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Native American Legends

Black and White Moons

A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend

In the time of beginnings, the good spirits and the evil spirits met in council to determine how the world should be divided between them. First they took up the question of how many moons there should be from one winter to the next. Wild Turkey (Zizikega) strutted before them and spread his tail feathers, declaring, "Let a year be as many moons a there are spots on my tail." But the council of spirits voted this down, as there were far too many spots on his tail. Partridge also suggested that there should be as many moons in a year as there were spots on his tail, but the spirits felt that it was also too long a time. Then Chipmunk (Hetcgenîka) scampered up throwing its tail over its head as chipmunks always do, and said, "Let a year be as many moons are there are black and white stripes down my back." The counselors thought well of this suggestion, and allowed that the six black stripes would be the summer moons, and the six white stripes would be the moons of winter.

The evil spirits are greedy, however. They always wish for darkness, so when they saw the bright white disc of the moon and how it lit up the world, they began to eat the Night Luminary away until nothing was left of it. But Earthmaker was not content to see his creation consumed, leaving a dark world as a cover for evil, so he recreated the moon a little each night until at the end of fourteen nights it was full again. Then Earthmaker rested. While the Creator took leave, the evil spirits again gnawed away at the moon until it was completely consumed. And so it continues, with Earthmaker ever renewing the moon and his enemies forever eating it away.

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