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. At last they sent Lightning down to an island. Lightning 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 on account 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.
Every since, we have had fire. And the Water Spider still has her little bowl on her back.
Old people always told this tale, a little spirit man, tempts children to choose among good and evil things . How children can be stolen by little spirit man and be given a choice of either a knife or good or bad herbs. Good children always choose good herbs, choosing bad herbs will yield nothing but trouble, and choosing the knife will yield a terrible future.
A story or tale Louisiana Choctaw / Pascagula Creation of earths beings
In the beginning the spirits lived in the underworld inside the earth. All they did was wander endlessly.
One group saw a hole that they knew would bring them above ground. The first group crawled outand the first thing they saw was water. They liked the look of it and the way it felt so they became the no legs , which were fish. The second group found the hole and they crawled out. They liked dark places and they began crawling underneath all the dark places. They became the eight legged , insects.Then another group crawled out and they were so happy to be in the light that they began jumping and flapping and they began to take flight. They became the winged creatures birds Then another group crawlled out ,they liked the feel of the earth on their bellies, they liked the cool earth and they became the no legged serpents. Another group crawled out and they liked to be up and off the ground, but they liked their heads low to the ground , because they liked the smell of it. So they stayed on their all fours. They became the four legged ,such as the bears and wolves. The last group that came out first looked at the sky , they saw their brother the sun. They looked at their arms and said we like being able to reach to grasp. They became the two legged man.
Brother sun told his sister the moon , I like this they know where they belong each one.Look how beautiful this worked out. We are going to reward them. Sister moon this is what we are going to do when they die we are going to allow their spirit to shine in peace with us forever. Their ancestors can look up and say " this is where Grandmother is , this is where Grandfather is , this is where where aunt is and this is brother. It came to pass and sure enough at death our spirit becomes stars. Tonight enjoy this gift and look up and say hello to your favorite and all your ancestors.
The HAWK AND MOUSE
Once there was a time when a little mouse was scampering through the leaves, suddenly there
was a scream, which terrified the mouse, he looked up and there was a hawk swooping down
upon on him.
The mouse had not seen the hawk because his color blended into the forest
foliage above him making the hawk very hard to see.
The mouse cried hawk spare my life,
I know you are swift and your eyes are keen, but spare my life and I will make you beautiful as
well. How so answered the hawk, if you are fooling me mouse you will surly be my meal, if not
you may leave unharmed.
The mice instructed the hawk saying go to that red claybank there
near you, rub your breast and tail feathers on it. Reluctantly the hawk did as the mouse said,
he rubbed his breast and tail feathers, behold he had beautiful red breast and tail feathers. The
hawk said, mouse you may leave, for it is true I am now beautiful.
The mouse scampered away
across the forest floor laughing as he ran. From that day forward the mouse could always look
up to the trees branches and see the hawk's red coloring and scamper away before the hawk
could attack him.
To this day the Red Hawk flies majestically in the overhead sky.
THE UNDER LAND
When the Chatas looked into the still depths of Bayou Lacombe,
Louisiana, they said that the reflection of the sky was the empyrean of
the Under Land, whither all good souls were sure to go after death.
Their chief, Opaleeta, having fallen into this bayou, was so long
beneath the water that he was dead when his fellows found him, but
by working over him for hours, and through resort to prayers and
incantations of medicine men, his life returned and he stood on his feet
once more. Then he grieved that his friends had brought him back, for
he had been at the gates of the Under Land, where the air is blithe and
balmy, and so nourishing that people live on it; where it is never
winter; where the sun shines brightly, but never withers and parches;
and where stars dance to the swing of the breezes. There no white man
comes to rob the Indian and teach him to do wrong. Gorgeous birds fly
through changing skies that borrow the tints of flowers, the fields are
spangled with blossoms of red and blue and gold that load each wind with
perfume, the grass is as fine as the hair of deer, and the streams are
thick with honey.
At sunset those who loved each other in life are gathered to their
lodges, and raise songs of joy and thankfulness. Their voices are soft
and musical, their faces are young again and beam with smiles, and there
is no death. It was only the chiefs who heard his story, for, had all
the tribe known it, many who were old and ill and weary would have gone
to the bayou, and leaped in, to find that restful, happy Under Land.
Those who had gone before they sometimes tried to see, when the lake was
still and dappled with pictures of sunset clouds, but the dead never
came back--they kept away from the margin of the water lest they should
be called again to a life of toil and sorrow. And Opaleeta lived for
many years and ruled his tribe with wisdom, yet he shared in few of the
merry-makings of his people, and when, at last, his lodge was ready in
the Under Land, he gave up his life without a sigh.
A tale of Flea removal
My Grandmother told me that one time she was sitting on the end of a log at the edge of Mill Creek, fishing, when her attention was attracted by the antics of a squirrel a little further up stream. It looked like it was playing by itself; it was picking up and dropping dry sticks one after another. Finally he found one that seemed to suit him, he then waded out in the shallow water.
He paddled around as if playing, slowly getting into deeper water until all that was above the water was his eyes and mouth, he quickly opened his mouth and released the stick and swam swiftly for the creek bank and darted into the woods. Being puzzled by this action, and seeing the stick floating down stream, when it came near her she reached out and picked it out of the water. The stick was covered with fleas that hopped all over her hand. Thus from this she learned how a smart squirrel got rid of fleas.
These stories told to as a child by my Grandmother Ella Matilda Williams.
The Mullen Tale
A beautiful maiden
It appears that the Great Spirit of the red men lived at the top of a high tree whose branches reached to the heavens; as no mortal could attain to this high attitude, a spirit of the woods, in the guise of a beautiful maiden, took pity upon the people and so fashioning a ladder from the stems of the wild grape vine, she fastened it to a star. In order that the Great Father might not be disturbed, the fair sylvan carpeted the steps of the ladder with the velvet leaves of the Mullen, upon which she noiselessly ascended and descended, bearing the petitions of the red men or bringing to them advice or admonitions.
The mullen Vengeance
The tale goes if any one steps on a young Mullen plant after sundown, the witches will ride him as a horse until morning, lighting the way with Mullen stalks used for torches. At daybreak the witches will disappear leaving a very exhausted recipient of the ride with no other harm done.
THE MILKY WAY
Told in 1904 by an aged Choctaw.
Long, long, ago a hunter living up in the sky had a bag of meal stolen from him by a white dog. As the dog ran across the sky, the bag came untied. The meal was scattered in a broad white trail, which from that day has been known as the White Dog's Road.
How Snakes got Their Poison:
Told in 1910 by a Louisiana Choctaw.
Long ago a vine grew in shallow water along the edge of bayous. The vine was very poisonous. Often when Choctaws bathed or swam in the bayous they came in contact with the vine and became so badly poisoned they would die. But the vine liked the Choctaws and did not want to cause them trouble and pain. He would poison people without being able to let them know he was beneath the water. So he decided to rid himself of the poison. The vine called together the chiefs of the snakes, bees, wasps, and other similar creatures.
"I want to give you my poison," he said. Up to that time no snake, bee, or wasp had the power it now possesses to sting. The snakes and bees and wasps, after much talk, agreed to share the poison. The rattlesnake, first to speak said, "I shall take the poison, but before I strike or poison a person I shall warn him by the noise of my tail ---- Intesha! Then if he does not heed me I shall strike. "The water moccasin spoke next: "I also am willing to take some of your poison. But I shall never poison a person unless he steps on me. "The small ground rattler as
the last of the snakes to speak. "Yes, I will gladly take your poison, and I will jump at a person
whenever I have a chance." And so the ground rattler has done ever since.
The Possum and Raccon
A long time ago, when the animals of the woods could talk, there lived two brothers, Possum and Raccoon. One day these two animals were walking in the forest. Raccoon was jealous of Possum's long beautiful tail with its many colors. Raccoon had often thought of various ways to destroy his brother's tail, and on that particular day he told Possum that he knew a way to make his tail even more beautiful and longer. Possum asked Raccoon how he could do such a thing. Raccoon told Possum to go home and return in a few moons, and they would meet at that particular spot and discuss it further.
When a few moons elapsed, Possum returned to the designated place. There say rd after friendly greetings, the subject of the beautiful tail was brought to the attention of Raccoon. Of course, Raccoon remembered it. He told Possum to go with him into the woods, and they set out. They traveled a long trail before they came to a large hickory tree, whose top had been knocked off. There was a hole on one side of the old battered tree. Raccoon told Possum that this was the place where latter's tail would be made longer and more beautiful. He told Possum to stick his tail into the hole in the hickory tree. The Possum did as instructed, and soon Possum found himself being tied to the tree. He became angry and attempted to get away, but Raccoon convinced Possum that this was necessary to make his tail outstanding.
Once Raccoon had tied Possum to the tree, he went on the other side of it. Within a few minutes Possum began feeling pain and heat in his tail. After a while the pain and heat disappeared, and Raccoon returned and told Possum to wait a while longer. He would out him loose upon his return. Possum waited and waited, but Raccoon did not return. Possum called for help and Squirrel showed up to set him free. When he pulled his tail out of the tree, Possum discovered it had been burned to a crisp. To this day the Choctaws believe that Raccoon burned Possum's tail because of envy and jealousy.
The Reason Why the Chipmunk has Stripes
Centuries ago, high in the Smokey Mountains, there lived a little bushy tailed chipmunk. Every morning it would go about playing through the weeds and he would always tell all the other forest animals that he was the bravest.
One bright day, a group of the animals decided to let someone go to the very top of the highest mountain peak to visit the king of the mountains, a huge lion. It was decided that the bravest animal should be delegated to make the visit. Accordingly, the bushy tailed chipmunk was selected, and, of course, he excitedly teased the other animals telling them they were afraid of the big lion.
On the designated day, the small, but brave animal carefully climbed to the peak of the highest mountain. As he approached the lion's den, he noticed something walking through the weeds. It was the mountain lion with its long, hanging teeth and claws that were as sharp as blades. Quickly the small chipmunk started to run, but the lion's big claws were too swift, and they caught the animal's back. After a bitter struggle, the chipmunk set itself free, but the marks of the lion's claws remained on the bushy tailed animal's back, which characterizes the animal today.
The Possum and The Wolf
One bright, clear, sunny morning, a possum was eating a piece of venison high aloft in a tall, slender tree. There was a clear blue creek under the limb which hosted our hungry friend. Suddenly, a wolf appeared at the creek, but to his bewilderment, he could not comprehend the reflection of the possum and he thought there was a possum eating while sitting in the creek! To his amazement, the possum remained in the water. So, in went the wolf. When he realized the possum was not in the water, he looked up and saw the baretailed animal busily gnawing away at his feast. "What are you eating" asked the wolf. "I am eating deer meat." replied the possum. "Give me some." said the wolf.
The possum threw the lean wolf a piece of venison. The hungry wolf ate it all and then asked for more. The gray possum told him to close his eyes, hold his head up, and open his mouth. The wolf did as told. The possum threw a bone which struck the wolf and killed him. The victorious possum then cleaned and dressed the dead wolf, be preparing a mud pie to camouflage it.
On his way home, the possum was met by a pack of wolves which were out searching for their lost comrade. When they asked the possum what he was carrying, he answered that he was carrying materials to make a plate. One of the wolves, however, saw through the disguised pie and informed the others that it was the possum that had been eating the pack. The angry wolves agreed to kill the possum, but the animal said that the only thing that could kill him was a pine knot. The wolves agreed to get such a knot while one of the animals kept watch over the possum.
When all but one of the wolves had left, the possum told his guard that he did not mind being killed, but that he would like to eat at least one more good meal of hickory nuts before he died. Besides, he knew where there was a pine knot close to a huge hickory tree that was loaded with nuts. The vigilant wolf agreed to go after the nuts and knot, but when he returned, the possum had run to safety. This tale shows the craftiness of the possum.
The Turtle and the Turkey
The Choctaw expression for fables is "shukha anumpa," which literally means "hog talk." One of the most popular fables concerns a Tom Turkey and a slow turtle.
On a particular spring day, a big Tom turkey came upon a green turtle along a road side. The proud turkey asked the slow pacing turtle what the latter was good for. The turtle replied he could do many things, including beating the turkey in a race. Tom turkey's gobble echoed all over the forest. He told the turtle that he would beat him by at least half a mile, and the boastful bird accepted the challenge. It was agreed that the turtle would have a white feather in his mouth so the turkey could identify him from other turtles along the race track.
When the day of the big event approached, the turtle found another turtle to help him trick the turkey. The second turtle was to be placed at the end of the race track, and, of course, he was to have a white feather in his mouth.
The two contestants met on the designated day. The turkey was about 100 yards behind the turtle. At the turkey's gobble, the race was on. The turkey soon passed up the slower turtle, and after a while, the big Tom decided to eat some tempting green grass on a hillside. He always kept his eyes on the road, and after his meal, he again started on his course. He could not see anything of the turtle. He increased his speed to over take the terrapin, but without success. When he reached the finish line, the turtle was already there. This, of course, was the second turtle. The moral of this tale is that the proud and scornful are often outwitted by those they look upon with contempt and disdain.
Randy Jimmie, Leonard Jimmie
From NANIH WAIYA Magazine, 1974, Vol I, Number 3.
ORIGIN OF THE ECHO
I'-o-wi (the turtle dove) was gathering seeds in the valley, and her little babe slept. Wearied with carrying it on her back, she laid it under the tĭ-hó-pĭ (sage bush) in care of its sister, O-hó-tcu (the summer yellow bird). Engaged in her labors, the mother wandered away to a distance, when a tsó-a-vwĭts (a witch) came and said to the little girl, “Is that your brother?” and O-hó-tcu answered, “This is my sister,” for she had heard that witches preferred to steal boys, and did not care for girls. Then the tsó-a-vwĭts was angry and chided her, saying that it was very naughty for girls to lie; and she put on a strange and horrid appearance, so that O-hó-tcu was stupefied with fright; then the tsó-a-vwĭts ran away with the boy, carrying him, to her home on a distant mountain. Then she laid him down on the ground, and, taking hold of his right foot, stretched the baby's leg until it was as long as that of a man, and she did the same to the other leg; then his body was elongated; she stretched his arms, and, behold, the baby was as large as a man. And the tsó-a-vwĭts married him and had a husband, which she had long desired; but, though he had the body of a man, he had the heart of a babe, and knew no better than to marry a witch.
Now, when I'-o-wi returned and found not her babe under the tĭ-hó-pĭ, but learned from O-hó-tcu that it had been stolen by a tsó-a-vwĭts, she was very angry, and punished her daughter very severely. Then she went in search of the babe for a long time, mourning [Pg 46]as she went, and crying and still crying, refusing to be comforted, though all her friends joined her in the search, and promised to revenge her wrongs.
Chief among her friends was her brother, Kwi'-na, (the eagle), who traveled far and wide over all the land, until one day he heard a strange noise, and coming near he saw the tsó-a-vwĭts and U'-ja (the sage cock), her husband, but he did not know that this large man was indeed the little boy who had been stolen. Yet he returned and related to I'-o-wi what he had seen, who said: “If that is indeed my boy, he will know my voice.” So the mother came near to where the tsó-a-vwĭts and U'-ja were living, and climbed into a cedar tree, and mourned and cried continually. Kwi'-na placed himself near by on another tree to observe what effect the voice of the mother would have on U'-ja, the tsó-a-vwĭts' husband. When he heard the cry of his mother, U'-ja knew the voice, and said to the tsó-a-vwĭts, “I hear my mother, I hear my mother, I hear my mother,” but she laughed at him, and persuaded him to hide.
Now, the tsó-a-vwĭts had taught U'-ja to hunt, and a short time before he had killed a mountain sheep, which was lying in camp. The witch emptied the contents of the stomach, and with her husband took refuge within; for she said to herself, “Surely, I'-o-wi will never look in the paunch of a mountain sheep for my husband.” In this retreat they were safe for a long time, so that they who were searching were sorely puzzled at the strange disappearance. At last Kwi'-na said, “They are hid somewhere in the ground, maybe, or under the rocks; after a long time they will be very hungry and will search for food; I will put some in a tree so as to tempt them.” So he killed a rabbit and put it on the top of a tall pine, from which he trimmed the branches and peeled the bark, so that it would be very difficult to climb; and he said, “When these hungry people come out they will try to climb that tree for food, and it will take much time, and while the tsó-a-vwĭts is thus engaged we will carry U'-ja away. ” So they watched some days, until the tsó-a-vwĭts was very hungry, and her baby-hearted husband cried for food; and she came out from their hiding place and sought for something to eat. The odor of the meat placed on the tree came to her nostrils, and she saw where it was and tried to climb up, but fell back many times; and while so doing Kwi'-na, who had been sitting on a rock near by and had seen from where she came, ran to the paunch which had been their house, and taking the man carried him away and laid him down under the very same tĭ-hó-pĭ from which he had been stolen; and behold! he was the same beautiful little babe that I'-o-wi had lost.
And Kwi'-na went off into the sky and brought back a storm, and caused the wind to blow, and the rain to beat upon the ground, so that his tracks were covered, and the tsó-a-vwĭts could not follow him; but she saw lying upon the ground near by some eagle feathers, and knew well who it was that had deprived her of her husband, and she said to [Pg 47]herself, “Well, I know Kwi'-na is the brother of I'-o-wi; he is a great warrior and a terrible man; I will go to To-go'-a (the rattlesnake), my grandfather, who will protect me and kill my enemies.”
To-go'-a was enjoying his midday sleep on a rock, and as the tsó-a-vwĭts came near her grandfather awoke and called out to her, “Go back, go back; you are not wanted here; go back! ” But she came on begging his protection; and while they were still parleying they heard Kwi'-na coming, and To-go'-a said, “Hide, hide!” But she knew not where to hide, and he opened his mouth and the tsó-a-vwĭts crawled into his stomach. This made To-go'-a very sick and he entreated her to crawl out, but she refused, for she was in great fear. Then he tried to throw her up, but could not, and he was sick nigh unto death. At last, in his terrible retchings, he crawled out of his own skin, and left the tsó-a-vwĭts in it, and she, imprisoned there, rolled about and hid in the rocks. When Kwi'-na came near he shouted, “Where are you, old tsó-a-vwĭts? where are you, old tsó-a-vwĭts?” She repeated his words in mockery.
Ever since that day witches have lived in snake skins, and hide among the rocks, and take great delight in repeating the words of passers by.
The white man, who has lost the history of these ancient people, calls these mocking cries of witches domiciliated in snake skins “echoes,” but the Indians know the voices of the old hags.
This is the origin of the echo.
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