The Good Hunter Feeds the Animals

Original story was translated by J.N.B. Hewitt in 1889.

There was once a certain, upright man, a good hunter, and a chief in his country. He was beloved by his own people because he always worked for their welfare. Every fall he went hunting at a distant place that took him three days to reach. The good hunter always had good luck at hunting because whatever he first killed, be it a bear, deer, or whatever, he would dress it out and cut it up into as many pieces as there are animals in the woods. He would give a piece of the meat to every species of animal, placed on a square plate of soft-maple bark. The meat was cut in proportion to the size of the animal.

When he finished preparing this feast, he would stand forth and call the animals in a loud voice, saying, “Come here you animals as deer, bear, seals, beavers, panthers, eagles, buzzards, and all manner of flying things. Choose a representative from among you to be present at this feast that I give.”

The crows sent a white crow who is their chief. From the sky came two large birds, called Akuks, one white and the other blue. Their tail feathers held a life-giving spirit in themselves. For many years the good hunter conducted such a feast at his first hunt of the season. He continued to make these offerings in accordance to ancient customs of the Skarure. But, one night, misfortune struck the good hunter.

His people were attacked by a foreign group of enemies and were annihilated by them. The good hunter chief was the last one of his people to be killed. He was scalped by the intruders. Back then, the war parties carried ten poles upon which they fastened the scalps of their victims. The scalp of the good hunter-chief was the last one to be placed on the top of the tenth pole to be carried back to the country of the intruders.

The war party had not gone very far on their return trip before they stopped to dance, feast, and offer thanks for their victory. They danced all night and, in the morning, they hung a kettle over the fire to prepare themselves a meal. After their breakfast, they started to dance again. They continued to dance all day.

In the meantime, an eagle had flown over the woods, looking for the body of the good hunter-chief who had always offered them food. The eagle located the scalped body and flew to spread the news to the other animals in the woods and in the sky. The animals and birds decided to hold a council to figure out what action could be taken regarding the death of the chief. They decided that it would be a good idea to help their human friend who had always been kind to them.

The buzzard asked the assembly of animals and birds if any of them knows where a special white root grows. It was tiny in size, but powerful in medicine. The white Akuks was asked if he ever saw such a root.

“Yes, I have,” answered the white Akuks, “I shall go for it right away.”

Off he went to climb the sky to recover the white root. Next the council turned to the white crow, the chief of the crows. They asked him to summon one of his black constituents. This he did and when that black crow came, they told him, “It is your duty to recover the scalp of the good hunter who offered food to us. It is the uppermost one on the tenth pole carried by the chief’s enemies who are still dancing as we speak.”

The black crow took to flight to seek the up-rising smoke from campfire of the war party. Soon he came across their encampment and circled around to avoid suspicion. He called out “ah-ah-ah” as he flew closer to their camp. The war party was too busy dancing and celebrating, they did not notice how close the crow was flying to their fire. Finally, the crow saw the pole of scalps that he was looking for. He dived toward the fire, swooped up and made sure that it was the right scalp on the top of the pole. He then circled around and swooped down toward the fire again, and with one quick move, snatched the scalp from the pole. He then turned and flew back to the council of animals and birds, with the good hunter’s scalp in his beak.

A drawing of animals in the forest

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By the time the black crow returned with the scalp, the white Akuks had arrived with the special white root. The root looked like a tiny human hand. Together they all went to the body of the dead chief and held their council once more. The buzzard took a buzzard’s egg and cracked one end open. He dumped the contents out and took the tiny shell to a nearby running spring, dipping the water against the current. When he returned, they placed the hand-shaped root into that eggshell and immediately the water turned to blood. They dripped that blood onto the dry scalp of the dead hunter, rubbing it into the exposed flesh.

They then replaced the scalp upon his head and made it appear as if it had never been disturbed. Then they poured the rest of the blood-like fluid into the mouth of the good hunter. Soon, he began to breathe again as his life was renewed.

The council of animals and birds rejoiced that their kind friend was restored. They dispersed to go back to the far corners of the woods. The good hunter chief lived to be a very old man, always grateful to the animals who brought him back from death.