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Origin of Animals


When the Apaches emerged from the underworld, Un-go-ya-yen-ni, they traveled southward on foot for four days. They had no other food than the seeds of the two plants, k'atl'-tai-i, and k'atl-tai-il-tsu-yu, from which they made a sort of flour by grinding between stones. When they camped for the fourth time, one of the tipis, called ka-ge-go-has-ka-in-de-ye, stood somewhat apart from the others. While the owner and his wife were absent from his lodge, a Raven brought a bow and a quiver of arrows, and hung them upon the lodge poles. The children within took down the quiver, and found some meat in it; they ate this, and at once became very fat. When the mother returned, she saw the grease on the hands and cheeks of the children, and was told how the it-tsil-te had been obtained. The woman hastened to her husband with the tale. Marvelling at the appearance of the children, the people gathered to await the reappearance of the Raven which subsisted upon such remarkable food. When the Raven found the it-tsil-te had been stolen from the quiver, he flew away toward the eastward, his destination was a mountain just beyond the range of vision of the Indians. A bat, however, followed the flight of the Raven, and informed them where the Raven had alighted. That night, a council of the whole tribe was held, and it was decided that they should go to the home of the Raven, and try to obtain from him the food which had wrought such a miraculous change in those who had partaken of it. At the end of four day they came to a place where a large number of logs were lying in irregular heaps. Many ravens were seen, but they avoided the Indians, and no information could be obtained from them. At one point they discovered a great circle of ashes where the ravens were accustomed to cook their meals. Again a council was held, and they talked over the problem of how to spy upon the ravens, and learn whence they obtained the precious animal food. That night the medicine-men transformed a boy into a puppy, and concealed him in the bushes near the camp. After the Indians had departed, next morning, the ravens came, as is their habit, to examine the abandoned camp. One of the young ravens found the puppy, and was so pleased with it that he exclaimed "Ci-chin-ni-ja-ta" ("This shall be my puppy"). When he carried home his prize his parents told him to throw it away. He begged permission to keep it, but agreed to give it up if the puppy winked when a splinter of burning wood was waved before its eyes. As the puppy possessed much more than canine intelligence, it stared during the test without the quiver of an eyelid. So the young raven won consent to keep the puppy, which he placed under his own blanket, where it remained until evening. At sunset the puppy peeped from his cover, and saw an old raven brush aside the ashes of the fireplace, and take up a large flat stone which disclosed an opening beneath; through this he disappeared,, but arose again with a buffalo, which was killed and eaten by the ravens.

For four days the puppy remained at the camp of the ravens, and each evening he saw a buffalo brought up from the depths and devoured. Satisfied that he had discovered the source from which the ravens derived their food, the puppy resumed the form of a boy on the morning of the fifth day, and, with a white eagle feather in one hand and a black one in the other, descended through the opening beneath the fireplace, as he had seen the ravens do. In the underworld in which he found himself he saw four buffaloes. He placed the white eagle-feather in the mouth of the nearest Buffalo, and commanded it to follow him, but the Buffalo told him to go on to the last of the four and take it. This the boy tried to do, but the fourth Buffalo sent him back to the first, in whose mouth the boy again thrust the feather, declaring it to be the king of animals. He then returned to the world above, followed by all the animals at present upon the surface of the earth, except those specially created later, such, for example, as the horse and aquatic animals. As the large herd of animals passed through the hole, one of the ravens awoke, and hastened to clap down the stone covering the opening, but he was too late to prevent their escape. Seeing that they had passed from his control into that of man, he exclaimed, "When you kill any of these animals you must at least leave their eyes for me."

Attended by the troop of beasts of many species, the boy followed the track made by the departing Apaches. On the site of their first camp he found a firestick or poker, gos-se-na-it-tsi, of which he inquired, "When did my people leave here?" "Three days ago," was the reply. At the next camping-place was an abandoned ladder, has-ai-i, of which he asked, "When did my people leave here?" "Two days ago," replied the ladder. Continuing his journey the boy soon reached the third camping-place, where he questioned a second firestick, and learned that the people had been gone but one day. At the fourth camp another ladder answered his question, with the news that the Indians had left there that morning. That evening he overtook them and entered the camp, the herd of animals following him like a flock of sheep. One old woman who lived in a brush lodge became vexed at the deer which ate the covering of her rude shelter. Snatching up a stick from the fire, she struck the deer over the nose, to which the white ashes adhered, causing the white mark which we see on the nose of that animal at the present time. "Hereafter you shall avoid mankind; your nose will tell you when you are near them," said she. Thus terminated the brief period of harmony between man and the beast: they left the camp at once, going farther each day, until on the fourth they disappeared from sight. That night the Apaches prayed for the return of the animals, that they might use them for food, and that is why animals approach nearer the camps now at night than at any other time. They never come very close, because the old woman told them to be guided by their noses and avoid the Indians..

"Legends and Lore of the American Indians", Terri Hardin

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