Native American Legends
How Kluskap sang through the rapids and found a new home
A Micmac Legend
As time went on, Kluskap grew weary of saving people from nasty
creatures and listening to their woes. He loved people, but did
not wish to live around them all the time. "I want to be only
as tall as any Míkmaq man," he decided. "I want
a secluded house by a river, where I can live in peace and quiet,
well away from the troubles of the world."
Kluskap summoned his wolves, whom he had not seen in many years.
"We are going on a long journey," he told them. "It
must be kept a secret. I don't want people to see me unhappy."
"What is our destination?" the wolves asked.
"I can tell you what I want," said Kluskap, "but
I can't tell you where. I want you both to fly to every corner of
the Earth. Find me a house to live in. It must be near a river,
where fish are plentiful and nobody will come to me with their woes.
Things are fine in the world now, the creatures who would harm mankind
are all dead or on the moon. It is up to people to take care of
themselves. I need a rest."
The wolves flew off and were gone for a year. Kluskap waited in
Finally, the two wolves returned. "We have found your house,"
they said. "But it is not a simple matter to get to it."
"Let's go," Kluskap said happily, "I've been waiting.
The wolves led Kluskap to a river he had never seen before. On
the sandy bank was his canoe. "Old friend," he said to
the canoe, "we have been through many adventures together.
Now we are about to go through yet another."
Kluskap climbed in. He tied each of his wolves to a canoe slat.
He took up his oar and started downstream. The day was clear and
sunny, the water was calm, with only harmless whirlpools and ripples
in the shallows. Kluskap glided his canoe along with little effort.
"Why not practice your wild-rapids song?" the wolves
suggested. "It is your most powerful song."
"Look around you," Kluskap said, with a wide sweep of
his hand. "There's no need for my rapids song."
"This is a strange and powerful river," the wolves warned
Kluskap. "We traveled on it for many days. We almost drowned
in this river. It has many deceptions. It plays many tricks."
"Pipe down," Kluskap said, laughing. "I'm enjoying
my escape from the worries of mankind."
Kluskap closed his eyes and let the river breeze wash over his
face. He leaned back and let his canoe drift with the current.
But when he opened his eyes, Kluskap saw ten vultures circling
above. "Am I dead?" he asked his wolves. "Have I
died and am I traveling to the land of ghosts and bones?"
"No," said one wolf, "those are death-birds all
right, but you have not died, great Kluskap. Those vultures are
waiting for us to collide into jagged rocks and capsize. They are
waiting for us to wash ashore, so they can land on our faces and
tear us apart with their beaks."
"But I see no jagged rocks!" said Kluskap.
"Please," the wolves begged, "sing your wild-rapids
"No," said Kluskap, "I'm enjoying the view. You
wolves worry far too much. You've got to learn to enjoy life."
"The house we picked out is truly peaceful," one wolf
replied. "We will enjoy life greatly once we are there."
"Sing me a song," Kluskap said. "If you insist on
singing, you sing. Make it a song of great enthusiasm. A song of
quiet waters, and no vultures in the sky."
"All right," said the wolves, "we will sing."
But when the wolves began to sing, they sang Kluskap's wild-rapids
song! They howled it with great fear in their hearts.
Kluskap was annoyed. "Stop!" he said, "that's my
song! That's my most magical song. Only I can sing it. You're ruining
"Teach us, then," the wolves pleaded.
With much pride, Kluskap puffed out his chest, took a deep breath,
and sang his powerful wild-rapids song. The song had in it the names
of every Míkmaq and animal who had ever drowned. As he sang,
Kluskap noticed a peculiar thing. With each name in the song, a
new vulture appeared in the sky!
Finally, the vultures were so numerous that they blocked out the
Now even Kluskap grew worried.
When the sun vanished entirely behind this thick cloud of vultures,
Kluskap and his wolves suddenly found themselves amid towering cliffs.
The cliffs closed in on them, and the river rushed them toward thundering
white-water rapids just up ahead. Kluskap clung to his wolves. Even
his magic canoe felt flimsy in the turbulence. Every so often the
sun flashed through a vulture's wing feathers, reflecting off the
rocks and blinding Kluskap. "What is going on?" Kluskap
"Sing your rapids song!" the wolves shouted. "Sing!
The canoe slid forward into a treacherous gulch. The churning of
the rapids became so loud that Kluskap could not even hear his own
singing. The canoe jumped and spun sideways, then tumbled down a
waterfall, which led to a second waterfall, then a third, a fourth,
and a fifth. "We are falling off the world!" Kluskap thought,
but he did not say it. He sang as loudly as he could.
They landed below the last waterfall, and saw up ahead an even
more menacing sight. Protruding from the turbulent rapids were rocks
that stood like pointy teeth!
Kluskap could hear the wolves' hearts pounding with wild alarm.
"Kluskap," the wolves said, "close your eyes and
imagine a well-built house. It is made of logs and there is a fire
in the fireplace and a good meal on the table. Life there is peaceful,
terrible rapids are only a memory."
Kluskap tightly closed his eyes. "I see it!" he said.
"I see my house! And you are right there with me, my wolves!"
"Now sing, Kluskap!" the wolves said. "Sing as you
have never sung before. Sing from all your experiences, from all
your adventures, from all your days on the Earth!"
And suddenly, the canoe passed through the dangerous ravine and
out into the sunlight. The river here was cold and deep, and the
speckled stones that lay at the bottom had traveled as far as Kluskap
and his wolves had. Kluskap peered into the water and said to the
stones, "I feel like I have known you my whole life."
"Look!" the wolves said.
Kluskap shaded his eyes from the sun and saw his house, there on
a knoll not far from the riverbank. "It is just as you described
it," he said to the wolves. And he began to weep.
Since that day many people have tried to find Kluskap's house,
but Kluskap and his wolves are the only ones who know where it is.
There is no map to Kluskap's house.
Kluskap is happy. He spends his days fishing and running with his
wolves. At night, after supper, Kluskap and his wolves talk of their
"We have done much good," Kluskap likes to say.
Kluskap is the size of any Míkmaq man now, that is true.
But if one of his wolves should venture far and wide, returning
with the news that mankind is in trouble, he will become a giant
again, and will hazard the mystical river with his wolves in order
to help his people.
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