Many years ago, when the people traveled the plains and lived in a circle of teepees, there was a boy who was smaller than the rest of the
children in the tribe. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep up with the other
boys who were always riding and shooting their bows to prove their strength. But the boy,
who was called Little Gopher, was not without a gift of his own. From an early age, he loved
to decorate stones with the juices from berries. The wise shaman of the tribe understood that
Little Gopher had a gift that was special. “Do not struggle, Little Gopher. Your path
will not be the same as the others. They will grow up to be warriors. Your place among the
people will be remember for a different reason.” In a few years, Little Gopher went out to
the hills alone, to think about becoming a man, for this was the custom of the tribe.
And it was there that a dream vision came to him. The sky filled with clouds, and out
of them came a young Indian maiden and an old grandfather. She carried a rolled up animal
skin, and he carried pots of paint and a brush made of fine animal hairs. The grandfather
spoke: “My son, these are the tools by which you shall become great among your people.
You will paint pictures of the deeds of the warriors, and the visions of the shaman. And
the people shall see them, and remember them forever.” The maiden unrolled a pure white
buckskin and placed it on the ground. “Find a buckskin as white as this,” she told him.
“Keep it, and one day you will paint a picture that is pure as the colors of the evening
sky.” And as she finished speaking, the clouds cleared, and a sunset of great beauty filled
the sky. Little Gopher looked at the white buckskin, and on it he saw colors as bright
and beautiful as those made by the setting sun. Then the sun sank behind the hills, and
the dream vision was over. The next day, Little Gopher began to make brushes from the hairs
of different animals. He gathered berries and flowers and rocks of different colors,
and crushed them to make his paint. And he began to paint pictures of great hunts, of
great deeds, of great dream visions, so that the people would always remember. Many months
before, he had found his pure white buckskin, but it remained empty, because he could not
find the colors of the sunset. He used the brightest flowers, the reddest berries, and
the deepest purples from the rocks. And still his paintings never satisfied him. He began to
go to the top of the hill each evening and look at the colors that filled the sky to
try to understand how to make them. One night, he heard a voice calling to him: “Because
you have been faithful to the people and true to your gift, you shall find the colors you
seek.” The next evening, Little Gopher went to the top of the hill as the colors of the
sunset spread across the sky. And there, on the ground all around him were brushes filled
with paint, each one a color of the sunset. Little Gopher began to paint quickly and surely,
using one brush, then another. And as the colors of the sky began to fade, Little Gopher
gazed at the white buckskin, and he was happy. He had found the colors of the sunset. He
carried his painting down to the circle of people, leaving the brushes on the hillside.
And the next day, when the people awoke, the hill was ablaze with color, for the brushes
had taken root in the earth and multiplied into plants of brilliant reds, oranges and
yellows. And every spring from that time, the hills and meadows burst into bloom. And
the people no longer called him Little Gopher, but He Who Brought the Sunset to the Earth.