The First Tears

‘‘I give you this one, one thought to keep. I am with you still, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am sunlight on the ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken, in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush… of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone-I am with you still, in each new dawn.’

Native American Prayer

A family once settled by the sea, unknown was the strange place to them. Cool breezes, lapping waves on sand, sharp rocky shales, tall grass all were alien to them. The family migrated from the mountains in search of food and they came to the world’s edge following their instincts. They made their home along the grassy fields.

One morning the father decided he must look for food. His family was still sleeping. Nestled in caribou and moose hides. The oil lamp had faded sometime in the night, but beams of morning light were coming through holes of their hide tent. He looked at his wife and child. Their dreams gave them peace as he smiled and walked out.

Walking along the beach he searched for animals. He carried his bow and arrows and knife inside his pack easily reachable when the time came to hunt. The birds were cooing with the rising sun. Morning dew made tiny rainbows on the grainy sand. The morning breeze brought smells he never knew before. This place was peace and happiness.

The hunter went on for miles following the shoreline. Not a single caribou, moose or other game was greeting the morning as he had. As he kept going, rocks replaced the sand. Larger and larger they became until they were as tall as the hunter.

Before turning around, the hunter heard a strange noise. Getting his bow and arrows ready he followed the calls. The wind was picking up, a storm was approaching. The hunter didn’t know how unforgiving the sea was when she was angry. He was amongst large boulders when the water rose suddenly. The wind brought with it rising water and suddenly the hunter found himself trapped.

Panicking he dropped his weapons in his scramble to get away from the cold water. The boulders kept his movements slow. But he found his way back to solid ground and amongst resting seals. ‘Were they the ones making the noise?’ he asked himself. He reached for his bow and arrows, they were gone. In his haste to escape he forgot he dropped them in the water.

Reaching for his knife and crouching, the hunter slowly made his way closer to the seals. Seeing the strange being the seals scrambled back into the sea. The hunter surprised in their escape looked around. He wished he had his bow. Looking at his knife in hand he cursed. Then again he heard the noise another seal calling out.

Looking around he heard the noise coming from the boulders. Hesitant at first, he eventually decided to try one more time. He snaked his way through the rocks and rising water. There it was a lone seal on a large rock. Its back was to him and he thought now things are turning around in his favor.

The seal however, knew he was there going towards him. He yawned and closed his eyes. Listening to the man splash around in the water. When he got closer the seal slid into the cold water and disappeared into the deep blue sea.

The hunter crawled on to the boulder and rested for a minute. He fell asleep, unaware the rising tides were dangerous. He awoke gasping for air. He looked around and was alone floating in the water. He was alone. The hunter screamed out for help. No one answered.

Back at the tent, the young child heard a noise. A faint scream. He got up and looked around. His mother was sleeping, but his dad was gone. He woke his mother up and both went out looking for the father. They heard faint screams, but couldn’t find where it was coming from. They both yelled, ‘Where are you?’ No response.

Both walked the beach, up and down. There was no sign of the father. No tracks. No markings. Nothing. Both came upon the same boulders the father found while hunting. In the midst of the descending water, they saw him. Upside down.

They both jumped into the water to him. Pulling his body to shore, they called out. No answer. Both felt water drip from their eyes. They tasted the drops and it tasted like the sea they were in. Strange choking noises came from their chest. Both were crying.

This is a version of how the first tears were shed. The story is different by region and amongst Alaska Native, Canadian and Greenland tribes is similar in context and story line. Whichever is true, this is how sadness came to be and the first tears shed by our people.