Monday, May 14, 2012

Native American Indian Legend of :The Tribe that Grew Out of A Shell

Native American Indian Legends





There was a snail living on the banks of the river Missouri, where he found plenty of food, and wanted nothing. But at length the waters began to rise and overflow its banks, and although the little animal clung to a log, the flood carried them both away: they floated along for many days. When the water fell, the poor snail was left in the mud and slime, on shore. The heat of the sun came out so strong, that he was soon fixed in the slime and could not stir. He could no longer get any nourishment. He became oppressed with heat and drought. He resigned himself to his fate and prepared to die. But all at once, he felt a renewed vigour. His shell burst open, and he began to rise. His head gradually rose above the ground, he felt his lower extremities assuming the character of feet and legs. Arms extended from his sides. He felt their extremities divide into fingers. In fine he rose, under the influence of one day's sun, into a tall and noble man. For a while he remained in a dull and stupid state. He had but little activity, and no clear thoughts. These all came by degrees, and when his recollections returned, he resolved to travel back to his native land.
But he was naked and ignorant. The first want he felt was hunger. He saw beasts and birds, as he walked along, but he knew not how to kill them. He wished himself again a snail, for he knew how, in that form, to get his food. At length he became so weak, by walking and fasting, that he laid himself down, on a grassy bank, to die. He had not laid long, when he heard a voice calling him by name. "Was-bas-has," exclaimed the voice. He looked up, and beheld the Great Spirit sitting on a white horse. His eyes glistened like stars. The hair of his head shone like the sun. He could not bear to look upon him. He trembled from head to foot. Again the voice spoke to him in a mild tone "Was-bas-has! Why do you look terrified?" "I tremble," he replied, "because I stand before Him who raised me from the ground. I am faint and hungry,—I have eaten nothing since the floods left me upon the shore—a little shell."
The Great Spirit here lifted up his hands and displaying a bow and arrows, told him to look at him. At a distance sat a bird on a tree. He put an arrow to the string, and pulling it with force, brought down the beautiful object. At this moment a deer came in sight. He placed another arrow to the string, and pierced it through and through. "These" said he, "are your food, and these are your arms," handing him the bow and arrows. He then instructed him how to remove the skin of the deer, and prepare it for a garment. "You are naked," said he, "and must be clothed; it is now warm, but the skies will change, and bring rains, and snow, and cold winds." Having said this, he also imparted the gift of fire, and instructed him how to roast the flesh. He then placed a collar of wampum around his neck. "This," said he, "is your authority over all beasts." Having done this, both horse and rider rose up, and vanished from his sight.
Was-bas-has refreshed himself, and now pursued his way to his native land. He had seated himself on the banks of the river, and was meditating on what had passed, when a large beaver rose up from the channel and addressed him. "Who art thou;" said the beaver, "that comest here to disturb my ancient reign?" "I am a man," he replied; "I was once a shell, a creeping shell; but who art thou?" "I am king of the nation of beavers," he answered: "I lead my people up and down this stream; we are a busy people, and the river is my dominion." "I must divide it with you," retorted Was-bas-has. "The Great Spirit has placed me at the head of beasts and birds, fishes and fowl; and has provided me with the power of maintaining my rights." Here he held up the bow and arrows, and displayed the collar of shells around his neck. "Come, come," said the Beaver, modifying his tone, "I perceive we are brothers.—Walk with me to my lodge, and refresh yourself after your journey," and so saying he led the way. The Snail-Man willingly obeyed his invitation, and had no reason to repent of his confidence. They soon entered a fine large village, and his host led him to the chief's lodge. It was a well-built room, of a cone-shape, and the floor nicely covered with mats. As soon as they were seated, the Beaver directed his wife and daughter to prepare food for their guest. While this was getting ready, the Beaver chief thought he would improve his opportunity by making a fast friend of so superior a being; whom he saw, at the same time, to be but a novice. He informed him of the method they had of cutting down trees, with their teeth, and of felling them across streams, so as to dam up the water, and described the method of finishing their dams with leaves and clay. He also instructed him in the way of erecting lodges, and with other wise and seasonable conversation beguiled the time. His wife and daughter now entered, bringing in vessels of fresh peeled poplar, and willow, and sassafras, and alder bark, which is the most choice food known to them. Of this, Was-bas-has made a merit of tasting, while his entertainer devoured it with pleasure. He was pleased with the modest looks and deportment of the chiefs daughter, and her cleanly and neat attire, and her assiduous attention to the commands of her father. This was ripened into esteem by the visit he made her. A mutual attachment ensued. A union was proposed to the father, who was rejoiced to find so advantageous a match for his daughter. A great feast was prepared, to which all the beavers, and other animals on good terms with them, were invited. The Snail-Man and the Beaver-Maid were thus united, and this union is the origin of the Osages. So it is said by the old people.
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