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Native American Lore

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The origin of Macinac Island - adapted from Ojibway Legend

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Mackinac Island (Ojibway Literature)

The Origin of Mackinac Island
adapted from an Ojibway Legend

    High in the heavens there lived a woman, a spirit.  In her solitude she
asked Kitche Manitou (The Great Spirit) for some means of dispelling her
loneliness.  Kitche Manitou took compassion on the sky-woman and sent a spirit to be her consort. Sky-woman and her companion were happy together, and in time she conceived.  Her consort left and sky-woman gave birth to two children--one pure spirit and the other pure physical being.  Because of
their opposite natures, Sky woman's children hated each other.  In a fiery sky battle they fought and destroyed each other.

    After the destruction of her children, the spirit woman again lived in
solitude.  Kitche Manitou knew of her desolation and so sent her another
companion.  Again sky-woman conceived, and again her consort left. The water creatures observed what was happening in the heavens and pitied the spirit woman.  In their compassion, they persuaded a giant turtle to rise to the surface of the waters and offer his back as a haven.  Then, they invited the
sky-woman to come down.

   Sky-woman left her home in the sky and came down to rest on the back of the great turtle.  When she had settled on the turtle, sky-woman asked the water animals to get some soil from the bottom of the lake. The animals tried to serve the sky-woman.  The beaver was one of the first to plunge into the depths.  He soon surfaced, out of breath and without the  soil.  The fisher tried, but he too failed.  The marten went down, came up empty handed, reporting that the water was too deep.  The loon tried.  Although he remained out of sight for a long time, he too emerged,
gasping for air.  He said that it was too dark.  All tried to fulfill the sky-woman's request, but all failed.  Finally, the least of the water creatures, the muskrat, volunteered to dive.  At his announcement, the other creatures laughed in scorn, because they doubted this little creature's strength and endurance.  Nevertheless, the little muskrat was determined to dive.  Undaunted, he disappeared into the waves.  The onlookers smiled.  They waited for the muskrat to emerge as empty-handed as they had.  As time passed, smiles turned into worried frowns.  Finally, the muskrat floated to the surface, more dead than alive, but he clutched in his paws a small morsel of soil.

While the muskrat was tended and restored to health, the sky-woman painted the rim of the turtle's back with the small amount of soil that had been brought to her.  She breathed life into the soil, and immediately, the soil grew,  covered the
turtle's back, and formed an island.  The turtle had given his service, which was no longer required and he swam away.  The island formed in this way was called Mishee Mackinakong, the place of the turtle's back, now known as Michilimackinac.

 This version of the Mackinac Island myth is adapted from 'Ojibway Heritage',
by Basil Johnston (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1976)


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Last Updated 6/23/99
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