Based on a true story of my people
A young man named Watakwuna sorrowed because of the repressions his people were suffering at the hands of their more powerful enemy. So sad was he that he blackened his face with charcoal and retired to an isolated spot to fast and pray. His entreaties reached the ears of the sun and his relation the Morningstar. According to their instructions, the Inamaki- wuk, or Thunderers, took pity on him, and sent him word to come to them.
Here the vision told him he would find the Thunderers. When Watakwuna awoke from his vision he was overjoyed, but yet afraid. He made a sacrifice to the Thunderbirds and to the offering he invited seven pure young men who had never used a vision quest to seek truth or never journeyed or struggled. When these youths were gathered in his medicine lodge Watakwuna burnt an offering to the Thunderers as a preliminary service and then explained the purpose of the ceremony to his guests, relating his dream and his subsequent fears. The revelation made a profound impression upon the young men, who believed his words, and after some discussion, they resolved to accompany Watakwuna on his westward journey to the home of the Thunderbirds. Accordingly, the little party, headed by Watakwuna, set forth for the west. The journey was toilsome and the way beset with perils. Often the adventurers were tempted to turn back, but always, when it seemed as Watakwuna, Club-in-his-hand, a “brave name,” one of the type bestowed on valiant warriors. though human strength and courage could hold out no longer, spirits would appear to them and lure them on, until at length they reached the shore of the Western Ocean. Here they paused, unable to proceed, for they did not know how to go across the water. At this point the Thunderers appeared again to Watakwuna in a vision and instructed him to build an elm bark canoe, the first one ever known to man, and the prototype from which all subsequent canoes were modelled.
When the boat was built by Watakwnua and his seven helpers, they launched it and paddled out to sea. They soon passed beyond sight of land, and for days they were frightened because they could see nothing. Yet invisible spirits accompanied and encouraged them until at last they reached their goal. Here were gathered a great number of Thunderbirds in human form, waiting for them. As soon as Watakwuna had landed, accompanied by his followers, the chief of the Thunderers who was greater and handsomer than all the others, came forward and addressed him as follows:
No’se (grandchild) you have come to me according to my command.
I was troubled in my heart when I saw you fasting and suffering, growing light in flesh and thin in body. Now you have gained great honour, I have taken pity on you. I am going to give you this protector bundle to use upon the earth. You shall feed it, and give sacrifices to it for my sake and in my behalf. You shall be empowered to use this thing at your need. It shall empower you, and your children and grandchildren, so that you and they shall live to see your gray hairs. I command you to use it in the way which I shall make clear to you, and if you obey me, it shall grant you the protection you need.
Bear-berry smoke shall be the chief thing to please it, and when you give the Bear-berry smoke you will delight us. You shall take these things which I have here back to your land again, and when you reach your home, you shall make some others according to my instructions.
Here is an egg (flint in the shape of an egg), put that in the bundle. Here is a powder, put that in the bundle. These two articles shall enable you to set fire to the earth at your desire. Here is a little bow so that you can preform the Crazy Animal Dance as to release the spirits to take form, the image of an arrow, and a scabbard to carry. Here are all the birds of the air, that are like my kind. They will lend their assistance when trouble overtakes you. Take this red paint along, that you may apply it to your men who accompany you when you battle, and the sight of it will please me. It will put new life into you and your men. Through my spiritual power I gave you the dream that called you here to see me, through it you shall be able to protect yourself and other from the oppressors that intend to harm or kill you. You shall conquer, and victory will always be yours. The enemies that you shall slay will be food for me and for the bundle.
When you return you shall carve my image upon a board and place it in the bundle, in order to please me. You must take two plain blocks, and upon each of these outline my figure in sacred red paint, one shall represent me as a Great Powered Bird, and one shall represent me as a man with a great lighting-bolt in my hand.
“I am of dual nature. I can change myself into either a bird or a man at will.”
And indeed the Thunder-bird-beings have been known to come to earth in human form. They have appeared as homely men, short and thick-set, with heavy muscles in their arms and legs, and bearing a bow and arrows and or a club in their hands. Ordinary persons can scarcely recognize them as Thunderers, but those who have received power from them in their dreams, know them at once for what they are.
I give you the power to know and see me in your night dances. You shall be forewarned of your enemies plans. You shall know beforehand whether you shall win or lose your battles. You shall do all your fighting at night, and you shall destroy your enemies during their sweet sleep.
Before you go out to battle you shall first prepare and give feasts to the bundle. You shall sacrifice to it in behalf of the Thunderbirds. You shall receive that for which you ask us, for I shall assist you. Call on me through those sacred things which I have given you, and you shall have the thick fog settle down and hide you from the enemy so that you may escape under its cover. You shall have the lightning and hail to cripple the wicked foe when he troubles you.
You shall seek your enemy in the night through this bundle. You shall approach him with the stealth of the Underwater Serpent in pursuit of its prey, and encircle his village. Let each fighter carry the image of one of the medicine birds with him, with a single quill feather fastened in his hair, and as the Humming bird is so small in flight that none can hit, so shall each fighter be. As it is impossible to strike the edge of a knife blade ground sharp and held off edgewise from the body, so shall you and your fighters be. These things I say to you that you may understand the power of the spirit medicines that I have placed in the protectors bundle.
You shall make incense of a portion of each of the sacred roots that I have included, and you shall purify yourselves with the fumes. You shall carry a little of each in your mouth, and you shall chew some of them and spray yourselves and your fighters with your saliva, that they may elude the keen vision of the oppressor, for the eyesight of the enemy shall be destroyed when they approach.
When you have drawn near and surrounded the village, you shall signal on the battle whistle, and you and your fighters shall rush to attack. You shall destroy the sleeping enemy with knifes and battle clubs that have been kept in the powerful spirit-medicine until they are saturated. Those who awake shall try to escape, but cannot, for the spirit medicines which I have given shall zap their strength and benumb their minds. When a fighter takes a scalp he shall swig it about so that the fresh blood from it shall splatter every where, this he must do as a sign that the oppressors are devoured in behalf of us, the Thunderers.
When the fighting is over, then you shall make a great ceremony with dancing, for the war bundle and for us, the Thunderbirds, or Thunderers. You shall thank us for the assistance which we have rendered you. Then you shall sing for the scalps that have been taken with valor.
Always respect the Protectors bundle which we have given you, commanded the Thunderbird-beings. Be careful to keep it tied with a string, and keep it hung in a place by itself, outside of the house, away from the young, and the maidens who are just arrived at the threshold of womanhood. Especially keep it concealed from those women who are having their monthly courses for those women are far to powerful as they are. The bundle must never be opened or nothing, as that would be a serious offense to it, and to us, the Thunderbirds. It may only be opened in time of peril, or when you sacrifice to it in the spring or in the fall of the year for our sake. Yet this I say, in case of an accident, even in peace it may be opened and the roots it contains may be used to stop the bleeding, but you shall not forget to pay us in Bear-berry smoke for our help.
“And this is not yet all that I have to say,” said the chief of the Thunderbird- beings to Watakwuna. “One thing that you must make when you get home, or which the women may make for you, is a pack strap (or belt),’ This you shall make of course long beads, It shall be put in the bundle to be kept as a reward for the brave fighter who kills a chief or leader among your oppressors. It shall be given to him as a great honor.
When the Thunderer had finished speaking, he called to his warriors to fetch food, prepare it, and place it before Watakwuna and his fighter. The warriors departed immediately and soon returned bringing a quantity of sturgeon which they cooked and set before their guests.
“Now, eat and depart,” said the chief of the Thunderers. “This is the only food we can offer you. For ourselves, we may not touch it, for we feed upon the horned snakes/underwater serpents and the pale and translucent animals of the under world, which in their turn cannot be food for you.”
So Watakwuna and his fighters obeyed and when they were filled they took their leave of the islet and its enchanted inhabitants. As they entered their canoe the water lay still as glass, the sun shone brightly, and they soon reached the shore from whence they started. The overland journey from that point was equally devoid of its former perils. Food was abundant and they had never need to draw their bows, the four-legged that they met offered them selves before them, so powerful was the spell cast by their protector bundle. So at length they arrived among their own people again and imparted to them the story of their successful venture and from that day to this, the bundle has been on earth among men and its powers are granted to the worthy in the tellings of their dreams.