Music: Shaman's Call by R. Carlos Nakai & James De Mars
|A Fish Story
A Tewa Legend
There occurred in those days a great drought. Rain had not come for many, many days. The crops were dying and the water in the lake was going
down and down. Prayers had to be offered to the Great Spirit. This was the duty of the fish people, so they all assembled in the kiva to pray and offer
sacrifices to the rain gods.
The custom was to fast and stay in the kiva until the rain came. A woman by the name of Fee-ne-nee was given the duty to feed the fish people, which
she did each day at noon. Since the men were fasting, she served them only a small amount of food and a few drops of water.
On the third night of the third day, however, one of the men could no longer stand the isolation. When the others went to sleep, he sneaked out of the
kiva and ran to a nearby lake. There he drank and drank, swallowing all of the water he had been thinking about for three days.
After filling his body with water, he returned to the kiva. He entered slowly and stepped quietly down the stairs so that he would not be heard.
Midway between the roof and the floor, however, he burst. Water poured out of his head, eyes, mouth, arms, body and legs. When this happened, the
people who were inside turned into fish, frogs, and all kinds of water animals, and the kiva was filled with water.
The next day at noon, the woman who was in charge of feeding the men went to the kiva. She could not believe what she saw; water was gushing
from it straight up into the air, and suspended in the torrent were fish, frogs, eels, snakes and ducks.
Sadly, with her basket still in her hand, she slowly returned to the village. The first house she visited was that of an untidy old couple. She placed her
basket in the center of the room and silently sat by the grinding stone. After making one stroke of the stone, she too turned into a snake.
Seeing this, the old man and his wife both said, "Something terrible has happened at the kiva." The man ran to find out what was wrong and at the
kiva he saw ducks, beavers, and frogs swimming in the water at the bottom.
The old man knew that this was a bad omen for the people of the village. When he reached home, he told his wife, "One of the men failed us, and all of
them turned into ducks, frogs, eels, snakes and beaver."
"We can no longer live here," his wife replied. "You must let our people know. We must also make preparations to take this snake, our friend
Fee-ne-nee, where she belongs."
The old woman prepared a basket filled with blue cornmeal and placed the little snake inside. Her husband took the basket and headed toward the
east, where there was a snake burrow. At the home of the snakes, he fed them blue cornmeal, and one by one all kinds of snakes wiggled through the
meal. Then he placed Fee-ne-nee among the others and said to her, "I have brought you to live here. You are now a young lady snake, and with the
help of the Great Spirit you will live among your own kind. I give you my blessing."
To the other snakes he said, "I have brought you a sister; take her into your arms."
As the other snakes curled around Fee-ne-nee, the man walked away with tears in his eyes.
At home the old couple cried again and told their people that the law required them to move from their home, O-Ke-owin, and seek another place to
live. Now you know why we live where we do. The tragedy that occurred at O-Ke-owin forced our people to move to Xun Ochute, which is now San
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|Apache Chief Punishes His Wife
A Tewa Legend
The Yellow House People were traveling. They stopped by a lake, and to reach the deep water they put down a buffalo head to step on. The chief's wife,
who was a good-looking woman, picked up her basket and went to fetch some water. When she came to the lake she looked at the head and said, "My
father, what a handsome man you were! I would like to have seen you alive. What a pity you're being trampled in this mud!"
As she finished speaking, up sprang a big white buffalo. He said, "I'm the man you speak of. I am White Buffalo Chief. I want to take you with me.
Sit on my head between my horns!" She left her water basket right there, and climbed up. The sun was going down, and the chief's wife did not come
home. "Something has happened," he said. "I should go and see." When he got to the lake, he found the basket, and looking around, saw his wife's
track and the track of a big buffalo leading to the east. He said, "The buffalo head has taken my wife!" He went back to his camp and for many days
made arrows. When he had enough, he set out to find his wife.
As he walked, he nearly stepped on the house of Spider Old Woman. She said, "Sho! Sho! Sho! My grandchild, don't step on me! Grandchild, you are
Apache- Chief- Living- Happily; what are you doing around here?"
"Grandmother, I am looking for my wife. Buffalo Chief took her away. Can you help me?" "He is a powerful person, but I will give you medicine. Go
now to Gopher Old Woman."
He went along, and on the plain he came to Gopher's house. Said Gopher Old Woman, "What are you doing around here? You are apache- Chief-
Living- Happily. Why are you here?" "Yes, Grandmother, I was living happily when my wife went to get water. Buffalo stole her. I am going after
her, and I would like to ask you for help."
Gopher Old Woman said, "My grandson, your wife now has as husband a powerful man. He is White Buffalo Chief. She is the tribe's female in-law,
and when they go to sleep, she is in the middle and they lie close around her. Her dress is trimmed with elk teeth, and it makes such a noise that it will
be difficult to get her out. You go to the edge of where they lie, and I will do the rest." Apache Chief came to the buffalo territory and hid to watch them.
White Buffalo Chief had the stolen wife dancing, and the buffalo sang:
Ya he a he
Ya he iya he
Ya he e ya
He ya hina he
Hina ye ne
He mah ne!
The Apache crept near the dance and spat out the medicine Spider Old Woman had given, and all the buffalo went to sleep. Gopher Old Woman
burrowed underground to the girl's ear and said, "I have come for you. Apache- Chief- Living- Happily is waiting outside the herd." The girl said, "My
present husband is a powerful man. My dress is made of elk teeth, and it makes such a noise that it will wake my husband." Gopher told her to gather
the dress up under her arms. Then Gopher led the way, and they slipped through the group of sleeping buffalo. Her husband was waiting. "I have
come for you," he said. "You are my wife and I want to take you back." And she told him they must hurry to a safe place.
The plain was large. As they came to three cottonwood trees, they could feel the earth trembling. White Buffalo had waked up and was shouting to his
clan, "Someone took my wife!" The herd followed the track toward the trees.
Apache Chief said to the first cottonwood, "Brother, the buffalo are coming. I want you to hide us." The tree said, "Go to your next brother! I am old
and soft." He went to the next tree. "Brother, the buffalo are coming. I want you to hide us!" The tree said, "Go to your next brother." He went to the
third tree, a young tree with one branch. "Apache Chief," it said, "come up into my branches and I will help you."
After they were safely up, the wife said she had to urinate. Apache Chief folded up his buffalo hide and told her to urinate on it, but her water leaked
through. The buffalo were passing, the dust was rising, and the earth was trembling. In the rear of the pack were a shabby old buffalo and a small
one. As they came under the tree, the little buffalo said, "Grandfather, I can smell the water of our daughter-in-law." They looked up and saw the man
and woman in the tree.
The old buffalo said, "Grandchild, you are fast. Run on and tell the first one you reach, and each will tell the next one." Soon the whole herd had
turned back. Each one in succession butted the tree, and Apache Chief tried to shoot them.
Then White Buffalo Chief took a running start and crashed against the tree. They young cottonwood was nearly down, and Apache Chief could not
kill White Buffalo Chief.
Crow was calling above them, "Kaw, kaw, kaw!"
Apache Chief said angrily to Crow, "Why are you calling out when I am in such a bad way?" "I came to tell you to shoot him in the anus. That's where
his life is." So Apache Chief shot White Buffalo Chief in the anus and killed him.
He and his wife came from the tree, and he started to butcher the buffalo beside a little fire. The tears ran down her cheek. "Are you crying because I'm
butchering White Buffalo?" "No, I'm crying from the smoke."
Apache Chief kept on butchering. He looked at her again and said, "You are crying!" "No, it's just the smoke." He stared at her. "You are crying! after
all our trouble, you still want this man! Now you die with him!" and he took his bow and arrow and shot her.
"I am Apache Chief, chief of a roaming tribe," he said, "I will wander over these plains watching the earth, and if any woman leaves her husband, what
I have done to my wife may be done to her."
Based on a tale recorded by Elsie Clews Parsons in 1940.
Like other tales told in pueblos new Taos, New Mexico, this Tewa story features Apache characters. Taos, because of its proximity to the Plains area,
had a close relation to the tribes of that region, and they have shared many elements in their culture, this story being one of them. The Yellow House
people refer to people who settled toward the East, nearer the sun.
|Coyote's Rabbit Chase
A Tewa Legend
Here is another version of the Cochiti "A Contest for Wives."
Coyote got up early one morning feeling unusually full of pep. He trotted along the ridge of a wash just as the sun was beginning to appear on the
distant horizon. As he ran, he spotted a small, lumbering figure moving slowly below him. He loped down to see who it was and recognized Badger.
"Greetings, brother!" he called. Quietly badger wished him a good morning.
Coyote had already hatched a plot to get the best of Badger, so as the two paused to visit, Coyote said: "Brother, it's such a fine day that we shouldn't
waste it just wandering around. Why don't we have a contest and a wager? Let's each spend the day hunting rabbits, and at sunset we'll return to
this spot with our catch. Whoever kills the most rabbits gets to spend the night with the other's wife. What do you say, brother Badger?"
At first Badger did not think this was such a good idea, but fearing that Coyote would call him a coward, he accepted. As the two set out in opposite
directions, Coyote felt there was no way he could lose. While he ran, he imagined how it would be to spend the night with Badger Woman. After a
while he spotted a jackrabbit nibbling grass in a shady spot, and he took off after it, yelling, "Yip! Yip! Yip!"
Now, this jackrabbit had also just emerged from his hole, and he too was full of pep on this morning. He led Coyote a merry day-long chase up and
down washes, over hills, and through forests. Coyote was serenely confident, thinking, "This jackrabbit should be all I need to beat old Badger, so
slow, so cumbersome, so near-sighted. I doubt whether he'd catch anything if he had a whole year." In this fashion the day slowly waned.
Just before sunset Coyote finally wore the jackrabbit down and caught it. He hurried back to the rendezvous with Badger feeling quite sure of himself.
Meanwhile, Badger had hatched a plan of his own. Soon after their parting, he hurried to a system of rabbit holes that he knew were nearby, and at
the first one he began to dig with his powerful claws and muscles.
In short order he caught several half-asleep rabbits. By the time he made his way through the entire tunnel system, he had twelve of them. These he
laid out in a row above the tunnels as fast as he caught them, so while Coyote was just getting into his jackrabbit chase, Badger already had twelve
Badger leisurely took several trips to carry his catch to the rendezvous, and then he searched until he found a spot of shade to wait for Coyote. He was
surprised when Coyote appeared, worn out and dripping with perspiration, carrying one jackrabbit. When Coyote spotted Badger's catch, he realized
that his trick had backfired. That night coyote had to remain outside his own den while Badger made endless love to his wife. Throughout the night
these love-making sessions were marked with howls of pain from Coyote Woman. Coyote didn't sleep at all that night, and the next morning his wife,
very sore from the exertions of the evening, said: "Old man! You think you're so smart! You lose contests and I have to pay for your stupidity!"
|Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden
A Tewa Legend
Long ago in the ancient home of the San Juan people, in a village whose ruins can be seen across the river from the present-day San Juan, lived two
magically gifted young people. They youth was called Deer Hunter because even as a boy, he was the only one who never returned empty-handed
from the hunt. The girl, whose name was White Corn Maiden, made the finest pottery, and embroidered clothing with the most beautiful designs, of
any woman in the village.
These two were the handsomest couple in the village, and it was no surprise to their parents that they always sought one another's company. Seeing
that they were favored by the gods, the villagers assumed that they, and in time they did, and contrary to their elders' expectations, they began to
spend even more time with one another.
White corn Maiden began to ignore her pottery making and embroidery, while Deer Hunter gave up hunting, at a time when he could have saved
many of his people from hunger. They even began to forget their religious obligations. At the request of their worried parents, the tribal elders called a
council. This young couple was ignoring all the traditions by which the tribe had lived and prospered, and the people feared that angry gods might
bring famine, flood, sickness, or some other disaster upon the village.
But Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden ignored the council's pleas and drew closer together, swearing that nothing would ever part them. A sense
of doom pervaded the village, even though it was late spring and all nature had unfolded in new life.
Then suddenly White Corn Maiden became ill, and within three days she died. Deer Hunter's grief had no bounds. He refused to speak or eat,
preferring to keep watch beside his wife's body until she was buried early the next day.
For four days after death, every soul wanders in and around its village and seeks forgiveness from those whom it may have wronged in life. It is a
time of unease for the living, since the soul may appear in the form of a wind, a disembodied voice, a dream, or even in human shape. To prevent such
a visitation, the villagers go to the dead person before burial and utter a soft prayer of forgiveness. And on the fourth day after death, the relatives
gather to perform a ceremony releasing the soul into the spirit world, from which it will never return.
But Deer Hunter was unable to accept his wife's death. Knowing that he might see her during the four-day interlude, he began to wander around the
edge of the village. Soon he drifted farther out into the fields, and it was here at sundown of the fourth day, even while his relatives were gathering for
the ceremony of release, that he spotted a small fire near a clump of bushes.
Deer Hunter drew closer and found his wife, as beautiful as she was in life and dressed in all her finery, combing her long hair with a cactus brush in
preparation for the last journey. He fell weeping at her feet, imploring her not to leave but to return with him to the village before the releasing rite
was consummated. White Corn Maiden begged her husband to let her go, because she no longer belonged to the world of the living. Her return would
anger the spirits, she said, and anyhow, soon she would no longer be beautiful, and Deer Hunter would shun her.
He brushed her pleas aside by pledging his undying love and promising that he would let nothing part them. Eventually she relented, saying that she
would hold him to his promise. They entered the village just as their relatives were marching to the shrine with the food offering that would release the
soul of White Corn Maiden. They were horrified when they saw her, and again they and the village elders begged Deer Hunter to let her go. He
ignored them, and an air of grim expectancy settled over the village.
The couple returned to their home, but before many days had passed, Deer Hunter noticed that his wife was beginning to have an unpleasant odor.
Then he saw that her beautiful face had grown ashen and her skin dry. At first he only turned his back on her as they slept. Later he began to sit up on
the roof all night, but White Corn Maiden always joined him. In time the villagers became used to the sight of Deer Hunter racing among the houses
and through the fields with White Corn Maiden, now not much more than skin and bones, in hot pursuit.
Things continued in this way, until one morning a tall and imposing figure appeared in the small dance court at the center of the village. He was
dressed in spotless white buckskin robes and carried the biggest bow anyone had ever seen. On his back was slung a great quiver with the two largest
arrows anyone had ever seen. He remained standing at the center of the village and called, in a voice that carried into every home, for Deer Hunter
and White Corn Maiden. Such was its authority that the couple stepped forward meekly and stood facing him.
The awe-inspiring figure told the couple that he had been sent from the spirit world because they, Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden, had violated
their people's traditions and angered the spirits; that because they had been so selfish, they had brought grief and near-disaster to the village. "Since
you insist on being together," he said, "you shall have your wish. You will chase one another across the sky, as visible reminders that your people must
live according to tradition if they are to survive."
With this he set Deer Hunter on one arrow and shot him low into the western sky. Putting White Corn Maiden on the other arrow, he placed her just
behind her husband.
That evening the villagers saw two new stars in the west. The first, large and very bright, began to move east across the heavens. The second, a
smaller, flickering star, followed close behind. So it is to this day, according to the Tewa; the brighter one is Deer Hunter, placed there in the prime of
his life. The dimmer star is White Corn Maiden, set there after she had died; yet she will forever chase her husband across the heavens.
|How to Scare a Bear
A Tewa Legend
Long ago and far away this did not happen. One top of Red Rock Hill, lived a little rabbit. Prickly pears were his favorite food, and every day he
would hunt for them along the east bank of the Rio Grande. Eventually he ate all the prickly pears along that bank, so he cast his hungry eyes across
the river. He said to himself, "I'll bet plenty of them grow over there. Now, how am I going to get across the river to look?"
The rabbit knew the river was too deep and too wide for him to swim on his own, and he sighed, "Oh, how I wish that Uncle Fast Water, who moves
the current, were here to take me across."
Fast Water heard and replied, "Child, I'm lying right here. What can I do for you?"
The little rabbit leaped toward the sound. "Uncle, so this is where you live!"
"Yes, this is the place," said his uncle. "What kind of work do you want from me?"
"I want to cross the river to pick prickly pears, but the water is too deep and too wide for me. Will you help me get across?" Fast Water agreed, so the
little rabbit sat on top of his head. "Splash! Splash! Splash!", went the water, and quickly the two were on the other side. "Be sure and call me when
you want to come back," Fast Water said when they landed.
The rabbit wanted to get home before night fell, so he wasted no time but went right to picking and eating prickly pears. Then Brother Bear appeared.
"Little Rabbit!" "Yes, Brother Bear?" "My! What a pretty necklace you have."
"Yes, isn't it?" "I want to make a bet with you for that necklace," said Brother Bear. "I'm willing to bet my red necklace for yours. If I win, you'll give
me yours, and if you win, I'll give you mine." Little Rabbit agreed, and they arranged to meet at noon the next day in the same spot.
That afternoon the little rabbit returned to the river, and his uncle easily carried him back across the water. "Tomorrow you must wait for me, Uncle.
I have placed a bet with Brother Bear, and I'll need you to carry me across the river again!" "I'll wait for you," replied his uncle. "I know you'll win."
The next day the little rabbit got up early and hurried to meet Brother Bear. Because of his early start, he arrived first and decided to stroll in the
woods. As he was hopping around, he spotted an old horse bell that still had a dried-up piece of leather tied to it. He hung it around his neck, and with
each jump the bell went "Clank! Clank!" The little rabbit said to himself, "I think this bell will come in very handy with Brother Bear." And he hid the
bell carefully in the woods.
When noon came, Brother Bear appeared. "You're here early," he said. "Yes," answered the little Rabbit, but he said nothing more. The two picked a
place in the dense wooded area to have their contest. Then Brother Bear made a circle on the ground with a stick. "Little Rabbit, you can go first," said
Brother Bear. "Oh no," said the little rabbit. "You wanted to bet, and you should go first."
"Yes, I'll go first. I'll bet you I'm the braver of us two. See that circle? You sit in it, and if you move even a little from where you're sitting I win." Little
Rabbit sat down, and Brother Bear took off into the woods. A few minutes later the rabbit heard strange sound:
"I know that's Brother Bear," thought the little rabbit. "He's trying to scare me, but I won't move."
Closer and closer came the strange sounds. Suddenly, with a crash, a great big tree came tumbling down and barely missed the little rabbit.
"You moved! You moved! I saw you move!" shouted Brother Bear. "No, I didn't move. Come and see for yourself," answered the rabbit. Brother Bear
couldn't find any foot marks and had to agree that the little rabbit had not moved at all.
Little Rabbit said to Brother Bear, "Now you must sit in this circle as I did in yours." The rabbit drew a circle, and Brother Bear sat in it.
Leaving Brother Bear sitting in the circle, the rabbit headed into the woods. He just put the old horse bell around his neck and headed toward the place
where Brother Bear was waiting.
After he had hopped a few steps, the little rabbit stopped, rang the horse bell, and sang:
Ah nana-na ---Ah nana-na ---
Is cha-nay ---Cha nana-ne ---
Coo ha ya
Where are you sitting, my bear friend?
When Brother Bear heard this, he thought, "That's not my friend Little Rabbit. This is something else altogether." Coming closer to the circle where
Brother Bear was sitting, the little rabbit rang his horse bell louder and sang his song once more. Brother Bear, growing really frightened, stood up
and ran. The little rabbit jumped out and called, "You've lost! Let me have your necklace!"
As the story goes, the little rabbit defeated Brother Bear. And today if you see a rabbit around the Tewa country, and if he has a red ring around his
neck, you can be sure that the rabbit is descended from the little rabbit who won Brother Bear's pretty red necklace.