As told by Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha Band of the S’Klallam Indians)
In a time before this time, the animals had a big problem. It was a terrible problem that affected each and every one of them, and they could not figure out how to solve it. They were perplexed.
The animals know that when they are confronted with a big problem, they need to get everyone together in the Big House in a circle with a fire in the middle. Everyone gets together, and everyone says something. Every voice is listened to. Every idea is considered. This is how you solve a big problem, and the animals know this.
So the animals go to the Big House and sit around the fire. They start talking, when from outside the house, they hear a noise. (Drumming, chanting.) The animals say, “Who is making all that noise?”
The animals go outside. Standing there with his drum is Little Rabbit singing a song. (Drumming, chanting.) The animals say, “Little Rabbit, you need to be quiet. We are having a meeting in the Big House, a very important meeting about a big issue. You are making so much noise we cannot talk or hear a thing. So Little Rabbit, be quiet until the meeting is over.”
The animals go back into the Big House. They sit around the fire and start talking about the problem again, when from outside the house, they hear (drumming, chanting). The animals say, “What is wrong with Little Rabbit? Didn’t he hear us?” Bear says, “I will take care of him. I know what to do.”
Bear goes outside and says, “Little Rabbit, didn’t you hear us? You need to be quiet until our big meeting is over. Can’t you be quiet, Little Rabbit?” Little Rabbit looks up at Bear and (drums and chants). So Bear reaches over and pulls off one of Little Rabbit’s arms and says, “You will get this arm back when the meeting is over. Now be quiet, Little Rabbit.”
Bear goes back inside the house. “Little Rabbit can’t bother us now. He has only one arm, and he can’t play his drum.” The animals start the meeting again, and from outside the house they hear (drumming, chanting). Little Rabbit is playing with his one good arm. The animals are getting upset. “What is wrong with Little Rabbit?” Wolf says, “I will take care of him.”
Wolf goes outside and says, “Little Rabbit, haven’t you heard? Didn’t Bear tell you not to play?” So Wolf reaches over and grabs Little Rabbit’s other arm and pulls it off and says, “You will get this arm back when the meeting is over. Now be quiet, little one.”
Wolf goes back into the house. “I took care of Little Rabbit. He can’t bother us now. He has no arms, and he can’t play his drum.” The animals start the meeting again, when from outside the house they hear (stomping, chanting). The animals say, “What is wrong withLittle Rabbit?” They are all getting very upset. Coyote says, “I will take care of him. I know what to do.”
Coyote rushes outside and says, “Little Rabbit, don’t you know what is going on?” But Little Rabbit keeps stomping his foot. Coyote reaches over, grabs one of Little Rabbit’s legs, and pulls it off. “You will get this leg back when the meeting is over,” he says. “Now be quiet, Little Rabbit.” Coyote goes back into the house. “I took care of Little Rabbit. No arms. Only one leg. He can’t bother us now.”
The animals start the meeting again, when from outside the house they hear (hopping, chanting). Little Rabbit is hopping around on one leg, still singing that song. The animals are very upset. Eagle says, “I will take care of this once and for all.” Eagle goes outside and says, “Little Rabbit … ” Little Rabbit is hoppingaround on one leg, so Eagle reaches over, grabs Little Rabbit’s head, pulls it off, and says, “You will get your head back when the meeting is over.” Eagle goes back into the house, “No head, no arms, and only one leg. He can’t bother us anymore.”
So the animals start the meeting again, when from outside the house, they hear a little noise (soft chanting). Then the animals realize something—the song was coming from Little Rabbit’s heart. It was the song in his heart to sing. They realized everything they had done was wrong, because when something comes from someone’s heart, there is nothing you can do to stop it. In fact, if you are a friend, you should help them.
And so Eagle put back Little Rabbit’s head. Bear and Wolf put back his arms. Coyote asked to keep Little Rabbit’s leg since it was almost lunchtime, but the others made him give it back. There was Little Rabbit, all back together.
Little Rabbit got his drum. He taught the animals the song, and they sang it with him. (Drumming and chanting Little Rabbit’s song.) And that is all.
Roger Fernandes is an artist, educator, and master storyteller. He presented the story of Little Rabbit, which he learned from Gene Tagaban, a Tlingit storyteller, at the fourth annual Northwest Indian Storyteller’s Festival in mid-November. The three-day event, which features some of the region’s finest traditional and contemporary tribal storytellers, is sponsored by the Northwest Indian Storytellers Association and the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling.
See Roger Fernandes perform this story here.