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The Origin of Tobacco
As told by the Crow and
A long time ago the Indians roamed
the West like the buffalo, one family scattered and returned
by change. There were no separate tribes. One of the Indians
was a woman of powerful beauty. She gave birth to twin sons,
but she did not know who their father was. The beautiful woman
sang her sons to sleep with a heartbreaking lullaby, and everyone
who heard it took pity on her. Finally, the Earth agreed to
claim the first son, and the stars took the second son as one
of their own. From then on, the people called them Earthboy
When the boys were near manhood,
they began to behave a little differently from their friends.
Earthboy stopped following the buffalo everywhere and began
to stay close beneath the willows of his home, searching for
pretty rocks and carefully observing the slow growth of the
plants. Starboy also grew lax in his hunting, but rather than
staying at home he began to wander far beyond the buffalo. He
slept during the days so that at night he could watch the travels
of his star family. One day Starboy's wanderings brought him
to the foot of the highest mountain. No one had climbed it before,
but Starboy started the slow climb upward without hesitating.
Somewhere near the sky, Starboy fainted. A shining silver man
appeared to him. The man was a star. He told Starboy that he
was his father but that he spent his life traveling far beyond
the earth, and he said he would not pass near the mountain again
in his son's lifetime.
"And so to show my love and
concern for you, my son, I will give you a gift of great strength
and colors of the sunset. Keep this plant with you wherever
you wander, and in the springtime plant it everywhere you go.
Tend the scarred beds, and harvest them when they are tall."
With these words, the star plunged his hands into his own silver
chest. When he pulled them out again, they were full of tobacco.
He told Starboy that tobacco
would make everyone in their family strong and free. To share
the tobacco and its power, people must be adopted into Starboy's
family. Starboy listened carefully, but he was too overwhelmed
to speak. He nodded his head gratefully, and his father burst
away from him, back to the sky. When Starboy came down from
the mountains, he found his brother Earthboy, and offered to
adopt him and share the tobacco.
Earthboy laughed, and said, "Brother,
you don't need to climb mountains to have visions. While you
were gone, I met my father earth and he taught me some secrets
of my own. Your family may become powerful wanders, but mine
is going to become a family of peaceful farmers. We will grow
everything except tobacco and you will grow nothing more."
"I don't want to grow anything
more," said Starboy, "I will follow the buffalo, and
be strong as an eagle, and as free as wind."
Earthboy smiled. "I will be
strong as rock, my brother," he said "and steady as
sunrise. But no matter how different our families become, we
will never quarrel. Your father has given you tobacco, and mine
has given me the way of the Medicine Pipe. When we smoke together,
your plant with my pipe, our fathers will give us peace and
colors of the sunset."
Earthboy brought forward a beautiful
pipe made from the rock and willow of his home. Starboy filled
it with tobacco from the heart of the star, and the brothers
smoked together. When Starboy left, some of the people went
with him, hoping to be adopted into his family. Even before
they learned the secrets of tobacco, the people who followed
Starboy took a name, and called themselves the Crow. The ones
who stayed with Earthboy to learn to farm were called after
the willows of their home, Hidatsa. And so the people were divided
into tribes, but the power of tobacco and the pipe kept them
from becoming enemies.
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