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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Eagle War Feathers


A long, long time ago the Cheyenne warriors had not learned yet how to use eagle for their war ornaments. One of their men climbed a high mountain; there he lay for five days, crying, without food. Some powerful being, he hoped, would see him and come to him, to teach him something great for his people.

He was glad when he heard a voice say, "Try to be brave, no matter what comes, even if it might kill you. If you remember these words, you will bring great news to your people, and help them." After a time he heard voices, and seven eagles came down, as if to fly away with him. But he was brave, as he had been told, though he continued to cry and keep his eyes closed. Now the great eagles surrounded him. One said "Look at me. I am powerful, and I have wonderfully strong feathers. I am greater than all other animals and birds in the world."

This powerful eagle showed the man his wings and his tail, and he spread all his feathers as wide as possible. He shows him how to make war headdresses and ornaments out of eagle feathers.

"Your people must use only eagle feathers, and it would be a great help to them in war and bring them victories," eagle said.

Since no loose feathers were about, the seven eagles shook themselves, and plenty of feathers fell to the ground. The Cheyenne picked them up and gratefully took them home to his tribe. On that day, eagle feathers were seen for the first time by the Cheyenne and they knew where they came from.

The man showed his people how to make war ornaments from the eagle feathers, as he had been told. From that day onward, the man became a great warrior in his tribe, and their leader in war parties.

He became so successful his people named him Chief Eagle Feather and he wore his Eagle Feather Warbonnet, as he led the Cheyennes with dignity and pride.




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


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