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Why The Cedar Tree Is Red-Grained

This version of the legend was collected by Albert Gatschet in 1885.

An unknown, mysterious being once came down upon the earth and met people there, who were the ancestors of the Yuchi Indians. To them this being (Hi'ki or Ka'la hi'ki) taught many of the arts of life, and in matters of religion admonished them to call the sun their mother as a matter of worship. Every morning the sun, after rising above the horizon, makes short stops, and then goes faster until it reaches the noon point. So the Unknown inquired of them what was the matter with the sun. They denied having any knowledge about it, and said, "Somebody has to go there to see and examine."

"Who would go there, and what could he do after he gets there?"

The people said, "We are afraid to go up there."

But the Unknown selected two men to make the ascent, gave to each a club, and instructed them that as soon as the wizard who was playing these tricks on the sun was leaving his cavern in the earth and appeared on the surface they should kill him on the spot. "It is a wizard who causes the sun to go so fast. in the morning, for at sunrise he makes dashes at it, and the sun, being afraid of him, tries to flee from his presence." The two brave men went to the rising place of the sun to watch the orifice from which the sun emerges. The wizard appeared at the mouth of the cave, and at the same time the sun was to rise from another orifice beyond it. The wizard watched for the fiery disk, and put himself in position to rush and jump at it at the moment of its appearance. When the wizard held up his head the two men knocked it off from his body with their clubs, took it to their tribe, and proclaimed that they had killed the sorcerer who had for so long a time urged the sun to a quicker motion. But the wizard's head was not dead yet. It was stirring and moving about, and to stop this the man of mysterious origin advised the people to tie the head on the uppermost limbs of a tree. They did so, and on the next morning the head fell to the ground, for it was not dead yet. He then ordered them to tie the head to another tree. It still lived and fell to the ground the next day. To ensure success, the Unknown then made them tie it to a red cedar tree. There it remained, and its life became extinct. The blood of the head ran through the cedar. Henceforth the grain of the wood assumed a reddish color, and the cedar tree became a medicine tree.

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More stories to read:

 Native American sun myths
 Stories about witchcraft
 Stories about cedar trees

Learn more about:

 Yuchi stories
 The Yuchi language
 The Yuchi Indians

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