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 had gone.
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.
Return to Menomini Legends