My mother loved to tell me stories from our tribe when I was young. She always said that the stories carried our history. They carried the truth of who we are. Even from a young age, I understood the truth of her words. That didn’t mean I wanted to hear the stories. I feared that hearing about the heroes would change me into something I did not want to be. A hero. I wanted to tell her to stop, but she loved the stories so much that I could never ask such a thing.
So I listened, night after night, until I could no longer deny what I was destined to become.
The story I want to tell you now is not about a hero, but a warning to never forget who you are and where you come from. Knowledge like that is powerful and may save your life one day as it did mine.
Long before I was born, Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden were born to my Pueblo, San Juan Pueblo. Deer hunter was revered because he never came back from a hunt empty handed. White Corn Maiden caught the other’s attention because of her fine pottery and beautiful embroidery.
The beauty of Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden brought them together. They were favored of the Gods, but the Elders warned them not to become so enraptured with each other that they forgot their people. Against the Elders advice, the two spent more and more time together until Deer hunter stopped hunting and White Corn Maiden abandoned her pottery and embroidery. They forgot their religion and traditions despite warnings that harm would befall the village if they continued in this way.
Their selfishness caused them to pledge that they would never be parted, yet White Corn Maiden fell ill and died three days later. Her soul wandered for four days in order for her to seek forgiveness from those she had wronged in life. Deer Hunter could not accept White Corn Maiden’s death. He sought out her spirit and even though she begged him to let her go, he could not. He pledged his love once more and she relented, and did not allow her spirit and body to leave the mortal world as she was meant to.
Soon, Deer Hunter began to realize that keeping White Corn Maiden in the mortal realm could not last. She began to decay and he soon sought to escape her. White Corn Maiden could not leave him, though, and wasted to bones as she chased after him. The village wasted away along with her just as the Elders had warned.
Seeking to end the torture of the village, a majestic figure with a large bow and two arrows appeared in the village center, calling out for Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden. When they appeared, he cursed them for their selfishness. Ruin had been brought to the village because of them. Their punishment for abandoning their religion and traditions was to serve as a reminder to the people of the Pueblo for all eternity of how important upholding their traditions and religion was. He placed Deer Hunter on one arrow and shot him into the sky. White Corn Maiden followed after him, both becoming stars that roamed the sky forever, White Corn Maiden eternally chasing behind her husband yet ever catching him.
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