Monday, May 14, 2012

Native American Myths and Legends: Red Head and is Two Sons


Native American Myths and Legends

THE TRADITIONARY STORY OF THE RED HEAD AND HIS

TWO SONS.

BY NABINOI, AN AGED ODJIBWA CHIEF.
Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong, was a first rate hunter, and he loved the chase exceedingly, and pursued it with unceasing vigilance. One day, on his return home, arriving at his lodge, he was informed by his two sons, who were but small then, that they were very lonesome, because their mother was in the habit of daily leaving them alone, and this occurred so soon as[ he started upon his daily chase. This circumstance was not unknown to Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong, but he seemed fully aware of it; he took his boys in his arms and kissed them, and told them that their mother behaved improperly and was acting the part of a wicked and faithless woman. But Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong behaved towards his wife as if ignorant of her vile course. One morning rising very early, he told his sons to take courage, and that they must not be lonesome, he also strictly enjoined them not to absent themselves nor quit their lodge; after this injunction was given to the boys, he made preparations, and starting much earlier than usual, he travelled but a short distance from his lodge, when he halted and secreted himself. After waiting a short time, he saw his wife coming out of their lodge, and immediately after a man made his appearance and meeting Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong's wife, they greeted one another. His suspicions were now confirmed, and when he saw them in the act of carrying on an illegal intercourse, his anger arose, he went up to them and killed them with one blow; he then dragged them both to his lodge, and tying them together, he dug a hole beneath the fire-place in his lodge and buried them. He then told his sons that it was necessary that he should go away, as he would surely be killed if he remained, and their safety would depend upon their ability of keeping the matter a secret. He gave his eldest son a small bird, (Kichig-e-chig-aw-na-she) to roast for his small brother over the ashes and embers where their mother was buried, he also provided a small leather bag, and then told his sons the necessity of his immediate flight to heaven, or to the skies. And that it would be expedient for them to fly and journey southward, and thus prepared their minds for the separation about to take place. "By and bye," said Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong to his sons, "persons will come to you and enquire for me and for your mother, you will say to them that I am gone hunting, and your little brother in the mean time will continually point to the fire place, this will lead the persons to whom I allude, to make inquiries of the cause of this pointing, and you will tell them that you have a little bird roasting for your brother, this will cause them to desist from further inquiry at the time. As soon as they are gone escape! While you are journeying agreeably to my instructions, I will look from on high upon you, I will lead and conduct you, and you shall hear my voice from day to day." Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong at this time gave his sons an awl, a beaver's tooth, and a hone, also a dry coal, and directed them to place a small piece of the coal on the ground every evening, so soon as they should encamp, from which fire would be produced and given to them; he told his eldest son to place his brother in the leather bag, and in that manner carry him upon his back; he then bade them farewell.
The two boys being thus left alone in the lodge, and while in the act of roasting the little bird provided for them, a man came in, and then another, and another, until they numbered ten in all; the youngest boy would from time to time point at the fire, and the men enquired to know the reason, the eldest boy said that he was roasting a bird for his brother, and digging the ashes produced it. They enquired, where their father and mother were, the boy answered them saying, that their father was absent hunting, and that their mother had gone to chop and collect wood; upon this information the men rose and searched around the outskirts of the lodge, endeavouring to find traces of the man and his wife, but they were not successful, and returned to the lodge. Before this, however, and during the absence of the ten men, Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong's eldest son placed his little brother in the leather bag, (Ouskemood,) and ran away southward.
One of the ten men observed, that the smallest boy had repeatedly pointed to the fire place, and that they might find out something by digging; they set to work, and found the woman and the man tied together. On this discovery their wrath was kindled, they brandished their weapons, denouncing imprecations upon Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong, who was of course suspected of having committed the deed.
The ten men again renewed their search in order to avenge themselves upon the perpetrator of this dark deed, but Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong, in order to avoid instant death, had sought a large hollow tree, and entering at the bottom or root part, passed through and reached the top of it, from whence he took his flight upwards to the sky. His pursuers finally traced him, and followed him as far as the tree, and into the sky, with loud and unceasing imprecations of revenge and their determination to kill him. The spirit of the mother alone followed her children. About mid-day the boys heard, as they ran, a noise in the heavens like the rolling of distant thunder.[7] The boys continued their journey south, when the noise ceased; towards night they encamped; they put a small piece of the coal on the ground, then a log of fire-wood was dropped down from the skies to them, from whence a good blazing fire was kindled. This was done daily, and when the fire was lit, a raccoon would fall from on high upon the fire, and in this manner the boys were fed, and this over-ruling care they experienced daily. In the evenings at their camping place, and sometimes during the day, the Red Head's voice was heard speaking to his children, and encouraging them to use their utmost exertions to fly from the pursuit of their mother. To aid them in escaping, they were told to throw away their awl, and immediately there grew a strong and almost impassable hedge of thorn bushes behind them, in their path, which the pursuing mother could scarcely penetrate, and thus impeding her pro[gress, tearing away her whole body and leaving nothing but the head. So they escaped the first day.
[7]Note by Mr. George Johnston, from whom this tale was received.Any thing of the kind, or a similar noise heard, is attributed by the Indian, to this day, as an indication of the contention between Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong and his pursuers, and hence a prelude to wars and contentions among the nations of the world.
The next day they resumed their march and could distinctly hear the noise of combat in the sky, as if it were a roaring thunder; they also heard the voice of their mother behind them, desiring her eldest son to stop and wait for her, saying that she wished to give the breast to his brother; then again Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong's voice, encouraging his sons to fly for their lives, and saying that if their mother overtook them she would surely kill them.
In the evening of the second day the boys prepared to encamp, and the noise of combat on high ceased; on placing a small piece of the coal on the ground, a log and some fire-wood was let down as on the preceding night, and the fire was kindled, and then the raccoon placed on it for their food. This was fulfilling the promise made by their father, that they would be provided for during their flight. The beaver's tooth was here thrown away, and this is the cause why the northern country now abounds with beaver, and also the innumerable little lakes and marshes, and consequently the rugged and tedious travelling now experienced.
On the third day the boys resumed their flight, and threw away their hone, and it became a high rocky mountainous ridge, the same now seen on the north shore of these straits, (St. Mary's) which was a great obstacle in the way of the woman of the Head, for this was now her name, because that part alone remained of her whole frame, and with it she was incessantly uttering determinations to kill her eldest son; the boys finally reached the fishing place known as the eddy of Wah-zah-zhawing, at the rapids of Bawating, situated on the north shore of the river. Here Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong, told his sons that he had himself been overtaken in his flight by his pursuers and killed, and he appeared to them in the shape of a red headed wood-pecker, or a mama. This is a bird that is seldom or never attacked by birds of prey, for no vestiges of his remains are ever seen or found by the Indian hunter. "Now my sons," said the red headed wood-pecker, "I have brought you to this river, you will now see your grand father and he will convey you across to the opposite side." Then the boys looked to the southern shore of the river, and they saw in the middle of the rapid, an Oshuggay standing on a rock; to the Oshuggay the boys spoke, and accosted him as their grand father, requesting him to carry them across the river Bawating. The Oshuggay stretching his long neck over the river to the place where the boys stood, told them to get upon his head and neck, and again stretching to the southern shore, he landed the boys in safety, upon a prairie: the crane was seen walking in state, up and down the prairie.
The persevering mother soon arrived at Wah-zah-hawing, and immediately requested the Oshuggay to cross her over, that she was in pursuit of her children and stating that she wished to overtake them; but the Oshuggay seemed well aware of her character, and objected to conveying her across, giving her to understand that she was a lewd and bad woman; he continued giving her a long moral lecture upon the course she had pursued and the bad results to mankind in consequence, such as quarrels, murders, deaths, and hence widowhood.
The woman of the Head persisted in her request of being conveyed across. Objections and entreaties followed. She talked as if she were still a woman, whose favour was to be sought; and he, as if he were above such favours. After this dialogue the Oshuggay said that he would convey her across, on the condition that she would adhere strictly to his injunctions; he told her not to touch the bare part of his head, but to get upon the hollow or crooked part of his neck; to this she agreed, and got on. The Oshuggay then withdrew his long neck to about half way across, when feeling that she had forgotten her pledge he dashed her head upon the rocks, and the small fish, that were so abundant instantly fed upon the brain and fragments of the skull and became large white fish. "A fish" said the Oshuggay, "that from this time forth shall be abundant, and remain in these rapids to feed the Indians and their issue, from generation to generation."[8]
[8]The small white shells that the white fish live upon, and the white substance found in its gizzard are to this day considered by the Indians, the brain and skull of the woman of the Head.
After this transaction of the Oshuggay's, landing the boys safely across, and dashing the woman's head upon the rocks, he spake to the Crane and mutually consulting one another in relation to Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong's sons they agreed to invite two women from the eastward, of the tribe of the Wassissig, and the two lads took them for wives. The Oshuggay plucked one of his largest wing feathers and gave it to the eldest boy, and the Crane likewise did the same, giving his feathers to the youngest; they were told to consider the feathers as their sons after this, one feather appeared like an Oshuggay and the other like a young Crane. By and by they appeared like human beings to the lads. Thus the alliance was formed with the Wassissig, and the circumstance of the Oshuggay and Crane interesting themselves in behalf of the boys and the gift to them of their feathers and the result, is the origin of the Indian Totem.
Here Mäsh-kwa-sha-kwong's sons were told that they would be considered as chieftains and that this office would be hereditary and continue in their generations. After this, they multiplied exceedingly and became strong and powerful. About this time the Obinangoes, (or the Bears' Totem) came down from Shaugah-wah-mickong, near the extremity of Lake Superior. On their way eastward they were surprised on reaching Bawating to find such a numerous population of human beings: they were[ not aware of its being in existence; fear came upon the Obinangoes, and they devised the plan of securing friendship with the Oshuggays and Cranes, by adopting and claiming a relationship with them, and calling them their grandsons. This claim was yielded, and they were permitted to remain at Bawaiting upon the score of relationship thus happily attained. The Obenangoes eventually emigrated eastward and settled upon the northern coast of Lakes Huron and Ontario.
Population increased so rapidly at Bawaiting, that it was necessary to form new villages, some settling on the Garden River, some upon the Pakaysaugauegan River, and others upon the island of St. Joseph's, and upon the Menashkong Bay and Mashkotay Saugie River.
About this time, a person in the shape of a human being came down from the sky; his clothing was exceedingly pure and white; he was seated as it were in a nest, with a very fine cord attached to it, by which this mysterious person was let down, and the cord or string reached heaven. He addressed the Indians in a very humane, mild, and compassionate tone, saying that they were very poor and needy, but telling them that they were perpetually asleep, and this was caused by the Mache Monedo who was in the midst of them, and leading them to death and ruin.
This mysterious personage informed them also that above, where he came from, there was no night, that the inhabitants never slept, that it was perpetually day and they required no sleep; that Kezha Monedo was their light. He then invited four of the Indians to ascend up with him promising that they would be brought back in safety; that an opportunity would thereby present itself to view the beauty of the sky, or heavens. But the Indians doubted and feared lest the cord should break, because it appeared to them so small. They did not believe it possible it could bear their weight. With this objection they excused themselves. They were, however, again assured that the cord was sufficiently strong and that Kezha Monedo had the power to make it so. Yet the Indians doubted and feared, and did not accompany the messenger sent down to them. After this refusal the mysterious person produced a small bow and arrows with which he shot at the Indians in different parts of their bodies: the result was, the killing of multitudes of small white worms, which he showed to them; telling them that they were the Mache Monedo which caused them to sleep, and prevented their awakening from their death-like state.
This divine messenger then gave to the Indians laws and rules, whereby they should be guided: first, to love and fear Kezha Monedo, and next that they must love one another, and be charitable and hospitable; and finally, that they must not covet their neighbours property, but acquire it by labour and honest industry. He then instituted the grand medicine or metay we win dance: this ceremony was to be observed annually, and with due solemnity, and the Indians, said Nabinoi, experienced much good from it; but unfortunately, the foolish young men were cheated by Mache[P Monedo, who caused them to adopt the Wabano dance and its ceremonies. This latter is decidedly an institution of the sagemaus, or evil spirits, and this was finally introduced into the metay we wining, (i.e. medicine dance) and thereby corrupted it.
The old chief continued his moral strain thus: While the Indians were instructed by the heavenly messenger they were told that it would snow continually for the space of five years, winter and summer, and the end would then be nigh at hand; and again that it would rain incessantly as many winters and summers more, which would cause the waters to rise and overflow the earth, destroying trees and all manner of vegetation. After this, ten winters and summers of drought would follow, drying up the land, and mostly the lakes and rivers; not a cloud would be seen during this period. The earth would become so dry, that it will then burn up with fire of itself, and it will also burn the waters to a certain depth, until it attains the first created earth and waters. Then the good Indians will rise from death to enjoy a new earth, filled with an abundance of all manner of living creatures. The only animal which will not be seen is the beaver. The bad Indians will not enjoy any portion of the new earth; they will be condemned and given to the evil spirits.
Four generations, he went on to say, have now passed away, since that brotherly love and charity, formerly known, still existed among the Indians. There was in those ancient times an annual meeting among the Indians, resembling the French New Year's Day, which was generally observed on the new moon's first appearance, Gitchy Monedo gesus. The Indians of our village would visit these of another, and sometimes meet one another dancing; and on those occasions they would exchange bows and arrows, their rude axes, awls, and kettles, and their clothing. This was an annual festival, which was duly observed by them. In those days the Indians lived happy; but every thing is now changed to the Indian mind, indicating the drawing near and approach of the end of time. The Indians who still adhere to the laws of the heavenly messenger experience happiness; and, on the contrary, concluded the old man, those who are wicked and adhere to the Wabano institution, generally meet with their reward; and it is singular to say that they generally come to their end by accidents, such as drowning, or miserable deaths.
He then reverted to the former part of his story. The Oshuggays, and the Cranes quarrelled, and this quarrel commenced on a trivial point. It appears that the Cranes took a pole, without leave, from the Oshuggays, and they broke the pole; this circumstance led to a separation. The Oshuggays emigrated south, and are now known as the Shawnees