American Indian: How the Summer Came

This story is part of the American Indian Fairy Tales unit. Story source: American Indian Fairy Tales by W.T. Larned, with illustrations by John Rae (1921).

How the Summer Came

MORNING Glory was tired of the winter and longed for the spring to come. Sometimes it seemed as if Ka-bib-on-okka, the fierce old North Wind, would never go back to his home in the Land of Ice. With his cold breath he had frozen tight and hard the Big-Sea-Water, Gitche Gumee, and covered it deep with snow till you could not tell the Great Lake from the land.

Except for the beautiful green pines, all the world was white—a dazzling, silent world in which there was no musical murmur of waters and no song of birds.

"Will O-pee-chee, the robin, never come again?" sighed Morning Glory. "Suppose there was no summer anywhere, and no Sha-won-dasee, the South Wind, to bring the violet and the dove. O, Iagoo, would it not be dreadful?"

"Be patient, Morning Glory," answered the old man. "Soon you will hear Wa-wa, the wild goose, flying high up, on his way to the North. I have lived many moons. Sometimes he seems long in coming, but he always comes. When you hear him call, then O-pee-chee, the robin, will not be far behind."

"I'll try to be patient," said Morning Glory. "But Ka-bib-on-okka, the North wind, is so strong and fierce. I can't help wondering whether there ever was a time when his power was so great that he made his home here always. It makes me shiver to think of it!"

Iagoo rose from his place by the fire, and drew to one side the curtain of buffalo-hide that screened the doorway. He pointed to the sky—clear, and sparkling with stars. "Look!" he said. "There, in the North. See that little cluster of stars. Do you know the name we give it?"

"I know," said Eagle Feather. "It is O-jeeg An-nung—the Fisher stars. If you look right, you can see how they make the body of the Fisher. He is stretched out flat, with an arrow through his tail. See, sister!"

"The Fisher," repeated Morning Glory. "You mean the furry little animal, something like a fox? Is Marten another name for it?"

"That's it," said Eagle Feather.

"Yes, I see," nodded Morning Glory. "But why is the Fisher spread out flat that way, in the sky, with an arrow sticking through his tail?"

"I don't know just exactly why," admitted Eagle Feather. "I suppose some hunter was chasing him. Perhaps Iagoo can tell us."

Iagoo closed the curtain, and went back to the fire.

"You thought there might have been a time when there was no summer on the earth," he said to Morning Glory. "And you were right. Until O-jeeg, the Fisher, found a way to bring the summer down from the sky, the earth was everywhere covered with snow, and it was always cold. If O-jeeg had not been willing to give his life, so that all the rest of us could be warm, Ka-bib-on-okka, the North Wind, would have ruled the world, as he now rules the Land of Ice."

Then Morning Glory and Eagle Feather sat down on the soft rug that was once the winter coat of Muk-wa, the bear, and Iagoo told them the story of How the Summer Came:

In the wild forest that borders the Great Lake there once lived a mighty hunter named O-jeeg. No one knew the woods so well as he; where others would be lost without a trail to guide them, he found his way easily and quickly, by day or night, through the trackless tangle of trees and underbrush. Where the red deer fled, he followed; the bear could not escape his swift pursuit. He had the cunning of the fox, the endurance of the wolf, the speed of the wild turkey when it runs at the scent of danger.

When O-jeeg shot an arrow, it always hit the mark. When he set out on a journey, no storm or snow could turn him back. He did everything he said he would do, and did it well.

Thus it was that some men came to believe that O-jeeg was a Manito—the Indian name for one who has magic powers. This much was certain: whenever O-jeeg wished to do so, he could change himself into the little animal known as the Fisher, or Marten. Perhaps that is why he was on such friendly terms with some of the animals, who were always willing to help him when he called upon them. Among these were the otter, the beaver, the lynx, the badger and the wolverine. There came a time, as we shall see, when he needed their services badly, and they were not slow in coming to his assistance.

(700 words)

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