Native American Legends
Oochigeas and the Invisible Boy
An Abenaki Legend
There was once a Malicete Indian village on the edge of a lake
in the land of the Wabanaki, and in this village lived three sisters.
The two older girls, Oona and Abit, were handsome and proud, but
the youngest, whom they called Oochigeas, was timid and plain. She
suffered much from the selfishness of her sisters, but bore all
their ill-treatment without complaint.
Because these girls had no parents, they were given meat by the
tribe's hunters in return for making pottery. Through much practice,
they had become the best makers of pots in the village. And this
is how they made them. First Oona, the eldest, wove a basket from
ash splints, then Abit lined it with wet clay. Finally, it was given
to the youngest girl to harden in the fire. As the clay slowly baked,
the wind blew the fire into Oochigeas' face, and in time her hair
was singed close to her head and her face covered with burns. And
that is why her sisters mocked her with the name of Oochigeas, which
means "little scarred one."
Now Glooscap the Great Chief knew all his People. He saw the misery
of Oochigeas and pitied her, and he scowled at the cruelty of her
sisters, yet he did nothing. And this was something that Marten,
his servant, could not understand.
"My elder brother," said Marten, "though she is
plain, her heart is kind. Can you not help her?"
"We will see," said the Great Chief with a wise nod.
"Oochigeas must help herself first. Kindness is a great virtue,
but courage is the first rule of my People."
Now on the far side of the lake, remote from the village, there
lived an Indian youth called Team, who had the wonderful power of
making himself invisible. To all save his sister he was as the rustle
of a leaf in the forest, a sigh of wind in the treetops, or a breath
of air in the heavens. His name meant "moose" and the
moose was his totem, or charm, that gave him his power. Having this
magical power, Team needed no bow and arrow. He could walk straight
up to game, without being seen or heard, and slay it with his bare
hands. One day, Team's sister appeared in the village.
"My brother is tired of living alone," she said to the
people. "Team will marry the first girl who is able to see
Now, though no person had seen Team, or knew if he was tall or
short, fat or thin, plain or handsome, yet they knew of his magic
power and his great success in hunting. To the Indians, who live
by hunting, a brave who can keep meat in his lodge all the time
is admired above all others. He is a kind of prince. It is no wonder
that every maiden in the village yearned to become the bride of
the Invisible Boy. All the unmarried maidens were eager to try their
fortune and, one after another, each made a visit to the lodge across
the lake. And, one after another, each came back disappointed. At
last, all had made the attempt except the three Sisters.
"Now it is my turn," said Oona. "I'm sure I shall
be able to see him."
"You indeed!" sniffed Abit. "I'm as likely to see
him as you are. Why should you go first?" "I am the eldest!"
"Team is sure to want a younger woman!"
The two sisters glared at each other.
"You needn't think I shall let you go alone," declared
Oona angrily. "Then we'll go together," said Abit. And
so they did. Dressing themselves in their finest robes, they set
off for the lodge across the lake. Team's sister received them kindly
and took them to the wigwam to rest after their journey. Then, when
it was time for her brother's return, she led them to the shore.
"Do you see my brother?" she asked. The two girls gazed
eagerly out over the lake. They saw a canoe approaching, but though
it moved swiftly through the water, it appeared to be empty! No
paddle could be seen, for whatever Team held or wore became also
Abit thought to herself that she would pretend to see him, and
Team's sister would never know the difference. "I see him!"
she cried. And Oona, not to be outdone, echoed, "Yes! I see
him too!" Team's sister knew that at least one of the girls
lied, for only one maiden would be allowed to see her brother and
that would be his future bride.
"Of what is his shoulder strap made?" she asked. The
two girls thought for a moment. They knew that, generally, Indians
used rawhide or withe for their shoulder straps. "A strip of
rawhide," guessed Abit. "No--withe!" cried Oona.
Then Team's sister knew that neither had seen her brother and she
resolved to punish them for their dishonesty. "Very well,"
she said quietly. "Come to the wigwam and help me prepare my
The two girls were anxious to know which of them had given the
correct answer, so they followed Team's sister and helped her prepare
the meal. Each hoped that she alone would see Team when he came.
When all was ready, the sister of Team warned the girls not to sit
in her brother's place but to remain on her side of the fire. Then,
looking up, she greeted her brother, but the girls could see no
"Take my brother's load of meat," she told Abit, who
looked around her in dismay. As long as the meat was on Team's shoulder,
it could not be seen. Suddenly, a great load of venison dropped
from nowhere on Abit's toes. Abit screamed and ran from the lodge
in pain and fright. Now Team's sister told Oona to remove her brother's
wet moccasins and put them to dry. Of course Oona could not do so.
A pair of wet moccasins came suddenly sailing through the air and
slapped her across the face. Then Oona too ran away, crying with
"My bride is a long time coming," sighed Team. "And
those were very fine looking girls." "Patience, my brother.
You must have one who is brave and truthful, as well as lovely,
and such a one has not come yet." Abit and Oona returned home
to vent their rage and spite on poor Oochigeas. To escape their
cruelty, she fled to the woods and there, in a secluded spot, relieved
her heart with tears. But when there were no tears left, and her
spirit had been calmed by the peace of the forest, Oochigeas began
to think. Now that her sisters had failed, she was the only maid
left in the village who had not tried to see the Invisible Boy.
Yet, if her fine sisters had failed, what chance had she, poor and
plain as she was? A great hunter like Team would not wish a scar-faced
girl like Oochigeas for a bride. All the same, hope stirred in her
breast. Her heart began to beat fast at the thought of going to
Team's lodge. She had no fine clothes to wear. Her sisters might
try to stop her. The people would laugh. It would take courage.
Her mind was made up!
Oochigeas gathered sheets of birch bark and cut out a gown and
cap and leggings, and sewed them together with grass. The clothing
was stiff and awkward, and it crackled when she walked, but it covered
her. Then she went home and found a pair of Oona's discarded moccasins.
They were huge on her small feet and she had to tie them on by winding
the strings around her ankles. She was truly an odd-looking sight,
and her two sisters stared at her in amazement. "Where are
you going in that ridiculous outfit?" Oona asked. "I am
going to Team's lodge," answered Oochigeas. "What! You
foolish girl! Come back!" "Oh, let her go," said
Abit. "Let the people see her and she'll come back soon enough,
Oochigeas' way lay through the village, and the men and boys shouted
and jeered at her. "Shame, shame!" "Ugly creature!"
"See how her burned hair sticks out from her cap!" "Why
does she wear birch bark instead of skins?" "Come back,
Oochigeas. Where do you think you're going? To see Team?" And
they laughed so hard they rolled on the ground. But, though her
heart burned with shame, Oochigeas pretended not to hear, and walked
on with her head high, until she was out of their sight. Then she
hurried through the woods and around the edge of the lake, trying
not to think of the ordeal ahead. Doubtless Team's sister would
laugh at her too. Still she went on, and came at last to the lodge
and saw Team's sister at the door.
"I have come," gasped Oochigeas before the other could
speak, "I have come--to see Team--if I can." And she looked
pleadingly at Team's sister. "Come in and rest," said
the sister of Team gently, and Oochigeas nearly wept at the unexpected
kindness, but she managed to retain her dignity as they waited in
silence for the sun to go down. Then Team's sister led her to the
"Do you see my brother?" she asked. Oochigeas looked
and saw a canoe, empty. She heard the dip of a paddle and the swish
of the water at the bow, but though she gazed with all her might,
she saw no one. She whispered with a sinking heart, "No, I
cannot see him."
"Look again," urged Team's sister, out of pity, and be
cause the girl had so far been truthful. Oochigeas gazed once more
at the canoe, and suddenly gave a gasp.
"Oh! Yes! Now I see him!" "If you see him,"
said Team's sister quickly, "of what is his shoulder strap
made?" "Why it is made of a rainbow," marveled Oochigeas,
and Team's sister knew her brother had found his bride. She led
the girl back to the wigwam and stripped off her ugly clothes, bathed
her, and dressed her in doeskin, then gave her a comb to tidy her
"Alas," thought Oochigeas, "I have so little hair
to comb," but as she drew the comb against her head, she found
to her amazement that her hair had grown suddenly long and thick.
Moreover, the scars had gone from her face. She was beautiful!
Then the handsome Team came, laughing, and crying out, "At
last I've found you, my lovely bride." And he led her to the
wife's place in the wigwam. And from that day on, Oochigeas and
Team, and Team's sister, lived out their days in peace and happiness.
Far away on Blomidon, Glooscap looked at Marten with a wise smile.
He had known all along, you see, that Oochigeas had courage under
her gentleness, and a brave spirit makes all things possible. And
so it happened.
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