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The story of the two brothers

A Blackfoot Legend

There were once two brothers, Nopatsis, the elder, and Akaiyan, the younger. Nopatsis was married to a thoroughly evil woman, who lusted for Akaiyan and wanted to see the younger brother ruined.

This shrew of a wife pestered Nopatsis day and night to send his brother away. At the same time, she made seductive advances toward Akaiyan. She then resorted to the most evil and wretched thing she could do.

One day when Nopatsis returned home, he found his wife with her clothing ripped and her hair in a mess. The wife told him that Akaiyan had tried to "have his way" with her. Nopatsis was livid and sickened by this report. He then resolved to do away with his brother.

Every summer, the waterfowl molt, leaving thousands of feathers on the surface of the lakes. The people gather the small feathers to make fletching for their arrows. It so happened that Nopatsis lived on the shores of such a lake, and it was only natural for the two brothers to gather the feathers together. Nopatsis and Akaiyan went out in a buffalo-hide boat to an island in the middle of the lake, far from shore, where the feathers were usually quite dense.

While Akaiyan was busy gathering feathers, Nopatsis left him to die on the island. This lake was deep, prone to sudden storms, and the island was too far from the mainland for a person to leave without. a boat. Thus it was pointless for Akaiyan to try swimming home. As Akaiyan looked toward home, he saw Nopatsis jeering and uttering curses at him. Nopatsis repeated the terrible lie that his wife had told him, shouting it across the lake. Akaiyan cried out that he was innocent, but it was now too late.

Deeply hurt, Akaiyan looked into the water and began to cry. He prayed to the nature spirits to help him. He called to the Sun and the Moon to vindicate him. Then he built himself a shelter made of branches and a bed made of feathers. He learned how to make clothing for himself from the skins of ducks and geese, taming some of them and feeding them in order to have food for the winter. He lived in this way for many months.

One day a little beaver came and invited Akaiyan to visit his family's den. Akaiyan was by now very lonely, and gladly accepted. When he entered the lodge, the Great Beaver, so old that his fur was white, treated Akaiyan as an honored guest, asking how he came to be living on the island. Akaiyan then told the story of his wicked sister-in-law. The Great Beaver was outraged by the injustice done to Akaiyan and vowed to do whatever he could on behalf of this innocent young man. At the gracious invitation of the beavers, Akaiyan spent the winter in the warmth of their lodge, learning all the medicine and magic of the beavers.

As summer returned, the Great Beaver asked Akaiyan what gift he would like to take with him. Akaiyan responded that he would like to take his host's youngest son as a companion. The Great Beaver was reluctant to grant this, as this son was his favorite. But, at last, the Great Beaver agreed, also giving Akaiyan instructions for building a sacred beaver lodge when he returned to his home village on the mainland. The knowledge of the Great Beaver had such powerful magic that Akaiyan now had supernatural powers on his side; there was nothing more for him to fear, whether on the island or at home on the mainland.

In several months, Nopatsis returned to the island, expecting to find the bones of Akaiyan, who had long been given up for dead. While Nopatsis was busy looking around, Akaiyan carried the little beaver in his arms and then got into Nopatsis's boat, which he took to the mainland. The roles were reversed; it was now Nopatsis who pleaded with his brother across the water.

On his return to the mainland, Akaiyan was well received by the people of the beaver lodge. As the Great Beaver had instructed, Akaiyan built a sacred beaver lodge and taught the people the dances and chants of the beavers.

After this had been accomplished, Akaiyan returned to the island to bring the little beaver back to his family. He also found the bones of Nopatsis and buried them. The Great Beaver was so pleased that Akaiyan had returned his son that he gave him the sacred peace pipe as a sign of his gratitude.

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