Native American Legends
Two Seneca women escape from Cherokee captivity
A Seneca Legend
Two sisters were gathering wood not far from home. The elder sister
had a baby with her, a little boy. A party of Cherokees captured
them. When the husband and friends found that the women had been
carried away, they called a council, and it was decided not to pursue
the Cherokees lest they might kill the women.
When the sisters found that they were near the Cherokee country,
the elder sister, who had a flint knife hidden under her blanket,
planned an escape. In the night, when the men were asleep, she found
that the ends of the ropes binding herself and her sister were on
the ground under one of the men, and she knew that if she could
cut the ropes she could free herself and sister. She cut them very
They were going to leave the baby, but it was about to cry and
the mother said, "Let us die together," and she took it.
They were not far away when some one called out, "The women are
Then they saw firebrands. Each man had taken one and started in
The sisters went South, the men went North, for they thought the
women would try to get home.
The sisters ran toward the South, as they thought, till they came
near a fire and saw a man shaking a squash rattle and singing, then
they knew that they were back at the place they had started from.
The elder sister said, "We must try again. When we come to the
tree ahead we will go to the next one ahead, and so on."
They traveled in this way till morning, then took the direction
toward home. When night came, they rested.
The next day the sisters traveled till dark, then made a bed on
the ground. In the night the younger sister heard a voice say, "Is
this where you are resting?"
"It is," she answered.
Then the voice said, "Keep on and you'll come back to the place
where you were captured. No danger will meet you. Tomorrow you'll
find something to eat."
The woman wakened her sister and told her what the voice had said.
The next day, when the sun was in the middle of the sky, the women
came upon a deer apparently just killed. They saw a smoke near a
log and found a smouldering fire. They kindled the fire and cooked
meat, ate a good meal and started on, carrying as much meat as they
were able to.
They traveled a number of days and when the meat was about gone
they saved what was left for the child.
One night a voice came again to the younger sister, and said, "You
are on the right road and will come to your village before many
days; you'll find plenty of food."
She told her sister what she had heard. They walked till nearly
midday, then she said, "There is something white ahead, what is
It was a patch of wild potatoes. While digging the potatoes the
woman saw a smoke and found a few live coals. They gathered sticks
and made a fire. After roasting potatoes and eating a plenty, they
started on, each taking in a bundle as many potatoes as they were
able to carry.
They traveled a number of days longer; the potatoes were almost
Then one night the younger sister heard a voice say, "You'll reach
home tomorrow at midday. The people will come together and you
will tell them what has happened and sing the song Yontonwisas
(this song belongs to women). You must sing, 'We have come home.
We are here!' When you enter the long house go once around it, and
say, 'We have come home.' I want you to know that we are the Hadionyageonon,
and that we have watched over you."
When the woman wakened she told her sister what the voice had said.
The next day, about noon, they heard chopping and soon they saw
their uncle, who was out cutting blocks to make ladles.
They called to him, "Uncle, we've come home!"
He looked at them, and asked, "Are you living women?"
"We are," they answered, and then he cried out he was so glad.
They told the old man what the voice had said, and he called the
people together. When all were assembled in the long house, the
sisters began to sing as the voice had told them to do. This song
is still sung by Seneca women.
The narrator of this story said the Hadionyageonon
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