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The human race is saved [archive]

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The human race is saved

There was once a great warrior named Nekumonta who was married to the beautiful Shanewis. During the winter when the snow was deep and food was scarce, a terrible plague struck the earliest people, and many died. Nekumonta watched as, one by one, all of his brothers and sisters and both of his parents perished. The plague continued until Nekumonta, Shanewis, and a handful of villagers were the only ones left. But it looked as if the race of humans was going to die out, for Shanewis fell ill and lay near death, and many of the villagers complained of symptoms. Nekumonta could not bear to think that he would lose his wife and knew that, if he could save her, the human race could be preserved.

So Nekumonta prayed to the Great Spirit asking for guidance in finding the right herbs to save Shanewis's life. Covering her with furs to keep her warrn, Nekumonta set out to find a cure. He searched and searched for herbs in the deep snow, but found nothing. Exhausted, he fell asleep.

When he awoke, he continued for three more days, wandering over frozen lakes, through forests, and over hills without success. Then a little snowshoe rabbit appeared to him.

He asked the rabbit, "Where can I find the herbs planted by the Great Spirit, to save my wife and my people?" But the little rabbit just twitched his nose and hopped away.

Nekumonta then came to the den of a hibernating black bear and asked the bear for help. The sleepy bear just grunted and rolled over. On the third night of his journey, Nekumonta himself began to feel ill and he fell to the ground in a deep sleep. All the birds and animals remembered his many kindnesses. Nekumonta had never killed an animal unless he really needed it for food and clothing. They remembered how he had honored the trees and flowers. As they looked on him, their hearts were overcome with compassion and they resolved to help him. The animals, trees, birds, and plants all cried to the Great Spirit on his behalf.

As Nekumonta slept, a message came to him from the Great Spirit. In his dream he saw the beautiful Shanewis, still ill, but singing a strange and beautiful song. Then he heard the sound of a waterfall. The waters now sang the same song, but the words were clearer: "Find us, Nekumonta, and your Shanewis will live!"

At this, the young warrior awoke with a start, the words still clear in his mind. He looked in all directions, but found no waterfall. Yet the singing of the waters continued.

Nekumonta frantically dug in the snow to find the waters. He began to take sticks and rocks and dig into the frozen earth. He continued digging until he had dug a very large hole.

Suddenly, a tiny stream began to bubble up into the hole. Soon the waters began to fill the hole, and waves of health and happiness overtook him. Moments after bathing in the waters, Nekumonta was refreshed, stronger than ever.

After raising his hands in thanks to the Great Spirit, he went back to the hole and took some clay to make a jar to carry the water back to his village. When Nekumonta returned to the village, he could see that he was just in time. The last remaining people were all very sick, and Shanewis herself was almost entering the land of shadows.

Shanewis was too weak to drink, so Nekumonta forced waters between her lips. She then rose up, healthy and more beautiful than ever. The few remaining people also drank and were instantly healed. The plague was now gone and the people forever remembered Nekumonta as the one who saved the human race.

Additional Reading

 Native American medicine
 Iroquois myth
 Iroquois Indians
 Seneca language
 Tuscarora language
 New York State Native Americans

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