Tibik-Kizis - Tales from the Great Lakes

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North American folklore, tales and legends from the First Nation tribes around the Great Lakes

There are many sources & traditions within Native American storytelling & mythologies. These tales are a selection of those told by the tribes & peoples of the Great Lakes, but by no means does this book cover all aspects even within just this sub-group. It's been one of the absolute delights of the summer discovering just how deep & rich are the veins of folk & tribal lore across the Americas.

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SAMPLE chapter

ERONENIERA

This adaptation is taken from a story told by Henry R. Schoolcraft, Ll.D.. The Myth Of Hiawatha, And Other Oral Legends, Mythologic And Allegoric, Of The North American Indians was originally published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, in 1856. This is an Algonquin tale.


A DELAWARE, CALLED ERONENIERA, ANXIOUS TO know the Master of Life, resolved, without mentioning his design to any one, to undertake a journey to Paradise, which he knew to be God' residence. But, to succeed in his project, it was necessary for him to know the way to the celestial regions. Not knowing any person who, having been there himself, might aid him in finding the road, he commenced juggling, in the hope of drawing a good augury from his dream. The man, in his dream, imagined that he had only to commence his journey, and that a continued walk would take him to the celestial abode.

 

The next morning very early, he equipped himself as a hunter, taking a gun, powder-horn, ammunition, and a boiler to cook his provisions. The first part of his journey was pretty favourable. He walked a long time without being discouraged, having always a firm conviction that he should attain his aim. Eight days had already elapsed without his meeting with anyone to oppose his desire.

 

On the evening of the eighth day, at sunset, he stopped as usual on the bank of a brook, at the entrance of a little prairie, a place which he thought favourable for his night' encampment. As he was preparing his lodging, he perceived at the other end of the prairie three very wide and well- beaten paths and he thought this somewhat singular. He, however, continued to prepare his wigwam, so that he might shelter himself from the weather. He also lighted a fire. While cooking, he found that, the darker it grew, the more distinct were those paths. This surprised, nay, even frightened him. He hesitated a few moments. Was it better for him to remain in his camp, or seek another at some distance? While in this incertitude, he remembered his juggling, or rather his dream. He thought that his only aim in undertaking his journey was to see the Master of Life. This restored him to his senses. He thought it probable that one of those three roads led to the place which he wished to visit. He therefore resolved upon remaining in his camp until the morning, when he would, at random, take one of them. His curiosity, however, scarcely allowed him time to take his meal, so he left his encampment and fire, and took the widest of the paths.


He followed it until the middle of the next day without seeing anything to impede his progress, but, as he was resting a little to take breath, he suddenly perceived a large fire coming from underground. It excited his curiosity, so he went towards it to see what it might be, but, as the fire appeared to increase as he drew nearer, he was so overcome with fear, that he turned back and took the widest of the other two paths.

 

Having followed this second path for the same space of time as he had the first, he perceived a similar spectacle. His fright, which had been lulled by the change of road, awoke once more in him, and he was obliged to take the third path, in which he walked a whole day without seeing anything. All at once, a mountain of a marvellous whiteness burst upon his sight. This filled him with astonishment, but nevertheless, he took courage and advanced to examine it.

 

Having arrived at the foot, he saw no signs of a road. He became very sad, not knowing how to continue his journey. In this conjuncture, he looked on all sides and perceived a woman seated upon a boulder on the mountainside. Her beauty was dazzling, and the whiteness of her garments surpassed that of snow. The woman said to him in his own language, "You appear surprised to find no longer a path to reach your wishes. I know that you have for a long time longed to see and speak to the Master of Life, and that you have undertaken this journey purposely to see him. The way which leads to his abode is upon this mountain. To ascend it, you must undress yourself completely, and leave all your accoutrements and clothing at the foot. No person shall injure them. You will then go and wash yourself in the river which I am now showing you, and afterward ascend the mountain."

 

The man obeyed punctually the woman' words, but one difficulty remained. How could he arrive at the top of the mountain, which was steep, without a path, and as smooth as glass? He asked the woman how he was to accomplish it. She replied, that if he really wished to see the Master of Life, he must, in mounting, only use his left hand and foot. This appeared almost impossible to the man. Encouraged, however, by the female, he started the climb, and succeeded after much trouble.

 

When he reached the top, he was astonished to see no one at all, the woman having disappeared. He found himself alone, and without a guide. Three unknown villages were in sight. They were constructed on a different plan from his own, much handsomer, and more regular. After a few moments' reflection, he took his way towards the most handsome.

 

When he was about half way to the village, he recollected that he was naked, and was afraid to proceed, but a voice told him to advance, and have no apprehensions. As he had washed himself, he might walk in confidence. He proceeded without hesitation to a place which appeared to be the gate of the village, and stopped until someone came to open it. While he was considering the exterior of the village, the gate opened, and the man saw coming towards him a handsome man dressed all in white, who took him by the hand, and said he was going to satisfy his wishes by leading him to the presence of the Master of Life. The man let himself be conducted, and they arrived at a place of unequalled beauty.

 

The man was lost in admiration. He saw the Master of Life, who took him by the hand, and gave him for a seat a hat bordered with gold. The man, afraid of spoiling the hat, hesitated to sit down, but, being again ordered to do so, he obeyed without reply.

 

The man being seated, God said to him, "I am the Master of Life, whom you wish to see, and to whom you wish to speak. Listen what I will tell you for yourself and for all the people. I am the Maker of Heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, men, and all that you see or have seen on the earth or in the heavens, and because I love you, you must do my will. You must also avoid those things that I hate. I hate that you drink as you do, until you lose your reason. I wish you not to fight one another. If you take two wives, or run after other people' wives, then you do wrong. I hate such conduct. You should have but one wife, and keep her until death. When you go to war, you juggle, you sing the medicine song, thinking you speak to me. You deceive yourselves. It is to the Manito that you speak. He is a wicked spirit who induces you to evil, and for want of knowing me, you listen to him.”

 

The Master of Life then continued, "The land on which you are, I have made for you, not for others. Why then do you suffer the white men to dwell upon your lands? Can you not do without them? I know that those whom you call the children of your great Father supply your wants. But, were you not wicked as you are, you would not need them. You might live as you did before you knew them. Before those whom you call your brothers had arrived, did not your bow and arrow maintain you? You needed neither gun, powder, nor any other object. The flesh of animals was your food, their skins your raiment. But when I saw you inclined to evil, I removed the animals into the depths of the forests, that you might depend on your brothers for your necessaries for your clothing. Again become good and do my will, and I will send animals for your sustenance. I do not, however, forbid suffering among you and your Father' children. I love them, they know me, they pray to me, I supply their own wants, and give them that which they bring to you. It is not so with those who are come to trouble your possessions. Drive them away, wage war against them. I love them not. They know me not. They are my enemies, they are your brothers' enemies. Send them back to the lands I have made for them. Let them remain there.” The Master of Life held up a piece of bark.

 

"Here is a written prayer which I give to you. Learn it by heart, and teach it to all of our people and our children." The man said that he could not read, so the Master of Life told him that, on his return upon earth, he should give it to the chief of his village, who would read it, and also teach it to him, and also to all the people.

 

"It must be repeated," said the Master of Life, "morning and evening. Do all that I have told you, and announce it to all of our people as coming from the Master of Life. Let them drink but one draught, or two at most, in one day. Let them have but one wife, and discontinue running after other people' wives and daughters. Let them not fight one another. Let them not sing the medicine song, for in singing the medicine song they speak to the evil spirit. Drive from your lands," added the Master of Life, "those dogs in red clothing. They are only an injury to you. When you want anything, apply to me, as your brothers do, and I will give to both. Do not sell to your brothers that which I have placed on the earth as food. In short, become good, and you shall want nothing. When you meet one another, bow, and give one another the hand of the heart. Above all, I command you to repeat, morning and evening, the prayer which I have given you."

 

The man promised to do the will of the Master of Life, and also to recommend it strongly to his people, adding that the Master of Life should be satisfied with them. His conductor then came, and leading him to the foot of the mountain, told him to take his garments and return to his village, which was immediately done. His return much surprised the inhabitants of the village, who did not know what had become of him. They asked him where he came from, but, as he had been enjoined to speak to no one until he saw the chief of the village, he motioned to them with his hand that he came from above. Having entered the village, he went immediately to the chief' wigwam, and delivered to him the prayer and laws entrusted to his care by the Master of Life.

 

It is said that Pontiac told this story to the assembled tribes in 1763, to enlist them in his plan to resist the transfer of the country to the English authority, on the fall of the French power in the Canadas.