New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Invisible Boy; Team′ and Oochigeaskw

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From the blog at

This is another in a series of occasional Mi’kmaq stories from Legends of the Micmacs by Silas T. Rand, Wellesey Philological Publications, New York, 1894. This edition presents a story of an invisible boy with a moose spirit.

There is a short introduction to these Mi’kmaq stories in the first blog posting entitled Robbery and Murder Revenged.

 005 Unidentified

Unidentified Maliseet guide at Beaver Lodge, N.B., c. 1862 – N.B. Museum


The Invisible Boy; Team′ and Oochigeaskw

Nameskeet oodŭn Kaspemkŭ (a large Indian village, was once situated on the borders of a lake). At the extreme end of the village, somewhat retired, lived a youth whose tcomŭl was a moose. This youth had the power of assuming the form of a moose, and in addition to this, he could render himself invisible. He offered to marry the first girl that could see him. The young women of the village were allowed to make the trial, and many flocked to the lodge to try their luck.

The young man’s sister kept house for him. She always received his visitors kindly, and towards evening, when it was time for him to come in from his hunting, she would invite them to take a walk with her down to the shore of the lake. When she saw her brother approaching (for to her he was never invisible), she would say to her companions, “Do you see my brother?” Some of them would answer yea and some would answer nay, – alt těloocjik, āā, alt tělooejik, mogw āā. To those who thought they had seen him, or who wanted to make the rest think so, she would say, Coogoowā wiskobooksǐch? (“Of what is his shoulder-strap made?”) She generally received as an answer the name of one of the various articles out of which this important portion of the hunter’s equipment was usually manufactured. Sometimes they would say, “A strip of raw-hide;” sometimes, “A withe;” and sometimes, something else. But the moment they replied to this question, she would know that they did not see him. “Very well,” she would answer; “now let us go home to the wigwam.”

When they entered the wigwam, she would tell them not to sit in her brother’s seat, but that they must all keep on her side of the room, and not by any means cross over to his. When he came and threw down his burden, they could see it. When he pulled off his moccasins, and his sister hung them up to dry, they could see them. Then the sister would set the girls to cook the supper. They would cheerfully engage in getting the food ready, indulging the hope that when they came to eat it they would be able to see him. They were mistaken, however, for they did not see him. Sometimes they remained all night, the guest of their female friend, but they saw nothing of the other occupant of the lodge. The next morning they would return to their own homes, and others would make the same attempt with similar success.

Now it happened that in the village there resided an old man, a widower, who had three daughters, the youngest of whom was puny and often sick. The others considered her a great source of trouble, and ill-treated her; the oldest girl, on whom devolved the charge of the house after her mother’s death, was especially unkind to her. The second daughter was less unfriendly, and sometimes ventured to take the poor little girl’s part; but the oldest kicked and cuffed her about, and often burned her hands and face intentionally. When the father would come in from hunting and inquire respecting the little child’s troubles and burns on her arms, face, and other parts of her body, the oldest girl would throw all the blame on the little girl herself. She had been playing with the fire or near the fire, and had burned herself. The marks, scars, and scabs that covered her gave her the name of Oochigeaskw (the girl that is covered with scabs).

One day the older girls arrayed themselves in their finest clothes, and went down to the wigwam of the Invisible Boy, whose name was Team′ (the Moose). They spent the afternoon with his sister, and at the proper time she invited them to walk with her down to the borders of the lake, and watch for the coming of her brother. They went; and when she saw him, she put the usual question, “Do you see my brother?” The eldest one said, “I do.” The next one said honestly, “I do not.” “ Then tell me what his shoulder-strap is made of,” said the sister to the older girl. “Of a strip of raw-hide,” she replied. “Very well,” said the girl; “let us go home.” They went home to the wigwam, and the hunter came. They saw the load of moose-meat which he brought, and the clothing of his feet, after it was removed, but him they saw not. They remained all night, and returned the next morning to their father’s house.

That evening, when the old man arrived, he brought a quantity of small, beautiful, variegated shells, out of which in former times wampum was manufactured, and for which, in these later times, glass beads are substituted, and called by the name weidpeskool. He gave them to the girls, and the next day they engaged in năpawǐjik (stringing them up).

That day little Oochigeaskw gets an old pair of her father’s moccasins, soaks them, and asks her sisters to give her some of the pretty shells, a few of each kind. The older sister refuses, and tries to prevent the other from giving her any. She calls her a “lying little pest,” and tells her sister not to mind her. “Oh!” she answers, “the poor little thing! Let us give her some, a few of each kind.” This is done. Then she goes out and gets some sheets of birch bark, out of which she manages to construct a dress, making some figures on the bark, and fashioning out of it garments similar to those worn in ancient times by the Indian women, but which are now, to the great chagrin of some of the elder ones, rapidly degenerating into the fashion of their pale-faced sisters. She constructs a petticoat and loose gown, a cap, leggins, and a handkerchief, and on her tiny feet she puts her father’s huge moccasins, which come up nearly to her knees, and thus arrayed she goes forth to try her luck in the celebrated wigwam at the remote end of the village. She has to undergo a continuous storm of ridicule throughout the entire journey. Her sisters make sport of her, and order her not to go away. The men and boys shout after her as she goes on in her funny dress, and cry, “Shame! Shame!” But she hears them not, nor regards them, but resolutely pushes on. She succeeds in her enterprise, of course. [A writer of romance, whether savage (sic.) or civilized, who would make her fail, would deserve a horsewhipping, and would further deserve to have his book burned. Such pluck insures the reward.]

The little girl in her harlequin dress, her face covered with sores, and her hair singed off, is kindly received by the sister of Team′. When nightfall comes on, she is invited to take a walk down to the borders of the lake to watch the young man’s return. Presently the sister sees him coming, and asks her companion if she can see him. She says she can. “Tell me, if you see him, what his shoulder-strap is made of” “A rainbow,” she exclaims. “Ah! you can see him,” says the girl. “Now let us hasten home, and get ready for him.” So home they hie, and the sister first strips her guest of the uncouth and uncomfortable robes, and administers a thorough ablution. All her scabs and scars come off, and her skin is beautiful and fair. She next opens her box and brings out a wedding garment, in which she directs her to array herself; then she combs her hair, braids it, and ties it up. The poor child thinks within herself, “I wonder what she is going to comb, for I have no hair on my head.” But under the magic touch of her friend’s hand, beautiful, flowing hair adorns her head. After she is thus prepared and arrayed, she is directed to go and occupy the side of the wigwam where the brother will sit, and to take the wife’s seat, next to the door.

Immediately after this, the young man arrives, comes in laughing, and says, Wājoolkoos (“So we are found, are we”)? Alajul āā (“Yes”), she answers. So he takes her for his wife.

The scene now shifts to her father’s home. In the evening the father comes in from his hunting, and inquires where the child is. Her sisters throw no light on the question. They say, “We saw her going away, and called after her to come back, but she did not obey.” Bright and early the next morning he goes in quest of her. He searches and inquires in all the wigwams, but finds no trace of her. He enters the wigwam of the Invisible Boy. He sees two young women sitting there, but does not recognize his child, so wonderfully has she been transformed. But she recognizes him, and tells him all that has happened. He gives his cordial assent and consent to the transaction, tells the girl to remain there and be a good and dutiful wife, and assist her husband in all his domestic affairs. Then he returns home, and tells the news to the other daughters. He tells them what a fine looking fellow their sister’s husband is, and how beautiful she herself has become. [My “edition” of the story fails to state how the news was received by the two sisters and the other ambitious young ladies of the village. We are quite at liberty to supply the missing page. But we must not overlook the fact that everywhere, deeply seated in the human consciousness, is the idea that the Supreme Ruler will relieve the oppressed and humble the oppressor. We must now return to the newly married pair, along whose pathway in life — brief and full of marvelous incidents — the thread of the narrative conducts us.]

Team′ and his wife and sister live together in peace and harmony. Team′ supplies food and raiment by the chase; the women take care of these, and prepare them for use. The birth of a son occurs in due time. He grows up, and begins to run about and play. His aunt one day called his mother’s attention to a moose’s leg bone which lay in the wigwam, and tells her to take special care that the child does not break it; after the father shall have come in from his hunting, he may break it, and eat the marrow. One day, shortly after this, the women are very much occupied, having a large quantity of meat to slice up and dry. They are at work out of doors, and the little boy is allowed to run about and play, almost unnoticed. He has a little maul for a plaything, and goes about hitting everything he comes to, and at length smashes the leg bone. Soon after, his aunt, having occasion to step into the wigwam, sees the broken bone. She immediately begins to weep, calls her sister-in-law to come and tie up the child, and go with her to look for her brother, for his leg is broken. So she does as directed, ties up the child in his cradle, slings him on her back, and they go a long distance, taking the direction that the man had taken in the morning. At length they find him sitting down by his load of moose-meat, with his leg broken. He tells his wife to take the child and go back to her father, as he can no longer support her. He tells his sister to go back to the wigwam with his wife, and then to return and bring a kettle and an axe. This is done. The wife goes home to her father, and takes her babe with her; the sister takes the axe and kettle, and goes back to her brother. She finds him sitting there still, in the same place where she left him. He now says to her, “My sister, if you love me, kill me with the axe, and cut off my head.” The poor girl remonstrates. She can see no necessity for such extreme measures. His leg will knit together again, and she hopes he will recover. He tells her this can never be, that his end has come, and by hastening his death she can save him from a prolongation of trouble and pain. She must therefore obey his directions. When he falls, he will be a moose, and she must skin the animal, dress it, and cure the flesh. His head she must skin, and keep it always with her, as a “medicine bag;” and while she keeps that, he will be her “guardian genius,” her teomŭl, and she will be safe and prosperous; but should, she let it go out of her hands, misfortune and calamity will be the result. Upon this, she complies with his request, strikes him down with the axe, cuts off his head, and, sure enough, there lies a real moose before her. This she proceeds to dress. She removes the dead animal from that place some distance up into the woods, away from the shore of the lake, kindles a fire, and slices up and dries the meat to preserve it, according to custom. She tries out the tallow, and preserves it in cakes. She cracks up the bones, puts them into the kettle and boils out the marrow; this she puts into a dried bladder, and, to preserve it carefully, skins the head, and makes a bag of the skin. She is two days at her work, and when all is finished, she removes some distance farther up into the woods, erects a wigwam for herself, carries all the moose-meat thither, and hangs it up or spreads it out on sticks properly placed over the smoke and fire, that it may be thoroughly dried and preserved.

There she passes the night. The next morning, as she awakes, she sees a huge giant, Kookwěs, stalking up towards her humble tent. He enters the wigwam; she addresses him respectfully, calls him her brother, and invites him to a seat. He looks up and sees the abundant supply of venison that fills the place; he praises her industry, at the same time putting on a hungry look. She takes the hint, rises, hangs on her kettle, and puts half the moose-meat into it. When it is cooked, she unrolls a sheet of birch-bark, and places the food on it before him. She takes a wooden dish, and places in it half the tallow, half the marrow, and half of everything; he eats it all. Being now satisfied, he lies down for a nap. After a while he awakes, and proceeds to give his hostess some advice. He recommends her to remain where she is, and not think of removing. He assures her that it will be a very difficult matter to reach an Indian settlement. Among other obstacles, two huge serpents, one on each side of the path and as big as mountains, will guard the way. She cannot possibly get around them, she cannot climb over them, and it will be impossible to pass between them. Having finished his information and his advice, he takes his leave; not, however, before she has bestowed upon him the other half of her venison, enough to make him one more meal.

After he is fairly out of sight, she goes away herself. Notwithstanding the interest the old savage has seemed to take in her welfare, she strongly suspects that he was planning for his own interests, not for hers. She holds the charmed and magical “medicine bag” in her hands, and, following its impulses and guidance, she is safe. This tells her to go away, and she goes accordingly.

She finds that what the Kookwěs has told her about the difficulties and dangers of the way is true. She comes to what seem to be two mountains, but they are in reality two huge serpents, or giant magicians, who have assumed this form. But she grasps her “charm,” her teumŭl, “guardian genius,” in her hand, and keeps steadily on. She finds that the serpents are fast asleep, and she passes right on without any harm. These enemies have been baffled.

By and by she comes to a point of land extending into the water, where she sees Meskeek oodŭn (a large Indian village) Pegwělkŭl wǐgwŏmŭl. There she halts, and goes into the first wigwam she comes to, — a very small one, — and stays all night. She finds two old women there, one of them a miserable, wicked old hag, but the other quite a civil and good woman. The next day she goes out and looks around the village, plays at the wŏltesâkŭm [Rand describes a game, somewhat like casting dice]. She returns to the same wigwam, where she remains all night. The next morning, when she goes out, she forgets her “medicine bag.” She had stowed it away under the boughs and eaves of the wigwam the evening before, supposing no one saw her. But the ugly old creature mentioned before was not asleep, as she had supposed, but awake and watching. She saw where the bag was put, and after its owner had gone out, she went to see what was in it. As she drew it out, lo! she had her hand in a man’s hair; a living man was there, who sprang to his feet. all painted, and his arms bound round and round, all ready for battle. He strikes the poor old creature dead at his feet, and then kills the other occupant of the lodge; then he rushes out, shouts, utters terrible war-whoops, and strikes down every person that comes in his way. His sister recognizes him, goes out to meet him, and begs him to be quiet. She cries out, Uchkeen (“My brother, younger than I”)! He rejoins: “Get out of my way with you; boonăjeme (leave me alone)! Why did you not take care of me? Had you taken care of me, as you promised, I should always have been with you, and we should always have shared alike; but now — ” and he strikes her to the ground.

[Related by Susan Barss, and written down from her mouth in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in the winter of 1848, and translated from the original, May, 1869, by S. T. Rand.]


Written by johnwood1946

October 9, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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