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Bluebird and the Coyote

A long time ago the Bluebird's feathers were a very dull ugly colour. It lived near a lake with waters of the most delicate blue which never changed because no stream flowed in or out. Because the bird admired the blue water, it bathed in the lake four times every morning for four days, and every morning it sang:

There's a blue water. It lies there. I went in. I am all blue.

On the fourth morning it shed all its feathers and came out in its bare skin, but on the fifth morning it came out with blue feathers.

All the while, Coyote had been watching the bird. He wanted to jump in and catch it for his dinner, but he was afraid of the blue water. But on the fifth morning he said to the Bluebird: "How is it that all your ugly colour has come out of your feathers, and now you are all blue and shining and beautiful? You are more beautiful than anything that flies in the air. I want to be blue, too."

"I went in only four times," replied the Bluebird. It then taught Coyote the song it had sung.

And so Coyote steeled his courage and jumped into the lake. For four mornings he did this, singing the song the Bluebird had taught him, and on the fifth day he turned as blue as the bird.

That made Coyote feel very proud. He was so proud to be a blue coyote that when he walked along he looked about on every side to see if anyone was noticing how fine and blue he was.

Then he started running along very fast, looking at his shadow to see if it also was blue. He was not watching the road, and presently he ran into a stump so hard that it threw him down upon the ground and his color changed yet again, he became dust-colored all over. And to this day mostly all coyotes are the color of dusty earth.


The Buffalo Rock

The buffalo rock, as called by the Blackfeet Indians, was usually a fossil shell of some kind, picked up on the prairie. Whoever found one was considered fortunate, for it was thought to give a person great power over buffalo.

The owner put the stone in his lodge, near the fire, and prayed over it. This story reveals not only the use of such a rock, but also a common method of hunting buffalo before the Indians had horses.

There was once a very poor woman, the second wife of a Blackfeet. Her buffalo robe was old and full of holes; her buffalo moccasins were worn and ripped. She and her people were camped not far from a cliff that would be a good place for a buffalo drive. They were very much in need of buffalo, for they were not only ragged but starving.

One day while this poor woman was gathering wood, she heard a voice singing. Looking around, she found that the song was coming from a buffalo rock. It sang, "Take me. Take me. I have great power."

So the woman took the buffalo rock. When she returned to her lodge, she said to her husband, "Call all the men and have them sing to bring the buffalo."

"Are you in earnest?" her husband asked.

"Yes, I am," the woman replied. "Call the men, and also get a small piece of the back of a buffalo from the Bear Medicine man. Ask some of the men to bring the four rattles they use."

The husband did as his wife directed. Then she showed him how to arrange the inside of the lodge in a kind of square box with some sagebrush and buffalo chips. Though it was the custom for the first wife to sit next to her husband, the man directed his second wife to put on the dress of the other woman and to sit beside him.

When everything was ready, the men who had been summoned sat down in the lodge beside the woman and her husband. Then the buffalo rock began to sing, The buffalo will all drift back. The buffalo will all drift back."

Hearing this song, the woman asked one of the young men to go outside and put a great many buffalo chips in line. "After you have them in place, wave at them with a buffalo robe four times, and shout at them in a singsong. At the fourth time, all the buffalo chips will turn into buffaloes and go over the cliff."

The young man followed her directions, and the chips became buffaloes. At the same time, the woman led the people in the lodge in the singing of songs. One song was about the buffalo that would lead the others in the drive. While the people were chanting it, a cow took the lead and all the herd followed her. They plunged over the cliff and were killed.

Then the woman sang,

More than a hundred buffalo Have fallen over the cliff. I have made them fall. And the man above the earth hears me singing. More than a hundred buffalo Have fallen over the cliff.

And so the people learned that the rock was very powerful. Ever since that time, they have taken care of the buffalo rock and have prayed to it.


The Loon

The Indians in the Pacific Northwest traveled mainly by water, because the forest was so thick it was difficult to travel by land. This story tells how they were able to find their way back to shore.

One day, a little girl went deep into the forest. She walked until she found a family of loons. She stopped and played with the loons. In fact, she stayed for several days, becoming good friends with the loons. They taught her many things. But, soon, she knew it was time to return to her family, so she said good bye and returned to her village.

In time, this little girl grew to be a Mother and then Grandmother. One day she was out in a canoe with her two grandchildren. All of the sudden the fog rolled in. They couldn't see the shore. They heard a splashing off in the distance.

The children thought it was a sea monster. But, the Grandmother new it was something far worse. It was hunters from a tribe farther north. If they captured them, they would take them as slaves. The children would never see their family or village again.

The Grandmother told the children to get down in the canoe and be quiet. The other canoe passed by them with out seeing them. The children were still hiding in the bottom of the canoe. But, how would they find their way back to the village? How would they avoid the hunters in the other canoe?

The Grandmother started to sing. This was a strange song. The Grandmother sung often, and the children new all of her songs. They thought. The children looked up. Where their Grandmother had been sitting, there was a giant loon.

It spread its wings and flew out of the canoe. It circled the canoe and then flew off. The children watched it fly off into the fog. Soon, the loon returned and circled again. When it left, this time, the children followed it. It lead them safely back to their village. For you see, only the loon has eyes that can see through the fog.

When the Grandmother was a girl, playing with the loons, they taught her a song. If she ever sang that song, she would change into a loon forever. So when the Indians were canoing in the fog, they always listen for Grandmother loon to guide them back to shore.


The White Faced Bear

Native American Lore

In a tribal village there lived a mighty bear-hunter. For more than three years, he had been constantly successful in killing so many that his friend tried to persuade him to stop hunting.

"If you insist upon hunting one more bear, you will come across a huge bear who might kill you," he said. The hunter ignored his friend's advice and replied, "I will attack every bear I come across."

A few days later the hunter started out and saw a bear with two cubs. He decided this was not the huge bear he had been worried about, so he attacked the mother bear, and after some difficulty killed her. The cubs ran away. After the hunter dragged the bear home for his tribe, his friend continued to urge him to give up the bear hunt, but without success.

On another hunt, after a few days on the trail, the hunter met a stranger who informed him that near his village were a great many bears. "Every year many are killed by our hunters, but always there is an invincible one that has destroyed many of our hunters. Each time he kills a man, the bear tears him apart, examines him carefully as if searching for a special body mark. He is different because his feet and head are white."

They parted, and the hunter started out to look for that hunting ground. On his way, he stopped near a fish creek looking for game, but after a long night none appeared. Next morning he moved onward and came to a high bluff; below it he saw many bears on the tundra. He waited until some separated and looked over the remainder.

Among those, he saw the white-faced bear with white feet and concluded that this must be the ferocious, huge bear he sought. First he would keep an eye on it and wait for a favourable opportunity to kill it.

Now it seems that at one time, the white-faced bear was a human being and a very successful bear-hunter, too successful for his own good. His friends were envious and plotted to kill him. So they went to a medicine-man deep in the woods, and begged him to transform the successful hunter into a beast.

"Shoot a bear, skin it and place the skin under the pillow of your successful hunter," advised the shaman.

After the bear-skin had been prepared, the shaman and his friends quietly went to the man's hut and placed the skin under the man's pillow. They hid themselves to see what would happen when the man went to bed. Upon waking, the man found that he had become a huge bear with a white face and white feet.

"The white marks will show you which bear he is," said the shaman, who disappeared into the woods.

Now our bear-hunter still sat at the edge of the bluff. Toward evening he saw the bears begin to leave, all except the white- faced bear. He was the last to get up, and he shook himself three times and acted as if he was deeply enraged. He moved toward the bluff where the hunter sat perfectly still. But the bear approached, and when he was almost face to face, asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I came out to hunt," he replied.

"Is it not enough that you have killed all my family, and recently killed my wife, and now you want to take my life? If you had injured my children the other day, I would now tear you to pieces. I will, however, spare your life this time on your promise that you will never hunt bears again. All the bears you saw today are my children and of my brother. Should I ever see you hunting bear, I will tear you apart."

Relieved to get away so easily, the hunter headed homeward. His friend met him and inquired about the white-faced bear, and when told what had happened, he urged the hunter to give up hunting. A whole week passed before the hunter set forth again, taking along six hunting friends.

For two days they hunted without luck, then came to the fish creek where they camped overnight. Next morning their leader took the six to the edge of the bluff where they could look down at the tundra and see many bears. But they could not see the white- faced bear and, encouraged, followed their leader toward the animals.

"Look at that strange-looking beast with white paws and a white face!" exclaimed one man.

The hunter-leader caught sight of that special bear and ordered his followers to retreat at once. So they went around another mountain where they saw many bears. They killed seven, one for each man.

Loaded with their spoil they took the homeward trail, but a short distance behind them they heard a commotion. They saw the white faced bear rapidly approaching them. The hunter aimed, but his bowstring broke. The others shot and missed. The white-faced bear spoke up and said, "Why do you shoot at me? I never harm you. Your leader killed my wife and nearly all my family. I warned him that if I found him hunting again, I would tear him apart. And this I shall do now, piece by piece. The rest of you can go. I'll not harm you because you have not harmed me."

Hurriedly, as fast as possible, the six men fled. The white- faced bear turned to the bear-hunter.

"I had you in my power once and I let you go on your promise not to hunt bear again. Now you are back at it and brought more bear- hunters along. This time I will do to you as you have done to mine."

The hunter pleaded to be allowed to live one more night so he could go home. At first the bear refused outright. The white- faced bear then relented, and would even spare his life entirely, if the hunter would tell him who had transformed him from a man into a beast. The hunter agreed to meet him the next night and go to the home of the shaman.

When the bear-hunter reached home and found his six companions talking excitedly about the day's experience, they were surprised to see the hunter-leader alive.

The hunter told them his plan to meet the white-faced bear at the home of the shaman next evening and asked the six to go with him. They refused and tried to dissuade their leader. But the bear- hunter kept his word and met the white-faced bear at the appointed place. A light shone from every hut except that of the shaman.

"This is the place," said the man.

"I will remain here," ordered the bear. "You go inside and tell him there is a man outside wishing to speak with him."

The man advanced and found the skin-door tied, so he reported to the bear that the shaman must be out. The bear ordered him back to cut the door, then walk in. Upon entering, the man heard someone call, "Who dares come into my lodge?"

"It is I," said the bear-hunter.

"What do you wish?"

"There is a man outside who wishes to speak to you."

Had the shaman not been so sleepy, he might have been suspicious. Under the circumstances, his mind was not clear and he fell into the trap.

When the shaman came near the white-faced bear, the old man became frightened and was ready to run away. But the bear blocked his way and said, "For years you have tortured me and made my life a burden in this condition. I demand you give me back my human form immediately, otherwise I shall tear you to pieces."

The shaman promised to do so if the bear would follow him into his hut. Before going in, the bear said to the hunter, "Meet me here when I come out."

All night the shaman worked hard with the bear, and by next morning succeeded in pulling off the bear-skin, and a human form appeared. The shaman asked to keep the white-faced bear's skin, but the man kept the white-face and the white claws, which he cut off at once, giving the rest of the skin to the shaman.

"If you ever again try to transform a man into a beast, I will be back and kill you dead, dead, dead," said the man.

The next day when the bear-man met the bear-hunter he said, "I caution you against ever going out to hunt bear. You may even hear people say I've become a bear again, and they will hunt me. Don't you join them. If I find you in their company, I will kill you dead, dead, dead."

For about four weeks the hunter remained at home with every intention of keeping his promise to the transformed man. But one day two young men from the neighbouring tribal village came to beg his assistance. They asked his help to kill a ferocious bear with a white face and four white feet.

Of course the hunter knew the bear they feared, but decided to disguise himself and go help them. They gathered all of the village warriors and set out to find the white-faced bear. The bear saw them coming. He rose and shook himself three times, giving the impression of great anger, which frightened the warriors. Their chief said, "We are in great danger, so we must stand and fight."

Madly, the white-faced bear jumped, landed in front of the hunter and tore him to pieces. Then it pawed a hole in the ground and covered up the parts. The terrified warriors tried to escape, but the white-faced bear chased them back to their village, tearing them apart, killing all of them, including the old shaman. Finished, the white-faced bear turned back into the woods to rest undisturbed forever.

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