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"How The Milky Way Came To Be"

Long ago when the world was young,
there were not many stars in the sky.

In those days the people depended on corn
for their food. Dried corn could be made
into corn meal by placing it inside a
large hollowed stump and pounding it
with a long wooden pestle.
The cornmeal was stored in large baskets.
During the winter, the ground meal could
be made into bread and mush.

One morning an old man and his wife went to
their storage basket for some cornmeal.
They discovered that someone or something
had gotten into the cornmeal during the night.
This upset them very much for no one in a
Cherokee village stole from someone else.

Then they noticed that the cornmeal was
scattered over the ground. In the middle
of the spilt meal were giant dog prints.
These dog prints were so large that the
elderly couple knew this was no ordinary dog.

They immediately alerted the people of the
village. It was decided that this must be a
spirit dog from another world. The people
did not want the spirit dog coming to their
village. They decided to get rid of the dog
by frightening it so bad it would never return.

They gathered their drums and turtle shell
rattles and later that night they hid around
the area where the cornmeal was kept.

Late into the night they heard a whirring
sound like many bird wings. They look up to
see the form of a giant dog swooping down
from the sky. It landed near the basket and
then began to eat great mouthfuls of cornmeal.

Suddenly the people jumped up beating and
shaking their noise makers. The noise was
so loud it sounded like thunder. The giant
dog turned and began to run down the path.

The people chased after him making the loudest
noises they could. It ran to the top of a hill
and leaped into the sky, the cornmeal spilling
out the sides of its mouth.

The giant dog ran across the black night sky
until it disappeared from sight. But the
cornmeal that had spilled from its mouth
made a path way across the sky.
Each gain of cornmeal became a star.

The Cherokees call that pattern of stars,
gi li' ut sun stan un' yi
(gil-LEE-oot-soon stan-UNH-yee),
"the place where the dog ran."

And that is how the Milky Way came to be.


"October 1999"

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