Native American Totems

Discovering the medicine and lessons learned from the spirits of animals and all living things.

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A tale from the Five Tribes who comprised the Iroquois Nation:

It is said that long ago the Everything Maker who we call Raweno was busy creating the various animals.  As he worked on Rabbit, the creature said to Raweno; ” I want nice long legs and long ears like a deer. Oh and sharp fangs and claws like the panther.”

“I make them the way they want to be. I give them the features they ask for,” said Raweno. As he said this he was working on Rabbit’s hind legs, making them long as Rabbit had asked for.

Owl sat on a tree nearby waiting his turn as he was still unformed. “Whoo, whoo! I want a long neck like swan’s and beautiful red feathers like Cardinal’s. Give me a long beak like the Egret and a crown of plumes like the Heron wears. Raweno, I want to be the most beautiful, the fastest, and the most wonderful of all of the birds!”

“Be quiet! Turn around and look in a different direction, Owl. You should close your eyes because no one is allowed to watch me work!” said Raweno as he made Rabbit’s ears very long.

Owl refused to do as he was told and he hooted at Raweno, “Whoo, whoo! Nobody can keep me from watching! You can not order me to close my eyes! I will watch you all I want to!”

Raweno became very angry at Owl! He grabbed him pulling him down from the branch he was sitting on. He stuffed his head deep into his body. He shook him until his eyes grew large with fear. Raweno pulled at Owl’s ears until they stuck up from both sides of his head.

“That should teach you, Owl!” said Raweno. “You will not be able to crane your neck to watch the things that you shouldn’t.  When someone tells you not to do something, your big ears will better hear them. You now have big eyes but not so big that they can watch me because from now on you will only a be awake at night. I work during the day. I will not give you beautiful red feathers, instead they will be gray.” Raweno said as he rubbed mud over Owl. “This is your punishment for not listening to me.!”

Owl flew off pouting and crying, “Whoo, whoo, whoo.”

Raweno turned to finish Rabbit only to find that the little creature had been so frightened by Raweno’s anger that it had ran away. Rabbit was only half done with only his hind legs being long. This is why Rabbit to this day has to hop around instead of walking or running. Rabbit took the fear with him too and this is why Rabbit is afraid of just about everything. He did not stay to receive his fangs or claws so that he would be able to defend himself. If Rabbit had let Raweno finish he would be a different animal in this world.

Owl has remained as Raweno shaped him in his anger. He has the big eyes, a short neck, and ears that stick up on the top of his head. And he has to sleep during the day and is allowed to come out only at night.

I’ve retold a story that was derived from the tribes of the Iroquois. Most probably the Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Mohawk tribes each had their own version of this legend to share with their children. I hope you enjoyed learning why Owl has big eyes….

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related.

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