Brother of the sky
All the young men were full of excitement in Little Noise's village for the upcoming ceremony. The dance of all the young men crossing over to the Season of the Warrior was soon upon them. There was not a young man anywhere in the village who was not preparing to hunt birds to make his own fan, bustle, headdress or just to have feathers to hang from his hair.
But, alas, there was one young man who was not a bit happy about this event to be. Little Noise could never find it in him to kill any animal, bird or fish. He found himself content helping the ?women with growing vegetables, fetching water, building fires and even making clothes and preparing hides.
As always, all the other young men teased him and called him names. They always let him know they did not look upon him as an equal. But Little Noise did not mind. He would wander off into the forest and beyond, finding great pleasure in watching the living creatures that seemed to always be drawn to him. But the pressure of this dance was getting worse.
His father called him by the fire one night and was very upset with him. ''Little Noise, you do plan to hunt so that you, too, will dance with pride of your hunt, don't you?''
Little Noise stirred the ashes with a stick, trying hard to tell his father how he really felt. But his father's patience was growing short and so was the fire that Little Noise desperately tried to keep alive to give him a little more time. But as the fire softly burned, his father's patience came to an end.
''Well, son: will you finally hunt like the other young men, or choose to take your place with the women? Choose your answer wisely, because if you do not hunt, I will no longer call you 'son' - and I do not need a daughter! What will it be?'' his father demanded.
Little Noise was troubled for words but he knew there was no way to get out of the hunt. All he could do was hang his head down and softly say ''yes'' in words that almost choked him.
''Good!'' His father patted him on his back and told him to use his bow, for he knew his son never had the interest and did not possess one. ''I wish you fine kills for the change from boy to man.'' As his father's heart swelled with pride, Little Noise's heart became so heavy with sadness that he craved sleep so he did not have to think about having to kill his friends. And as he drifted off, he saw the eagle, hawk, crow and fish in his dreams. He heard their songs, but just as he thought about not hearing their songs again, he woke up.
Sweat poured from his face and he thought it would be better just to run away, but he knew this would break his mother's heart. So he prepared himself as best he could for a day he was sure he would always regret.
His hands shook as he picked up his father's bow and quiver full of arrows. It was customary for all the young men to be protected by the medicine man's smoke, so he reluctantly gathered with the other boys as the medicine man spoke his sacred words and blessed each boy. When he got to Little Noise, the smoke disappeared. The medicine man looked deep into his eyes and said, ''My son, the spirits know you do not need any protection, for you are protected by many of our animal brothers of the air, land and water.''
Little Noise tried to hold his head up with pride, but all he could do is softly mumble. ''I know; and I am told I have to kill in order to be looked at as a man and son.''
The medicine man smiled. ''You will know what to do. Your heart will guide you.''
And with those words, he raised his arms to the sky and signaled to the boys to leave on their hunt. All the boys ran off with the song of hunt on their lips ... except Little Noise. He slowly walked off into the forest, dragging his father's bow. As he walked, he heard the sweet song of the birds and all the other songs from all who lived there. All he could do was sit on the ground and cry. He knew in his heart he could not kill his friends to prove he was a man.
As he sat there crying, he heard a strong flutter of wings. As he looked up, to his amazement, all his friends of the sky sat on stumps of trees in the forest: and before him stood Eagle, his friend of many moons.
''We know of your trouble, brother, and we have all come to help you. The goodness you have in your heart has truly touched us and we know how important this is to you. We feel if we help you it will also teach your people to hunt wisely and not hunt to brag of their kills. So we all have agreed to pluck some of our feathers so you will have enough for a fan and then some.''
Little Noise stood, speechless. The kindness of his friends would give him face among his people and perhaps a better understanding with his father. Before he knew it, a pile of feathers grew before him. As he gathered them, he thanked his friends. The Eagle bowed his head in thanks.
''Remember,'' he said, ''friends are like family and we help one another.'' Little Noise replied, ''I will ... and perhaps I can teach my brothers this.''
They said their goodbyes. Little Noise ran home as fast as he could. He told his father and brothers what had happened and all agreed that what the Eagle spoke was the way it should be. Little Noise always took special care of his new fan and headpiece.
As time went by and he had sons, he passed down to them the story of the gifts and how to respect the brothers of the forest, sky and waters. As he grew old, so did his friendship with the eagle, hawk, fish, crow and all the others until the time of Little Noise's passing. It has been said that Eagle came to his burial and dropped just one more feather for a safe journey.
Ken ''Rainbow Cougar'' Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. Edwards is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and a longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today.