Tekwe is the Hiaki word for “vulture” or “buzzard”. Tekwem are known around the world for circling high above their prey before eventually flying down to eat, but how they find their next meal is perhaps less understood. Hiaki elders used to speak of a rising, smoky cloud that only tekwem can see. This cloud emanates from a decomposing body and is visible to tekwem from very far away. It rises very high up into the air and points them to their next meal. Tekwem will circle around this smoky cloud before flying down one by one to feast.

The food that tekwem enjoy is not the first choice of many other animals, including humans. You may have heard a Hiaki story about a man and a tekwe who come to appreciate their own food after trading places:

A man was once at his home lying under the shade of a tree and watching a tekwe gracefully fly through the air. He said out loud how he wished he could be that tekwe and fly freely around the world and see everything. Hearing the man’s wish, the tekwe flew down to him and offered to trade places with the man. The tekwe took off his cloak and gave it to the man, while the man gave the tekwe his own cloak. The man found the tekwe’s cloak to have an unpleasant smell, but he was overcome with excitement about being able to fly. The tekwe instructed the man to hop three times, because on the third hop he would fly. The man did so and flew off into the sky, while the tekwe then went toward the man’s home. The man’s wife, thinking the tekwe was her husband, told him to take a bath because he smelled so foul that she couldn’t bear to be around him. She cooked for him, but he wasn’t interested in any of the food she made. Meanwhile, the other tekwem told the man to follow them to where there was plenty of food, but he could not stomach the food that they ate. After three days they both became very hungry and the man eventually flew back down to his home. They were both unable to eat each other’s food and they agreed to change back into their original cloaks, but the man’s clothes still smelled because the tekwe wore them for three days. They then parted ways and the man returned to his wife. He told her to make him something to eat right away and to throw away his clothes that the tekwe had worn, and he took a bath. Then, everything returned to the way it was before the tekwe had granted the man his wish. So, think twice about what you wish for.

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