Sunday, January 09, 2005

Iktomi and the Ducks Story (Mixed Message)

Hi folks, I know this is neither Mohawk related nor language related but what the heck.

Here's a Story called Iktomi and the Ducks

Check out My Podcast for the week of January 2nd. Iktomi and the Ducks Story.

Iktomi and the Ducks

Iktomi is a spider fairy. He wears brown deerskin leggins
with long soft fringes on either side, and tiny beaded moccasins on
his feet. His long black hair is parted in the middle and wrapped
with red, red bands. Each round braid hangs over a small brown ear
and falls forward over his shoulders.

He even paints his funny face with red and yellow, and draws
big black rings around his eyes. He wears a deerskin jacket, with
bright colored beads sewed tightly on it. Iktomi dresses like a
real Dakota brave. In truth, his paint and deerskins are the best
part of him--if ever dress is part of man or fairy.

Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in
mischief. He prefers to spread a snare rather than to earn the
smallest thing with honest hunting. Why! he laughs outright with
wide open mouth when some simple folk are caught in a trap, sure
and fast.

He never dreams another lives so bright as he. Often his own
conceit leads him hard against the common sense of simpler people.

Poor Iktomi cannot help being a little imp. And so long as he
is a naughty fairy, he cannot find a single friend. No one helps
him when he is in trouble. No one really loves him. Those who
come to admire his handsome beaded jacket and long fringed leggins
soon go away sick and tired of his vain, vain words and heartless

Thus Iktomi lives alone in a cone-shaped wigwam upon the
plain. One day he sat hungry within his teepee. Suddenly he
rushed out, dragging after him his blanket. Quickly spreading it
on the ground, he tore up dry tall grass with both his hands and
tossed it fast into the blanket.

Tying all the four corners together in a knot, he threw the
light bundle of grass over his shoulder.

Snatching up a slender willow stick with his free left hand,
he started off with a hop and a leap. From side to side bounced
the bundle on his back, as he ran light-footed over the uneven
ground. Soon he came to the edge of the great level land. On the
hilltop he paused for breath. With wicked smacks of his dry
parched lips, as if tasting some tender meat, he looked straight
into space toward the marshy river bottom. With a thin palm
shading his eyes from the western sun, he peered far away into the
lowlands, munching his own cheeks all the while. "Ah-ha!" grunted
he, satisfied with what he saw.

A group of wild ducks were dancing and feasting in the
marshes. With wings outspread, tip to tip, they moved up and down
in a large circle. Within the ring, around a small drum, sat the
chosen singers, nodding their heads and blinking their eyes.

They sang in unison a merry dance-song, and beat a lively
tattoo on the drum.

Following a winding footpath near by, came a bent figure of a
Dakota brave. He bore on his back a very large bundle. With a
willow cane he propped himself up as he staggered along beneath his

"Ho! who is there?" called out a curious old duck, still
bobbing up and down in the circular dance.

Hereupon the drummers stretched their necks till they
strangled their song for a look at the stranger passing by.

"Ho, Iktomi! Old fellow, pray tell us what you carry in your
blanket. Do not hurry off! Stop! halt!" urged one of the singers.

"Stop! stay! Show us what is in your blanket!" cried out
other voices.

"My friends, I must not spoil your dance. Oh, you would not
care to see if you only knew what is in my blanket. Sing on! dance
on! I must not show you what I carry on my back," answered Iktomi,
nudging his own sides with his elbows. This reply broke up the
ring entirely. Now all the ducks crowded about Iktomi.

"We must see what you carry! We must know what is in your
blanket!" they shouted in both his ears. Some even brushed their
wings against the mysterious bundle. Nudging himself again, wily
Iktomi said, "My friends, 't is only a pack of songs I carry in my

"Oh, then let us hear your songs!" cried the curious ducks.

At length Iktomi consented to sing his songs. With delight
all the ducks flapped their wings and cried together, "Hoye! hoye!"

Iktomi, with great care, laid down his bundle on the ground.

"I will build first a round straw house, for I never sing my
songs in the open air," said he.

Quickly he bent green willow sticks, planting both ends of
each pole into the earth. These he covered thick with reeds and
grasses. Soon the straw hut was ready. One by one the fat ducks
waddled in through a small opening, which was the only entrance
way. Beside the door Iktomi stood smiling, as the ducks, eyeing
his bundle of songs, strutted into the hut.

In a strange low voice Iktomi began his queer old tunes. All
the ducks sat round-eyed in a circle about the mysterious singer.
It was dim in that straw hut, for Iktomi had not forgot to cover up
the small entrance way. All of a sudden his song burst into full
voice. As the startled ducks sat uneasily on the ground, Iktomi
changed his tune into a minor strain. These were the words he

"Istokmus wacipo, tuwayatunwanpi kinhan ista nisasapi kta,"
which is, "With eyes closed you must dance. He who dares to open
his eyes, forever red eyes shall have."

Up rose the circle of seated ducks and holding their wings
close against their sides began to dance to the rhythm of Iktomi's
song and drum.

With eyes closed they did dance! Iktomi ceased to beat his
drum. He began to sing louder and faster. He seemed to be moving
about in the center of the ring. No duck dared blink a wink. Each
one shut his eyes very tight and danced even harder. Up and down!
Shifting to the right of them they hopped round and round in that
blind dance. It was a difficult dance for the curious folk.

At length one of the dancers could close his eyes no longer!
It was a Skiska who peeped the least tiny blink at Iktomi within
the center of the circle. "Oh! oh!" squawked he in awful terror!
"Run! fly! Iktomi is twisting your heads and breaking your necks!
Run out and fly! fly!" he cried. Hereupon the ducks opened their
eyes. There beside Iktomi's bundle of songs lay half of their
crowd--flat on their backs.

Out they flew through the opening Skiska had made as he rushed
forth with his alarm.

But as they soared high into the blue sky they cried to one
another: "Oh! your eyes are red-red!" "And yours are red-red!"
For the warning words of the magic minor strain had proven true.
"Ah-ha!" laughed Iktomi, untying the four corners of his blanket,
"I shall sit no more hungry within my dwelling." Homeward he
trudged along with nice fat ducks in his blanket. He left the
little straw hut for the rains and winds to pull down.

Having reached his own teepee on the high level lands, Iktomi
kindled a large fire out of doors. He planted sharp-pointed sticks
around the leaping flames. On each stake he fastened a duck to
roast. A few he buried under the ashes to bake. Disappearing
within his teepee, he came out again with some huge seashells.
These were his dishes. Placing one under each roasting duck, he
muttered, "The sweet fat oozing out will taste well with the
hard-cooked breasts."

Heaping more willows upon the fire, Iktomi sat down on the
ground with crossed shins. A long chin between his knees pointed
toward the red flames, while his eyes were on the browning ducks.

Just above his ankles he clasped and unclasped his long bony
fingers. Now and then he sniffed impatiently the savory odor.

The brisk wind which stirred the fire also played with a
squeaky old tree beside Iktomi's wigwam.

From side to side the tree was swaying and crying in an old
man's voice, "Help! I'll break! I'll fall!" Iktomi shrugged his
great shoulders, but did not once take his eyes from the ducks.
The dripping of amber oil into pearly dishes, drop by drop, pleased
his hungry eyes. Still the old tree man called for help. "He!
What sound is it that makes my ear ache!" exclaimed Iktomi, holding
a hand on his ear.

He rose and looked around. The squeaking came from the tree.
Then he began climbing the tree to find the disagreeable sound. He
placed his foot right on a cracked limb without seeing it. Just
then a whiff of wind came rushing by and pressed together the
broken edges. There in a strong wooden hand Iktomi's foot was

"Oh! my foot is crushed!" he howled like a coward. In vain he
pulled and puffed to free himself.

While sitting a prisoner on the tree he spied, through his
tears, a pack of gray wolves roaming over the level lands. Waving
his hands toward them, he called in his loudest voice, "He! Gray
wolves! Don't you come here! I'm caught fast in the tree so that
my duck feast is getting cold. Don't you come to eat up my meal."

The leader of the pack upon hearing Iktomi's words turned to
his comrades and said:

"Ah! hear the foolish fellow! He says he has a duck feast to
be eaten! Let us hurry there for our share!" Away bounded the
wolves toward Iktomi's lodge.

From the tree Iktomi watched the hungry wolves eat up his
nicely browned fat ducks. His foot pained him more and more. He
heard them crack the small round bones with their strong long teeth
and eat out the oily marrow. Now severe pains shot up from his
foot through his whole body. "Hin-hin-hin!" sobbed Iktomi. Real
tears washed brown streaks across his red-painted cheeks. Smacking
their lips, the wolves began to leave the place, when Iktomi cried
out like a pouting child, "At least you have left my baking under
the ashes!"

"Ho! Po!" shouted the mischievous wolves; "he says more ducks
are to be found under the ashes! Come! Let us have our fill this

Running back to the dead fire, they pawed out the ducks with
such rude haste that a cloud of ashes rose like gray smoke over

"Hin-hin-hin!" moaned Iktomi, when the wolves had scampered
off. All too late, the sturdy breeze returned, and, passing by,
pulled apart the broken edges of the tree. Iktomi was released.
But alas! he had no duck feast.