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A meal for Nata'Yowa

A Blackfoot Legend

One day, late in the fall, Napi was out walking, when he came upon a number of gophers playing near the remains of a camp-fire. It was a raw, cold day, and the gophers were taking turns warming themselves in the ashes of the fire. One gopher would lie down on the ground and the Others would cover him with the warm ashes. When he was thoroughly warmed, he would squeak loudly, and another would take his place.

The game gave Napi an idea. So, losing no time in carrying out his scheme, he sat down on the ground and began to cry. The gophers came running to see what was the matter. "Oh, you are having so much fun, getting so nice and warm!" yelled Napi. "I am so cold, and there is nobody to play games with me! I wish I could play with you!

The gophers said, "Well, Old Man, it's not difficult. We do it this way. . . " and the sympathetic gophers invited him into the game. "I will go first," said Napi, taking over. "You cover me with the ashes, then, since I am bigger than you I can cover up all of you at once; and we will all be warm at the same time. Then we can do something else."

So Napi lay down, and the gophers covered him with ashes, but he had stayed there only a minute when he said he was warm enough, and wished to be let out. Then it was the turn of the gophers. They all lay down in a neat row, and Napi began covering them with ashes. But instead of the just-warm ashes they had been using, Napi packed the misguided little animals in hot embers! The poor gophers squeaked and squealed, but Napi, the wicked, just kept piling on hot coals till they were all roasted!

"This will be a very good meal," said Napi, going off to the bush for some willow sticks to use in picking up the hot meat. But while he was gone, along came Nata'Yowa, the Lynx. Nata'Yowa could smell the gophers cooking, and he was hungry. So, losing no time about it, he dug the gophers out of the embers and ate every one of them.

When Napi came back, all that was left of his meal was a little pile of tails. Napi was in a fine rage! He danced around furiously. Then, observing a trail which Nata'Yowa had been too full of food and too sleepy to bother hiding, he set off in pursuit of the culprit who had stolen his meat. Following the trail, he came to where the Lynx was sleeping in the shadow of a large rock.

Creeping up, he seized Nata'Yowa by the back of his neck, and began to pound his nose against the rock. When he had pounded the Lynx's nose till it was very short and stubby Napi rubbed his face in the long grass. The grass stuck to Nata'Yowa's face and turned into whiskers. Some of it made little tufts on his ears.

The Old Man picked Nata'Yowa up by his tail, but the tail broke off short. So he took him by the hind legs instead, and twirled Nata'Yowa round his head very rapidly. As he was whirled round, Nata'Yowa's hind legs stretched, till they were longer than they should have been. Then, Napi let the Lynx go, and threw him a long way away, "It serves you right for stealing my food!" said Old Man.

And that is why Nata'Yowa has a short stubby nose, a bobbed-off tail, whiskers, tufty little ears, and long hind legs.

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