How The Red Bird Got His Color


- Cherokee -

Cherokee Words:

wolf -wa ya

raccoon- gv li

bird- tsi qua

brown-u wo di ge

red -gi ga ge

red bird- to tsu wa Gv li loved to tease wa ya. One day gv li teased wa ya so much that wa ya became very angry. Wa ya began to chase gv li through the woods. Gv li, being the clever animal that he is, kept ahead of wa ya.

Gv li came to a river. Instead of jumping in the river, he quickly climbed a tall tree and peered over a branch to see what wa ya would do next.

When wa ya came to the river, he saw the reflection of gv li in the water. Thinking that it was gv li, wa ya jumped in and tried to catch him. Wa ya continued to search for gv li for such a long time that he became so tired he nearly drowned. Finally, tired and exhausted, wa ya climbed up the river bank and fell fast asleep.

After a while, gv li quietly climbed down the tree and slipped over to the sleeping wa ya. While wa ya slept, gv li began to plaster the eyes of wa ya with mud. Then when he had finished, gv li ran off through the woods laughing to himself thinking of the clever trick he had played.

After a while, wa ya woke up. He began to whine, "Oh, someone please help me. I can't see. I can't open my eyes." But no one came to help him.

Finally tsi qua u wo di ge heard the cries of wa ya. He flew over to wa ya and landed on his shoulder. He said, "What's the matter Brother Wolf? Can I help you?" Wa ya cried, "I can't open my eyes. Oh, please help me to see again." Tsi qua u wo di ge said, "I'm just a little brown bird but I will help you if I can." Wa ya said, " Tsi qua u wo di ge, if you can help me to see again, I will take you to a magic rock that oozes red paint. We will paint your feathers gi ga ge."

Tsi qua u wo di ge began pecking away at the dried mud on the eyes of wa ya. Soon wa ya could open his eyes again. True to his promise wa ya said, "Thank you, my brother; now jump up onto my shoulder." Away they ran through the woods to the rock that oozed red paint.

When they came to the rock, wa ya reached up and plucked a twig from a tree branch. He chewed the end of the twig until it was soft and pliable like the end of a paint brush. Then he dipped the end of the twig into the red paint and began to paint the feathers of tsi qua, gi ga ge.

When all of his feathers were gi ga ge, tsi qua flew off to show all of his family and friends how beautiful he was. That is why, from that day to this, you can see to tsu wa flying around the woods in Cherokee country.

retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren

Return to Table of Contents