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The Story of Indian
By Bear MedicineWalker,
In the long, long ago, a poor Ojibwa
Indian lived with his wife and children in a remote part of
the present state of Michigan. Because he was such a poor hunter,
he was not very expert in providing food and supplies for his
family. His children were too young to give him much help. But
he was a good man with a kind and contented disposition. He
always was thankful to Chief of the Sky Spirits for everything
he received to share with his family.
His good disposition was inherited
by his eldest son, who had just reached the age when he wanted
to pursue his Guardian Spirit Quest. Something that each young
Indian boy looked forward to the time of finding the secret
Spirit that would be his guide through his life. When each boy
sought to learn his spirit name and what special power would
be given him by his Guardian Spirit.
The eldest son had been obedient
since early childhood. He seemed pensive, thoughtful of others,
mild in manner, and always a joy to his family and to his tribe.
At the first indication of spring, tradition told him to build
a hut somewhere in an isolated place. There, he would not be
disturbed during his dream quest. He prepared his hut and himself
and went immediately to begin his fast for seven days.
For the first few days, he amused
himself walking in the woods and over the mountain trails. He
examined trees, plants, and flowers. This kind of physical effort
in the outdoors prepared him for a night of sound sleep. His
observations of the day filled his mind with pleasant ideas
and dreams. More and more he desired to know how the trees,
plants, flowers, and berries grew. Seemingly they grew wild
without much help from the Indians. He wondered why some species
were good to eat, while others contained poisonous juices. These
thoughts came back to him many times as he retreated to his
lodge at night. He secretly wished for a dream that would reveal
what he could do to benefit his family and his tribe.
"I believe the Chief of Sky
Spirits guides all things and it is to him I owe all things,"
he thought to himself. "I wonder if Chief Sky Spirit can
make it easier for all Indians to acquire enough food without
hunting animals every day to eat. I must try to find a way in
my dreams," he pondered.
He stayed on his bed the third day
of fasting, because he felt weak and faint. Sometimes he thought
that he was going to die. He dreamed that he saw a strong, handsome
young man coming down from the sky, advancing toward him. He
was richly dressed in green and yellow colors. He wore a plume
of waving feathers on his head. His every movement was graceful.
"I have been sent to you,"
said the sky-visitor. "The Sky Chief who made all things
in the sky and upon the Earth intends for me to be your Guardian
Spirit and I have come to test you. "Sky Chief has observed
all that you have done to prepare yourself for your Quest. He
understands the kind and worthy secret wish of your heart. He
knows that you desire a way to benefit your family and your
tribe. He is pleased that you do not seek strength to make war.
I have come to show you how to obtain your greatest wish. First,
your spirit name shall be Wunzh."
The stranger then told Wunzh to arise
and wrestle with him. This was the only way for him to achieve
his sacred wish. As weak as he was from fasting, Wunzh wondered
how he could ever wrestle the stranger. He rose to the challenge--determined
in his heart to die in the effort if he must. The two wrestled.
After some time when Wunzh felt nearly exhausted, the Sky Stranger
said, "It is enough for today. I will come in tomorrow
to test you some more." Smiling, the visitor ascended in
the same direction from which he came.
Next day at the same time, the stranger
appeared. Again the two wrestled. While Wunzh felt weaker than
the day before, he set his mind and heart to his task. His courage
seemed to increase, however, in reverse proportion to his waning
physical strength. The stranger stopped just in time before
Wunzh dropped to the ground. "Tomorrow will be your last
chance. I urge you to be strong, my friend, as this is the only
way for you to achieve your heart's sacred wish," said
the sky- visitor. Wunzh took to his bed with his last ounce
of energy. He prayed to the Sky Chief for wisdom and enough
strength to endure to the end of his Quest.
The third time they wrestled, Wunzh
was so weak that his arms and legs felt like rubber. But his
inner determination drove him forward with the kind of endurance
necessary to win. The same length of time passed as in the first
two wrestling bouts. Suddenly the stranger stopped and declared
himself conquered by Wunzh! Then the sky-visitor entered the
lodge for the first time. He sat down beside Wunzh to instruct
him in the way he should now proceed to achieve his secret wish.
"The Great Sky Chief has granted
your desire. You have wrestled manfully. Tomorrow will be your
seventh day of fasting. Your father will come to see you and
bring you food. As it is the last day of your fast, you will
be able to succeed. Now I will tell you what you must do to
achieve your final victory. Tomorrow we will wrestle once more.
When you have prevailed over me for the last time, then throw
me down and strip off my clothes. You must clean the Earth of
roots and weeds and make the ground soft. Then bury me in that
very spot, covering me with my yellow and green clothes and
then with Earth. When you have done this, leave my body in the
Earth. Do not disturb it. Come occasionally to see if I have
come to life. Be careful to see that no grass or weeds cover
my grave. Once a month, cover me with fresh Earth. If you follow
what I have told you, you will succeed in your Guardian Spirit
Quest. You will help your family and all the Indians by teaching
them what I have now taught you," the Sky Stranger concluded
as they shook hands and the visitor left.
On the seventh morning, Wunzh's father
came with some food. "My son, how do you feel? You have
fasted long enough. It is seven days since you have eaten food.
You must not sacrifice your life. The Great Spirit does not
require that of you."
"My father, thank you for coming
and for the food. Let me stay here alone until the sun goes
down. I have my own special reasons."
"Very well. I shall wait for
you at home until the hour of the setting sun," replied
the father as he departed.
The Sky Stranger returned at the
same hour as before. The final wrestling match began. Wunzh
had not eaten the food his father brought. But already he felt
a new inner power that had somehow been given to him. Was it
Spirit Power from his Guardian Spirit? Wunzh grasped his opponent
with supernatural strength and threw him to the ground. Wunzh
removed the beautiful clothes and the plume. Then he discovered
his friend was dead. He remembered the instructions in every
detail and buried his Guardian Spirit on the very spot where
he had fallen. Wunzh followed every direction minutely, believing
his friend would come to life again.
Wunzh returned to his father's lodge
at sundown. He ate sparingly of the meal his mother prepared
for him. Never for a moment could he forget the grave of his
friend. Throughout the spring and into summer he visited the
grave regularly. He carefully kept the area clean of grass and
weeds. He carefully kept the ground soft and pliable. Soon he
saw the tops of green plumes emerging through the Earth. He
noticed that the more care he gave the plants, the faster the
green plumes seemed to grow.
Wunzh concealed his activity from
his father. Days and weeks passed. Summer was drawing to a close.
Then one day, Wunzh invited his father to follow him to the
site of his Quest. He showed his father the graceful-looking
plants growing there. They were topped with yellow silken hair
and waving green plumes. Gold and green clusters of fruit adorned
each side of the stalks.
"Father, these plants are from
my dream friend," explained Wunzh. "He is my Guardian
Spirit, a friend to all mankind, named Mon-daw-min, meaning
'corn for all Indians.' This is the answer to my Quest, my secret
heart's wish. No longer will we need to hunt animals every day
for our food. As long as we take care of our corn gift, the
Earth will give us good food for our living." Wunzh pulled
off the first ear of corn and give it to his father. "See,
my father. This corn is what I fasted for. The Chief of Sky
Spirits has granted my Quest. He has sent us this wonderful
new food of corn. From now on our people need not depend entirely
upon hunting and fishing to survive."
Wunzh talked with his father, giving
him all of the instructions he had received from his Guardian
Spirit. He showed his father how the corn husks should be pulled
off the stalks, and how the first seed must be saved for future
plantings. He explained how the ears of corn should be held
before the fire only long enough for the outer leaves to turn
brown, so that the inside kernels remained sweet and juicy.
The entire family gathered for Wunzh's
feast of corn. The father led a prayer of thanksgiving for the
bountiful and good gift from the Chief of Sky Spirits. Wunzh
felt happy that his Guardian Spirit Quest was successfully completed.
This is how Wunzh became known as
the Father of Indian corn by the Ojibwa Indian tribes.
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