Native American Legends
How they brought back the Tobacco
A Cherokee Legend
In the beginning of the world, when people and animals were all
the same, there was only one tobacco plant, to which they all came
for their tobacco until the Dagûl`kû geese stole it
and carried it far away to the south.
The people were suffering without it, and there was one old woman
who grew so thin and weak that everybody said she would soon die
unless she could get tobacco to keep her alive.
Different animals offered to go for it, one after another, the
larger ones first and then the smaller ones, but the Dagûl`kû
saw and killed every one before he could get to the plant. After
the others the little Mole tried to reach it by going under the
ground, but the Dagûl`kû saw his track and killed him
as he came out.
At last the Hummingbird offered, but the others said he was entirely
too small and might as well stay at home. He begged them to let
him try, so they showed him a plant in a field and told him to let
them see how he would go about it.
The next moment he was gone and they saw him sitting on the plant,
and then in a moment he was back again, but no one had seen him
going or coming, because he was so swift. "This is the way
I'll do," said the Hummingbird, so they let him try.
He flew off to the east, and when he came in sight of the tobacco
the Dagûl`kû were watching all about it, but they could
not see him because he was so small and flew so swiftly. He darted
down on the plant--tsa!--and snatched off the top with the leaves
and seeds, and was off again before the Dagûl`kû knew
what had happened.
Before he got home with the tobacco the old woman had fainted and
they thought she was dead, but he blew the smoke into her nostrils,
and with a cry of "Tsâ'lû! [Tobacco!]" she
opened her eyes and was alive again.
The people had tobacco in the beginning, but they had used it all,
and there was great suffering for want of it. There was one old
man so old that he had to be kept alive by smoking, and as his son
did not want to see him die he decided to go himself to try and
get some more. The tobacco country was far in the south, with high
mountains all around it, and the passes were guarded, so that it
was very hard to get into it, but the young man was a conjurer and
was not afraid.
He traveled southward until he came to the mountains
on the border of the tobacco country. Then he opened his medicine bag and took out a hummingbird skin and put it over himself like
a dress. Now he was a hummingbird and flew over the mountains to
the tobacco field and pulled some of the leaves and seed and put
them into his medicine bag. He was so small and swift that the guards,
whoever they were, did not see him, and when he had taken as much
as he could carry he flew back over the mountains in the same way. Then he took off the hummingbird skin and put it into his medicine bag, and was a man again.
He started home, and on his way came to
a tree that had a hole in the trunk, like a door, near the first
branches, and a very pretty woman was looking out from it. He stopped
and tried to climb the tree, but although he was a good climber
he found that he always slipped back. He put on a pair of medicine
moccasins from his pouch, and then he could climb the tree, but
when he reached the first branches he looked up and the hole was
still as far away as before. He climbed higher and higher, but every
time he looked up the hole seemed to be farther than before, until
at last he was tired and came down again.
When he reached home he found his father very weak. but still alive, and one draw at the
pipe made him strong again. The people planted the seed and have had tobacco ever since.
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