Micmac Creation Story
A Micmac Legend
This story has been passed down from generation to generation since time immemorial and it explains how Míkmaw people came into existence in North America. The story tells about the relationship between the Great Spirit Creator and Human Beings and the Environment. It also explains a philosophical view of life which is indigenous to North America. This way of thinking is evident in the Native Languages and Cultures and in the spiritual practices.
The fact that the Míkmaw people's language, culture and spiritualism has survived for centuries is based on the creation story. Respect for their elders has given them wisdom about life and the world around them. The strength of their youth has given them the will to survive. The love and trust of their motherhood has given them a special understanding of everyday life.
Among the Míkmaw people, the number seven is very meaningful. There are seven districts for distinct areas which encompasses an area of land stretching from the Gaspé coast of Quebec and includes northern Maine, eastern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
The most powerful spirit medicine is made from seven barks and roots. Seven men, representatives from each distinct area or Grand Council District sit inside a sweat-lodge smoke the pipe and burn the sweet grass. Inside the sweat-lodge, the Míkmaq will pour water over seven, fourteen and then twenty-one heated rocks to produce hot steam. A cleansing or purification takes place. A symbolic rebirth takes place and the men give thanks to the Creator, the Sun and the Earth. They also give thanks the first family, Kluskap, Nukumi, Netawansum, and Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. Listen to the story.
ONE - KISÚLKW
Kisúlkw is the Creator who is the one who made everything. The word Kisúlkw in Míkmaw means "you have been created". It also means "the one credited for your existence".
The word does not imply gender. Kisúlkw is not a He or a She, it is not important whether the Creator is a He or a She.
The Míkmaw people do not explain how the Creator came into existence only that Kisúlkw is responsible for everything being where it is today. Kisúlkw made everything.
TWO - NISKAM
Niskam is the sun which travels in a circle and owes its existence to Kisúlkw. Niskam is the giver of life. It is also a giver of light and heat.
The Míkmaw people believe that Niskam is responsible for the creation of the people on earth. Nisgam is Kisúlkw's helper. The power of Niskam is held with much respect among the Míkmaq and other aboriginal peoples. Niskam owes its existence to Kisúlkw the Creator.
THREE - WSITQAMÚK
Wsitqamúk is the earth or area of land upon which the Míkmaq people walk and share its abundant resources with the animals and plants. In the Míkmaq language Wsitqamúk means "the person or individual who stand upon this surface", or "the one who is given life upon this surface of land". Wsitqamúk refers to the Míkmaq world which encompasses all the area where the Míkmaw people can travel or have traveled upon.
Wsitqamúk was created by Kisúlkw and was placed in the center of the circular path of Niskam, the sun. Niskam was given the responsibility of watching over the Míkmaq world or Wsitqamúk. Niskam shines bright light upon Wsitqamúk as it passes around and this brought the days and nights.
FOUR - KLUSKAP
After the Míkmaq world was created and after the animals, birds and plants were placed on the surface, Kisúlkw caused a bolt of lightening to hit the surface of Wsitqamúk. This bolt of lightning caused the formation of an image of a human body shaped out of sand. It was Kluskap who was first shaped out of the basic element of the Míkmaq world, sand.
Kisúlkw unleashed another bolt of lightening which gave life to Kluskap but yet he could not move. He was stuck to the ground only to watch the world go by and Niskam travel across the sky everyday. Kluskap watched the animals, the birds and the plants grow and pass around him. He asked Niskam to give him freedom to move about the Míkmaq world.
While Kluskap was still unable to move, he was lying on his back. His head was facing the direction of the rising sun, east, Papkek. In Míkmaq this words mean "where the sun comes up " respectively. His feet were in the direction of the setting sun, the west or Pitawk. Kluskap's right hand was pointed in the direction of the north or Oqwatnuk. His left hand was in the direction of the south or Elkatesnek. So it was the third big blast of lightening that caused Kluskap to become free and to be able to stand on the surface of the earth.
After Kluskap stood up on his feet, he turned around in a full circle seven times. He then looked toward the sky and gave thanks to Kisúlkw for giving him life. He looked down to the earth or the ground and gave thanks to Wsitqamúk for offering its sand for Kluskap's creation. He looked within himself and gave thanks to Niskam for giving him his soul and spirit.
Kluskap then gave thanks to the four directions east, north, west and south. In all he gave his heartfelt thanks to the seven directions.
Kluskap then traveled to the direction of the setting sun until he came to the ocean. He then went south until the land narrowed and he came to the ocean. He then went south until the land narrowed and he could see two oceans on either side. He again traveled back to where he started from and continued towards the north to the land of ice and snow. Later he came back to the east where he decided to stay. It is where he came into existence. He again watched the animals, the birds and the plants. He watched the water and the sky. Kisúlkw taught him to watch and learn about the world. Kluskap watched but he could not disturb the world around him. He finally asked Kisúlkw and Niskam, what was the purpose of his existence. He was told that he would meet someone soon.
FIVE - NUKUMI
One day when Kluskap was traveling in the east he came upon a very old woman. Kluskap asked the old woman how she arrived to the Míkmaq world. The old woman introduced herself as Nukumi. She said to Kluskap, "I am your grandmother". Nukumi said that she owes her existence to the rock, the dew and Niskam, the Sun. She went on to explain that on one chilly morning a rock became covered with dew because it was sitting in a low valley. By midday when the sun was most powerful, the rock got warm and then hot. With the power of Niskam, the sun, Kisúlkw's helper, the rock was given a body of an old woman. This old woman was Nukumi, Kluskap's grandmother.
Nukumi told Kluskap that she came to the Míkmaq world as an old woman, already very wise and knowledgeable. She further explained that Kluskap would gain spiritual strength by listening to and having great respect for his grandmother. Kluskap was so glad for his grandmother's arrival to the Míkmaq world he called upon Apistanéwj, a marten swimming in the river, to come ashore. Apistanéwj did what Kluskap had asked him to do. Apistanéwj came to the shore where Kluskap and Nukumi were standing. Kluskap asked Apistanéwj to give up his life so that he and his grandmother could live. Apistanéwj agreed. Nukumi then took Apistanéwj and quickly snapped his neck. She placed him on the ground. Kluskap for the first time asked Kisúlkw to use his power to give life back to Apistanéwj because he did not want to be in disfavor with the animals.
Because of marten's sacrifice, Kluskap referred to all the animals as his brothers and sisters from that point on. Nukumi added that the animals will always be in the world to provide food, clothing, tools, and shelter. Apistanéwj went back to the river and in his place lay another marten. Kluskap and Apistanéwj will become friends and brothers forever.
Nukumi cleaned the animal to get it ready for eating. She gathered the still hot sparks for the lightening which hit the ground when Kluskap was given life. She placed dry wood over the coals to make a fire. This fire became the Great Spirit Fire and later go to be known as the Great Council Fire.
The first feast of meat was cooked over the Great Fire, or Putuwasuwaqan. Kluskap relied on his grandmother for her survival, her knowledge and her wisdom. Since Nukumi was old and wise, Kluskap learned to respect her for her knowledge. They learned to respect each other for their continued interdependence and continued existence.
SIX - NETAWANSUM
One day when Kluskap and Nukumi were walking along in the woods, they came upon a young man. This young man looked very strong because he was tall and physically big. He had gray colored eyes. Kluskap asked the young man his name and how he arrived to the Míkmaq world. The young man introduced himself. He told Kluskap that his name is Netawansum and that he is Kluskap's sister's son. In other words, his nephew. He told Kluskap that he is physically strong and that they could all live comfortably. Netawansum could run after moose, deer and caribou and bring them down with his bare hands. He was so strong. Netawansum said that while the east wind was blowing so hard it caused the waters of the ocean to become rough and foamy. This foam got blown to the shore on the sandy beach and finally rested on the tall grass. This tall grass is sweetgrass. Its fragrance was sweet. The sweetgrass held onto the foam until Niskam, the Sun, was high in the midday sky. Nisgam gave Netawansum spiritual and physical strength in a human body. Kisúlkw told Kluskap that if he relied on the strength and power of his nephew he would gain strength and understanding of the world around him.
Kluskap was so glad for his nephew's arrival to the Míkmaq world, he called upon the salmon of the rivers and seas to come to shore and give up their lives. The reason for this is that Kluskap, Netawansum and Nukumi did not want to kill all the animals for their survival. So in celebration of his nephew's arrival, they all had a feast of fish. They all gave thanks for their existence. They continued to rely on their brothers and sisters of the woods and waters. They relied on each other for their survival.
SEVEN - NIKANAKANIMQÚSÍWSQ
While Kluskap was sitting near a fire, Nukumi was making clothing out of animal hides and Netawansum was in the woods getting food. A woman came to the fire and sat beside Kluskap. She put her arms around Kluskap and asked "Are you cold my son?" Kluskap was surprised he stood up and asked the woman who she is and where did she come from. She explained that she was Kluskap's mother. Her name is Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. Kluskap waited until his grandmother and nephew returned to the fire then he asked his mother to explain how she arrived to the Míkmaq world.
Nikanakanimqúsíwsq said that she was a leaf on a tree which fell to the ground. Morning dew formed on the leaf and glistened while the sun, Niskam, began its journey towards the midday sky. It was at midday when Niskam gave life and a human form to Kluskap's mother. The spirit and strength of Niskam entered into Kluskap's mother.
Kluskap's mother said that she brings all the colors of the world to her children. She also brings strength and understanding. Strength to withstand earth's natural forces and understanding of the Míkmaq world; its animals and her children, the Míkmaq. She told them that they will need understanding and co-operation so they all can live in peace with one another.
Kluskap was so happy that his mother came into the world and since she came from a leaf, he called upon his nephew to gather nuts, fruits of the plants while Nukumi prepared a feast. Kluskap gave thanks to Kisúlkw, Niskam, Wsitqamúk, Nukumi, Netawansum and Nikanakanimqúsíwsq. They all had a feast in honor of Kluskap's mother's arrival to the world of Míkmaq.
The story goes on to say that Kluskap, the man created from the sand of the earth, continued to live with his family for a very long time. He gained spiritual strength by having respect for each member of the family. He listened to his grandmother's wisdom. He relied on his nephew' s strength and spiritual power. His mother's love and understanding gave him dignity and respect. Kluskap's brothers and sisters of the woods and waters gave him the will and the food to survive. Kluskap now learned that mutual respect of his family and the world around him was a key ingredient for basic survival. Kluskap's task was to pass this knowledge to his fellow Míkmaw people so that they too could survive in the Míkmaq world. This is why Kluskap became a central figure in Míkmaq story telling.
One day when Kluskap was talking to Nukumi he told her that soon they would leave his mother and nephew. He told her that they should prepare for that occasion. Nukumi began to get all the necessary things ready for a long journey to the North. When everyone was sitting around the Great Fire one evening, Kluskap told his mother and nephew that he and Nukumi are going to leave the Míkmaq world. He said that they will travel in the direction of the North only to return if the Míkmaq people were in danger. Kluskap told his mother and nephew to look after the Great Fire and never to let it go out.
After the passing of seven winters, "Lluiknek Tasipunkek", seven sparks will fly from the fire and when they land on the ground seven people will come to life. Seven more sparks will land on the ground and seven more people will come into existence. From these sparks will form seven women and seven men. They will form seven families. These seven families will disperse into seven different directions from the area of the Great Fire. Kluskap said that once the seven families their place of destination, they will further divide into seven groups.
Each group will have their own area for their subsistence so they would not disturb the other groups. He instructed his mother that the smaller groups would share the earth's abundance of resources which included animals, plants and fellow humans.
Kluskap told his mother that after the passing of seven winters, each of the seven groups would return to the place of the Great Fire. At the place of the fire all the people will dance, sing and drum in celebration of their continued existence in the Míkmaq world. Kluskap continued by saying that the Great Fire signified the power of the Creator, Kisúlkw. It also signified the power and strength of the light and heat of Niskam, the sun. The Great Fire held the strength of Wsitqamúk the earth. Finally the fire represented the bolt of lightening which hit the earth from which Kluskap was created. The fire is very sacred to the Míkmaq. It is the most powerful spirit on earth.
Kluskap told his mother and nephew that it is important for the Míkmaq to give honor, respect and thanks to the seven spiritual elements. The fire signifies the first four stages of creation, Kisúlkw, Niskam, Wsitqamúk and Kluskap. Fire plays a significant role in the last three stages as it represents the power of the sun, Niskam.
In honor of Nukumi's arrival to the Míkmaq world, Kluskap instructed his mother that seven, fourteen and twenty-one rocks would have to be heated over the Great Fire. These heated rocks will be placed inside a sweat lodge covered with hides of moose and caribou or with mud. The door must face the direction of the rising sun. There should be room from seven men to sit comfortably around a pit dug in the center where up to twenty-one rocks could be placed. Seven alders, seven wild willows and seven beech saplings will be used to make the frame of the lodge. This lodge should be covered with the hides of moose, caribou, deer or mud.
Seven men representing the seven original families will enter into the lodge. They will give thanks and honor to the seven directions, the seven stages of creation and to continue to live in good health. The men will pour water over the rocks causing steam to rise in the lodge to become very hot. The men will begin to sweat up to point that it will become almost unbearable. Only those who believe in the spiritual strength will be able to withstand the heat. Then they will all come out of the lodge full of steam and shining like new born babies. This is the way they will clean their spirits and should honor Nukumi's arrival.
In preparation of the sweat, the seven men will not eat any food for seven days. They will only drink the water of golden roots and bees nectar. Before entering the sweat the seven men will burn the sweetgrass. They will honor the seven directions and the seven stages of creation but mostly for Netawansum's arrival to the Míkmaq world. The sweet grass must be lit from the Great Fire.
Kluskap's mother came into the world from the leaf of a tree, so in honor of her arrival tobacco made from bark and leaves will be smoked. The tobacco will be smoked in a pipe made from a branch of a tree and a bowl made from stone.
The pipe will be lit from sweetgrass which was lit from the Great Fire. The tobacco made from bark, leaves and sweetgrass represents Kluskap's grandmother, nephew and mother. The tobacco called "Tmawey" will be smoked and the smoke will be blown in seven directions.
After honoring Nukumi's arrival the Míkmaq shall have a feast or meal. In honor of Netawansum they will eat fish. The fruits and roots of the trees and plants will be eaten to honor Kluskap's mother.
Kluskap's final instruction to his mother told her how to collect and prepare medicine from the barks and roots of seven different kinds of plant. The seven plants together make what is called "ektjimpisun". It will cure mostly every kind of illness in the Míkmaq world. The ingredients of this medicine are: "Wikpe" (alum willow), "Waqwonuminokse" (wild black-cherry), "Kastuk" (ground hemlock), and "Kowotmonokse" (red spruce). The Míkmaq people are divided into seven distinct areas which are as follows:
- Kespukwitk - Lands End
- Sipekníkatik - Wild Potato Area
- Eskikewákik - Skin Dressers Area
- Unamákik - Land of Fog
- Epekwitk Aqq Piktuk - Laying in the Water and The Explosive Area
- Sikniktewaq - Drainage Area
- Kespekewaq - Last Land
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