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A Trio of Children's Stories
~ Rewritten by Jerry Pope from Native writings
We all know that ants are industrious little creatures
carrying bits and pieces of nature and many times
their body weight to build their nest or to feed the
queen. We all know they are very social, living in groups
numbering in the thousands. All of them working toward one goal.
ANT THE STORY TELLER
Native Peoples often used ants in their stories to illuminate the the good things that ants do. IN the Southwestern tribes, ants often played an even more important role in the stories. For instance In Hopi legends ants sheltered humans during the destruction of the first world. In more practical terms it was a taboo to disturb their nests.In the rales of California tribes, it was ants that predicted Earthquakes. SO Here is one tale of the ants importance in legend.
On one very fine day Enigs (Eh-neekwe) was walking along the shore of a beautiful lake. Across the water he saw others of his kind playing and frolicking about. He wanted to play too, but how was he going to get across the wide expanse? Now this young fellow was a very handsome Enigs.
Then suddenly he saw some one paddling along in the water. He yelled out; “Come and get me, I want to go and play all too.” I will tell you a story to pay for my ride. All the paddler took him on board.
The paddler said I will take you, but first I have to smoke. He filled his pipe and lit it, taking a puff.
They had barely got going when the paddler said “So tell me your story already.”
But the he said first I have to put away the pipe. The the paddler did so.
Olay let me hear the story.
But then suddenly paddler said “But first I have to blow my nose,” He blew his nose for the longest time, that he blew his head right off. Poor guy now Enigs couldn’t tell his story, and he couldn’t go play ball with the others. And that is all.
THE BAT STORY
Bats are not common characters in Native American folklore of the United States and Canada. When bats do appear in the folklore of these tribes, their most important feature is usually their intermediate appearance between birds and mammals, either causing Bat to be rejected by one or both groups or enabling him to act as a spy or traitor. In some stories Bat plays a minor role as trickster. Among some Northwest Coast tribes, bats are considered lucky animals, and in some Pueblo tribes of the Southwest, the movements of bats are thought to predict the weather.
One day the birds were tired of their usual bird games so the birds challenged the four legged to a ball game. Each group agreed that all all animals that had teeth had to play on one side, and all those that had feathers had to play on the other side.
They chose a suitable day, cleared the playing field, and obtained balls from the Medicine Man. When the bats came they joined the animals who had teeth.
No said all the animals you have to play on the side of the birds, so the bats went to the birds, and they said, No, you have to play on the side of the animals.
The game began, and the birds took the lead because they could catch the ball in the air, The four footed couldn’t reach very high. But the animals agreed to let them stay on their side even though the bats were small. The Crane was the best ball players. He caught the ball so often that it looked like the birds were going to win.
As none of the other animals could fly, they were very depressed.
The little bats now entered the game. Flying in the air darting here and there very quickly catching the ball. Meanwhile by this time the Crane was tired and couldn’t move that quickly. At last the bat caught the ball for the last time and the animals won. All the animals agreed that even though the bat was small and had wings, he should be always play with the animals because the bat had teeth.
THE GIRL WHO FLEW TOO HIGH
One morning several young women went out from their tepee village to gather firewood. Among them was Sapana, the most beautiful girl in the village, and it was she who first saw the porcupine sitting at the foot of a tall cottonwood tree. She called to the others: "Help me to catch this porcupine, and I will divide its quills among you."
The porcupine started climbing the cottonwood, but the tree's limbs were close to the ground and Sapana easily followed. "Hurry," she cried. "It is climbing up. We must have its quills to embroider our moccasins." She tried to strike the porcupine with a stick, but the animal climbed just out of her reach.
"I want those quills," Sapana said. "If necessary I will follow this porcupine to the top of the tree." But every time that the girl climbed up, the porcupine kept ahead of her.
"Sapana, you are too high up," one of her friends called from the ground. "You should come back down."
But the girl kept climbing, and it seemed to her that the tree kept extending itself toward the sky. When she neared the top of the cottonwood, she saw something above her, solid like a wall, but shining. It was the sky. Suddenly she found herself in the midst of a camp circle. The treetop had vanished, and the porcupine had transformed himself into an ugly old man.
Sapana did not like the looks of the porcupine-man, but he spoke kindly to her and led her to a tepee where his father and mother lived. "I have watched you from afar," he told her. "You are not only beautiful but industrious. We must work very hard here, and I want you to become my wife."
The porcupine-man put her to work that very day, scraping and stretching buffalo hides and making robes. When evening came, the girl went outside the tepee and sat by herself wondering how she was ever to get back home. Everything in the sky world was brown and grey, and she missed the green trees and green grass of earth.
Each day the porcupine-man went out to hunt, bringing back buffalo hides for Sapana to work on, and in the morning while he was away it was her duty to go and dig for wild turnips. "When you dig for roots," the porcupine-man warned her, "take care not to dig too deep."
One morning she found an unusually large turnip. With great difficulty she managed to pry it loose with her digging stick, and when she pulled it up she was surprised to find that it left a hole through which she could look down upon the green earth. Far below she saw rivers, mountains, circles of tepees, and people walking about.
Sapana knew now why the porcupine-man had warned her not to dig too deep. As she did not want him to know that she had found the hole in the sky, she carefully replaced the turnip. On the way back to the tepee she thought of a plan to get down to the earth again. Almost every day the porcupine-man brought buffalo hides for her to scrape and soften and make into robes. In making the robes there were always strips of sinew left over, and she kept these strips concealed beneath her bed.
At last Sapana believed that she had enough sinew strips to make a lariat long enough to reach the earth. One morning after the porcupine-man went out to hunt, she tied all the strips together and returned to the place where she had found the large turnip. She lifted it out and dug the hole wider so that her body would go through. She laid her digging stick across the opening and tied one end of the sinew rope to the middle of it. Then she tied the other end of the rope about herself under her arms. Slowly she began lowering herself by uncoiling the lariat. A long time passed before she was far enough down to be able to see the tops of the trees clearly, and then she came to the end of the lariat. She had not made it long enough to reach the ground. She did not know what to do.
She hung there for a long time, swinging back and forth above the trees. Faintly in the distance she could hear dogs barking and voices calling in her tepee village, but the people were too far away to see her. After a while she heard sounds from above. The lariat began to shake violently. A stone hurtled down from the sky, barely missing her, and then she heard the porcupine-man threatening to kill her if she did not climb back up the lariat. Another stone whizzed by her ear.
About this time Buzzard began circling around below her. "Come and help me," she called to Buzzard. The bird glided under her feet several times, and Sapana told him all that had happened to her. "Get on my back," Buzzard said, "and I will take you down to earth."
She stepped on to the bird's back. "Are you ready?" Buzzard asked.
"Yes," she replied.
"Let go of the lariat," Buzzard ordered. He began descending, but the girl was too heavy for him, and he began gliding earthward too fast. He saw Hawk flying below him. "Hawk," he called, "help me take this girl back to her people."
Hawk flew with Sapana on his back until she could see the tepee of her family clearly below. But then Hawk began to tire, and Buzzard had to take the girl on his back again. Buzzard flew on, dropping quickly through the trees and landing just outside the girl's village. Before she could thank him, Buzzard flew back into the sky.
Sapana rested for a while and then began walking very slowly to her parents' tepee. She was weak and exhausted. On the way she saw a girl coming toward her. "Sapana!" the girl cried. "We thought you were dead." The girl helped her walk on to the tepee. At first her mother did not believe that this was her own daughter returned from the sky. Then she threw her arms about her and wept.
The news of Sapana's return spread quickly through the village, and everyone came to welcome her home. She told them her story, especially of the kindness shown her by Buzzard and Hawk.
After that, whenever the people of her tribe went on a big hunt they always left one buffalo for Buzzard and Hawk to eat.