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Native American Legends

Jowiis and the Eagles

An Iroquois Legend

One day in the long time ago, Jowiis, an Indian lad, was hunting in the woods. It was cold and rainy weather, and the floods had wiped out all the trails. There was no Sun or Moon in the black Sky to guide him, and soon he lost his way. So he wandered for days, until hungry and faint, he fell upon a river-bank to die.

Then Donyondo, the Bald Eagle, swift of flight and keen of eye, saw, the lad lying on the bank. Though the bird was proud, his heart throbbed with pity at the sight of the dying Jowiis. Dropping down, and lifting him, he flew away to search for an Indian village. As he looked down toward the Earth he discovered smoke rising from some lodges. Alighting near them, he laid Jowiis on the ground, and slowly winged away.

But the rain was still falling, and no one saw the dying boy. Then Sagodaoh, the Hunting Vulture, as he flew close to the Earth looking for prey, saw and pitied Jowiis. The bird's heart was tender and his talons strong, and he gently lifted the lad, and soared with him into the Land of the Sky Birds. And he carried him to the lodge of Gadojih, the Golden Eagle, who was the Chief of all the birds.

Gadojih gave Jowiis food and warmed his body, and grew to love him. And when the lad was restored to health, Gadojih took him to the Council House of the Sky where all the birds were celebrating the New Year feast.

They taught Jowiis their dances, and the bird songs, and they instructed him in the laws of the birds-how to protect them in nesting-time, how to shelter and feed them during the cold Winter when the snow lies deep on the ground. All this they taught Jowiis while the Seven Star Brothers danced their New Year Dance above the Council House of the Sky. And after that Gadojih, the Golden Eagle, bade Sagodaoh, the Hunting Vulture, return Jowiis to the Earth. And the lad nestled close under the wing of the bird while it flew swiftly downward.

Earth was sleeping beneath her snow blanket when Jowiis returned. Her streams were frozen, and her forests silent, except for the shrill voice of the wind as it moaned through the bare branches. And the Indians were holding a feast in their Council House, when Jowiis entered it.

They welcomed him with joy, and he told them all his adventures. Then he taught them the dances of the birds and all their laws. And while the white snow lay deep upon the earth, Jowiis and the Indian lads daily scattered corn and grains for the hungry birds. And when Summer came, Jowiis sang the joyous bird-songs in the forest.

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