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Friday, March 6, 2015

Story of the Bird Clan

A Chickasaw Legend
This clan was not very numerous. Their origin was not known for
some time, but finally it was discovered. There were some people
living on two neighboring hills, but for a long time it was not
thought that these had inhabitants.
These hills were thought uninhabited because other people did not
see how they could get down from them to hunt. When they found that they actually were inhabited they thought that the occupants must have wings, and so they called them Birds.
They were people who were up and off before day. They did not have
many peculiar customs. They were like real birds in that they would
not bother anybody. They usually had many wives, and they had a
good custom of not marrying anyone outside of their clan or those
belonging to another house group. A woman might belong to the very
same clan as a man, but if her house name was different from his
he would not marry her.
The reason was that they did not want to mix their blood with that
of other people. They kept to the ways of their ancestors without
disturbing anyone else. They were satisfied with what had been handed down to them. The people of this clan had different sorts of minds, just as there are different species of birds.
Some have the minds of wood-peckers, others of crows, others of
pigeons, eagles, chicken hawks, horned owls, common owls, buzzards, screech owls, day hawks, prairie hawks, field larks, red-tailed hawks, red birds, wrens, hummingbirds, speckled woodpeckers, cranes, bluebirds, blackbirds, turkeys, chickens, quails, tcowe eak (birds found only in winters and looking like martins), yellow hammers, whip-poor-wills, and like all other kinds of birds.
Some have homes and some have not, as is the case with birds. It
seems as though the best people of the Bird clan were wiser than
any others. They do not work at all, but have an easy time going
through life and go anywhere they want to.
They have many offspring as birds have. They do whatever they desire, and when anything happens to them they depend on persons of their own house group without calling in strangers.
This is the end of the story of the Birds, although much more might
be written about them.


These people dressed differently from others but in most of their customs they were similar. They had a certain habit, however, in which they were unique and that was that they would kill one other.
Their taste in the matter of food was also peculiar. They liked to dance as well as any other people and would rather dance the Raccoon dance then eat. When they were going to have a dance they would send out a messenger to announce the fact, and afterwards the old men and old women would dance all night. When they were preparing for a dance they would boil certain roots to make a kind of tea which they considered stimulating. They could dance all night without feeling any ill effects. The foods of which they were fondest were fish and all kinds of fruits such as grapes.
When fruit was plentiful they like that best which ripens early in the winter. In the spring they ate every kind of thing that was eatable. In the fall they hung bunches of grapes up to dry and then stored them away for winter’s use. In summer they dried green corn for the winter.
Some made shuck (or blue) bread, some made cold flour, and some laid away meal out of which porridge is made. Some foods would last as long as they desired.
These people were very cunning. They knew just what to do and how to do it and could not be cheated by others, except for the younger people, who were easily deceived. They would not undertake anything of which they were not sure in advance. They would not let other clans intermarry with theirs.
They had clever ways of finding out what they wanted to know, and they depended very much upon a conjurer (apoloma), who could excel in the game of hiding-the-bullet, in horse racing, and in the ball game.
Sometimes the conjurer was called a wizard (ieta holo). They had great faith in him and he was not afraid of undertaking any task assigned to him, yet he was not as good as a doctor (alektci). He could imitate any sort of animal or bird, but he could work only among his own people, or near his own side, fearing lest the opponents would kill him. The others did not know what he might do. Whatever the conjurer chose to do was considered right, but some conjurers were afraid to do as they ought by their own side lest the opponents should injure them afterwards. The conjurer foretold what was going to happen to the ball players and those that heeded his advice did not get into trouble, but some would forget and suffer injuries and be sorry that they had not been obedient.
When the people headed the conjurer’s warning they usually won, i.e., if their conjurer was better than that on the side of the opponents.
These people had great faith in their leaders and most of them would heed their advice, but there were a few who would not listen to the advice of the older people, and through these in course of time all went to the bad.
Some would not visit the sick or have anything to do with them though they were under oath to assist them. They were too proud. They became utterly incompetent because they would listen neither to the conjurer nor the old people.
Sometimes, too, the conjurer told them lies and they found it out and for that reason would not listen to him.



ONCE in the hot Summer weather, a lovely girl, named Feather Woman, was sleeping among the tall prairie grasses by the side of her lodge. She awoke just as the Morning Star was rising. As she gazed at its brightness, it seemed so beautiful that she loved it with all her heart. She roused her sister, who was sleeping beside her, and said: "Oh, sister, look at the Morning Star! I will never marry anybody except that Star!"

The sister laughed at her, and, getting up, ran into the camp, and told what Feather Woman had said, and the people all mocked and laughed. But Feather Woman paid no heed to their unkind words, but rose each day at dawn, and gazed on the Morning Star.

One morning early, as she went alone to the river, to fetch water for the lodge, she beheld a bright youth standing in the river-path.

"Feather Woman," said he, smiling, "I am Morning Star. I have seen you gazing upward, and am now come to carry you back with me to my dwelling."

At this Feather Woman trembled greatly. Then Morning Star took from his head a rich yellow plume. He placed it in her right hand, while in her other hand he put a branch of Juniper. And he bade her close her eyes, and she did so.

When she opened her eyes, she was in the Sky Land, standing in front of a shining lodge, and Morning Star was by her side. This was the home of his parents, the Sun and the Moon.

The Sun was away, casting his hottest Summer rays on the parched Earth, but the Moon was at home, and she welcomed Feather Woman kindly. She dressed the girl in a soft robe of buckskin trimmed with Elk-teeth. And when the Sun came back that night, he called Feather Woman his daughter.
So she was married to Morning Star, and they lived happily in the shining lodge. In time they had a little son, whom they named Star-Boy.

One day the Moon gave Feather Woman a root-digger, and told her to go about the Sky Land, and dig up all kinds of roots; but on no account to touch the Great Turnip that grew near the lodge. For if she did so, unhappiness would come to them all.

So day after day, Feather Woman went out and dug roots. She often saw the Great Turnip, but though she never touched it, her heart was filled with a desire to see what lay beneath it.

One day as she was wandering near the lodge, she was so overcome by curiosity, that she laid Star-Boy on the ground, and taking her root-digger, began to dig around the Great Turnip. But the digger fastened itself in the side of the Turnip, and she could not withdraw it. Just then two large Cranes flew over her head, and she called them to help her. They sang a magic song, and the Great Turnip was uprooted.
Then Feather Woman looked down through the hole where the Turnip had been, and, lo, far below she saw the camp of the Blackfeet, where she had lived. The smoke ascended from the lodges, and she could hear the laughter of the playing children, and the songs of the women at work. The sight filled her with homesickness, and she went back weeping to the shining lodge.

As she entered, Morning Star looked earnestly at her, and said, "Alas! Feather Woman, you have uprooted the Great Turnip!"

The Sun and the Moon, also, were troubled, when they knew she had been disobedient to their wishes; and they said that she must return at once to Earth. So Morning Star took Feather Woman sadly by the hand, and placing little Star-Boy upon her shoulder, led her to the Spider Man who lived in the Sky Land.
Then the Spider Man wove a web through the hole made by the Great Turnip, and let Feather Woman and her child down to the Earth. And her people saw her coming like a falling Star.

She was welcomed by her parents, and they loved little Star-Boy. And though after that Feather Woman always lived with her people, she was not happy; but longed to return to the Sky Land, and see Morning Star. But her longings were in vain, and soon her unhappy life was ended.