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How Chipmunks Got Their Stripes

This version of the legend comes from Jeremiah Curtin's 1923 collection Seneca Indian Myths.

A grandmother and granddaughter were living together. They had a skin blanket, but it was old and a good deal of the hair was worn off.

The two women went to the forest to camp and cut wood and they carried the blanket to cover themselves with at night. They had been in the forest only a few days when they found that their skin blanket was alive and was angry. They threw the blanket down and ran toward home as fast as they could go. Soon they heard the skin following them.

When it seemed very near the grandmother began to sing and her song said, "My granddaughter and I are running for our lives, My granddaughter and I are running for our lives."

When the song ended, the women could scarcely hear the skin following them, but not long afterward they heard it again. When they reached home the skin, now a bear, was so near that as they pushed open the door it clawed at them and scratched their backs, but they got in.

The old woman and her granddaughter were chipmunks. Since that time Chipmunks have stripes on their backs, the result of the scratches given by the bear.

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More stories to read:

 American Indian animal mythology
 Legends about chipmunks
 Legends about bears

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 Seneca stories
 Seneca language
 Seneca people



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