In 1970, the American Indian Women’s Service League, Seattle’s first incorporated urban Indian service organization (see story elsewhere), published a small paperback book of Native legends. Native Circle has obtained permission to reprint some of these stories in our newsletter from time to time. We begin with the first story in the book – one elder’s story of how the stories came to be.
The History of Indian Legends*
A long time ago, before the Indian tribes were formed by the Creator, the Great Spirit told the first Indians that they were the first and chosen people and that He would now give them their instructions.
He told them that each leader was to go out into a different direction, carrying his instructions of Peace, Happiness, and Brotherhood with him to his destined place of future habitat.
He told them that He would also assign certain animals, birds and fishes to meet them when they arrived at these destined places. Each leader was to have a dream concerning these animals, birds, and fishes, and the revelation of their dreams would determine their use as food, medicine, and clothing for the first people, for all time to come.
He told them that he had created these beings with His own hands and breathed life into their bodies and that they had spiritual powers which could help the first people in their time of need.
Along with these instructions, he gave the first people the seeds of the sacred Indian tobacco to be used in a ceremony to make direct contact with Him at all times. He told these leaders that they must learn the habits and traits of these birds, animals, and fishes and that they must create legends about them so that other generations to come would understand that they too had life and power and that they would never be harmed and disturbed by the “overcoming forces” of the generations yet to be born.
In this way the first people brought life to all creations of the Great Spirit and trained their children never to misuse or kill needlessly these creations.
This is the history of how the legends began concerning all of the animals, birds, and fishes.
-Mad Bear, Tuscarora, (New York)
* Indian Legends, copyright 1970, American Indian Women’s Service League, Inc., p. 1,
reprinted with permission, American Indian Women’s Service League, Seattle, WA, 3-11-10.