Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Page: 15




LONG, long ago, many Indians started to reach the Sky-world. They walked far to the north until they came to the edge of the sky, where it is fitted down over the Earth-plain. When they came to this place, they tried to slip through a crack under the edge, but the Sky-cover came down very tightly and quickly, and crushed all but six. These six had slipped through into the Sky-land.

Then these men began to climb up, walking far over the sky floor. At last they came to the lodge of Kutnakin. They stayed with him as his guests. At last they wished to go back to their own lodges on the Earth-plain.

Kutnakin said, “How will you go down to the Earth-plain?”

One said, “I will go down as a squirrel.” So he started to spring down from the Sky-land. He was dashed to pieces.

Kutnakin said to the next, “How will you go down to the Earth-plain?”

[33] And this man also went as an animal. And so the next one also. They were dashed to pieces. Then the others saw that they were crushed by their fall.

Therefore the fourth said, “I will go down as a spider.” And he spun a long line down which he climbed safely to earth.

The fifth said, “I will go down as an eagle,” and he spread his wings and circled through the air until he alighted on a tree branch.

The last one said, “I will go down as a pigeon,” and so he came softly to earth.

Now each one brought back a gift from Kutnakin. The one who came back as a spider had learned how to howl and sing and dance when people were sick. He was the first medicine man. But one Indian had died while these six men were up in the Sky-land. He died before the shaman came down to earth as a spider. Therefore death came among the Indians. Had the shaman come back to earth in time to heal this Indian, there would have been no death.

The one who came back as an eagle taught men how to fish. And the pigeon taught the Indians the use of wild maize.




WHEN the springtime came, long, long ago, an Indian boy began his fast, according to the customs of his tribe. His father was a very good man but he was not a good hunter, and often there was no food in the wigwam.

So, as the boy wandered from his small tepee in the forest, he thought about these things. He looked at the plants and shrubs and wondered about their uses, and whether they were good for food. He thought, “I must find out about these things in my vision.”

One day, as he lay stretched upon his bed of robes in the solitary wigwam, a handsome Indian youth came down from Sky-land. He was gaily dressed in robes of green and yellow, with a plume of waving feathers in his hands.

“I am sent to you,” said the stranger, “by the Great Mystery. He will teach you what you would know.” Then he told the boy to rise and wrestle with him. The boy at once did so. At last the visitor said, “That is enough. I will come tomorrow.”

[35] The next day the beautiful stranger came again from the Sky-land. Again the two wrestled until the stranger said, “That is enough. I will come tomorrow.”

The third day he came again. Again the fasting youth found his strength increase as he wrestled with the visitor. Then that one said,