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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Fire Race (Karuk)

A long time ago, only the three Yellow Jacket sisters had fire. Even though other animals froze, the fire was kept from them. Wise Old Coyote, however, devises a plan to steal the fire, and enlists the other animals to help. Coyote diverts the yellow jackets, seizes a burning stick, and runs away. As the yellow jackets chase him, he hands it off to Eagle, who hands it to Mountain Lion. Several hand-offs later, Frog hides a hot coal in his mouth on a river bottom, and the yellow jackets give up. When Frog spits the coal out, Willow Tree swallows it, and Coyote shows the animals how to extract it: by rubbing two sticks together over dry moss. Now that the animals have fire, each night they gather in a circle while the elders tell stories. An meaningful tale which stresses the importance of the natural world and our need to live cooperatively with it.




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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.