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Gentle Dove and Raging Bear


A long time ago, when children were taken seriously, there lived a tribe of Red Indians in America. Now this was long before the Americans came to America, and so the Indians lived happily and in peace.
Every day the men would spread out with their spears and axes to hunt buffalo, and the women would go into the woods with their little baskets to pick berries.
In the evenings the whole tribe would be gathered around the fire, and everybody would get his share of meat and berries. Then the girls and boys would sing, and the old people would tell stories and fairy tales, just like this one, until the middle of the night.
They had a god they called the Great Spirit, but it was not an invisible god who hid somewhere behind the clouds and was afraid to be seen. What the Indians called the Great Spirit was everything around them: the trees, the animals, the birds, the flowers, the sun and the moon, the stars, the prairie, and even the Indians themselves were part of it. The Great Spirit they believed in was Nature.
Gentle Dove was one of the girls in that tribe, and when she was old enough, her mother took her with her into the woods to collect berries.
But Gentle Dove didn't want to go with her; she wanted to go with the men to hunt buffalo. 'That is a job for men only,' explained her father. 'Women are not strong enough to go hunting.'
In another family there was a boy called Raging Bear. As he grew up, his father took him to the buffalo hunt. But Raging Bear didn't want to go hunting. He wanted to pick berries instead.
'That's a woman's job,' said his mother. 'You need a lot of intuition to find the right spots, and you have to have a good nose to make them out. That's nothing a man could do.'
One day the men were out hunting again, but the wind blew from their back, and so the buffalo caught their smell and stampeded away. After a few seconds the men gave up, because the buffalo were too fast, and before the Americans came there were no horses in America.
But Gentle Dove had followed them secretly, and she brought a spear that she had made herself. She was a swift runner, and she came close enough to the herd to throw it and kill one of the buffalo.
'Well done,' shouted the men with great surprise. They never thought that a girl could be a better hunter than themselves. They gathered around her, tapped her on the shoulder and told her that she was an extraordinary woman.
Then they went over to the buffalo to cut it and bring its meat to the village. But Gentle Dove stepped in their way. 'This is my buffalo; I have killed it, and I shall eat it!'
The others stepped back.
'You'll eat it all by yourself?' asked the chief.
'Yes, I will!'
'But the meat will be rotten before you'll finish it.'
'I'll throw it away then and hunt another buffalo.'
'The Great Spirit says it's not good to take more than you can eat,' said the chief, and with the other hunters he went back into the village.
Gentle Dove sliced up the buffalo and brought the pieces down to a meadow at the river near the village. From its hide she built a tent for herself in which she lived. She ate as much of the buffalo as she could, but after a few days the meat was rotten, and she threw it into the river and hunted another buffalo.
She didn't go into the village at all and preferred to stay on her own. But people from the village had to fetch water from the river, and, taking the shortest way, they passed Gentle Dove's tent every day. This upset her, and so she got some wood and built a fence around the meadow.
'What is that?' asked the chief when he saw it. For the fence Gentle Dove had built was the first fence that ever stood in America, and therefore, of course, the Indians didn't have a word for it.
'I don't want people to walk across my meadow, and therefore I put up some wood to mark my ground.'
'Your ground?' said the chief. 'Did you hunt it across the prairie and bring it down to the river?'
'No.'
'Did you pick it in the woods and bring it here in a basket?'
'No.'
'Did you form the ground with your own hands and put it up beside the water?'
'No.'
'How can it be yours then?' asked the chief and walked away.

Gentle Dove lived on her own and hunted buffalo for quite a while. But one day, as she carried the leg of a buffalo to her tent, she cut her foot on a stone. It was very painful, and she limped back to the river; and as she was not able to bring the meat with her, she didn't have any food that day.
'I could go to the fire in the village,' she thought to herself, 'and ask the others for a few berries or a bit of meat. But then again - they will say it's theirs and laugh at me.'
So she decided to go to sleep instead, and in the morning, when her foot would be better, she would carry the buffalo's meat to her tent.
But when she woke up, her foot was worse than before. The wound had become infected, and it hurt so much that she couldn't even get up.
'I could call for the medicine man,' she thought to herself. 'He's bound to have some leaves or herbs to cure that injury. But then again - he will say that the herbs are his and laugh at me.'
So she stayed in her tent all day, hungry and in pain.
That day Raging Bear had another discussion with his mother.
'Please,' he said, 'let me go out with you to pick berries, just once.'
'No,' answered his mother, 'this is women's work. A woman might be able to go hunting, just like Gentle Dove, but never will a man be able to find the berries that are hidden in the thicket and among the bushes. This needs a lot of intuition, and that is something only women have.'
That night Raging Bear sneaked out of his tent and went into the woods. He loved berries, and it was easy for him to make them out. He followed their sweet scent and found a lot of bushes that carried loads of them.
In the pale light of the moon he picked them, and when his bucket was full, he emptied it in front of the tent and went back into the woods again. The women were happy if they collected two or three baskets a day, but Raging Bear picked twelve buckets full of berries that night.
In the morning his mother went out to fetch water, and she saw the heap of berries in front of the tent.
'Where did they come from?'
'I picked them last night.'
'You - you picked all those berries in one night?'
Soon the whole tribe gathered around and was amazed at the amount of berries. In the evening they all feasted around the campfire, and the men didn't even go hunting that day, because the berries were enough to feed them all.
Later Raging Bear went to Gentle Dove's tent and took two baskets of berries with him.
'What do you want?' asked Gentle Dove as he came in.
'I brought you some berries. I picked them myself.'
'But they are yours, then.'
'The Great Spirit says that it's not good to have more than you can eat.'
Gentle Dove looked confused, but when he gave her the baskets, a coy smile spread over her face.
'You look very hungry,' said Raging Bear as she started to eat.
'I've had no food for two days now,' replied Gentle Dove. 'I hurt my foot, and it's getting worse all the time.'
'Why don't you see the medicine man then? I'm sure that he has some herbs to cure you.'
'Probably, but they are his herbs. Why should he give them to me?'
Raging Bear burst out laughing. 'What's the use of a medicine man if he keeps his cures to himself? Would you expect the sun to shine on himself only, or the rain to rain only on the clouds?'
Gentle Dove blushed and smiled shyly. 'What do they say about me?'
'They say that you are an excellent huntress, and that the Great Spirit cast a big shadow on your mind. But they also say that all shadows have to flee when the sun stands highest.'
Now they both laughed, and after Gentle Dove had finished the berries, Raging Bear led her to the village. The medicine man gave her leaves to put on her foot, and after a few days she went hunting with the men again, while Raging Bear picked berries with the women. In the evenings they shared the meat and the berries with the others at the fire. Gentle Dove put her tent up in the village; the fence was knocked down, and for many happy years there were no more fences in America.


6238 RT (1997 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig