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Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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The Eagle and the Snake


by Geoff Hampton


credits Geoff Hampton is an internationally known author, speaker, motivator and business consultant. He can be reached by E-mail at

EagleIn the beginning, the Great Creator formed Mother Earth in the heavens and was pleased. Mother Earth was a beautiful sight. The Great Creator decided to add living creatures to take care of Her. The creatures were all beautiful in the Great Creators mind, but he decided to give two of them greater power and knowledge in order to help protect the great Mother Earth. The Great Creator chose the eagle and the snake to bestow this great honor upon. The eagle was the master of the skies and the snake was so close to Mother Earth that the Great Creator felt it would make the perfect protector on the ground.

RattlesnakeThe majority of eagles and snakes got along very well initially. They communicated freely with each other and all of the other creatures were in awe of them. However, there was one snake named "White Eye" that seemed to have more power than all of the other snakes. White Eye was not friendly to his brother the eagle. White Eye was very jealous that the Great Creator enabled the eagle to be such a beautiful creature and have the ability to fly free through the skies. White Eye thought "I am jusssssst assssss powerful assssss the eagle, yet I am ugly and musssssst crawl along the ground like a lower form of life. Ssssssomeday, I will take Mother Earth completely away from the eagle and be the complete ruler of all creaturessssss. Of thissssss I PROMISSSSSSE!"

As time passed, the greatest eagle of all, named "Redman" became aware that he possessed superior powers that all other eagles were unaware of. He was also aware that White Eye was a powerful trouble maker and that certain discoveries of powers from the Great Creator must never fall into the possession of that evil snake. Redman discovered an art called "shape shifting".

He discovered that he could, after deep, silent prayer and soft chanting, actually change his physical body into an all together different form. As Redman began to experiment with his newly discovered power, he discovered that he could assume the shape of an upright being with two legs and two arms. As Redman looked into Chilhowie lake one day, he discovered that his two-legged form was actually a beautiful shape with a reddish hue to the skin covering. The two-legged form also looked very impressive with two arms with hands and fingers and toes on the feet attached to the two legs. Redman was very happy. As he began to experiment with his new form, he was impressed to see that he would be able to do many things that could be very helpful in taking loving care of Mother Earth.

Eagle HeadRedman met with eight of the most trusted eagles to discuss the new power. The eight eagles were named "Sioux", "Cherokee", "Cheyenne", "Apache", "Chippewa", "Iroquois" and "Seminole". These eight eagles together began to experiment with the new form that Redman had discovered and they agreed that there was much that could be done for mother earth with this new form. The eight then returned to their respective eagle families and met secretly with the wisest male and female eagles to discuss their plan. The plan was simple enough. These chosen eagles would select the best male and female eagles to shape shift to the new form and from their different locations upon Mother Earth, they would reproduce in the new form and be even better able to take care of Her and all of Her creatures.

One day when Redman was walking through the woods, he came across White Eye. Needless to say, White Eye was stunned. "SSSSSSSoooooo Redman ... what issssss thissssss?" Redman was immediately fearful of White Eye's evil powers and was momentarily speechless. "SSSSSSSooooo Redman! I ssssssaid ... what issssss thissssss?" "Oh, hello White Eye", said Redman. "This is a new form that I have discovered and I believe that this form may enable me to better serve the Great Creator in protecting Mother Earth." "I sssssssee." said White Eye. "Won't you be ssssssso kind assssss to sssssshow me how to do that, sssssso that I may alsssssso help protect our dear Mother Earth?"

Redman thought quickly and said "Well White Eye, right now I am simply experimenting with the form. If it ends up being as good as I think it may be, I'll talk to all of the creatures to discuss it. I have to go now. Farewell White Eye."

RattlesnakeNow White Eye was furious! He must know how to assume that beautiful form! White Eye returned home and gathered together the most evil snakes that he could find to discuss this new situation. The other snakes were amazed! They all agreed to a secret pact that would enable them to search hard and secretly to discover how Redman had been able to assume this beautiful new form!

Low and behold, the snakes began seeing these new upright creatures all around their areas of Mother Earth, and the eagles seemed to be multiplying rapidly in the new form. White Eye was absolutely furious! He called a meeting of the evil snakes and they decided to kill one of the new upright eagles with the two-legged shape.

One day White Eye and his evil friends saw a lone upright eagle and they approached him in a seemingly friendly manner, complimenting his new form. As the snakes questions became more aggressive, the eagle decided to run. However, it was too late. The snakes attacked. As the eagle was dying, in his weakened condition, White Eye summoned his greatest, most focussed power, which was the ability to telepathically impart knowledge and ideas from other creatures. If the eagle were healthy, he would have been able to escape, or mentally try to block White Eyes mind reading. Unfortunately, the poor eagle was very weak from the attack of the evil snakes and White Eye successfully gained the process of shape shifting.

White Eye let out an enormous, evil, blood curdling laugh. That was the final sound the dying eagle heard in his physical life on Mother Earth. White Eye was laughing hysterically! The other snakes gathered around. "What issssss it White Eye? What issssss sssssso funny?" Suddenly White Eye's beady little snake eyes narrowed and he became very nasty looking. "Now I know how to transsssssform; my ugly body into the beautiful new form!" said White Eye. White Eye ordered the other evil snakes to leave him alone for awhile, and he promised that he would rejoin them as soon as he had tried the new shape shifting idea that he had taken from the poor dying eagle. The other snakes left as White Eye had requested.

RattlesnakeNow White Eye became very quiet and began to really focus on the energy of the universe. After a few moments, he felt a very unusual tingling and began to softly chant the words that the dying eagle had known to utter in order to successfully shape shift to the upright, two-legged form. "Hey - Ya...Hey-Ya...Hey - Ya...Hey Ya." White Eye knew the exact cadence and inflections for the chant. After a few more minutes, White Eye felt an enormous rushing of energy entering his ugly snake body. White Eye suddenly screamed out in pain, as the energy rush was beyond description. White Eye passed out of consciousness. When he felt himself awakening, he felt very different and strange. As his eyes began to regain their sight, White Eye saw something that he could not believe! He had arms and hands and legs and feet! Just like Redman! He was ecstatic! The only difference was that his skin covering was a white color. Redman's had been slightly reddish. White Eye was actually glad that he was a different color than the eagle! He thought, "This will make it easy for us snakes to know what upright creatures are snakes and what upright creatures are the loathsome eagles!".

White Eye found that at first, it was hard to make the new form work. He practiced for awhile and then could not wait to show his evil friends! He ran through the woods to the place where he was to meet them. The other snakes at first were frightened, but then excited! "Issssss that really you, White Eye?" "Yes it is." Said White Eye without any trace of the hissing that always had been part of his language. He immediately showed the other evil snakes how to shape shift, and they began to try it. They too were white, but very happy!

The evil snakes spent time practicing shape shifting and did many different things in order to master the new shape shifting idea that White Eye had discovered. None of the snakes had any tell tale sign of the evil hissing that accompanied their language when in the upright form. However, when they shape shifted back to their original snake form, the hissing would return. The snakes made a pact to act friendly at first to the upright eagles in order to make them believe that they were their friends. But White Eye had vowed long ago that the snakes would take everything away from the eagles and this vow would never be forgotten! Then the upright snakes would have control of Mother Earth and all of her creatures.

Flying EagleAs the snakes began to experiment with their new form, they discovered that they could take things from mother earth that would help them become even more powerful. The evil snakes began to get very greedy and no longer even REMEMBERED, let alone did they act like that they were actually supposed to protect Mother Earth. No, now the snakes thought only of themselves and their greedy plan to take over Mother Earth from the beautiful upright eagles.

In the beginning, the upright snakes were congregated in the east, where their meeting had taken place, and where they had originally killed the upright eagle. In their self-serving greed, they forgot all about their family's and simply stayed where they were to reproduce and learn more about their new upright form. The upright snakes began to discover how to make deadly weapons from the gifts of Mother Earth. They began to kill other creatures simply for a strange, sick enjoyment that they began to feel in their new, powerful, upright form. The other creatures became very frightened of the upright snakes, and that fear continues even today.

Meanwhile, the upright eagles continued their peaceful, loving care for Mother Earth. Some of the eagles made some unwise choices as to who would be the appropriate selections for the shape shifting plan and some of the shape shifted eagles also became overly aggressive in their new form. Redman was very upset about these aggressive eagles, but it was beyond his control. He did however banish them from the circle of good eagles until such time that they would exist peacefully with their fellow eagles.

Perching BirdThe Great Creator soon became concerned about the problems that were occurring on Mother Earth as a result of the shape shifting. He sent word with his most trusted raven for Redman and White Eye to meet him on Mt. LeConte, the next Sunday morning at sunrise. When sunrise came on Mt. LeConte that Sunday morning, only Redman had come to meet with the Great Creator. The Great Creator expressed to Redman disappointment. The Great Creator explained to Redman that he should have discussed his new plan with him first. He still loved Redman and he made that clear. He went on to explain to Redman that he would eliminate the ability to shape shift from all creatures except for Redman himself. The Great Creator went on to explain to Redman that from then on, only the highest medicine eagles could be taught about shape shifting, and they were to understand that they were not then to teach it to anyone else!

The Great Creator passed over Mother Earth and did as he said he would. He eliminated the shape shifting ability of all creatures, except Redman. At first White Eye was very angry. He new that he had defied the Great Creator by not attending the meeting at Mt. LeConte, but in his greed, he did not care. White Eye knew that enough snakes had already shape shifted and were reproducing rapidly enough, so that his great plan to take Mother Earth from the eagles would still be possible.

As time passed, the upright snakes and eagles lost even the memory that they had originally been different creatures. The upright snakes became known simply as "whiteyes". The upright eagles became simply known as "redmen". Only Redman himself retained the knowledge of how all of this had come to pass. Even the evil White Eye soon forgot about how he had become upright. However, White Eye did still have the intense, burning desire to control Mother Earth. In his mind, as well as all of the other whiteeye creatures, the hatred of the redskin creatures continued, and their collective greed could not be denied. They took, and took, and took from Mother Earth.

RattlesnakeAs more time passed, the whiteyes multiplied and soon needed additional space to greedily take the resources from Mother Earth that they had grown to need. The whiteyes began to move westward, where they encountered more redmen. The redmen tried to help the whiteyes understand that Mother Earth should be loved and taken care of. At first, the whiteyes pretended to befriend the redmen. The whiteyes were really not interested in what the redmen said. They really just wanted to steal from them and take their land. The whiteyes lied to the redmen and even began killing them.

White Eye had become a great military leader with the whiteyes and was determined to take all of Mother Earth from the redmen. He was willing to kill as many of them as was necessary in order to keep his promise of long ago. There came a great, greedy hostility that even brought death to the women and children of the redmen. The whiteyes lied, cheated and stole their beloved lands from them.

As more time passed and these treacheries grew more outrageous, great war erupted. The whiteyes far outnumbered the redmen, and even though the redmen were fierce, tenacious fighters, the odds were simply impossible. Finally, the whiteyes and their evil leader White Eye had militarily conquered the redmen. However, they could NEVER conquer their spirit.

The redmen were treated in a terrible fashion. They were forced to live in communities against their will, far from their beloved homelands. Their rights were completely stripped away from them. They were humiliated and disgraced by the whiteyes. Through all of this, Redman became very bitter. He was saddened that he had brought all of this to pass. He vowed to reclaim Mother Earth from the whiteyes.

Eagle HeadRedman struggled to try to develop a plan to reclaim Mother Earth for the rest of his life in the physical world. Redman banished himself in self-imposed shame. He retreated to a remote, but beautiful area known as Gregory's Bald near Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee.

It was early spring when Redman arrived at Gregory's Bald and the area was alive with beautiful creatures and beautiful wild flowers were everywhere. Redman loved this spot and the beauty of it helped ease his pain. Each and every spring Gregory's Bald virtually comes to life and is absolutely covered with the most splendid display of wild azaleas imaginable. The sight was so magnificent that it always seemed to renew Redman's spirit. However, his thoughts of what had happened as a result of Whiteyes greed could never escape his tormented mind. Redman continuously searched his soul about how to regain his beloved redmans homelands.

However, the real opportunities seemed to diminish more and more as time passed by and Redman grew older and older. Finally, Redman's time in the physical world was drawing to an end. He spoke daily with the Great Creator through ceremonies, chants and words. The Great Creator was sympathetic to Redman's plight, but could do very little for him.

Redman fell into a deep sleep one beautiful spring morning. In his sleep, the Great Creator appeared to him. The Great Creator told Redman that his time in the physical world was ending. The Great Creator told Redman that he would allow him certain abilities to interact with the physical world on a limited basis, once he passed into the spirit world. The Great Creator told Redman that he would be allowed to maintain his spirit world existence in very close parallel to the physical world and that he would be able to see what was happening in the physical world. This way, if and when Redman saw an opportunity to influence earthly events in his limited capacity, then he was to feel free to do so. In this way, the Great Creator had allowed Redman an opportunity to guide his peoples destiny if the right opportunity presented itself. Redman was extremely grateful and was filled with great hope for the future of the redmen.

Time in the spirit world is completely unlike time in the physical world. There are no human emotions to confuse or distort reality, and time is immaterial. Redman was finally able to exist in peace and happiness. He knew that someday, somehow the opportunity would present itself for the redmen to return to a peaceful, harmonious time when they could once again provide the dear Mother Earth with the loving care that once had been possible. He knew that he would be ready and when the right time did come, the redmen would have the Great Creator to thank for their opportunity to reclaim their beloved Mother Earth. This we know is true, for the legend says that it is so. THE END?

Eagle In Flight

(c) 1997 Geoff Hampton

Listen to the cry of a Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Print and Color your own Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

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Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald EagleThe Bald Eagle is truly an all-American bird - it is the only eagle unique to North America. It ranges over most of the continent, from the northernmost areas of of Alaska and Canada down to northern Mexico.

The strong link between eagles and the sun can be traced through many cultures. The Aztecs told how during the creation of the present world, the eagle and the jaguar fought over who would have the honor of becoming the sun. The eagle settled the matter by flinging himself into a fire and, thus, becoming the sun. The jaguar, following close behind, settled for becoming the moon, with the spots on his coat showing that he had been only partially burned. In light of this tale, it's easy to see why the Aztec eagle and jaguar warrior societies were considered the most elite of the military orders. The Aztecs also tied the eagle to the sun in another way, comparing the daily journey of the all-important sun to an eagle's flight: rising on the warming air of morning and swooping down out of sight at night in pursuit of prey.

The eagle plays a crucial role in the sun dance of the Plains peoples of North America, and symbolizes the sun in the rites of some of the Southwestern tribes. The Iroquois tell of Keneu, the golden eagle, and of Oshadagea, the giant eagle with a lake of dew on his back who lives in the western sky.

Much to Benjamin Franklin's dismay, the Bald eagle was adopted as the national emblem in 1782. He said, "I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him ... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest ... of America ... For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America ... a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on."

None the less, the bird serves as a symbol of wilderness and freedom.

Bald Eagles are also considered to be highly adaptable birds. In one case, for example, a pair actually nested on a giant cactus.

While our national symbol was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range 25 years ago, the Bald Eagle has made a tremendous comeback, its populations greatly improving in numbers in recent years.

Male Bald Eagles generally measure a full 3 feet from head to tail, weigh 7 to 10 pounds, and have a wingspan of about 6 1/2 feet. Females are larger, some reaching 14 pounds and having a wingspan of up to 8 feet. This striking raptor has large, pale eyes; a powerful yellow beak; and great, black talons. The distinctive white head and tail feathers appear only after the bird is 4 to 5 years old.

Bald Eagle ChickBald Eagles are believed to live 30 years or longer in the wild, and even longer in captivity. They mate for life and build huge nests of sticks in the tops of large trees near rivers, lakes, marshes, or other wetland areas. Nests are often reused year after year. With additions to the nests made annually, some may reach 10 feet across and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Although Bald Eagles may range over great distances, they usually return to nest within 100 miles of where they were raised.

Bald Eagles normally lay two to three eggs once a year. The eggs hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within 3 months and are on their own about a month later. However, disease, lack of food, bad weather, or human interference can kill many eaglets; sometimes only about half will survive their first year.

The staple of most Bald Eagle diets is fish, but they will feed on almost anything they can catch, including ducks, rodents, snakes, and carrion. In winter, northern birds migrate south and gather in large numbers near open water areas where fish or other prey are plentiful.

Wildlife experts believe there may have been 25,000 to as many as 75,000 nesting Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states when the bird was adopted as our national symbol in 1782. Since that time, the Bald Eagle has suffered from habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and contamination of its food source, most notably due to the pesticide DDT. By the early 1960s there were fewer than 450 Bald Eagle nesting pairs in the lower 48 states.

Bald Eagles have few natural enemies. But in general they need an environment of quiet isolation; tall, mature trees; and clean waters. Those conditions have unfortunately changed over much of the Bald Eagle's former habitat.

Meanwhile, these birds of prey became prey themselves. Although primarily fish and carrion eaters, Bald Eagles and other raptors were seen as marauders that killed chickens, lambs, and other domestic livestock. As a consequence, large numbers were shot by farmers, ranchers, and others.

Adult Bald EagleIn 1940, noting that the national bird was "threatened with extinction," Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act which made it illegal to kill, harass, possess (without a permit), or sell Bald Eagles. In 1967, Bald Eagles were officially declared an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973) in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel. Federal and state government agencies, along with private organizations, successfully sought to alert the public about the Bald Eagle's plight and to protect its habitat from further destruction.

Today in the United States and Canada, eagle feathers may be obtained for ceremonial purposes only by special permit. Eagles and eagle parts from dead birds that have been found or confiscated are distributed through government agencies to the native peoples. They are then allotted by the elders of each group according to need. In 1994, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, gave away 870 eagles and filled 28,000 requests for feathers.

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