Native American Legends
The coming of Spring. Or, The Wadyonyondyes Girls
A Seneca Legend
An uncle and his two nephews lived in a cabin in the woods. Each
day the uncle went to hunt and to dig wild potatoes.
The younger of the two nephews did not know that he had a brother.
The uncle kept his elder nephew hidden in an old couch for fear
that the daughters of Sganonhses Gowa would come and
carry him away. Though the uncle brought home a plenty of good potatoes,
he gave his Younger nephew poor ones.
As the boy grew older, he began to wonder why he and his uncle
were always alone. One day, when he asked if there were people living
near them, the old man said, "Far off in the West there are bad
people. They have carried away our people, one after another, till
we are the only ones left."
The boy wondered why his uncle gave him poor potatoes. .He saw
him put a plenty of large potatoes in the kettle in the evening,
but in the morning only small ones were left. One night he made
up his mind to keep awake and find out what became of the large
potatoes. He tore a hole in the deer skin he slept under and watched
Toward the middle of the night the uncle got up, stirring the fire,
and going to an old couch in the corner, called out, "Nephew! Nephew!
It is time to get up." When there was no answer, he struck the couch
with a switch and called, "Nephew! Nephew! Are you ready to eat?"
Then the top of the couch came up and a young man appeared.
The two men sat down by the fire. The potatoes, covered with moss,
were simmering. The uncle uncovered them, picked out the largest
and best and gave them to the young man. After the two had eaten
heartily, the old man took a turtle rattle and kept time while the
young man danced.
The little boy thought, "That must be my brother. Now I'll have
When the young man hid himself in the couch, the uncle covered
up the fire and lay down in his own place.
The next morning, as soon as his uncle had gone out to dig potatoes,
the little boy began cooking. When all was ready he went to the
couch, raised the cover, and said, "Come out, Brother, come out,
we'll eat and then dance."
"No," said the young man, "I cannot come out in the daytime. If
I did those Wadyonyondyes girls who live off
in the West, would hear me."
"Never mind," said the little boy, "'They'll not hear you."
"Yes they will, and they will come and carry me off. They don't
know that I am here, but if I make a noise in the daytime, they
will hear it and come for me."
No matter what the young man said the boy teased and begged till
he came out of the couch. They ate and they began to dance. Suddenly
they heard a noise like thunder, a noise that made the earth shake.
"What's that?" asked the little boy.
"That's Sganonhses Gowa getting her daughters ready
to come for me," said his brother. "She is getting ready to push
the canoe from the top of the house."
The young man crept into the couch and covered himself.
The little boy kept shaking the turtle skin rattle and dancing.
Soon two women appeared sailing in a canoe through the air. They
were singing and their song said, "We are coming for Two Feathers,
we are coming for Two Feathers."
They looked in at the smoke-hole and asked, "Where is your brother?"
"I have no brother," said the little boy, "I've only an uncle.
He is old. He is off digging potatoes."
"There is a young man in the house."
"No, I'm all alone."
"You are not telling the truth. You'll suffer if you lie to us
the next time we come."
In the evening when the uncle came, he asked, "What have you been
doing today? Did you find your brother?"
"Have I a brother?" asked the boy.
"Wasn't there someone here today?"
"What did those women come for? I heard them."
"There wasn't anyone here today."
The uncle said no more, but the next morning, when starting off
he said, "Go out of doors and play. I don't want you to stay in
The old man was scarcely out of sight when the boy ran to the couch
and began to beg his brother to come out. At last the young man
came and the two amused themselves till the elder brother heard
the women coming.
"Now," said he, "I shall have to go," but he hid in the couch.
Soon a canoe grazed the top of the house and two women came in
and one asked, "Where is your brother?"
"I have no brother, I've only an old uncle," said the boy, "I dance
to keep from being lonesome."
The women looked around and seeing beautiful red hair hanging out
of the couch, they raised the cover and there was the young man.
The three got into the canoe and it rose in the air and sailed away
toward the West.
Then the uncle heard the singing he ran home as fast as he could
for he knew what had happened. He went into the house, sat down,
and cried bitterly.
"Don't cry, Uncle," said the little boy. "Don't cry, I'll bring
my brother back."
He ran out, gathered a bundle of red willows, came home scraped
off the bark and threw it on the fire. Thick smoke rose up and shot
off toward the West; the boy sprang into the smoke and was borne
away. He overtook the canoe and the young man knew that his little
brother was following to rescue him.
One of the sisters were sitting in the prow of the canoe, paddling,
the other in the stern, steering. When Two Feathers turned to look
at his brother, the woman in the prow struck him a blow on the side
of his head, with her paddle, and cried, "Sit still! Don't look
As she struck, the little boy sprang into the canoe and' screamed,
"Don't you strike my brother!"
Then he said, "Let this canoe turn around and take my brother home!"
Instantly the canoe turned, and, in spite of all the women could
do, it sailed back faster than it had come. As it was nearing the
uncle's house, the women began to beg the boy to let his brother
go with them.
They said, "We will give you whatever you want, only let him go."
In his mind the boy asked, "What can I take and let my brother
go?" Then he said, "If each one of you will give me a piece of flesh
large enough to make a moccasin, I'll let my brother go with you."
They consented. He took his flint knife and cut out of each woman
the piece he wanted. He put the pieces on his feet and they fitted
nicely, immediately he was at home and the canoe sailed off toward
the West. When his uncle asked where his brother was, he said, "I
brought him almost home, but I let him go when the women gave me
these beautiful moccasins, with these moccasins on I call do anything
I want to, I can kill those women."
After a few days, Oneqsas, for that was the boy's name, had such
power from his moccasins that he knew the women were tormenting
his brother. He told his uncle, and said, "I am going after Two
He gathered a bundle of willows, scraped off the bark, threw it
on the fire and when a thick smoke rose up he sprang into it and
shot off toward the West. He came down at the edge of a clearing
in a great forest. Near the opposite end of the clearing was a long
house and not far away, at the edge of the woods, was a hut
where a grandmother lived with her three grandchildren, a boy and
"I'll go to that hut," thought Oneqsas. In the hut he found a boy
of his own age and size, just like him; half of the boy's hair was
black and half was red; the hair on the crown of his head was black,
that on the sides was red, his name was Dotgehondagwe (Half Red-headed).
"Who are you?" asked Oneqsas, "You must be my brother."
The two looked at each other, and seeing that they were of the
same size and that one looked exactly like the other, each called
the other, "Brother."
"You must stay with us," said the strange boy. "I have two sisters
and a grandmother."
When old Gaqshínyc came home, her grandson said, "I have
a brother here, he is going to live with us."
"How can he live with us?" asked the grandmother. "We are poor."
"He is poor too; he will be satisfied with what we can give him."
At last the old woman said, "Let him stay." Then the grandson asked,
"What are they doing at the long house?"
"The chief's daughters have brought a man from the East, from the
Wampum people. Each night they hang him up and make him cry, for
his tears are wampum beads."
"Can we go to the long house?" asked the boy.
"We can go, and maybe we'll get a chance to pick up some of the
When night came, the old woman and her grandson and Oneqsas went
to the long house. Oneqsas said to his friend "We will gather some
dry rushes and if the chief will lei us go inside the long house,
we will light pipes for the people."
When they had gathered the rushes the old woman asked the chief
if she might go in and have a chance to pick up wampum, and if her
grandsons might carry lighted rushes to the men who wanted to smoke.
The chief said, "Let the old woman in, she is a good woman. Let
her have a chance, and let the boys in, too."
Two Feathers was hanging from a post driven into the ground near
the fire. When he saw his brother he smiled, Everyone who saw him
smile asked in their mind, "How can that poor man smile?"
When the house was full of people, the chief told his daughters
to take fire-brands and hold them to the young man's body. They
burned him on one side and then on the other. He cried bitterly
and as the tears fell they changed into beautiful wampum, falling
in a shower. The people scrambled for the beads. The old grandmother
got a few. After a while they stopped the burning. The people rested
and smoked till the chief said, "Burn him again!" Then Oneqsas took
off one of his moccasins and told his friend to put it on and to
stick his foot in the fire as soon as the sisters began to burn
the young man.
The instant the moccasin touched the fire, one of the sisters screamed
with pain and she didn't stop screaming till the boy took his foot
away from the fire. The people asked what the matter was, but the
girl wouldn't tell.
The other sister was about to burn Two Feathers when Oneqsas put
his foot in the fire: she dropped the brand and screamed as if in
The grandmother and two boys went outside, then Oneqsas said, "Let
all who are in the house fall asleep and sleep soundly."
As soon as the people were asleep, Oneqsas freed his brother, carried
him outside, and then he fastened the door, and walking around the
house he repeated, "Let this house turn to stone and let the stone
be red hot! Let this house turn to stone and let the stone be red
Right away the house was stone and the stone was red hot. All the
people inside were burned up.
Then Oneqsas said to the old woman, "Grandmother, you must come
home with me. You will be a good wife for my uncle."
When the two brothers and the grandmother and her grandson reached
the old man's house, they found him mourning for his nephews. He
had been tormented by foxes that came to the door, knocked and called
out, "We are here, Uncle!" Soon after the nephews went into the
house a fox came and called out, "I've come, Uncle!"
"Let him in," said Oneqsas.
The fox ran to the fire to get ashes to throw into the old man's
face. Oneqsas caught him, and said, "Now I'll punish you!" He tied
the animal's forelegs together with a bark rope and hung him up
in the smoke-hole. Tears rolled out of his eyes and made dark streaks
along his cheeks; his face and nose were black with soot; his hair
that had been white became tawny from smoke. When he was almost
dead, Oneqsas took him down, threw him outdoors, and said, "Be off,
and never come here again!"
Since that time foxes have black noses and their fur is a tawny
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