|A Coyote Story
A Chippewa Legend
Coyote was walking along a lake and saw a flock of ducks, which put him in the mood for a good duck dinner. So he stuffed a bag full of grass and
walked past the ducks, stepping lively and singing a catchy tune.
"Where are you going?" asked one of the ducks.
"I am going to a circle," replied Coyote.
"What's in the bag?" asked the duck.
"Songs that I am bringing to the circle," replied coyote.
"Oh, please sing your songs for us," the ducks all said.
"I'm very busy."
"Please, please, please, please...."
"I'm running late..."
"Please, please, please, please...."
"Oh, alright. I'll sing a song for you, but I need your help. All of you stand in three lines. The fattest ones in the front, those in the middle who are
neither fat nor thin, and the thin ones in the back. All of you close your eyes and dance and sing as loud as you can. Don't anyone open your eyes or
stop singing, because my songs are very powerful and if you do that you may go blind! Is everyone ready?"
"We are!" replied the ducks, and they fell into lines and began dancing and singing along with Coyote's tune.
Coyote moved up and down the line, thumping the ducks on the head and stuffing them into his bag. The ducks were singing and dancing so hard
that no one could hear the thumps or know what was happening.
This would have gone on till none were left, if not for one scraggly duck in the back who opened his eyes and saw what was going on. "Hey, he's
going to get us all!" cried the scraggly one.
At this, the other surviving ducks opened their eyes and made their getaway.
Coyote wasn't too upset; he already had a lot of ducks in his bag. He went home and ate good for a good while.
The ducks went home and mourned their dead, and gave thanks to The Great Duck that one of them had been wise enough to open his eyes, and that
the rest of them had been wise enough to listen to the one who gave the warning.
Music: The Watchtower by AH-NEE-MAH
One summer evening, scarcely an hour before sunset, the father of a family lay in his lodge, dying. Weeping beside him were his wife and three
children. Two of them were almost grown up; the youngest was but a small child.
These were the only human beings near the dying man, for the lodge stood on a little green mound away from all the others of the tribe. A breeze
from the lake gave the sick man a brief return of strength. He raised himself a little and addressed his family.
"I know that I will leave you soon. Your mother, my partner of many years, will not stay long behind. She will soon join me in the pleasant land of
spirits. But, O my children, my poor children! You have just begun life. All unkindness and other wickedness are still before you.
"I have contented myself with the company of your mother and yourselves for many years, in order to keep you from evil example. I will die
content, my children, if you will promise me to love each other. Promise me that on no account will you forsake your youngest brother. I leave him
in your charge. Love him and hold him dear."
The effort to speak exhausted the sick man. But taking a hand of each of his older children, he continued his plea. "My daughter, never forsake your
little brother! My son, never forsake your little brother!"
"Never, never!" they both exclaimed.
"Never, never!" repeated the father. And then he died, happily sure that his command would be obeyed.
Time wore heavily away. Five long moons passed, and when the sixth moon was nearly full, the mother also died. In her last moments she
reminded the two older children of their promise to their father. Willingly they renewed their promise to take care of their little brother. They were
still free from any selfishness.
The winter passed away, and spring came. The girl, the oldest, directed her brothers. She seemed to feel especially tender and sisterly affection for
the youngest, who was sickly and delicate. The older boy, however, already showed signs of selfishness. One day he spoke sharply to his sister.
"My sister, are we always to live as if there were no other human beings in the world? Must I never associate with other men? I am going to visit
the villages of my tribe. I have made up my mind, and you cannot prevent me."
"My brother," replied his sister, "I do not say no to what you wish. We were not forbidden to associate with others, but we were commanded never
to forsake each other. If we separate to follow our own selfish desires, will we not be compelled to forsake our young brother? Both of us have
promised to take care of him."
Making no reply, the young man picked up his bow and arrows, left the wigwam, and returned no more.
For many moons the girl took kindly care of her little brother. At last however, she too began to weary of their solitude and wished to escape from
her duty. Her strength and her ability to provide food and clothing had increased through the years, but so had her desire for company. Her solitude
troubled her more and more, as the years went slowly by. At last, thinking only of herself, she decided to forsake her little brother, as the older
brother had already done.
One day, she placed in the lodge all the food she had gathered. After bringing a pile of wood to the door, she said to her young brother, "Do not stray
far from the lodge while I am gone. I am going to look for our brother. I shall soon be back."
Then taking her bundle, she set off for the villages. She found a pleasant one on the shore of a lake. Soon she became so much occupied with the
pleasures of her new life that her affection for her brother gradually left her heart. In time, she was married. For a long time, she did not even think
of the sickly brother she had left in the woods.
In the meantime the older brother had settled in a village on the same lake, not far from the graves of their parents and the solitary home of the little
As soon as the little fellow had eaten all the food left by his sister, he had to pick berries and dig roots. Winter came on, and the poor child was
exposed to its cold winds. Snow covered the earth. Forced to leave the lodge in search of food, he strayed far without shelter. Sometimes he passed
the night in the crotch of an old tree and ate the fragments left by wolves.
Soon he had to depend for his food entirely on what the wolves did not eat. He became so fearless that he would sit close to them while they devoured
the animals they had killed. His condition aroused the pity of the animals, and they always left something for him. Thus he lived on the kindness of
the wolves until spring came. As soon as the lake was free from ice, he followed his new friends and companions to the shore.
Now it happened that his brother was fishing in his canoe, far out on the same lake, when he thought he heard the cry of a child. "How can any child
live on this bleak shore?" he said to himself. He listened again, and he thought he heard the cry repeated. Paddling toward the shore as quickly as
possible, he saw and recognized his brother. The young one was singing,
"My brother, my brother! I am now turning into a wolf. I am turning into a wolf!"
At the end of his song, he howled like a wolf. His brother approaching, was shocked to find him half a wolf and half a human being. Leaping to the
shore, the older brother tried to catch him in his arms. Soothingly he said, "My brother, my brother, come to me!"
But the boy fled, still singing as he ran, "I am turning into a wolf! I am turning into a wolf!" and at the end of his song he howled a terrifying howl.
Conscience-stricken, feeling his love return to his heart, his brother called to him, "My brother, O my brother! Come back to me!"
But the nearer he came to the child, the more rapidly the change to a wolf took place. Still the younger brother sang his song, and still he howled.
Sometimes he called on his brother, and sometimes he called on his sister. When the change was complete, he ran toward the woods. He knew that
he was a wolf. "I am a wolf! I am a wolf!" he cried, as he bounded out of sight.
The older brother, all the rest of his life, felt a gnawing sense of guilt. And the sister, when she heard what had happened to her little brother,
remembered with grief the promise she had solemnly made to their father. She wept many tears and never ceased to mourn until her death.
A Chippewa Legend
From Maine and Nova Scotia to the Rocky Mountains, Indians told stories about the Great Serpent. More than a century ago the serpent was
considered to be "a genuine spirit of evil."
Some version of the story of the Great Flood of long ago, as recounted here, is told around the world.
Nanabozho (Nuna-bozo, accented on bozo) was the hero of many stories told by the Chippewa Indians. At one time they lived on the shores of Lake
Superior, in what are now the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin and the province of Ontario.
One day when Nanabozho returned to his lodge after a long journey, he missed his young cousin who lived with him. He called the cousin's name
but heard no answer. Looking around on the sand for tracks, Nanabozho was startled by the trail of the Great Serpent. He then knew that his
cousin had been seized by his enemy.
Nanabozho picked up his bow and arrows and followed the track of the serpent. He passed the great river, climbed mountains, and crossed over
valleys until he came to the shores of a deep and gloomy lake. It is now called Manitou Lake, Spirit Lake, and also the Lake of Devils. The trail of the
Great Serpent led to the edge of the water.
Nanabozho could see, at the bottom of the lake, the house of the Great Serpent. It was filled with evil spirits, who were his servants and his
companions. Their forms were monstrous and terrible. Most of them, like their master, resembled spirits. In the centre of this horrible group was
the Great Serpent himself, coiling his terrifying length around the cousin of Nanabozho.
The head of the Serpent was red as blood. His fierce eyes glowed like fire. His entire body was armed with hard and glistening scales of every color
Looking down on these twisting spirits of evil, Nanabozho made up his mind that he would get revenge on them for the death of his cousin.
He said to the clouds, "Disappear!"
And the clouds went out of sight.
"Winds, be still at once!" And the winds became still.
When the air over the lake of evil spirits had become stagnant, Nanabozho said to the sun, "Shine over the lake with all the fierceness you can. Make
the water boil."
In these ways, thought Nanabozho, he would force the Great Serpent to seek the cool shade of the trees growing on the shores of the lake. There he
would seize the enemy and get revenge.
After giving his orders, Nanabozho took his bow and arrows and placed himself near the spot where he thought the serpents would come to enjoy
the shade. Then he changed himself into the broken stump of a withered tree.
The winds became still, the air stagnant, and the sun shot hot rays from a cloudless sky. In time, the water of the lake became troubled, and bubbles
rose to the surface. The rays of the sun had penetrated to the home of the serpents. As the water bubbled and foamed, a serpent lifted his head above
the centre of the lake and gazed around the shores. Soon another serpent came to the surface. Both listened for the footsteps of Nanabozho, but they
heard him nowhere.
"Nanabozho is sleeping," they said to one another.
And then they plunged beneath the water, which seemed to hiss as they closed over the evil spirits.
Not long after, the lake became more troubled. Its water boiled from its very depths, and the hot waves dashed wildly against the rocks on its
banks. Soon the Great Serpent came slowly to the surface of the water and moved toward the shore. His blood-red crest glowed. The reflection
from his scales was blinding --as blinding as the glitter of a sleet-covered forest beneath the winter sun. He was followed by all the evil spirits. So
great was their number that they soon covered the shores of the lake.
When they saw the broken stump of the withered tree, they suspected that it might be one of the disguises of Nanabozho. They knew his cunning.
One of the serpents approached the stump, wound his tail around it, and tried to drag it down into the lake. Nanabozho could hardly keep from
crying aloud, for the tail of the monster prickled his sides. But he stood firm and was silent.
The evil spirits moved on. The Great Serpent glided into the forest and wound his many coils around the trees. His companions also found shade
--all but one. One remained near the shore to listen for the footsteps of Nanabozho.
From the stump, Nanabozho watched until all the serpents were asleep and the guard was intently looking in another direction. Then he silently
drew an arrow from his quiver, placed it in his bow, and aimed it at the heart of the Great Serpent. It reached its mark. With a howl that shook the
mountains and startled the wild beasts in their caves, the monster awoke. Followed by its terrified companions, which also were howling with rage
and terror, the Great Serpent plunged into the water.
At the bottom of the lake there still lay the body of Nanabozho's cousin. In their fury the serpents tore it into a thousand pieces. His shredded lungs
rose to the surface and covered the lake with whiteness.
The Great Serpent soon knew that he would die from his wound, but he and his companions were determined to destroy Nanabozho. They caused
the water of the lake to swell upward and to pound against the shore with the sound of many thunders. Madly the flood rolled over the land, over
the tracks of Nanabozho, carrying with it rocks and trees. High on the crest of the highest wave floated the wounded Great Serpent. His eyes glared
around him, and his hot breath mingled with the hot breath of his many companions.
Nanabozho, fleeing before the angry waters, thought of his Indian children. He ran through their villages, shouting, "Run to the mountaintops! The
Great Serpent is angry and is flooding the Earth!
The Indians caught up their children and found safety on the mountains. Nanabozho continued his flight along the base of the western hills and
then up a high mountain beyond Lake Superior, far to the north. There he found many men and animals that had escaped from the flood that was
already covering the valleys and plains and even the highest hills. Still the waters continued to rise. Soon all the mountains were under the flood,
except the high one on which stood Nanabozho.
There he gathered together timber and made a raft. Upon it the men and women and animals with him placed themselves. Almost immediately the
mountaintop disappeared from their view, and they floated along on the face of the waters. For many days they floated. At long last, the flood
began to subside. Soon the people on the raft saw the trees on the tops of the mountains. Then they saw the mountains and hills, then the plains and
When the water disappeared from the land, the people who survived learned that the Great Serpent was dead and that his companions had returned
to the bottom of the lake of spirits. There they remain to this day. For fear of Nanabozho, they have never dared to come forth again.
|Great Serpent and the Great Flood
A Chippewa Legend
|How Dogs Came to the Indians
A Chippewa Legend
Two Ojibwa Indians in a canoe had been blown far from shore by a great wind. They had gone far and were hungry and lost. They had little
strength left to paddle, so they drifted before the wind.
At last their canoe was blown onto a beach and they were glad, but not for long.
Looking for the tracks of animals, they saw some huge footprints which they knew must be those of a giant. They were afraid and hid in the bushes.
As they crouched low, a big arrow thudded into the ground close beside them.
Then a huge giant came toward them. A caribou hung from his belt, but the man was so big that it looked like a rabbit. He told them that he did not
hurt people and he like to be a friend to little people, who seemed to the giant to be so helpless.
He asked the two lost Indians to come home with him, and since they had no food and their weapons had been lost in the storm at sea, they were
glad to go with him. An evil Windigo spirit came to the lodge of the giant and told the two men that the giant had other men hidden away in the
forest because he like to eat them.
The Windigo pretended to be a friend, but he was the one who wanted the men because he was an eater of people. The Windigo became very angry
when the giant would not give him the two men, and finally the giant became angry too. He took a big stick and turned over a big bowl with it.
A strange animal which the Indians had never seen before lay on the floor, looking up at them. It looked like a wolf to them, but the giant called the
animal "Dog". The giant told him to kill the evil Windigo spirit. The beast sprang to its feet, shook himself, and started to grow, and grow, and
grow. The more he shook himself, the more he grew and the fiercer he became. He sprang at the Windigo and killed him; then the dog grew smaller
and smaller and crept under the bowl.
The giant saw that the Indians were much surprised and pleased with Dog and said that he would give it to them, though it was his pet. He told the
men that he would command Dog to take them home. They had no idea how this could be done, though they had seen that the giant was a maker of
magic, but they thanked the friendly giant for his great gift. The giant took the men and the dog to the seashore and gave the dog a command. At
once it began to grow bigger and bigger, until it was nearly as big as a horse.
The giant put the two men onto the back of the dog and told them to hold on very tightly. As Dog ran into the sea, he grew still bigger and when the
water was deep enough he started to swim strongly away from the shore.
After a very long time, the two Ojibwa began to see a part of the sea coast which they knew, and soon the dog headed for shore. As he neared the
beach, he became smaller and smaller so that the Indians had to swim for the last part of their journey.
The dog left them close to their lodges and disappeared into the forest. When the men told their tribe of their adventure, the people thought that the
men were speaking falsely. "Show us even the little mystery animal, Dog, and we shall believe you," a chief said.
A few moons came and went and then, one morning while the tribe slept, the dog returned to the two men. It allowed them to pet it and took food
from their hands. The tribe was very much surprised to see this new creature. It stayed with the tribe.
That, as the Indians tell, was how the first dog came to the Earth.
|The Father of Indian Corn
A Chippewa Legend
In the long, long ago, a poor Ojibwa Indian lived with his wife and children in a remote part of the present state of Wisconsin. Because he was such
a poor hunter, he was not very expert in providing food and supplies for his family.
His children were too young to give him much help. But he was a good man with a kind nature and contented disposition. He always was thankful
to Chief of the Sky Spirits for everything he received to share with his family.
His good disposition was inherited by his eldest son, who had just reached the age when he wanted to pursue his Guardian Spirit Quest. Each young
Indian boy looked forward to the time of finding the secret Spirit that would be his guide through his life. Each boy sought to learn his spirit name
and what special power would be given him by his Guardian Spirit.
Eldest son had been obedient since early childhood. He seemed pensive, thoughtful of others, mild in manner, and always a joy to his family and to
his tribe. At the first indication of spring, tradition told him to build a hut somewhere in an isolated place. There, he would not be disturbed during
his dream quest. He prepared his hut and himself and went immediately to begin his fast for seven days.
For the first few days, he amused himself walking in the woods and over the mountain trails. He examined trees, plants, and flowers. This kind of
physical effort in the outdoors prepared him for a night of sound sleep. His observations of the day filled his mind with pleasant ideas and dreams.
More and more he desired to know how the trees, plants, flowers, and berries grew. Seemingly they grew wild without much help from the Indians.
He wondered why some species were good to eat, while others contained poisonous juices. These thoughts came back to him many times as he
retreated to his lodge at night. He secretly wished for a dream that would reveal what he could do to benefit his family and his tribe.
"I believe the Chief of Sky Spirits guides all things and it is to him I owe all things," he thought to himself. "I wonder if Chief Sky Spirit can make it
easier for all Indians to acquire enough food without hunting animals every day to eat."
"I must try to find a way in my dreams," he pondered. He stayed on his bed the third day of fasting, because he felt weak and faint. Sometimes he
thought that he was going to die. He dreamed that he saw a strong handsome young man coming down from the sky, advancing toward him. He
was richly dressed in green and yellow colors. He wore a plume of waving feathers on his head. His every movement was graceful.
"I have been sent to you," said the sky-visitor. "The Sky Chief who made all things in the sky and upon the Earth intends for me to be your Guardian
Spirit and I have come to test you.
"Sky Chief has observed all that you have done to prepare yourself for your Quest. He understands the kind and worthy secret wish of your heart.
He knows that you desire a way to benefit your family and your tribe. He is pleased that you do not seek strength to make war. I have come to
show you how to obtain your greatest wish. First, your spirit name shall be Wunzh."
The stranger then told Wunzh to arise and wrestle with him. This was the only way for him to achieve his sacred wish. As weak as he was from
fasting, Wunzh wondered how he could ever wrestle the stranger.
He rose to the challenge --determined in his heart to die in the effort if he must. The two wrestled. After some time when Wunzh felt nearly
exhausted, the Sky Stranger said, "It is enough for today. I will come in tomorrow to test you some more." Smiling, the visitor ascended in the same
direction from which he came.
Next day at the same time, the stranger appeared. Again the two wrestled. While Wunzh felt weaker than the day before, he set his mind and heart
to his task. His courage seemed to increase, however, in reverse proportion to his waning physical strength. The stranger stopped just in time
before Wunzh dropped to the ground.
"Tomorrow will be your last chance. I urge you to be strong, my friend, as this is the only way for you to achieve your heart's sacred wish," said the
Wunzh took to his bed with his last ounce of energy. He prayed to the Sky Chief for wisdom and enough strength to endure to the end of his Quest.
The third time they wrestled, Wunzh was so weak that his arms and legs felt like rubber. But his inner determination drove him forward with the
kind of endurance necessary to win. The same length of time passed as in the first two wrestling bouts. Suddenly the stranger stopped and declared
himself conquered by Wunzh!
Then the sky-visitor entered the lodge for the first time. He sat down beside Wunzh to instruct him in the way he should now proceed to achieve his
"Great Sky Chief has granted your desire. You have wrestled manfully. Tomorrow will be your seventh day of fasting. Your father will come to see
you and bring you food. As it is the last day of your fast, you will be able to succeed.
"Now I will tell you what you must do to achieve your final victory. Tomorrow we will wrestle once more. When you have prevailed over me for the
last time, then throw me down and strip off my clothes. You must clean the Earth of roots and weeds and make the ground soft. Then bury me in
that very spot, covering me with my yellow and green clothes and then with Earth.
"when you have done this, leave my body in the Earth. Do not disturb it. Come occasionally to see if I have come to life. Be careful to see that no
grass or weeds cover my grave. Once a month, cover me with fresh Earth. If you follow what I have told you, you will succeed in your Guardian
Spirit Quest. You will help your family and all the Indians by teaching them what I have now taught you," the Sky Stranger concluded as they shook
hands and the visitor left.
On the seventh morning, Wunzh's father came with food.
"My son, how do you feel? You have fasted long enough. It is seven days since you have eaten food. You must not sacrifice your life. The Great
Spirit does not require that of you."
"My father, thank you for coming and for the food. Let me stay here alone until the sun goes down. I have my own special reasons."
"Very well. I shall wait for you at home until the hour of the setting sun," replied the father as he departed.
The Sky Stranger returned at the same hour as before. The final wrestling match began. Wunzh had not eaten the food his father brought. But
already he felt a new inner power that had somehow been given to him. Was it Spirit Power from his Guardian Spirit?
Wunzh grasped his opponent with supernatural strength and threw him to the ground. Wunzh removed the beautiful clothes and the plume. Then
he discovered his friend was dead.
He remembered the instructions in every detail and buried his Guardian Spirit on the very spot where he had fallen. Wunzh followed every direction
minutely, believing his friend would come to life again.
Wunzh returned to his father's lodge at sundown. He ate sparingly of the meal his mother prepared for him. Never for a moment could he forget the
grave of his friend. Throughout the spring and into summer he visited the grave regularly. He carefully kept the area clean of grass and weeds. He
carefully kept the ground soft and pliable. Soon he saw the tops of green plumes emerging through the Earth. He noticed that the more care he gave
the plants, the faster the green plumes seemed to grow.
Wunzh concealed his activity from his father. Days and weeks passed. Summer was drawing to a close. Then one day, Wunzh invited his father to
follow him to the site of his Quest. He showed his father the graceful-looking plants growing there. They were topped with yellow silken hair and
waving green plumes. Gold and green clusters of fruit adorned each side of the stalks.
"Father, these plants are from my dream friend," explained Wunzh. "He is my Guardian Spirit, a friend to all mankind, named Mon-daw-min,
meaning 'corn for all Indians.' This is the answer to my Quest, my secret heart's wish. No longer will we need to hunt animals every day for our
food. As long as we take care of our corn gift, the Earth will give us good food for our living."
Wunzh pulled off the first ear of corn and gave it to his father.
"See, my father. This corn is what I fasted for. The Chief of Sky Spirits has granted my Quest. He has sent us this wonderful new food of corn.
From now on our people need not depend entirely upon hunting and fishing to survive."
Wunzh talked with his father, giving him all of the instructions he had received from his Guardian Spirit. He showed his father how the corn husks
should be pulled off the stalks, and how the first seed must be saved for future plantings. He explained how the ears of corn should be held before the
fire only long enough for the outer leaves to turn brown, so that the inside kernels remained sweet and juicy.
The entire family gathered for Wunzh's feast of corn. The father led a prayer of thanksgiving for the bountiful and good gift from the Chief of Sky
Spirits. Wunzh felt happy that his Guardian Spirit Quest was successfully completed.
This is how Wunzh became known as the father of Indian corn by the Chippewa and Ojibwa Indian tribes.
|The Legend of the Big Bird
A Chippewa Legend
Dene Suline/Soline (Chipewyan) Indians were known as caribou eaters as early as 1600, coming down from northern Canada as far south as Lake
Superior and Minnesota.
They spread into numerous tribes, separated mainly by physical boundaries, such as lakes, rivers, and mountains.
Their distinctive language of the Athapascan family is heard far and wide between the West and East Coasts, and even southward among the
Apaches and Navajos. Dene Suline/Soline (Chipewyans) are an extremely imaginative people, and nature is interpreted by them in a pleasing and
poetic manner. For instance, the Dene Suline/Soline (Chipewyans) might describe two trees, as "two trees growing side by side, so neither will tire of
Big Bird was a widow of the tribe's most famous Chief, Peace River. She lived with her son and beautiful daughter on the bank of a large stream.
Her great ambition seemed to be to secure a rich husband for her daughter, suitable to her birth position.
So she asked her son to go the riverbank and watch unceasingly to see if he could discover a stranger passing through suitable to be her son-in-law.
One day the boy came running home to his mother with a beaming face and reported, "There is somebody passing by whom I would like to have for
Big Bird seemed delighted with the news, and took an armload of bark and went down to the river to meet the expected bridegroom. One her way,
she placed the bark on the path for him to walk upon. She saw how magnificently dressed he was in a white skin costume covered with shell-beads.
At their camp, she and her daughter had prepared a meal of unusual splendor and set it before their handsome guest.
Now it happened there was an old dog in the camp, which the young man objected to, and he would not eat until the dog was removed. Big Bird,
wishing to show her guest every courtesy, complied with his request, took the dog out, and had him killed and left in the bush. The invited guest them
enjoyed his supper, and they all went to sleep.
Next morning when Big Bird arose to make a fire, no wood was in the tipi. She went out to fetch some, and became startled to see the dog lying with
his eyes removed, with his flesh pecked all over, and with the footprints of a three-toed animal all around the dog.
When she returned, she asked everyone to take off their shoes. They all did so, except the stranger, who said he never removed his shoes.
However, Big Bird kept insisting, telling him she had a beautiful pair of new moccasins for him that would match his handsome costume. At last, she
appealed to his vanity and he consented.
While quickly removing his shoes he said, "Kinno, kinno," meaning "Look, look!" but just as quickly put them on again. The boy saw his feet and
called out, "He has three toes!" The stranger denied this statement and said, "I did it so quickly that you just imagined I have only three toes. You are
After breakfast, he told his new wife that he wanted to go for his clothes, which were some distance upstream at his camp. He wished for her to
accompany him. She thought her husband's conduct rather strange and not according to their tradition. At first she objected, but when he told of the
many gew-gaws he wished to show her, she decided to go with him.
They got into their canoe and started off, the man sitting in the bow and the woman in the stem. In a short time, rain began to fall heavily. She
noticed the rain washing off the shining white stuff from her husband's back and black feathers began to appear!
"Oh, I have married a crow!" she thought to herself. When he was not looking, she tied his long tail to the crossbar of the canoe. He turned and
asked, "What are you doing?" "Your coat is so fine, I'm working with the beads to lay them straight." "I see I have married an industrious wife," he
said as he resumed his paddling.
She then wondered how she could escape. So she said, "This point we are passing is famous for wild duck eggs. I'd like to go ashore and get us some
for our supper." He consented, but as soon as she was out of the canoe, she ran up the bank and disappeared into the forest.
The crow tried to get out quickly to follow her, but because his tail was tied to the canoe, it was impossible. So he had to content himself with calling
after her, "Caw! Caw! Once again I have tricked your people." He leisurely proceeded to untie his tail, and in his original black crow feathers flew
away in search of another mischievous episode.
Big Bird welcomed her daughter home, grateful to be rid of the three-toed stranger. "We can all be more selective in the future when it comes to
choosing in-laws," she advised her two younger children.
|The Legend of the Dreamcatcher
A Chippewa Legend
A spider was quietly spinning his web in his own space. It was beside the sleeping space of Nokomis, the grandmother. Each day, Nokomis watched
the spider at work, quietly spinning away. One day as she was watching him, her grandson came in. "Nokomis-iya!" he shouted, glancing at the
spider. He stomped over to the spider, picked up a shoe and went to hit it.
"No-keegwa," the old lady whispered, "don't hurt him."
"Nokomis, why do you protect the spider?" asked the little boy.
The old lady smiled, but did not answer. When the boy left, the spider went to the old woman and thanked her for saving his life. He said to her, "For
many days you have watched me spin and weave my web. You have admired my work. In return for saving my life, I will give you a gift."
He smiled his special spider smile and moved away, spinning as he went.
Soon the moon glistened on a magical silvery web moving gently in the window. "See how I spin?" he said. "See and learn, for each web will snare
bad dreams. Only good dreams will go through the small hole. This is my gift to you. Use it so that only good dreams will be remembered. The bad
dreams will become hopelessly entangled in the web."
Sleep well sweet child
Don't worry your head
Your Dream Catcher is humming
Above your bed
Listen so softly
I know you can hear
The tone of beyond
Close to your ear
Love is alive
And living in you
Beyond all your troubles
Where good dreams are true
An ancient Chippewa tradition
The dream net has been made
For many generations
Where spirit dreams have played
Hung above the cradle board,
Or in the lodge up high,
The dream net catches bad dreams,
While good dreams slip on by.
Bad dreams become entangled
Among the sinew thread.
Good dreams slip through the center hole,
While you dream upon your bed.
This is an ancient legend,
Since dreams will never cease,
Hang this dream net above your bed,
Dream on, and be at peace.
|The Spring Beauty
A Chippewa Legend
An old man was sitting is his lodge, by the side of a frozen stream. It was the end of Winter, the air was not so cold, and his fire was nearly out. He
was old and alone. His locks were white with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed, and he heard nothing but the sound of the
storm sweeping before it the new-fallen snow.
One day while his fire was dying, a handsome young man entered the lodge. His cheeks were red, his eyes sparkled. He walked with a quick light
step. His forehead was bound with sweet-grass, and he carried a bunch of fragrant flowers in his hand.
"Ah, my Son," said the old man, "I am happy to see you. Come in. Tell me your adventures, and what strange lands you have seen. I will tell you my
wonderful deeds, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will amuse each other."
The old man then drew from a bag a curiously wrought pipe. He filled it with mild tobacco, and handed it to his guest. They each smoked from the
pipe, and then began their stories.
"I am Peboan, the Spirit of Winter," said the old man. "I blow my breath, and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear
"I am Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring," answered the youth. "I breathe, and flowers spring up in the meadows and woods."
"I shake my locks," said the old man, "and the snow covers the land. The leaves fall from the trees, and my breath blows them away. The birds fly to
the distant land, and the animals hide themselves from the cold."
"I shake my ringlets," said the young man, "and the warm showers of soft rain fall upon the Earth. The flowers lift their heads from the ground, and
the grass grows thick and green. My voice recalls the birds, and they come flying joyfully from the South-land. The warmth of my breath unbinds
the streams, and they sing the songs of Summer. Music fills the groves wherever I walk and all Nature rejoices."
And while they were thus talking, a wonderful change took place. The Sun began to rise. A gentle warmth stole over the place. Peboan, the Spirit of
Winter, became silent. His head drooped, and the snow outside the lodge melted away. Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring, grew more radiant, and rose
joyfully to his feet. The Robin and the Bluebird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream murmured past the door, and the fragrance of
opening flowers came softly on the breeze.
The lodge faded away, and Peboan sank down and dissolved into tiny streams of water, that vanished under the brown leaves of the forest.
Thus the Spirit of Winter departed, and where he melted away the Indian children gathered the first blossoms, fragrant and delicately pink - the
modest Spring Beauty.
|Why Buffalo Has A Hump
A Chippewa Legend
Long ago, when the world was very young, the buffalo had no hump. He got his hump one summer because of his unkindness to birds. He liked to
race across the prairies for fun. The foxes would run ahead of him and tell the little animals that their chief, the buffalo, was coming.
One day when Buffalo was racing across the plains, he went in the direction of the place where little birds live on the ground. They called to him and
to the foxes that he was going where their nests were, but neither paid any attention to them. Buffalo raced on and trampled the bird's nest under his
heavy feet. Even when he heard the birds crying, he ran on without stopping.
No one knew that Nanabozho was near. But he had heard about the birds' ruined home, and was sorry for them. He ran ahead, got in front of
Buffalo and the foxes, and stopped them. With his stick he hit Buffalo on the shoulders, hard. Fearing that he would receive another blow, Buffalo
humped up his shoulders. But Nanabozho only said, "You shall always have a hump on your shoulders, from this day forth. And you shall always
carry your head low for shame."
The foxes, thinking to escape from Nanabozho, ran away, dug holes in the ground, and hid themselves. But Nanabozho found them and gave them
their punishment, "Because you were unkind to the birds, you shall always live in the cold ground."
Ever since then, foxes have had their homes in holes in the ground and buffaloes have had humped shoulders.
|Why Porcupine Has Quills
A Chippewa Legend
Long ago, when the world was young, porcupines had no quills.
One day, when Porcupine was in the woods, Bear came along and wanted to eat him. But Porcupine climbed to the top of a tree and was safe.
The next day, when Porcupine was under a hawthorn tree, he noticed how the thorns pricked him. He had an idea. He broke off some of the branches
of the hawthorn and put them on his back. Then he went into the woods and waited for Bear.
When Bear sprang on Porcupine, the little animal just curled himself up in a ball. Bear had to go away, for the thorns pricked him very much.
Nanabozho saw what happened. He called Porcupine to him and asked, "How did you know that trick?"
"I am always in danger when Bear comes along," replied Porcupine. "When I saw those thorns, I thought I would use them."
So Nanabozho took some branches from the hawthorn tree and peeled off the bark until they were white. Then he put some clay on the back of
Porcupine, stuck the thorns in it, and made the whole a part of his skin.
"Now go into the woods," said Nanabozho.
Porcupine obeyed, and Nanabozho hid himself behind a tree. Soon Wolf came along. He sprang on Porcupine and then ran away howling.
Bear came along, but he did not get near Porcupine. He was afraid of those thorns.
That is why all porcupines have quills today.