Thunder Steals The Fire


At one time the people had found fire, and were going to use it. Thunder wanted to take it away from them, as he desired to be the only one who should have fire. He thought that if he could do this, he would be able to kill all the people. After a time he succeeded, and carried the fire home with him, far to the west near the coast he put Woswosim (a small bird) to guard the fire, and see that no one should steal it. Thunder thought that people would die after he had stolen their fire, for they would not be able to cook their food. The people managed to get along. They ate most of their food raw, and sometimes got the screech owl to look for a long time at a piece of meat; as he had red eyes. It would take a long time but, would cook the meat almost as well as a fire. Mostly the chiefs were the ones to have their food cooked in this way. All the people lived together in a big earthen lodge/house. The lodge was as big as a mountain.

Among the people were Lizard and his brother. They were always the first in the morning to go outside and sun themselves on the roof of the great lodge. One morning as they lay there sunning themselves, they looked west, towards the coast and saw smoke. They called to all of the others saying, that they had seen smoke far away to the west. Most did not believe them, and Coyote came out and threw a lot of dirt and dust over the two. One of the people did not like this. He said to Coyote, "Why do you trouble everyone? Why don't you let others alone? You are always the first to start a quarrel. You always want to kill people without any reason." Then the others felt sorry for the two brothers. They asked them about what they had seen, and told them to point out the smoke. The Lizards did so, and all could see the thin column rising up far to the west. One said, "How shall we get that fire back? How shall we get it away from Thunder? He is a bad man. I don't know whether we had better try to get it or not." Then the chief said, "The best one among you had better try to get it. Even if Thunder is a bad man, we must try to get the fire. When we get there, I don't know how we shall get in but the one who is the best, who thinks he can get in, let him try." Mouse, Deer, Dog, and Coyote were the ones who were to try, all the others went too. They took a flute with them for they meant to put the fire in it.

They traveled a long time, and finally reached the place where the fire was. They were within a little distance of Thunder's house, when they all stopped to decide what they would do. Woswosim, who was supposed to guard the fire in the house, began to sing, "I am the man who never sleeps. I am the man who never sleeps." Thunder had paid him for his work in beads, and he wore them about his neck and around his waist. He sat on the top of the lodge by the smoke-hole to guard the fire.

After a while Mouse was sent up to try and see if he could get in. He crept up slowly till he got close to Woswosim, and then saw that his eyes were shut. He was asleep, in spite of the song that he had sung. When Mouse saw that the watcher was asleep he crawled to the opening and went in. Thunder had several daughters, and they were lying there asleep. Mouse stole up quietly, and untied the waist-string of each one's apron, so that should the alarm be given, and they jump up, these aprons or skirts would fall off, and they would have to stop to fix them. This done, Mouse took the flute, filled it with fire. He then crept out to rejoin the others who were waiting outside.

Some of the fire was taken out and put in the Dog's ear, the remainder in the flute being given to the swiftest runner to carry. Deer took a little which he carried on the hock of his leg. This is where there is a reddish spot on his leg, even till today. For a while all went well, but when they were about half-way back, Thunder woke up. Suspecting something was wrong, he asked, "What is the matter with my fire?" Then he jumped up with a roar of thunder. His daughters were thus awakened and also jumped up but their aprons fell off and they had to sit down again to put them on. After they were all ready, they went out with Thunder to give chase. They carried with them a heavy wind, a great rain and a hailstorm, so that they might put out any fire the people had. Thunder and his daughters hurried along and soon caught up with the fugitives. As they were about to catch them, Skunk shot at Thunder and knocked him out. Then Skunk called out, "After this you must never try to follow and kill people. You must stay up in the sky, and be the thunder. That is what you will be." The daughters of Thunder did not follow any farther. The people went on safely, and got home with their fire and have had it ever since.