Why Indians never shoot Pigeons
by Mabel Powers
An Indian hunter went into the forest in search of game.
The forest was so large that it would have taken three days to journey
through it. All day he followed the track of the deer, but his arrows
brought him no food.
At night, he came to a dark, swift-running stream. He was tired and
"Here," said he, "I will lie down and rest until sunrise."
He began to search for a bed of pine needles, for the Indian loves the
pine tree. It is his friend by day and by night. By day it is his forest
guide. At night it gives him a soft, sweet-smelling bed on which to
sleep, and it shields him from the storm.
The hunter ran along the stream. It was very dark. He felt no soft pine
needles under his moccasined feet, only the knotted roots of trees.
Suddenly the great roots of an oak tree reached out and caught him. He
could not free his foot from the oak's grasp.
The sun rose and set. The great tree still held the hunter fast. He was
weak from pain and hunger.
It was now two days since he had tasted food. Four notches had been cut
in his stick, for the Indian measures time in this way. Each sunrise and
sunset, when he is on the trail, is marked by a notch on a small stick
which he carries.
Three times did the sun again rise and set, yet the tree did not let go
its hold. There were now ten notches on the stick, and the hunter was so
weak that he could scarcely cut the last one.
As the sun rose on the fifth day, a bird flew into the tree. He saw the
hunter lying on the ground, and came close and spoke to him.
The hunter understood, for in those days men and birds could talk
The bird asked the man what he could do for him, and the hunter
whispered, "You are strong. You can fly a long trail. Go and tell the
chief of my people."
The bird flew swiftly away with the message. He did not wait until the
sun was high. He did not stop to eat one berry or one worm. He did not
fly high, nor fly low to talk with other birds. He went straight to the
people the hunter had told him of.
The West Wind tried to blow him back. A black cloud came up to frighten
him, but he went through it. On, and on, and on, he went. Straight to
the wigwam of the chief, he carried his message.
The chief had called together the young men who were fleet of foot, and
was about to send them forth to find the lost hunter. They were asking
the chief what trails they had best take. Before the chief could reply,
a beautiful dove-colored bird had flown close to his ear and had spoken
to him in soft, low tones.
The chief told the young men what the bird had said, and they set off on
the trail the bird had named. Before sunset, they had found the lost
Carefully they freed him from the grasp of the great oak and bore him to
his people. That night there was a feast and a dance in his honor.
Ever since, the Indians have loved the birds that carry the messages,
and they never shoot a pigeon.