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The Seven Star Brothers

There were seven brothers long ago who trained to become warriors of the Seneca People. Their uncle sat with them outside their mother's lodge and played on his drum so that they might dance the war dance and learn the warrior's ways. Each day they danced, and their mother became displeased.

When their uncle declared the young men ready, they spoke among themselves and decided to go out along the warpath, because there was, in those days, a war between the Seneca and their neighbors. The seven sons gathered at the war post and began to dance around it, according to the custom, and at the end of the dance they went to their mother and asked for the dried meat and parched corn they would eat on their journey.

Their mother did not want them to go away, since some or all of them might not return from the warpath, and she refused to give them the food they needed.

Three times the seven brothers did the war dance around the war post; three times their mother refused to give them even a single cake of cornmeal bread.

The brothers went again to the war post and this fourth time, the eldest brother changed the song they sang. He sang a magic song, and as he lifted his leg to step a dance step, he stepped up into the air. Each brother followed, and they were soon dancing just above the ground. On the second turn around the war post, the eldest brother again stepped up, and with each round the seven warriors went higher and higher into the air.

Since their mother would not let the eldest son lead his brothers along the warpath, he led them upwards into the sky. Their mother heard the strange song, and the shouts of the People of the village who saw her seven sons climbing slowly into the heavens. The mother ran out of her lodge and called to the eldest son, asking him not to leave her alone. The eldest son's heart was touched, but he did not look down.

The mother called out again, and the eldest warrior looked down. He stumbled in the dance and almost fell from the sky. He warned the other brothers not to look down until they reached the sky world. Their mother called out a third time, and the sons danced on.

When the mother began to weep and called out to her firstborn son with her arms outstretched, the eldest brother's heart was touched again. He looked down at his mother, stumbled, and fell out of the dance. As the six younger warriors went up into the sky world, the seventh fell to the earth like a falling star and struck the ground near his mother.

The mother ran to the crack in the ground that the falling brother had made. The crack was deep and there was nothing inside it. She looked up and saw that her remaining sons had become a circle of stars, dancing forever around a war post in the sky.

She stayed at the crack in the ground and built her lodge there with her own hands. A green tree grew out of the crack and grew tall like her firstborn son had been. When a hunter slashed the tree to see if its sap was sweet like the maple, blood ran out instead.

The mother bound up the tree's wound and stayed by it. She sang to the tree each night, as she had sung to her firstborn son when he was a baby on the cradle board. In the spring of the year, the tree grew feather bundles like the feather bundles on her son's dance costume. But these feather bundles were made of wood and were the seeds of a new race of trees whom the Seneca named the pine.

The children of the pine, when slashed, give sap that the People use in making canoes and ropes. The feather-bundles are the cones of the pine tree today.

When the tree's mother grew old and died, the first pine tree also died, and the spirit of the eldest brother went to be with his brothers in the sky. Each night the Seven Star Brothers, together again, dance high above the council house of the Seneca People, and this story is told.

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More stories to read:

 Native American star mythology
 Legends about pine trees
 Legends about mothers

Learn more about:

 Seneca mythology
 The Seneca language
 The Seneca people



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