Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Page: 9

Thus Gitche Manito taught the Indians how to make magic and how to be strong.


(A fragment)


LONG ago, Nokomis came down from Sky-land, but remained fluttering in mid air. There was no place on which to rest her foot.

The Fishes at once held a great council. Now Tortoise had a shell-covered back, very broad. After the council, he rose to the surface so that Nokomis might rest upon his back. Then the drift-masses of the sea gathered about the Tortoise. Thus the land was made.

Then Nokomis found herself alone on the land. So she married a manido from the Sky-land. Two sons had Nokomis—twin brothers. But the brothers were not friends. One was a good huntsman; the other could kill no game at all. So they disputed. Then one brother rose to the Sky-land. He caused the Thunders to roar over his brother’s head.

Now the sister of these twin brothers was the ancestor of the Ojibwas.




THE Mandans were the People of the Pheasants. They were the first people in the world. At first they lived in the earth. Now, in the dark Earth-land, they had many vines. Then at last one vine grew up through a hole in the Earth-plain, far above their heads. One of their young men at once went up the vine until he came out on the Earth-plain. He came out on the prairies, on the bank of a river, just where the Mandan village now stands.[4]

[4] 1834.

He looked all about him. The Earth-plain was very beautiful. There were many buffaloes there. He killed one with his bow and arrow, and found it was good for food.

Then the young man returned to his people under the ground. He told them all he had seen. They held a council, and then they began to climb up the vine to the Earth-plain. Some of the chiefs, and the young warriors, and many of the women went up. Then [18] came a very fat woman. The chiefs said, “Do not go up.” But she did, so the vine broke.

The Mandans were very sorry about this. Because no more could go up, the tribe on the Earth-plain is not very large. And no one could return to his village in the ground. Therefore the Mandans built their village on the banks of the river. But the rest of the people remained underground.




LONG, long ago, a great storm came. At once the people baked a great earthen pot, and in this two of them saved themselves. The pot was held up on the surface of the water. Now two rattlesnakes were also saved in the earthen jar, because in the olden days rattlesnakes were the friends of man. In those days, when an Indian left his lodge the rattlesnake entered it and protected it until he returned.

When all the land was flooded, the red-headed woodpecker hooked his claws into the sky and so hung above the waters. But the flood rose so high that part of his tail was wet. You can see the marks even to this day.