Read Student Writing
Back to Age 12


By: Rory G.
Oklahoma, Age 12

Once upon a time, there was a tiny village on the shores of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Off from the other teepees, stood one powerful teepee. It was painted with beautiful paintings of the sun, the trees, and animals. Among this teepee was the life of the village. Achak, was the spirit of the the lake. He was believed to be very great, rich, and powerful. It was said that he had a son who was handsome, but would never smile. He was never happy with anything. He would soon become the spirit of the lake after his father had his turn. His father always said, “Whoever could make him smile would marry him.”
All the ladies and young girls lined up outside the teepee. One by one they went in and came out with nothing but sad faces. In this tiny village, there lived a poor man with two cold-hearted daughters and who made their youngest sister feed the fire, fetch water from the lake, and sweep the ground. Her name was Ahyoka, which meant brought happiness, although she didn’t know that.
Her two sisters laughed and made fun of her. They made fun of her name. They cackled, “Ha Ha, looked at her ugly face.” Over time her hands became worn and her face became torn and scratched.
Achak decided to have a dance. Everyone in the village was invited. One day, the two cruel sisters went to their father, “I want your finest buffalo skin hide, your pearls, and your prettiest jewels,” they demanded, “We are going to the dance to see Achak’s son. We are going to make him smile of happiness. We are too beautiful for him not to smile.” They walk through the village will their heads held high. Everybody in the village murmured, “They are definitely going to marry Achak’s son,” “They are going to make him happy from their beauty.” Everybody now was lined up, ready for the dance. When they arrived, they were greeted by the spirit of the lake, Achak. “Welcome to the dance. The first one to make him smile will marry him and become his wife,” he bellowed. The two sisters replied, “We will be the first one to make your son smile because of our beauty.” Achak just smirked and welcomed everybody in. Sitting on buffalo hide was Achak’s son. He slouched with his head down. The two sisters looked at each other not knowing what to do. They started to twirl and twist. They put on a show until the son got up and left. All the other ladies tried and tried. “I don’t know how he didn’t smile,” one sister said. The other sister replied, “I know, I thought we were too pretty for him to not smile.” They continued on, complaining that they didn’t smile for them.
The same day Ahyoka went to her father and asked, “Do you have anything nice left over. I am going to the dance to see the son who does not smile.” “I do not have any fine clothes or jewels,” he said, “All I have for you are my old moccasins that are twice the size of you and some small shells and rocks I found on the shore of the lake.” The daughter nodded and said “I will take whatever you can give me.” Ahyoka put on what her father provided and started through the village. She heard people whispering, “She will never make the son smile with that ugly face,” “Ha! Look it is the ugly girl.” Ahyoka ignored all of these rude comments and continued the place where the dance was being held. When Ahyoka walked in, the whole place froze. Achak’s son smiled. Once in 18 years he saw the happiness she brought. Even though she was scarred and worn, he saw the beauty she showed. They dance in the middle of the circle until dawn.
When they returned to the great teepee, Achak was waiting for them. He had a pail of water in his hand that he had fetched from a special part of the lake. “Pour this on yourself,” he said, “Natural beauty is found within your happiness.” Ahyoka poured the water on her like instructed. All of a sudden her hair became smooth and long, her scars were gone, and her hands became as good as new. Achak blessed Ahyoka with his finest jewels, pearls, and his finest buffalo skin hides.
She decided to forgive her two cruel sisters. She told them that their happiness is within themselves. Ahyoka gave her father what he needed to be well again. When Achak married his son and Ahyoka, they became the spirit of the lake and village together. Ahyoka always forgave anyone, because she knew happiness was the key to life.