The Little Grey Woodpecker and the Indian Maid
This striking piece of art was found by my crew at an ancestral Huron village just north of Toronto. Archaeologists are normally at a loss to explain the significance of such objects. In this case, we see the significance of the woodpecker reflected in the following story by Kitty Greyeyes, a Wyandot woman as told to her nephew, B.N.O. Walker, in 1911.
A beautiful Indian maid often went to dances. Whenever she was getting ready for a dance or a feast, a little grey Woodpecker would always assist her in dressing. It was with the utmost care that he helped her when she put the many coloured paints on her face.
The little bird’s feathers were all of one colour, that is, grey all over, with some small white spots in his feathers. Every time his mistress painted these various colours on her face, he would look at her with great admiration and think that she was very pretty, indeed, especially with the bright red colours.
One day, when he was alone, the little bird noticed that one of the wooden brushes that she had used was still lying there, with some red paint on it. Now he said, “I will make myself look pretty with it!” So he took the brush and rubbed it many times on each side of his head, over his ears and that is how he obtained those two tiny red stripes that are still to be seen on his head nowadays.