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Program 8: People of the Dawn

More Creation Stories : Fred Tomah

MORE CREATION STORIES

Fred Tomah, Master Basketmaker
from the Houlton Band of Maliseets

We were always here. We always came from here but. You know when we call, we say Great Creator or the Great Spirit or the Great Father or whatever you want to him, there's many names I guess that's given to the same idea.

But I, once in a while I'll go to a school and I've been asked to go to some elementary schools like during Thanksgiving. And they would see me and they would think where's your bonnet? Where's your feathers and where's your Indian stuff, that kind of a thing. Do Indians still live in teepees? You know do they, they ask, kids ask honest question. But I try to explain to them about what it was like being an Indian years ago and some of the stories that we tell them and there's a special one for kids. That I consider good enough for kids and it captures their attention and it's about the magic wigwam. There are slight versions. Depends on who's saying it I guess through time. I don't know if there are any other versions that were outside our realm you know that people would say it. The magic wigwam is one of my favorites. It's about, I don't know if I want to get into it.

Anyway there's a, an Indian in the woods and he's walking for miles, for days he's walking. He hears a noise way in the background and it bothers him. It's constantly bothering him and he can't get it out of his head thinking that it's only in his head. The more he's in the woods walking the louder it gets and to the point where he can't stand it anymore. It's like it's over the next hill. He finally gets there and the noise is so noisy that he's starting to get scared. He looks and he realizes the noise is coming from two old people dancing around a tree and then he realizes he watches them enough he realizes that they're not gonna do him any harm. But the noise is there while their dancing. By him watching this he's realizing what they're trying to do, so he approaches them. And he says, why are you doing this? They're trying to dance the tree down. He thinks about it for a second and he says well because there's a, what is it up in the tree? It's an animal that they're trying to get, it's a raccoon that's up in the tree. He said, well I'll go get the animal. So he chops the tree down and he kills the animal and gives the old timer the animal and they have a festival. They eat it. They save the skin and they give him the skin, the hide and they say this contains magic for what he had done for them.

So he leaves with the pelt and pretty proud of what he's gotten cause the old timers gave it to them. And he knows that it contains magic. So he's on his way, he's on the road for some time or at least on the trail for sometime and he's getting tired though because he's been awake for weeks. He can't remember when he last slept. Now he's getting hungry again. Anyway low and behold he meets another Indian coming in the opposite direction carrying a wigwam on his head. Wigwams are light. They're made of bark and alders and stuff. So they meet in the trail and they converse. In the mean time the Indian with the wigwam admires his pelt that he's got and the Indian sees that he's admiring it. And this Indian says and he's really tired, he says he's admiring the wigwam. So he doesn't know if he wants to trade it. But they finally, his tiredness overcomes him and of course the other Indian really wants that pelt. And so he told him that the pelt contains magic. He said, well my wigwam contains magic. So they swap and they part ways and they go on.

So the Indian now is on the trail with the wigwam over his head and he gets tired. So he decides to put the wigwam down and he does. He goes in for a sleep and when he does he goes in and there on the floor of the wigwam was a huge white skin, a bear skin there and he looks up and he sees dried meats hanging from the top of the wigwam hanging down. And he goes to sleep under this huge white bear skin. He wakes up the next morning and is stretching he looks up and again he sees those dried meats there and he reaches up to them. And as he reaches up to them his arms and the huge white bear skin that's on top of him, all his, everything starts to melt away and his arms turns to wings. And he sees in the upper part of the wigwam is the alders that come to the peak and those become branches of an enormous tree. His arms turn to wings and he flies up into the tree and lands in the tree. He looks around and he realizes that he's a partridge that was stuck in a snow bank all winter long dreaming that he was an Indian. In the end spring had come and the snow had melted. A new springtime had developed and he's happy to be alive in that sense. He was believing that he was an Indian and dreaming all winter long.

So the Indians their connection to the wild runs deep. It runs deep even in their stories that they pass on. So the wigwam, the magic wigwam is a way of, it's a nice story and it's a way of relaying to the younger kids of your inner connection to the wild, to nature. But again that contains no stories of Glooscap.

His stories been told for some time and we have it written down and most of our legends are written down. Somebody has managed to write them and make them, it's not necessarily in book form. But we've got some of them around here somewhere.

GLOOSCAP

Glooscap was a person or was a, like an Indian that, well, it's more of a legend then it is an actual individual, it's folklore. It's a word, Glooscap is really the protector of the Indian and it was a way the old Indians would tell stories to the young ones. Not necessarily as a medium of night stories, telling stories at night before kids are going to bed or whatever. But it was a way of entertaining ourselves and a way of explaining things to ourselves of his doings.

Glooscap was depending on what tribe you're speaking to. Some say that Glooscap had a mother too and that Glooscap had a brother. But Glooscap to me lives in Mount Katahdin, that's his wigwam. Wigwam being his home. A wigwam is a bark house that we lived in years ago and we've didn't live in warm houses or teepees. We lived in wigwams. Wigwam in our language is home.

Anyway, Glooscap's home is Mount Katahdin and he's a big man. He's a big person or big spirit and that's the reason why he requires something so big and that's the reason he lives there. When the ground shakes you know he's there. He's moving and the ground will shake when he moves.

But anyway, Glooscap has done many things for us. He's passed on through us why things are the way they are, like the wind and things of that nature. When I say the wind there are some of Indians have some favorite stories of Indian legends and sometimes Glooscap is woven into them. I have several favorites, but one of them doesn't involve Glooscap. In fact my favorite one doesn't involve Glooscap at all.

It was windy, extremely windy and the village was really concerned about it because nobody could hunt. Even the animals were being agitated by the wind and it was going on for weeks and as a result what little food they did have was starting to go away and they were really concerned about it. And they new Glooscap was in the area so they, they sent some Indians to Glooscap and asked him how they could stop this, how they could stop this wind. And so Glooscap told them to send two Indians to this direction, in a westerly direction. The and on their way there to search the woods for bark of a cedar tree and that make rope and when they would get to this area they would see that there was a huge crow on a mountain, big as a mountain the crow was. And that they would have to disable the crow and stone him, hit him over the head with rocks and stun him. They did it. They went and they got the rope and made some rope. And they were able to find the huge crow on the mountain in the west that was causing all the wind and he was sitting on the mountain with his claws in the mountain and he was flapping his wings. He wouldn't stop. That's where the wind was coming from. Glooscap told them to take the rope and tie down the wings of the crow and that would solve their problem. The Indians did it and when they got back things were too dry. It was too calm and it started to effect a lot things. It was too hot. They didn't know how to fix that either. So they ask Glooscap one thing that turned it bad you know. How come can we correct this? So Glooscap told them simply to go back and sneak up to the crow again and untie one wing and when he did that the winds turned to normal and that's the reason why it is not that way anymore. So it's, that's how we get our wind. That crow is still there and every now and then his wing gets really flappy and that's why it's windy. Those are some stories that Glooscap would, would, stories of Glooscap. His interaction with Indians.

It was windy, extremely windy and the village was really concerned about it because nobody could hunt. Even the animals were being agitated by the wind and it was going on for weeks and as a result what little food they did have was starting to go away and they were really concerned about it. And they new Glooscap was in the area so they, they sent some Indians to Glooscap and asked him how they could stop this, how they could stop this wind. And so Glooscap told them to send two Indians to this direction, in a westerly direction. The and on their way there to search the woods for bark of a cedar tree and that make rope and when they would get to this area they would see that there was a huge crow on a mountain, big as a mountain the crow was. And that they would have to disable the crow and stone him, hit him over the head with rocks and stun him. They did it. They went and they got the rope and made some rope. And they were able to find the huge crow on the mountain in the west that was causing all the wind and he was sitting on the mountain with his claws in the mountain and he was flapping his wings. He wouldn't stop. That's where the wind was coming from. Glooscap told them to take the rope and tie down the wings of the crow and that would solve their problem. The Indians did it and when they got back things were too dry. It was too calm and it started to effect a lot things. It was too hot. They didn't know how to fix that either. So they ask Glooscap one thing that turned it bad you know. How come can we correct this? So Glooscap told them simply to go back and sneak up to the crow again and untie one wing and when he did that the winds turned to normal and that's the reason why it is not that way anymore. So it's, that's how we get our wind. That crow is still there and every now and then his wing gets really flappy and that's why it's windy. Those are some stories of Glooscap and his interaction with Indians.

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