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Canku Ota
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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Fire Legend

After making land, Raven decided to make man. He took clay and sand from the beach and formed the first man.

When he was done, Raven decided to fly around the entire world to see what he had created. While on this journey, Raven wondered if there was anything he should give man to make his life easier. Then he realized that he had forgotten to give man fire so that he could cook his food and keep warm.

Raven called to his friends, the other birds, and asked if they knew how to get fire.

Seagull said that he had seen fire once at the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, what is now called Katmai, and so Raven asked for a volunteer to bring it to him.

Wood Owl agreed because he had a longer bill than the other birds and could safely carry a firebrand without burning his feathers.

The other birds and Raven agreed, even though they were jealous of the small owl's long bill.

So Wood Owl flew far across the waters to the Land of Ten Thousand Smokes, which is actually a large number of small volcanoes. The air was so hot that some of Wood Owl's feathers were singed.

He found a long firebrand and picked it up in his very long bill and began to fly back to where man lived. But, before he got there, the firebrand began to burn his bill.

Wood Owl wanted to drop the burning stick into the sea.

Just then Raven flew close and shouted, "Don't drop the firebrand' If you do, it will surely go out in the water."

So the small owl kept flying even though his bill was being burned and it hurt very much. Finally, Wood Owl and Raven arrived at the place where man lived and dropped the burning stick so that man could cook and keep warm.

The fire had burned all of Wood Owl's bill so that only a small beak was left. The heat had singed his wings so that he could no longer take long journeys, and the smoke changed his voice so that he could make only a shrill whistle. This is how all of his descendants became as they are.

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