There was a time so long ago that the canvas of Mother Earth had not yet
had the Creator's brush of colors reveal the beauty we see today. As the
story goes, a young woman named Keoni changed that for us all.
Keoni was a spirited woman of her village. She always saw and did things
differently than the other members of the village, and her questions ran as
rapid as the winter snowmelt. Kenoni's mother always had patience for her
and encouraged her curiosity.
One early summer day Keoni decided to make herself a shawl, but not like
the other women and girls' shawls. Her mother tried to help Keoni, but she
wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to look especially pretty for the
man called Shy Dog, whom she intended to marry. Every chance they had they
would sit and talk and laugh away the hours. So to Keoni this shawl was
extra-special, for she planned to wear it on the day she would wed.
She worked hard to weave the threads to make this special shawl. It seemed
to take forever, and somehow it just did not look special. Many times she
took it apart, only to start over: and still she was not pleased with her
work. Her mother tried to show her that her shawl was different, for she
alone had designed it and worked so hard to make it. But even her mother's
kind words did not help.
One day while Keoni was gathering firewood, she decided to sit a while and
just listen to the birds sing and the sounds of the river. She always
enjoyed the sounds of the insects and the odd sounds the frogs made. As she
sat, she kept thinking about her shawl and Shy Dog.
Then it struck her why she was not happy with her shawl. It was so plain,
just like everyone else's. Even the frog she was looking at was prettier to
her. There just was not any way to put color in her shawl. There were no
berries of color, only white and green leaves. There was nothing to help
her make a shawl of colors. She sat and thought and thought. Maybe Creator
could help her.
So every day she would ask Creator to help her in some way. Time passed,
and soon it was summer. Keoni still did not give up on her shawl. Soon it
was the season when all around prepared for the sleep of snow -- and only
days before her wedding. She did not know what to do.
One night before she went to sleep, she asked Creator one last time to
please help her. It was raining hard that night, and through the sound of
the rain she heard a voice calling her name.
"Who are you? What do your want?" Keoni asked, not believing her ears.
Creator replied, "You have asked me to help you make your shawl special. I
will do this for you, but in return I ask your help."
"Yes. Yes, I will help you. What is it your want of me?" Keoni asked.
Her questions were quickly answered. "Bring your shawl tomorrow to the
mountain that faces the rising sun when the sun hides behind a passing
cloud," Creator said.
Keoni was so happy that she almost forgot to thank Creator. "Thank you!"
Sleep did not come easily, her mind wondering what Creator was going to do.
Morning came, and Keoni could not help smiling and giggling throughout the
day. The time had come to gather up her shawl and go to the mountain.
Oddly, the clouds were in the sky that day more than ever; yet the sun
managed to shine through, lending to the mountains a beautiful golden glow.
As she grabbed her shawl she thought of Shy Dog. She wanted him to know
about Creator's visit and her shawl. So before going to the mountain she
found Shy Dog and told him the story. "Are you not afraid?" Shy Dog asked.
"No. Are you?" she replied.
Shy Dog said, "No. Of course not! I will go with you. This shawl means so
much to you. For you to be happy makes me happy. Let's go."
So off they went to the mountain, their golden tops making a soft glow as
the sun shown through the clouds. Keoni cried, "Creator, I am here. I have
brought my shawl and the man I am to wed. I am here. Do you hear me?"
"Yes Keoni, Creator replied. "Now what I ask of you, you may not want."
"Why not? Keoni replied.
"I will make your shawl beautiful with colors not given to man; but I need
you to live on the wind and in the gentle rains. For when they are all as I
say, beautiful colors will fill the sky like a bow and it will be your
shawl your wear that will light the sky," Creator told her.
Keoni asked, "But what of Shy Dog? I am to be wed. I cannot leave him."
Creator smiled, "I know this too, so if he is willing he may follow. As
your love grows there will be special times when the sky will have two
bows. For you, Keoni, I give this to you and Shy Dog as my gift."
Keoni and Shy Dog held each other's hand tightly, but they did not have to
speak, their eyes knowing that this is a wonderful gift from Creator and
their love could do nothing but grow.
"Yes, Keoni spoke out, "we will do this." She put her shawl on, and as it
hung the sun's rays danced around her and the shawl became beautiful
colors. Shy Dog smiled and said, "You truly have the most beautiful shawl."
With this, they held hands and vanished into the sun's rays.
The next day it rained and when the sun shone, in the sky stood two bows of
beautiful colors. The people of the village were amazed at what they saw.
Keoni's mother looked up. She had been looking for Keoni and Shy Dog. "I
wish Keoni was here to see this," her mother said. Before she could finish
her sentence, a breeze blew past and a voice whispered "Shy Dog and I are
fine. We live with the sun now. Do not be sad, for when it rains and the
sun still shines you will see me and my shawl of many colors."
So as the story goes, this was the first rainbow; for that is how the first
people saw it as we do today. Maybe you will be lucky and see Keoni and Shy
Dog, the double rainbow, and know their love grows strong as they shower us
with the colors of love.
Ken "Rainbow Cougar" Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in
Washington, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. Edwards is a
graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and is a
longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today.