Native American Legends
The Red Man and the Uktena
A Cherokee Legend
Two brothers went hunting together, and when they came to a good
camping place in the mountains they made a fire, and while one gathered
bark to put up a shelter the other started up the creek to look
for a deer.
Soon he heard a noise on the top of the ridge as if two animals
were fighting. He hurried through the bushes to see what it might
be, and when he came to the spot he found a great uktena coiled
around a man and choking him to death.
The man was fighting for his life, and called out to the hunter:
"Help me, nephew; he is your enemy as well as mine." The
hunter took good aim, and, drawing the arrow to the head, sent it
through the body of the uktena, so that the blood spouted from the
hole. The snake loosed its coils with a snapping noise, and went
tumbling down the ridge into the valley, tearing up the earth like
a water spout as it rolled.
The stranger stood up, and it was the Asga'ya Gi'gägeï,
the Red Man of the Lightning. He said to the hunter: "You have
helped me, and now I will reward you, and give you a medicine so
that you can always find game." They waited until it was dark,
and then went down the ridge to where the dead uktena had rolled,
but by this time the birds and insects had eaten the body and only
the bones were left.
In one place were flashes of light coming up from the ground, and
on digging here, just under the surface, the Red Man found a scale
of the uktena. Next he went over to a tree that had been struck
by lightning, and gathering a handful of splinters he made a fire
and burned the uktena scale to a coal.
He wrapped this in a piece of deerskin and gave it to the hunter,
saying: "As long as you keep this you can always kill game."
Then he told the hunter that when he went back to camp he must hang
up the medicine on a tree outside, because it was very strong and
He told him also that when he went into the cabin he would find
his brother lying inside nearly dead on account of the presence
of the uktena's scale, but he must take a small piece of cane, which
the Red Man gave him, and scrape a little of it into water and give
it to his brother to drink and he would be well again.
Then the Red Man was gone, and the hunter could not see where he
went. He returned to camp alone, and found his brother very sick,
but soon cured him with the medicine from the cane, and that, day
and the next, and every day after, he found game whenever he went
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