As we leave behind an April unlike any we’ve ever known, Mother’s Day is almost here, and I want to let all the moms out there know that I will certainly be celebrating you on Mother’s Day. In fact, I’ll be recognizing mothers of ALL types - from birth moms to adoptive moms, foster moms, fill-in moms and women who desperately wished for children of their own. The beauty in Mother’s Day is that there’s room to honor all the love in the many forms mothering takes.
In that spirit, I have two special excerpts from Native American stories about mothers. They come from an old publication called Tales of the Cochiti Indians by Ruth Benedict, which is a collection of stories interpreted and recorded in the summer of 1924. The storytellers were elders from, and the tales I have chosen here were told by well-known female Cochiti narrators. The players are animal mothers and their children, and they give us a peek into the values of our Cochiti friends from almost 100 years ago.
The first passage is a sweet little selection that speaks to the trust children have in their loving mothers even when it comes to swimming in a scary whirlpool part of the river.
DUCK SINGS FOR HER CHILDREN
At Whirlpool Place (Koashka) there lived a duck with lots of little ducklings. She told her children to go to the river and have a bath. She said, “I will sit on the bank and sing for you.” They got to the river. The mother sat on the bank, and she started to sing. She said, “When this song ends, jump in all together.” At the last word of her song, the ducklings jumped in and went under the water and came up again far off. They swam around and came back to their mother. She sang her song again and each time they ducked and swam and came back to her.
A longer passage from the second story is heartwarming evidence that in Cochiti culture, adoptive mothers were honored for their selfless care of children.
CROW AND HAWK
Crow had a nest and she had been already sitting on her eggs many days. But she got tired of sitting there, and she flew away. While she was gone day after day, Hawk came by. She found nobody sitting on the nest. Hawk said to herself, “The person who owns this nest no longer cares for it. I am sorry for these eggs lying in that empty nest. I will sit on those poor little eggs and they will be my children.” She sat many days on the eggs and nobody came to the nest. Finally the eggs began to hatch. Still no Crow came. The little ones all hatched out and the mother Hawk flew about getting food for them. They grew bigger and bigger and their wings got strong. So at last the mother Hawk took the little ones off the nest.
After all this time, the Crow remembered her nest and she came back to it. She found the eggs all hatched and the Hawk taking care of her little ones. One day she met Hawk out feeding with her little ones. “Hawk.” “What is it?” “You must return these little ones you are leading around.”
Hawk said, “Yes, you laid the eggs to be sure, but you had no pity on the poor eggs. You went off and left them. There was no one to sit upon them and I came and sat upon the nest and hatched them. When they were hatched I fed them and now I lead them about.” ...“I shall not give them up. I have worked for them and for many days I have fasted sitting there upon the eggs. In all that time you did not come near your eggs. Why is it now when I have taken care of the little ones and brought them up and they have grown that you want them back?” Crow said to the little ones, “My children, come with me. I am your mother.” But the little ones answered, “We do not know you. Hawk is our mother.” At last when she could not make the little ones come with her she said, “Very well, I shall take this to court."
So mother Crow took the mother Hawk before the king of the birds
Eagle said to Mother Hawk, “How did you find this nest of eggs?”
“Many times I came to this nest, and found it empty. No one came for a long time, and at last I had pity upon the poor little eggs. I said to myself, ‘The mother who made this nest can no longer care for these eggs. I should be glad to hatch these little ones.’ I sat upon them and they hatched. Then I went about getting food for them. I worked hard and brought them up and they have grown... Just when they were grown the mother crow came back and asked to have them back again, but I shall not give them back. It is I who fasted and worked, and they are now my little ones.”
So the king said to the little ones, “Which mother will you choose?” Both little ones answered together, “Mother Hawk is our mother. She is all the mother we know...Mother Hawk hatched us and she is our mother” So it was finally settled as the little ones had chosen that they were the children of Mother Hawk who had pity on them in the nest and brought them up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories from one of the cultures that creates the art we so love. Please take a look at Turquoise & Tufa’s new jewelry additions, and see if there’s anything that speaks to you for one of the moms in your life.
Happy Mother’s Day!
*Image entitled "A Hopi Family" published in First Families of the Southwest by Fred Harvey, Kansas City