The Hunter and the Medicine Legend
There once lived a man who was a great hunter. His
generosity was the theme of praise in all the country, for he not
only supplied his own family with food, but distributed game among
his friends and neighbors, and even called the birds and animals of
the forest to partake of his abundance. For this reason he received
the appellation of "Protector of Birds and Animals."
He lived a hunter's life till war broke out between his own and
some distant nation, and then he took the war path. He was as brave
a warrior as he was a skillful hunter, and slew a great multitude of
the enemy, till all were lying dead around him, except one, who was
a mighty man of valor , and in an unguarded moment the hunter
received a blow from his tomahawk on the head, which felled him to
the earth; his enemy then took his scalp and fled.
Some of his own party saw what befell him, and supposing him
dead left him on the field of battle; but a fox who had wandered
this way immediately recognized his benefactor. Sorrowful indeed,
was he to find him thus slain, and began to revolve in his mind some
means of restoring him to life. "Perhaps," said he, "some of my
friends may know of a medicine by which his wounds may be healed,
and he may live again." So saying, he ran into the forest and
uttered the "death lament," which was the signal for all the animals
to congregate. From far and near they came, till hundreds and
thousands of every kind had assembled around the body of the hunter,
eagerly inquiring what had happened. The fox explained he had
accidentally came that way and found their friend stretched lifeless
upon the earth. The animals drew near and examined him more closely,
to be sure that life was extinct; they rolled him over and over on
the ground and were satisfied that he was dead, there was not a
single sign of life.
Then they held a grand council of which the bear was the
speaker. When all were ready to listen, he asked if any one present
was acquainted with any medicine which would restore the dead man to
life. With great alacrity each one examined his medicine box, but
finds nothing adapted to this purpose. Being defeated in their noble
object of restoring their friend, all join in a mournful howl a
requiem for the dead. This attracted a singing bird, the oriole, who
came quietly to learn the cause of the assembling of the great
concourse and their profound lamentation. The bear made known the
calamity which had befallen them, and as the birds would feel
themselves equally afflicted, he requested the oriole to fly away
and invite all the feathered tribes to come to the council and see
if their united wisdom cannot devise a remedy that will restore
their friend to life.
Soon were assembled all the birds of the air, even the great
eagle of the Iroquois, which was seldom induced to appear upon the
earth, hastens to pay her respects to the remains of the renowned
and benevolent hunter. All being satisfied that he was really dead,
the united council of birds and animals, which remained convened,
decided that his scalp must be recovered, saying that any bird or
animal who pleased might volunteer to go on this mission. The fox
was the first to offer his services and departed full of hope that
his zeal would be crowned with success. But after many days he
returned, saying he could find no trace of man's footsteps, not a
chick or child belonged to any settlement The great love which they
bore their friend prompted several others to go upon the same
mission, and to the animals belonged the first right as they had
first found him; but at length the birds were anxious to show their
devotion and the pigeon hawk begged leave to make the first flight,
as he was more swift of wing than any other and could visit the
whole world in the shortest space of time. They had scarcely missed
him when he returned: he said he had been over the entire earth and
found it not. They did not consider his voyage satisfactory, as he
had flown so swiftly that it was impossible for him to see anything
distinctly by the way.
Next the white heron proposed that he be sent, because of being
so slow of wing he could see every object as he passed. On his
aerial voyage he discovered a plain covered with the vines of the
wild bean, laden with the delicious fruit; it was too great a
temptation for him to resist, and he descended to enjoy a feast. So
gluttonously did he partake that he could not rise again from the
earth, and the council after many days of anxious waiting, called
for a substitute. Here the crow came forward and acknowledged his
fitness for such, an office, as he was also slow of wing and was
accustomed to hover settlements and discern them afar off, he would
not be suspected of any particular design should he linger near the
one that contained the scalp.
The warrior who possessed the coveted treasure knew the birds
and animals were holding council on the field of battle to devise
means to recover it, but when the crow drew near he was not alarmed.
The smoke of the wigwams indicated a settlement and as the crow
sailed lazily through the air at a great height above the roofs of
the cabins, he espied the scalp which he knew must be the one he
sought, stretched out to dry.
After various unsuccessful stratagems, he was able to seize it,
and flew away to exhibit his trophy to the council.
Now, they attempted to fit it to his head, but, being dry, it was
impossible; so search was made to find something with which to
moisten it, but in vain. Then slowly moved forward the great eagle,
and bids them listen to his words.
"My wings are never furled; night and day, for years and
hundreds of years, the dews of heaven have been collected upon my
back, as I sat in my nest above the clouds. Perhaps these waters may
have a virtue no
earthly fountain can possess, we will see."
Then she plucked a feather from her wing and dipped it in the
dewy elixir, which was then applied to the shriveled scalp, and lo!
it became pliable and fresh as if just removed. Now it would fit,
but there must be a healing power to cause the flesh to unite, and
again to awaken life.
All were anxious to do something in the great work, therefore
all went forth to bring rare leaves, flowers, barks, the flesh of
animals and the brain of birds, to form a healing mixture. When they
returned it was prepared, and having been moistened with the dew,
was applied to the scalp, and instantly adhered to it and became
firm. This caused the hunter to sit up; he looked around in
astonishment upon his numerous friends, unable to divine the meaning
of so strange an assemblage.
Then they bade him stand upon his feet and told him how he was found
dead upon the plain and how great was the lamentation of all those
who had so long experienced his kindness, and the efforts they had
made to restore him to life. They then gave him the compound which
had been the means of restoring him to life, saying, "it was the
gift of the Great Spirit to man. He alone had directed them in the
affairs of the council, had brought the eagle to furnish the
heavenly moisture, and gave them wisdom in making the preparation,
that they might furnish to man a medicine which should be effectual
for every wound."
When they had finished the animals departed to their forest
haunts, the eagle soared again to his eyrir, and the birds of the
air flew away to their nests in the tall trees, all happy and
rejoicing that they had accomplished this great good.
The hunter returned to his home and spread abroad the news of
the miracle and the knowledge of the wonderful medicine, which is
used to this day among the Iroquois by those who are the favorites
of the Great Spirit.
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