The Tribe That Grew Out Of A Shell

: Thirty Indian Legends

Once, when the land along the Missouri River was uninhabited, save by

the beaver and other animals, a snail lay asleep on the bank of the

river. One day the waters began to rise, and soon came up to where he

lay. They swept him out, and he was carried some miles down by the

current. When the waves lowered, he found himself bedded deep in the

mud. He tried to free himself, but he could not. He was hungry and

and at last became so discouraged that he would not try any more.

Then a strange thing happened. He felt his shell crack, and his head

began to rise upright. His body and legs grew and lengthened, and at

last he felt arms stretching out from his sides. Then he stood

upright--a MAN.

He felt very stupid at first, but after a while some thoughts came to

him. He knew he was hungry and wished he were a snail again; for he

knew how to get food as a snail, but not as a man. He saw plenty of

birds, but did not know how to kill them. He wandered on through the

forest, until he became so tired that he lay down to rest.

He heard a gentle voice speaking to him, and looking up, he saw the

Great Spirit, who was seated on a snow-white horse. His eyes shone

like stars, and his hair like threads of gold.

"Wasbashas, why are you trembling?"

"I am frightened," replied the man, "because I stand before the One who

raised me from the ground. I am faint from hunger, for I have eaten

nothing since I left the shell in the bank of the river."

"Look, Wasbashas," said the spirit, as he drew forth a beautiful bow

and arrow. Putting an arrow into the bow, he aimed at a bird in a tree

near by. He shot, and the bird fell. A deer passed just then, and the

spirit shot it, also.

"Now, Wasbashas," said the spirit, "I shall show you how to skin this

deer, and show you how to make a blanket. Then you must learn to cook

the flesh. I shall give you the gift of fire. For now that you are a

man, you must not eat raw food. You shall be placed at the head of all

the animals and birds."

After the spirit had shown him the things he had promised, both horse

and rider arose in the air and vanished.

Wasbashas walked on down the river until he came to a place where a

beaver was lying.

"Good-day," said the beaver. "Who are you?"

"I am a man. The Great Spirit raised me from a shell, and now I am

head of all the animals. And who are you?"

"I am a beaver. Will you come with me until I show you how we build

our lodges?"

Wasbashas followed the beaver and watched him cut down a tree with his

teeth. Then the animal showed him how they dammed up the river, by

letting the trees fall across it and filling the spaces between with

mud and leaves.

"Now will you come and visit my lodge?" said the beaver chief. He led

Wasbashas to his neat lodge made of clay and shaped like a cone. The

floor was carpeted with mats. The beaver's wife and daughter received

the stranger kindly. They busied themselves getting a meal ready, and

soon brought dishes of peeled poplar and alder bark. Wasbashas did not

like the taste of it, but managed to eat a few pieces. The beavers

seemed to enjoy the meal very much.

Wasbashas had been watching the daughter, and he liked her nice, tidy

ways and the respect she showed her father. In the evening he asked

the chief if he would give the maiden to him for his bride. The chief

was very pleased at the idea, for he liked Wasbashas.

The beaver invited all the animals to the feast, which was to be held

the next day. Early the following morning they began to arrive. First

came the beavers, each bringing a present of a lump of clay on his flat

tail. Next came the otters, each bringing a large fish in his mouth.

Later in the morning came the minks, the water-rats, and the weasels,

all very proud to accept the invitation of the great chief of the


When the animals had all assembled, the beavers held a council among

themselves. After talking for some time they invited the other animals

to follow them. And going a short distance down the river bank, they

stopped. Each beaver took the lump of clay he had brought with him and

placed it near the water's edge. Then they began to build a

dome-shaped lodge of small pieces of trees and the clay. After several

hours of steady work it was finished, and then they went to the chief's

lodge, where the feast was to be held.

When the meal was over the snail man and the beaver maiden were led to

their lodge, which was the wedding-gift of the beavers. Here they

lived happy ever after. Many years later their descendants were called

the Osages tribe of Indians.