Native American Legends
Okteondon and his uncle, The Planter. Or, Winter delaying Spring
A Seneca Legend [John Armstrong Version]
Okteondon lived in the woods with his uncle Haienthwûs.
The young man lay fastened under the roots of an elm tree which
grew through his uncle's bark house. When very small, his uncle
had hidden him there so nobody could carry him off. There were persons
in the South who came North to steal the boys of the Wampum people.
One day, while the uncle was planting corn, he heard his nephew
sing in a loud voice, "I am rising, I am rising."
The old man dropped his planting stick, and saying, "No, nephew,
you are in too great a hurry," he ran home, and, finding that the
boy had raised his head, he pushed him back, and said, "I will tell
you when it is time to rise. As soon as you get up, women, who float
around in a canoe, will come from the South and carry you away."
The next day the old man went out to plant corn and a second time
his nephew began to sing and to try to get up. He ran home so fast
that he lost his seed corn by the way and when he came to the house
he found the tree leaning over. He put his nephew back, but the
tree could not be fixed as firmly as before.
On the third day Haienthwûs went to finish his planting,
but the minute he began to drop seed he heard the song, "I am rising!
I am rising!" He ran towards home but while running he heard an
awful crash, and he knew the tree had fallen; when he reached the
Okteondon was sitting on the ground.
The old man didn't go back to his planting; he stayed at home to
look after his nephew.
Early the next morning they heard women singing and soon a beautiful
young woman came in; one of the Wild Duck sisters.
She put down a basket near the old man, and said, "Here is the
marriage bread," and going to Okteondon she said, "I
have come to take you home with me."
"Very well," answered the young man, and he was starting to go
when his uncle stopped him, and said, "You must not go yet, you
have friends coming, men whom these sisters have stolen. You must
wait for them."
The women went away and the old man began to cook, He put over
the fire a kettle with hominy (snow) in it, When the hominy was
ready, three young men came in. Haienthwûs invited them to
eat and when they had eaten, he put clothing in a bundle and said
to his nephew, "If your friends are in need of things, you will
find them in this bundle."
The young man put on snowshoes, told his friends to walk in his
tracks; and they started. The three young men found that walking
in Okteondon's tracks was like walking on solid ground.
Toward night the young man saw a smoke and going near it found
four fires and four young women. Each woman had her own fire.
"We will make our fires near theirs," said the young man.
When the fires were burning, he went boldly up to where the four
sisters had their fires. Over each fire a kettle of hominy Was boiling.
He walked through the fires from the first one to the last, and
threw the kettles over. Three of the sisters were angry, but the
youngest sister laughed.
Okteondon went back to his friends, and said, "I am
going to hunt now," and he started off. Very near his fire he saw
bear marks on a tree. He struck the tree, and said: "You who are
in here, come out."
A bear came out; he killed it and carried the meat to the camp.
Then he said, "I will bring my uncle's kettle," and going behind
a tree he brought back a big kettle.
When the meat was cooked, the friends sat down and ate, and when
all had eaten enough Okteondon said, "We will go to where
our wives are, but we must not take any of this meat to them, if
we do we will have bad luck."
When they came to the women, they found they had hominy cooked
and were cooling it; they sat with their backs to the men, facing
the direction they were traveling in. The youngest sister, whom
Okteondon claimed as his wife, asked him to come and
eat; the other sisters said nothing.
Hótho (Cold), one of the three friends, was naked; he had
a hole through his hip and in that hole he carried a mallet; he
chose the eldest of the Wild Duck sisters.
The women kept their canoe on one side of the first fire and when
they undressed they put their clothes in the canoe.
The next morning the men went back to their fires, but one of them
had lost his leggings and moccasins; his wife had stolen them.
The sisters warmed up the cold hominy and ate it. After eating
they sat in their canoe and sailed away through the air.
Okteondon opened the bundle his uncle had given him,
took out leggings and moccasins and gave them to the man whose wife
had stolen his clothes.
When the men had eaten and were ready, they started off, following
the canoe, the trail of which they saw in the air.
Towards evening the young man saw a smoke and when some distance
from it, he said, "We will stay here."
Again he went to where the sisters were camped, walked through
their fires and spilled their hominy. Then he went back to his friends
and started off to hunt for game; but this time he had to go far,
for the woman who had stolen the leggings and moccasins had long
arms. She had stretched them out over the country, made a circle
with them and told the game to go outside that circle.
Okteondon had to go outside the circle too, before he
could find a bear. When he had the bear, he went back to camp and
said to the three men, "You have tired me with your folly. I told
you not to take even one bite of our meat to those women. You disobeyed
He got a kettle as before, cooked some of the bear meat and they
all ate heartily, then they went over to where the women were camped.
Each woman was sitting with a dish of hot hominy on her knees, cooling
it. Their faces were turned in the direction in which they were
The youngest sister asked Okteondon to eat. The young
man grew angrier and angrier and in the night, when all were asleep,
he said to a great tree that stood near the canoe the women traveled
in, "I want you to bend down to me." The tree bent down to him and
he fastened the canoe among its topmost branches, then he said,
"I want you to stand straight." The tree stood erect. Then he said,
"I want you to be covered with ice." The tree was covered with ice.
Okteondon did this because he was angry at the woman
who had stolen the leggings and moccasins of one of his companions,
and had driven the game away and made him go so far to hunt for
Early the next morning the young men went back to their own camp.
When the women couldn't find their canoe they ran around looking
for it, ran for a good while. At last they saw it in the top of
the tree. The eldest sister said, "I will try to get it down." She
spat on her hands and feet, rubbed the spittle in and right away
long nails, like bear claws, grew out on her fingers and toes. She
began to climb, went half way up the tree, then lost her grip and
came down, her claws scratching the ice as she slipped.
Now the sisters talked together and said that Okteondon
and no one else, had done this. They asked him about it and he said,
"I put your canoe on the tree because you made me angry."
When they promised not to steal again, he told the tree to bend
down. The tree bent to the ground and Okteondon took
off the canoe and gave it to the sisters, who dressed themselves,
took their food out of the canoe, cooked hominy, ate it and then
sat in the canoe and continued their journey.
All day the four men. followed the trail of the canoe. Towards
evening they saw a smoke in the distance, but when they drew near
they found a great lake covered with smooth ice.
In the middle of the lake the four sisters were camped.
Okteondon said to his friends, "We will camp on the
ice too." And getting a handful of dry leaves and hemlock boughs
he said to the men, "Follow in my steps, and be sure to put your
feet in my tracks."
When near the sisters' camp, he said, "We will camp here." He put
down his handful of boughs and leaves and it became a great pile.
He said, "I want a fire!" And there was a fire. He scattered a handful
of hemlock boughs on the other side of the fire, and said, "Here
will be our house and beds." And straightway a house of hemlock
boughs covered their fire, and in the house was a place for each
one of the four men to sleep.
The home of the sisters was on the edge of the lake, but they camped
in the middle of it, on the ice, to see how the men would act and
what power they had.
In the morning Okteondon saw that the banks of the lake
were black with people.
The sisters went to their home on the land and their mother asked,
"Which of your husbands has the most power?"
They answered "Okteondon."
Now Okteondon said to the three men, "We will go to
the women, but you must not look at the people."
The four started, from their camp on the ice, for the shore. When
they had gone a short distance three of them heard a voice singing,
"We are raining bones. We are raining bones." They heard the song
a second time, and nearer, then they heard a rustling noise and
a mass of dry bones swept past them on the ice.
Okteondon said "One of us has looked up and he has turned
At that moment all the people on the shore disappeared except an
old woman who was walking back and forth singing, "Okteondon
is my son-in-law. Okteondon is my son-in-law."
When the young man and his two friends came to the shore, the old
woman went home and they followed her and went to her house. When
there she said, "I will see if my daughters are getting you something
to eat. You must wait here till I come back." Her house was of ice.
While she was gone, Okteondon took a small bundle of
sticks and said, "Let them burn." Straightway the pile of sticks
became large and there was a great fire. Then he said to the two
men, "The old woman will bring food, out you mustn't eat it. I will
eat it for it won't hurt me." He made a hole in the ice, took a
reed and put it through himself into the hole.
The old woman came, and said, "Son-in-law, I have brought you a
little to eat. It is the rule to eat only a little after a long
The young man took the bark bowl and ate all the food, It ran through
the reed into the ground. The food was hominy (snow) and bloodsuckers
Soon she came with a second bowl, and said, "I have brought more
for you. This is hominy cooked with maple sugar." (It was wild flint,
a weed that floats on water.)
When the old woman's house was getting full of holes from the heat
of the fire, she said, "Whu! My son-in-law has spoiled my house.
We'll go to my daughters' house."
Okteondon's wife said to him, "My mother will try to
kill you; she doesn't care about the other men for she knows what
power they have and that she can kill them whenever she wants to."
Towards night the old woman said, "Whu! I think it's going to be
cold tonight, I will get logs and make a great fire to keep my
back warm." She brought logs from the woods and made a hot fire.
Okteondon's wife said, "My mother will say tonight,
'I dreamed that my son-in-law must go hunting and kill Skada'géa.
[In-the-Mist, a bird] and he must come back before the door that
he slams behind him stops shaking. if he doesn't, something bad
When night came, all lay down to sleep. In the middle of the night
the old woman began to groan terribly, she rolled out of her place
and into the fire with such force that she pushed the fire-brands
and coals about the house.
Okteondon jumped up, took the corn-pounder, struck her
and called out, "Well, Mother-in-law, what are you doing?"
The old woman sat up, and said, "Oh, I have had a dream. I dreamt
that you, my son-in-law, must kill In-the-Mist and bring him in
here before the door, that you slam behind you when going out, stops
trembling. If you fail to do this, something bad will happen.
"Go to sleep, Mother-in-law," said the young man, "we will see
to that in the morning."
The old woman lay down again and slept.
The next morning Okteondon was ready. He took hairs
from his wife's head and tied them together till he had a long cord.
Then he tied one end of the cord to the door and giving the other
end to his wife told her to jerk it and keep the door trembling
till he came back from shooting In-the-Mist.
Okteondon started and before he had gone far from the
house he saw In-the-Mist sitting on a cloud. He let go his arrow,
and the bird fell to the ground.
The old woman was very angry when she saw that the door didn't
stop trembling after Okteondon had slammed it in going
out. She pushed the door to, but her daughter kept it moving, unknown
When Okteondon went in and threw the bird on the ground
saying, "Here is a feast for you!" she said, "O, my son-in-law,
you must give me one of the wings for a fan, my old one is worn
"No," said the young man. "You cannot have a wing," and he threw
the bird on the, fire.
Hótho, Okteondon's friend, hung a kettle over
the fire and filled it with water. As soon as the feathers were
burned off the bird Okteondon cut it up and put the pieces
in the kettle. When cooked he took out the meat and skimmed every
drop of fat from the broth.
"Now," said the old woman, "you must invite all the best men of
the village to come and eat."
"I'll invite whom I please," said Okteondon. He went
out and shouted, "I invite you all, O Whirlwinds (Dagwanoenyents),
to a feast."
Soon the guests began to come, one after another. When all were
present, Okteondon said, "I have invited you to a feast
at which everything must be consumed. You must eat the meat, drink
the broth, chew up and swallow the bones."
They finished everything, left neither a drop of broth nor a bit
of bone. When they were through eating, they laughed and said, "The
flesh of the old woman's husband made a good meal."
The woman was raving. She took a pounder and struck the guests.
They flew up through the smoke-hole and off as fast as they could.
One of them made a great rent in the side of the house as he rushed
When she had driven the guests out and the house was clear, the
old woman said, "I think the night is going to be cold, I must go
She brought wood, made a great fire, and said, "Now I will warm
my back." Then she went to sleep with her back to the fire.
Okteondon's wife said, "My mother will dream again tonight,
and will say, 'I dreamed that my son-in-law was to kill the white
beaver and bring it here before the door, that he slams when going
out, stops moving. If he doesn't get back before the door stops
moving, something bad will happen.'"
Late in the night the young man heard his mother-in-law groaning.
She rolled around, threw the wood from its place on the fire and
scattered the coals.
He jumped up, took the corn-pounder, hit the old woman on the head,
and said, "You must be dreaming about me, Mother-in-law.
"Yes, I was dreaming about you, and I am afraid something bad may
happen, but you are powerful. The dream says that my son-in-law
is to kill the white beaver, and if the door that he slams behind
him stops trembling before he comes back, something bad will happen."
"Go to sleep, Mother-in-law, that is nothing."
In the morning, the young man fastened the cord made of his wife's
hair to the door and told her to keep the door moving while he was
gone. Then he went out and running to a knoll where there was a
butter-nut tree, he took a nut from the tree and hurried to the
lake. He threw the nut into the water, and said, "You who live in
this lake, come out."
The water rose up and rushed after him till he reached the knoll
where the butter-nut tree was, there it stopped.
Okteondon saw the white beaver looking out of the water.
He drew his bow, killed the beaver, seized the body and hurried
When he reached the door, the old woman was trying to hold it still
and was repeating every word that had power to stop it.
When the young man threw the beaver into the house, she said, `My
son-in-law, you must make me a pouch of this skin."
"Oh, no! I'll do what I like with it," said he, and he threw the
beaver into the fire. Hótho put on a kettle, prepared everything
and when the water was boiling, he put the beaver into the kettle
and cooked it. Then the old woman said, "Son-in-law, I want you
to invite all the chief men of this place to the feast."
"I will invite such men as I like," said Okteondon.
When the beaver was cooked, he took out the pieces of meat and
cooled them, then going outside he called loudly, "I invite all
you Whirlwinds to come to a feast."
They came and when all were there Okteondon said, "You
must eat everything to the end. Here is meat, broth, and bones.
You must eat all, and lick the bowls."
They ate the meat, swallowed the fat and drank the broth, then
the crunching of bones could be heard. Last of all they licked the
When they had finished and were satisfied, they began to laugh.
"Hi; hi; hi!" said they. "The flesh of the old woman's brother has
made us a good meal."
The old woman was terribly angry. She ran at them with the corn-pounder
and drove them out of the house.
After the feast Okteondon's wife said, "There is one
more trial, the worst of all. My mother will say tonight, 'I dreamed
that my son-in-law was killed and skinned and I made a pouch of
Okteondon said, "When she kills and skins me and puts
my flesh in a bowl, take the bowl and place it on the top of the
Towards night the old woman said, "The sky is clear we will have
a cold night, I must get logs and make a big fire."
She made a great fire and in the night began to groan and throw
the logs and fire about. Okteondon jumped up, struck
her on the head with the corn-pounder, and said, "Mother-in-law,
what is the trouble, what are you dreaming about?"
"I dreamed that I killed you and made a pouch of your skin."
"Go to sleep, we will see to that in the morning."
The next morning the young man said, "Now, Mother-in-law,
I am ready."
The old woman put a large piece of bark on the ground and told
him to lie on it. He lay down, she struck him on the head and killed
him. Then she took off his skin, leaving his hands and feet on the
skin, and cutting up the flesh put it into a bark bowl. As soon
as Okteondon's wife saw her put in the last piece, she
took the bowl and placed it on the top of the house.
The old woman sewed up the skin in the form of a pouch and distended
it by blowing. Then she hung it over the fire and poked the fire
to make it blaze. The pouch swayed to and fro over the fire and
the, old woman sang, "Oh, what a nice pouch have I, no woman living
has such a pouch!"
Each time she punched the fire, the pouch swayed more quickly to
and fro. At last it began to sing, "Oh, if the wind were out of
me!" She poked and poked the fire and the pouch swayed faster and
faster. "What a beautiful pouch I have," said she, "it even sings."
After a while the pouch made a noise: "Sho!" and went out through
As it went the old woman cried, "Oh, I've lost my pouch, I've lost
my pouch! It has run away from me!"
She hurried to the door, but in going out she met her son-in-law
coming in alive and well.
That night Okteondon had a dream; he groaned and rolled
around till the old woman got up and hit him with the corn-pounder,
saying, "Wake up!"
"I had a dream," said he.
"What was it?" asked the old woman.
"I dreamed that I must kill the Ancient of Bears and have a feast
and invite all the people in the village."
The next morning the young man killed the Ancient of Bears.
Hótho got the kettle ready and when the flesh of the bear
was cooked Okteondon said to his wife and the two friends,
who had come with him from his uncle's place, "You must go out of
They went out and the new company came in: the old woman and her
other daughters and the people of the place.
Okteondon said, "Here is flesh, fat, and bones. You
must eat all that is placed before you and clean the bowls."
The chief of the people said, "We have everything here before us.
Okteondon went out and ran around the house; while running
he said, "Let this house become stone, and the ground under it be
stone, so that the greatest wizard couldn't get out, and let the
house become red hot."
While the people were eating and drinking and saying, "Ho, ho,
this is a great feast," the house began to grow hot. Someone spoke
up so loudly that he was heard outside, and said, "Let us get out
of here as quickly as we can. Something is wrong."
They all tried to get out, but couldn't. One jumped up to where
the smoke-hole had been, and those outside heard him knock his head
against solid stone and fall back. Another said, "I will go out
through the ground."
After a while the voices and screams inside the house died down;
and all was quiet.
The house cracked open, the heads of the people burst, one after
another, and out of them came screech owls, horned owls, and gray
and red foxes, and all rushed out of sight.
The people of the old woman's village were man-eaters. The sisters
sailed around everywhere in their canoe, deceiving men and luring
them to that village to be devoured. All the sisters, except Okteondon's
wife were burned up with the old woman and the man-eaters.
The young man and his wife went to the lake shore where they found
a great pile of bones; they gathered them up, put them under a large
hickory tree, then pushed the tree and called out, "Rise up, or
the tree will fall on you!"
At this call the bones sprang up living men, and each man went
to his own home.
"We will go home too," said the young man to his wife, and they
went to the house of his uncle, Haienthwûs.
When Okteondon went away his uncle hung up a belt, and
said, "The deeper you are in trouble the nearer this belt will come
to the ground, if you die it will touch the ground."
The belt had touched the ground and the old man had mourned, but
now it was up again.
While his nephew was away, many persons had come to the door pretending
Okteondon and had deceived the old man. Now when his
nephew knocked, he said, "Put your arm through the hole in the door."
He did so. The old man tied it there firmly, then said, "Now, I
have got you!" and he opened the door to strike whoever was outside,
but seeing Okteondon and his wife he said, "Oh, my nephew,
wait a minute till I clean up a bit." He brushed away the ashes
and then he welcomed his nephew.
The narrator said that this story described winter trying to delay
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