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Storyteller

Everybody pow wow

Well, it's that time of the year again. The drums call us to the dance. It lets us know we are alive. We see new faces and old. It's pow wow time. Have you ever wondered what the first pow wow was like?

An elder named Rose told me about the first pow wow. As she spoke, her eyes twinkled and the lines on her face showed her wisdom; her laugh was infectious. I'm no Rose, but I will do my best to tell the tale.

It was so long ago that an event took place that still goes on today. A time when animal people talked and their powers were their own. It all began one stormy night as brother Wolf sat upon a mountain singing his song to the moon. With his song came more songs, songs of other animal people that filled the night air. Bear sang as he lumbered through the forest; cougar yelled out his song so all would know sleeping at night was not for him. Rabbit thumped the ground like a drum to let all know he was aware of each of them. Turtle quietly sang by the river's edge as the frogs and toads kept perfect harmony. Even birds, deer and the fox joined in. So many songs filled the night. It was the sound of the animal people united, yet separate. All had their own song that was special to them.

Wolf had an idea. He grinned and climbed down from his place on the mountain and called out in his loudest voice to all who could hear him. Together in a forest clearing, one by one, they listened to Wolf's call and the singing stopped. The message was heard and they all showed up where Wolf had asked them to go. Deer, bear, turtles, birds, possums, foxes and cougars all had respect for one another and greeted each other like a large family would at a gathering.

Cougar could not help himself from asking brother Wolf, ''Why did you call us to gather here tonight?''

Wolf grinned. ''Hold on, brother Cougar. All are not here. You will find your answer as soon as our last brother gets here.''

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Before long, everyone had arrived. Wolf smiled, for he liked what he saw. Everyone was together, laughing and talking. He knew in his heart what he had to say would work. With happiness in his voice, he addressed his people:

''Brothers, I am so happy to see you all here. I know that you are all wondering why I have called upon you. Well, tonight as I sat upon the mountain, I listened to all of your songs. I thought that we should all get together as one and sing and dance and enjoy each others' company. We all live in this forest, but we never meet to share our lives and our stories. What do you say, brothers?''

All nodded their heads and agreed to meet two moons from that night. Feathers and fur became one, sharing to make proper regalia for the event.

Finally, the day arrived. Wolf wore a headdress of feathers. Bear made himself a fan of feathers. Cougar beaded berries and nuts to make a choker. Everyone was dressed and proud of their hard work. For five days and nights the animal people sang songs and danced to the drums. They had made their drums from hollow old logs. They came together and laughed their differences away. Respect was given to everyone and given back in return. Stories were shared.

As Rose tells it, they met at the beginning of every new year, until one day a young warrior saw them. Were they mad? No! They invited him to bring his family, and he did. After that, this event grew year after year and still it still is growing.

So, to all who dance and sing, meet and greet, smile and laugh, happy pow wow trail!

Lim Lim.

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.