Native American Legends
The Legend of Pilot Knob
A Cherokee Legend
In the old town of Känuga, on Pigeon river, there was a lazy
fellow named Tsuwe'nähï, who lived from house to house
among his relatives and never brought home any game, although he
used to spend nearly all his time in the woods.
At last his friends got very tired of keeping him, so he told them
to get some parched corn ready for him and he would go and bring
back a deer or else would never trouble them again.
They filled his pouch with parched corn, enough for along trip,
and he started off for the mountains. Day after day passed until
they thought they had really seen the last of him, but before the
month was half gone he was back again at Känuga, with no deer,
but with a wonderful story to tell.
He said that he had hardly turned away from the trail to go up
the ridge when he met a stranger, who asked him where he was going.
Tsuwe'nähï answered that his friends in the settlement
had driven him out because he was no good hunter, and that if he
did not find a deer this time he would never go back again. "Why
not come with me?" said the stranger, "my town is not
far from here, and you have relatives there."
Tsuwe'nähï was very glad of the chance, because he was
ashamed to go back to his own town; so he went with the stranger,
who took him to Tsuwa`tel'da (Pilot knob).
They came to a cave, and the other said, "Let us go in here;"
but the cave ran clear to the heart of the mountain, and when they
were inside the hunter found there an open country like a wide bottom
land, with a great settlement and hundreds of people. They were
all glad to see him. and brought him to their chief, who took him
into his own house and showed him a seat near the fire. Tsuwe'nähï
sat down, but he felt it move under him, and when he looked again
he saw that it was a turtle, with its head sticking out from the
He jumped up, but the chief said, "It won't hurt you; it only
wants to see who you are." So he sat down very carefully, and
the turtle drew in its head again. They brought food of the same
kind that he had been accustomed to at home, and when he had eaten
the chief took him through the settlement until he had seen all
the houses and talked with most of the people. When he had seen
everything and had rested some days, he was anxious to get back
to his home, so the chief himself brought him to the mouth of the
cave and showed him the trail that led down to the river.
Then he said, "You are going back to the settlement, but you
will never be satisfied there any more. Whenever you want to come
to us, you know the way." The chief left him, Tsuwe'nähï
went down the mountain and along the river until he came to Känuga.
He told his story, but no one believed it and the people only laughed
at him. After that he would go away very often and be gone for several
days at a time, and when he came back to the settlement he would
say he had been with the mountain people. At last one man said he
believed the story and would go with him to see.
They went off together to the woods, where they made a camp, and
then Tsuwe'nähï went on ahead, saying he would be back
soon, The other waited for him, doing a little hunting near the
camp, and two nights afterwards Tsuwe'nähï was back again.
He seemed to be alone, but was talking as he came, and the other
hunter heard girls' voices, although he could see no one.
When he came up to the fire he said, "I have two friends with
me, and they say there is to be a dance in their town in two nights,
and if you want to go they will come for you."
The hunter agreed at once, and Tsuwe'nähï called out,
as if to some one close by, "He says he will go." Then
he said, "Our sisters have come for some venison." The
hunter had killed a deer and had the meat drying over the fire,
so he said, "What kind do they want?"
The voices answered, "Our mother told us to ask for some of
the ribs," but still he could see nothing. He took down some
rib pieces and -gave them to Tsuwe'nähï, who took them
and said, "In two days we shall come again for you." Then
he started off, and the other heard the voices going through the
woods until all was still again.
In two days Tsuwe'nähï came, and this time he had two
girls with him. As they stood near the fire the hunter noticed that
their feet were short and round, almost like dogs' paws, but as
soon as they saw him looking they sat down so that he could not
see their feet. After supper the whole party left the camp and went
up along the creek to Tsuwa`tel'da.
They went in through the cave door until they got to the farther
end and could see houses beyond, when all at once the hunter's legs
felt as if they were dead and he staggered and fell to the ground.
The others lifted him up, but still he could not stand, until the
medicine-man brought some "old tobacco" and rubbed it
on his legs and made him smell it until he sneezed. Then he was
able to stand again and went in with the others. He could not stand
at first, because he had not prepared himself by fasting before
The dance had not yet begun and Tsuwe'nähï took the hunter
into the townhouse and showed him a seat near the fire, but it had
long thorns of honey locust sticking out from it and he was afraid
to sit down. Tsuwe'nähï told him not to be afraid, so
he sat down and found that the thorns were as soft as down feathers.
Now the drummer came. in and the dancers, and the dance began.
One man followed at the end of the line, crying Kû! Kû!
all the time, but not dancing. The hunter wondered, and they told
him, "This man was lost in the mountains and had been calling
all through the woods for his friends until his voice failed and
he was only able to pant Kû! Kû! and then we found him
and took him in."
When it was over Tsuwe'nähï and the hunter went back
to the settlement. At the next dance in Känuga they told all
they had seen at Tsuwa`tel'da, what a large town was there and how
kind everybody was, and this time--because there were two of them--the
people believed it. Now others wanted to go, but Tsuwe'nähï
told them they must first fast seven days, while he went ahead to
prepare everything, and then he would come and bring them.
He went away and the others fasted, until at the end of seven days
he came for them and they went with him to Tsuwa`tel'da, and their
friends in the settlement never saw them again.
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