1024 Words

On Eagle's Wings
A Parable Inspired by the Legends of the Kwaaymii Indians

M. Stanley Bubien

Long ago, before Eagles were chiefs of people, Grandmother Eagle was warming her feathers near Inya, the Sun. Down she gazed with sharp eyes, spying Kwinyaw, the Rabbit, who hopped to and fro.

"I am hungry," Grandmother Eagle said. She folded her wings and swooped from near Inya, the Sun, and upon Kwinyaw. Before she opened her claws to snatch her prey, a baby Kwinyaw, as she had never seen before, scampered from the bushes.

Grandmother Eagle alighted beside Kwinyaw and said "What is that?"

Kwinyaw, seeing that Grandmother Eagle had decided not to eat her, responded, "this is my child."

"Where did he come from?"

"I dug him from the ground." (For, in those days, children were not born, but sprang in infancy from the soil and water.)

"Where may I find a child of my own?" Grandmother Eagle asked.

"I do not know," answered Kwinyaw, thumping her hind legs. "Ask Inya, the Sun."

As Grandmother Eagle warmed her feathers, Inya, the Sun, bade her fly low over the spring of Ah-ha' Kwe'se-i, and there she would find her child.

Speeding toward the spring of Ah-ha' Kwe'se-i, she dove low over the enchanted pool, and there was her son floating on the bosom its limpid pureness. Smiling as never before, Grandmother Eagle lifted him from Ah-ha' Kwe'se-i, and carried him to her nest upon the cliffs of the Ah-ha' Kwe-ah-mac', far above the stone fangs which loomed sharply from the mountain base.

She said to her son, "I will call you Kwaaypaay, for you will be chief of people."

Off Grandmother Eagle flew, picking food for her son. At first, she chose small creatures, but he grew and she fed him larger and larger prey.

Grandmother Eagle alighted above him, and asked him to join her in a visit to Inya, the Sun. Alas, as always, Kwaaypaay shook his head no and squeaked for more food.

Grandmother Eagle began to worry. "He depends on me for everything. Gladly I provide. But he refuses to venture into the wide world beyond the Ah-ha' Kwe-ah-mac'. He will never fly high enough to warm his feathers beside Inya, the Sun."

Grandmother Eagle decided to show her son the wide world beyond the Ah-ha' Kwe-ah-mac'. Pointing toward the southernmost Coyote Mountains, she said, "There is where crafty Huta-pah' ate the heart of his father. The red drops of blood oozed from his cruel jaws and fell to the ground, staining the dirt a ruddy hue."

Kwaaypaay stepped near the edge of the nest curiously. His sharp eyes squinted into the distance, and he spied the dark sands. Satisfied, he slid back and yawned.

Grandmother Eagle said, "Do you not wish to visit this place?"

"My eyes are sharp. I can see the wide world beyond the Ah-ha' Kwe-ah-mac' from here. You care for me, and I am comfortable."

Grandmother Eagle pointed toward the evening home of Inya, the Sun. "There lies the foggy shores of the great water."

Kwaaypaay squinted from the edge of the nest toward the cool waters. As he watched, Grandmother Eagle pushed him over the edge, and he plunged out.

He squeaked his shock as he fell, but only the craggy rocks could hear him, and they simply shook their heads. His sharp eyes showed him the stone fangs at the mountain base, and he cried all the more, flapping his wings in futility, for he'd never used them before this very moment.

He closed his eyes, sure that the stone fangs at the mountain base would devour him, but Grandmother Eagle wrapped her talons around his body, and lifted him upward toward the safety of his nest.

The next day, Grandmother Eagle fed her son a long-tailed mouse. "I snatched her from Nim-me', the wildcat, who growled in pain from the whip of Seen-u-how' which marked her coat." Grandmother Eagle pointed, "See where ice grows well before the long fingers of winter reach us here."

Kwaaypaay gazed out from the edge of the nest. Grandmother Eagle put her nose against his back and pushed him out.

Down he fell, squeaking as before, the craggy rocks again shaking their heads. He flapped his wings, but the wind passed through his feathers uselessly.

His strength gave out, and hope fled as he was nearly upon the stone fangs at the mountain base. A shadow passed over, and Grandmother Eagle snatched him from very teeth that would devour him.

"Why do you push me over the edge?" Kwaaypaay asked.

"So you will learn," Grandmother Eagle answered.

"But surely I will be killed."

"You have not been killed yet. For my eyes are sharp, and I watch you."

Kwaaypaay yawned in exhaustion and fell asleep.

Grandmother Eagle woke him, "There, toward the morning home of Inya, the Sun, lies Water in Rock, warm springs welling from desert sands."

Kwaaypaay lazily stepped to the edge of the nest, feeling the familiar push against his back before he plunged out.

He cried and flapped. The craggy rocks shook their heads. And just as he was sure to be destroyed, Grandmother Eagle grasped him gently and lifted him away.

How many days this went on, only the stones know. But one day, as Kwaaypaay plunged toward the stone fangs at the mountain base, he caught a draft within his feathers. It slowed his fall. He flapped again, harder now, and behold, he halted his fall.

Grandmother Eagle swooped down, calling, "Glide over here."

He spread his wings, cupping the wind beneath his feathers, and glided toward Grandmother Eagle. An updraft caught him and lifted him until he was soaring above the nest.

"Come," Grandmother Eagle called from within the nest, "Let us eat Kwinyaw who I snatched from beneath the feet of those who rub their bodies with Cha-hoor' before running the Kwut'ah Lu'e-ah."

Kwaaypaay shook his head and circled. "No. I have spent enough days in the nest. I want to warm my feathers beside Inya, the Sun, and venture into the wide world beyond the Ah-ha' Kwe-ah-mac'."

Grandmother Eagle chewed Kwinyaw, for she knew that Kwaaypaay would truly be chief of people.

Read more stories about the Kwaaymii Indians. Including a few insights into their culture.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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May, 1997
Issue #13

1024 Words