MS/Lakes: The Gifts of the Sky God

John Reed Swanton, in his book about the Indian tribes of the Mississippi Valley has this to say about Kutnahin (source): "Besides being the chief deity, Ku'tnahin performed the functions of 'trickster,' like Spider among the Sioux and Raven on the north Pacific Coast."

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Mississippi Valley / Great Lakes unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1914).

The Gifts of the Sky God

LONG, long ago, many Indians started to reach the Sky-world. They walked far to the north until they came to the edge of the sky where it is fitted down over the Earth-plain. When they came to this place, they tried to slip through a crack under the edge, but the Sky-cover came down very tightly and quickly and crushed all but six. These six had slipped through into the Sky-land.

Then these men began to climb up, walking far over the sky floor. At last they came to the lodge of Kutnakin. They stayed with him as his guests. At last they wished to go back to their own lodges on the Earth-plain.

Kutnakin said, “How will you go down to the Earth-plain?”

One said, “I will go down as a squirrel.” So he started to spring down from the Sky-land. He was dashed to pieces.

Kutnakin said to the next, “How will you go down to the Earth-plain?”

And this man also went as an animal. And so the next one also. They were dashed to pieces. Then the others saw that they were crushed by their fall.

Therefore the fourth said, “I will go down as a spider.” And he spun a long line down which he climbed safely to earth.

The fifth said, “I will go down as an eagle,” and he spread his wings and circled through the air until he alighted on a tree branch.

The last one said, “I will go down as a pigeon,” and so he came softly to earth.

Now each one brought back a gift from Kutnakin. The one who came back as a spider had learned how to howl and sing and dance when people were sick. He was the first medicine man. But one Indian had died while these six men were up in the Sky-land. He died before the shaman came down to earth as a spider. Therefore death came among the Indians. Had the shaman come back to earth in time to heal this Indian, there would have been no death.

The one who came back as an eagle taught men how to fish.

And the pigeon taught the Indians the use of wild maize.

Next: Mondamin

(400 words)

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