Iva Miller (Cherokee)

Biography| Historical and Cultural Context| Critical Commentary| Further Reading


“Robin Red Breast.”

Iva Miller, Cherokee

The war was over and many prisoners had been taken captive, and some were sent into slavery. Among the captives was a brave warrior who had fought courageously until he became unconscious from a blow received on the head.

This warrior was first taken to a natural subterranean stone cave, which was very long, the main part being one-half mile from the entrance. He was kept there six days and nights. The seventh day he was brought forth and told that it had been decided that he must be sacrificed in order to appease the anger of the Great Spirit.

He was led out into a large open field, where he noticed that a sort of altar had been erected. Binding him to a stake, they left him to die of starvation and thirst, or else to be eaten by the wild beasts who were at enmity with the red man at this time. He would willingly have done this to appease the Great Spirit’s wrath against his people, but for his enemies such a sacrifice could not be willingly performed.

For two days he remained bound to the stake, and no succor had yet come. At the end of the thir dday a number of deer passed, but they remembered how he had slain their brothers, and so they had no compassion on him, but passed by. He was now growing very weak and at times was unconscious.

A little bird in passing on her way to her nest heard his cries of anguish, and coming nearer, found that with patience, she could unbind his fetters. For a whole day she worked pecking his fetters away. When he was finally unbound he sank weak and exhausted to the ground. Flitting to a near-by stream, she returned with her beak full of water; this she continued to do until he regained consciousness.

In pecking the binding off from around his left arm, she accidentally pecked a hole in his arm, and it was now bleeding. With a finder of his right hand he painted the little bird’s breast red with his blood. That is why certain robins of to-day have red breasts.

In a few days the warrior recovered his strength and was able to find his way back to his wandering tribesmen. The chief, his father, had been killed in the battle in which he was taken prisoner, and so he succeeded him as chief of his tribe. He always remembered the little bird who had saved his life, and would not allow his people to harm the robins in any way.

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