A Blackfoot Legend
One day, late in the fall, Napi was out walking, when he came upon
a number of gophers playing near the remains of a camp-fire. It
was a raw, cold day, and the gophers were taking turns warming themselves
in the ashes of the fire. One gopher would lie down on the ground
and the Others would cover him with the warm ashes. When he was
thoroughly warmed, he would squeak loudly, and another would take his place.
The game gave Napi an idea. So, losing no time in carrying out
his scheme, he sat down on the ground and began to cry. The gophers
came running to see what was the matter. “Oh, you are having
so much fun, getting so nice and warm!” yelled Napi. “I
am so cold, and there is nobody to play games with me! I wish I
could play with you!
The gophers said, “Well, Old Man, it’s not difficult. We do
it this way. . . ” and the sympathetic gophers invited him
into the game. “I will go first,” said Napi, taking over.
“You cover me with the ashes, then, since I am bigger than
you I can cover up all of you at once; and we will all be warm at
the same time. Then we can do something else.”
So Napi lay down, and the gophers covered him with ashes, but he
had stayed there only a minute when he said he was warm enough,
and wished to be let out. Then it was the turn of the gophers. They
all lay down in a neat row, and Napi began covering them with ashes.
But instead of the just-warm ashes they had been using, Napi packed
the misguided little animals in hot embers! The poor gophers squeaked
and squealed, but Napi, the wicked, just kept piling on hot coals
till they were all roasted!
“This will be a very good meal,” said Napi, going off
to the bush for some willow sticks to use in picking up the hot
meat. But while he was gone, along came Nata’Yowa, the Lynx. Nata’Yowa
could smell the gophers cooking, and he was hungry. So, losing no
time about it, he dug the gophers out of the embers and ate every
one of them.
When Napi came back, all that was left of his meal was a little
pile of tails. Napi was in a fine rage! He danced around furiously.
Then, observing a trail which Nata’Yowa had been too full of food
and too sleepy to bother hiding, he set off in pursuit of the culprit
who had stolen his meat. Following the trail, he came to where the
Lynx was sleeping in the shadow of a large rock.
Creeping up, he seized Nata’Yowa by the back of his neck, and began
to pound his nose against the rock. When he had pounded the Lynx’s
nose till it was very short and stubby Napi rubbed his face in the
long grass. The grass stuck to Nata’Yowa’s face and turned into
whiskers. Some of it made little tufts on his ears.
The Old Man picked Nata’Yowa up by his tail, but the tail broke
off short. So he took him by the hind legs instead, and twirled
Nata’Yowa round his head very rapidly. As he was whirled round,
Nata’Yowa’s hind legs stretched, till they were longer than they
should have been. Then, Napi let the Lynx go, and threw him a long
way away, “It serves you right for stealing my food!” said Old Man.
And that is why Nata’Yowa has a short stubby nose, a bobbed-off
tail, whiskers, tufty little ears, and long hind legs.
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