Below is a re-posting of the Naoki-Ha story that Erin had posted on her blog, Going Green in 2008.Â — gmsc
Long before the advent of the great Iroquois Confederacy, even before the founding of the major tribes of the Mohawk, Oneida and Onondaga there did exist the beginnings of what we now call civilization. In the remote wilderness bordering Lake Ontario there lived several small clans of Native People. Each of these groups, as separate entities, had their own customs and beliefs as to their origins. Stories of the Earthâ€™s creation and the establishment of the various forms of flora and fauna were told to each succeeding generation to provide a living history, as well as for the entertainment value. This, then, is a compilation of legends, lore and possibly some lies, that might have been told by the members of one of those clans. I do not claim originality of these tales as I may have read or heard of something in the distant past that has been nearly forgotten until now. I do hope, however, that these stories will provide some entertainment value, especially for the younger members of the audience.
It was summer time. Naoki-Ha, the first tree sparrow was very happy. His days were spent flitting about, checking on all the new and wondrous things in this warm, sunny meadow. The wigwams of the Great Spiritâ€™s people were arranged so that the fire stones which kept the cooking fires under control were in the center.
Wild flowers grew in profusion and pretty, colorful butterflies lazily drifted amongst them. A small stream meandered by and on its banks grew cat tails and other reeds. These were the home of the red-winged black bird or sentinel.Food was not a problem. Seeds and insects were in abundance, and Naoki-Ha frequently visited the area around the cooking fires. Here he found bits and pieces of food dropped by the humans. Sometimes he would find a very small handful of cracked grain, left for him by Shanewa, a young Indian girl, who took great delight in watching as he flitted about.Shanewa and her sisters Hudewa and Erinewa were the youngest females in the clan and as such were everyoneâ€™s favorites, including Naoki-Haâ€™s.So progressed the summer. Seemingly a continuous succession of warm sunny days with an occasional rain shower to freshen and nourish the Earth. The flowers bloomed, the birds sang. Small, furry creatures, such as rabbits and squirrels cavorted in the grass.Naoki-Haâ€™s joy with his existence was unlimited. Though he was small and inconspicuous, with brown back and wings, and a soft gray breast, he was not the least bit envious of the more colorful birds, such as the robin, blue jay and the sentinel, with his scarlet wing patches.
Quick darting movements and a soft twittering with chirps had given him his name, Naoki-Ha, meaning â€œtwitter-chirpâ€. It seemed his purpose for being was to constantly be busy and to bring a smile to all who saw him. His nights were spent sheltered and secure in the branches of a thick, fat pine tree.
And so it was that one morning when he emerged from his shelter, he noticed that his World had changed. Frost glistened on the foliage and flower blooms. The leaves on many of the trees were turning color and the grasses were turning from vibrant green to a dull, withered brown.
Quickly he flew to the â€œPeople Placeâ€. The three young girls were huddled by the cooking fire, wrapped in robes of animal skins. While they would normally be giggling and chattering, this day they were somber and talking about MANTA NE-WA-DO (Creator, Spirit Mother/Father) who lived deep in the forest.
This confused Naoki-Ha. The changes in the weather and the behavior of the girls led him to believe that something was happening. He did not fully comprehend, but was not happy about the changes that were occurring.
He flew to the creek bank. The sentinel was gone. The cat tails and reeds standing mutely offered no explanation. Tiny silken parachutes floated away from a cat tail that had ripened and was fulfilling its destiny.
To the meadow…even though the morning sun had melted the frost, there were no butterflies to be seen. Except for the scolding of a blue jay in the distance, it was very quiet. There were no robins hopping about looking for worms, and even the yellow flash of the wild canary was not to be seen.
â€œManta Newado! I must go o the deep forest and speak with the Creator. He will be able to make things right again. He will make it warm and bring back my friends and the flowers and the butterflies. I must do this, or surely everything will die!â€ So thought the little bird.
With feelings of apprehension, he flew into the constant twilight of the deep forest. The trees grew so tall, and so mightily, they all but blocked the sun. Towering pines, spreading oaks, and the regal maples grew in profusion. Other trees, such as beech, hickory, chestnut, and hemlock were interspersed to provide a natural balance.
On he flew, through the entire day and as night approached, it grew colder and darker.
On he flew, determination making his little wings keep moving. On and on through the night, guided by a sixth sense, through trees, branches and falling leaves… through the cold, still air…through the silence of the forest.
As dawn was breaking, he at last came to a small clearing in the forest. A wigwam stood at the far edge and in front of it was a fire ring of stones. A faint wisp of smoke rose from the last glowing ember. Frost covered the brown grass and the carpet of leaves.
â€œThe fire! The fire is going out! That is why it is so cold and everything is dying!â€ thought Naoki-Ha. â€œThe fire of the Great Creator must burn brightly to keep the world warm! I must keep the fire going until Manta Newado gets up to put more fuel on it!â€
And so, in spite of his fear of fire, he started flitting about, gathering bits of dry moss and twigs to place on the glowing ember. Each time he flew up to the coal with a bit of grass, or a twig, the air from his moving wings stirred up little puffs of ashes and soot. Poor little bird, soon he was covered with dust and a smudge of soot was on his breast.
The fire smoldered, but the fuel did not ignite. â€œMore twigs! I must get more twigs and dry grass!â€ And away he flew, again and again, he carried his burden to the smoky fire. Still it did not flame. He remembered seeing Shanewaâ€™s mother restart a fire by fanning the embers with a piece of birch-bark. â€œThat I cannot do, but my wings make the air move. Maybe that will help
start the fire.â€
Cautiously he hopped through the ashes until he was as close to the pile of twigs, moss, grass, and the glowing ember as he dared to be. Raising his wings, he gently moved them up and down. The coal glows a little brighter, and the smoke grew a bit thicker. He stroked his wings faster and faster until he was almost flying, and suddenly with a soft â€œpoof!â€ the flames appeared.
As he jumped back to keep from being burned, he heard a soft chuckle. He turned his head and saw Manta Newado, the Creator, standing behind him.
â€œSilly little Twitter-Chirp,â€ said the Creator. â€œI think we need to talk. Come, sit.â€
So the small bird rested his weary wings and body as he perched on the Creatorâ€™s knee. Manta Newado explained why the seasons change and how life progressed through its various stages. Naoki-Ha listened intently and was greatly relieved to learn that his world was not dying, only resting to be reborn in the spring.
Finally, Manta Newado looked at Naoki-Ha and said, â€œI wondered when I created you if I gave you too much heart and not enough brain. Now I know that I did right. Go back to your meadow by the forest and stream. When the sun returns from its southern journey, it will be warm again. The flowers and butterflies will reappear and you will find your mate… and from this day forward, you and your hatchlings and all your familyâ€™s hatchlings will forever wear soot and ashes on their breasts as a badge of honor, that one so small would try so hard to help his fellow creatures.â€
And so it was.