This is the story of the First Man, the Cherokee story of our first male ancestor as it is told in my family.

In the beginning all creatures lived in harmony, the animals, the stone people, the plant people, the tree people, and even man.  Everyone talked with each other, helped each other, and there were many gatherings with dancing and music and much laughter.  But over time man stopped listening to the people.  He stopped coming to the gatherings and paying his respects. He started hunting for sport and harvesting just to destroy and all the people gathered together to discuss what should be done.  Among the people there was much fear and consternation because too much hunting and too much destruction threatened them all.

The people gathered into a council circle to speak their hearts.  Bear said that man lived in arrogance thinking he could do whatever he wanted.  Rabbit said man had lost his fear and no longer jumped at shadows on the ground that told him of trouble.  The trees whispered of his contempt for the weather and the seasons and hawk could see that he no longer regarded his ties to others. He no longer looked up to see the bigger picture of life and the web of All That Is.

Awi Usdi, Little Deer, nodded his head with its tiny antlers.  He had seen this himself.  Man hunted without saying prayers.  He was no longer grateful for the sacrifice his brothers made in giving their lives so he could eat and make clothes and repair his weapons.  He no longer sang the songs of gratitude and no longer apologized for the death of a cousin as was proper.  After listening to all the people, giving everyone their say, he rose to his feet and entered the center of the circle.

“I will talk to man,” he said.  “I will show him the right way to live and remind him of the balance of life.  I will show him that too many of us can trample his plans and too few can leave his belly hungry and his dreams of what has been.  I will show him that everything is connected and all of us are necessary.  He will learn that to be a man is to live in harmony and respect with all his relations.”  So he did and still does to this day.

To remind ourselves of this lesson of Little Deer, so that we never forget, we call him First Man and teach our boys and young men to live by his example.