Legend of The Tlanuhwa and The Uhktena
As told by David Michael Wolfe, Inage. i Ani Yunwiya (Virginia Cherokee)
- This story was taught to me by William Webber, Danawa Destoti - a Kalohna (War leader) of the Ani Wahya (Wolf Clan)
When the world of the Ani Yunwiya was new all living things were great in size and strength. Two of the many creatures that had been created and placed upon Ani Daksi Amayeli by Unethlana the Apportioner were the Tlanuhwa and the Uhktena.
The Tlanuhwa were very large birds with markings much like the red-tail hawk of today. The markings or symbols of the great Tlanuhwa could only be worn by the ancient Ani Kituhwah warriors when they went into war. Some people say the Tlanuhwa were the original parents, Ani Tawodi, of the great hawks that live today.
The Uhktena are enormous creatures that live in the rivers and lakes of the great Ouascioto valleys and mountains (the Ohio Valley and Appalachians). The Uhktena come and go from this world to the underworld. They enter the underworld through caves that are found under the waters of rivers and lakes and also through certain entrances into the earth where there are springs.
The Uhktena have the body of a snake with very pretty and colorful circles all around their torsos. They also have wings like the great buzzard and horns upon their head like the great deer. Upon their forehead there is a special crystal which people prize because it has very special power over light and dark. This crystal is also a window into the future and the past.
The crystal is called an Ulunsuti stone; it is the most powerful thing a person can possess. The stone is carried in a circular buckskin pouch along with a little red pigment and must never be kept in the house but in a safe dry place outside the house away from people.
When one gazes into an Ulunsuti stone, one will see either a white or a red blood-like streak appear. Only certain priests of the Ani Kuhtahni of the Ani Yunwiya know how to use these Ulunsuti stones and can invoke certain formulas or prayers which are aides to humans when used properly. One such protection prayer (Igowesdi) that calls upon a great Uhktena is:
"Now! Nearby here the Great Red Uhktena now winds his way. Now! Now the glare of the purple lightening will dazzle the Red Uhktena. Also, this ancient tobacco will be as much of a thorough-going wizard. Now! The Seven Reversers (priests of the mounds) looking at me will be dazzled by the Great Red Uhktena. Udohiyuh!"
At a certain place the Ani Yunwiya call Hogahega Uweyu i which lies alongside the Wanegas (now known as the Tennessee River), there remains one of the ancient cave homes of the Tlanuhwa. Located high up in the cliffs by the river, it is at this place that an ancient fight took place between the Tlanuhwa and the Uhktena. Near the caves of the Tlanuhwa was one of the towns of the Ani Yunwiya.
The people living in the town never had any problems with the Tlanuhwa until one day, the Tlanuhwa began to swoop down out of the sky, grabbing young children in their talons and taking them away to their caves by the Hogahega Uweyu i. The people of the town became very upset and all the mothers started crying and shouting at the men to bring back the children stolen by the Tlanuhwa.
So the men made a plan; they went very near the Tlanuhwa caves and took vines growing there from some trees and made ropes to climb down over the cliffs to the caves. The men waited until they were certain that the Tlanuhwa were out of the caves. Then down the ropes some of the men went, into the caves of the Tlanuhwa.
All of the children that had been taken from the Ani Yunwiya town were there in the caves and, were very anxious to get back to their homes. Also in those caves were many eggs of the Tlanuhwa.
The men had gotten the children out just in time because as they started back up the vine ropes they heard the great screams of the Tlanuhwa returning to their caves with more children in their talons. So very quickly the men began throwing the unhatched eggs of the Tlanuhwa down into the Hogahega Uweyu i far below.
When the eggs splashed into the waters far below the Tlanuhwa caves, the great Uhktena came up from below the waters and began eating the eggs as fast as the men could throw them into the water. This made the Tlanuhwa very angry and they dropped the children and swooped down upon the Uhktena. The men waiting below the caves caught the children as they fell. Thus began a long fight between the Tlanuhwa and the Uhktena.
The Tlanuhwa destroyed the Uhktena and tore it into four pieces. Afterwards, the pieces of the Uhktena were thrown all around the country along with the great crystal, the Ulunsuti stone. Many people are still searching for that Ulunsuti stone in the mountains along the Hogahega uweyu I.
After that terrible fight the Tlanuhwa were so angry at what the humans had done with their eggs that they flew far away, up above the sky vault and have never been seen since. However, one can see the pictures that the ancient Ani Yunwiya made of the Tlanuhwa and Uhktena, on the walls of the many caves among the Ouascito (Central Fire) Mountains, the ancient home of the Ani Yunwiya.
It is said that today, far below the cave of the Tlanuhwa on the banks of the Hogahega Uweyu i, one can still see the rocks that were stained from the blood of the Uhktena and the Tlanuhwa from the fight they had that day.
Awanisgi (I am done)