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New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

In the Beginning – Wabanaki Creation Stories

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

In the Beginning – Wabanaki Creation Stories

The Wabanaki are the people of the rising sun, the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot Indians.

The following Wabanaki stories attempt to explain the world around us. Glooskap is introduced in the first story, because he is the principal creator of natural things. The second story not only explains the creation of creatures but also references far-away places well beyond Wabanaki territory. There were ‘wild’ people in the far west and, in the north there were white bears and people who kept dogs, for example. The third story presents another explanation of how Glooscap came to be. He arrived in a granite canoe from the east – like the sun. The canoe is still there, having become an island covered with trees.

These stories are taken from Charles Godfrey Leland’s The Algonquin Legends of New England or, Myths and Folk Lore of the Micmacs, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Tribes, London, 1884. We see Glooscap in these stories as a divinity, and Leland classifies these as divinity stories. Other authors have said that Glooscap was not a god, but was a ‘culture hero.’ Either way, he was important in Wabanaki lore.

The Sea, the Land, and the Rising Sun

Flag of the St. Francis Band of the Wabanaki, from Wikipedia

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Of Glooskap’s Birth, and of his Brother Malsum the Wolf

Now the great lord Glooskap, who was worshiped in after-days by all the Wabanaki, or children of light, was a twin with a brother. As he was good, this brother, whose name was Malsumsis, or Wolf the younger, was bad. Before they were born, the babes consulted to consider how they had best enter the world. And Glooskap said, “I will be born as others are.” But the evil Malsumsis thought himself too great to be brought forth in such a manner, and declared that he would burst through his mother’s side. And as they planned it so it came to pass. Glooskap as first came quietly to light, while Malsumsis kept his word, killing his mother.

The two grew up together, and one day the younger, who knew that both had charmed lives, asked the elder what would kill him, Glooskap. Now each had his own secret as to this, and Glooskap, remembering how wantonly Malsumsis had slain their mother, thought it would be misplaced confidence to trust his life to one so fond of death, while it might prove to be well to know the bane of the other. So they agreed to exchange secrets, and Glooskap, to test his brother, told him that the only way in which he himself could be slain was by the stroke of an owl’s feather, though this was not true. And Malsumsis said, “I can only die by a blow from a fern-root.”

It came to pass in after-days that Kwah-beet-a-sis, the son of the Great Beaver, or, as others say, Miko the Squirrel, or else the evil which was in himself, tempted Malsumsis to kill Glooskap; for in those days all men were wicked. So taking his bow he shot Ko-ko-kkas the Owl, and with one of his feathers he struck Glooskap while sleeping. Then he awoke in anger, yet craftily said that it was not by an owl’s feather, but by a blow from a pine-root, that his life would end.

Then the false man led his brother another day far into the forest to hunt, and, while he again slept, smote him on the head with a pine-root. But Glooskap arose unharmed, drove Malsumsis away into the woods, sat down by the brook-side, and thinking over all that had happened, said, “Nothing but a flowering rush can kill me.” But the Beaver, who was hidden among the reeds, heard this, and hastening to Malsumsis told him the secret of his brother’s life. For this Malsumsis promised to bestow on Beaver whatever he should ask; but when the latter wished for wings like a pigeon, the warrior laughed, and scornfully said, “Get thee hence; thou with a tail like a file, what need hast thou of wings?”

Then the Beaver was angry, and went forth to the camp of Glooskap, to whom he told what he had done. Therefore Glooskap arose in sorrow and in anger, took a fern-root, sought Malsumsis in the deep, dark forest, and smote him so that he fell down dead. And Glooskap sang a song over him and lamented.

How Glooskap made Elves, Fairies, Man, and Beasts; and the Last Day (Passamaquoddy)

Glooskap came first of all into this country, into Nova Scotia, Maine, Canada, into the land of the Wabanaki, next to sunrise. There were no Indians here then (only wild Indians very far to the west).

First born were the Mikumwess, the Oonabgemessũk, the small Elves, little men, dwellers in rocks.

And in this way he made Man: He took his bow and arrows and shot at trees, the basket-trees, the Ash. Then Indians came out of the bark of the Ash trees. And then the Mikumwees said . . . called tree-man. . . . [the story teller became unclear] Glooskap made all the animals. He made them at first very large. Then he said to Moose, the great Moose who was as tall as Ketawkqu’s, [a giant] “What would you do should you see an Indian coming?” Moose replied, “I would tear down the trees on him.” Then Glooskap saw that the Moose was too strong, and made him smaller, so that Indians could kill him.

Then he said to the Squirrel, who was of the size of a Wolf, “What would you do if you should meet an Indian?” And the Squirrel answered, “I would scratch down trees on him.” Then Glooskap said, “You also are too strong,’ and he made him little.

Then he asked the great White Bear what he would do if he met an Indian; and the Bear said, “Eat him.” And the Master bade him go and live among rocks and ice, where he would see no Indians.

So he questioned all the beasts, changing their size or allotting their lives according to their answers.

He took the Loon for his dog; but the Loon absented himself so much that he chose for this service two wolves, — one black and one white. But the Loons are always his tale-bearers.

Many years ago a man very far to the North wished to cross a bay, a great distance, from one point to another. As he was stepping into his canoe he saw a man with two dogs, — one black and one white, — who asked to be set across. The Indian said, “You may go, but what will become of your dogs?” Then the stranger replied, “Let them go round by land.” “Nay,” replied the Indian, “that is much too far.” But the stranger saying nothing, he put him across. And as they reached the landing place there stood the dogs. But when he turned his head to address the man, he was gone. So he said to himself, “I have seen Glooskap.”

Yet again, — but this was not so many years ago, — far in the North there were at a certain place many Indians assembled. And there was a frightful commotion, caused by the ground heaving and rumbling; the rocks shook and fell, they were greatly alarmed, and lo! Glooskap stood before them, and said, “I go away now, but I shall return again; when you feel the ground tremble, then know it is I.” So they will know when the last great war is to be, for then Glooskap will make the ground shake with an awful noise.

Glooskap was no friend of the Beavers; he slew many of them. Up on the Tobaie are two salt-water rocks (that is, rocks by the ocean-side, near a fresh water stream). The Great Beaver, standing there one day, was seen by Glooskap miles away, who had forbidden him that place. Then picking up a large rock where he stood by the shore, he threw it all that distance at the Beaver, who indeed dodged it; but when another came, the beast ran into a mountain, and has never come forth to this day. But the rocks which the master threw are yet to be seen.

Glooskap’s Great Deeds; How he Named the Animals; His Family (Passamaquoddy)

Woodénit atók-hagen Gloosekap [this is a story of Glooskap]. It is told in traditions of the old time that Glooskap was born in the land of the Wabanaki, which is nearest to the sunrise; but another story says that he came over the sea in a great stone canoe, and that this canoe was an island of granite covered with trees. When the great man, of all men and beasts chief ruler, had come down from this ark, he went among the Wabanaki. And calling all the animals he gave them each a name: unto the Bear, mooin; and asked him what he would do if he should meet with a man. The Bear said, “I fear him, and I should run.” Now in those days the Squirrel (mi-ko) was greater than the Bear. Then Glooskap took him in his hands, and smoothing him down he grew smaller and smaller, till he became as we see him now. In after-days the Squirrel was Glooskap’s dog, and when he so willed, grew large again and slew his enemies, however fierce they might be. But this time, when asked what he would do should he meet with a man, Mi-ko replied, “I should run up a tree.”

Then the Moose, being questioned, answered, standing still and looking down, “I should run through the woods.” And so it was with Kwah-beet the Beaver, and Glooskap saw that of all created beings the first and greatest was Man.

Before men were instructed by him, they lived in darkness; it was so dark that they could not even see to slay their enemies. Glooskap taught them how to hunt, and to build huts and canoes and weirs for fish. Before he came they knew not how to make weapons or nets. He the Great Master showed them the hidden virtues of plants, roots, and barks, and pointed out to them such vegetables as might be used for food, as well as what kinds of animals, birds, and fish were to be eaten. And when this was done he taught them the names of all the stars. He loved mankind, and wherever he might be in the wilderness he was never very far from any of the Indians. He dwelt in a lonely land, but whenever they sought him they found him. He traveled far and wide: there is no place in all the land of the Wabanaki where he left not his name; hills, rocks and rivers, lakes and islands, bear witness to him.

Glooskap was never married, yet as he lived like other men he lived not alone. There dwelt with him an old woman, who kept his lodge; he called her Noogumee, “my grandmother.” (Micmac). With her was a youth named Abistariaooch, or the Martin. And Martin could change himself to a baby or a little boy, a youth or a young man, as befitted the time in which he was to act; for all things about Glooskap were very wonderful. This Martin ate always from a small birch bark dish, called witch-kwed-lakuncheech, and when he left this anywhere Glooskap was sure to find it, and could tell from its appearance all that had befallen his family. And Martin was called by Glooskap Uch-keen, “my younger brother.” The Lord of men and beasts had a belt which gave him magical power and endless strength. And when he lent this to Martin, the younger brother could also do great deeds, such as were only done in old times.

Martin lived much with the Mikumwess or Elves, or Fairies, and is said to have been one of them.

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Written by johnwood1946

March 15, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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