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How the Tsalagi Got Fire

For many moons we did not have fire. People on the other side of the earth, they had fire; and the four-leggeds knew it. They held a council to determine how to obtain the fire. The first one to volunteer to go and bring back the fire was the great buzzard. He flew halfway across the earth, swooped down into the other's camp and, with a mighty claw, grabbed up a handful of the fire. As he was flying away, he hid it in the feathers on the back of his head. The fire was too hot and burned his feathers off. That's why, when you see the buzzard today, you'll see he has no feathers there. That's why he's bald. So the buzzard returned to camp.

Now the possum decided it was his turn to try. He would go and bring back the fire for his people. "I can sneak into camp," he thought. "I can get the fire." So he traveled halfway across the earth, waited till nightfall, sneaked into the camp, grabbed some of the fire and hid it in his tail. Before he could leave, the fire burned off all the fur on his tail. That's why the possum has no fur on his tail now. He used to have such a beautiful furry tail! He went back to camp, and they all thought that it was lost. They could not do this. They could not get the fire. But all the while, the small grandmother spider kept saying, "I can do this. I know I can!" Everyone laughed at her, but still the small spider kept insisting that she could do it! Still she wanted her chance to try! So they all agreed to let her try. First, she dug up some clay and made a pot, then began spinning her web. Halfway around the world she traveled, spinning her web and carrying her pot, all the way to the other's camp. She waited till night and sneaked into their camp. She took a bit of their fire, put it into the clay pot, then carried it back to their side of the earth to share with her people. That's how we got fire, and that's also the beginning of how the Cherokee people learned pottery making.

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More stories to read:

 Native American fire legends
 Legends about spiders
 Legends about buzzards
 Legends about opossums

Learn more about:

 Cherokee myths
 Tsalagi language
 Cherokee alphabet
 Cherokees



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