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Lady's Slippers

An Ojibwa Legend

A certain village was visited by a dreaded disease. Even the medicine man died; and with his death all hope vanished.

Although the delivery of messages in winter was unheard of and had never before been attempted the chief asked his mizhinihway (messenger) to go to the next village for some medicines.

In those days each chief had a messenger who delivered notices and messages to distant places. Journeys even in summer were difficult; unheard of during the winter when there were no moccasins.

Nevertheless Koo-Koo-Lee prepared to go. But like the rest, he too fell ill. His wife, anxious for his life, left the lodge and slipped out into the cold. Oblivious to the cold, almost indifferent to the snow crusts, and anxious only to get medicines for her husband and the people of her village, Koo-Koo-Lee's wife ran swiftly over the drifts.

The next morning the people of the village were startled to hear her cries coming from the forest. "Koo-Koo-Lee; come and get me."

Men and women recognizing her voice ran out into the forest where they found her lying in the snow, her feet swollen and bleeding from frost bite, but the medicines in her bundle for her husband and the rest of the sick people in the village. The men carried her back to her lodge and wrapped her feet in thick warm deer skins.

For her sacrifice to her husband and devotion to her people, she was named thereafter Wah-on-nay. On her death her foot wrappings became little flowers of yellow, called by some Wah-on-nay moccasinun; by others Koo-Koo-Lee moccasinun. They are also known as Lady's Slippers.

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