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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

The Celestial Canoe

Many eons ago, a magic canoe descended from the sky and touched earth near where the Alabama Indian nation had its camp. Several young women came out of the canoe, singing and laughing. They ran everywhere, enjoying their freedom and playing a game of bounce- ball and catch with each other.

When they tired, they climbed back into their magic canoe, still signing and laughing, and sailed back up to the sky. Another day, they came again the same way as before, singing and dancing, and playing ball. They repeated this performance many times, and always the canoe returned to the same place on earth.

One day, an Alabama Indian youth watched from behind some bushes as the magic canoe descended. During a game, the ball was thrown toward him. A young woman came running after it. When she was near enough, the youth grabbed her hand. The others were frightened and took off in their magic canoe and disappeared into the sky.

The captured woman from the sky became the wife of that same Alabama Indian, and in time they had several children. The father made a large canoe for his family and a smaller canoe for himself.

"Father, we would like to have some fresh meat," the children said one day. "Will you please hunt a deer for us?" The father started through the woods to hunt deer. But in a short time he returned without any game.

The mother said to her children, "Ask your father to go farther away and hunt for a big fat deer this time." Again the children asked their father, and again he went hunting.

While he was away, the mother put the children in the larger canoe with herself, singing the magic song. They rose toward the sky. But the father came running back just in time to pull the canoe down to the ground.

Another time when the father was away, the mother put the children in the large canoe and herself in the small canoe, singing as they rose. At that moment the father came running home, pulling down the large canoe with his children. The mother, singing continuously, disappeared into the sky.

After many weeks, the father missed his wife and the children became lonesome for their mother. Finally, all of them climbed into the large canoe and sang the magic flight song. They sailed upward and away to the sky and through the clouds.

When they arrived in the sky, they came to an old grandmother sitting beside her lodge. The father said to her, "Grandmother, we have come because my children want to see their mother."

"She is yonder, dancing and singing all the time," answered the old grandmother. "If you will please sit down in my lodge, I will cook you some squashes."

When she placed the food before them, they thought to themselves, "This will not be enough." But when they ate one little squash, a larger one magically took its place! They were very hungry and ate for a long time. When they finished, more food was left than when they started to eat. The old grandmother broke an ear of corn and gave the pieces to the children.

The father took his children to another person's house and inquired of their mother. "She stays here, dancing all the time," was the reply. Suddenly the mother danced by, but she did not recognize her family. The next time she danced by, the children threw pieces of corn to attract her attention.

"I smell something earthy," she said. But she danced by on the run again. When she returned, dancing, to the same spot, a small piece of corn hit her feet and she exclaimed, "My children must be here!"

She ran back to them, hugging her entire family. The father then loaded all of them into his canoe and brought his entire family back to earth.

When the family was nicely settled, the father again went hunting. This time the mother took all of her children back to the sky in the magic canoe, singing her song that carried them away. The father never saw his family again, because they became sky people forever.

The father returned to the camp of his Alabama tribe, where he chose another wife, an Indian maiden, whom he felt assured would remain with him on earth.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.