Heetunka's Harvest: A Tale of the Plains Indians

Heetunka's Harvest: A Tale of the Plains Indians

by Jennifer Berry Jones, Shannon Keegan

A retelling oa Sioux legend recounts how a woman learns a lesson about selfishness when she takes beans from Heetunka the mouse without leaving a gift in return, and so brings the wrath of the gods down on herself. Ages 5-12.  See more details below


A retelling oa Sioux legend recounts how a woman learns a lesson about selfishness when she takes beans from Heetunka the mouse without leaving a gift in return, and so brings the wrath of the gods down on herself. Ages 5-12.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jones discards Native American storytelling conventions in her version of a Plains Indian tale; the result is an abruptly moderated cautionary tale. A Dakota woman, proud of her thorough preparations for winter, turns greedy as she contemplates Heetunka the Bean Mouse's store of rich white beans. Instead of taking what she needs and leaving behind the customary exchange, she scoops up every last bean. The woman behaves ever more selfishly and destructively, until she finally loses her well-appointed tipi in a prairie fire that, pointedly, leaves her neighbors' homes untouched. Stripped of Native American formalities, the story seems bare, inviting readers to doubt the protagonist's sudden descent into moral bankruptcy. Keegan's illustrations, framed in a motif incorporating quill work, fetish shells and feathers, add authenticity, while an author's note and glossary provide valuable documentation. Ages 6-12. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
As winter approaches, Heetunka, the Bean Mouse, works very hard gathering and holding enough earth beans to feed her children throughout the long, hard Plains winter. Unfortunately, a nearby Dakota woman is also busy gathering enough food for her children to eat throughout the winter. Becoming greedy and ignoring the age old advice of her people, she finds and takes all of Heetunka's hidden store and leaves nothing in exchange. Detailed, evocative paintings framed with geometric designs enhance this cautionary folktale. An author's note and glossary are included.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Heetunka the Bean Mouse gathers earth beans, seeds, and grains to store in shallow underground caches. To add variety to their winter food stores, Plains Indian women trade green corn and suet for handfuls of the beans, always leaving the mouse enough for her own family. This legend, first recorded in 1804 by William Clark from the Arikara people (and for some reason altered by Jones to the Dakota people), tells of a woman who greedily cleans out Heetunka's Harvest. Although she hears her ``small sister'' crying, the woman fails to soften her heart. That night, she is sent a dream from Hunka, the Spirit of Kinship, who tells her to bring corn or return some of the beans to the creature. Again she refuses. Suddenly a prairie fire rushes toward her family's tipi. They escape unharmed, but all of their belongings and food are lost, and the woman learns a powerful lesson. This tale teaches one of the core values of Native life-that of sharing and having respect for all living things. Warm, earth-hued, full-and double-page paintings blend seamlessly with the story. A fine effort appropriate for all libraries.-Lisa Mitten, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Sheilamae O'Hara
Heetunka the bean mouse spends the late summer gathering beans so her family will have enough food to last the winter. In the fall, Indian women come and take some of her beans, leaving a like amount of corn or suet in exchange. A Dakota woman who wants beans for her family does not acknowledge Heetunka's hard work or rights and takes all that she finds, leaving nothing in exchange and ignoring Heetunka's wails. That night, a prairie fire burns the woman's tepee and all her possessions, although no other home in the settlement is harmed, forcing her family to rely on relatives for help to keep from starving. The illustrations are large and effectively framed by examples of Indian beadwork and woodwork, making them perfect to show during group reading, but the messages of fair play and respect are so overt that they overwhelm the story.

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Product Details

Rinehart, Roberts Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Council for Indian Education Series
Product dimensions:
9.34(w) x 12.18(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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