Myth & Lore

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The First Moccasins
By Bear Medicinewalker, LoreKeeper

There was once a great Chief who's feet were very tender. The other Chiefs laughed at him; yet He would only smiled as he carefully walked past. The people of the quietly laughed at his discomfort. They were all the same in this village, having no horses and only bare feet, but most of them were not bothered by their bare feet. The unhappy Medicine Man who was advisor to the Chief-of-the- Tender-Feet was afraid and troubled. Each time he was called before the chief he was asked, "Can you help me with my tender feet?" And his reply was always the same, as he knew of nothing to do to help.

Finally the Medicine Man at last hit upon a plan. Though he realized it may not be the answer to the Chief's foot problem, it may just help. The Medicine Man had the Women of the tribe weave a long, narrow mat of reeds, and when the Chief had to go anywhere, four Braves unrolled the mat in front of him so that he walked in comfort.

After a while the Braves grew tired of following the Chief around and rolling out the mat so he could walk in comfort. They carelessly unrolled the mat over a place where flint arrowheads had been chipped and the shards remained. As the Chief's walked over them the mat did not help with His tender feet, and became wounded by these chips, he uttered a series of whoops which made the nearby trees leaves quiver.

That night the Medicine Man was given an impossible task by the angry Chief: "Cover the whole earth with mats so thick that my feet will not suffer. If you fail, you will be banished when the moon is round."

The Medicine Man frustrated, crept back to his lodge. He did not wish to be banished on the night of the full moon, or any other night but could think of nothing else to do. Suddenly he saw the hide of an Elk which was pegged to the ground, with two women busily scraping the hair from the hide, vision of what to be done came to mind. He sent out many hunters and when they returned the women began their task to prepare the hide and worked for many days. The Braves of the tribe brought their hunting knives and began to cut strips, and the Women sewed with bone needles and rawhide sinews.

On the day before the moon was round, the Medicine Man went to the Chief and told him that he had covered as much of the earth as was possible in so short a time. When the Chief looked from the door of his lodge, he saw many paths of skin stretching as far as he could see. Long strips which could be moved from place to place connected the main leather paths. Even the Chief thought that this time the magic of the Medicine Man had solved tenderfoot transportation for all time, but this was not to be !

One day, as the Chief was walking along one of his smooth, tough leather paths, he saw a beautiful maiden from the tribe gliding ahead of him, walking on the hard earth on one side of the Chief's pathway. She glanced back when she heard his feet on the elk hide pathway and seemed to smile. The Chief set off on the run to catch up with her, his eyes fixed on the back of She-Who-Smiled, His feet suddenly strayed from the narrow path and landed in a bunch of needle-sharp thorns! The girl ran for her life when she heard Him scream from the pain of his feet.

Two suns later, when the Chief was calm enough to speak again, he had his Medicine Man brought before him and told him that the next day when the sun was high, he was sending to the land of shadows for his plan had not worked. That night, the Medicine Man climbed to the top of the mountain in search of advice from the Grandmothers on how to cover the entire earth with leather.

He finally slept and entered dreamwalk. He was taught the answer to his problem. Amid vivid flashes of lightning, he tore down the steep mountainside, screaming from pain as jagged rocks wounded his bare feet and legs. Yet He did not stop until he was safely inside his lodge. He worked all night until the warriors who were to send him on the shadow trail came for him, just before noon the next day. He was surrounded by the Warriors.

He was clutching close to his heart something tightly rolled in a piece of deerskin. His cheerful smile surprised those who saw him pass. All looked at him brave and honorable. Accepting his failure and honoring his fate.

The Chief was waiting just outside his lodge. He yelled to the Warriors, giving them instruction to take the fallen Medicine Man to the World of Shadows. Before the Medicine Man could be led away, he asked to be able to speak to the Chief. "Speak!" said the chief, sorry that all this had come about. For even the Chief knew that covering the entire earth with leather was an impossible task.

The Medicine Man quickly knelt beside the Chief, unrolled the two objects which he took from his bundle and slipped one of them on each foot of the Chief. The Chief seemed to be wearing a pair of bear's hairless feet, instead of bare feet, and he was puzzled at first as he looked at the elk hide handcrafted by the Medicine Man.

"Chief," he said, "I have found the way to cover the earth with leather for you! My Chief from now on the earth will always be covered with leather." And so it was the birth of the Moccasins.

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