Native American Legends
Micmac Creation Story
A Micmac Legend
This story has been passed down from generation to generation since
time immemorial and it explains how Míkmaw people came into
existence in North America. The story tells about the relationship
between the Great Spirit Creator and Human Beings and the Environment.
It also explains a philosophical view of life which is indigenous
to North America. This way of thinking is evident in the Native
Languages and Cultures and in the spiritual practices.
The fact that the Míkmaw people's language, culture and
spiritualism has survived for centuries is based on the creation
story. Respect for their elders has given them wisdom about life
and the world around them. The strength of their youth has given
them the will to survive. The love and trust of their motherhood
has given them a special understanding of everyday life.
Among the Míkmaw people, the number seven is very meaningful.
There are seven districts for distinct areas which encompasses an
area of land stretching from the Gaspé coast of Quebec and
includes northern Maine, eastern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island,
Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
The most powerful spirit medicine is made from seven barks and
roots. Seven men, representatives from each distinct area or Grand
Council District sit inside a sweat-lodge smoke the pipe and burn
the sweet grass. Inside the sweat-lodge, the Míkmaq will
pour water over seven, fourteen and then twenty-one heated rocks
to produce hot steam. A cleansing or purification takes place. A
symbolic rebirth takes place and the men give thanks to the Creator,
the Sun and the Earth. They also give thanks the first family, Kluskap,
Nukumi, Netawansum, and Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. Listen
to the story.
ONE - KISÚLKW
Kisúlkw is the Creator who is the one who made everything.
The word Kisúlkw in Míkmaw means "you have been
created". It also means "the one credited for your existence".
The word does not imply gender. Kisúlkw is not a He or a
She, it is not important whether the Creator is a He or a She.
The Míkmaw people do not explain how the Creator came into
existence only that Kisúlkw is responsible for everything
being where it is today. Kisúlkw made everything.
TWO - NISKAM
Niskam is the sun which travels in a circle and owes its existence
to Kisúlkw. Niskam is the giver of life. It is also a giver
of light and heat.
The Míkmaw people believe that Niskam is responsible for
the creation of the people on earth. Nisgam is Kisúlkw's
helper. The power of Niskam is held with much respect among the
Míkmaq and other aboriginal peoples. Niskam owes its existence
to Kisúlkw the Creator.
THREE - WSITQAMÚK
Wsitqamúk is the earth or area of land upon which the Míkmaq
people walk and share its abundant resources with the animals and
plants. In the Míkmaq language Wsitqamúk means "the
person or individual who stand upon this surface", or "the
one who is given life upon this surface of land". Wsitqamúk
refers to the Míkmaq world which encompasses all the area
where the Míkmaw people can travel or have traveled upon.
Wsitqamúk was created by Kisúlkw and was placed in
the center of the circular path of Niskam, the sun. Niskam was given
the responsibility of watching over the Míkmaq world or Wsitqamúk.
Niskam shines bright light upon Wsitqamúk as it passes around
and this brought the days and nights.
FOUR - KLUSKAP
After the Míkmaq world was created and after the animals,
birds and plants were placed on the surface, Kisúlkw caused
a bolt of lightening to hit the surface of Wsitqamúk. This
bolt of lightning caused the formation of an image of a human body
shaped out of sand. It was Kluskap who was first shaped out of the
basic element of the Míkmaq world, sand.
Kisúlkw unleashed another bolt of lightening which gave
life to Kluskap but yet he could not move. He was stuck to the ground
only to watch the world go by and Niskam travel across the sky everyday.
Kluskap watched the animals, the birds and the plants grow and pass
around him. He asked Niskam to give him freedom to move about the
While Kluskap was still unable to move, he was lying on his back.
His head was facing the direction of the rising sun, east, Papkek.
In Míkmaq this words mean "where the sun comes up "
respectively. His feet were in the direction of the setting sun,
the west or Pitawk. Kluskap's right hand was pointed in the direction
of the north or Oqwatnuk. His left hand was in the direction of
the south or Elkatesnek. So it was the third big blast of lightening
that caused Kluskap to become free and to be able to stand on the
surface of the earth.
After Kluskap stood up on his feet, he turned around in a full
circle seven times. He then looked toward the sky and gave thanks
to Kisúlkw for giving him life. He looked down to the earth
or the ground and gave thanks to Wsitqamúk for offering its
sand for Kluskap's creation. He looked within himself and gave thanks
to Niskam for giving him his soul and spirit.
Kluskap then gave thanks to the four directions east, north, west
and south. In all he gave his heartfelt thanks to the seven directions.
Kluskap then traveled to the direction of the setting sun until
he came to the ocean. He then went south until the land narrowed
and he came to the ocean. He then went south until the land narrowed
and he could see two oceans on either side. He again traveled back
to where he started from and continued towards the north to the
land of ice and snow. Later he came back to the east where he decided
to stay. It is where he came into existence. He again watched the
animals, the birds and the plants. He watched the water and the
sky. Kisúlkw taught him to watch and learn about the world.
Kluskap watched but he could not disturb the world around him. He
finally asked Kisúlkw and Niskam, what was the purpose of
his existence. He was told that he would meet someone soon.
FIVE - NUKUMI
One day when Kluskap was traveling in the east he came upon a very
old woman. Kluskap asked the old woman how she arrived to the Míkmaq
world. The old woman introduced herself as Nukumi. She said to Kluskap,
"I am your grandmother". Nukumi said that she owes her
existence to the rock, the dew and Niskam, the Sun. She went on
to explain that on one chilly morning a rock became covered with
dew because it was sitting in a low valley. By midday when the sun
was most powerful, the rock got warm and then hot. With the power
of Niskam, the sun, Kisúlkw's helper, the rock was given
a body of an old woman. This old woman was Nukumi, Kluskap's grandmother.
Nukumi told Kluskap that she came to the Míkmaq world as
an old woman, already very wise and knowledgeable. She further explained
that Kluskap would gain spiritual strength by listening to and having
great respect for his grandmother. Kluskap was so glad for his grandmother's
arrival to the Míkmaq world he called upon Apistanéwj,
a marten swimming in the river, to come ashore. Apistanéwj
did what Kluskap had asked him to do. Apistanéwj came to
the shore where Kluskap and Nukumi were standing. Kluskap asked
Apistanéwj to give up his life so that he and his grandmother
could live. Apistanéwj agreed. Nukumi then took Apistanéwj
and quickly snapped his neck. She placed him on the ground. Kluskap
for the first time asked Kisúlkw to use his power to give
life back to Apistanéwj because he did not want to be in
disfavor with the animals.
Because of marten's sacrifice, Kluskap referred to all the animals
as his brothers and sisters from that point on. Nukumi added that
the animals will always be in the world to provide food, clothing,
tools, and shelter. Apistanéwj went back to the river and
in his place lay another marten. Kluskap and Apistanéwj will
become friends and brothers forever.
Nukumi cleaned the animal to get it ready for eating. She gathered
the still hot sparks for the lightening which hit the ground when
Kluskap was given life. She placed dry wood over the coals to make
a fire. This fire became the Great Spirit Fire and later go to be
known as the Great Council Fire.
The first feast of meat was cooked over the Great Fire, or Putuwasuwaqan.
Kluskap relied on his grandmother for her survival, her knowledge
and her wisdom. Since Nukumi was old and wise, Kluskap learned to
respect her for her knowledge. They learned to respect each other
for their continued interdependence and continued existence.
SIX - NETAWANSUM
One day when Kluskap and Nukumi were walking along in the woods,
they came upon a young man. This young man looked very strong because
he was tall and physically big. He had gray colored eyes. Kluskap
asked the young man his name and how he arrived to the Míkmaq
world. The young man introduced himself. He told Kluskap that his
name is Netawansum and that he is Kluskap's sister's son. In other
words, his nephew. He told Kluskap that he is physically strong
and that they could all live comfortably. Netawansum could run after
moose, deer and caribou and bring them down with his bare hands.
He was so strong. Netawansum said that while the east wind was blowing
so hard it caused the waters of the ocean to become rough and foamy.
This foam got blown to the shore on the sandy beach and finally
rested on the tall grass. This tall grass is sweetgrass. Its fragrance
was sweet. The sweetgrass held onto the foam until Niskam, the Sun,
was high in the midday sky. Nisgam gave Netawansum spiritual and
physical strength in a human body. Kisúlkw told Kluskap that
if he relied on the strength and power of his nephew he would gain
strength and understanding of the world around him.
Kluskap was so glad for his nephew's arrival to the Míkmaq
world, he called upon the salmon of the rivers and seas to come
to shore and give up their lives. The reason for this is that Kluskap,
Netawansum and Nukumi did not want to kill all the animals for their
survival. So in celebration of his nephew's arrival, they all had
a feast of fish. They all gave thanks for their existence. They
continued to rely on their brothers and sisters of the woods and
waters. They relied on each other for their survival.
SEVEN - NIKANAKANIMQÚSÍWSQ
While Kluskap was sitting near a fire, Nukumi was making clothing
out of animal hides and Netawansum was in the woods getting food.
A woman came to the fire and sat beside Kluskap. She put her arms
around Kluskap and asked "Are you cold my son?" Kluskap
was surprised he stood up and asked the woman who she is and where
did she come from. She explained that she was Kluskap's mother.
Her name is Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. Kluskap waited until
his grandmother and nephew returned to the fire then he asked his
mother to explain how she arrived to the Míkmaq world.
Nikanakanimqúsíwsq said that she was a leaf on a
tree which fell to the ground. Morning dew formed on the leaf and
glistened while the sun, Niskam, began its journey towards the midday
sky. It was at midday when Niskam gave life and a human form to
Kluskap's mother. The spirit and strength of Niskam entered into
Kluskap's mother said that she brings all the colors of the world
to her children. She also brings strength and understanding. Strength
to withstand earth's natural forces and understanding of the Míkmaq
world; its animals and her children, the Míkmaq. She told
them that they will need understanding and co-operation so they
all can live in peace with one another.
Kluskap was so happy that his mother came into the world and since
she came from a leaf, he called upon his nephew to gather nuts,
fruits of the plants while Nukumi prepared a feast. Kluskap gave
thanks to Kisúlkw, Niskam, Wsitqamúk, Nukumi, Netawansum
and Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. They all had a feast in honor
of Kluskap's mother's arrival to the world of Míkmaq.
The story goes on to say that Kluskap, the man created from the
sand of the earth, continued to live with his family for a very
long time. He gained spiritual strength by having respect for each
member of the family. He listened to his grandmother's wisdom. He
relied on his nephew' s strength and spiritual power. His mother's
love and understanding gave him dignity and respect. Kluskap's brothers
and sisters of the woods and waters gave him the will and the food
to survive. Kluskap now learned that mutual respect of his family
and the world around him was a key ingredient for basic survival.
Kluskap's task was to pass this knowledge to his fellow Míkmaw
people so that they too could survive in the Míkmaq world.
This is why Kluskap became a central figure in Míkmaq story
One day when Kluskap was talking to Nukumi he told her that soon
they would leave his mother and nephew. He told her that they should
prepare for that occasion. Nukumi began to get all the necessary
things ready for a long journey to the North. When everyone was
sitting around the Great Fire one evening, Kluskap told his mother
and nephew that he and Nukumi are going to leave the Míkmaq
world. He said that they will travel in the direction of the North
only to return if the Míkmaq people were in danger. Kluskap
told his mother and nephew to look after the Great Fire and never
to let it go out.
After the passing of seven winters, "Lluiknek Tasipunkek",
seven sparks will fly from the fire and when they land on the ground
seven people will come to life. Seven more sparks will land on the
ground and seven more people will come into existence. From these
sparks will form seven women and seven men. They will form seven
families. These seven families will disperse into seven different
directions from the area of the Great Fire. Kluskap said that once
the seven families their place of destination, they will further
divide into seven groups.
Each group will have their own area for their subsistence so they
would not disturb the other groups. He instructed his mother that
the smaller groups would share the earth's abundance of resources
which included animals, plants and fellow humans.
Kluskap told his mother that after the passing of seven winters,
each of the seven groups would return to the place of the Great
Fire. At the place of the fire all the people will dance, sing and
drum in celebration of their continued existence in the Míkmaq
world. Kluskap continued by saying that the Great Fire signified
the power of the Creator, Kisúlkw. It also signified the
power and strength of the light and heat of Niskam, the sun. The
Great Fire held the strength of Wsitqamúk the earth. Finally
the fire represented the bolt of lightening which hit the earth
from which Kluskap was created. The fire is very sacred to the Míkmaq.
It is the most powerful spirit on earth.
Kluskap told his mother and nephew that it is important for the
Míkmaq to give honor, respect and thanks to the seven spiritual
elements. The fire signifies the first four stages of creation,
Kisúlkw, Niskam, Wsitqamúk and Kluskap. Fire plays
a significant role in the last three stages as it represents the
power of the sun, Niskam.
In honor of Nukumi's arrival to the Míkmaq world, Kluskap
instructed his mother that seven, fourteen and twenty-one rocks
would have to be heated over the Great Fire. These heated rocks
will be placed inside a sweat lodge covered with hides of moose
and caribou or with mud. The door must face the direction of the
rising sun. There should be room from seven men to sit comfortably
around a pit dug in the center where up to twenty-one rocks could
be placed. Seven alders, seven wild willows and seven beech saplings
will be used to make the frame of the lodge. This lodge should be
covered with the hides of moose, caribou, deer or mud.
Seven men representing the seven original families will enter into
the lodge. They will give thanks and honor to the seven directions,
the seven stages of creation and to continue to live in good health.
The men will pour water over the rocks causing steam to rise in
the lodge to become very hot. The men will begin to sweat up to
point that it will become almost unbearable. Only those who believe
in the spiritual strength will be able to withstand the heat. Then
they will all come out of the lodge full of steam and shining like
new born babies. This is the way they will clean their spirits and
should honor Nukumi's arrival.
In preparation of the sweat, the seven men will not eat any food
for seven days. They will only drink the water of golden roots and
bees nectar. Before entering the sweat the seven men will burn the
sweetgrass. They will honor the seven directions and the seven stages
of creation but mostly for Netawansum's arrival to the Míkmaq
world. The sweet grass must be lit from the Great Fire.
Kluskap's mother came into the world from the leaf of a tree, so
in honor of her arrival tobacco made from bark and leaves will be
smoked. The tobacco will be smoked in a pipe made from a branch
of a tree and a bowl made from stone.
The pipe will be lit from sweetgrass which was lit from the Great
Fire. The tobacco made from bark, leaves and sweetgrass represents
Kluskap's grandmother, nephew and mother. The tobacco called "Tmawey"
will be smoked and the smoke will be blown in seven directions.
After honoring Nukumi's arrival the Míkmaq shall have a
feast or meal. In honor of Netawansum they will eat fish. The fruits
and roots of the trees and plants will be eaten to honor Kluskap's
Kluskap's final instruction to his mother told her how to collect
and prepare medicine from the barks and roots of seven different
kinds of plant. The seven plants together make what is called "ektjimpisun".
It will cure mostly every kind of illness in the Míkmaq world.
The ingredients of this medicine are: "Wikpe" (alum willow),
"Waqwonuminokse" (wild black-cherry), "Kastuk" (ground
hemlock), and "Kowotmonokse" (red spruce). The Míkmaq
people are divided into seven distinct areas which are as follows:
- Kespukwitk - Lands End
- Sipekníkatik - Wild Potato Area
- Eskikewákik - Skin Dressers Area
- Unamákik - Land of Fog
- Epekwitk Aqq Piktuk - Laying in the Water and The Explosive Area
- Sikniktewaq - Drainage Area
- Kespekewaq - Last Land
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