[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Tejas Legends unit. Story source: When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends retold by Florence Stratton and illustrated by Berniece Burrough (1936).
How Sickness Entered the World
An old medicine man lay dying in his wigwam. He had been a great leader for his people, wiser than any medicine man had ever been before. He knew so many things that the Great Spirit decided to tell him how to leave his wisdom with his tribe before he died. The Great Spirit sent down word that he was sending a messenger who would meet him under a certain tree in the forest and tell what he should do.
But the medicine man became so weak that he could not get up to go into the forest to meet the messenger. He called two young men from the tribe. They should go to the tree, he told them, and hear what the messenger had to say and then they should come back to the wigwam and tell the medicine man.
The young men went out and found the tree and sat down to wait. As they sat there, a large snake came through the grass and raised its head to look at them. In great fear the young Indians took up sticks. They beat at the snake. When they had killed it they hung it across a limb and waited for the messenger, but nobody came. At last they went away and told the medicine man about seeing and killing the snake.
"You have killed the messenger of the Great Spirit!" cried the old Indian. "Some great trouble is to come to us because the Great Spirit will be angry." Then he fell back on his blanket and breathed no more.
Full of fright, the young men decided they should bring back the dead snake and leave it before the wigwam of one of their enemies so that the bad luck would come to him instead of to them. When the enemy came out of his wigwam and saw the dead snakem he ran with it to another wigwam and left it there. Everybody in the camp did the same thing, for everybody was made fearful.
That night the mate of the snake came into the camp. She was very angry. At each wigwam where the dead snake had been laid she left an egg. By the time morning had come every egg had hatched out some kind of sickness, and so the first sickness was born into the world.