“The Story of Hummingbird and Robin: The Coming of Spring”

This story is actually a combination of two stories.  It is difficult to stage because there are so many parts for animals, but it can be done with some planning and patience. I give children “Folkmanis” hand puppets to embellish the tale when they play the parts of the animals.  The story interweaves two common themes in Native storytelling; collaboration for the good of the community and “you don’t have to be the biggest to do big things.”

            Nenookaasi the Hummingbird and Piichiikii the Robin had been best friends for many years.  Nenookaasi agreed to find her food in the flowers, while Piichiikii hunted for worms in the Earth.  They lived side by side in peace.  Each day, they watched the other birds who sat on the Great Council with melancholy. Eagle was the leader, Owl was the foreteller of fortune or doom, Raven scavenged food and supplies, while Blue Jay kept a watchful eye over the forest.
            “I wish we had a gift to offer so we could sit on the Great Council,” mused Hummingbird as she darted back and forth.
            “Eagle said we’re too small to protect the others.  We don’t have calls that give warning like Blue Jay or summon beauty like the Lark.  Raven said we’re not great hunters or foragers; still, there has to be something we can do,” said Robin.
            On that day, Owl had a foreboding omen for the council.   
            “There is a terrible rumor on the wind that the Sun will not emerge from her winter home to bring more warmth to the Earth this year.  She has decided to dwell within a mountain and cross the sky for less and less time each day.  We will suffer through a year with no warmth if the Sun does not agree to make her Spring journey.
            “If the Sun does not make her Spring journey, how will I know when to make my nest?” asked Woodpecker.
            “How will I know when to wake from my winter sleep?” asked Woodchuck.
            “Without the warmth, how will I know when to begin my pond song?” asked Frog.
            “If there is to be no warmth, then we will not grow and bloom!” said the quivering plants.
            “And without plants and flowers, then my hive will die!” buzzed the Bumble Bee.
            “If the plants and trees don’t sprout their flowers and leaves, then my new born fawn will have no place to hide!” cried Deer.
            Finally, Eagle spoke.
            “Who will volunteer to wake Sun from her winter home if we are to survive?”
            Three animals rose to undertake the challenge:  Bobcat, Badger and Bat.
            “I am a great hunter,” offered Bobcat.  “I can see very well in the dark.  I am stealthy and when I am close enough, I will pounce upon the Sun to startle her and she will burst into the Skyland with a blazing.”
            “I am a great digger,” growled the grumpy Badger.  “If need be, I will tunnel under the mountain.  The Sun can follow me into the open air.”
            “I can see better than all of you when it is dark." said Bat.  "I’m small and agile.  I can weave and squeeze through the tiny crevices in the rock.  I will wake the Sun from her sleep and she will follow me into the Skyland.
            “So then it is decided,” said Eagle.  “Bobcat, Badger and Bat will try to wake the Sun from her winter sleep so she can bring warmth to the Earth.”
“I have seen this in my dreams,” prophesized Owl.  “Three will take the challenge before this Great Council, but only two will succeed.”

            “This is our chance,” said Nenookasi the Hummingbird to Piichiikii the Robin.  “Let’s follow them to the mountain.  We might be useful in some way.”
            The band of animals set off on their journey with Hummingbird and Robin close behind.  When they reached the mountain, the three volunteers set about their task.  Bobcat entered a cave in the side of the mountain.  But the cave was dark and rocky; Bobcat’s long tail became lodged between two giant boulders.  With a mighty yank, Bobcat’s tail snapped off at the base, and this is why Bobcat has no tail even to this day.
            Badger tunneled under the mountain just as he said he would.  His sharp claws furiously tore through the Earth until he reached a wall of rock.  He found a split in the rock and tried to crawl through it, but it was too narrow.  Summoning all his strength, he dislodged himself, almost turning around inside his own skin!  And that is why to this day, Badger walks very low to the ground and his skin is so saggy and loose!
            Bat laughed out loud and cried “Ahee!”  He darted deep into the cave, with Hummingbird and Robin watching not too far away.  But the deeper Bat flew into the cave, the darkness and shelter of the cave began to appeal to him.
            “I like this cave.  It will make a nice lodge from which I can hunt at night and raise my young,” he said.  Giving a great yawn and stretching his leathery wings, he found a place from which to hang upside down and take a nap.
            “This is our chance!” spoke Nenookaasi.  “I will follow Bat’s path.  When I find the sun, I will awaken her!”
            “Be careful dear friend and let me know how I can help,” offered a wary Piichiikii.
            Nenookaasi dashed into the abyss.  When she came to a crevice that she thought was too narrow, she stopped midflight and hovered, sometimes even flying backwards (just as all Hummingbirds do to this day) until she found the perfect crack in the rock!  Finally, she reached the Sun through the maze of stone and began to swoop and dive all around her.
            “Awake sister and rise!  The Earth needs you to resume your Spring journey.  We will all die without you!” hummed Nenookaasi as she poked at the Sun with her long beak.
            The Sun gently awakened from her slumber and followed Nenookaasi through the labyrinth of cracks and crevices until she blazed in the morning sky.  But the little Hummingbird was too exhausted to continue.
            “Quick Piichiikii, tell the others, the Sun resumes her journey and Spring is sure to come.”
            Without sharing a word with Nenookasi, Piichiikii, sprang in the air, chirping excitedly just as Robin’s do today. 
            When she reached the council, Piichiikii perched herself upon the highest branch of a tree. 
            “The Spring is coming!  The Spring is coming!  Awaken yourselves to her warmth! ” cried the Robin.
            “Are you sure?” questioned Eagle.  “How do you know? You did not volunteer.  If we are too early, many of us will die, and if we wait too long, we will miss out on the food we must store.”
            “Nenookasi led the Sun into the Skyland.  I saw it with my own two eyes.  Awaken, awaken!” chirped Piichiikii.
            “It is as the dream foretold!” reassured Owl. “Three have volunteered, and two have succeeded!”
The Earth vibrated with the resurgence of life.  Woodpecker hurried to build her nest and Woodchuck emerged from his winter den.  The forest echoed with the songs of Spring frogs. Bumble Bee went quickly to work.  Tender young plants sprouted from East to West and soon the land was bathed in green.  The sweet breath of flowers hung in the air.  Mother Doe gave birth to her spotted Fawn, who lay safely concealed beneath the underbrush.  
Eagle summoned Nenookaasi and Piichiikii along with all the other animals.
“My sisters, you have earned a place at the Great Council.  Nenookaasi, in remembrance and thanks for what you have done, a red circle will always remain on your throat, symbolic of sister Sun as she rises in the East and sets in the West.  Your body will be vibrant green, like the color of spring.”
“Piichiikii, your song will forever be the harbinger of Spring, for it was you who told us of her coming.  Your beak will be as bright as the midday sun, your body brown like the mountain from which the Sun rose. Your red breast will be a testament to the friendship you share with Nenookaasi.”
Nenookaasi and Piichiikii remind us of the good we give to our community when we work together, and that the strength in our hearts can be greater than the size of our bodies…. And so it is, even to this day.