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STORYTELLER; THE FIRST THANKSGIVING

In a time before man, there was a Thanksgiving of sorts; or, should I say,
a time to give thanks.

We think of Thanksgiving as a time for family and friends to come together
and give thanks for another year together, thanks for a new birth in the
family, that pay raise we needed so badly or just for the food on the
table. But before the houses, jobs or humans, the first day of thanks took
place.

It was Brother Bear who decided that all the forest dwellers should come
together and give thanks for their burrows, trees and caves -- the places
in which the animal people lived -- and the food that Creator always made
for all. But most of all, thanks for their skills to catch, gather, stalk
and fish for their food, for without these gifts life would be very hard.

All the animal people gathered in a clearing. Brother Bear had the magpie
spread the word. Being a natural chatterbox, the magpie was more than
willing.

As all the animal people gathered, Brother Bear called out his brothers'
names to make sure they all came: Wolf, Deer, Elk, Skunk, Squirrel, Coyote,
Eagle, Crow, Rabbit, Turtle ... On and on he went. The circle of animal
people grew and grew. Together, they formed the first family.

Brother Bear spoke. "I have asked you all to come to hear my thoughts of
thanks." Always curious, Crow called out: "Thoughts of thanks! What is
that?"

"Settle down, Brother Crow. I will explain," said Brother Bear. "I feel
that we should all gather here tomorrow, each with a food we like, and come
together to give thanks to Creator for all we have. Without his wisdom to
help guide us and all the gifts Mother Earth has to offer us, we would
starve, have no place to sleep, no water to drink. We would die! I think it
is time we give thanks from our hearts and share with one another. How do
you feel, brothers? Do you agree or disagree?"

Although they were surprised to hear this new idea, the animal people
agreed that Brother Bear's idea was a good one. Brother Bear said, "I am
happy to hear that you will all help. Let's all go to our homes and start
early in the morning. Until tomorrow."

The animal people were very excited about Brother Bear's idea. Squirrel
started gathering nuts long before the sun rose. By the time the sun came
up, everyone was busy. Brother Bear decided he would bring fish and rich,
gooey honeycombs, and spent all of his morning fishing. He caught many fine
salmon; he was very proud of his catch. Squirrel had gathered many nuts and
his family already brought them to the circle of thanks. Turtle gathered
leaves. Wolf had a fine kill for all who ate meat. Owl had mice and fish.
Eagle also had fish. Birds gathered berries and fruits. Crow had gathered a
little of everything.

They were very busy, yet very happy about bringing food to share. They
realized they needed one another -- something they never before considered.
And they did have a lot to be thankful for. So it was the first time they
realized everyone was important to one another. Wolf would have a good day
and have a good kill; Crow and Coyote would also have an extra dinner. All
helped one another and never gave it a thought.

So as the day wore on, all were busy gathering foods for the day of thanks.
As the sun started to fall from the sky, the animal people came together as
one to form the circle of thanks. Brother Bear stood proudly as he looked
around and saw all the wonderful food they had brought.

Brother Bear spoke. "I am pleased with you all. I feel we have learned
something today that we all need each other. We may have our differences,
but without each other we would surely die. So let us thank Creator for
each other, our food, our Mother Earth. And always remember when the trees
and leaves change like Brother Chameleon, return to the circle of thanks
and always remember how lucky we are."

So as we gather at our tables at Thanksgiving, I hope we will remember the
animal people. They realized that they needed each other, even in bad
times. So must we. Share with those who are less fortunate than us, for if
we sit back and remember, I am sure we will realize how lucky we really
are.

May everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Lim Lim.

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
long-time cartoonist for Indian Country Today.