Addik Kum Maig Or The Origin Of The White Fish

: 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

om 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.