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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Native American Legends

Turtle gets a Shell

An Anishnabe (Anishinabe) Legend

It was one of those days when Nanaboozhoo was in a strange mood.
He had just awakened from a deep sleep that was disturbed by the
noisy quarreling and scolding of the blue jays. He was a bit cranky;
his sleep was disturbed and besides that, he was hungry. His first
thought was to go down to the village and find something to eat.
Entering the village, he came across some men cooking fish. They
had their camp located close to the water and Nanaboozhoo spied
many fish cooking over a fire. Now, being very hungry, he asked
for something to eat. The men were happy to give him some but cautioned
him that is was hot. Not heeding their warning, he quickly grabbed
the fish and burned his hand. He ran to the lake to cool it off
in the water. Still unsteady from his deep sleep, he tripped on
a stone and fell on Mi-she-kae (turtle) who was sunning on the beach.
At that time, Mishekae was not as we know her today. She had no
shell and was comprised of soft skin and bone.
Turtle complained loudly to Nanaboozhoo to watch where he was going.
Now, Nanaboozhoo felt ashamed of his clumsiness and apologized to
Mishekae. He wondered, "what can I do to make it up to her?"
He wanted to do something to help his friend. "I'll have to
sit and think it over," he thought, as he followed the path
back to his wigwam.
Sometime later, he returned to the beach and called for Mishekae.
Turtle poked her head through the soft beach mud. Nanaboozhoo picked
up two large shells from the shore and placed one on top of the
other. He scooped up Mishekae and put her right in the middle, between
the shells.
Nanaboozhoo took a deep breath and began. "You will never
be injured like that again." he said slowly. "Whenever
danger threatens," he continued, "you can pull your legs
and head into the shell for protection"
Nanaboozhoo sat beside his friend on the beach and told Mishekae
his thoughts. "The shell itself is round like Mother Earth.
It was a round hump which resembles her hills and mountains. It
is divided into segments, like martyrizes that are a part of her;
each different and yet connected by her."
Mishekae seemed very pleased with and listened intently. "You
have four legs, each representing the points of direction North,
South, East and West." he said. "When the legs are all
drawn in, all directions are lost. Your tail will show the many
lands where the Anishnabek has been and your head will point in
the direction to follow. "You will have advantages over the
Anishnabek," he went on. "You will be able to live in
the water as well as on land and you will be in your own house at
all times."

Mishekae approved of her new self and thanked Nanaboozhoo for his
wisdom. Moving now in a thick shell, she pushed herself along the
shore and disappeared into the water.
So, ever since that accident long ago, Turtle has been special
to the Anishnabek. To this day, she continues to grace Mother Earth,
still proudly wearing those two shells.

The Fox


One day Old Man went out hunting and took the fox with him. They hunted for several days but killed nothing. It was nice warm weather in the late fall. After they had become very hungry, as they were going along one day, Old Man went up over a ridge and on the other side he saw four big buffalo bulls lying down; but there was no way by which they could get near them. He dodged back out of sight and told the fox what he had seen, and they thought for a long time, to see if there was no way by which these bulls might be killed.
     At last Old Man said to the fox: "My little brother, I can think of only one way to get these bulls. This is my plan if you agree to it. I will pluck all the fur off you except one tuft on the end of your tail. Then you go over the hill and walk up and down in sight of the bulls, and you will seem so funny to them that they will laugh themselves to death."
     The fox did not like to do this, but he could think of nothing better, so he agreed to what Old Man proposed. Old Man plucked him perfectly bare, except the end of his tail, and the fox went over the ridge and walked up and down. When he had come close to the bulls, he played around and walked on his hind legs and went through all sorts of antics. When the bulls first saw him, they got up on their feet and looked at him. They did not know what to make of him. Then they began to laugh, and the more they looked at him, the more they laughed, until at last one by one they fell down exhausted and died. Then Old Man came over the hill, and went down to the bulls, and began to butcher them. By this time, it had grown a little colder.
     "Ah, little brother," said Old Man to the fox, "you did splendidly. I do not wonder that the bulls laughed themselves to death. I nearly died myself as I watched you from the hill. You looked very funny." While he was saying this, he was working away skinning off the hides and getting the meat ready to carry to camp, all the time talking to the fox, who stood about, his back humped up and his teeth chattering with the cold. Now a wind sprang up from the north and a few snowflakes were flying in the air. It was growing colder and colder. Old Man kept on talking, and every now and then he would say something to the fox, who was sitting behind him perfectly still, with his jaw shoved out and his teeth shining.
     At last Old Man had the bulls all skinned and the meat cut up, and as he rose up he said: "It is getting pretty cold, isn't it? Well, we do not care for the cold. We have got all our winter's meat, and we will have nothing to do but feast and dance and sing until spring." The fox made no answer. Then Old Man got angry and called out: "Why don't you answer me? Don't you hear me talking to you?" The fox said nothing. Then Old Man was mad, and he said, "Can't you speak?" and stepped up to the fox and gave him a push with his foot, and the fox fell over. He was dead, frozen stiff with the cold.

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