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The Summer-maker






Source: Thirty Indian Legends

Once in the far north there lived a Manitou whose name was Ojeeg, or
the fisher. He and his wife and one son lived on the shore of a lake
and were very happy together.

In that country there was never any spring or summer, and the snow lay
deep on the ground all the year round. But this did not daunt the
fisher.

He went forth every day and always brought back plenty of game.

The son wished to be a great hunter like his father, so he often took
his bow and arrows and went out to kill birds. But he nearly always
returned with benumbed hands and crying with cold.

One day, as he was returning, feeling very discouraged and ready to
cry, he noticed a red squirrel on the top of a tree. As he reached for
his arrows to shoot him, the squirrel spoke:

"Put away your arrows and listen to me. I see you go forth each day
and always return nearly frozen and with never a bird. Now, if you
will do as I tell you, we shall have summer all the time instead of the
snow. Then I shall have plenty to eat, and you may kill all the birds
you wish. When you go home, you must cry and sob. When your mother
asks you what is the matter, do not answer, but throw away your bow and
arrow and cry harder than ever. Do not eat any supper, and when your
father comes home, he will ask your mother what is the matter with you.
She will say that she does not know, that you only sob and cry, and
will not speak. When he asks you to give the reason of your sorrow,
tell him that you want summer to come. Coax him to get it for you. He
will say it is a very hard thing to do, but will promise to try. Now
remember all this and do as I tell you."

As the squirrel finished speaking, he disappeared, and the son returned
home. Everything happened as the little squirrel had said, and when
the son asked his father to get summer for him, Ojeeg replied, "My son,
this is a hard task you have given me. But I love you and so shall try
for your sake. It may cost me my life, but I shall do my best."

Then he called together all his friends, and they had a feast. A bear
was killed and roasted, and they arranged to meet on Thursday to begin
their journey.

When the day came, they all gathered; there was the otter, the beaver,
the lynx, and the wolverine. Ojeeg said good-bye to his wife and son,
and the party set out. For twenty days they travelled through the
snow, and at last came to the foot of a mountain. The animals were all
very tired by this time, all but Ojeeg. He was a nimble little animal
and used to long journeys.

As they began to go up the mountain, they noticed footprints and marks
of blood, as if some hunter had gone before them with an animal he had
killed.

"Let us follow these tracks," said the fisherman, "and see if we can
get something to eat."

When they reached the top of the mountain, they noticed a small lodge.

"Now be very careful and do not laugh at anything we see," said Ojeeg.

They knocked at the door, and it was opened by a very strange man. He
had a huge head, big, strong teeth, and no arms. He invited them to
come in and eat. There was meat cooking in a wooden pot on the fire.
The man lifted it off when they were not looking, and gave them all
something to eat. They wondered how he could do this, and how he had
killed the animal, but they soon learned the secret. He was a Manitou!

As they were eating, the otter began to laugh at the strange movements
of the Manitou, who, hearing a noise, turned quickly and threw himself
on the otter. He was going to smother him, as this was his way of
killing animals. But the otter managed to wriggle from under him, and
escaped out of the door.

The rest remained there for the night. When they were going in the
morning, the Manitou told them what path to take and what to do when
they reached the right spot. They thanked him and started on again.

For twenty more days they travelled, and then they reached another
mountain. They climbed to the top of this, and they knew by certain
signs it was the spot the Manitou had described. So they seated
themselves in a circle and filled their pipes. They pointed to the
sky, the four winds, and the earth; then they began to smoke. As they
looked up at the sky they were silent with awe, for they were on such a
high mountain that the sky seemed only a few yards off. They then
prepared themselves, and Ojeeg told the otter to have the first trial
at making a hole in the sky. With a grin the otter consented. He made
a spring, but fell down the side of the hill. The snow was moist, so
he slid all the way to the bottom. When he had picked himself up, he
said, "This is the last time I shall make such a jump; I am going
home," and away he went. The beaver had the next turn, but did no
better, The lynx had no better luck. Then came the turn of the
wolverine.

"Now," said Ojeeg to him, "I am going to depend on you; you are brave
and will try again and again."

So the wolverine took a jump, and the first time nearly reached the
sky; the second time he cracked it, and the third time he made a hole
and crawled in. Ojeeg nimbly followed, and they found themselves on a
beautiful, green plain. Lovely shade trees grew at some distance, and
among the trees were rivers and lakes. On the water floated all kinds
of water-fowl. Then they noticed long lodges. They were empty, except
for a great many cages filled with beautiful birds. The spirits who
lived in these lodges were wandering among the trees. As Ojeeg noticed
the birds, he remembered his son. He quickly opened the doors of the
cages, and the birds rushed out. They flew through the air and down
through the opening in the sky.

The warm winds, that always blow in that heavenly place, followed the
birds down through the opening and began to melt the snows of the
north. Then the guardian spirits noticed what was happening, and ran
with great shouts to the spot where all were escaping. But Spring and
Summer had nearly gone. They struck a great blow and cut Summer in
two, so that only part of it reached the earth. The wolverine heard
the noise and raced for the hole, getting through before they could
close it. But the fisher was farther away and could not reach the hole
in time. The spirits closed up the opening and turned to catch him.
He ran over the plains to the north, going so fast that he gained the
trees before they could catch him. He quickly climbed the largest one,
and they began to shoot at him with their arrows.

There was only one place in the fisher's body where he could be
hurt,--a spot near the tip of his tail; so the spirits kept shooting a
long time before an arrow struck that spot. At last one did, and he
fell to the ground. As it was now nearly night, the spirits went back
to their lodges and left him there alone. He stretched out his limbs
and said:

"I have kept my promise to my son, though it has cost me my life. But
I shall always be remembered by the natives of the earth, and I am
happy to think of the good I have sent them. From now on they will
have different seasons, and eight to ten moons without snow."

In the morning they found him lying dead with the arrow through his
tail, and to this day he may be seen in the northern sky.





Next: The Sleep Fairies

Previous: The Giant Bear



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