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Addik Kum Maig Or The Origin Of The White Fish

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

A long time ago, there lived a famous hunter in a remote part of the
north. He had a handsome wife and two sons, who were left in the lodge
every day, while he went out in quest of the animals, upon whose flesh
they subsisted. Game was very abundant in those days, and his exertions
in the chase were well rewarded. The skins of animals furnished them
with clothing, and their flesh with food. They lived a long distance
from any other lodge, and very seldom saw any one. The two sons were
still too young to follow their father to the chase, and usually
diverted themselves within a short distance of the lodge. They noticed
that a young man visited the lodge during their father's absence, and
these visits were frequently repeated. At length the elder of the two
said to his mother:

"My mother, who is this tall young man that comes here so often during
our father's absence? Does he wish to see him? Shall I tell him when he
comes back this evening?" "Bad boy," said the mother, pettishly, "mind
your bow and arrows, and do not be afraid to enter the forest in search
of birds and squirrels, with your little brother. It is not manly to be
ever about the lodge. Nor will you become a warrior if you tell all the
little things you see and hear to your father. Say not a word to him on
the subject." The boys obeyed, but as they grew older, and still saw
the visits of this mysterious stranger, they resolved to speak again to
their mother, and told her that they meant to inform their father of
all they had observed, for they frequently saw this young man passing
through the woods, and he did not walk in the path, nor did he carry
anything to eat. If he had any message to deliver, they had observed
that messages were always addressed to the men, and not to the women.
At this, the mother flew into a rage. "I will kill you," said she, "if
you speak of it." They were again intimidated to hold their peace. But
observing the continuance of an improper intercourse, kept up by
stealth, as it were, they resolved at last to disclose the whole matter
to their father. They did so. The result was such as might have been
anticipated. The father, being satisfied of the infidelity of his wife,
watched a suitable occasion, when she was separated from the children,
that they might not have their feelings excited, and with a single blow
of his war-club dispatched her. He then buried her under the ashes of
his fire, took down the lodge, and removed, with his two sons, to a
distant position.

But the spirit of the woman haunted the children, who were now grown up
to the estate of young men. She appeared to them as they returned from
hunting in the evening. They were also terrified in their dreams, which
they attributed to her. She harassed their imaginations wherever they
went. Life became a scene of perpetual terrors. They resolved, together
with their father, to leave the country, and commenced a journey toward
the south. After travelling many days along the shores of Lake Superior,
they passed around a high promontory of rock where a large river issued
out of the lake, and soon after came to a place called Pauwateeg.[90]

They had no sooner come in sight of these falls, than they beheld the
skull of the woman rolling along the beach. They were in the utmost
fear, and knew not how to elude her. At this moment one of them looked
out, and saw a stately crane sitting on a rock in the middle of the
rapids. They called out to the bird, "See, grandfather, we are
persecuted by a spirit. Come and take us across the falls, so that we
may escape her."

This crane was a bird of extraordinary size and great age. When first
descried by the two sons, he sat in a state of stupor, in the midst of
the most violent eddies. When he heard himself addressed, he stretched
forth his neck with great deliberation, and lifting himself by his
wings, flew across to their assistance. "Be careful," said the crane,
"that you do not touch the back part of my head. It is sore, and should
you press against it, I shall not be able to avoid throwing you both
into the rapids." They were, however, attentive on this point, and were
safely landed on the south shore of the river.

The crane then resumed his former position in the rapids. But the skull
now cried out, "Come, my grandfather, and carry me over, for I have
lost my children, and am sorely distressed." The aged bird flew to her
assistance. He carefully repeated the injunction that she must by no
means touch the back part of his head, which had been hurt, and was not
yet healed. She promised to obey, but soon felt a curiosity to know
where the head of her carrier had been hurt, and how so aged a bird
could have received so bad a wound. She thought it strange, and before
they were half way over the rapids, could not resist the inclination
she felt to touch the affected part. Instantly the crane threw her into
the rapids. "There," said he, "you have been of no use during your
life, you shall now be changed into something for the benefit of your
people, and it shall be called Addik Kum Maig." As the skull floated
from rock to rock, the brains were strewed in the water, in a form
resembling roes, which soon assumed the shape of a new species of fish,
possessing a whiteness of color, and peculiar flavor, which have caused
it, ever since, to be in great repute with the Indians.

The family of this man, in gratitude for their deliverance, adopted the
crane as their totem, or ancestral mark; and this continues to be the
distinguishing tribal sign of the band to this day.

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