The Gifts Of The Little People
An Iroquois Legend
There once was a boy whose parents had died. He lived with his uncle who did not treat him well. The uncle dressed the boy in rags and because of this the boy was called Dirty Clothes.
This boy, Dirty Clothes, was a good hunter. He would spend many hours in the forest hunting food for his lazy uncle who would not hunt for himself.
One day Dirty Clothes walked near the river, two squirrels that he had shot hanging from his belt. He walked near the cliffs which rose from the water. This is where the Little People, the Jo-Ge-Oh, often beat their drums. Most of the hunters from the village were afraid to go near this place, but Dirty Clothes remembered the words his mother had spoken years ago, "Whenever you walk with good in your heart, you should never be afraid."
A hickory tree grew there near the river. He saw something moving in its branches. A black squirrel as hopping about high up in the top of the tree. When Dirty Clothes heard a small voice. "Shoot again, Brother," the small voice said. "You still have not hit him."
Dirty Clothes looked down and there near his feet were two small hunters. As he watched, one of them shot an arrow but it fell short of the black squirrel. "Ah," Dirty Clothes thought, "they will never succeed like that. I must help them." He drew his bow and with one shot brought down the squirrel.
The tiny hunters ran to the squirrel. "Whose arrow is this?" asked one of them. They looked up and saw the boy. "Eee-yah," said one of the tiny hunters, "you have shot well. The squirrel is yours."
"Thank you," Dirty Clothes answered, "but the squirrel is yours and also these others I have shot today."
The two small hunters were very glad. "Come with us," they said. "Come visit our lodge so we can thank you properly."
Dirty Clothes thought about his uncle, but it was still early in the day and he could hunt some more after visiting them. "I'll will come with you," Dirty Clothes said.
The two Little People led the boy to the river. There a tiny canoe was waiting, only as big as one of his shoes, but his friends told him to step inside. He took one step... and found he had become as small as the tiny hunters and was sitting with them inside their canoe.
The Little People dipped their paddles and up the canoe rose into the air! It flew above the hickory tree, straight to the cliffs and into a cave, the place where the Jo-Ge-Oh people lived. There the two hunters told their story to the other Little People gathered there who greeted the boy as a friend. "You must stay with us." his new friends said, "for just a short time so we can teach you."
Then the Jo-Ge-Oh taught Dirty Clothes things which he had never known. They told him many useful things about the birds and the forest animals. They taught him much about the corn and the squash and the beans which feed human life. They taught him about the strawberries which glow each June like embers in the grass and showed him how to make a special drink which the Little People love.
Last they showed him a new dance to teach his people, a dance to be done in a darkened place so the little People could come and dance with them unseen, a dance which would honor the Jo-Ge-Oh and thank them for their gifts.
Four days passed and the boy knew that the time had come for him to leave. "I must go to my village," he told his friends.
So it was that with the two small hunters he set out walking towards his home. As they walked with him, his two friends pointed to the many plants which were useful and the boy looked at each plant carefully, remembering its name. Later, when he turned to look back at his friends, he found himself standing all alone in a field near the edge of his village.
Dirty Clothes walked into his village wondering how so many things had changed in just four days. It was the same place, yet nothing was the same. People watched him as he walked and finally a woman came up to him. "You are welcome here, Stranger," said the woman. "Please tell us who you are."
"Don't you know?" he answered. 'I am Dirty Clothes."
"How can that be?" said the woman. "Your clothing is so beautiful."
At that, he saw his old rags were gone. The thing he wore now was of fine new buckskin, embroidered with moose hair and porcupine quills. "Where is my uncle," he asked the woman, "the one who lived there in that lodge and had a nephew dressed in rags?"
Then an old man spoke up from the crowd. "Ah," said the old man, "that lazy person? He's been dead any years and why would a fine young warrior like you look for such a man?"
Dirty Clothes looked at himself and saw he was no longer a boy. He had become a full-grown man and towered over the people of his village. "I see," he said, "the Little People have given me more gifts than I thought." And he began to tell his story.
The wisest of the old men and women listened well to this young warrior. They learned many things by so listening. That night all his people did the Dark Dance to thank the Jo-Ge-Oh for their gifts and, in the darkness of the lodge, they heard the voices of the Little People joining in the song, glad to know that the human beings were grateful for their gifts. And so it is, even to this day, that the Little People remain the friends of the people of the long-house and the Dark Dance is done, even to this day.
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