The Animals In Council
Category: TSIMSHIAN TALES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
It is now many years since the ancient friendship between man and the
animal tribes was broken, and since that time the animals have been
hunted continually and go about in fear of their lives. One day
Grizzly Bear invited all the larger beasts to meet at his wigwam and
discuss the matter. Deer, Elk, Wolf, and many others were present when
Grizzly Bear made his great speech in which he spoke of the constant
danger they were in and the need of finding a remedy, and finally
proposed that they petition He-Who-Made-Us to lengthen the winter and
cause very deep snows with extreme cold, so that the hunters could not
All agreed to this plan, but Wolf got up and proposed that before
acting upon it they should consult the smaller animals and even the
Insect tribes. "For," said he, "if we ignore them now they may make
trouble for us later on."
The others had no objection, and next day Beaver, Squirrel, Mink,
Muskrat, all four-footed creatures down to the little Mouse, and all
of the Insect tribes as well, were invited to join in the council.
It was a great gathering. The larger animals sat on one side of a wide
semicircle, and the smaller on the other side. Again Grizzly Bear made
the first speech, telling of the meeting of the day before and of his
suggestion, and asking all present for their opinion on the matter.
After a silence, Porcupine arose and remarked that the idea might do
well enough for those who had warm fur coats, but that many of the
little people were not so well protected against severe weather, and
as for the feeble Insects, if the winters should become any longer or
colder than they were already, they would all perish, therefore they
could not agree to the proposal.
"I don't care whether you agree or not," growled the Bear. "We larger
animals have decided that this is the best thing to do, and we are
going to do it anyhow."
"I fear you are short-sighted," replied Porcupine, who found that he
had used the wrong argument. "You large animals are always roaming the
woods in search of something to eat, and if the winters grow any
colder there will be no food for you, that is certain. All life will
perish, even the roots of the grass on which the Deer lives, and the
berry bushes of which the Bear is so fond will be frozen. You will all
starve, but we shall live, for we Porcupines can live on the bark of
trees; and as for the smallest Insects, they can burrow into the earth
The other animals were impressed by this speech and began to say among
themselves, "How wise he is!" "Now who would have thought of that?"
and "I think we should reconsider the matter."
"Ah, ha, ha!" laughed Porcupine, and he was so pleased with himself
that he stuck his thumb into his mouth and then bit it off, which is
the reason that he has only four fingers and no thumb.
Now the animals called him the wisest of their number and accepted his
decision, and as for those who would not agree, Porcupine filled them
full of sharp quills, on which account they all stand in awe of him to
this very day.
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