MS/Lakes: Why Deer Never Eat Men

You may be surprised to find out that the Deer was once a man-eater, or at least that is what the Deer wanted to do. In this story, you will find out just how it turned out that the Deer today eats grass, and not people.

[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).

Why Deer Never Eat Men

AFTER Rabbit had decided about light and darkness, he saw Owasse, the Bear, coming.

Rabbit said, “Bear, what do you want for food?”

Bear said, “Acorns and fruit.”

Then Rabbit asked Fish Hawk. He said, “Fish Hawk, what will you select for your food?”

Fish Hawk said, “I will take that fellow, Sucker, lying in the water there.”

Sucker said at once, “You may eat me if you can, but that has still to be decided.”

Sucker at once swam out into the deepest part of the river where Fish Hawk could not reach him. Then Fish Hawk rose into the air to a point where his shadow fell exactly on the spot where Sucker lay. Now as Sucker lay there, he saw the shadow of a large bird on the bed of the stream. He became frightened. He thought, “It must be a manido,” so he swam slowly to the surface. At once Fish Hawk darted down on him and carried him into the air. Then he ate him.

Rabbit looked about him again. He saw Moqwaio, the Wolf. He cried, “Ho, Wolf! What do you wish for food?”

Wolf said, “I will eat Deer.”

Deer said, “You cannot eat me because I can run too swiftly.”

Wolf said, “We will see about that.” So they had a race. Deer started ahead and ran very swiftly. Wolf ran swiftly, too, but his fur robe was too heavy. At last he thought, “This robe is too heavy. I will slip it off.” So he threw it off. Then he bounded ahead and caught Deer and ate him.

Then Rabbit asked another Deer, of the same totem, “Deer, what will you select as food?”

Deer said, “I will eat people. There are many Indians in the country. I will eat them.”

At once all the animals began to talk. They said to Deer, “The Indian is too powerful. You can never eat him.”

Deer said, “Well, I will plan to eat Indians, anyway.” Then he walked off.

Now one day an Indian was out hunting. He saw deer tracks to the right and so followed them. They went in a large circle until they brought him back where he had started. Then he saw deer tracks to the left. So he followed those, until they also brought him back, in a large circle, to the point where he started. Then the Indian saw that Deer was following him.

Deer was determined to eat the Indians, because there were many of them. It would not be difficult to hunt for food. But first he wanted to frighten the hunter. So he pulled two ribs from his sides, and stuck them into his lower jaw. They looked like tusks. Deer looked very fierce. Then Deer came walking along, looking for an Indian. But the hunter raised his bow and shot Deer. He carried the deer meat back to his wigwam.

The shade of Deer at once went to the council of birds and animals. He told Rabbit all about it.

Rabbit said, “I told you that you could not eat people. You see how it is? Now you will have to live on grass and twigs.”

And so they do, even to this day.

(600 words)

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