Monday, October 16, 2006

Rabbit Shoots the Sun

Rabbit shoots the Sun

It was the height of summer, the time of year called Hadotso, the Great Heat. All day long, from a blue and cloudless sky, the blazing sun beat down upon the earth. No rain had fallen for many days and there was not the slightest breath of wind to cool the stifling air. Everything was hot and dry. Even the rose-red cliffs of the canyons and mesas seemed to take on a more brilliant color than before.

The animals drooped with misery. They were parched and hungry, for it was too hot to hunt for food and, panting heavily, they sough what shade they could under the rocks and bushes.

Rabbit was the unhappiest of all. Twice that day the shimmering heat had tempted him across the baked earth towards visions of water and cool, shady trees. He had exhausted himself in his desperate attempts to reach tem, only to find the mirages dissolve before him, receding further and further into the distance.

Now, tired and wretched, he dragged himself into the shadow of an overhanging rock and crouched there listlessly. His soft fur was caked with the red dust of the desert. His head swam and his eyes ached from the sun's glare.

'Why does it have to be so hot?' he groaned. 'What have we done to deserve such torment?' He squinted up at the sun and shouted furiously, 'Go away! You are making everything too hot!'

Sun took no notice at all and continued to pour down his fiery beams, forcing Rabbit to retreat once more into the shade of the rock. 'Sun needs to be taught a lesson,' grumbled Rabbit. 'I have a good mind to go and fight him. If he refuses to stop shining, I will kill him!'

His determination to punish Sun made him forget his weariness and, in spite of the oppressive heat, he set off at a run towards the eastern edge of the world where the Sun came up each morning.

As he ran, he practiced with his bow and arrows and, to make himself brave and strong, he fought with everything, which crossed his path. He fought with the gophers and the lizards. He hurled his throwing stick at beetles, ants and dragonflies. He shot at the yucca and the giant cactus. He became a very fierce rabbit indeed.

By the time he reached the edge of the world, Sun had left the sky and was nowhere to be seen.

'The coward!' sneered Rabbit. 'He is afraid to fight, but he will not escape me so easily,' and he settled to wait behind a clump of bushes.

In those days, Sun did not appear slowly as he does now. Instead he rushed up over the horizon and into the heavens with one mighty bound. Rabbit knew that he would have to act quickly in order to ambush him and he fixed his eyes intently on the spot where the Sun usually appeared.

Had heard all Rabbit's threats and had watched him fighting. He knew that he was lying in wait among the bushes. He was not at all afraid of this puny creature and he thought that he might have some amusement at his expense.

He rolled some distance away from his usual place and swept up into the sky before Rabbit knew what was happening. By the time Rabbit had gathered his startled wits and released his bowstring, Sun was already high above him and out of range.

Rabbit stamped and shouted with rage and vexation. Sun laughed and laughed and shone even more fiercely than before.

Although almost dead from heat, Rabbit would not give up. Next morning he tried again, but this time Sun came up in a different place and evaded him once more.

Day after day the same thing happened. Sometimes Sun sprang up on Rabbit's right, sometimes on his left and sometimes straight in front of him, but always where Rabbit least expected him.

One morning, however, Sun grew careless. He rose more leisurely than usual, and this time, Rabbit was ready. Swiftly he drew his bow. His arrow whizzed through the air and buried itself deep in Sun's side.

Rabbit was jubilant! At last he had shot his enemy! Wild with joy, he leaped up and down. He rolled on the ground, hugging himself. He turned somersaults. He looked at Sun again - and stopped short.

Where his arrow had pierce Sun, there was a gaping wound and, from that wound, there gushed a stream of liquid fire. Suddenly it seemed as if the whole world had been set ablaze. Flames shot up and rushed towards Rabbit, crackling and roaring.

Rabbit paused not a moment longer. He took to his heels in panic and ran as fast as he could away from the fire. He spied a lone cottonwood tree and scuttled towards it. 'Everything is burning!' he cried. 'Will you shelter me?'

The cottonwood shook its slender branches mournfully. 'What can I do?' it asked. 'I will be burned to the ground.'

Rabbit ran on. Behind him, the flames were coming closer. He could feel their breath on his back. A greasewood tree lay in his path.

'Hide me! Hide me!' Rabbit gasped. 'The fire is coming.'

'I cannot help you,' answered the greasewood tree. 'I will be burned up roots and branches.'

Terrified and almost out of breath, Rabbit continued to run, but his strength was failing. He could feel the fire licking at his heels and his fur was beginning to singe. Suddenly he heard a voice calling to him.

'Quickly, come under me!' The fire will pass over me so swiftly that it will only scorch my top.'

It was the voice of a small green bush with flowers like bunches of cotton capping its thin branches. Gratefully, Rabbit dived below it and lay there quivering, his eyes tightly shut, his ears flat against his body.

With a thunderous roar, the sheet of flame leaped overhead. The little bush crackled and sizzled. Then, gradually, the noise receded and everything grew quiet once more.

Rabbit raised his head cautiously and looked around. Everywhere the earth lay black and smoking, but the fire had passed on. He was safe!

The little bush which had sheltered him was no longer green. Burned and scorched by the fire, it had turned a golden yellow. People now call it the desert yellow brush, for, although it first grows green, it always turns yellow when it feels the heat of the sun.

Rabbit never recovered from his fright. To this day, he bears brown spots where the fire scorched the back of his neck. He is no longer fierce and quarrelsome, but runs and hides at the slightest noise.

As for Sun, he too was never quite the same. He now makes himself so bright that no one can look at him long enough to sight an arrow and he always peers very warily over the horizon before he brings his full body into view.

From the Archives of Blue Panther

from the site:

Animal Legends

The Eagle

The eagle is a great sacred bird. Our favorite is the golden or war eagle,
which we call "pretty-feathered eagle", because of his beautiful tail
feathers, white, tipped with black, which we use for decorative and
ceremonial purposes. A single tail feather was often rated as equal in value
to a horse.

In time passed, the killing of an eagle was something that concerned the
whole town. This could only be done by a professional eagle killer, chosen
for the purpose on account of his knowledge of the prescribed forms and
prayers to be said afterwards in order to obtain pardon for the necessary
sacrilege, and thus ward off vengeance from our tribe.

The eagle must be killed only in winter or late fall after the crops were
gathered and snakes retired to their dens. If killed in summertime a frost
would destroy the corn, while the songs of the Eagle dance, when the
feathers were brought home, would so anger the snakes that they would become
doubly dangerous. That is why the Eagle songs were never sung until the
snakes had gone to sleep in the winter.

It is told that one man deliberately killed an eagle in defiance of the
ordinances and the he was constantly haunted by dreams of fierce eagles
swooping down upon him in his nightmares,

From the Archives of Blue Panther

from the site:

More on the Cheyenne

Location: The Cheyenne Indians lived in the Great Plains area, east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Mississippi River. Today they are settled in Montana and Oklahoma.

History: The Cheyenne first lived in the eastern portion of the United States. They lived in fixed villages and used the land for farming. Some moved west and southwest. Eventually, they moved into the plains area, in the woodlands of the Mississippi River Valley.

Language: The Cheyenne dialect is part of the Algonquin language family. Their alphabet only contains fourteen letters which can be combined to form words and phrases. Today, the United States government is working to convert the Cheyenne to an English-only speaking tribe. The Cheyenne are trying desperately to keep their language alive despite the government’s recent attempts to make their language extinct.

Daily Life: Before the sun rose, the Cheyenne began preparing for the day. Building the fire was the first task to be completed. The women woke to get the water from the nearby stream, while the men and boys went to the stream to bathe. As dawn continued, the camp became livelier. The women made the morning meal and the boys herded the horses back into camp.

After the meal, announcements were made by the old crier who circled the people on his horse. When he was finished, the people went about their daily activities. The children would scatter about the area to swim, run, and model images out of clay. The women of the camp had many activities to keep them busy. They would go off in groups to gather wood and roots early in the day. This was their time for joking and laughing. They gathered sticks from the ground and broke dead branches off the trees in the forest. The wood was divided up, formed into bundles, and strapped on their backs. They then set out for camp. The older men made bows, arrows and pipes, while the young men spent time enhancing their personal appearance or listening to wise men.

Many men hunted game to provide the camp with food. As day turned into night, the Cheyenne people prepared for the meal. This was the lively event of the day in which music, dancing and various other activities took place. After a few hours, the camp became silent as people turned in for the night.

Best Known Features: An important Cheyenne custom was the smoking of the peace pipe. There were strict rules that were practiced during the smoking of the pipe. A prayer was offered before the first smoke. Most men had their own specific way to smoke the peace pipe.

Another tradition of the Cheyenne was their story telling, which could only be done by certain people. These stories were often related and followed a structure.


  • Grinnell, George Bird. The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Ways of Life. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1962.
  • Hoebel, E. Adamson. The Cheyenne’s: Indians of the Great Plains. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960.

Written by: Summer Smith

Cheyenne Indians

Cheyenne Indians
Northern Cheyenne Territory
The Cheyenne are north American Plains Indian people of Algonkian stock who inhabited the regions around the Platte and Arkansas rivers during the 19th century.

Before 1700 the home of the Cheyenne was in central Minnesota, where they farmed, hunted, gathered wild rice, and made pottery.

They later occupied a village of earth lodges on the Cheyenne River in North Dakota; it was probably during this period that they acquired horses and became more dependent on the buffalo for food.

After the town was destroyed by the Ojibwa (Chippewa), the Cheyenne settled along the Missouri River near the Mandan and Arikara Indians.

Toward the close of the 18th century, smallpox and the aggression of the Dakota decimated the village tribes at the same time that the horse and gun were becoming generally available in the northeastern plains.

The Cheyenne moved farther west to the area of the Black Hills, where they developed their unique version of the tepee-dwelling nomadic Plains culture and gave up agriculture and pottery.

During the early 19th century, they migrated to the headwaters of the Platte River.

In 1832 a large segment of the tribe established itself along the Arkansas River, thus dividing the tribe into northern and southern branches. This division was made permanent in the First Treaty of Ft. Laramie with the U.S. in 1851.

Cheyenne religion recognized two principal deities, the Wise One Above and a god who lived beneath the ground. In addition four spirits lived at the points of the compass.

The Cheyenne were among the Plains tribes who performed the sundance in its most elaborate form. They placed heavy emphasis on visions in which an animal spirit adopted the individual and bestowed special powers upon him so long as he observed some prescribed law or practice.

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