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Winter’s lethal touch seems not to disquiet this gray squirrel, seen digging in my back yard, presumably for seeds hidden during warmer climes.

Other eyes, from centuries past, have drawn inspiration from the squirrel’s activities: the Osage Native Americans who roamed these hills. Their surroundings offered food, aplenty, but had to be hunted, cultivated, harvested, preserved, and hidden away from poachers, other Indians or settlers. Survival from fickle weather, for both Indians and animals, was the communal goal.

The Osage perceived all living creatures as gifts from Mother Earth with whom they were inextricably bound. Squirrels were notable for their preparedness, sociableness, industry, and foraging for seeds and nuts, their presence by aggressive and noisome chatter. Identifying with their spirit quickened their own in the midst of daily hardship. 

Even in dire straits, the Osage were reluctant to feed off the squirrel, but did so if critical for survival, with thanksgiving to Mother Earth.

In my perception, the Osage’s proximity to squirrels and all living creatures interfaced with their imaginative story-telling; its rich oral tradition afforded ultimate meaning to their lives. From these depths emerged their legends and sacred rituals; images of squirrels on totem poles.

They knew who protected and guided them.

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