Deer were never among the ancients
  • Deer were never among the ancients
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The earth was once a human being: Old One made her out of a woman. “You will be the mother of all people,” he said. Earth is alive yet, but she has been changed. The soil is her flesh, the rocks are her bones, the wind is her breath, trees and grass are her hair. She lives spread out, and we live on her. When she moves, we have an earthquake. After taking the woman and changing her to earth, Old One gathered some of her flesh and rolled it into balls, as people do with mud or clay. He made the first group of these balls into the ancients, the beings of the early world. The ancients were people, yet also animals. In form some looked human while some walked on all fours like animals. Some could fly like birds; others could swim like fishes. All had the gift of speech, as well as greater powers and cunning than either animals or people. But deer were never among the ancients; they were always animals, even as they are today.

— from “Creation of the Animal People” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

The Animal People are figures in the creation myth of the Okanogan people of the Pacific Northwest. The version above was reported by Ella E. Clark (1896-1998), who wrote extensively about the Native Americans of this region. She first began to collect American and Canadian Native American myths while serving as a fire lookout for the U.S. Forest Service in the Cascade Mountains.

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