This story is about their trickster hero called Manabush, who is also called Nanabush, Nanbozho, or Manabozho. You can find out more about Nanabozho at Wikipedia.
The story also makes references to manidoes, also known as manitos or manitous; you can read more about these spirit beings at Wikipedia. There are both good spirits and bad spirits. In this story, Manabush battles evil manidoes who are called Anamaqkiu, which means "underground ones." In this story, the Anamaqkiu take the form of Bears. Meanwhile, Manabush has help from the Thunderers, the good manidoes who are Hawk spirits and Eagle spirits.
Prior to the events in this story, Manabush had a twin brother, the Wolf, who was killed by these evil manidoes; you will read that story later: Manabush and His Brother.
[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 Great Flood
The place selected by Manabush for a ball ground was near a large sand bar on a great lake near Mackinac. He asked the Thunderers to play against the Anamaqkiu. These evil manidoes came out of the ground as Bears. One chief was a silvery white bear, and the other a gray bear. They played the ball game all day. Manabush watched the game from a tree on a knoll.
When night came, Manabush went to a spot between the places where the Bear chiefs had played ball. He said, “I want to be a pine tree, cut off halfway between the ground and the top, with two strong branches reaching out over the places where the Bear chiefs lie down.” At once he became just such a tree.
Now when the players came to the ball game the next morning, the Bear chiefs at once said, “This tree was not standing there yesterday.”
The Thunderers at once said, “Oh, yes. It was there.” Thus they argued.
At last one Bear chief said, “This tree is Manabush. Therefore we will kill him.” At once they sent for Grizzly Bear. They said, “Climb this tree. Tear off the bark. Scratch it.” Grizzly Bear did so. He also bit the branches.
Then the Bear chiefs called to Serpent. They said, “Ho, Serpent! Come climb this tree. Bite it. Strangle it in your coils.” Serpent at once did so. It was very hard for Manabush; yet he said nothing at all.
Then the Bear chiefs said, “No, it is not Manabush. Therefore we will finish the game.”
Now when they were playing, someone carried the ball so far that the Bear chiefs were left entirely alone. At once Manabush drew an arrow from his quiver and shot the White Bear chief. Then he shot another arrow at Gray Bear chief. He wounded both of them. Then Manabush became a man again and ran for the sand bar.
Soon the underground Anamaqkiu came back. They saw the two Bear chiefs were wounded. They immediately called for a flood from the earth to drown Manabush. It came very quickly and followed that one. Then Badger came. He hid Manabush in the earth. As he burrowed, he threw the earth behind him, and that held the water back. So the Anamaqkiu could not find Manabush. Therefore they gave up the search just as the water began to fill Badger’s burrow. So Manabush and Badger returned above ground.
Now the underground people carried their chiefs to a wigwam. They said to an old woman, “Take care of them.” Then Manabush followed them. He met the old woman. He took her skin and hid himself in it. So he went into the wigwam. He killed both the Bear chiefs. Then he took the skins of the bears. When he came out of the wigwam he shook a network of basswood twigs, so that the Anamaqkiu might know he had been there.
At once they pursued him. Water poured out of the earth in many places. A great flood came.
Manabush at once ran to the top of the highest mountain. The waters followed him closely. He climbed a great pine tree on the mountain top, but the waters soon reached him. Manabush said to the pine, “Grow twice as high.” At once it did so. Yet the waters rose higher. Manabush said again to the tree, “Grow twice as high.”
He said this four times, yet the waters kept rising until they reached his arm pits. Then Manabush called to Kisha Manido for help. The Good Mystery at once commanded the waters to stop.
Manabush looked around. There were only a few animals in the water. He called, “Ho, Otter! Come to me and be my brother. Dive down into the water. Bring up some earth that I may make a new world.” Otter dived down into the water and was gone a long time. When he appeared again on the surface, Manabush saw he was drowned.
Then he called again, “Ho, Mink! Come to me and be my brother. Dive down into the water. Bring me some earth.” Then Mink dived into the water. He was gone a long time. He also was drowned.
Manabush looked about him again. He saw Muskrat.
He called, “Ho, Muskrat! Come to me and be my brother. Dive down into the water. Bring me up earth from below.” Muskrat immediately dived into the water. He was gone a very long time. Then when he came up, Manabush went to him. In his paw was a tiny bit of mud. Then Manabush held Muskrat up, and blew on him, so he became alive again.
Manabush told Muskrat that his tribe should always be numerous, and that wherever his people should live they should have enough to eat.
Then Manabush found Badger. To him he gave the skin of the Gray Bear chief. But he kept for himself the skin of the silvery White Bear chief.
Next: The Thunderers