Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Page: 18

After a while, Wenibojó wandered on. He was very hungry. Many bushes spoke to him. Many said, “Sometimes they eat us,” but he made no answer.

One day he followed the river trail, when the sun was high. Many little bunches of straw were growing out of the water. They spoke to him. They said, “Wenibojó, sometimes they eat us.”

So Wenibojó picked some of the grains from the heavy-headed stalks and ate.

“You are good to eat,” he said. “What do they call you?”

“They call us manomin,” answered the wild rice.

Then Wenibojó waded far out into the water. He beat out grains and ate many. They were good for food.

Then Wenibojó remembered the grain which Nokomis had sown, and he returned to his grandmother and the manomin lake.




NOW one evening Wenibojó returned to his wigwam from hunting. He had found no game. As he came towards his fire, he saw a duck sitting on the edge of a kettle of boiling water. Immediately the duck flew away.

Wenibojó looked in the kettle. Behold! Grains were floating upon the water. Then he ate the broth made with the grains. It was good.

So Wenibojó followed the trail of the duck. He came to a lake of manomin. All the birds and the ducks and geese were eating the grain. Therefore Wenibojó learned to know manomin, the wild rice.




ONE day Manabush walked along the lake shore. He was tired and hungry. Then he saw, around a sand spit jutting far out into the water, many waterfowl.

Now Manabush had with him only a medicine bag. He hung that on a manabush tree in the brush. He put a roll of bark on his back, and returned to the lake shore. He passed slowly by so as not to frighten the birds. Duck and Swan suddenly recognized him, and swam quickly away from the shore.

One of the Swans called out, “Ho! Manabush, where are you going?”

“I am going to have a dance,” said Manabush. “As you may see, I have all my songs with me.”

Then he called out to all the birds, “Come to me, brothers! Let us sing and dance.”

At once the birds returned to the shore and walked back upon an open space in the grass. Manabush took the bundle of bark from his back. He placed it on the [46] ground, got out his singing sticks, and then he said to the birds,

“Now, all of you dance around me as I drum. Sing as loudly as you can and keep your eyes closed. The first to look will always have red eyes.”

So Manabush began to beat time upon his bundle of bark. The birds with eyes closed danced around him. Then Manabush began to keep time with one hand, as the birds sang loudly. With the other he seized a Swan by the neck. Swan gave a loud squawk.