The story of Poia
A Blackfoot Legend
Once during the summer in the earliest times, when it was too hot to sleep indoors, a beautiful maiden named Feather-woman slept outside in the tall prairie grass.
She opened her eyes just as the Morning Star came into view, and she began to look on it with wonder. She mused in her heart how beautiful it was, and she fell in love with it.
When her sisters got up, she told them that she had fallen in love with the Morning Star. They told her that she was insane! Feather-woman told everyone in her village about the Morning Star and soon she was an object of ridicule among her people.
One day she left the village to draw some water out of a creek. There she saw the most handsome young man she had ever imagined. At first she thought that he was a young man of her own tribe who had been hunting, and she coyly avoided him. But he then identified himself as the Morning Star.
He said, "I know that you were watching me and fell in love with me. Even as you were looking up at the sky, I was looking down at you. I watched you in the tall prairie grass and knew that it was only you that I wanted for my wife. Come with me to my home in the sky."
Feather-woman was stricken with awe and paralyzed with fear. She knew that this was a god standing before her. She told Morning Star that she would need time to say good-bye to her parents and sisters. However, he told her that there was no time for this.
He then gave her a magic yellow feather in one hand and a juniper branch in the other. Then he told her to close her eyes. When she opened them again, she was in the Sky-Country, standing before the lodge of Morning Star, home of his parents, the Sun and the Moon, where they were married. As it was daytime, the Sun was out doing his work, but the mother, the Moon, was at home doing chores. She immediately took a liking to the girl and gave her fine robes to wear.
Feather-woman loved her husband and his parents, and in time she gave birth to a little boy whom they named Star Boy. But Feather-woman needed to find things to do in her new home. So the Moon gave her a root-digging stick to work with, carefully instructing her not to dig up the Great Turnip that grew near the home of the Spider Man, warning that terrible ills would be unleashed if she did so.
Feather-woman was fascinated by the Great Turnip and wondered why it was feared. After all, it looked like any other turnip, only much larger. She walked closely around it, being careful not to touch it.. She took Star Boy off her back and placed him on the ground. As she was digging, two great cranes flew overhead. She asked the cranes to help her and they obliged her, singing a secret magic song that made light work of digging the Great Turnip.
Now, the Moon had been very wise in warning Feather-woman not to dig around the Great Turnip, for it plugged the hole through which Morning Star had brought Feather-woman into the Sky-Country. With a loud plop she pulled the Great Turnip out. Looking down through the hole, she saw a camp of the Blackfoot Indians, perhaps her own village, far below her.
As she saw the mortals doing their daily chores below, she became homesick and began to weep. In order to conceal what she had done, she rolled the turnip loosely into place and returned to the lodge where she lived with her husband and son.
When Morning Star returned to the lodge, he was very sad. He said nothing, then, "How could you have been disobedient and dug up the Great Turnip?" Moon and Sun were also sad and asked her the same question.
At first Feather-woman did not answer, then she admitted her disobedience. Her in-laws had known that she would dig up the Great Turnip, despite their warnings. The reason for the sadness was that they knew that she had disobeyed them and must now be banished forever from the Sky-Country.
The next day, Morning Star took his wife to Spider Man, who built a web from the hole of the Great Turnip down to earth. When Feather-woman descended down the web, it looked to the people below like a star falling from the sky.
When Feather-woman arrived on earth with her child, she was welcomed by her parents and the people of their village. But she was never happy. Early in the morning, she looked up at the sky to speak with Morning Star, but he didn't answer her.
After many months had passed, Morning Star finally did speak to her. "You can never return to the Sky-Country," he warned. "You committed a great sin and brought unhappiness and death into the world." Hearing this was too much for Feather-woman to bear; soon she died of her unhappiness.
The orphaned Star Boy lived with his human grandparents until they died. He was a shy boy who ran as soon as he heard the approach of a stranger's footsteps. The most notable thing about him was a scar on his face, which led to his nickname, Poia, meaning "scar face." As he grew into manhood, people cruelly ridiculed him because of his scar and his pretension to be the son of the Morning star.
Thus maltreated, Poia was heartbroken by the further indignity of being rejected by the daughter of a chief. His life growing unbearable, Poia consulted with an old medicine woman. She told him that there was only one way for the scar to be removed: He would have to return to the Sky-Country and have his grandfather, the Sun, take it off.
Knowing that his mother had been banished from the Sky-Country, this was bad news to Poia. How could he return to the land of his birth? The old woman said that there was a way back to the Sky-Country, but that Poia must find it himself. Feeling sorry for the boy, she gave him some food for the journey.
Poia traveled for days and days, over mountains, through forests, through snow, and across deserts, until he reached the Great Water that the white man calls the Pacific Ocean, for this is the farthest west, where the sun goes at night. For three days, Poia fasted and prayed. On the third day, he saw rays reflecting on the Great Water, forming a path to the Sun. He followed the path and arrived at the home of his grandparents, the Sun and the Moon.
Upon finding Poia asleep on their doorstep, the Sun was at first prepared to kill the mortal, as no earth-dweller could enter the Sky-Country. But the Moon persuaded him not to do so; she recognized the scar and told the Sun that it was their grandson. Soon, Moon, Sun, and Morning Star all welcomed Poia. At the request of his grandson, the Sun removed the scar.
The Sun also taught Poia great magic and the truths of the world. Poia's grandfather explained that the people on earth were suffering as a result of Feather-woman's disobedience. The Sun had a message for the Blackfoot people: If they would honor him but once a year by doing the Sun dance, all the sick would be healed.
Poia himself learned the Sun dance quickly, and his grandfather grew to love him very much. His grandparents gave him a magic flute to charm women into falling in love with him. But, because of his mother's disobedience, Poia had to return to earth, which he did by walking down the Milky Way.
When Poia returned to the Blackfoot people, they honored him. He taught them the wisdom he had learned from the Sun and, most important, he taught them how to do the Sun dance, which indeed healed the sick. Because of Poia's great deeds, the Sun and Moon allowed him to bring his new wife, the chief's daughter who had once rejected him, to the Sky-Country, where they remained forever. Now Poia himself is a star that rises with the Morning Star.
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