The first four stories were told by Peter Hudson, a Choctaw. He called them Peter’s Own. They came to me through Dr. Angie Debo of Marshall, Oklahoma. Dr. Debo, a student and writer of Indian Life and history, was responsible for my meeting Mrs. Josephine Latimer, part Choctaw, who told the remaining stories. At first Mrs. Latimer wanted to talk of nothing but making and selling a salve which she claimed would cure cancer. She said it was an herb recipe which came from her great grandmother.
The legends are Choctaw in spite of the fact there is woven into them elements of Hebrew mythology. The story of Sandelphone is a good example. This is evidently the same character as Sandelphone, who received prayers and turned them into flowers. Mrs. Latimer learned the history and stories through hearing them. They were told from generation to generation.
My thanks go to Dr. Debo, Mrs. Latimer and Peter Hudson for the stories in this collection. I am grateful to many friends who have read or listened and made suggestions. I am particularly thankful to the Creative Writing Group of the Tyler, Texas, Branch of the American Association of University Women and the Norman, Oklahoma, Senior Citizens’ Writing Group.
-Norvella Goodman Martin
Why Rabbit is So Lean
Bear and Rabbit met at Bear’s cave and had conversation just like our folks.
“How your folks getting along, Bear?” asked Rabbit?
“Fine. How your folks?”
“All well,” was the reply. Bear and Rabbit, just like folks, talked all morning about nothing much. Finally Rabbit said, “I must go home.”
“Wait till I have dinner,” Bear urged. He cut a piece off his side and fried it for dinner.”
“Come see me, Bear,” said Rabbit as he started to leave.
“Where do you live Rabbit?”
“On old field with tall corn.”
One day when Bear was walking along, he remembered Rabbit and invited him to come see him. Bear walked through tall corn but could not find Rabbit until he stepped on him and Rabbit went, “Squash, squash!”
Bear said, “Hok, hok, hok! How you getting along, Rabbit?”
“All right. How you, Bear?”
“I’ll get dinner,” said Rabbit. He got his big knife and cut a piece off his side just like Bear did. He fried it and gave it to Bear.
Rabbit’s side is still lean.
Why The Owls Stare
Once upon a time Owl and Pigeon met and talked just like folks.
“There are more owls than pigeons,” boasted Owl.
“No,” said Pigeon, “Many more pigeons. I challenge you to count numbers!”
“Agreed,” responded Owl. “The big woods is fine place. Plenty trees for everybody.”
“Fine. A week from today will give time to notify all owls and pigeons,” Pigeon said.
On day to count owls come first. Trees were full of owls. They laughed and said, “Oowah-wah-wah!”
They were sure there could not be as many pigeons.
Owls were all over the place.
Soon they heard roar from the east, then roar from south and roar from north. Pigeons covered trees so limbs broke. Owls could not believe there could be that many pigeons. They sat still moving their heads back and forth staring with wide eyes. Pigeons kept coming.
Oo! Wee!” said owls darting under trees and flying away. They travel at night so they will not meet pigeons. Owls stared so long and hard at pigeons their eyes just stayed that way.
Why The Possum’s Tail Has No Hair
Coon and Possum met one day and had talk. As talk went on, Possum couldn’t keep eyes off Coon’s tail.
“How’s your folks?” asked Coon.
“Fine,” replied Possum.
“How you?” continued Coon.
“Fine,” came the same reply.
Possum was so busy admiring Coon’s tail, he couldn’t think of anything else.
“Where you going?” Coon asked?
“On way to mountain,” answered Possum who had come out of bottom.
“Hunting persimmons. Might find some,” Possum answered, still looking at Coon’s tail.
“Just passed persimmon grove on way down,” Coon told him.
“Any persimmons?” asked Possum beginning to show a little interest.
“Where you going, Coon?”
“To bottom to look for crawdads.”
“Noticed them in every slew, lots of them,” said Possum and with that his eyes were back on Coon’s tail. “Your beautiful tail, Coon! How did you get it?” He had to ask.
“Took hickory bark, wrapped it around tail then singed it. That is way I colors, explained Coon.
They separated each going own way. Possum kept thinking how he could have tail like Coon’s. He got hickory bark and wrapped tail. He built fire to singe tail but he burned all hair off. Ever since possums have had no hair on tails. That is reason they travel at night. They still sulk because no hair on tails.
Turkey and Terrapin met in woods one day and made conversation.
“I can run faster than you!” boasted Turkey.
“Don’t know if you could win race,” replied Terrapin.
“Think you could beat me?” asked Turkey.
“Challenge you to race!” gobbled Turkey who never knew when to let well enough alone.
“Start here. Go down road to gate. That is mile.”
“I’ll be ready,” said Terrapin as he started off.
Terrapin got friends together. Instructed each one to put white feather in tail. Stationed one every hundred yards along mile. Everything was ready when time arrived.
“I’ll wait for you at gate!” said boastful and confident Turkey. Turkey and Terrapin started, leaving Terrapin with little white feather in tail far behind.
A hundred yards down road, Turkey saw Terrapin with white feather in tail. Turkey ran faster. Just as he thought he was out running Terrapin, he would see Terrapin with little white feather in tail ahead of him. He ran faster.
After running so hard Turkey was exhausted and fell down.
“Ha! Ha!” laughed Terrapin as he got up and swished off into woods.
“Ezekiel, you are old enough to have your guiding dream,” his mother said to him one morning. “You will soon be a man. You must know what Great Spirit wants you to do and what your medicine is. That is something every Indian boy learns when he is fourteen.”
“Where shall I go?” he asked.
“On the bank of the river is a bower of roses. That will be a good place,” was her answer.
The boy knew he must go alone and fast and sleep until he dreamed. He went to the river and found the rose bower as his mother had said. The roses were so thick they made a good shelter. As he lay there, white geese flew overhead and bees hummed around him. Ezekiel knew they were his friends and he was not lonely or afraid.
As soon as he had gone to sleep, Ezekiel dreamed great white feathers were falling like snow upon him while a bee buzzed over him. When he awakened, he was happy and ran to tell his mother his dream.
He wanted to go at once to get white feathers and a bee for his medicine bag, which he must carry with him always.
“Mother, I must kill a white goose,” he told her.
“Go see Feather Queen on the Yazoo. She has many white geese,” his mother said.
“No,” replied Feather Queen after listening to Ezekiel’s dream. “I will not let you kill a goose because my geese are valuable but you may pick up as many feathers as you want.”
That pleased Ezekiel. When he had thanked Feather Queen, he said, “I shall bring you some honey.”
Ezekiel added rose petals to the feathers and bee to make his medicine bag. He knew Great Spirit wanted him to care for bees and produce honey for his people.
Note: Ezekiel became known as Honey King and his thirteen-acre home on Pearl River was called Honey Island. Feather Queen, Elsie Beams, lived not far away and helped him sell honey. She suggested that he see Uncle Alexander McGillivray, the great mixed blood who directed the destinies of the Creeks during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Soon Ezekiel was shipping honey abroad. Feather Queen was already shipping feathers.
Feather Queen attended the Indian Medicine School and was a doctor. She made a salve from herbs that she claimed would cure cancer and a liquid that would cure internal cancer. Josephine Latimer said she still had the recipes, which were used by Feather Queen.
This came to Josephine from her Aunt Mary, daughter of Feather Queen.
East of the great Mississippi River in what is now the state of Mississippi lived the Choctaws, a peace-loving tribe who hunted, fished and raised foods necessary for their comfort. They played, danced and sang because they were prosperous and happy.
Born into the tribe was William Roebuck, son of Feather Queen and Ezekiel Roebuck. His favorite playmate was Palayra Falyan Homa, granddaughter of the great Chief Nitactaschi. Nothing pleased the children more than to shoot with the bows and arrows, which Palayra Falyan’s father made for them. He taught them how to make bows and arrows but they were never as good as her father’s. No one made arrows as fine as John Homa’s William said and he could recognize them anywhere.
Early in the nineteenth century unhappiness befell the Indians when they were forced to move west to what later became the state of Oklahoma. The carefree life ended for William when he, with his mother and father and many others in the tribe, started on the long hard journey that became the Trail of Tears.
Before they reached their new home William’s father became to ill to travel. The family was abandoned. Little Blue Hen, as Feather Queen was called, set about her tasks bravely with William’s good help. After Ezekiel died, William and his mother went on to find the other Indians in their new homes. Here they worked hard and prospered. William had little time to think of his former playmate but he could never quite forget her.
When he was old enough, William was sent to Kentucky to study law. His people needed the help of someone who knew the laws. The white man and the Indians did not interpret the laws in the same manner.
William still loved to hunt and fish after he came back from Kentucky but he had learned to hunt with a gun, which he liked better than bows and arrows. One day when he was hunting, he saw a wounded deer, an arrow in its side. He quickly killed it. He could see the deer had not carried the arrow long.
When he looked at the arrow, which he pulled from the deer’s side, he knew there was something familiar about it. He examined it closely.
“Now I know,” he said. “There is only one person who could have made this. It is John Homa’s arrow! I wonder who could have shot it?” He suddenly realized he had always remembered his childhood playmate and had hoped to find her again.
Looking and listening he walked through the woods. Soon he came to a lake where he saw some girls in a boat. His heart beat faster as he recognized one as his boyhood companion, now grown into a beautiful maiden. He knew she was the one he loved and wanted to marry.
When William called her, she was timid and shy but when she knew who he was she was happy. There were many things to be said and questions to be answered.
“Where do you live?” he asked at last.
“My father and I live near this lake. My mother, brothers and sisters were lost on the way here.”
“Did you come to stay?” he continued.
“No, but we love it here and shall stay,” she answered.
“It was your father’s arrow that led me to you. I did not dream you were near!”
There was no end to talking but he must not leave the deer in the forest. He would take it to John Homa’s wigwam. If Palayra Falyan accepted it, she would marry him! Surely she would accept it!
The maiden was happy when she saw the deer and gave him food and a bundle of sticks in return. The number of sticks told the number of days until the wedding.
The whole village was excited and pleased on the wedding day because everyone had a part in the merrymaking. A mistletoe bower was made for the ceremony and there the marriage would be if William could catch his bride in it.
Two large poles were placed in an open space. Around one danced the men and the women around the other. When the dancers changed poles, the men and women came together. As the bride came toward the groom, she ran as fast as she could. She must not be caught quickly; that was a sign of unhappiness. William did not catch her in the mistletoe bower but at the edge of the lake.
When Palayra Falyan was caught, the ceremony was over. Then came feasting with great quantities of foods, among them their favorites, Banaha and buttcupsa. After feasting the happy couple and their friends danced until daybreak.
Since William Roebuck was English as well as Indian, the couple had another ceremony in the manner of the white man. The minister wanted Palayra Falyan to have an English name. He gave her the name of Mary Ann Powell.
William and Mary Ann made their home near the lake where he had found her. It became known as Roebuck Lake.
Note: William and Mary Ann were the grandparents of Mrs. Josephine Latimer narrator of these stories.
The Indians loved nature and lived close to it. They observed carefully the happenings that occurred before weather changes. Their understanding was attributed to Great Spirit’s teachings.
The little loksa or terrapin lives near the water but he cannot live in it. He knows days ahead if there is to be a flood and moves to high ground. When the Indians seethe terrapin moving, they know they must move too.
The Indians say saw grass, one of the sedges, blooms every hundred years unless a wind and rainstorm is coming. The terrapin does not like the odor of the blossoms, so as soon as the blooming begins; he moves to higher land where there is no grass. The blossoms and the moving terrapin tell the Indians of the approaching storm.
They say if the wind blows from the east for three consecutive days, rain will fall.
At times when rain is needed, the Indians may try to bring rain. If a snake can be found, it is killed and left with its stomach up to the sun. This will surely bring rain.
The Indians call the redheaded woodpecker the signal bird. If it pecks on the house or a tree near the house that is a signal danger is near and they must use precaution. Should a signal bird fly in front of one who has started on a trip, he knows danger lies ahead and he should return home.
When Josephine was little, she lived with her grandmother. She was always happy when she could go to see her mother. One morning soon after they had started, the signal bird flew in front of them.
“No, no! We must not go on. There is danger!” suddenly cried the grandmother.
“But we have just started! Why must we go back?” asked Josephine.
“Didn’t you see the signal bird fly in front of us? We must not go on!”
“I want to see my mother. I do not want to stay!” protested Josephine.
“We cannot ignore the bird’s warning,” her grandmother said firmly.
Josephine was so angry, when she got home, she took the blowgun her grandfather used to kill birds and went out to find the signal bird. Soon she saw him and blew an arrow at him. It caught his wing and he fluttered to the ground. Josephine ran and picked him up. After she removed the arrow, she held him so he could not get away. She took him to her grandmother. “Here, Grandmother, is the signal bird that flew in front of us,” she said as she opened her hands.
“Oh, Josephine, why did you do this?” scolded her grandmother when she saw the dead bird.
“I did not mean to kill him but I am not sorry,” she said stubbornly.
“He was warning us of danger. You should not have killed him!”
“He would not let me see my mother! I did not like him!”
At that moment her grandfather came in to the house.
“The river is up; you do not go today! It is so swift you could not cross,” he explained.
“Do you understand now, Josephine? We might have been drowned if the signal bird had not stopped us.”
Josephine could say nothing but a tear rolled down her cheek.
The Chief was pleased to see his people with hearts full of love and gratitude to Great Spirit who had given them plenty. He delighted in the songs and dances of thankfulness at the Green Corn Festival. The choice of their queen of the festival was right; Lily Wanda was the most beautiful of all the maidens. Yet his heart was heavy. Was there a young man brave enough to undertake the task he would set before them?
Time came for him to speak. The people were quiet.
“My people,” he said, “Great Spirit has been good to us. Green Corn Goddess has watched over our corn. Rain god watered it and Father Sun warmed it. We give them thanks.”
The Indians loved their Chief and they liked his words.
“There is one thing more I wish for,” he continued slowly. I have watched Father Sun day after day as he goes from our sight. I have wondered where he sleeps. To find the answer one must journey with him. This traveler will meet danger and hardships. He may never return. If he can find the place, he will be great among men.”
The chief was silent. The silence was unbroken but for the wind that was like a sigh through the trees.
“My Chief,” spoke Oklawana with the strength born of adventure, “I will find where Father Sun sleeps!”
“No, no, do not go, Oklawana! You will never return!” cried out Lily Wanda. The startled Indians looked at each other but spoke no word.
“You are brave, my son,” said the chief.
“We shall ask Great Spirit to help you.”
Oklawana turned to Lily Wanda. Their eyes met but for a moment he could not speak.
“I must go! Our great chief wishes it. I must win honor before I marry. I will return with great honor and claim you for my bride!”
Lily Wanda could not cry or speak. She was hardly aware that her sweetheart had taken her hand.
“I leave my wampum belt with you. It tells the story of our people’s councils. Guard it well until I return.” Then he made four bundles of sticks for the four seasons of the year.
“Count these for me as the seasons pass,” he said as he gave them to Lily Wanda.
“I do as you ask,” she barely whispered as she took them. “Go!” she quickly added.
Oklawana made ready food, bows, and arrows. At the rising of the sun his sweetheart watched him start his long journey.
Day by day Lily Wanda prayed to Great Spirit to send him back. She counted the bundle of sticks as the seasons passed. In the evenings she sat in her doorway watching in the direction he should return. In time she went up on the mountain and built signal smokes. Perhaps he was lost.
Seasons came and went. Lily Wanda grew old. She still counted the sticks and guarded the belt. She watched and prayed. One day as she prayed at the mound of Nanih Waya, a stranger came to her.v “I saw the signal smoke and came to you,” he said. She showed no interest. “You are Lily Wanda. I am Oklawana. I have looked for you many seasons. Without your signals I would never have found you!” He saw his words meant nothing to the woman.
“Don’t you remember Oklawana who went in search of the sleeping place of Father Sun? I am Oklawana. I could not find the place but I have come back to you,” he pleaded.
“That is not true,” she replied. “Oklawana has been dead for many years. He can not return; you are some other,” she continued listlessly.
“Is this the belt he gave you?” he asked as he pointed to her waist.
“Yes, I have kept it for him but he does not return.”
“I gave you the belt. Don’t you remember me?”
“No, you are Halava, the story teller. Leave me,” she breathed.
She was fainting as Oklawana took her in his arms. Her sorrow was too great. He saw she had died of a broken heart. Sad and distressed Oklawana went into the village. He found no one he knew. When he told his story, some remembered they had heard of him.
“I traveled with Father Sun day after day, season after season. Finally I saw him sink into a great blue lake. I could not follow him.” He was growing weary but he went on, “I have wandered many years trying to find my people. You do not know me. My Lily Wanda did not know me. Now she is dead,” he said in despair as he sank upon the earth. He too had died of grief.
“It is Oklawana!” the people cried. They buried him and his faithful Lily Wanda together.
Red Rose became more beautiful day by day and many young braves sought to marry her but she found no one whom she could marry. Instead of enjoying the companionship of the young warriors, she walked in the open fields in the early evening. She loved the touch of the wind. Its soft moaning sound running through the grass was a love song.
One evening as Red Rose walked alone, she saw a handsome warrior coming toward the village. He walked with the freedom of the wind. She knew she loved him. She was not surprised when she learned his name was King of Winds. He wooed the beautiful maiden and his love to her was like the wind. She could not live without it.
Soon they were married but they were not happy. King of Winds was not content to stay with the tribe. He wanted to wander alone. Red Rose understood his feelings because she too had walked alone until she met him. Now she begged to go with him. When he refused her, she was crushed.
“You must stay but I shall go and take the belt which you wear,” he spoke haughtily.
“No, no, it is the Legendary Belt of my people,” she cried. “I must keep it for my first-born!”
With proud disdain he took the belt from her and left. Red Rose’s heart was broken. She no longer roamed the fields and felt the caressing wind. She knew she must live until her baby was born. A little son came to her but she would not be comforted. When she knew she would live no longer, she gave the baby to her mother, Missipucana for the beautiful Red Rose and lamented the lamented the loss of the Legendary Belt.
The son of Red Rose grew to be a strong and handsome boy. He loved his grandmother who was mother and father to him but he was not satisfied.
“Grandmother, why I do not have mother and father like other boys?” he asked one day.
“You will learn when you are a man,” she answered and waited for the day when she could give him a name and tell him the story of his mother’s brief love and his father’s treachery.
She taught the boy well and the years passed quickly. One day he brought to his grandmother’s wigwam a fine red deer he had killed. When Missipucana saw it, she knew what his name should be.
“You have proved yourself, my son,” she spoke proudly as she looked at him. “The time has come for you to receive your name.” The youth seemed to grow taller and braver as she went on, “Your name shall be Issihoma because you have killed the red deer.”
He was proud of his name, which meant red deer.
“Look carefully in the stomach for medicine,” admonished his grandmother.
“What is this?” he asked.
“This, my son,” she explained, “was sent to you by Great Spirit to protect you on the long journey you will make. It is a magic stone.”
“Why do I make a journey?” Issihoma asked.
“Now that you are a man, it is time for you to learn about your mother and avenge her.” Missipucana’s face darkened as she told the story while he became impatient to be gone.
“I shall bring back the belt and avenge her!” he cried.
“King of Winds is proud and haughty; he will never give it to you. You must kill him and take it or you will never return. There is only one place he can be hurt. On the top of his head is a spot which an arrow can pierce.”
“I am not afraid! Where shall I find him?” interrupted Issihoma.
“After you cross the great river west of us, continue west to another river that is like coral. Here you will need the red stone. It is the only thing that will save you from the poison of snakes or animals.”
“Great Spirit sent this to me?”
“Yes, you must never lose it. I shall make a little bag for you to carry it in.” She continued, “Far up this coral colored river, near its beginning, you will find King of Winds. Many dangers will beset you but do not be afraid for Great Spirit will help you.”
Issihoma set about making preparations to leave. He chose his arrows carefully. They must be true and strong. His grandmother made moccasins for him and a bag to carry parched corn. “I shall return with the belt and avenge the death of my mother!” he vowed as he left.
“I shall pray to Great Spirit to give you a successful trip. I know what lies ahead of you,” his grandmother added.
Day after day Issihoma traveled to the great river and then on west. Game in the forest and the parched corn satisfied his hunger. Thoughts of his mother made him forget his weariness. When he came to the river like coral, the snakes were there as his grandmother had said but he knew he was safe. Travel became more difficult but he went on faster because he felt he was near the end of his journey. At last he saw a wigwam on the riverbank. There stood a man he knew must be his father.
“You are King of Winds!” cried Issihoma. “I am your son. I do not come in peace!”
“What do you want?” demanded his father.
“I must have the belt which you took from my mother, Red Rose. It belongs to my people,” came the reply.
“That you will never have!” thundered the warrior. “I shall keep it always. Go back and tell your People!”
“No, I must take it back. If you do not give it to me, I must kill you and take it!”
King of Winds and Issihoma began the struggle, which was long and bitter. The youth did not have the strength and endurance of his father but he would not give up.
Suddenly the signal bird was calling. Issihoma listened. When he saw the red head of the bird, he remembered what his grandmother had told him. He chose an arrow but King of Winds was not afraid of arrows and took no heed. At last Issihoma saw his chance and aimed well. King of Winds was dead.
Issihoma stripped from his father his hunting shirt and the Legendary Belt. The way home was long but he did not stop to rest.
His grandmother was watching for him as she had done for many days. He handed her the belt. “With this my mother, Red Rose, is avenged,” the youth said. “This hunting shirt which I took from my father I shall keep!”
“Issihoma, your people are proud of you!” Missipucana said as she examined the beautiful shirt. In one of the pockets were some seeds. She did not know what they were but she knew King of Winds had put them there.
“We shall plant these on the grave of Red Rose,” she spoke gently.
From the seeds grew small trees with lovely red buds instead of open blossoms.
“These are to be called Redbuds in honor of Red Rose,” Missipucana declared and Redbuds they still are.
When the world was still young, the Indians forgot Great Spirit and went about their ways without regard for him. Year after year they would not listen. He became so angry he wanted to destroy them. Because he wished to save two of them, he sent a message to one of the Indians there was to be a great flood and he should build a raft to save himself and his wife.
A pair of beautiful green birds joined the Indians. No sooner were they inside the teepee on the raft when the skies were black and thunder rolled. Rain fell until the whole earth was flooded. The Indians could see no living thing and were afraid.
The birds had been safe inside with the Indians but now they must save their friends.
“Do not be afraid,” they said; “we love you and we can guide you.”
Day after day the birds sat on the raft and guided it. The winds tore at them; the rain beat them; the waves lashed their tails. Even when the birds saw their beautiful tails torn in the shape of a V, they would not go inside. Finally they found a high hill that was not flooded and the raft was safe.
“We shall call you Love Birds because you have saved us,” said the Indians. “And to remind our people of your love and bravery your tails will always be forked as the storm has made them.”
The Gift of Corn
Musholatubih, son of the Chief, and Apacfalichubih, two of the bravest of the starving Choctaws, could no longer endure the sight of their starving people. They decided to leave the village in search of food and were determined not to return without meat.
“We have offended Great Spirit so he does not send us rain. We must find food or die,” the chief’s son declared. “If we do not return, perhaps our death will appease Great Spirit and he will send us food and rain.” Hearts were heavy in the village but the people felt stronger with the words of the young men. They would be brave too and Great Spirit would forgive them.
The braves hunted for days but they were unsuccessful. There had been no animal signs. The men had found and eaten a few berries. Each day they grew weaker. They no longer talked because that took too much of their strength.
“I can go no farther. Let us rest here,” breathed Musholatubih after a long day. His friend saw he spoke the truth; he was fainting.
“Lie here while I make a bed of branches,” said the brave. Soon he had made a bed and tenderly placed Musholatubih upon it. He looked about for herbs and berries but found nothing. He lay down too and in spite of hunger and weakness both were soon asleep.
The chief’s son was the first to awaken and called to Apacfalichubih.
“Are you all right?” was the startled response.
“Yes, I feel strangely refreshed. I have rested and I am not hungry.” His voice was strong and steady.
“I too have that feeling. I dreamed last night a dream I do not understand. I do not understand why I am not hungry,” said the brave.
“I dreamed,” the chief’s son said without giving heed to his friend, “and I do not know the meaning of my dream. I do not understand why I feel as if I never had been hungry. I shall tell you my dream.”
He spoke slowly and his voice was as if he were talking to himself. “I had been hunting a long time. I could not go home without meat because my people were starving. I was too exhausted to go farther. Just as I was ready to give up, a crow flew over me. I killed it and soon had it roasted. Nothing could have tasted better than that crow. I had hardly touched it when I heard a strange sound near me. I looked about but saw nothing unusual.”
Musholatubih paused for a moment. He raised his hand for silence as his friend made a movement as if to speak.
“Again I heard the sound, this time like a moan. I turned quickly and looked in the direction of the moon, which had risen just above the horizon. In the moon path was a woman in despair. When she was aware I had seen her, she held out her hands and said, ‘I perish from hunger. Please give me food.’ I gave her the crow. I forgot my hunger and felt satisfied while I watched her eat.”
Apacfalichubih continued to listen in unbelief.
“As I looked at her, she grew more and more beautiful,” the chief’s son went on. “She was like no one among our people. Her long hair was like the sunshine and her eyes were blue as summer skies. Her long dress was the color of the green valleys. Pearls fell from her throat to her feet. When she had finished eating, she said in a voice like rippling water, ‘you have saved my life; I shall repay you. Come to this place one year from now and you will find your reward.’”
Both Indians sat as if in a trance.
“Before I could speak or move, she was gone in the moonlight. She must have been sent by Great Spirit to tell us something. I do not know what.”
“You have dreamed my dream!” Finally came the words from Apacfalichubih. They looked at each other without speaking for some time. Then he spoke again, “Let us tell no one of our dream. It is our secret Great Spirit has sent us. We shall come again one year from this day and find what the message is.”
The two braves sat lost in their thoughts. They forgot their hunting until a small animal darted by them.
“We have been filled,” cried Musholatubih, “but our people are starving. We must go quickly if we are to save them.”
They knew Great Spirit was helping them because they had not gone far before they found a fine deer. The young men did not rest until they reached home but they were not tired.
There was great rejoicing and feasting in the village. Then came dancing and playing games in honor of Great Spirit.
All through the year the two braves thought of their dream and believed the promise would be kept. On the day they were to return, they set out without a word to anyone. As they neared the place where the beautiful woman had appeared, they expected to see her again.
“It must have been only a dream after all,” uttered the chief’s son when they could not find her.
“Perhaps we have not found the right place. Let us look a bit more,” urged his friend.
They had not searched long until they came upon a plant, which they had never seen before. It reached above their heads and at the top was a plumy tassel like a crown. Broad green leaves blew in the breeze. As the Indians looked at it, they knew it was a gift from Great Spirit. When they examined it, they found upon the stalk something they knew must be food. The outer covering was like the dress of the beautiful woman they said. Out of the covering came long yellow silk like her hair.
“These are the pearls!” exclaimed Apacfalichubih when he pulled back the covering and saw the long rows of grain full of juice.
After they had found more food on the stalk, Musholatubih cried, “Let us take one part and roast it!” A fire was built and the Indians watched and waited.
“We shall call it tonchi,” declared the chief’s son. When the tonchi, which is corn, was roasted and they had tasted it, they knew they had never eaten food as good as this.
“Great Spirit loves us and is good to us,” Musholatubih spoke reverently. “We must tend this stalk and save the seeds to plant next year. Then our people will not have to always hunt food in the forests and on the prairies.”
“The beautiful woman was the Green Corn Goddess. We shall sing and dance in her honor,” added the other brave.
“So that our people do not forget, we shall have a Green Corn Festival every year when the corn is ripe,” vowed Musholatubih. “We shall sing and dance and give praise to Green Corn Goddess and to Great Spirit who sent her and to sun and rain who help make the corn grow.”
Chief Oklahoma’s son was old enough for his guiding dream that would help him become a famous warrior.
“I do not want to be a warrior,” the boy told his father. “Let me stay at home and be a peace-maker.”
“You are fourteen years old and you must dream,” insisted the father. “I will not be disgraced by a son who is afraid to go to war!”
“I can not dream but I shall go,” the boy replied. He knew he must obey even to the death.
He went into the woods alone, as all Indian boys do, to fast and sleep until Great Spirit sent a guiding dream. Days and nights went by but no dream came. The boy was so tired and hungry he went back to his father.
“I am perishing, my father! Let me rest until another time,” he begged. “I can not dream!”
“No!” sternly spoke the chief. “You will go again and stay until you dream!”
The boy returned to the forest but he could not rest or dream. He suffered through long hot days and nights until he could endure them no longer. He returned to his father.
“Father,” came in almost a whisper, “I can not dream. Let me wait!”
“No!” thundered the chief. Go at once and do not return until you have dreamed!”
The boy had no choice. The days grew hotter and longer. As he became weaker and weaker, he knew he must die unless he had food and water. He looked about and saw some bright red berries near him.
He took them and ate greedily. As he ate, he saw the beautiful red juice staining his hands. He smeared it upon his breast.
He continued eating and smearing the juice upon himself.
Nine days passed. Chief Oklahoma grew afraid for his son.
“I must release him and let him dream another time or he will die,” the chief said as he started out to find his son. After some time he came upon the boy and looked into his fevered eyes and upon the hands still smearing juice upon his breast.
“My son, my son, what are you doing?” he cried.
“I am robing my breast red,” came the weak voice as he continued eating and smearing.
Chief Oklahoma knew his peace-loving son was dying. As the chief tried to care for him, the youth died. Immediately there flew from the bushes a beautiful bird, which Chief Oklahoma had never seen before. The bird’s breast was like the breast of his son.
“The bird shall be called Robing Redbreast,” he spoke softly.
The bird always stayed near the homes of the Indians and sang to them to make them happy. The name of the friendly bird later became Robin Redbreast.
Why The Flowers Grow
By Josephine Latimer
One day little Josephine went with her Aunt Selee to look at her grandmother’s flower garden. Josephine thought her aunt would like some of the flowers so she started picking some. When her aunt saw Josephine, she called, “Sutapa, sutapa! (You hurt; quit).” Then she began to cry.
Josephine was distressed and puzzled. She ran into the house to her grandmother.
“Grandmother,” she said, almost in tears, “why is Aunt Selee crying? I did not touch her but she called to me, ‘You hurt, quit’”
“I understand,” replied her grandmother as she saw the flowers in Josephine’s hand.
“Would you like to have these flowers, Grandmother?” Josephine asked when she saw her looking at them. “I broke them for Aunt Selee but I don’t think she would want them now.”
“No, Josephine, she wouldn’t. the Indians love the wild and the garden flowers but they never pick them.”
“But, Grandmother, they are so pretty!”
“You do not understand, child. Let’s sit here and I’ll tell you why.”
“Long ago when the world was young, there was in the heavens a constellation where shone the brightest star in all the sky. This beautiful star, Bright Eyes, was happy because earth people loved her beauty. After many years a star that made Bright Eyes dim came into the sky. This made her sad because people could not see her face. She called to her sisters, ‘Come, sisters, let us go down to earth where we can live with the earth people and make them happy. The new star has hidden my light and the sky does not need us any longer.’
“On their way to earth, Bright Eyes and her sisters stopped on Mount Joy where lived Uncta, the great bronze spider, spinner of finest webs. ‘We must learn to spin if Uncta will teach us,’ said Bright Eyes. He was proud of his spinning and weaving and was glad to teach the maidens. He set them to work and soon they were able to spin beautiful threads and weave them into fine cloth. ‘You and your sisters have done well,’ Uncta told Bright Eyes.”
“How did they get to earth?” asked Josephine.
“Bright Eyes said to Uncta one day, ‘Will you help us get to earth? We want to teach the people how to spin and weave.’ He wove a basket and fastened it to a strong thread to lower them to earth.
“When they touched the earth, they became the Little Folk. They loved the forests; and there they lived, working, dancing and playing. Earth people learned quickly to spin and weave. Then the Little Folk taught them how to make bright colors and use them in weaving their rugs and blankets. Earth people, Indians, loved these Little Folk who helped them and Bright Eyes was happy again.
“Bright Eyes and her sisters assisted the Indians when they were sick. They went into the forests to pray to Great Spirit to protect the Indians. They told the people to pray to Great Spirit too.
“All of the prayers went up to Sandlephone who sat on a great ladder high in the sky. As soon as the prayers had come into his hands, they were changed into lovely flowers. He closed the blossoms and dropped the seeds upon the earth while the perfume was carried on into the heavens where Great Spirit was.
“The Little Folk cared for the seeds as they fell and from them sprang the wild flowers. They watched and tended the flowers. The Indians loved them but never hurt them. They called the flowers ‘Tokens of Love from Great Spirit.’”
“Oh,” said Josephine, “after this I shall not break them.