Native American Legends
The origin of the animals
An Apache Legend
When Apaches emerged from the underworld, they traveled southward
for four days. They had no other food than two kinds of seeds, which
they ground between two stones.
Near where they camped on the fourth night, one tipi stood apart
from the others. While the owner and his wife were absent for a
short time, a Raven brought a quiver of arrows and a bow, hanging
them on the lodge pole. When the children came out of the lodge,
they took down the quiver and found some meat inside. They ate it
and instantly became very fat.
Upon her return, the mother noticed grease on the hands and faces
of her children, who told her what had happened. The woman hurried
to tell her husband the tale. All the tribe marveled at the wonderful
food that made the children so fat. How they hoped the Raven might
soon return with more of his good food.
When Raven discovered that his meat had been stolen, he flew eastward
to his mountain home beyond the normal range of man. A bat followed
Raven and later informed the Apaches where Raven lived. That night
the Apache Chief called a council meeting. They decided to send
a delegation to try and obtain some of Raven's special kind of meat.
In four days the Apache delegation reached the camp of the ravens,
but could not obtain the information they desired. They discovered,
however, a great circle of ashes where the ravens ate their meals.
The Apaches decided to spy upon the ravens. That night the Medicine
Man changed an Apache boy into a puppy to spy from a nearby bush.
The main delegation broke camp and started homeward, leaving behind
Next morning the ravens examined the abandoned camp of the Apaches.
One of the young ravens found the puppy and was so pleased, he asked
for permission to keep it under his blanket. Toward sunset, the
puppy peaked out and saw an old raven brush aside some ashes from
the fireplace. He then removed a large flat stone. Beneath was an
opening through which the old raven disappeared. But when he returned
he led a buffalo, which was then killed and eaten by all the ravens.
For four days the puppy spied upon the ravens, and each evening
a buffalo was brought up from the depths and devoured. Now that
he was certain where the ravens obtained their good food, the puppy
resumed his normal shape.
Early on the fifth morning, with a white feather in one hand and
a black one in the other, he descended through the opening beneath
In the underworld, he saw four buffaloes and placed the white feather
in the mouth of the nearest one. He commanded it to follow him.
But the first buffalo told him to take the feather to the last buffalo.
This he did, but the fourth buffalo sent him again to the first
one, into whose mouth the boy thrust the white feather.
"You are now the King of the Animals," declared the boy.
Upon returning to the above-world, the boy was followed by all
the animals present upon the Earth at that time. As the large herd
passed through the opening, one of the ravens awoke, hurrying to
close the lid. Upon seeing that all the animals willingly followed
the Apache boy, the raven exclaimed, "When you kill any of
the animals, remember to save the eyes for me."
For four days the boy followed the tracks of the Apaches and overtook
them with his giant herd of animals. Soon they all returned to the
camp of the Apaches, where the Chief slew the first buffalo for
a feast that followed. The boy remembered and saved the eyes for
One old grandmother who lived in a brush lodge was annoyed with
one of the deer that ate some of her lodge covering. Snatching a
stick from the fire, she struck the deer's nose and the white ash
stuck there leaving a white mark that can still be seen on the descendants
of that deer.
"Hereafter, you shall avoid mankind," she pronounced.
"Your nose will tell you when you are too close to them."
Thus ended the short period of harmony between man and the animals.
Each day the animals wandered farther and farther from the tribes.
Apaches prayed that the animals would return so they could enjoy
the good meat again. It is mostly at night when the deer appear,
but not too close, because the old grandmother told them to be guided
by their noses!
Apaches developed skill in using the bows and arrows to hunt the
good animal meat they liked so much, especially the buffalo.
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