Myths and Legends of the Great Plains

Page: 28

“Yes, I can,” said Pheasant. So Pheasant went into the woods behind the lodge. He flew to a hollow log and drummed with his wings until the people thought he really was beating corn.

That is why the Indians have the Pheasant dance, as a part of the Green-corn dance.

[Pg 89]



In the old days, Grouse had a good voice and Turkey had none. Therefore Turkey asked Grouse to teach him. But Grouse wanted pay, so Turkey promised to give him some feathers for a collar. That is how the Grouse got his collar of turkey feathers.

So the Grouse began to teach Turkey. At last Grouse said, “Now you must try your voice. You must halloo.”

Turkey said, “Yes.”

Grouse said, “I’ll stand on this hollow log, and when I tap on it, you must halloo as loudly as you can.”

So Grouse climbed upon a log, ready to tap on it, but when he did so, Turkey became so excited that when he opened his mouth, he only said, “Gobble, gobble, gobble!

That is why the Turkey gobbles whenever he hears a noise.

[Pg 90]



Song was an integral part of Omaha life. Through song, the Omaha approached the mysterious Wakoda; through song he voiced his emotions, both individual and social; through song he embodied feelings and aspirations that eluded expression in words. In one of their ceremonies, the Wa´ wa, “to sing for somebody,” songs are one of the chief characteristics.

In this ceremony, the eagle is “Mother.” She calls to her nestlings and upon her strong wings she bears the message of peace. Peace and its symbol, the clear, cloudless sky, are the theme of the principal songs. The curlew, in the early morning, stretches its neck and its wing as it sits on the roost, and utters a long note. The sound is considered an indication that the day will be cloudless.

Green represents the verdure of the earth; blue is the color of the sky; red is the color of the sun, typifying life. The eagle is the bird of tireless strength. The owl represents night, and the woodpecker the [Pg 91] day and sun. These two birds also stand for life and death.

Wakoda gives to man the sunshine, the clear sky from which all storms, all clouds are absent; in the Wa´ wa ceremony, they stand for peace. In this connection, black storm clouds with their thunder and lightning are emblematic of war.

[Pg 92]



At the creation of the world, lesser powers were made, because Tira’wa-tius, the Mighty Power, could not come near to man, or be seen or felt by him. These lesser powers dwell in the great circle of the sky. One is North Star; another is Brown Eagle. The Winds were the first of the lesser powers to come near man. Therefore, when man calls for aid, he calls first to the Winds. They stand at the four points, and guard the four paths down which the lesser powers come when they help mankind. The Winds are always near us, by day and by night.