This is a story that is for all man, for those that remember and those who have forgotten.
A very long time ago, before Manitoo made the creatures after his own name, he first created animals. And he blessed the animals, giving each unique ways of being.
The world was in its newness and the streams ran like clear fire in the sunlight. The sky was an open flower, in its blueness the birds sought the wind. Below the sky, all manner of animal walked the earth.
Manitoo blew his breath to the four corners of the earth. First, he took water from the river and he blew on this to cause ice-crystals and he turned toward the North direction. And he blew warm breath so that the South wind should bring soft air. And he turned to the west and the east and breathed across the land. Thus the winds were made.
Then he moved his cape as he turned to face all directions and, as he created all things in balance, it was good.
He took the drier soil, this that had some clay and he blew on this. The hills and the mountains were formed.
There was an order to things. So he sent the animals that were for the four directions and they went happy and content.
At this time the animals could speak and often the Manitoo came to talk with them. And through this they came to appreciate each other.
"See, he would say to the elephant, see the small animal that travels under your feet. He is no less than you." Thus the elephant took care from that time on not to step on small creatures.
And once when a spider was working on its web, Manitoo suggested the looping.
"Why must I do it this way?" questioned the spider.
"In order to have strength, there must be balance, everything has a purpose."
This the Manitoo spoke to the animals of the four directions and encouraged each animal to perfect its gifts.
And he made it so that the animals did not have to think as we people do. They just knew. The smallest raccoon in the water took the shelled fish from the lake bottom and took his dinner floating on his back. Would he eat the sand-covered shell? No. The raccoon knew to bring a rock up to hit the shell upon the rock. And when this was done he washed the food he was getting.
All the herding animals, they knew that when it is cold there is strength in gathering together. So at these times, when the cold winds came, they did not have to be told, they knew.
When he saw the animals had perfected their gifts, it came that the Manitoo called all the animals together.
"There is something that I have not told you, he said. "It is not such a big secret that I would leave you out. You are pleasing to me and I will keep you. But I will create another kind of being in my appearance."
And the animals were quiet as they were not given to question the Creator of all life.
"As I have created the four directions from which you came, out of the elements of the earth I will create this creature. I will call him "Man" after my name, Manitoo."
So the Manitoo smiled gently on the animals and it was as if the sun shone on them.
"I will ask you to choose the best diver among you to bring up earth from the river bottom. From this, I will create Man."
So the animals met, all of them from north and south, west and east and they said.
"We have chosen the Muskrat, the Loon and the Water-Snake."
So the chosen animals were honored. The Muskrat was the first to dive and he went down once. And he came up for air. And he went down again. And he came up for air. He dove again and he came up for air but he had no clay.
When it was the Water-Snake's turn, he saw that Muskrat was out of air and he chose not to try. He crawled away on his belly to the ground. He was ashamed and he did not wish for the other animals to see his defeat.
"Ah." The Manitoo saw his feelings and said to the creature. "Even so, I give you the winding ways to make rivers and then you too will never be forgotten." So it came to be that the tracks that the creature made filed with rain and beme rivers. So it is al manner of men say that the river crawls or winds or snakes.
Finally, it was the Loon's turn to dive. And the sun was setting as she began to dive. She dove once and came up for air, she dove twice and came up again. But she had no mud in her beak. She was so heart-broken that Loon let out the sorrowful cry that all would hear in the years to come.
By then Muskrat had now had her second wind and said to the Loon, "Let me try for I will share the honor with you if I should bring up the clay for Manitoo."
And the Loon thought on this sadly. She knew she was small and not as strong as Muskrat.
So she swam away and let Muskrat take her place. He dove down and down where the darkness was so deep. He dove so far that his lungs felt like he would burst. Finally he used up the last of his air and grasped for clay.
The animals watched the air bubbles rise to the surface of the river. They watched as each one burst. Perhaps Muskrat would never come up.
But wait. There was something! As muskrat swam up, the first thing that pierced the water was... a webbed foot! And the clay from which man would be made was in the clenched toes.
He was so excited that he forgot to say, "This is for Loon who let me continue her dive." The sun had set now on this first day and the animals waited to see what Manitoo would do next.
Manitoo took the clay from the Muskrat and he warmed it in his hands.
"You will be made of water and the minerals of the earth." And it was so as he blew on the clay that took the form of a new creature, Man.
"I will call you, Man, after my name, the Manitoo."
And after he created Man, he turned to the animals and he said, "All things I have created in balance as the sun and the moon. I have given you, the animals, your own gifts so that Man will see how you create. Through you, he will learn to observe and create. He will learn to live in this world. And it was so.
Man stood before the Creator and this the Creator said, "For you,Ihave given the power to nurture tese creatures and all of the earth as it will nurture you... so you too must care and nurture all these living things. And I have given these, the animals, which are pleasing to my eyes. These I give to you to learn from, to honor them, as I have created things in balance. No animal more or less important than the other."
And the animals lived and Man learned these things:
From the spider, the net, weaving and the bridge; from the Beaver, the fishing weir and cutting of trees and branches; from the eagle's talons and other talon birds, the idea of the forked spear for fishing; from the diving bird with mouth pouches, the idea of fish scoops; from the raccoon, the need to wash food; from the Moose and other like animals, the need for salt; from the squirrels and like animals, storage for winter; from the Prairie Chicken and the Wolf and the Eagle and the Bear, the Fox and the Coyote, dance; from the coyote, stealth; from the Eagle, grace and courage; from the Clam, that all life is held in a shell; from the Porcupine, the need for protection and ornamentation; from the foragers, the medicine plants like the red willow for aspirin and other berries and herbs; from the Bear, the honey and that a sharp claw is good for spearing and a similar tool works as well for digging; from all animals, the joy of good sweet water; from the burrowing animals, that earth is a good place to be warm in winter and cool in the summer; from the snake, to see tracks as they are left and to know how to read the marks of symbols; from all animals and plants, the marking of beauty and of differences; from the beaver, hard work and preparation for what comes; from the fish, to swim with the tide is easier, but when there is a great need to swim up river it can be done; from the birds, flight; from the monkey, a stick as tool; from the cow, the boiler system and fermentation that takes place in process.
All these things and more man learned from the animal. e watched as they used digging toos and he too learned. He listened to their songs and he learned to call as they do.
But should man forget, Manitoo knew he must leave a reminder. And as Loon had seen that other animals had given their gifts and she had none to give, her heart was sad and she called across the river to the Manitoo.
The evening sky was setting and a rich blue blanket settled across the land. The sun set and came the moon with its slivery glow. But that was all.
And he called to the Loon to come to him.
The Manitoo said. "Loon has beautiful stars upon her and she would be willing to give a few stars up, these will help you never forget what the animals have taught.
So it happened that way. Ever clear night, the sky turns indigo blue and the Loon's stars appear to remind all manner of man and woman that we should care for the animals and the lands given to nurture us. These were the first gifts of the earth, the gifts of the animals and the Loon's star-song!