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The Snake God Of Belle Isle






Category: THE CENRAL STATES AND THE GREAT LAKES

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The Indian demi-god, Sleeping Bear, had a daughter so beautiful that he
kept her out of the sight of men in a covered boat that swung on Detroit
River, tied to a tree on shore; but the Winds, having seen her when her
father had visited her with food, contended so fiercely to possess her
that the little cable was snapped and the boat danced on to the keeper of
the water-gates, who lived at the outlet of Lake Huron. The keeper,
filled with admiration for the girl's beauty, claimed the boat and its
charming freight, but he had barely received her into his lodge when the
angry Winds fell upon him, buffeting him so sorely that he died, and was
buried on Peach Island (properly Isle au Peche), where his spirit
remained for generations--an oracle sought by Indians before emprise in
war. His voice had the sound of wind among the reeds, and its meanings
could not be told except by those who had prepared themselves by fasting
and meditation to receive them. Before planning his campaign against the
English, Pontiac fasted here for seven days to clear his ear and hear
the wisdom of the sighing voice.

But the Winds were not satisfied with the slaying of the keeper. They
tore away his meadows and swept them out as islands. They smashed the
damsel's boat and the little bark became Belle Isle. Here Manitou placed
the girl, and set a girdle of vicious snakes around the shore to guard
her and to put a stop to further contests. These islands in the straits
seem to have been favorite places of exile and theatres of
transformation. The Three Sisters are so called because of three Indian
women who so scolded and wrangled that their father was obliged to
separate them and put one on each of the islands for the sake of peace.

It was at Belle Isle that the red men had put up and worshipped a natural
stone image. Hearing of this idol, on reaching Detroit, Dollier and De
Galinee crossed over to it, tore it down, smashed it, flung the bigger
piece of it into the river, and erected a cross in its place. The sunken
portion of the idol called aloud to the faithful, who had assembled to
wonder at the audacity of the white men and witness their expected
punishment by Manitou, and told them to cast in the other portions. They
did so, and all the fragments united and became a monster serpent that
kept the place from further intrusion. Later, when La Salle ascended the
straits in his ship, the Griffin, the Indians on shore invoked the help
of this, their manitou, and strange forms arose from the water that
pushed the ship into the north, her crew vainly singing hymns with a hope
of staying the demoniac power.





Next: Were-wolves Of Detroit

Previous: The Sun Fire At Sault Sainte Marie



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