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INDIAN WHY STORIES


 

WHY THE CHIPMUNK'S BACK IS STRIPED


What a splendid lodge it was, and how
grand War Eagle looked leaning against
his back-rest in the firelight! From the tri-
pod that supported the back-rest were sus-
pended his weapons and his medicine-bundle,
each showing the wonderful skill of the maker.
The quiver that held the arrows was combined
with a case for the bow, and colored quills of
the porcupine had been deftly used to make it
a thing of beauty. All about the lodge hung
the strangely painted linings, and the fire-
light added richness to both color and design.
War Eagle's hair was white, for he had known
many snows; but his eyes were keen and bright
as a boy's, as he gazed in pride at his grand-
children across the lodge-fire. He was wise,
and had been in many battles, for his was a
warlike tribe. He knew all about the world
and the people in it. He was deeply religious,
and every Indian child loved him for his good-
ness and brave deeds.

About the fire were Little Buffalo Calf, a
boy of eleven years; Eyes-in-the-Water, his
sister, a girl of nine; Fine Bow, a cousin of
these, aged ten, and Bluebird, his sister, who
was but eight years old.

Not a sound did the children make while
the old warrior filled his great pipe, and only
the snapping of the lodge-fire broke the still-
ness. Solemnly War Eagle lit the tobacco
that had been mixed with the dried inner bark
of the red willow, and for several minutes
smoked in silence, while the children's eyes
grew large with expectancy. Finally he spoke:

"Napa, OLD-man, is very old indeed. He
made this world, and all that is on it. He
came out of the south, and travelled toward
the north, making the birds and animals as
he passed. He made the perfumes for the
winds to carry about, and he even made the
war-paint for the people to use. He was a
busy worker, but a great liar and thief, as I
shall show you after I have told you more
about him. It was OLD-man who taught the
beaver all his cunning. It was OLD-man who
told the bear to go to sleep when the snow grew
deep in winter, and it was he who made the
curlew's bill so long and crooked, although it
was not that way at first. OLD-man used to
live on this world with the animals and birds.
There was no other man or woman then, and
he was chief over all the animal-people and
the bird-people. He could speak the lan-
guage of the robin, knew the words of the
bear, and understood the sign-talk of the
beaver, too. He lived with the wolves, for
they are the great hunters. Even to-day we
make the same sign for a smart man as we
make for the wolf; so you see he taught them
much while he lived with them. OLD-man
made a great many mistakes in making things,
as I shall show you after a while; yet he worked
until he had everything good. But he often
made great mischief and taught many wicked
things. These I shall tell you about some
day. Everybody was afraid of OLD-man and
his tricks and lies--even the animal-people,
before he made men and women. He used to
visit the lodges of our people and make trouble
long ago, but he got so wicked that Manitou
grew angry at him, and one day in the month
of roses, he built a lodge for OLD-man and told
him that he must stay in it forever. Of course
he had to do that, and nobody knows where
the lodge was built, nor in what country, but
that is why we never see him as our grand-
fathers did, long, long ago.

"What I shall tell you now happened when
the world was young. It was a fine sum-
mer day, and OLD-man was travelling in the
forest. He was going north and straight as
an arrow--looking at nothing, hearing noth-
ing. No one knows what he was after, to
this day. The birds and forest-people spoke
politely to him as he passed but he answered
none of them. The Pine-squirrel, who is al-
ways trying to find out other people's business,
asked him where he was going, but OLD-man
wouldn't tell him. The woodpecker hammered
on a dead tree to make him look that way,
but he wouldn't. The Elk-people and the Deer-
people saw him pass, and all said that he
must be up to some mischief or he would stop
and talk a while. The pine-trees murmured,
and the bushes whispered their greeting, but
he kept his eyes straight ahead and went on
travelling.

"The sun was low when OLD-man heard a
groan" (here War Eagle groaned to show the
children how it sounded), "and turning about
he saw a warrior lying bruised and bleeding
near a spring of cold water. OLD-man knelt
beside the man and asked: 'Is there war in this
country? '

"'Yes,' answered the man. 'This whole
day long we have fought to kill a Person, but
we have all been killed, I am afraid.'

"'That is strange,' said OLD-man; 'how can
one Person kill so many men? Who is this
Person, tell me his name!' but the man didn't
answer--he was dead. When OLD-man saw
that life had left the wounded man, he drank
from the spring, and went on toward the north,
but before long he heard a noise as of men
fighting, and he stopped to look and listen.
Finally he saw the bushes bend and sway near
a creek that flowed through the forest. He
crawled toward the spot, and peering through
the brush saw a great Person near a pile of
dead men, with his back against a pine-tree.
The Person was full of arrows, and he was
pulling them from his ugly body. Calmly the
Person broke the shafts of the arrows, tossed
them aside, and stopped the blood flow with
a brush of his hairy hand. His head was
large and fierce-looking, and his eyes were
small and wicked. His great body was larger
than that of a buffalo-bull and covered with
scars of many battles.

"OLD-man went to the creek, and with his
buffalo-horn cup brought some water to the
Person, asking as he approached:

"'Who are you, Person? Tell me, so I
can make you a fine present, for you are great
in war.'

"'I am Bad Sickness,' replied the Person.
'Tribes I have met remember me and always
will, for their bravest warriors are afraid when I
make war upon them. I come in the night or
I visit their camps in daylight. It is always the
same; they are frightened and I kill them easily.'

" 'Ho!' said OLD-man, 'tell me how to make
Bad Sickness, for I often go to war myself.'
He lied; for he was never in a battle in his life.
The Person shook his ugly head and then OLD-
man said:

" 'If you will tell me how to make Bad Sick-
ness I will make you small and handsome.
When you are big, as you now are, it is very
hard to make a living; but when you are small,
little food will make you fat. Your living
will be easy because I will make your food
grow everywhere.'

"'Good,' said the Person, 'I will do it;
you must kill the fawns of the deer and the
calves of the elk when they first begin to live.
When you have killed enough of them you
must make a robe of their skins. Whenever
you wear that robe and sing--"now you sicken,
now you sicken," the sickness will come--
that is all there is to it. '

"'Good,' said OLD-man, 'now lie down to
sleep and I will do as I promised.'

"The Person went to sleep and OLD-man
breathed upon him until he grew so tiny that
he laughed to see how small he had made him.
Then he took out his paint sack and striped
the Person's back with black and yellow. It
looked bright and handsome and he waked the
Person, who was now a tiny animal with a
bushy tail to make him pretty.

"'Now,' said OLD-man, 'you are the Chip-
munk, and must always wear those striped
clothes. All of your children and their chil-
dren, must wear them, too.'

"After the Chipmunk had looked at him-
self, and thanked OLD-man for his new clothes,
he wanted to know how he could make his
living, and OLD-man told him what to eat, and
said he must cache the pine-nuts when the
leaves turned yellow, so he would not have
to work in the winter time.

"'You are a cousin to the Pine-squirrel,'
said OLD-man, 'and you will hunt and hide
as he does. You will be spry and your living will
be easy to make if you do as I have told you.'

"He taught the Chipmunk his language
and his signs, showed him where to live, and
then left him, going on toward the north again.
He kept looking for the cow-elk and doe-deer,
and it was not long before he had killed enough
of their young to make the robe as the Person
told him, for they were plentiful before the
white man came to live on the world. He
found a shady place near a creek, and there
made the robe that would make Bad Sick-
ness whenever he sang the queer song, but
the robe was plain, and brown in color. He
didn't like the looks of it. Suddenly he thought
how nice the back of the Chipmunk looked
after he had striped it with his paints. He
got out his old paint sack and with the same
colors made the robe look very much like
the clothes of the Chipmunk. He was proud
of the work, and liked the new robe better;
but being lazy, he wanted to save himself
work, so he sent the South-wind to tell all
the doe-deer and the cow-elk to come to him.
They came as soon as they received the mes-
sage, for they were afraid of OLD-man and
always tried to please him. When they had
all reached the place where OLD-man was he
said to them:

"'Do you see this robe?'

"'Yes, we see it,' they replied.

"'Well, I have made it from the skins of
your children, and then painted it to look
like the Chipmunk's back, for I like the looks
of that Person's clothes. I shall need many
more of these robes during my life; and every
time I make one, I don't want to have to spend
my time painting it; so from now on and for-
ever your children shall be born in spotted
clothes. I want it to be that way to save me
work. On all the fawns there must be spots
of white like this (here he pointed to the spots
on Bad Sickness's robe) and on all of the elk-
calves the spots shall not be so white and
shall be in rows and look rather yellow.' Again
he showed them his robe, that they might see
just what he wanted.

"'Remember,' he said, 'after this I don't
want to see any of your children running about
wearing plain clothing, because that
would mean more painting for me. Now go away,
and remember what I have said, lest I make
you sick. '

"The cow-elk and the doe-deer were glad
to know that their children's clothes would
be beautiful, and they went away to their
little ones who were hidden in the tall grass,
where the wolves and mountain-lions would
have a hard time finding them; for you know
that in the tracks of the fawn there is no scent,
and the wolf cannot trail him when he is alone.
That is the way Manitou takes care of the
weak, and all of the forest-people know about
it, too.

"Now you know why the Chipmunk's back
is striped, and why the fawn and elk-calf wear
their pretty clothes.

"I hear the owls, and it is time for all young
men who will some day be great warriors to
go to bed, and for all young women to seek
rest, lest beauty go away forever. Ho!"


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