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The Friendship of an Otter

A Seneca Legend

Once, in the fall of the year, a chief and six or eight families went on a hunting expedition. For many days they found no game. At last the chief, who had as a charm a fawn skin pouch, called the party to his brush house and told each person to take hold of the pouch and say what animal he would kill the next day.

The first man said he would kill a bear. The chief's wife said she would kill a wild goose. As the pouch was passed from one to another, the chief's daughter told her husband not to touch it and when it came near she grasped his hand to keep him from doing so, but he pulled it away and taking hold of the pouch said, "Tomorrow, before daylight, I will kill two otters."

At midnight he got up and went to where the river doubled nearly around and there he watched for otters. Soon he saw two and he killed both of them. He was hungry and, as it wasn't daylight, he cut open each otter and took out the heart. He roasted and ate the hearts then went home. Unwittingly he had destroyed the power of the charm.

That day each person came home without game. The chief's wife had said she would get a wild goose, but when she clapped her hands and called, "Let them fall. Let them fall," they all flew over, for the charm was broken.

The chief examined the two otters and when he saw that the hearts had been taken out, he was very angry.

The young man's wife was frightened. She hid a piece of meat and a knife, telling her husband where he would find them in case of need.

The chief said, "My son-in-law has broken the charm, we had better kill him."

The daughter said, "If you kill him, kill me too."

The chief, who didn't want to kill his daughter, said, "We will strip him naked, leave him, and go far away.

They stripped the young man, and went off, taking his wife with them.

At midnight when all alone, the young man heard somebody coming on snowshoes--it was Winter. A man pushed the door open, and said, "You think that you are going to die, but you are not, I have come to save you. Tomorrow morning follow my tracks to a hollow tree. There is a bear in the tree, kill it and you will have plenty of meat, and the bear's skin will keep you warm, make you a blanket and moccasins."

The next morning the young man could see no tracks except rabbit tracks. He followed them to a hollow tree and found a bear. He killed the bear, skinned it and carried the carcass to the house. Of the skin he made a blanket and moccasins.

At midnight he again heard someone coming on snowshoes.

Then a voice said, "Last night I sent you help, tonight I have come to tell you that your wife will be here tomorrow at midday. She thinks you are dead and she has left her father's camp to come and find you. In the morning send her for her father and the people who are with him, let her say, 'My husband has plenty of meat for you all.' They will be glad for they have no meat."

At midday the young woman came, and the next morning her husband sent her to tell her father and friends to come to his camp.

That night the stranger came to the brush house, and said, "Your father will be glad that you have meat. He will show his charms and give you your choice of them. Take the one he says is of no account, it is wrapped in a piece of bear skin and is my finger that I lost when he caught me in a trap. He will tell you to take one of the other charms, but take that and no other."

The next morning the father-in-law and his people came back. The old chief unwrapped his charms and told his son-in-law to take his choice.

The young man took the one wrapped in bear-skin.

"Oh, that is of no account," said the chief, "Here is a better one."

But the young man said, "I'll keep this one." And he went out to look for the person to whom the finger belonged. He hadn't gone far when he saw a house in the middle of an opening and in the house he found the stranger, who had befriended him and he gave him the finger.

The old man thanked him, and said, "I will always be your friend and you will succeed in everything you undertake."

As the young man was going home he turned to look at the house. It had disappeared and what he had thought was a field he now saw was a lake.

Ever after this the young man had good luck. He became a great hunter and when his people made war on a neighboring tribe he took many scalps. Whatever he wished for he had. And all this came from the friendship of the Otter whose finger he returned.

The Raven in mythology
Raven creates the world

A raven story from the Puget Sound region describes the "Raven" as having originally lived in the land of spirits (literally bird land) that existed before the world of humans. One day the Raven became so bored with bird land that he flew away, carrying a stone in his beak. When the Raven became tired of carrying the stone and dropped it, the stone fell into the ocean and expanded until it formed the world in which humans now live.

In the creator role, and in the Raven's role as the totem and ancestor of one of the four northwest clan houses, the Raven is often addressed as Grandfather Raven. It is not clear whether this form of address is intended to refer to a creator Raven who is different from the trickster Raven, or if it is just a vain attempt to encourage the trickster spirit to act respectably.

Bill Reid created the sculpture of The Raven and The First Men depicting a scene from a Haida myth that unifies the Raven as both the trickster and the creator. According to this myth, the raven who was both bored and well fed, found and freed some creatures trapped in a clam. These scared and timid beings were the first men of the world, and they were coaxed out of the clam shell by the raven. Soon the raven was bored with these creatures and planned to return them to their shell. Instead, the raven decided to search for the female counterparts of these male beings. The raven found some female humans trapped in a chiton, freed them, and was entertained as the two sexes met and began to interact. The raven, always known as a trickster, was responsible for the pairing of humans and felt very protective of them. With the Raven perceived as the creator, many Haida myths and legends often suggest the raven as a provider to mankind.

Words of wisdom in peace from the keepers of the stories our fallen brothers. This is an excerpt from the story of Manataka, the place of peace. It is now known by the name Hot Springs National Park, and is located in south central Arkansas. It was once a sacred place to many nations. Archeologists are split in their accounting of the number of tribes that visited here. One group says that none ever did. The second group claims to have identified 43 disparate language groups among artifacts attributable to this sacred place. I would encourage you to visit this page, authored Lee Standing Bear Moore to read a brief accounting of the subversive effort to suppress the history of this place, and the tale of how Manataka became Hot Springs National Park. I like to share these things with my friends as I find them. So much has passed and so much is yet to be. If we do not find a way to live in peace with each other and manage our obligation to protect the mother earth from our folly, we will never last. The time for denial and hatred is past. The time to move on long since upon us. Cry out to the world, but do so knowing that there is hope, and there can be peace. These things too, shall pass At the end of this excerpt from Lee Standing Bear Moore's page, you will see the phrase "akanTanka niya waste pelo!". This means "May The Great Holy Mystery Spirit bless you!". aho


ANGER Should the American Indian be angry about the past? Should we do to others what they have done to us? At Manataka, the answer is No. Why? No, because we are sacred water given to us by the Creator of All That Is. We were born in water and our bodies are composed mostly of water. We must drink water to restore us. Water is necessary to life. But, sometimes the water comes in floods and washes away our homes and food. Waters of the flood take away our homes and often bring disease. We are sad after the flood waters leave. No, because we are the sacred wind given to us by the Creator of All That Is. Every cell in our bodies contains the wind. We must breathe the wind every moment in order to live. But, sometimes the wind comes like a tornado and blows away our homes and kills our loved ones. We are sad after the tornado leaves. The white European Judeo/Christian culture came to us like the wind and water. They flooded us with filth and greed and killed indigenous babies and grandmothers in the name of their religion. They came to us like the tornado bringing the whirlwind stench of war and the shame of false ways. Should we hate the ignorant white invaders who came like a senseless flood and washed away the homes and sacred places of our ancestors? Should we hate those who flooded into our homes and stole the land? Do we hate their children who continue to violate our sacred Mother Earth and reek terrible injustices upon us? Should we despise the government that came like a terrible tornado and killed our people and defiled our sacred places? But dear friend, we as American Indians cannot be angry at the sacred waters and the wind because they are made by the Creator. We can only be sad. In the same way, the white European Judeo/Christian and their government are also made by the Creator. And we cannot hate them for they too are made by the Creator. TEARS At Manataka, we shed no more tears for the past. Why should we not shed tears for all that has been lost!? Because our culture is not gone! It flourishes and grows stronger each year! Look around you. American Indian culture is spreading all over the world. We should not cry for our ancestors because they are not gone. They are here with us now. Their spirits dwell within us. They are on our lips as we speak. They are upon our fingertips as we do the work to uphold our heritage. We honor them. We do not cry for them. We rejoice for them! The Great Spirit – Creator caused our circle to be broken. At Manataka we know the reason. It is for that reason we are here keeping the spirit alive. Together, we can awaken the great forces of all native peoples by rekindling the fire of Manataka. The hot springs are still here. The medicinal herbs, quartz crystal, precious stones, and beauty are still here. And, the beautiful waters of Nowasalon flow abundantly. Wakantanka niya waste pelo !
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