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In the old days quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and insects could all talk, and they and the human race lived
together in peace and friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that their settlements
spread over the whole earth and the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. This
was bad enough, but to add to their misfortunes man invented bows, knives, blowguns, spears, and hooks,
and began to slaughter the larger animals, birds and fishes for the sake of their flesh or their skins, while the
smaller creatures, such as the frogs and worms, were crushed and trodden upon without mercy, out of pure
carelessness or contempt. In this state of affairs the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their
common safety.

The bears were the first to meet in council in their townhouse in Kuwa'hï, the "Mulberry Place,"[1] and the old
White Bear chief presided.  After each in turn had made complaint against the way in which man killed their
friends, devoured their flesh and used their skins for his own adornment, it was unanimously decided to begin
war at once against the human race. Some one asked what weapons man used to accomplish their
destruction. "Bows and arrows, of course," cried all the bears in chorus. "And what are they made of?" was
the next question. "The bow of wood and the string of our own entrails," replied one of the bears. It was then
proposed that they make a bow and some arrows and see if they could not turn man's weapons against
himself. So one bear got a nice piece of locust wood and another sacrificed himself for the good of the rest in
order to furnish a piece of his entrails for the string. But when everything was ready and the first bear
stepped up to make the trial it was found that in letting the arrow fly after drawing back the bow, his long
claws caught the string and spoiled the shot. This was annoying, but another suggested that he could
overcome the difficulty by cutting his claws, which was accordingly done, and on a second trial it was found
that the arrow went straight to the mark. But here the chief, the old White Bear, interposed and said that it
was necessary that they should have long claws in order to be able to climb trees. "One of us has already
died to furnish the bowstring, and if we now cut off our claws we shall all have to starve together. It is better to
trust to the teeth and claws which nature has given us, for it is evident that man's weapons were not intended
for us."

No one could suggest any better plan, so the old chief dismissed the council and the bears dispersed to their
forest haunts without having concerted any means for preventing the increase of the human race. Had the
result of the council been otherwise, we should now be at war with the bears, but as it is the hunter does not
even ask the bear's pardon when he kills one.

The deer next held a council under their chief, the Little Deer, and after some deliberation resolved to inflict
rheumatism upon every hunter who should kill one of their number, unless he took care to ask their pardon
for the offense. They sent notice of their decision to the nearest settlement of Indians and told them at the
same time how to make propitiation when necessity forced them to kill one of the deer tribe. Now, whenever
the hunter brings down a deer, the Little Deer, who is swift as the wind and can not be wounded, runs quickly
up to the spot and bending over the blood stains asks the spirit of the deer if it has heard the prayer of the
hunter for pardon. If the reply be "Yes" all is well and the Little Deer goes on his way, but if the reply be in the
negative he follows on the trail of the hunter, guided by the drops of blood on the ground, until he arrives at
the cabin in the settlement, when the Little Deer enters invisibly and strikes the neglectful hunter with
rheumatism, so that he, is rendered on the instant a helpless cripple. No hunter who has regard for his health
ever fails to ask pardon of the deer for killing it, although some who have not learned the proper formula may
attempt to turn aside the Little Deer from his pursuit by building a fire behind them in the trail.

Next came the fishes and reptiles, who had their own grievances against humanity. They held a joint council
and determined to make their victims dream of snakes twining about them in slimy folds and blowing their
fetid breath in their faces, or to make them dream of eating raw or decaying fish, so that they would lose
appetite, sicken, and die. Thus it is that snake and fish dreams are accounted for.

Finally the birds, insects, and smaller animals came together for a like purpose, and the Grubworm presided
over the deliberations. It was decided that each in turn should express an opinion and then vote on the
question as to whether or not man should be deemed guilty. Seven votes were to be sufficient to condemn
him. One after another denounced man's cruelty and injustice toward the other animals and voted in favor of
his death. The Frog (walâ'sï) spoke first and said: "We must do something to check the increase of the race
or people will become so numerous that we shall be crowded from off the earth. See how man has kicked me
about because I'm ugly, as he says, until my back is covered with sores;" and here he showed the spots on
his skin. Next came the Bird (tsi'skwa; no particular species is indicated), who condemned man because "he
burns my feet off," alluding to the way in which the hunter barbecues birds by impaling them on a stick set
over the fire, so that their feathers and tender feet are singed and burned. Others followed in the same
strain. The Ground Squirrel alone ventured to say a word in behalf of man, who seldom hurt him because he
was so small; but this so enraged the others that they fell upon the Ground Squirrel and tore him with their
teeth and claws, and the stripes remain on his back to this day.

The assembly then began to devise and name various diseases, one after another, and had not their
invention finally failed them not one of the human race would have been able to survive. The Grubworm in his
place of honor hailed each new malady with delight, until at last they had reached the end of the list, when
some one suggested that it be arranged so that menstruation should sometimes prove fatal to woman. On
this he rose up in his place and cried: "Wata'n! Thanks! I'm glad some of them will die, for they are getting so
thick that they tread on me." He fairly shook with joy at the thought, so that he fell over backward and could
not get on his feet again, but had to wriggle off on his back, as the Grubworm has done ever since.

When the plants, who were friendly to man, heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to
defeat their evil designs. Each tree, shrub, and herb, down even to the grasses and mosses, agreed to
furnish a remedy for some one of the diseases named, and each said: "I shall appear to help man when he
calls upon me in his need." Thus did medicine originate, and the plants, every one of which has its use if we
only knew it, furnish the antidote to counteract the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. When the doctor is
in doubt what treatment to apply for the relief of a patient, the spirit of the plant suggests to him the proper
remedy.

[1. One of the high peaks of the Smoky Mountains, on the Tennessee line, near Clingman's Dome.]


The above teaching story is from:
The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. By JAMES MOONEY. [1891]
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