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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 14June 1, 2002 - Issue 62


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Turkey Makes Corn


White Mountain Apache

TurkeyLong ago when all the animals talked like people, Turkey overheard a boy begging his sister for food. "What does your little brother want?" he asked the girl. "He's hungry, but we have nothing to eat," she said.

When Turkey heard this, he shook himself all ove. Many kinds of fruits and wild food dropped out of his body, and the brother and sister ate these up. Turkey shook himself again, and a variety of corn that is very large dropped out of his feathers. he shook himself a third time, and yellow corn dropped out. And when he shook himself for the fourth time, white corn dropped out.

Bear came over, and Turkey told him, "I'm helping to feed my sister and my brother, over there." Bear said, "You can shake only four times to make food come out of you, but I have every kind of food on me, from my feet to my head."

CactusBear shook himself, and out of his fur dropped juniper berries. He shook himself again, and out dropped a cactus that is good to eat. Then he shook out acorns, then another kind of cactus, then Gambel oak acorns, then blue oak acorns, then piñon nuts, then a species of sumac, then manzanita berries, then wild mulberries, then saguaro fruit.

Turkey said to the boy and girl, "I have four kinds of corn seeds here for you, and this is a good place to plant them." The sister and brother cut digging sticks and made holes with them. In the holes they planted all their corn seeds. The next dy the corn had already come up and was about a foot and a half high. The girls said, "We still have some squash seeds here," so they planted them too.

The boy and girl asked Turkey for more corn seed. "The corn is coming up nicely," they said, "so we want to make another farm and plant more corn there." Turkey gave them the seed, and they left him to look after their first fields while they started off to make the other farm.

TurkeyWhen they came back, they heard Turkey hollering at the corn field. They ran down there and saw him dragging one wing along the ground on the side toward them. There were snakes on the other side of him, and he pretended to have a broken wing to lure the snakes away and shield the boy and girl. The squash plants had young squash on them and the corn had grown tall and formed ears and tassels. The tassels had pollen in them, and the snakes had come to gather the pollen out of the corn plants. Turkey told the boy and girl to stay away from the corn for four days, the corn was ripe. Turkey told them, "This will be the only time when the corn will come up in four days. From now on it will take quite a while." And it does.

By now the brother and sister had planted corn three times, and they gave seeds to their people. Then Slim Coyote came and asked for some. "The corn you planted is growing well, and the ears are coming out on it," he said. "I'd like to have some seeds to plant for myself."

Coyote would have to do lots of work if he wanted to raise his corn, but that wasn't his plan. "These people here plant their corn, and after it's grown, they have to cook it. Me, I'm not going to do it that way. I'll cook my corn first and then plant it, so I won't have to bother to cook it when it's ripe."

CornHere's where the Coyote made a big mistake. He cooked his corn, and ate some, and planted quite a patch with the rest. He felt pretty good about it all. "Now I've done well for myself. you people have to cook your corn after you plant it, but mine will already be cooked," he said.

After planting, he went off with the rest of the people to gather acorns, but when they returned to their fields, Coyote's had nothing growing on it at all. He said angrily, "You people must have taken the hearts out of the corn seeds you gave to me." "No, we didn't do that," they told him, "but you cooked the heart out of them before you planted.

Coyote asked for more seeds and planted them the right way this time. So his corn grew the day after he planted, it was up about a foot and a half. He felt good.

The people who had planted their corn at the beginning were harvesting now and tying it up in bundles. Coyote saw these and wanted some. People got mad at Coyote because he was always asking them for corn. "I just want some green ears to feed my children," he would say. "As soon as my corn is ripe, I'll pay you back.

The other people had all their corn in and stripped now, but their pumpkins were still growing in the field. Coyote stole their pumpkins, and the people all came to his camp. They wanted to know if he was the one who was stealing their pumpkins.

Coyote pretended to get angry. "You're always blaming me for stealing everything. There are lots of camps over there. Why do you have to choose mine to come to with your accusations?" But the people knew about Coyote's thieving ways.

Pumpkin"From now on, don't make your farm near us. Move away and live someplace else!" they said.

"All right. Ther are several of you that I was going to repay with corn, but I won't do it now that you've treated me this way," he said. So Coyote's family lived poorly, and they never bothered to cook anything before they ate it.

Print and Color Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey


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Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Wild Turkey Tom DisplayingTurkeys have long been important to man in North America. Indians hunted them for food, and some natives even domesticated the big birds. Later, the wild turkey became a steady food source for white settlers. It earned a symbolic role as the main course of the Thanksgiving meal, which epitomized the successful harvest. Benjamin Franklin so admired the big bronze bird that he wanted it for our national emblem. Comparing it to the bald eagle, he said: "The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original Native of America."

Several theories explain how the bird got its name. Early naturalists may have confused it with a species of Old World guinea fowl found in Turkey. Or the word may describe one of the bird's calls, which sounds a bit like "turk, turk, turk." Still a third explanation is that the word sprang from an American Indian name for the bird. "firkee."

By whatever name, the fact remains that this big bird was nearly exterminated by the ax, the plow and the gun.

Wild turkeys are native to North America and there are five subspecies: Eastern, Osceola (Florida), Rio Grande, Merriam's and Gould's. All five range throughout different parts of the continent. The eastern is the most common and ranges the entire eastern half of the U.S. The Osceola (Florida) is only found on the Florida peninsula, while the Rio Grande ranges through Texas and up into Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Rios are also found in parts of the northwestern states. The Merriam's subspecies ranges along the Rocky Mountains and the neighboring prairies of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. And you can find Gould's throughout the central portion of Mexico into the southernmost parts of New Mexico and Arizona.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers cover the body of an adult turkey in patterns called feather tracts. A turkey's feathers provide a variety of survival functions-they keep him warm and dry, allow him to fly, feel and show off for the opposite sex. The head and upper part of the neck are featherless, but if you look close, you can see little bumps of skin on the bare area.

Wild Turkey HenMost of the feathers exhibit a metallic glittering, called iridescence, with varying colors of red, green, copper, bronze and gold. The gobbler, or male turkey, is more colorful, while the hen is a drab brownish or lighter color to camouflage her with her surroundings.

Two major characteristics distinguish males from females: spurs and beards. Both sexes have long powerful legs covered with scales and are born with a small button spur on the back of the leg. Soon after birth, a male's spur starts growing pointed and curved and can grow to about two inches. Most hen's spurs do not grow. Gobblers also have beards-tufts of filaments, or modified feathers, growing out from the chest-which can grow to an average of nine inches (though they can grow much longer). It must also be noted that 10 to 20 percent of hens have beards.

Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day but don't see as well at night. They are also very mobile. Turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 mph, and they can fly up to 55 mph.

When mating season arrives, anywhere from February to April, courtship usually begins while turkeys are still flocked together in wintering areas. After mating, the hens begin searching for a nest site and laying eggs. In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression, surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest.

Tom Displying for HensHens will lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly-hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours to feed. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds, while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

Wild turkeys like open areas for feeding, mating and habitat. They use forested areas as cover from predators and for roosting in trees at night. A varied habitat of both open and covered area is essential for wild turkey survival.



Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Benjamin Franklin would have preferred to have the Wild Turkey, not the Bald Eagle, as the national symbol of the United States. Although the barnyard variety is a rather stupid creature (leading to the insulting tone of the term "turkey"), the original wild form is a wary and magnificent bird. Wild Turkeys usually get around by walking or running, but they can fly strongly, and they typically roost overnight in tall trees.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Toms (males) weigh 18-24 Ibs or more; hens (females) about 10 Ibs. Plumage is iridescent bronze; dark in males and tips rusty or light brown in females. Wings and fan-shaped tail show alternating dark bands. Neck and head of adult males is reddish, while females have bluish heads with more feathers.

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