A great many winters ago, there lived at the foot of a certain lake a tribe of wicked Indians. These Indians were so fierce, and warlike, and…
They laid low a tract of beautiful forest trees, for no good purpose. They tore up shrubs and plants that gave them food and medicine. They shot their arrows into every bird or animal they saw, just for sport.
The great trees—their silent brothers of the wood—trembled and sighed when they heard these Indians coming. The[Pg 120] squirrels darted into hollow trees, and birds flew in alarm at their footsteps. The deer and rabbit ran from the trail.
At last the Great Spirit became very angry with this tribe. Always he had taught the Indians never to kill an animal, unless for food and protection; never to fell a tree, unless for fuel or shelter; never to dig up shrubs or plants, unless for some good use.
“All life,” the Great Spirit had said, “is sacred and beautiful. It must not be wasted.”
And never before had he known the Indians to waste the beautiful living things about them. The Great Spirit was very sad.
The ice formed very thick on the lake that winter.
One night, there came a great storm of wind and rain. The ice broke loose from the shores, and the wind blew it[Pg 121] down the lake. At the foot of the lake, a mass of ice was piled high over the shore, where lived these wasteful Indians.
Like a giant roof, the ice spread over the little Indian village lying there asleep, but the Indians did not know. They slept on, unaware of their danger, for a deep, heavy sleep had come upon them.
Just as the sun rose, the ice roof gave way and fell upon the sleeping Indians, crushing them in their wigwams.
The waste they had brought upon their brothers of the wood had brought punishment upon them. The Great Spirit had destroyed these wicked Indians, that the good Indians might keep his world beautiful.
Ever after, as long as the Indians occupied the country, before the White man came, no trees were felled, and no animals or birds were killed, unless for some wise and useful purpose.
Original text from the book:
Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children
(YEH SEN NOH WEHS)
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
NEW YORK CINCINNATI CHICAGO, 1917