MS/Lakes: The Worship of the Sun

The she-she-gwan referred to here is a ceremonial rattle or shaker used the meeta (mide), a healer. You can read more about the Midewiwin, the "medicine society," at Wikipedia.

[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 Worship of the Sun

LONG ago, an Ojibwa Indian and his wife lived on the shores of Lake Huron. They had one son, who was named “O-na-wut-a-qui-o,” “He-that-catches-the-clouds.”

Now the boy was very handsome, and his parents thought highly of him, but he refused to make the fast of his tribe. His father gave him charcoal, yet he would not blacken his face. They refused him food, but he wandered along the shore and ate the eggs of birds. One day his father took from him by force the eggs of the birds. He took them violently. Then he threw charcoal to him. Then did the boy blacken his face and begin his fast.

Now he fell asleep. A beautiful woman came down through the air and stood beside him. She said, “I have come for you. Step in my trail.”

At once he began to rise through the air. They passed through an opening in the sky, and he found himself on the Sky-plain. There were flowers on the beautiful plain, and streams of fresh, cold water. The valleys were green and fair. Birds were singing. The Sky-land was very beautiful.

There was but one lodge, and it was divided into two parts. In one end were bright and glowing robes, spears, and bows and arrows. At the other end, the garments of a woman were hung.

The woman said, “My brother is coming and I must hide you.” So she put him in a corner and spread over him a broad, shining belt. When the brother came in, he was very richly dressed, and glowing. He took down his great pipe and his tobacco.

At last, he said, “Nemissa, my elder sister, when will you end these doings? The Greatest of Spirits has commanded that you should not take away the children of earth. I know of the coming of O-na-wut-a-qui-o.”

Then he called out, “Come out of your hiding. You will get hungry if you remain there.” When the boy came out, he gave him a handsome pipe of red sandstone, and a bow and arrows.

So the boy stayed in the Sky-land. But soon he found that every morning, very early, the brother left the wigwam. He returned in the evening, and then the sister left it and was gone all night.

One day he said to the brother, “Let me go with you.”

“Yes,” said the brother, and the next morning they started off.

The two traveled a long while over a smooth plain. It was a very long journey. He became hungry. At last he said, “Is there no game?”

“Wait until we reach the place where I always stop to eat,” said the brother. So they journeyed on. At last they came to a place spread over with fine mats. It was near a hole in the Sky-plain.

The Indian looked down through the hole. Below were great lakes and the villages of his people. He could see in one place feasting and dancing, and in another a war party silently stealing upon the enemy. In a green plain young warriors were playing ball.

The brother said, “Do you see those children?” and he sent a dart down from the Sky-plain. At once a little boy fell to the ground. Then all the people gathered about the lodge of his father. The Indian, looking down through the hole, could hear the she-she-gwan of the meta, and the loud singing.

Then Sun, the brother, called down, “Send me up a white dog.” Immediately a white dog was killed by the medicine men, and roasted, because the child’s father ordered a feast. All the wise men and the medicine men were there.

Sun said to the Indian, “Their ears are open and they listen to my voice.”

Now the Indians on the Earth-plain divided the dog and placed pieces on the bark for those who were at that feast. Then the master of the feast called up, “We send this to thee, Great Manito.”

At once the roasted dog came up to Sun in the Sky-plain. Thus Sun and the Indian had food. Then Sun healed the boy whom he had struck down. Then he began again to travel along the trail in the Sky-plain, and they reached their wigwam by another road.

Then O-na-wut-a-qui-o began to weary of the Sky-land. At last he said to Moon, “I wish to go home.”

Moon said, “Since you like better the care and poverty of the earth, you may return. I will take you back.”

At once the Indian youth awoke. He was in the very plain where he had fallen asleep after he had blackened his face and begun his fast. But his mother said he had been gone a year.

(800 words)

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