The Bald-headed Eagles
Source: Thirty Indian Legends
One day Wesakchak was seated at the door of his lodge, when he noticed
two eagles circling high in the air above him.
"Come down, my brothers," he called. "I wish to speak to you."
The eagles slowly descended, and Wesakchak said, "I wish you to take me
on your backs for a ride. This is a very warm day and I know it must
be cool high up in the air where you fly."
"But we are going home to our nests," replied the eagles. "It is on a
very high cliff many miles from here, and you will not care to go
"Yes, I shall," replied Wesakchak. "I should like to see your nest and
your young eaglets. Take me on your backs with you."
The eagles did not seem very eager to take him, but Wesakchak, without
waiting for any more words, jumped on their backs, and they began to
mount in the air. Up and up they went, until at last they were as high
as the clouds. Wesakchak now began to feel rather cold and asked them
to fly lower, but they gave him no answer. On and on they went, and
Wesakchak clung tightly to their backs, for he felt very dizzy, being
up so high in the air. At last he began to wonder where their nest
could be, for he could see no sign of rocks or cliffs of any kind.
After what seemed to be hours to him, the eagles began to descend, and
in a few minutes they alighted on the top of a very high crag.
Wesakchak slipped from their backs and looked around, him. Near him
was the nest of the eagles, and in it were the young, crying loudly for
Below, Wesakchak could see the ground, which seemed miles away; above
him the clouds, which looked low and stormy. The eagles fed their
young, and after Wesakchak had waited awhile he said, "Now, my
brothers, please take me to my home."
"You are tired of our cliff?" asked the eagles. "Well, you must go
home yourself, for we are not going away for some hours."
"Oh, I cannot stay here that long," said Wesakchak. "Besides, I am
tired and very hungry, and there is nothing here but bare rock. You
must take me home."
The eagles did not dare to disobey Wesakchak, so they let him mount on
their backs. Then they began to fly slowly away. After a while it
seemed to him that they were going in the wrong direction. He could
see snow-capped mountains, and, as his lodge was built on the prairies,
"My brothers, you are not taking me to my lodge. You are going in the
wrong direction. Turn and fly the other way." But the eagles, instead
of answering, only flew more rapidly towards the mountains. Again
Wesakchak called to them and again they did not reply. He now saw that
they did not intend to take him home, and he began to wonder what he
In a few moments the eagles slowly circled around the top of a mountain
from whose summit a large piece of ice was just ready to slip. When
the eagles were directly above the ice, they suddenly turned with a
jerk and hurled Wesakchak from their backs. Down, down he fell,
alighting on the ice, which at once slipped from its place and began to
descend the mountain side with terrible rapidity. Wesakchak clung
desperately to the icy block, and felt himself going with it and the
loose pieces of rock and the small trees which it uprooted on its way.
As they came down, the speed became greater, until at last they were
bounding over huge stones and across chasms, and with one terrible leap
Wesakchak flew through the air and alighted on the ground at the foot
of the mountain. Behind them their pathway down the mountain side was
marked by a deep ravine cut in the rocky sides of the hill. And around
Wesakchak lay ice and stones and uprooted trees.
He lay perfectly still, for he was rendered insensible with the
terrible force with which he had fallen. After several hours he opened
his eyes, but was too weak to move. He could hear the voices of two
wolves near him. One was saying, "He is dead. Let us go and eat him,
for I am very hungry." Then the other wolf answered, "No, he is not
dead, and I think he is Wesakchak, for look, see his suit made of the
feathers of birds. It is only Wesakchak who has a suit like that."
Wesakchak heard all this, but he could not move or speak.
As he lay there with his eyes open, he noticed two eagles circling high
in the air above him. This aroused him, and he called to the wolves in
a faint voice, "My brothers, come near to me." The wolves seemed
surprised, but they came slowly to his side.
"You were arguing a moment ago as to whether I was dead," said
Wesakchak to them. "Now you can see I am not dead, but I wish you to
pretend to be eating me, for I want those eagles to come down, and if
they think I am dead, they will come so that they can make a meal off
The wolves did as he asked them and pretended to be eating him. When
the eagles saw this, they hovered lower for a moment or two, then
darted down. Wesakchak was lying with his two arms stretched out at
full length, and now the eagles began to peck at the palms of his
hands. At once he grabbed them by the feathers on their heads.
"Now I have you," he said. "You shall be punished for playing such a
trick as this on me."
The eagles pulled desperately to try and get away, and Wesakchak clung
just as desperately to their heads. At last, with one mighty jerk,
they pulled their heads free, but Wesakchak still held the feathers in
his hands and their heads were bald.
"This shall be your punishment, then," said Wesakchak, very sternly.
"From this day you and all your race shall have no feathers on your
heads, so that every one may know how unkind you have been to
And so it has been. From that day the two eagles and all their
children have been bald-headed.
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