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Manabozho's Birth

A Menomini Legend

In the beginning, there was a lone old woman living on this island. Nobody knows where she came from, nor how she got here, but it is true that she dwelt in a wigwam with her only daughter. Wild potatoes were the only food of the two women.

Every day the old woman took her wooden hoe and went out to gather them. She packed them home and dried them in the sun, for in those days, there was no such thing as fire in that part of the world.

One day her daughter begged to go with her. "Mother, let me go and help you; between us we can dig more potatoes than you can alone." "No, my daughter, you stay here," said the old woman; "I don't want you to go. Your place is at home caring for the lodge." "Oh dear! I don't like to stay here alone all day," teased the girl; "it's so lonely when you are gone! I'd much rather go with you. There is another old hoe here that I can use. Please let me go too."

At last, the old woman consented to her daughter's pleading; the two armed themselves with their tools and set out. After a little journey they came to a damp ravine. "Here is the place where I always come to gather the potatoes," cried the mother; "you can dig here too. But there is one thing that I must warn you about, when you are digging these potatoes; I want you to face the south. Be sure not to forget this. It was because I was afraid that you could not be trusted to remember that I never brought you here before." "Oh, that's all right, I won't forget," cried the girl. "Very well then, you stay right here and work; I am going to dig over there."

The girl set to work with a will, and enjoyed her task very much. "Oh how nice it is to dig potatoes!" she said, and kept up a running stream of conversation with her mother as she labored. As the time passed by, the daughter gradually forgot her promise and at last turned round and faced in the opposite direction as she dug. All at once there came a great rushing, roaring noise from the heavens and the wind swept down where she stood and whirled her round and round. "Oh, mother! Help! Come quick!" she screamed. Her mother dropped everything and rushed to her aid. "Grab me by the back and hold me down!" cried the girl in terror. The old lady seized her with one hand and steadied herself, meanwhile, by catching hold of some bushes. "Hold me as tightly as you can!" she gasped. "Now you see why I told you to stay at home! You are being properly punished for your disobedience."

Suddenly the wind stopped. The air was as calm as though nothing had ever happened. The two women hastily gathered up their potatoes and hurried home. After that the old woman worked alone. Everything went well for a while, and then, one day the daughter complained. "I feel very strange and different, mother; there seems to be something within me." The old woman scrutinized the girl narrowly, but made no answer, for she knew that her daughter was pregnant." At last, she was brought to bed and gave birth to three children. The first of these was Manabozho, the second was a little wolf, Muh'wäse, and the last was a sharp flint stone. When the unfortunate mother gave issue to the rock, it cut her and she died. The old woman mourned her daughter greatly. In a paroxysm of rage and grief, she threw away the flint stone, but Manabozho and Muh'wäse she cherished and cared for until they grew to be children.

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