Native American Legends
Manabozho plays lacrosse
A Menomini Legend
Now it happened that the beings above challenged the beings below
to a mighty game of lacrosse. The beings below were not slow to
accept the gage and the goals were chosen, one at Detroit and the
other at Chicago.
The center of the field was at a spot called Ke'sosasit ("where
the sun is marked," [on the rocks]) near Sturgeon Bay on Lake
Michigan. The above beings called their servants, the thunderers,
the eagles, the geese, the ducks, the pigeons, and all the fowls
of the air to play for them, and the great white underground bear
called upon the fishes, the snakes, the otters, the deer, and all
the beasts of the field to take the part of the powers below.
When everything was arranged, and the two sides were preparing,
Manabozho happened along that way. As he strolled by he heard someone
passing at a distance and whooping at the top of his voice. Curious
to see who it was, Manabozho hastened over to the spot whence the
noise emanated. Here he found a funny little fellow, like a tiny
Indian, no other, however, than Nakuti, the sunfish. "What
on earth is the matter with you?" queried Manabozho.
"Why haven't you heard?" asked sunfish, astonished; "tomorrow
there is going to be a ball game, and fishes and the beasts of the
field will take the part of the powers below against the thunderers
and all the fowls, who are championing the powers above." "Oh
ho!" said Manabozho, and the simple Nakuti departed, whooping
with delight. "Well, well," thought Manabozho, "I
must see this famous game, even if I was not invited."
The chiefs of the underworld left their homes in the waters and
climbed high up on a great mountain where they could look over the
whole field, and having chosen this spot they returned.
Manabozho soon found their tracks and followed them to the place
of vantage which they had selected. He judged by its appearance
that they had decided to stay there, so he concluded that he would
not be far away when the game commenced. Early next morning, before
daybreak, he went to the place, and, through his magic power he
changed himself into a tall pine tree, burnt on one side.
At dawn, he heard a great hubbub and whooping. From everywhere
he heard derisive voices calling "Hau! Hau! Hau!" and
"Hoo! hoo! hoo!" to urge on the enemy. Then appeared the
deer, the mink, the otter, and all the land beings and the fishes
in human form. They arrived at their side of the field and took
their places and all became silent for a time.
Suddenly the sky grew dark, and the rush of many wings made a thunderous
rumbling, above which rose whoops, screams, screeches, cackling,
calling, hooting, all in one terrific babel. Then the thunderers
swooped down, and the golden eagles, and the bald eagles, and the
buzzards, hawks, owls, pigeons, geese, ducks, and all manner of
birds, and took the opposite end of the field. Then silence dropped
down once more , and the sides lined up, the weakest near the goals,
the strongest in the center. Someone tossed the ball high in the
air and a pell mell mêlée followed, with deafening
howling and whooping's.
Back and forth surged the players, now one side gaining, now the
other. At last one party wrested the ball through the other's ranks
and sped it toward the Chicago goal. Down the field it went, and
Manabozho strained his eyes to follow its course. It was nearly
at the goal, the keepers were rushing to guard it and in the midst
of the brandished clubs, legs, arms, and clouds of dust something
notable was happening that Manabozho could not see. In his excitement
he forgot where he was and changed back into a man.
Once in human shape he came to himself, and looking about, noted
that the onlookers had not discovered him. Fired by his lust for
revenge he promptly took his bow, which he had kept with him all
the time, strung it, and fired twice at each of the underground
gods as they sat on their mountain. His arrows sped true, and the
gods rushed for the water, falling all over themselves as they scurried
down hill. The impact of their diving caused great waves to roll
down the lake towards the Chicago goal. Some of the players saw
them coming, rolling high over the tree tops. "Manabozho, Manabozho!"
they cried in breathless fright.
At once all the players on both sides rushed back to the center
field to look. "What is the matter?" said everyone to
everyone else. "Why it must have been Manabozho; he's done
this; nobody else would dare to attack the underground gods."
When the excited players reached the center of the field they found
the culprit had vanished. "Let's all look for Manabozho,"
cried someone. "We will use the power of the water for our
guide." So the players all waded into the water, and the water
rose up and went ahead of them. It knew very well where Manabozho
In the meantime Manabozho was skipping away as fast as he could,
for he was frightened at what the consequences of his rashness might
be. All at once he happened to look back and saw the water flowing
after him. He ran faster and faster, but still it came. He strained
himself to his utmost speed and it gained on him. On, on, led the
chase, further, and further away.
"Oh dear! I believed that water will get me yet!" worried
Manabozho. As he scampered he saw a high mountain, on the top of
which grew a lofty pine. "I guess I'll go there and ask for
help," thought Manabozho. So up the mountain side he raced,
with the water swiftly rising behind him. "Hee'ee! Nasee'!
Oh my dear little brother," gasped Manabozho to the pine tree,
won't you help me? Save me from the water! I am talking to you,
pine tree." "How can I help you?" asked the pine
deliberately. "You can let me climb on you, and every time
I reach your top, you can grow another length," cried Manabozho
anxiously, for the water was coming on.
"But I haven't so much power as all that; I can only grow
four lengths." Oh, that will do anyway, I'll take that!"
screamed Manabozho in terror, jumping into the branches just a few
inches ahead of the water. With all his might and main Manabozho
climbed, but the water wet his feet as it rose, rose, rose. He reached
the top. "Oh, little brother, stretch yourself," he begged.
The pine tree shot up one length, and Manabozho climbed faster than
ever, but still the water followed. "Oh, little brother, stretch
yourself," he entreated. Up shot the pine tree, and up climbed
Manabozho, but the water followed inexorably. When he reached the
top, the tree shot up again, but still the water rose. "Stretch
yourself, only once more, little brother, give me just one more
length," prayed Manabozho, "maybe it will save me; if
it doesn't, why I'll be drowned." Up shot the pine tree for
the fourth and last time. Manabozho climbed to the top, and the
water followed. There it stopped. Manabozho clung to the tree with
all his might, frightened half to death, but it rose no more.
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