Native American Legends
The Legend of the First Woman
A Cherokee Legend
For a time the man was very happy on the Earth. He roamed around
and ate the fruits and berries and he visited the animals and he
saw all his homeland. There was much to learn and the Earth was
beautiful. But before long the man grew discontented and he became
very unhappy. He didn't know what this disease was, but it was a
disease we still have, he was bored.
When he got bored, he used his mind and strength differently. He
shot arrows at the deer without really needing to. He picked the
plants and didn't use them. He tore up the animal's dens just to
see if he could do it. And soon the animals became concerned about
the new creature.
The animals called a council meeting to try to determine what to
do. They said they thought this creature was supposed to have respect
for other creatures, that he was given a mind. A little insect said,
"Wait, you haven't thought this out. The Great One made him;
let's ask him what to do." This seemed to be a good idea. They
called to the Great One to help them with the new "superior"
The owl said, "You told us the man had a mind and he is to
respect us." The deer said, " I don't want to be disrespectful,
but you told us the man would need more of us deer than any other
animal. If he keeps killing us like he is now, very soon there won't
be any deer left."
"Oh," said the Great One, "thank you, thank you.
I had not thought about something I left out in this man."
The bear said, "Look at him right now. He's lying out in the
sun with his face up. No animal will sleep right out in the open.
We all know to go into a private, guarded place to rest."
The Great One said, "Yes, there is something missing because
I was in such an excited hurry to make him. But I know now what
"Stand back" he said. He made a green plant to grow up
tall. The plant grew up right over the man's heart, up toward Galunti.
It was a plant with long, graceful leaves and then an ear and a
golden tassel. Above the tall plant was a woman, a beautiful, tall,
brown woman growing from the stalk of corn.
The man woke up and thought he was dreaming. He rubbed his eyes
and said, "This is not true. In a minute, I'll wake up and
be just as bored as I was before. Oh, I am so lonely."
The Great One sort of kicked him in the behind. "Get up you
lazy thing," the Great One said. "Be a man for your lady."
Now no one had any reason to think this man was a mannerly individual.
Recently he had certainly not been acting like a real gentleman.
But we don't have to be taught manners. We need someone to expect
the best from us and we use the manners the Great One has already
given us. So the man got up and brushed himself off and gallantly
offered his hand to the woman who came down from the stalk of corn.
The woman said, "No, wait a minute." The man didn't argue
or huff. He just waited until she asked. She reached up and pulled
two good ears of corn to take with her. Then she said, "I'm
ready." Do you know why she wanted the corn? She couldn't have
known yet that the corn would be an important food. She just knew
that she had sprung from the corn and she needed to take something
of her heritage with her.
The Great One remembered that although each man will sometimes
need to be alone, each man will also need companionship to be his
Over a period of time, the man and the woman built a home where
they kept the corn for planting. The next spring she planted her
corn and it grew into a beautiful plant. It was probably the next
year that she noticed a large bird who became sacred to the Cherokee,
a large bird who stays usually on the ground. We call this bird
a turkey. The turkey became sacred to the Cherokee because they
could watch what he ate, and then they would know it was safe to
One morning the woman noticed the turkey eating the tender corn.
She knew then the corn was food and it was time to eat the corn.
That evening she set a pottery pot of corn in the middle of her
cook fire. She covered the pot with a curve of chestnut bark. When
the man came in to eat his fish stew, she didn't tell him what she
had cooked. She just pulled an ear of corn from the pot and pealed
it back so he could smell it. He thought it was the best aroma he
had ever smelled and he began to eat the first corn of the spring.
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