An Aboriginal Presence

Our Origins

Wealth of Stories - Nanabozho

Creation stories of Algonquin-speaking peoples, including the Anishnaabe, Cree, Siksika, and Atikamekw, begin when the world was covered with water. Each story includes a hero - Nanabozho, Wesakaychak, Napi, Carcajou or Coyote - who seeks the assistance of his animal relatives in re-creating the Earth.

"And that Nanabush! That good-for-nothing Trickster! Where is he when we need him!... I can just see him now - out there lying in the swamp... Well, that's what some people say. Others say he went south, hid out in the Andes or some place like that. Tomson thinks he's all rolled up under a bar room table somewhere..."

Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, "Trickster Beyond 1992: Our Relationship", cited in Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, eds., Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives

The Anishnaabe origin story features Nanabozho camped on the bank of a river, when the waters rose slowly and steadily, forcing him to retreat. Before the water covered what remained of the mountain that he stood on, Nanabozho caught two logs to form a crude raft. As far as he could see in every direction there were animals of every species, many out of their element, their eyes wide and rolling in terror. He hailed the birds and animals swimming nearby, "Would you fetch some soil, so I can try to restore the Earth?" It was not the strong or the gifted, as might be expected, who retrieved the soil. Rather it was the least of their kin, the muskrat, who dove and brought back the small bit of soil. Nanabozho breathed into a small paw full of soil, and a miracle took place... he had created his island and his world.

Basil Johnston

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