Native American Legends
Okishkimonisse saves the summer birds
An Ojibwa Legend
A great many years ago, a giant found that he could make the winter
stay in the north country all year long if he put the birds of summer
in cages. When the time came for the weather to turn warm, there
was no change. It stayed very, very cold. There were no wrens or
robins, no woodpeckers, larks, finches, nor any of the other birds
that returned to the land of the Ojibwa during the spring and summer.
In the north, the Ojibwa people were in misery. All they could
think of were the warm summer months, as they shivered all day long
in the cold. There was very little food left. The animals tried
to eat bark from the aspen tree as they had seen the beaver do,
but they discovered this was a poor substitute for their regular
Finally, the Indians and the animals gathered together in Council.
They were determined to find the summer birds and make them return
to the north, bringing the summer weather with them. However, out
of all the men and animals, it was the small fisher (Okishkimonisse)
who finally offered to go and find the one causing all these problems
and bring the summer birds back home.
The next day, Okishkimonisse started out on his journey, taking
only a small ball of wax to use as a weapon. Day after day, he flew
southward, the direction he had watched the summer birds fly when
they left the year before. He traveled a full moon before he finally
reached the home of the giant. The giant was asleep, when Okishkimonisse
arrived, but he had posted two crows as guards.
Now, Okishkimonisse was able to move quietly, and before the crows
knew it, the fisher had dropped downed on them, clamped their bills
shut, and sealed them tightly with the ball of wax. This kept the
crows from calling out to the giant.
Then quietly, so as to not make a sound, Okishkimonisse crept inside
to where the cages of the summer birds were kept. One by one, he
opened the bird's cages. The birds tested their wings after their
long captivity and as soon as they began to fan the air, it began
to get warm. The snow melted and the plants began to break through
the earth. As the birds flew northward, they brought summer to the
waiting Indian people along the way. When the birds finally arrived
in the north country, the Ojibwa people knew that the fisher had
succeeded in his mission.
Now, the giant had slept through all of this. But, eventually,
the summer's heat had caused the wax on the crow's bills to melt.
Suddenly, the birds called out to their master.
"The summer birds!" they cawed. "Okishkimonisse
has opened their cages and let them all escape!"
The giant was up in an instant and was soon chasing Okishkimonisse
with his bow and arrow.
He chased the fisher up a rocky hillside, overlooking a beautiful
green valley. When he reached the edge of the cliff, the fisher
jumped and flew toward the sky. The giant followed, aiming his arrow
as he left the ground. The arrow hit the bird, but only wounded
Today, the fisher flies high in the sky, but he still has a crooked
tail. When white men see the sharp bend in the Big Dipper, they
are actually seeing the spot where the arrow hit Okishkimonisse's
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