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Native American 
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As Told By Toy 
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AIROS (home)






THE GREAT WHITE ROOTS OF THE TREE OF PEACE

Roots have spread out from the Tree of Great Peace, one to the north, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west. These are the Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and Strength. 

If any man or any nation outside of the Six Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace (Gayanerekowa) and shall make this known to the statesmen of the League, they may trace back the roots of the Tree.

If their minds are clean and if they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Council and of the League, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves. 

We place at the top of the Tree of Great Peace an eagle who is able to see afar. If he sees in the distance any danger threatening, he will at once warn the people of the League.







This one is a history lesson



The Shoshoni (also Shoshone) lived in Idaho, parts of Utah and parts of Northern Nevada, and it is believed that Sacajawea was born in Eastern Idaho in what is now Salmon, Idaho. Everything about Sacajawea is mysterious from the correct spelling and meaning of her name, to the circumstances surrounding her death. Some of what we do have recorded is relayed here.

At about age 10, Sacajawea was captured by a raiding band of Hidatsa and carried to their camp near the border of North Dakota. Eventually, Sacajawea was sold to a French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau.

The Corps of Discovery (as the Lewis and Clark Expedition was officially named) had camped for the winter at Fort Mandan in North Dakota, which is where Charbonneau was also spending the winter with his pregnant wife, Sacajawea.

When winter broke, Charbonneau was hired to guide Lewis & Clark due to his knowledge of the country where he trapped. He was specifically instructed to bring Sacajawea, with her baby boy Jean Baptiste, for a number of reasons. First of all, the presence of a woman and baby would establish the peaceful nature of the party. Secondly a Native translator and negotiator with knowledge of the languages, customs and tribes of the country was essential.

While Lewis' journals make very little mention of Sacajawea, Clark carefully detailed her contributions to the success of the journey. Her knowledge of the terrain and mountain passes saved weeks of travel time. Her ability to speak and negotiate with Native tribes allowed the expedition to keep fresh horses and food all along the way.

When food was scarce, Sacajawea gathered and prepared roots, nuts, berries and other edible plants in order to provide tasty nourishment. Clark was so taken with Sacajawea, and so concerned about her welfare at the hands of the abusive and wife-beating Charbonneau, that he proposed taking the infant boy to St. Louis to be raised in safety. For her efforts in making the expedition successful, Lewis & Clark named a river "Sacajawea" in her honor.

From here, history becomes cloudy. It is known that Sacajawea did take her son to Clark in St. Louis (as promised) where he was raised as Clark's own. She did leave Charbonneau and spend time in St. Louis.

One account says that she died of "putrid fever" (smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever??) at age 25, and even Clark's account of the members of his expedition mark her as dead.

Native accounts, however, especially Shoshoni oral history, have Sacajawea marrying several more times, having a number of children, and meeting up with her son Jean Baptiste in Wind River, Wyoming.

This woman (called Porivo) had intimate knowledge of the Lewis & Clark expedition, spoke French, wore a Jefferson Medal around her neck, was a political speaker who spoke at the meeting which led to the Ft. Bridger Treaty, was credited with introducing the Sun Dance Ceremony to the Shoshoni, and was an advocate of agriculture as a necessary skill for the Shoshoni.

Porivo died at age 96, and was buried in the white cemetery at Ft. Washakie as a final show of respect for her efforts in behalf of both Lewis & Clark, and her own people.

Dr. Charles Eastman, who had been hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate Sacajawea, opted for the Native history as being the most accurate.

After extensive research, Eastman determined that Porivo was, indeed, Sacajawea and a monument was erected in her honor at her gravesite.

However, Sacajawea's story will change depending upon the account you're reading, the part of the country you're in, and the heritage of the author of the story.

After the passage of so much time, it is unlikely that her movements after she left St. Louis will ever be known with certainty.

What is known with certainty is that Sacajawea was responsible for raising the Native American woman to a new level of respect and admiration.







Grandmother Spider the Firebringer



The Choctaw People say that when the People first came up out of the ground, People were encased in cocoons, their eyes closed, their limbs folded tightly to their bodies. And this was true of all People, the Bird People, the Animal People, the Insect People, and the Human People.

The Great Spirit took pity on them and sent down someone to unfold their limbs, dry them off, and open their eyes. But the opened eyes saw nothing, because the world was dark, no sun, no moon, not even any stars. All the People moved around by touch, and if they found something that didn't eat them first, they ate it raw, for they had no fire to cook it.

All the People met in a great powwow, with the Animal and Bird People taking the lead, and the Human People hanging back. The Animal and Bird People decided that life was not good, but cold and miserable. A solution must be found!

Someone spoke from the dark, "I have heard that the people in the East have fire." This caused a stir of wonder, "What could fire be?" There was a general discussion, and it was decided that if, as rumor had it, fire was warm and gave light, they should have it too.

Another voice said, "But the people of the East are too greedy to share with us," So it was decided that the Bird and Animal People should steal what they needed, the fire!

But, who should have the honor? Grandmother Spider volunteered, "I can do it! Let me try!" But at the same time, Opossum began to speak. "I, Opossum, am a great chief of the animals. I will go to the East and since I am a great hunter, I will take the fire and hide it in the bushy hair on my tail." It was well know that Opossum had the furriest tail of all the animals, so he was selected.

When Opossum came to the East, he soon found the beautiful, red fire, jealously guarded by the people of the East. But Opossum got closer and closer until he picked up a small piece of burning wood, and stuck it in the hair of his tail, which promptly began to smoke, then flame.

The people of the East said, "Look, that Opossum has stolen our fire!" They took it and put it back where it came from and drove Opossum away.

Poor Opossum! Every bit of hair had burned from his tail, and to this day, opossums have no hair at all on their tails.

Once again, the powwow had to find a volunteer chief. Grandmother Spider again said, "Let me go! I can do it!" But this time a bird was elected, Buzzard. Buzzard was very proud. "I can succeed where Opossum has failed. I will fly to the East on my great wings, then hide the stolen fire in the beautiful long feathers on my head."

The birds and animals still did not understand the nature of fire. So Buzzard flew to the East on his powerful wings, swooped past those defending the fire, picked up a small piece of burning ember, and hid it in his head feathers. Buzzard's head began to smoke and flame even faster!

The people of the East said, "Look! Buzzard has stolen the fire!" And they took it and put it back where it came from.

Poor Buzzard! His head was now bare of feathers, red and blistered looking. And to this day, buzzards have naked heads that are bright red and blistered.

The powwow now sent Crow to look the situation over, for Crow was very clever. Crow at that time was pure white, and had the sweetest singing voice of all the birds. But he took so long standing over the fire, trying to find the perfect piece to steal that his white feathers were smoked black. And he breathed so much smoke that when he tried to sing, out came a harsh, "Caw! Caw!"

The Council said, "Opossum has failed. Buzzard and Crow have failed. Who shall we send?"

Tiny Grandmother Spider shouted with all her might,
"LET ME TRY IT PLEASE!"

Though the council members thought Grandmother Spider had little chance of success, it was agreed that she should have her turn.

Grandmother Spider looked then like she looks now, she had a small torso suspended by two sets of legs that turned the other way. She walked on all of her wonderful legs toward a stream where she had found clay.

With those legs, she made a tiny clay container and a lid that fit perfectly with a tiny notch for air in the corner of the lid. Then she put the container on her back, spun a web all the way to the East, and walked tiptoe until she came to the fire.

She was so small, the people from the East took no notice. She took a tiny piece of fire, put it in the container, and covered it with the lid. Then she walked back on tiptoe along the web until she came to the People.

Since they couldn't see any fire, they said, "Grandmother Spider has failed."

"Oh no," she said, "I have the fire!" She lifted the pot from her back, and the lid from the pot, and the fire flamed up into its friend, the air.

All the Birds and Animal People began to decide who would get this wonderful warmth. Bear said, "I'll take it!" but then he burned his paws on it and decided fire was not for animals, for look what happened to Opossum!

The Birds wanted no part of it, as Buzzard and Crow were still nursing their wounds. The insects thought it was pretty, but they, too, stayed far away from the fire.

Then a small voice said, "We will take it, if Grandmother Spider will help." The timid humans, whom none of the animals or birds thought much of, were volunteering!

So Grandmother Spider taught the Human People how to feed the fire sticks and wood to keep it from dying, how to keep the fire safe in a circle of stone so it couldn't escape and hurt them or their homes.

While she was at it, she taught the humans about pottery made of clay and fire, and about weaving and spinning, at which Grandmother Spider was an expert.

The Choctaw remember. They made a beautiful design to decorate their homes, a picture of Grandmother Spider, two sets of legs up, two down, with a fire symbol on her back.

This is so their children never forget to honor Grandmother Spider, Firebringer!







How the Fly Saved the River
an Ojibway legend from Eastern Canada



Many, many years ago when the world was new, there was a beautiful river. Fish in great numbers lived in this river, and its water was so pure and sweet that all the animals came there to drink.

A giant moose heard about the river and he too came there to drink. But he was so big, and he drank so much, that soon the water began to sink lower and lower.

The beavers were worried. The water around their lodges was disappearing. Soon their homes would be destroyed.

The muskrats were worried, too. What would they do if the water vanished? How could they live?

The fish were very worried. The other animals could live on land if the water dried up, but they couldn't.

All the animals tried to think of a way to drive the moose from the river, but he was so big that they were too afraid to try. Even the bear was afraid of him.

At last the fly said he would try to drive the moose away.

All the animals laughed and jeered. How could a tiny fly frighten a giant moose?

The fly said nothing, but that day, as soon as the moose appeared, he went into action. He landed on the moose's foreleg and bit sharply.

The moose stamped his foot harder, and each time he stamped, the ground sank and the water rushed in to fill it up. Then the fly jumped about all over the moose, biting and biting and biting until the moose was in a frenzy.

He dashed madly about the banks of the river, shaking his head, stamping his feet, snorting and blowing, but he couldn't get rid of that pesky fly.

At last the moose fled from the river,
and didn't come back.

The fly was very proud of his achievement, and boasted to the other animals,

"Even the small can fight the strong if they use their brains to think."







HOW MAN WAS CREATED


Traditional Dakota spiritual leaders are creationists and do not believe in the Bering Strait hypothesis for the peopling of North America nor the evolution of human beings in a Darwinian sense.

Legends tell us that it was hundreds and perhaps thousands of years ago since the first man sprang from the soil in the midst of these great plains.

The story says that one morning long ago a lone man awoke, face to the sun, emerging from the soil. Only his head was visible, the rest of his body not yet being fashioned.

The man looked about, but saw no mountains, no rivers, no forests. There was nothing but soft and quaking mud, for the earth itself was still young.

Up and up the man drew himself until he freed his body from the clinging soil. At last he stood upon the earth, but it was not solid, and his first few steps were slow and halting.

But the sun shone and ever the man kept his face turned toward it. In time the rays of the sun hardened the face of the earth and strengthened the man and he bounded and leaped about, a free and joyous creature.

From this man sprang the Lakota nation and, so far as we know, our people have been born and have died on this plain; and no people have shared it with us until the coming of the European.





Thanks you so much for graciously letting me use your stories. I can't thanks you enough.



PLEASE VISIT TOY STORIES WEB SITES

Toy Story's Kitchen

Native American Women







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