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The Origin Of White-fish


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

An Indian who lived far in the north was so devoted to the chase that he
was never at home for the whole of a day, to the sorrow of his two boys,
who liked nothing so much as to sport with him and to be allowed to
practise with his weapons. Their mother told them that on no account were
they to speak to him of the young man who visited the lodge while their
father was away, and it was not until they were well grown and knew what
the duty of wives should be that they resolved to disobey her. The hunter
struck the woman dead when he learned of her perfidy. So greatly did her
spirit trouble them, however, that they could no longer abide in their
old home in peace and comfort, and they left the country and journeyed
southward until they came to the Sault Sainte Marie.

As they stood beside the falls a head came rolling toward them on the
earth--the head of the dead woman. At that moment, too, a crane was seen
riding on the surface of the water, whirling about in its strongest
eddies, and when one of the boys called to it, O Grandfather, we are
persecuted by a spirit; take us across the falls, the crane flew to
them. Cling to my back and do not touch my head, it said to them, and
landed them safely on the farther shore.

But now the head screamed, Come, grandfather, and carry me over, for I
have lost my children and am sorely distressed, and the bird flew to her
likewise. Be careful not to touch my head, it said. The head promised
obedience, but succumbed to curiosity when half-way over and touched the
bird's head to see what was the matter with him. With a lurch the crane
flung off his burden and it fell into the rapids. As it swept down,
bumping against the rocks, the brains were pounded out and strewn over
the water. You were useless in life, cried the crane. You shall not be
so in death. Become fish! And the bits of brain changed to roe that
presently hatched to a delicate white fish, the flesh whereof is esteemed
by Indians of the lakes, and white men, likewise. The family pitched a
lodge near the spot and took the crane as their totem or name-mark. Many
of their descendants bear it to this day.

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