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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

The Old Man

One day the Old Man was taking a walk, when he saw a lot of deer playing. They were jumping down a little hill, and having a very good time. Na-pe began crying loudly. Said the leader of the deer to one of the others, "Go and see what Old Man is crying about."

"I am crying because you are having such a good time, and I am not" said the Old Man. The deer, feeling sorry for him, invited him to join in their game.

He leaped down the hill a few times, then said to the deer chief, "I have been jumping down your hill. Now, since you have been good to me and have let me play with you, I will let you play with me. Come jump down my hill." And he led them to a cutbank!

"I will go first," said Na-pe; but instead of jumping, he ran around to the bottom of the bank, and lay there laughing heartily.

"Why are you laughing?" called the deer, peering over the edge.

"Oh, it is so much fun!" said Na-pe. "The hill is wide; you can all jump at once. Come down here with me!"

So the poor silly deer all jumped at once, and of course, were all killed. Na-pe gleefully skinned them, cut the meat in strips and put it up to dry. He had just finished arranging all the tongues on a long pole, when along came A-pe'si, the Coyote. A-pe'si was limping, badly. "Ne-sa (brother), he said to the Old Man, "I am so hungry. Will you give me some food ?"

Na-pe saw that the Coyote was carrying a sea-shell, a big one, hanging on his neck. "Give me that shell, and I will give you some food.

"No," said the Coyote. "I can't give you this shell. It is my Medicine--my power from the Above Spirits-and I should never have good luck again if I gave it away. You have more food here than you need; it will rot before you can use it all. Give me a little."

"No," said Na-pe. "But I will race you for it round this lake. If you win, you may have a meal. If I win, you must give me that holy shell."

"Oh, Ne-sa," said A-pe'si. "Have some pity! I am lame, and so hungry!"

But Na-pe insisted. At first, he outdistanced the Coyote, but A-pe'si gained, bit by bit, till at last he left Na-pe behind. When he reached the place where the meat was, he sat down and howled loudly.

At once, all the four-footed animals gathered. Quickly, they ate every single scrap of meat, the mice running up the pole to eat the insides of the tongues. Then they ran away, and hid. And when Na-Pe arrived there was not a morsel left, and he was very angry.

But the next time he was not so mean.

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