There is a well known Dakota teaching story called “The Great Wolf and Little MouseSister” in which a tiny, insignificant mouse feels compassion for a great wolf that haslost his eyes because of his greed, arrogance and foolishness (another story tellshow he was tricked out of them by four weasels and that they were able to trick himbecause he was already blind in his heart). As the story opens, the wolf is howling, crying, and flailing the ground indespair. Now he is blind. How can he hunt? How will he survive? The little mouseshould have had the good sense to stay away, for after all, she was nothing morethan a small bite of food to a wolf. Anyway, what could she possibly do to help? Andyet something called her, and she bravely approached the wolf with curiosity andcompassion in her heart.
Sir William Jardines Naturalist LibraryWe live in a world in which many of the great wolves of power have lost theireyes. And because they lead nations and powerful organizations, their blindnessplunges many others beside themselves into darkness. When these powerful self-centered beasts become desperate and afraid, or are totally absorbed in self-interest,they often hurt vulnerable people within their reach. Sometimes they do it intention-ally, in order to deflect opposition to themselves onto a convenient scapegoat. Othertimes, they simply roll over little people without really even consciously realizing whatthey are doing. When the great wolves are blind, we are all in danger. A welcome for Governor-General Lord Lorne, Rat Portage, 30 July 1881. Sketch by Sidney Hall, London Graphic, 22 October 1881, page 428
Well, our story goes on to tell how the little mouse felt great compassion for thewounded wolf, once so noble and proud and strong. She marched right up to where hewas laying with his face on the ground and she stood before him. “Great Wolf, why areyou crying?” she said. “Because I lost my eyes and now I cannot see,” answered thewolf. “Don’t cry,” she said “I will help you.” “You?” he said, “What can you do? You’rejust a little mouse.” “My mother taught me always to give my very best,” she said, “Iwill give you my eyes.” And before the wolf could even respond, she popped out hereyes, and placed them gently in the sockets where the wolf’s eyes had been. And sud-denly, he leapt into the air, and whooped and howled and danced for joy. “I can see,”he said. “I can see.”First_Nations_Basket_Makers_c.1870.jpg
Remember the little mouse who gave her eyes to the wolf? Well, the story goes on thatshe just stood there, listening to the wolf as he whooped and danced around themeadow. But now she was blind, and it gradually dawned on her that she had done avery, very foolish thing. She waited, her little brow furled in worry and fear, fully expect-ing the wolf to discover her, and to eat her like a kernel of popcorn. She had given hereyes because her heart prompted her to do so. She had listened to the voice ofspirit. But now she was exposed, helpless, and vulnerable.To her surprise, the wolf quite suddenly stopped his celebration and walked quietly overto where she stood in the grass. For a long time he said nothing; and she waited infear. Then he bent down and said in a very gentle voice. “Little Sister, how could you dosuch a thing for me? Now you are blind.” All she could say was “My heart told me to doit.” Kane_Assiniboine_hunting_buffalo.jpg
And then the wolf wept the weeping of regret, loss, and shame. He wept a long time,and the little mouse could only wait and be with him while he wept. And when his hearthad been washed clean of the anger, fear, pride, and selfishness that had for so longcovered up his true nature as a noble being, he stopped weeping, and after a time hesaid, “Little Sister, do you remember the old teaching about a Sacred Lake high up in themountains?” “Yes,” she said, suddenly filled with hope. My grandmother told me thatwhoever prays on its shores and drinks of its waters will be healed of any infirmity. Butdo you think it really exists? Maybe it’s just an old story.” Lucy_telles_Paiute_in_Yosemite.jp g
The Great Wolf was quiet a moment, and then he said, “Little Sister, if a tiny mouse canmake a blind wolf see, maybe there is such a thing as a Sacred Lake. We will look for ittogether.” And so the Great Wolf lowered himself to the ground, and invited his LittleMouse Sister to climb up on his back; and together they set out on a long, long jour-ney.She was blind and yet somehow there was greatness within her. She had made theGreat Wolf see, and she brought him to his knees, with tears in his eyes, ready to dedi-cate himself to helping her find the Sacred Lake.
Chief Bone Necklace an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (1899)“The two of them traveled a long time, and met many interesting characters along theway. There was owl, who thought their search was a foolish waste of time. He was surethe idea of some “sacred lake” that could bring healing and renewal was nothing but su-perstition. There was coyote, who sensed something of value in the little mouse, andhoping to gain something for himself, tried to poison her relationship with the wolf withmistrust and lies. There were the otters, for whom comfort and enjoyment were rea-sons enough to look no further in life, and to avoid difficult challenges. And all of thesefor their own reasons, tried to persuade the travelers to change their goals or to give uptheir journey all together. But the little mouse and the Great Wolf were friends now,and they did not give up. They traveled on, believing deep in their hearts that theywould find what they were looking for.
The Great Wolf and his Little Mouse Sister climbed high into the mountains, and oneday, quite unexpectedly, they came upon the most beautiful lake they had ever seenburning brilliant turquoise in the morning sun, and they knew they had found what theywere looking for.The Wolf began to describe the beauty of the scene to his Sister, but she interruptedhim. “I can see it with my heart,” she said. They fell silent. Then the wolf took out to-bacco and prayed to the Four Directions thanking the Creator for bringing them to theirgoal, and asking the Creator to bless and protect the Little Mouse whom he loved.“Little Sister,” he said to her, “we have found the Sacred Lake. What shall we donow?” “I cannot thank you enough, she said, but now I must ask of you a difficultthing. Leave me. The rest I must do myself.” Allen William Seaby (1867-1953)
“And so the wolf placed his Little Sister gently at the water’s edge, kissed her good-bye,and set out down the mountain.The little mouse felt strangely at peace, and yet she could not imagine what to donext. Suddenly, a voice boomed from the sky. “Little Mouse, jump and reach for theheavens.” So she jumped. “Jump higher,” said the voice. So she jumpedagain. “Jump still higher,” the voice commanded. And she jumped again stillhigher. “Little Mouse, jump as if life depended on it. Jump as you have never jumpedbefore. Jump and touch the sky.” And she jumped like she had never jumped before,and she felt herself soaring, floating dizzily, flying and swooping, and she could see agreat distance. The sun poured yellow warmth upon the land. Hileman, T. J.
“ The Sacred Lake below shone like a jewel. And she could see her Wolf Brother far below, making his way down the mountain. And she heard the voice again but now like a whisper within her. You have given much, Little Sister, and you have traveled far. Because you have given your very best to help another life, and because you have continued on your journey to find the Sacred Lake, and because you have asked of me a healing, and I have heard you, for now and forever more, you have become the Sacred Eagle and when the people see you, they will remember me, and you will guide them.