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Native American Legends

The pole that holds the Sky

An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown

Long ago, there lived a chief named Wakiash, who was sad because he had never had a totem pole, and without a totem pole he could not host a dance. He was also ashamed, because chiefs were expected to hold great dances for the people. One day, Wakiash went up into the mountains and fasted to seek guidance. After four days, he fell into a deep sleep. A frog fell on him, and Wakiash awoke. "Come!" exclaimed the frog. "We will fly around the world on Raven's back."

Raven carried the chief and the frog all over the land. After four days, they flew over a house with a fine totem pole; they could hear the sounds of laughter and singing from within the house. Raven stopped and set them down outside the door. "Quick," said the frog, "hide with me, then jump into the house when the dancing begins."

Inside the house were many animals, but they did not begin their dance because they could feel the presence of intruders. A mouse was sent outside to see who was there. The little mouse found Wakiash and the frog, but Wakiash persuaded the mouse not to chase them away; he gave him a piece of goat's fat as a friendly gesture. The mouse thanked him and asked, "why did you come here?"

"I want to learn to dance and to have a fine totem pole," the chief replied. So the mouse led Wakiash and the frog into the house, promising to teach the chief what he needed to learn. Wakiash patiently watched and listened to the teachings of the animals, and copied their movements as they danced their different steps. Eventually, the masked animal chief told Wakiash that he was ready to return home with his new-found knowledge, and that he should take with him a medicine bundle.

Raven carried Wakiash, the frog and the medicine bundle back to the mountains. Wakiash awoke from hi deep sleep and took the medicine bundle back home. The next morning, the medicine bundle was gone, but in its place was a magnificent totem pole with all the animals that had been painted on Wakiash's house: the whale, bear, raven, and smaller animals. To celebrate this joyous happening, Wakiash held a dance -- the best dance anyone could remember.

The day after the dance, the totem pole disappeared, but Wakiash now knew what he needed to build a new one. He concentrated on everything he had learned from the animals in his dream, realizing that the frog had shown him the importance of honoring the animals that had protected his own ancestors. Wakiash fashioned a tall new totem pole that was more majestic even than the last one. He called it Kulakuyuwish -- the pole that holds up the sky.

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