The Great Spirit
The Oneida People have always esteemed their Elders. The Oneidas have traditionally believed much can be learned by listening to the advice of those with years of living experience. Elders' insights and opinions are sought and valued by the Oneida People.
The following is a story instructing youngsters to be kind to their elders.
In a far distant time, an old man came upon a Haudensaunee village. The old man was poorly dressed, and looked tired and hungry. Walking through the village he looked over the doors of the long houses. Over each door was the insignia of the clan which lived within.
The emblem of the Turtle Clan was above the door at the first lodge the old man stopped before. Poking his head inside the blanketed door, he asked for food and shelter against the night.
His cry for help fell upon deaf ears as the woman of the house refused his request and told him to move on. The next long house he encountered had a snipe over its door. Again when he asked for help his pleas were denied.
From clan to clan he went looking for sustenance and shelter. The wolf, beaver, deer, eel, heron, and eagle clans all turned him away. Nearing the end of the village, the old man despaired as his hunger and weariness grew. He decided to try the last little home in the village with a carved bear's head above the door.
A Bear Clanswoman came out of the house. An old woman, she took pity on the stranger. She saw how tired the old man obviously was and invited him in to share whatever she had --- meager though it may be.
Giving him food to eat and a deer skin upon which to rest, the old woman was a gracious host. When the old man awoke the next day, he was ill with a fever. He told the old woman to go into the forest and find a particular plant. After she found the plant she returned to her home.
The old man instructed the woman on how to prepare the plant, making it into a medicine. After he took the medicine the old man was cured. Because the old woman was so good to him, he asked to stay with the her for a few days.
Several times during his stay, he became ill again. Each time it was a different type of malady and each time he sent the old woman into the forest for a different herb to use as a remedy. The old man instructed the woman on the proper preparation of the herbs to cure each particular ailment. Drinking the medicine, his condition improved.
As the woman was returning home one day, she saw a bright light coming from within her home. Approaching the door, she came face to face with a handsome young man whose face shone like the sun. The old woman was frightened, believing a spirit stood in her way.
But the young man calmed the woman saying: "Do not be afraid, I am the Creator. I came to the lodges of the Haudensaunee as an old man. At each clan's lodge I asked for food and shelter and was turned away. You, good woman of the Bear Clan, were the only one to offer me assistance. Because you showed me compassion, I have taught you cures for all the illnesses which afflict the Real People. Each time I became ill I instructed you on the proper herbs to prepare to make me well. You have shown me kindness when others did not. For this reason I have given you the gift of knowledge to cure illnesses. From this day forward, Medicine Men and Women will be of the Bear Clan. The Bear Clan shall always be the Keepers of the Medicine."
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