Native American Legends
The adventures of Gányage Gowa
A Seneca Legend
Gányage Gowa (Diver, a duck) lived by a lake. One morning
he went out in his bark canoe to fish, but finding no fish he went
home and put away his canoe. Soon afterward he said, "Well, I must
go somewhere. I am tired of staying, here," and he walked along
the shore till he came near the end of the lake and saw a house,
He went to the house and finding no one there and plenty of meat,
he ate what meat he wanted and was starting off when he saw a. man
coming from the lake, with a big load on his back. This old man
was I´Onwe (Wild Duck).
The two met and greeted each other.
"I came to visit you," said Diver, "I have been in your house."
"Well, come back with me," said Duck.
"No, I must go on."
"Come again, then," said Duck.
Diver swam across the lake and keeping along the bank soon saw
another house. Going near he looked in through a crack and saw a
large family; a man and woman and their children. He stood around
a while then went in.
The man, who was of the Hóngâk people (Canada Goose),
greeted him and asked, "Where did you come from?"
"From the other side of the lake," said Diver.
"What did you come for?"
"To see the place. It is pleasant here."
"How far are you going?"
"Around the lake."
The two men became friends and after a while, Goose said, "I will
go with you."
"Very well," answered Diver, and they walked along the shore. At
midday they came to the mouth of a river and Diver asked, "How can
we cross this wide river?"
"We can swim, if you know how," said Duck.
"I do," answered Diver.
They swam across, then walked on till they saw a rock, then many
rocks. The path grew narrower and narrower, Goose was ahead, Diver
picked up a stone, and, tying a bark string around it, hung the
stone on his friend's back without the man's knowing it. He couldn't
walk now, kept slipping back.
Diver said, "Come on! I'm in a hurry, I want to get home before
"Then let go of me, don't pull me back."
"I am not pulling you back, I'll go ahead if you want me to. Wait,
I will pass you."
When Diver was ahead he said, "Now, come on!"
Goose couldn't walk fast and Diver left him. The trail grew narrow
till at last there was none. The name of the place was Heusdeo´on
(Rocks go to the water).
"I must turn back," thought Diver. "I can't get by these rocks."
There was not room to turn around, so he tried to walk backwards.
After a few steps he slipped into the water and began to swim. When
past the rocks he came out and walked again. It was nearly sundown
and he asked in his mind, "When will I get home?"
Soon it was so dark that he couldn't travel, so, finding a hollow
tree, he crawled into it. Not long afterward he heard footsteps
on the dry leaves. The sound stopped near the tree. Diver kept very
A voice asked, "Are you sleeping in this tree?"
"I am," answered Diver.
"I want you to come out and talk with me."
Diver crawled out and there stood Goose, who asked, "Do you know
how angry I am?"
"Why are you angry?" asked Diver. "I urged you to come along, but
"You did something to stop me. Look at my back."
The flesh was off where the stone had hung.
Goose caught hold of Diver and began to strike him. Diver didn't
want to fight. He pulled away and ran, but Goose overtook him and
again began to strike. Diver was angry now.
The two fought till dark the next day, then Diver said,
Let us rest a while."
"Very well," said Goose, "You can stay here, I will be back tomorrow."
As soon as Goose was out of sight, Diver ran off. He came to a
river and thought, "I will swim across," but the water ran too swiftly.
He was carried down stream and into rough water where he couldn't
help himself. In the river there was a large rock. Diver was driven
against it, and he thought, "Now I am going to die," but after struggling
a while, he drew himself out of the water on to the rock.
In the morning Goose went back to the hollow tree and not finding
Diver tracked him to the river, and saying, "I'll catch him!" he
sprang into the water and tried to swim, but the water was too swift.
It swept him to the rock where Diver was.
"I am going to die now," said Goose.
Diver heard someone talking and when he saw who it was he was frightened.
He jumped into the water, and, after struggling a long time, reached
Goose was drowned. His body floated to the bank. Diver saw it and
said in his mind, "Oh, there is my friend! Did he think he could
kill me? Didn't he know that I had more power than he had?"
Diver traveled on and soon reached home. That night he dreamed
that he was on a trail going toward the West when, in a large opening
in the forest, he saw a Nyagwaihe coming from the southwest, and
he thought, "I am going to die; that creature will kill me." He
kept his face toward his, enemy and walked backward to get away.
Soon, from the northwest came Blue Lizard. Diver went backward and
backward as fast as he could; Bear and Lizard met and began to fight.
Diver watched them, wondering which one would conquer. As they fought
they came near him. Again he went backward, went till he fell into
a hole in the ground. Bear and Lizard fell on to him. Screaming,
"Hurry up! Help me! I am going to die," Diver woke up and found
himself alone. His blanket was wrapped tight around his body and
he was rolling on the floor.
"What a bad dream I've had," said he to himself.
He fell asleep again and again he dreamed of Bear and Lizard, but
this time they were in the forest and belonged to him. He made them
stand near each other, put a stick across them, sat on it and told
them to go toward the West, They reached the end of the earth very
quickly. Diver sprang down, and saying, "Stay here!" he went South
till he came to a house. In the house was a nice looking old man.
"I have come to see you," said Diver, "I am traveling around the
"Where did you come from?" asked the old man.
"I came from Great Lake."
"Why do you travel?"
"Oh, to see the world and find out what kind of people are living
"What is your name?"
"Diver. What is yours?"
"My name is Dzótháwendon (Humming Bird).
My master lives near here, you must see him before you visit me.
Going in the direction pointed out, Diver came to a house standing
on a high rock. He stood by the rock, and thought, "How can I get
up there?" Then he saw a narrow ledge running around and around
and following it he came to the house. In the house an old man was
sitting by a fire.
Diver greeted him and he asked, "Why did you come here?"
"To see the world."
"Where did you come from?"
"From Great Lake."
"What is your name?"
"Diver. What is yours?"
"I am Dagwanoenyent" (Whirlwind).
"Will you let me visit you?" asked Diver.
"You can stay here as long as you like."
One morning Whirlwind asked, "Don't you want to go and see my servant?"
"I would like to," answered Diver.
They were soon at Humming Bird's house. They went in, but he was
Whirlwind said, "My servant is not here. He must have gone to the
southern end of the world. A very cross people live there. He is
trying to subdue them, make them peaceful. You must go home now.
Something will come and chase you if you are here at midday."
Diver started, but he hadn't gone far when he saw White Beaver
coming. He tried to hide, but could find no place. He tried so hard
that he woke up.
He felt sad and worried over his dreams. He was hungry, and he
said to himself, "I will get my canoe and try to catch a few fish."
He went far out looking for fish. Seeing a large trout he jumped
after it, but it disappeared; he saw another, jumped again, no fish.
Then he looked around carefully and found there was a fish on the
right side of the canoe and its shadow was down in the water.
He caught the fish, ate it, and started for home, but he was far
out on the lake and didn't know which way to go. He rowed very fast,
in the right direction, as he supposed. He reached the shore but
saw no house. Leaving his canoe he walked toward home, as he thought.
He walked till night, then came to a hut in the woods. Going near
he stopped and listened.
There was a man in the hut and he was saying, "I know how to get
power, I can teach anyone who comes here, I know the whole world.
I can give power to anyone who wants it. I wish Diver would come.
I would show him how strong I am. He thinks he is the strongest
man under the Blue."
Diver thought, "Why does he say that? Doesn't he know how strong
He listened again, Gasyondetha (Meteor) was the old man and he
said, "I am the swiftest runner and the swiftest flyer. I can make
light go through the world, I have greater strength than any man.
The Geese people tried to chase me; I killed them all, I am the
man, who, many years ago, was made chief of all the people under
the Blue." He alluded to a council held by Humming Bird and other
"I would kill that man if he chased me," thought Diver. "He must
be crazy. He talks to himself all the time."
Diver went into the house and said, "You are talking about me."
"No, I am not."
"I will go, then, I thought you were saying things about me."
Diver went outside, picked up two large stones and striking them
together, said, "I'll do this way by that man if he follows me."
Meteor came out and asked, "What did you say?
"I said that you are the best friend I have in the world."
"What did you say about the stones?"
"I said that when my friend traveled he had to carry these stones
and if he went into the water he had to throw them."
Meteor half believed the man and he went into the house.
Diver laughed, and thought, "Oh, he is a fool. He believes what
I say." He went into the house again.
"Why do you come here!" asked Meteor. "Why don't you go home?"
"I want to stay till tomorrow morning."
"I don't want such a man as you are around."
"I'll not bother you."
"Go away, I don't like you. You are mean."
"I am not mean. I will be quiet."
"Well, stay, but you mustn't talk to me."'
When night came, Meteor took his pipe and sitting down by the fire,
put coals into it and began to puff.
"Does it taste good?" asked Diver.
Meteor didn't answer.
Soon Diver said, "How the smoke rolls around!"
Meteor was angry and screamed, "Get out of this hut! I don't want
"You said that I could stay till morning."
"Didn't I tell you not to talk?"
"I'll be quiet. Don't put me out."
Meteor was silent.
Diver laughed. After a while he said, "I want to ask a question,
'What is this world made of?'"
Meteor turned around, he was cross, but he didn't speak.
Then Diver asked, "Do you believe the old folks who say that Whirlwind
is still alive?"
Meteor didn't speak, he only turned and looked at Diver, then turned
back and smoked.
"Do you believe that Wind goes everywhere?" asked Diver.
"I'll throw you out!" screamed Meteor. "I told you not to talk
"Don't throw me out," begged Diver. "I: am going to be quiet now."
Meteor sat down.
After a while Diver asked, "Do you believe old folks who say that
Híno' makes rain?"
"Do you believe persons who say that trouble comes to those who
pay no heed to what is told them?"
Meteor looked at Diver, but didn't answer.
"Do you believe old folks who say that water runs day and night?"
Meteor caught up a club and began to strike Diver, who begged hard
and promised to be quiet.
"No, get out! I won't have you here!" cried Meteor.
Diver begged still harder. Meteor stopped striking and was calm
again. Diver laughed and said to himself, "Whenever I say anything,
people lose their anger."
In the middle of the night Diver spoke again. Meteor sprang up.
He was very angry.
"Don't be angry," said Diver, "I only want to know things."
"Go to sleep!" said Meteor, "I don't want to talk.
Diver was silent for a little while, then he spoke again. Meteor
"Now go!" cried he, "I don't like you."
Diver began to beg, but Meteor seized him by the hair and threw
him out of the house.
"Oh, let me in," begged Diver. "I'll stop talking."
"Go away, or I will kill you," said Meteor.
"That is a bad man. I wish that I had power enough to make Wind
blow down his house," thought Diver, but he started off. Soon he
heard someone coming, looking back and seeing Meteor he crawled
into a hollow tree. Meteor knew where Diver was but to fool him
he went back a little and hid.
"That is the kind of man I am," said Diver. "He didn't see me,"
and coming out of the tree he started on. Meteor followed again
and overtaking Diver said, "Now I have you and I am going to kill
"No, no," cried Diver, "I don't want to bother you."
"Yes, you do."
They began to dispute.
"I want to ask you a question," said Meteor, "How can you make
Wind blow down my house?"
"I don't know."
"Why did you ask, what will you do if Wind blows down your house?"
"I didn't ask that, I said there was wind around the lake."
"Do you believe that I can kill you?" asked Meteor,
"Yes, yes," cried Diver, and he kept backing off.
"I am going to kill you now."
"What have I done?"
"You have told lies," said Meteor--but he turned to go away.
"This is the kind of man I am," boasted Diver, laughing. Meteor
heard what he said and coming back, quickly seized and shook him
till he cried, "Oh, my friend, don't kill me, I am always on your
"I won't stop till I kill you," said Meteor, then he thought, "Why
do I kill this man?" and he let Diver get up from the ground where
he had thrown him.
"This is the kind of man I am," boasted Diver, laughing. Now Meteor
was terribly angry. He caught Diver and said as he threw him, "Go
far West and never come back!"
Diver, as he went through the air, rolled over and over. At last
he came down just where the sun sets.
As he fell he said, "I wonder where Meteor is."
Meteor, though far away, heard him and flying through the air came
where he was and asked, "What were you saying?"
"I was saying what a nice place this is."
Meteor made no answer.
Diver traveled North till he saw a high rock and on the rock a
house. Then he thought, "This is the place I dreamed about." He
went into a nearby cabin and found an old man there.
The man greeted him, and asked, "Where did you come from?"
"From Great Lake."
"Why did you come here?"
"I was lonely at home."
"What is your name?"
"Diver. What is yours?"
"Can I stay here?"
"No, you must go first to my master."
"Where does he live?"
"His house is on a great rock near here."
Diver climbed up to the house on the rock and looking in saw an
old man sitting by the fire. "That is the same man who threw me
West," thought he.
The man turned, looked at Diver, and asked, "Who are you?"
"I am Diver. Who are you?"
"I am Whirlwind."
"Will you let me stay with you a few days?"
"You can stay as long as you like, I am glad to have someone in
the house, I am lonely."
One morning Whirlwind asked, "Will you go and see my servant?"
"I will go," said Diver.
They went to Humming Bird's house. Whirlwind looked around and
said, "He isn't here, he must have gone to the end of the world.
Cross people live there. He is going to try and make them good.
If they don't obey him, I shall go and eat them up."
"How far is it from here?"
"You couldn't get there in fifty Winters."
"Then there will be a hundred Winters before your servant comes
"Oh, no," said Whirlwind, "my servant travels very fast. He is
in a place as soon as he thinks of it."
"I don't believe that," said Diver.
"Get away from here!" screamed Whirlwind. "People are coming to
Diver started off, but he hadn't gone far when White Beaver overtook
him and began to strike him.
"Don't kill me," begged Diver, "I'm not strong enough to fight
with you. Don't kill me."
But Beaver didn't listen to his begging. He killed him, and went
on. Soon he met a man, greeted him and asked, "Where are you going?"
"To see a man who is dead."
"What is your name?"
"What will you do when you get there?"
"I don't know."
When Robin came to where Diver lay, he dug roots of different kinds
and, making a powder of them, rubbed the powder over the body, and
soon Diver was alive again. Robin was a great doctor.
"This is the kind of man I am," said Diver. "Where is White Beaver?"
"Don't speak of him," said Robin, "he must be near."
Diver wouldn't stop boasting and threatening, so Robin went off
and left him.
"I'll go back to Whirlwind's house," said Diver.
When Whirlwind saw him he laughed and said, "A man came here to
tell me you were dead."
"I shall not die," said Diver. "Haven't you heard old folks say
that if Shodionskon died he would soon come
"Yes. Is that why you came to life?"
"Well, I want you to go where the cross people live. Old men have
told me that Shodionskon can make cross people
"I will go," said Diver. When he came down from the rock where
Whirlwind's house was, he took hold of the rock and tried to turn
"That must be my friend," thought Whirlwind when he felt the house
Diver kept at work and at last over went the rock.
The old man was hurt but he sprang up, and cried, "Oh, my dear
friend, I must kill you now."
He tried to catch Diver but his head was dizzy and he fell.
Diver, seeing the old man on the ground with blood coming out of
his head, laughed and said, "What did he think? Didn't he know that
I was stronger than he was?" He rolled the rock on to the old man
and went along.
When he came to the place where the cross people lived he stood
near their great earth house and thought, "I'll roll this house
over." And, taking hold of one end of it, he lifted it up. People
came running out and when they saw a man holding up one end of their
house they began to fight him. Diver ran away as fast as he could;
the crowd ran after him, but he escaped.
"That's the kind of man I am," boasted he.
He walked till almost dark, then came to a cliff in which there
was a large opening. "Someone lives in there," thought he, "I'll
go in and see who it is." At first he saw only one man, then he
saw another, and another till he counted seven.
"What are you doing in this cliff?" asked he.
"Why do you ask?"
"I go around to make people quiet and happy," said Diver.
"We don't want you here"--these men were the seven Rattlesnake
"I am going," said Diver.
While leaving the cliff, he saw a house and heard a thumping inside.
Looking through a crack he saw an old man, who was pounding something
into a thin piece of wood. Soon he put the wooden thing over his
"I have never seen such a man as this one," thought Diver. "He
is making a mask. I'll take the roof off of his house and then make
rain come." Getting on to the hut he threw off the roof.
Old man Woodpecker didn't know the roof was off. Diver went to
a spring nearby and shook his wings so furiously that water flew
high and came down over where the man sat.
"My house is getting old," thought Woodpecker. "Rain comes in.
I'll sit where it is dry."
He stood up and looked around but he couldn't see a dry place.
"I'll get someone to cover my house," said he, and leaving his work
he started. He heard a noise at the spring and saw a man standing
in the water.
"What are you doing there?" asked he.
"I am trying to fish," answered Diver. "When I get the water all
out it will be easy."
"That is my spring," said the old man. "If you don't get out of
it, I will kill you."
"I am not afraid of you. You are old and weak."
"I can kill you quickly," said Woodpecker.
"You can't, you are too old."
But Diver was afraid. He left the spring. He traveled a long time.
One morning he came to a house and looking in saw an old man sitting
by a fire. This man was Corn Beetle.
Soon the old man said, "Come in, my nephew, why do you stay outside?
If you are here to visit me, come in."
"I have found my uncle," thought Diver, "I'll go in, he wants me."
He went in and asked, "Uncle, what do you want?"
"I have a nice game," said the old man, "that I play when anyone
comes to visit me. We wager heads. I have canoes to race with."
"Very well," said Diver, "that is a game I used to play."
The old man brought out two white flint canoes and said, "Take
Diver looked the canoes over and chose the old one.
"That is the worst one," said the old man. "That canoe can't help
you. It will tip over."
It was the canoe that had the greatest power and the old man wanted
They went to the lake, put their canoes down at the edge of the
water and each man sat in his own canoe.
"Ha onen!" said the old man and the two canoes
Diver was soon far ahead, when he reached the end of the lake he
asked in his mind, "Where is my uncle?"
After a long time he saw the old man coming. When he pulled his
canoe onto the sand, he said, "Let us rest till tomorrow."
Diver pretended to be asleep.
"He is asleep," said the old man to himself.
He pushed the old canoe into the water, sat in it, and said, "Carry
me to where the sun goes down." The canoe rushed through the air.
Diver got up and looked at his uncle's canoe, then be sat in it,
and said, "I want you to go where my uncle has gone."
He struck the canoe with a white flint stone; it became alive and
went very fast, faster than the canoe the uncle had taken. While
going through the air Diver sang and his song said, "We are following
my uncle's trail. We are following my uncle's trail."
Soon he saw a small, dark speck ahead. It grew larger and larger,
but Diver did not overtake the old man. He got to where the sun
goes down, but the old man was there first.
"You cheated me," said Diver. "Now I am going to cut off your head."
"I haven't cheated you, I tried to waken you."
"Why did you come so far?" asked Diver.
"I came to see where the sun goes."
"I think that you tried to run away from me. Now we will go back
to the end of the lake."
They were soon back. Then Diver said, "We will sleep a while,"
but he didn't sleep; he watched the old man till morning.
Then they got into the canoes and started for the old man's home.
Diver was there first. When the old man came, Diver took a basswood
knife and cut off his head.
Diver walked along till he came to a hemlock forest. While standing
among the trees be heard a man say "Hiyi! Hiyi!" and
looking up saw a man sitting on the limb of a tree.
"I will give you a name," said Diver, "I'll call you Hiyi."
The man laughed, he was glad to have a name.
After a time Diver came to a river with rocky banks, and, going
down to the edge of the water, he saw an ugly looking man. The man
greeted him and said, "I am glad you have come. I am hungry. I will
"Don't kill me," begged Diver, "I'm not good to eat. Do you believe
Háni Sheonon is alive?"
"Yes," said the old man.
"He is dead," said Diver. "He was killed last night."
The old man began to cry aloud, cried till many of his people heard
him and came to see why he cried.
"I have heard that Háni Sheonon (Muck-worm) is
dead," said the old man.
Then all began to cry.
"Why do you cry?" asked Diver. "You are free now. You should be
glad. I will give you a name, I will call you Genonskwa
(Cold and Frost). You can't overtake me."
They were angry and followed him. He began to fly. He went up and
up till he reached the clouds. He saw people there, and thought,
"Who can be living here, I never heard that there were people up
in the clouds." Soon he met a man wearing beautiful downy clothes.
The man greeted Diver and asked, "Where are you from?"
"From down below."
"How did you get here?"
"Through the air. I want to give you a name, I will call you Skadagéa
(In-the-Mist). This is a strange place up here."
"We can see all over the world," said the stranger. "Look straight
Diver looked. It didn't seem far, but he could see all over the
"Do you know the man who lives by that lake down there?" asked
Diver. "He is a mean man."
"You mustn't bother that man," said In-the-Mist, "he is a great
power. He is Meteor. We are afraid of him. You must go now, Géha
(Wind) is coming. He will kill you if you stay here."
Diver came to the earth and looking around, saw a man coming out
of the ground.
"Do you live in the ground?" asked Diver.
"I've always lived there," answered the man. "Don't bother me."
"Do you know where Muck-worm's home is?"
"I know. It is in the ground, that is why I live in the ground."
"Do you think you have as much power as he has?" asked Diver.
"I have not," said the man.
"Have you a name?"
"I don't want one."
"I will call you Bumble-bee."
The man hung his head, then raised it and asked, "Can you call
me by another name?"
"No, it's the name that suits you best. You are bad looking."
The man cried. He was Winged Ant and he didn't want to be changed.
Diver traveled on till he came to Meteor's house. Meteor was asleep
but he woke up and began to sing, "Where is my friend Diver? Where
is my friend Diver? I want to see him."
"Why does he sing about me?" thought Diver, and taking up a mallet
he began hitting the old man on the head.
"I think gnats are biting me," said Meteor. He turned over, saw
Diver and asked, "What are you doing? Why do you hit me?"
"I haven't hit you. I called you 'Grandfather.' Let us talk and
"Very well, sit down at the other end of the fire,"
The two men talked a long time, disputed as they did before.
At last Diver asked, "What can kill you?"
"A flag stalk that grows in a swamp. If a man were to strike with
one of those stalks, it would kill me."
Diver went to a swamp and came back with a flag stalk. He struck
Meteor and ran off, thinking he had killed him. Soon he came to
a house built on the side of a high rock and he wondered how he
could throw it over. As he stood thinking a man greeted him.
"Do you live in that house up there?" asked Diver.
"I live there," said the man. "When I talk, everyone hears me."
"Let me hear you," said Diver.
The man called out "Wia´a´" (the call
of the Phebe bird).
"That is enough," said Diver. "I am traveling and giving names.
Hereafter whoever speaks of you will call you Gwi´yee (the
Phebe bird). You will be quiet and will not chase people." (This
is why the Phebe bird never chases other birds, or people.)
The next morning, Diver thought he would go and see if Meteor was
When near the house he heard singing and the song said, "I will
kill Diver as soon as I see him."
The old man stopped singing and began to talk, to say, "My grandson
means to kill me."
"I will kill him and burn his house," thought Diver, and piling
up brush he set it on fire.
"I think my house is burning," said Meteor. "My grandson is doing
He was very angry. He sprang through the fire, and the first thing
Diver knew the old man stood near him.
"You have set my house on fire," cried Meteor.
"No I haven't. I saw it burning and came to put out the fire."
The old man didn't believe him. He seized him and pounded him to
death. Then Meteor whooped and called out, "This is the kind of
man I am. I am the most powerful man under the Blue!"
People all over the world heard him and said, "Diver is dead. Meteor
has killed him."
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