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Native American Legends

The prophecy of the two Serpents

A Mohawk Legend

The story is told that a long time ago, before the time that Europeans arrived in the Americas, two hunters went out over the Great Water to look for a new hunting territory. Game was scarce in Kanienkehaka, and they hoped to find more food beyond the horizon in the east.

These two hunters set out in their canoe for richer game. After they had gone out beyond the horizon's edge, they noticed a glowing in the distance. They quickened their paddling and came upon a very strange sight. There in the water were two small serpents, one gold and one silver. These serpents were glowing and turned the sky into wonderful colors.

The two hunters were amazed at the beauty of the serpents. They did not want to leave them in the water for fear they would drown or else be eaten by a large fish. They knew if they brought these serpents back to their own nation, the people would admire the serpents and call the two hunters men of great skill and daring. They paddled up close to the serpents and scooped them up into their canoe.

Before the two hunters returned to their village, the people could see them approaching from the great light that glowed from the serpents.

When the hunters reached their homes with their prize, the people were impressed by the catch. Everybody crowded around the serpents to watch the beautiful light that they gave off.

The people kept the serpents in an extra canoe. They were fed daily, and soon began to eat 24 hours a day. They grew too large for the canoe, and had to be moved to a stockade especially built for that purpose.

At first the serpents were fed mosquitoes, flies and other insects. As they grew larger they ate small animals like rabbits, raccoons and muskrats. Soon they grew so large that they needed to be fed deer and finally moose.

One day the serpents grew so large that they managed to escape from their stockade pen. They attacked the children and swallowed quite a few of them whole. The people were in terrible circumstances. They could see the children squirming around in the bellies of the huge gold and silver serpents.

They attacked these serpents with clubs, with arrows and with spears, but to no avail. The serpents continued to ravage through the village, killing more and more of the people and swallowing more of the children. Finally they left the village and headed for the woods.

The people fought among themselves as to what to do. They couldn't agree as to what was the best way to stop the serpents. They fought until it became too late and the serpents disappeared. The gold serpent went south, and the silver one headed north.

These serpents left trails wherever they went. They cut through mountains and blocked up the rivers. They killed all of the animals wherever they went, not always stopping to eat the meat. When the serpents approached a mountain, instead of going around it or over the top, they burrowed through the middle. The serpents left trails of filth and destruction wherever they went. They poisoned the waters, killed the forests, and made the earth an ugly and barren place.

One day a hunter from the land of the Kanienkehaka happened to see the golden serpent. It had grown to be the size of a mountain, and it had turned around, and was heading for the Mohawk country once again. Similarly word came down from the north that the silver serpent had grown and it too was heading for the land of the Kanienkehaka.

One day, the two serpents could be seen from the original village from whence they had come three hundred years earlier. Again the people argued and argued. They could not agree as to the best way to kill the serpents off. The people remembered the legends of the serpents, and how they had eaten the children of their ancestors, and they fled to the mountains.

Once in the mountains the people were told by the Creator that the day would come when a small boy would show them the way to kill the two serpents. The boy would make a bow from willow. He would string the bow with a string made from the hair of the clan mothers. An arrow would be made of a straight sapling and tipped with the white flint of the Kanienkehaka.

With this arrow and this bow, the people were told, the Kanienkehaka would protect themselves from the two serpents of the United States and Canada.

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