placed the little snake inside. Her husband took the basket and headed toward the east, where there was a snake burrow. At the home of the snakes, he fed them blue cornmeal, and one by one all kinds of snakes wiggled through the meal. Then he placed Fee-ne-nee among the others and said to her: "I have brought you to live here. You are now a young lady snake, and with the help of the Great Spirit you will live among your own kind. I give you my blessing."

To the other snakes he said, "I have brought you a sister; take her into your arms."

As the other snakes curled aroudn Fee-ne-nee, the man walked away with tears in his eyes.

At home the old couple crie again and told their people that the law required them to move from their home, O-Ke-owin, and seek another place to live. Now you know why we live where we do. they tragedy that occured at O-Ke-owin forced our people to move to Xun Ochute, which is now San Juan.

--Told at San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico in the early 1960s and translated from the Tewa by Alfonso Ortiz

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