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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 20, 2003 - Issue 96


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The Lazy Rabbit


An Anishanabe Legend


Rabbit in FlowersIn the Old Time, as you know, Ableegumooch was Glooscap's forest guide and helped wayfarers lost in the forest. However, as time went on, Indians and animals learned to find their own way through the trees and did not need the rabbit's services so often. Ableegumooch grew fat and lazy. If there was something easy and pleasant to do, he did it. If the thing were difficult or tiring, he did not. Now that is no way to keep a wigwam stocked with food. Often, poor old Noogumee, his grandmother, with whom he lived, had to hunt for food herself, or they would have gone hungry.

And no matter how much she scolded him, Ableegumooch refused to mend his ways.

Glooscap, far away in his lodge on Blomidon, saw that the rabbit was becoming a thoroughly useless creature. He must be warned against the dangers of laziness. So, wasting no time, Glooscap descended from his lodge to the beach in three huge strides, launched his canoe, and paddled across the Bay of Fundy to the shore near the rabbit's home.

Banjo BunnyIt was a fine bright morning, the air cool and tasting of salt, as it always does in the Maritime Provinces. And presently along hopped the rabbit, singing with fine spirit:

It's a lovely day to do
Nothing, nothing
All the day through!

He paid no attention to the tasty leaves and berries he might have been gathering for dinner. He was much more interested in watching other people work.

SquirrelThere was Miko the Squirrel scampering up the big maple tree, his cheeks bulged out with nuts, pausing only long enough to scold Ableegumooch for coming too near his storehouse.There was Mechipchamooech the Bumble Bee, busy at the golden rod, gathering honey for his hive. And there was Teetees the Blue Jay, flying worms to his family in the big pine. It was all so interesting that Ableegumooch stopped beside a stately fir tree to enjoy the scene. Suddenly behind him, he heard a voice.

"Ableegumooch, be careful!"

The rabbit jumped and whirled about, but there was nobody there. The voice spoke again, from somewhere over his head.

"Take care, Ableegumooch, or your lazy ways will bring you pain and sorrow."

The rabbit looked up and saw the fir tree shake like a leaf in a storm, yet not a breath of wind stirred. Frightened out of his wits, he ran--and he never stopped running until he was safe at home, where he told his grandmother what had happened.

"Glooscap has given you a warning," said his grand mother. "Be sure to obey him, grandson, or you will be sorry."

Rabbit munching a carrotThe rabbit's legs were still trembling from fright and exertion, and he promised at once that he would take care to mend his lazy ways in future. And indeed, for a while, he went busily about his hunting and kept the wigwam well stocked with food. But, when autumn came, he grew lazy again and went back to his old careless ways.

It's a lovely day to do
Nothing, nothing
All the day through!

So sang Ableegumooch as he sauntered through the glory of autumn trees. Noogumee begged and scolded and pleaded, but he continued to spend more time visiting his neighbours than gathering food. One day, when winter had come to the land, he came to the wigwam of Keoonik the Otter. Keoonik politely asked him to dine, and the rabbit promptly accepted. Keoonik turned to his elderly house keeper and addressed her in the usual Indian fashion:

"Noogumee, prepare the meal."

Then he took some fishhooks and went off, the rabbit hopping along behind, curious to see what he was going to do.

WeaselKeoonik sat on the snowy bank of the river and slid down an icy path into the water. In a moment, he reappeared with a string of eels which he carried to his grandmother, and she promptly cooked them for dinner.

"Gracious!" thought Ableegumooch. "If that isn't an easy way to get a living. I can do that as well as Keoonik," and he invited the otter to be his guest at dinner on the following day. Then he hurried home.

"Come," he said to his grandmother, "we are going to move our lodge down to the river." And in spite of all she could say, he insisted on moving it. Noogumee reminded him that the wigwam was empty of food, and he ought to be out hunting, but Ableegumooch paid no attention. He was busy making a slide like Keoonik's. The weather was cold, so all he had to do was pour water down the snowy bank, where it soon froze, and there was his fishing slide. Early next day, the guest arrived. When it was time for dinner, Ableegumooch said to his grandmother:

"Noogumee, prepare the meal."

"There is nothing to prepare," said she, sadly.

"Oh, I will see to that," said the rabbit with a confident laugh, and he took his place at the top of the slide to go fishing. When he tried to push off, however, he found it was not so easy. His coat was rough and bulky and dry, not smooth and slippery like the otter's. He had to wriggle and push with his heels until at last he slid down and plunged into the water. The cold took his breath quite away, and he suddenly remembered he was unable to swim. Struggling and squealing, he thought no more of fishing, for he was in great danger of drowning.

"What on earth is the matter with him?" Keoonik asked the grandmother.

"I suppose he has seen someone else do that," sighed Noogumee, "and he thinks he can do it too."

Keoonik helped the freezing, half-drowned rabbit out of the water and, since there was nothing to eat, went home hungry and disgusted.

But do you think that cold bath cured Ableegumooch? Not at all. The very next day, as he ran idly through the forest, he came to the lodge of some female woodpeckers. He was delighted when these Antawaas invited him to dinner.

He watched eagerly to see how they found food.

Silly WoodpeckerOne of the woodpeckers took a dish, went up the side of an old beech tree and quickly dug out a plentiful supply of food, which was cooked and placed before the rabbit.

"My, oh my!" thought Ableegumooch. "How easily some people get a living. What is to prevent me from getting mine in that fashion?" And he told the Antawaas they must come and dine with him.

On the day following, they appeared at the rabbit's lodge and Ableegumooch said to his grandmother importantly:

"Noogumee, prepare the meal."

"You foolish rabbit," said she, "there is nothing to prepare."

"Make the fire," said the rabbit grandly, "and I shall see to the rest."

He took the stone point from an eel spear and fastened it on his head in imitation of a woodpecker's bill, then climbed a tree and began knocking his head against it. Soon his head was bruised and bleeding, and he lost his hold and fell to the earth with a tremendous crash. The Antawaas could not keep from laughing.

"Pray what was he doing up there?"

"I suppose he has seen someone else do that," said Noogumee, shaking her head, "and thinks he can do it too."

And she advised them to go home, as there would be no food for them there that day.

Ice Fishing BearNow, sore as he was, you would certainly think the rabbit had learned his lesson. Yet, a day or two later, he was idling in the woods as usual when he came upon Mooin the Bear, who invited him to dinner. He was greatly impressed at the way in which the bear got his meal. Mooin merely took a sharp knife and cut small pieces off the soles of his feet. These he placed in a kettle on the fire, and in a short while they enjoyed a delicious meal.

"This must be the easiest way of all to get a dinner," marvelled Ableegumooch, and he invited Mooin to dine with him next day. Now what the rabbit did not know was that the bears preserve food on their feet. They press ripe blueberries with their paws and, after the cakes have dried upon them, cut bits off to eat. The silly rabbit thought Mooin had actually cut pieces off his paws!

At the appointed time, Ableegumooch ordered his grand mother to prepare the meal, and when she said there was nothing to prepare, he told her to put the kettle on and he would do the rest. Then he took a stone knife and began to cut at his feet as he had seen Mooin do. But oh dear me, it hurt. It hurt dreadfully! With tears streaming down his cheeks, he hacked and hacked, first at one foot and then at the other. Mooin the Bear was greatly astonished.

"What on earth is the fellow trying to do?" he asked.

Noogumee shook her head dismally.

"It is the same old thing. He has seen someone else do this."

Mad Bear"Well!" said Mooin crossly, "It is most insulting to be asked to dinner and get nothing to eat. The trouble with that fellow is-- he's lazy!" and he went home in a huff.

Then at last, Ableegumooch, nursing his sore feet, remembered what Glooscap had said. All at once, he saw how silly he had been.

"Oh dear!" he said. "My own ways of getting food are hard, but others' are harder. I shall stick to my own in the future," and he did.

From then on, the wigwam of Ableegumooch and his grandmother was always well stored with food, winter and summer, and though he still sings, his song has changed:

It's a wiser thing to be
Busy, busy

Print and Color Your Own Blue Jay Picture
Blue Jay

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Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue JayCool fact: Infamous as a destroyer of eggs and nestlings, Blue Jays actually derive only a small percentage of their annual food needs from these sources. Its diet is mostly vegetarian, including especially acorns, beech nuts, and seeds. Blue Jays also eat a variety of animal foods including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and small vertebrates. Blue Jays are intelligent and adaptable, taking advantage of almost any food resource, and will readily take to back yard bird feeders. Nonmigratory populations of Blue Jays store food such as acorns in bark crevices or in the soil.

Common, conspicuous, and noisy, Blue Jays are capable of making a wide variety of sounds. In addition to the loud and often heard jay! jay! call, a bell-like tull-ull call, a melodious whistled teekle, and a variety of chattering, harsh notes and growls may be heard. Blue Jays also produce a remarkable imitation of the scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk.


Blue Jays Parents and ChicksWhen around the nest, Blue Jays become more quiet. The nest is usually situated between 8 and 20 feet up in a coniferous, or occasionally, deciduous tree. The nests of other passerines are sometimes appropriated by these jays. The female incubates most of the eggs, and she may be fed by the male while on her nest. Both parents bring food for the hatchlings. In late summer and fall, Blue Jays travel in small flocks and family groups.

The Blue Jay's range extends throughout deciduous forests, parks, and residential areas across eastern North America from Newfoundland to central Alberta, and south to Florida and eastern Texas. Mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches are preferred. The western edge of the range stops abruptly where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) begins. Recently, the range of the Blue Jay has extended to the Northwest so that it is now a regular but still-rare autumn migrant along the northern Pacific Coast. The popularity of bird feeding is thought to have promoted an increase in the population of Blue Jays in the Northeast.

Northern populations migrate south, sometimes in large flocks of up to 250 birds. Typically, the noisy jays are quite noticeable, but Blue Jays tend to fly high and quietly during migration.

Blue Jay in WinterDescription: Blue Jays are medium-sized (approximately 11 inches in length), colorful birds with crests. Their crown and crest are light violet-blue. Under the base of the crest and extending through the eyes across the forehead is a black band. Over the eye is a short white superciliary stripe; ear coverts, cheek, and throat are also white. Below the throat is a narrow black necklace that extends upward and connects behind the ear-coverts with the black head band. The lower breast, belly, and vent area are off-white.

The upper parts are bluish gray and brightest on the rump. The wings and tail are bright sky-blue with heavy black barring. The wings show a single, broad white wingbar as well as white-tipped secondary feathers. The corners of the tail are white also. Blue Jays are dull gray underneath the tail and wings, except for white feather tips. Their bill, legs, and eyes are all blackish. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

Steller's Jays and Blue Jays are the only North American jays with barring on their wings and tails. Both are crested, but the Steller's Jay has a dark, almost black, head and crest and lacks any white underneath.

Information resource: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

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