Modified from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Many years ago, back when the prairie was a sea of grass as far as the eye could see, and millions of buffalo still roamed wild and free; there lived a proud and noble race of people called the Lakota.
During the cold winters the different bands of the Lakota would go their separate ways to search for food in smaller, more efficient hunting parties. In the spring they would regroup along the banks of the Belle Fouche River in what is now western South Dakota, for a renewal ceremony called Kanasa-apousi, the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. It was a time for all the bands to put down their differences, talk of peace, share stories from the past winter, and see family and friends.
When the tribe came together they would always arrange their tipis in a tremendous circle. On the most eastern edge of this great circle would be the wisest and most respected elders of the tribe.
As it happens, their was in this gathering a very wise and powerful Chief, so wise it was said that there was no question that he could not answer. There was always a long line of people waiting to ask him for his advice.
As it also happens, there was a little boy and a little girl; cousins who had not seen each other for the entire winter. They were playing catch with a ball that they had made from the stomach of a buffalo and sharing stories of their winter. The subject of the wise, old Chief arose.
“You know they say that this Chief is so wise that their is no question that he cannot answer. If we can think of a question to trick the old man, we would look very smart among the rest of our tribe!” The two began to think of ways to outwit the Chief.
“Why don’t ask him...no my grandmother could answer that one...or what if we ask him...no, my uncle could figure that out...What if we...”
And as the two were discussing their question, the little boy threw the ball over the girls head. It rolled down to the bank of the mighty river. The girl bent down to pick up the ball and as she did, she saw a tiny fluff of down. It was a killdeer’s nest. Killdeer build their nests on gravel bars by pushing together a few stones in a circle. The girl scooped up one of the chics and looked closely at its fragile little body. And then the question popped in her head. She ran back to her cousin.
“Cousin, cousin, I have the question we can ask the wise, old Chief. We can hold this baby bird behind our back and we will ask him, is this bird dead or alive? If he says the bird is dead, we’ll simply show him the live bird. If he says its alive, we can simply crush it in our hand and show him the dead bird. There is no way that he can get it right.” The cousins ran off to the tipi as fast as they could.
Now when they arrived their was a long, long line to the tipi, as there always was. The children got into line, but since children weren’t often in line, the adults allowed them to move up. Before they knew it, the children were at the door of the wise Chief.
“Enter my children.” said the Chief. The cousins stepped inside. It took them a minute for their eyes to adjust to the light in the tipi. As their eyes adjusted they saw furs from animals they had only heard about, beautiful baskets and beadwork from far-away lands, and blankets w oven in striking designs. The children realized that they were truly in the presence of a very wise and powerful man.
“My children, what is your question?” The children shuffled their feet.
The chief asked again, “My children, what is your question?”
The little girl spoke, “We have a bird behind our back. We want to know is it dead or alive?”
The chief spoke, “My children, look in to my eyes.” for the chief knew that the eyes are the window to the soul.
The little girl spoke again, “We have a bird behind our back. Is it dead or alive?” There was a long pause.
Finally the chief spoke, “It is as you will.” It is as you will? That was not the answer that the cousins had expected.
The chief rose, “My children, come with me.” The children stepped outside the tipi with the great Chief.
“My people gather round. These children have brought to us a very valuable lesson. They bring us the life of this baby bird. They have in their hands the ability to let this bird grow and flourish and prosper. They also have the power to let this bird die and wither away. And so it is with all of Nature. We all have the ability to let Nature grow and flourish and prosper, each of us also has the power to let Nature die and wither away.”
And so it is today. Each of us here has the power in our hands to let wildlife grow and flourish and prosper. Each of us also has the power to let it die and wither away. It all depends on you.
How Coyote was the Moon
Many years ago, there was no moon. Night was very, very dark and it was difficult to see anything. The people complained because they were unable to visit eachother or get any work done after the sun went down.
The people called together the creatures of the land and decided they would choose one of the animals to become the moon. Right away fox raised his hand. He was always wanting to help the people. So fox climbed up into the sky.
As night came, fox curled himself into tight ball, laid down, and fluffed out his big, bushy tail in order to make himself into a perfect circle. Foxes’ bright red fur reflected the sun’s light very well. After several nights the people began to grumble. Fox was so bright, that they were unable to sleep! Everyone was grouchy and tired. Poor fox had tried so hard, but he was asked to come down from the sky.
The people again called together the creatures of the land and decided they should choose crow because he was very dark and would not reflect the sun like fox. So crow climbed up into the sky.
As night came, crow fanned out his beautiful tail feathers, tucked in his head, and spread his wings to make himself into a perfect circle. Crow’s shiny, black feathers glistened from the sun’s light. After several nights, the people began to grumble. Crow’s feathers would not reflect enough light for them to do any work after dark! People were running into trees, animals, and even each other. Poor crow had tried so hard, but he too was asked to come down from the sky.
For a third time the people called together the creatures of the land and decided that they would choose one of the animals to become the moon. Coyote was always trying to help the people out and was always eager to try new things. So he offered to become the moon. He was neither too dark nor too light, and he could curl himself into a circle. He would be a perfect moon. So coyote climbed up into the sky.
Coyote curled himself into a tight ball, tucked his nose under his tail, and fluffed out his fuzzy tail. He was indeed a perfect moon in every way. The people were able to visit each other after dark and work around the camp without running into each other. Everyone was happy. Everyone but Coyote.
Coyote grew tired of always laying in the same position, doing the same job night after night. He began to look around and poke his nose into people’s business. Some women were down at the river taking baths and Coyote was spying on them from the sky. When the saw him they began to yell and shake their fists at him. “Curse you, Coyote!”, they said.
An old man was sneaking around the meat drying racks to steal something to eat. He was very hungry. Coyote pointed him out to the rest of the people. “Curse you, Coyote!”, he said.
Some men were playing a gambling game with marked sticks. Coyote would peek down from the sky and point out which hand had the marked stick. “Curse you, Coyote!”, the angry men yelled.
The people came together for an important meeting. “Coyote can not be the moon!”, someone yelled. “He sticks his nose in everyone’s business.”, yelled another. “It’s time for him to go!”, grumbled several more. So coyote was forced by the people to come down from the sky. He was replaced by rabbit. Rabbit was nearly the same color and able to make himself into a nice round circle. Rabbit did not have a nose for mischief.
Rabbit still is the moon even today. That is why on nights when the moon is round and close to full, you will see rabbit’s nose and whiskers. That is also why, that to this day, coyote howls at the moon.
Many years ago, as many years as there are grains of sand, there lived a small community of mice on the edge of a meadow. The mice were very busy doing busy mice things. They searched for seeds with their heads close to the ground to prepare for the long winter ahead.
Now in this mouse community there was a mouse that was different from all the other mice in that he heard a great roaring in his ears. He would ask the other mice, “Do you hear a great roaring in your ears?” The other mice would say, “ I hear nothing. Go about your work or you will starve this coming winter.”
The little mouse went back to his work searching for seeds close to the ground. Now one morning the little mouse went out to search for seeds and the roaring was louder than he had ever heard. He decided to leave the mouse meadow in search of the roaring. As he left the meadow he began to see strange new sights and smell new smells and hear strange new sounds that he had never heard before. It wasn’t long before the mouse came to a mighty river. He looked down into the water and saw his reflection. He had never seen himself before. Suddenly he was surprised by a voice.
The voice said, “Greetings Brother Mouse.” The little mouse jumped backward. “Who are you?” asked the mouse. “I am Brother Frog.” “Greetings Brother Frog.” said the mouse, “I am seeking a great roaring that I hear in my ears. I have found it. It is this mighty river.” Brother Frog laughed, “This is not the great roaring that you seek. This is the Great River of Life which flows through all things. The roaring that you hear in your ears is much farther beyond this place. Bend down as low as you can and jump into the air. Tell me what you see.”
The mouse bent down as low as he could and jumped into the air. As he looked off into the distance he saw the most beautiful thing he had ever seen; it was the Sacred Mountains. But when the little mouse jumped, he leapt too far out and he landed in the water with a big splash. He swam back to shore mad at Brother Frog.
The little mouse yelled at Brother Frog, “Brother Frog you tricked me to land in the water.” Brother Frog said, “Don’t be blinded by your anger, what did you see when you were up there.” The mouse said, “I saw the Sacred Mountains. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Brother Frog said, “That is the great roaring that you hear in your ears. Your quest is for the Sacred Mountains. You must leave this place in search of what is at the top of the Sacred Mountains. You have a new name now, it is Jumping Mouse.” Jumping Mouse said, “Thank you Brother Frog.” as he ran back to the little mouse meadow.
When Jumping Mouse arrived at the meadow he began to tell everyone what had happened. “I saw the Sacred Mountains. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” The other mice said, “You are talking crazy. You will not have enough seeds for the winter. “I have a new name now, it is Jumping Mouse.” The other mice said, “You are all wet. Perhaps a coyote tried to eat you and found you poisonous and spit you out of his mouth.” Jumping Mouse realized that he would have to look for the Sacred Mountains on his own.
The next morning he rose early and headed to the Great River of Life. Brother Frog helped Jumping Mouse across the river to the wide open prairie country. The roaring in Jumping Mouse’s ears was louder than it had ever been before. He could see the Sacred Mountains far off in the distance. He knew it would be many days journey, but he gathered up his courage and began to walk. As he left the river he began to see strange new sights and smell new smells and hear strange new sounds that he had never heard before.
As he walked he could see little circling black dots in the sky. He knew that one could easily come down and make him a meal, so he started to run. He ran and hid beneath a clump of sage and caught his breath. He ran again until he got to a bunch of sweet grass and there he gathered his breath. He ran again until he came to a black cherry tree and there he stopped to catch his breath. As he lay there resting, he heard a great wheezing, a great heavy breathing. At first he thought it was himself, but he looked over and he saw a great black mound of fur moving up and down very slowly.
Without thinking he spoke, “Great beast, what are you that you make this sound?” The beast spoke, “I am Buffalo. I am very sick and will die soon. The only thing that can save me now is the eye of a mouse. I do not know of any mice so I am destined to lie here and die.”
Jumping Mouse thought to himself, “I have two eyes. Perhaps if I give Buffalo one of my eyes I will make him whole.” Jumping Mouse spoke, “Brother Buffalo, I have two eyes. Perhaps if I ...” And with that the eye left him.
Brother Buffalo stood up. “Thank you Jumping Mouse for making me whole. I know of your quest for the Sacred Mountains. Walk underneath me and the circling black dots will only see the back of a Buffalo. Jumping Mouse walked under Buffalo. He was frightened as Buffalo’s hooves made a tremendous thundering, but he knew that Buffalo knew where his hooves fell.
At last they reached the base of the Sacred Mountains. Jumping Mouse said, “Thank you Brother Buffalo for giving me safe passage to the Sacred Mountains.” Brother Buffalo said, “Thank you Jumping Mouse for making me whole. My hooves are unable to climb these hard rocks so I must leave you.” With those words the two of them parted.
The roaring in Jumping Mouse’s ears was louder than it had ever been before. He knew it would be several days before he reached the top of the Sacred Mountains, but he gathered his strength and begin to walk. As he left the prairie he begin to see strange new sights and smell new smells and hear strange new sounds that he had never heard before. It wasn’t too long before he ran into Brother Bear. “Greetings Brother Bear.” said Jumping Mouse. “A Bear? A Bear! Yes, that is what I am!” said Bear in a confused voice. Jumping Mouse thought to himself, “How sad that this great animal doesn’t know who he is. I was able to heal Brother Buffalo with my eye, perhaps I could...” And with that the eye left him. Brother Bear stood up. “Thank you Jumping Mouse for making me whole. I know of your quest for the Sacred Mountains. Crawl up on my back and I will give you safe passage to the top.”
Jumping Mouse climbed on to the back of Black Bear and hung on to his thick black fur. As they started up the mountain, Jumping Mouse began to smell new smells and hear strange new sounds that he had never heard before. His sight was gone but he could feel the sun on his back and felt branches as they swept past his face.
It wasn’t long before they reached the top of the Sacred Mountains. Jumping Mouse said, “Thank you Brother Bear for giving me safe passage to the top of the Sacred Mountains.” Brother Bear said, “Thank you Jumping Mouse for making me whole. I must return to bring others to this sacred place.” And with those words, they parted.
Jumping Mouse was alone at the top of the Sacred Mountains. The roaring in his ears was louder than it had ever been before. As he sat at the top he began to smell new smells and hear strange new sounds that he had never heard before. The roaring began to beat in his heart like a drum, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before one of the circling black dots would come down and make him a meal.
And now the roaring beat louder and louder until it was all that he could hear. Suddenly, there was a loud roar and the swoosh of wings. Jumping Mouse had been hit.
He didn’t know if he had been killed or in a deep sleep or a heavy dream, but after a long period of time, he began to awake. With each breath he took he grew stronger and stronger until he could sit upright. He began to blink his eyes until he could see faint light. With each blink his vision grew more and more keen until he could make out fuzzy shapes. Now his strength had returned to the power he had as a youth and his vision was better than he had ever remembered.
From the top of the Sacred Mountain he looked down and he could see Brother Bear walking down to bring others to this sacred place. He could see Brother Buffalo going to join the rest of the buffalo herd. He could see far, far off into the distance the mice in the little mouse meadow doing little mouse things with their heads still close to the ground. And through all these things he saw flowing the Great River of Life. Jumping Mouse looked down and saw his old friend Brother Frog.
Brother Frog looked up and saw Jumping Mouse and with all of his breath he yelled, “Jumping Mouse, you have a new name now! Your name is Eagle!”
When I was younger, probably about 9 or 10 year old, I had this friend named George. George was my softball coach and had the best yard to explore in. The front was all nice and neat like everybody else’s yard, but in the back there were plants everywhere. They were so high that I couldn’t even see over them. The plants brought in all kinds of animals like birds, snakes, butterflies, mice, and all kinds of insects. George loved nature and enjoyed having all of the different animals right in his backyard. You could tell that he really cared about them. I loved going over to George’s house and exploring. Campfire Stories from Y-Camp!
One day George got a call from his wife while he was at work. She said, “George you have to come home from work right away! There is a snake chasing the kids and it is trying to get inside the house!” Well, George was in the middle of a meeting and there was no way for him to leave. He told his wife “I can’t come home right now, why don’t you call (insert your name) he/she knows a lot about snakes.” A minute later the phone rang at my house and she said, “(your name), you have to come over right away, there is a snake chasing the kids and trying to get in to the house! George can’t come home and he thought that you could help!” So I jumped on my bike and peddled over to George’s. I figured that if the snake was chasing the kids it must be pretty big.
I decided that I should start looking around the house since that was where is was trying to get in. I had made about two circles when George pulled into the driveway. We decided to divide and conquer. He went one way and I went the other. About ten minutes later I heard “I’ve found it!” I ran around the corner of the house toward the garage. George had the snake backed into a corner. I got there just in time to see George take a shovel and whack, he hit the snake and killed it. I was heartbroken. How could my friend George, who loved nature and animals have done such a thing? I turned and jumped onto my bike without saying a word.
When I got home, I found my book about snakes and looked up the snake that had been in George’s garage. It said that it was a bull snake and they like to eat mice. Where do you think mice like to live? That’s right, in that tall grass in George’s back yard. It said that snakes when cornered coil up, that way they can see all parts of their body and try to protect it. It also said that snakes will usually run away before you even get a chance to see them. That snake wasn’t trying to get the kids, it was trying to get away. It wasn’t trying to get George either in the garage, it was trying to protect itself. I was sure George didn’t want mice in his house, so it would have been better to keep the snake in his yard. I sat around on the couch for awhile thinking about what I had learned. My mom came in and asked if I was ready for my softball game. I told her I wasn’t going. She was quite surprised and asked what was wrong. At first I didn’t want to tell her, but she finally coaxed it out of me. I told her what had happened at George’s and what I had learned. She asked if I thought George knew about the things I had read in my book and said that I might feel better if I went back and talked to him about it.
I hopped back on my bike and rode over to George’s. I knocked on the door and he said, “Hi there (your name)! Are you ready for the big game tonight?” I said, “No I’m not. I want to talk to you about what happened today.” “Yeah”, he said “ that was a pretty big snake!” I asked him if he knew that the snake was a bull snake and that they like to eat mice? Did he know that snakes try to get away from people rather than chase them? I also told him that snakes when cornered coil up to see all of their body for protection. George stood there for a minute and then said, “I didn’t know anything about that snake.”
“I’m really sorry, I wish I would have known more before.” I felt a lot better after I talked to George and explained what I had learned.
Questions asked after the story:
- Who was the teacher in this story?
- Can you ever be teachers?
- Knowledg + Caring = Responsible Choices: Which one was George missing?