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Star Maiden

Waupee the White Hawk lived in a deep forest where animals and birds were abundant. Each day he returned from the chase well rewarded, for he was one of the most skilful hunters of his tribe. No part of the forest was too dark for him to penetrate, and there was no track he could not follow.

One day he went beyond any point he had visited before, through an open bit of forest which enabled him to see a great distance. Light breaking through showed that he was on the edge of a wide plain covered with grass. He walked here for some time without a path, then suddenly came to a ring worn down in the earth as if made by footsteps following a circle. What excited him was the fact that there was no path leading into the ring or away from it. He could find no trace of footsteps in any crushed leaf or broken twig.

Waupee thought he would hide and watch to see, if he could, what had made the circle. Very soon he heard faint sounds of music. He looked up and saw a small something descending to earth. From a mere speck it grew bigger and the music became stronger and sweeter. He beheld a basket in which rode twelve beautiful maidens.

As soon as the basket touched the ground, the girls leaped out. They began to dance round the magic ring, striking a shining ball as they flitted past. Waupee gazed upon their graceful movements. He admired them all, but most of all the youngest. Unable to restrain his admiration, suddenly he rushed out of his hiding place and tried to seize her. But the sisters, quick as birds, as soon as they saw him leaped into the basket and rose up into the sky.

Waupee gazed till he could see them no more. "They are gone, and I shall not see them again," he sighed. Filled with a deep sadness he returned to his lonely lodge. His mind could not rest. Hunting, his favorite sport, he could no longer enjoy, nor the companionship around the fire at night with the storytellers, nor the admiration of the girls of his tribe.

The next day Waupee returned to the prairie to wait near the ring. This time, in order to deceive the sisters, he assumed the form of an opossum. The basket again floated down, to the centre of the magic ring, and once more he heard the sweet music. The maidens leaped out and began their sportive dancing. They seemed to Waupee to be even more beautiful and graceful this time.

In his disguise, Waupee crept slowly through the grass towards the ring, but the instant he appeared, ready to seize the youngest, the sisters sprang together into their basket. It rose, but when it was only a short distance off the ground, Waupee heard one of the older girls speak. "Perhaps," she said, "it came to show us how our game is played on earth."

"Oh, no!" replied the youngest, "Quick, let us ascend."

Once more the basket floated upward out of sight.

Waupee returned to his own form and walked sorrowfully back to his lodge. The night seemed long, and back to the plain he went early the next day. How could he secure that lovely maiden? While he pondered, he noticed an old stump of a tree near by in which mice were running about. He brought the stump over near the ring. "So small a creature would not cause alarm," he thought, and thereupon he turned himself into a mouse.

The sisters floated down and took up their game. "But, look," cried the youngest. "That stump was not there yesterday." Frightened, she ran to the basket. The others, however, only smiled and gathered around it. When they struck at it playfully, the mice ran out, Waupee among them. The girls killed all but one, which was pursued by the youngest sister. Just as she raised her stick to kill it, Waupee rose and clasped her in his arms. Her eleven sisters sprang quickly into their basket and rose up into the sky.

Waupee displayed all his skills, to please his bride and win her affection. As he wiped away her tears, he praised the way of life on earth. He was determined to make her forget her sisters. From the moment she entered his lodge with him, he was one of the happiest of men.

Winter and summer passed away and the girl found she loved this young hunter. Their happiness was greater when a beautiful boy was born to them.

But Waupee's wife was a daughter of one of the stars and she longed to visit her old home. While Waupee was hunting she managed to make a wicker basket, secretly, in the middle of the magic ring.

When it was finished she collected rarities, including special foods from earth, to please her father. With these she went one day when Waupee was away, taking her little son with her into the charmed ring. As soon as they had climbed into the basket, she began to sing and the basket rose.

The wind carried her song to her husband's ear. He recognized her voice and ran at once to the prairie. But he could not reach the ring before his wife and child were ascending. He called and called after them, but they did not heed his appeals. Waupee could only watch the basket until it was a small speck and finally vanished in the sky. In utter grief, he lay down on the ground.

Through a long winter and a long summer, Waupee bewailed his loss and could find no relief. He mourned for his wife and even more for his son.

In the meantime Waupee's wife had reached her home among the stars and almost forgot that she had left a husband on earth. The presence of her son reminded her, however, for as he grew up he began to wish to visit his father. One day his grandfather, who was the Star Chief, said to his daughter, "Go, take your son to see his father, and ask him to come to live with us. Tell him to bring with him one of each kind of bird and animal he kills in the chase."

Accordingly, Waupee's wife took the boy and descended to earth. Waupee, who was never far from the enchanted circle, heard her voice as she came down from the sky. His heart beat with impatience as he saw her and his son, and he soon had them in his arms.

His wife gave him her father's message and Waupee began at once to hunt. Whole nights as well as days he searched for every beautiful or curiously different bird and animal. He took only a tail, foot, or wing--enough to identify each. When all was ready, he went with his wife and child to the circle and they floated up.

Great joy greeted their arrival in the starry world. The Star Chief invited all his people to a feast. When they were together, he announced that each might take one of the earthly gifts, whichever was most admired. Some chose a foot, some a wing, some a tail, and some a claw. Those who selected a tail or claw became animals and ran off. The others assumed the form of birds and flew away. Waupee chose a white hawk's feather and his wife and son followed his example. All three now became white hawks and spread their great wings. They descended with the other birds down to earth, where they may still be found.

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