the beginning there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders,
who lived up in Galun'lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the
bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew
it was there because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but
they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council
to decide what to do. This was a long, long time ago.
Every animal was anxious to go after the fire. Raven offered. He was large
and strong, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water,
and lighted on the sycamore tree. There he perched, wondering what to do
next. Then he looked at himself. The heat had scorched his feathers black.
Raven was so frightened he flew back across the water without any fire.
Then, little Wa-hu-hu, the Screech Owl, offered to go. He flew high and
far across the water and perched upon a hollow tree.
he sat there looking into the hollow tree, wondering what to do, a blast
of hot air came up and hurt his eyes. Screech Owl was frightened. He flew
back as best he could, because he could hardly see. That is why his eyes
are red even to this day.
Then Hooting Owl and the Horned Owl went, but by the time they reached the
hollow tree, the fire was blazing so fiercely that the smoke nearly
blinded them. The ashes carried up by the breeze made white rings around
their eyes. So they had to come home without fire. Therefore they have
white rings around their eyes.
None of the rest of the birds would go to the fire. Then Uk-su-hi, the
racer snake, said he would go through the water and bring back fire. He
swam to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree. Then he went
into the tree by a small hole at the bottom. But the heat and smoke were
dreadful. The ground at the bottom of the tree was covered with hot ashes.
The racer darted back and forth trying to get off the ashes, and at last
managed to escape through the same hole by which he had entered. But his
body had been burned black. Therefore he is now the black racer. And that
is why the black racer darts around and doubles on his track as if trying
Then great Blacksnake, " The Climber," offered to go for fire. He was much
larger than the black racer. Blacksnake swam over to the island and
climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but
when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he
fell into the burning stump. Before he could climb out, he, too, was
So the birds, and the animals, and the snakes held another council. The
world was still very cold. There was no fire. But all the birds, and the
snakes, and all the four-footed animals refused to go for fire. They were
all afraid of the burning sycamore.
Then Water Spider said she would go. This is not the water spider that
looks like a mosquito, but the other one — the one with black downy hair
and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of the water, or dive to
The animals said, " How can you bring back fire? "
But Water Spider spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl
which she fastened on her back. Then she swam over to the island and
through the grass to the fire. Water Spider put one little coal of fire
into her bowl, and then swam back with it.
That is how fire came to the world. And that is why Water Spider has a
tusti bowl on her back.
of America, updated July, 2015.