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How The Birds Got Their Feathers Iroquois Myth
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All About The Robin
The First Hawk
During the short Greenland summer the Eskimos live along the seacoast.
They put up their strange skin huts and hunt and fish and make merry
through the season when the sun shines at midnight.
Now in places along the Greenland coast there are steep high cliffs.
Here the birds which fly farther north in summer make their nests.
Often, as the Eskimo sits by his campfire, he hears the half-angry,
half-sad cry of "Kea! Kea! Kea!" Looking up then, he often sees a
lonely hawk sitting on the highest, most desolate cliff.
The Eskimo father laughs when he hears this cry and sees the lonely
bird on the cliff top. Then the little Eskimo children creep nearer to
their father with certainty that a new story is in store for them.
"Tell us the story of the hawk!" the Eskimo children cry eagerly.
This then is the story which the Eskimo father tells to his little ones
"in their funny furry clothes."
"Long, long ago in a tiny Eskimo village, there lived a strange-looking
old woman. Her neck was so short that she really looked as though she
had no neck at all and as though her head was set upon her shoulders.
"People laughed when they saw the funny-looking old woman. Some were
so unkind as to make fun of her strange appearance.
"This unkindness made the old woman very unhappy.
"By and bye the children of the village went every day to the hut of
the old woman to play.
"They teased and tormented her. If she raised the bearskin curtain at
the doorway and spoke to them they did not heed her.
"'Short neck! Short neck!' the rude children shouted. Then they stood
and laughed at her.
"So it came that the poor old woman grew more and more unhappy. To
escape her tormentors she often climbed to the cliff tops and sat on
the edges of high rocks where it was difficult to follow.
"Here, safe and quiet, she would sit for hours. Sometimes in her
loneliness she raised her arms above her head and cried aloud.
"The people of the tiny Eskimo village often saw the lonely figure on
the cliffs. They noticed that the old woman stayed less and less in
her little snow hut in the village.
"Then one morning an Eskimo child, looking up, thought she saw the old
woman sitting as usual on the rocks. But the child's brother said that
he saw only a strange bird with a very short neck.
"At that moment the bird raised its wings and flapped them above its
"'Kea! Kea! Kea!' cried the strange new bird. 'Kea! Kea! Kea! who
was it called me short neck?'
"'Ah,' said the children's father, looking up from his fishing-nets, 'I
think you both were right.'"
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