Native American Legends
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 say 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
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 he kiva was filled
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
"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. they tragedy
that occurred at O-Ke-owin forced our people to move to Xun Ochute,
which is now San Juan.
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