Music: Kiva Smoke by R. Carlos Nakai
Many, many moons ago, there lived an old man alone in his lodge beside a stream in the thick woods. He was heavily clad in furs; for it was winter,
and all the world was covered with snow and ice.
The winds swept through the woods, searching every bush and tree for birds to chill, and chasing evil spirits over high hills, through tangled swamps,
and valleys deep. The old man went about, and peered vainly in the deep snow for pieces of wood to sustain the fire in his lodge.
Sitting down by the last dying embers, he cried to Kigi Manito Waw-kwi (the God of Heaven) that he might not perish. The winds howled, and blew
aside the door of his lodge, when in came a most beautiful maiden. Her cheeks were like red roses; her eyes were large, and glowed like the fawn's in
the moonlight; her hair was long and black as the raven's plumes, and touched the ground as she walked; her hands were covered with willow- buds;
on her head were wreaths of wild flowers; her clothing was sweet grass and ferns; her moccasins were fair white lilies; and, when she breathed, the
air of the lodge became warm and fragrant.
The old man said, "My daughter, I am indeed glad to see you. My lodge is cold and cheerless; yet it will shield you from the tempest. But tell me who
you are, that you should come to my lodge in such strange clothing. Come, sit down here, and tell me of your country and your victories, and I will
tell you of my exploits. For I am Manito."
He then filled two pipes with tobacco, that they might smoke together as they talked. When the smoke had warmed the old man's tongue, again he
said, "I am Manito. I blow my breath, and the lakes and streams become flint." The maiden answered, "I breathe, and flowers spring up on all the
The old man replied, "I breathe, and the snow covers all the earth." "I shake my tresses," returned the maiden, "and warm rains fall from the clouds."
"When I walk about," answered the old man, "leaves wither and fall from the trees. At my command the animals hide themselves in the ground, and
the fowls forsake the waters and fly away. Again I say, 'I am Manito.'"
The maiden made answer: "When I walk about, the plants lift up their heads, and the naked trees robe themselves in living green; the birds come
back; and all who see me sing for joy. Music is everywhere."
As they talked the air became warmer and more fragrant in the lodge; and the old man's head drooped upon his breast, and he slept. Then the sun
came back, and the bluebirds came to the top of the lodge and sang, "We are thirsty. We are thirsty."
And Sebin (the river) replied, "I am free. Come, come and drink." And while the old man was sleeping, the maiden passed her hand over his head;
and he began to grow small. Streams of water poured out of his mouth; very soon he became a small mass upon the ground; and his clothing turned
to withered leaves.
Then the maiden kneeled upon the ground, took from her bosom the most precious pink and white flowers, and, hiding them under the faded leaves,
and breathing upon them, said: "I give you all my virtues, and all the sweetness of my breath; and all who would pick thee shall do so on bended
Then the maiden moved away through the woods and over the plains; all the birds sang to her; and wherever she stepped, and nowhere else, grows
our tribal flower -- the trailing arbutus.
|Origin of Our Tribal Flower - The Trailing Arbutus
An Ottawa Legend
|The Great Flood
An Ottawa Legend
One very remarkable character reported in our legends, dimly seen through the mist of untold centuries, is Kwi-wi-sens Nenaew-bo-zhoo, meaning,
in Algonquin dialect, "The greatest clown-boy in the world." When he became a man, he was not only a great prophet among his people, but a giant
of such marvelous strength, that he could wield his war-club with force enough to shatter in pieces the largest pine-tree.
His hunting-dog was a monstrous black wolf, as large as a full-grown buffalo, with long, soft hair, and eyes that shone in the night like the moon.
The deity of the sea saw the charming beauty of this wolf-dog, and was so extremely jealous of him, that he was determined to take his life.
So he appeared before him in the form of a deer, and as the dog rushed to seize him, he was grasped by the deity and drowned in the depths of the sea.
He then made a great barbecue and invited as his guests whales, serpents, and all the monsters of the deep, that they might exult and rejoice with him
that he had slain the dog of the prophet.
When the seer-clown learned of the fate of his noble dog, through cunning Waw-goosh (the fox), whose keen eyes saw the deception that cost the
wolf-dog his life, he sought to take revenge upon the sea-god. So he went at once to the place where the latter was accustomed to come on land with
his monster servants to bathe in the sunshine, and there concealed himself among the tall rushes until the "caravan of the deep" came ashore.
When they had fallen fast asleep, he drew his giant bow, twice as long as he was tall, and shot a poisoned arrow that pierced Neben Manito, the
water-god, through the heart. Neben Manito rolled into the sea, and cried, "Revenge! Revenge!" Then all the assembled monsters of the deep rushed
headlong after the slayer of their king.
The prophet fled in consternation before the outraged creatures that hurled after him mountains of water, which swept down the forests like grass
before the whirlwind. He continued to flee before the raging flood, but could find no dry land. In sore despair he then called upon the God of Heaven
to save him, when there appeared before him a great canoe, in which were pairs of all kinds of land-beasts and birds, being rowed by a most beautiful
maiden, who let down a rope and drew him up into the boat.
The flood raged on; but, though mountains of water were continually being hurled after the prophet, he was safe. When he had floated on the water
many days, he ordered Aw-milk (the beaver) to dive down and, if he could reach the bottom, to bring up some earth. Down the latter plunged, but in
a few minutes came floating to the surface lifeless. The prophet pulled him into the boat, blew into his mouth, and he became alive again.
He then said to Waw-jashk (the musk-rat), "You are the best diver among all the animal creation. Go down to the bottom and bring me up some
earth, out of which I will create a new world; for we cannot much longer live on the face of the deep."
Down plunged the musk-rat; but like the beaver, he, too, soon came to the surface lifeless, and was drawn into the boat, whereupon the prophet blew
into his mouth, and he became alive again. In his paw, however, was found a small quantity of earth, which the prophet rolled into a small ball, and
tied to the neck of Ka-ke-gi (the raven), saying, "Go thou, and fly to and fro over the surface of the deep, that dry land may appear."
The raven did so; the waters rolled away; the world resumed its former shape; and, in course of time, the maiden and the prophet were united and
repeopled the world.