But Pukawiss had snuck away to play with his hoops again.
"Hey, pretties," he whispered to the stack of small rings he had lovingly crafted from the reeds that grew copiously near the river. "Did you miss me?"
Of course, they didn't say anything back. After all, reeds cannot speak. But that didn't keep Pukawiss from making them tell stories.
"Maudjee says you didn't kill anything on the hunt today."
Pukawiss shrugged. "I figured everyone else was doing a good enough job of slaying animals. Why do I need to help?"
His father shook his head. "Pukawiss, every person in a tribe must contribute. That is how we survive."
"Then you need to give me a different job. I don't want to kill anything."
"It is how we eat."
"Then I'll eat the grass."
His father took a deep breath and clenched his fists. Unlike his brothers, Pukawiss secretly found his father's anger quite funny. He did his best to hide his smile today, though. Today, he wanted to finally show his family what he'd been sneaking off to do.
So when his father had begun to turn a rather uncomfortable shade of purple, he said, "Before you punish me, may I please show you something?"
The large man exhaled, carefully weighing his options. He could either clobber the boy, or listen to him. Today, he chose mercy. "If it will help explain your obstinate behavior, by all means, show me."
Pukawiss grinned, ran to a nearby tree, and emerged with a stack of his small reed hoops.
"What are those?" Father asked.
"Just watch!" Pukawiss swiftly grasped the hoops, and by gripping some tightly while others rested in between, he fashioned himself a pair of wings. Gently, he began to raise and lower his arms, and sure enough, the hoop wings flapped along with him.
"Look, father," he said. "These are the eagles that soar over our village, keeping an eye on all of our people. They are free to hunt, or not hunt, as they please."
Father did not seem impressed. Undeterred, Pukawiss pulled his arms forward, and the hoops shifted their position, forming a dome around him. "Now I am a bear, making my way through the woods. I do not ask to be slaughtered. I just want to take care of my young."
A snort from father, but now a crowd had begun to gather, and others watched.
Pukawiss moved his arms once more, the hoops drooping to the ground, but before they hit, he leapt in the air and pulled the hoops up around his legs. He continued jumping, softly yet quickly, from foot to foot. "I am a rabbit, father," he said, stronger, with passion. "I do no one any harm, but offer my swift beauty for you to behold."
Faster and faster he leapt, and now the hoops flew around him, creating patterns, both two- and three-dimensional, and the crowd had grown, so many people watching, a neighbor had pulled out his drum and provided a steady beat for Pukawiss, "And now, father, I am a baby deer, I am only making my way back to my family, I have so much to offer and yet you end my life, too early, too early..."
Thump, thump, thump, thump. Jump, jump, jump, jump. Flying colors. Many more animals, many more stories, and finally, the hoops came together in one connected orb, Pukawiss held the orb above his head, still moving, and shouted, "Look, father! I am the sun! I provide the life for everyone, all of us, even that which you kill and eat! You need me, but I do not need you! When your life finally ends, I will go on shining! When your life ends, I will watch the bear feast on your body!"
And then, as if he knew, the drummer stopped drumming, and Pukawiss dropped the hoops. His breathing came quick and hard.
Father said nothing for several moments. Then, simply, "That is a waste of time." And without another word, he gestured for the rest of the tribe to go back about their business.
Pukawiss groaned heavily, and bent over to gather his hoops. As he did so, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw the drummer, a young, lean boy about his age.
"I liked your dance," the boy whispered. "Will you teach it to me?"
Pukawiss smiled, gathering up the last of his reed rings. "Of course. Tomorrow."
And then he carefully returned his treasures to their hiding place, until the time came for more stories.
This is a work of fiction based on the origin story of Native American Hoop Dance, a young man who loved to study the animals as opposed to hunting. This style of hoop dance is drastically different than modern day hooping, and involves several small hoops that the dancer manipulates into shapes and patterns as he or she dances. While many of today's hoopers do not study this art form, it is still inspiring to watch. For more information, watch the videos, or read the origin story here.