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The Origin Of Sickness And Medicine


Source: Indian Legends Retold

There was a time when man and the animal people were friends, and
talked the same language, and even intermarried with one another.
Later on, the human race declared war upon the animals and began to
kill them in great numbers, using their flesh for food and their skins
for clothing, so that there was great fear and anger among them. At
last the old White Bear chief called all the Bears in council to
decide what should be done.

After much talk, it was agreed to make bows and arrows of their own
with which to defend themselves, and one of the Bears sacrificed his
life to furnish sinew for the bowstring. When all was ready, and the
Bear chief undertook to try the new weapon, his long claws caught on
the string so that he could not handle it. Some one then proposed that
they all cut their claws, and they were on the point of doing this
when the thought occurred to another that they would be unable to
climb trees or seize their prey if they had no claws, and would be in
danger of starving to death. In the end, the meeting broke up without
coming to any decision, and Bears were hunted just the same as ever.

The White Deer next called all the Deer together, and they decided to
punish with rheumatic pains every hunter who should kill one of their
number without asking pardon for the offense. Ever since that time,
the hunters have been very careful to beg the Deer's pardon whenever
it becomes necessary to shoot one, although now and then some one
tries to avoid the penalty by building fires on his trail.

The other animals followed the Deer's example, and each made haste to
invent a disease with which to torment the human race. The Fish and
the Snakes threatened him with bad dreams, and the little Grub, who
was tired of being trodden upon, heard them with such joy that he fell
over backward and has never stood on his feet since. Only the Ground
Squirrel said modestly that as man had never done him any harm he had
no wish for revenge, whereupon the others were so angry that they
scratched him severely, and he bears the marks on his back to this

However, they reckoned without the plants, which were friendly to man,
and promptly devised a remedy for each disease. We should be grateful
to them whenever we are made to suffer by the revengeful spirit of the
animals, for in the kindly vegetable world we can find a cure for
every ill.

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