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The Girl Who Became A Bird

Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

The father of Ran-che-wai-me, the flying pigeon of the Wisconsin,
would not hear of her wedding Wai-o-naisa, the young chief who had
long sought her in marriage. The maiden, however, true to her plighted
faith, still continued to meet him every evening upon one of the
tufted islets which stud the river in great profusion. Nightly,
through the long months of summer, did the lovers keep their tryst,
parting only after each meeting more and more endeared to each other.

At length Wai-o-naisa was ordered off upon a secret expedition against
the Sioux, and so sudden was his departure that he had no opportunity
of bidding farewell to his betrothed. The band of warriors to which he
was attached was a long while absent, and one day there came the news
that Wai-o-naisa had fallen in a fight with the Menomones.

Ran-che-wai-me was inconsolable, but she dared not show her grief
before her parents, and the only relief she could find from her sorrow
was to swim over by starlight to the island where she had been
accustomed to meet her lover, and there, calling upon his name,
bewail the loss of him who was dearer to her than all else.

One night, while she was engaged in this lamentation, the sound of her
voice attracted some of her father's people to the spot. Startled by
their appearance the girl tried to climb a tree, in order to hide
herself in its branches, but her frame was bowed with sorrow and her
weak limbs refused to aid her.

"Wai-o-naisa!" she cried, "Wai-o-naisa!"

At each repetition of his name her voice became shriller, while, as
she endeavoured to screen herself in the underwood, a soft plumage
began to cover her delicate limbs, which were wounded by the briers.
She tossed her arms to the sky in her distress and they became clothed
with feathers. At length, when her pursuers were close upon her, a
bird arose from the bush they had surrounded, and flitting from tree
to tree, it fled before them, ever crying--

"Wai-o-naisa! Wai-o-naisa!"

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