A Wonderful Journey
: THE ADVENTURES OF WESAKCHAK
: Thirty Indian Legends
One day Wesakchak decided to go on a long journey. He knew that
somewhere, many miles away, there was a village where people lived, and
he made up his mind to go and see them.
The birds all loved Wesakchak, so a great many of them had given him
their feathers to make into a suit. When it was finished, it was very
beautiful. The vest was of snow-white feathers from the pigeons'
breasts, the coat, of shi
ing blue ones, given by the bluebirds. The
leggings were made of black and brown feathers, which the blackbirds
and thrushes had gladly sent to him. Around his neck and wrists he put
bright yellow feathers, the gift of the canaries. In his hair he wore
the eagle's feathers, for he was a great chief.
He set off early one morning, and as he travelled on, the birds and
animals whom he passed all spoke to him. By and by he met a
prairie-chicken. In those days the prairie-chicken was a pale gray
"Good-morning, brother prairie-chicken," said Wesakchak. "I have been
hearing strange tales about you. The animals tell me that you are very
proud of the way that you can startle them."
"But I only remain still in the grass until they come close to me and
then fly up suddenly," replied the prairie-chicken. "I do not mean to
frighten them, but it is great fun to see them jump."
"That may be so," said Wesakchak. "But it is not kind of you to fly up
in their faces. Then I hear that you are so proud of this, that you
call yourself 'Kee-koo,' or the Startsome Bird."
The prairie-chicken did not reply to this, but remained still in the
"Why do you not fly up in front of me?" asked Wesakchak. Still the
prairie-chicken did not move or speak. Suddenly Wesakchak leaned down
and gathered a handful of little stones.
"Start now," he said, as he threw them at the chicken. The small
pebbles lit on its back and it flew up suddenly. The stones rolled
off, but their marks remained, and so after that the prairie-chicken
was always speckled.
Wesakchak continued his journey, and late in the afternoon he came to a
creek. The water of the little stream was not clean enough to wade
through, for green slime floated on the top and reeds grew in its boggy
mud. It was rather too wide to jump, but Wesakchak decided to make a
running jump and see if he could get across. He ran back a pace on
the prairie, then forward to the bank, but the prairie-grass was so
long that his feet became entangled, so he went back to start again.
He did this two or three times, and at last had the grass packed down
enough so that he could make a good run. Then he came forward at a
great speed and made a leap. But just as he did so, the
prairie-chicken flew up at his feet, and he fell face downwards in the
Wesakchak was very vexed, and he called out to the prairie-chicken,
"This is a mean trick you have played on me, and in punishment you
shall not be able to fly very well after this." The prairie-chicken
heard him and began to fly towards the forest, but its wings seemed
shorter than they used to be and it fluttered away amid the tall grass.
As Wesakchak waded out through the reeds, each bent before him, making
a path that has remained there ever since. When he reached the shore,
it look him a long time to clean his beautiful suit, and by the time he
was ready to go on, it was nearly evening. He was anxious to reach the
village before nightfall, so he hurried on, wishing he could find some
one to take him the rest of the way, for he was feeling tired.
After a time he came in sight of a little lake, and there saw two swans
floating on the water. He called to them, but they did not seem to
hear, so he jumped into the water and dove down to the bottom. Then he
came up under the swans and caught each one by the legs. They flew up
with him hanging to their feet.
"Take me to the village that is built on the river bank," Wesakchak
said to them. They did not answer, but flew rapidly through the air.
After they had gone some miles, he noticed they were not taking the
right direction. He called to them and told them to turn to the east,
but they did not reply. When he saw they were not going to obey, he
hung on tightly by one hand, and reaching up, he caught one swan by the
neck. He tried to pull its head down so that he could talk to it, but
the harder he pulled, the firmer it held its head up, until at last its
neck was turned into a curve. He then tried the other swan, but with
no more success, so now both birds had their beautiful, white necks
curved like the letter S. When Wesakchak saw they would not listen to
him, and that they were taking him in the wrong direction, he let go
his hold of their feet and dropped like a stone through the air. He
landed on a hollow stump, and with such force that he sank deep into
the soft wood. Not a sign of him could be seen; he had disappeared
entirely. After some time two squaws came to get the soft, yellow wood
from the stump. They use this wood to smoke their buckskins, because
it gives the skin a nice color. They had brought axes with them to
chop down the stump. As they began chopping, they heard a noise like
groans coming from within the stump. They were very frightened and
thought it was a bear. Just as they were turning to run away Wesakchak
called to them.
"It is no bear," said the first woman. "It is the wise man, Wesakchak,
who is coming to visit us."
"It is, indeed, he," said the second woman. "We must chop him out."
So they set to work with their axes, and in a little while had chopped
open the stump and set him free. They were overjoyed when they saw it
was really Wesakchak whom they had freed, and they took him with them
to the village, where all came forth to welcome him.