Long ago, when the world was nearly new, six families lived at the edge of a village, and each day the husbands set out into the forests to hunt. While they were gone, the wives went out in search of herbs to prepare the meat.

One day, as the wives were digging in the Earth, they discovered a plant they had never before seen — round and white with a long green stem. The women thought it looked lovely. They tasted it.

“It’s delicious. Just the right combination of tangy and sweet,” they agreed.

The wives had discovered sweet onions.

Once they began eating, they could not stop. They ate until it was late in the day, and then they hurried home to build the fires to cook supper.

When the husbands returned home, they were exhausted from their hunt, but they brought back a bounty of deer meat, and they looked forward to a delicious meal. But when they walked into the lodge, they smelled something strange.

“What is spoiled?” the first husband asked.

“Something stinks,” said the second, and when the third approached his wife, he stopped and held his nose. “It’s you who smells so wretched!” he cried.

But the wives were excited about their discovery, and so they reached into their baskets and handed over the onions. “Taste these,” they said. “If you taste them, you won’t mind the smell.”

But the husbands shook their heads. “The stench is terrible,” they complained. They told their wives they must sleep outside that night.

The next day, the husbands once again went out hunting, and the wives returned to the spot in the forest where they had found the onions.

“I don’t care if my husband doesn’t like the smell,” said one of the women. “These are too good to resist,” and she began to eat.

The others could not resist. “Who cares about our husbands?” they said. “They’ll learn to love these if they try.”

And once again, they ate and ate.

When the husbands returned that evening, they were in a terrible mood. “The deer would not come near us because we smell so terrible,” one said. “It’s all your fault, and the fault of that terrible plant.”

“We don’t believe you,” the wives said. “You must have been unlucky.”

Still, once again that night, the husbands told their wives they must sleep outside under the stars.

The next day, the same thing happened. And the day after that, it happened again, until a week had passed, and the men could catch nothing at all.

“All the animals run from us because of that terrible smell we carry,” the men complained to their wives.

“We can’t sleep outside forever,” said the wives. “It’s chilly and uncomfortable.”

So they bickered. The wives wished their husbands would try the onions, but the husbands wished their wives would give up on this strange plant. They could not reach an agreement, and once again, the wives slept outside.

On the seventh day, the wives made a grave decision. “We cannot live this way,” they agreed.

One of the wives lifted her baby girl out of her special cradle. “We’re going away,” she whispered, and all the women walked out into the fields, to the spot where the onions grew. They brought along their ropes made of eagle feathers, milkweed fibers and willow bark.

When they came to a big warm rock, they stopped to rest and talk. “We must leave our husbands,” said one of the women.

“Yes, we must,” the others agreed.

The oldest wife, who knew magic, began to whisper powerful words up to the sky. She tossed her rope high in the air, and it began to rise, higher and higher. When it was high above the Earth, it hooked over a cloud, and the two sides of the rope hung down to Earth.

The women and the baby stood on the ends of the rope and began to sing. They sang to the sun and moon and to the sky. They sang to all the bounties of the Earth. They sang so sweetly and loudly, the ropes began to dance and rise. Soon the ropes were swinging in great circles, rising higher and higher, carrying the women higher into the sky with every swing.

Before long, the people of the village saw the women dancing in the sky. Their mothers and fathers called, “Please, come back!” But the six wives and the little girl kept swinging and rising.

When their husbands returned from their hunt that night, they discovered their wives were missing.

They were hungry. And they were tired. And now they were lonely, too.

“Let’s follow them,” one of the men said. The others agreed, and so they carried their eagle feather ropes out to the fields, and they tossed the rope into the sky. They, too, began to sing.

Their rope folded over a cloud and hung down, and the men climbed upon the ends and soon they, too, were rising into the sky.

When the people of the village saw the men rising, they cried, “No, don’t leave, come back!” But like their wives, the men just sang louder and rose higher, and when the wives heard the commotion below, they looked down and saw their husbands rising after them.

“Look, it’s our husbands,” one of the women said. “What should we do?”

“They sent us away, we’ll be happier without them!” said the eldest wife.

And so as the men drew closer, the wives called, “Stop!” and the rope carrying the husbands stopped rising. Forever after, the husbands stayed right where they were, while the wives who loved onions rose higher.

Since that time, the wives and husbands have lived in Sky Country. The women turned into the seven stars of the Pleiades — the faintest star is the little girl. Their husbands stayed just behind them in another constellation, this one called Taurus.


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