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Kayuta And Waneta


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The Indians loved our lakes. They had eyes for their beauty, and to them
they were abodes of gracious spirits. They used to say of Oneida Lake,
that when the Great Spirit formed the world his smile rested on its
waters and Frenchman's Island rose to greet it; he laughed and Lotus
Island came up to listen. So they built lodges on their shores and
skimmed their waters in canoes. Much of their history relates to them,
and this is a tale of the Senecas that was revived a few years ago by the
discovery of a deer-skin near Lakes Waneta and Keuka, New York, on which
some facts of the history were rudely drawn, for all Indians are artists.

Waneta, daughter of a chief, had plighted her troth to Kayuta, a hunter
of a neighboring tribe with which her people were at war. Their tryst was
held at twilight on the farther shore of the lake from her village, and
it was her gayety and happiness, after these meetings had taken place,
that roused the suspicion and jealousy of Weutha, who had marked her for
his bride against the time when he should have won her father's consent
by some act of bravery. Shadowing the girl as she stole into the forest
one evening, he saw her enter her canoe and row to a densely wooded spot;
he heard a call like the note of a quail, then an answer; then Kayuta
emerged on the shore, lifted the maiden from her little bark, and the
twain sat down beside the water to listen to the lap of its waves and
watch the stars come out.

Hurrying back to camp, the spy reported that an enemy was near them, and
although Waneta had regained her wigwam by another route before the
company of warriors had reached the lake, Kayuta was seen, pursued, and
only escaped with difficulty. Next evening, not knowing what had happened
after her homeward departure on the previous night--for the braves deemed
it best to keep the knowledge of their military operations from the
women--the girl crept away to the lake again and rowed to the accustomed
place, but while waiting for the quail call a twig dropped on the water
beside her. With a quick instinct that civilization has spoiled she
realized this to be a warning, and remaining perfectly still, she allowed
her boat to drift toward shore, presently discovering that her lover was
standing waist-deep in the water. In a whisper he told her that they were
watched, and bade her row to a dead pine that towered at the foot of the
lake, where he would soon meet her. At that instant an arrow grazed his
side and flew quivering into the canoe.

Pushing the boat on its course and telling her to hasten, Kayuta sprang
ashore, sounded the warwhoop, and as Weutha rose into sight he clove his
skull with a tomahawk. Two other braves now leaped forward, but, after a
struggle, Kayuta left them dead or senseless, too. He would have stayed
to tear their scalps off had he not heard his name uttered in a shriek of
agony from the end of the lake, and, tired and bleeding though he was, he
bounded along its margin like a deer, for the voice that he heard was
Waneta's. He reached the blasted pine, gave one look, and sank to the
earth. Presently other Indians came, who had heard the noise of fighting,
and burst upon him with yells and brandished weapons, but something in
his look restrained them from a close advance. His eyes were fixed on a
string of beads that lay on the bottom of the lake, just off shore, and
when the meaning of it came to them, the savages thought no more of
killing, but moaned their grief; for Waneta, in stepping from her canoe
to wade ashore, had been caught and swallowed by a quagmire. All night
and all next day Kayuta sat there like a man of stone. Then, just as the
hour fell when he was used to meet his love, his heart broke, and he
joined her in the spiritland.

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Previous: Horseheads

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