Au Pays de L’Ours Noir: Part 28

Excerpt from Au Pays de l’Ours Noir,

Dispatches of a Missionary 1897, by Father

Adrien Gabriel Morice




Translated by Neil Wylie and Garry Girvan

Mankind Acquires Fire

Until then men had no fire and were benumbed with cold, with the exception of this same notable who was guarding it carefully in his lodge. Since he did not wish to give up even the least part to them, they resolved to seize it by trickery.

That is why they had recourse to a year old caribou and a muskrat. Having made for the former animal a ceremonial headdress of resinous pine cuttings attached to its antlers, and putting on the second a ceremonial apron consisting of a marmot skin, they entered the lodge of the old man singing. The caribou and the muskrat posted themselves at each extremity of the hearth on which the master of the lodge was keeping vigil then began to dance. The chant of the muskrat consisted simply of the repetition of the words O Shoette with which certain among us still greet him.

In the course of his dance, by shaking his head from right to left according to the custom, the caribou succeeded in inflaming his headdress of resinous boughs from the flame of the hearth but the toeneza extinguished it immediately.

A little while later, amid the noisy chants with which the assembly accompanied his dance, the caribou succeeded in inflaming his headdress and this time to such an extent that the old man had much difficulty in extinguishing it.

During this time, the tricky muskrat who had prepared himself carefully by burrowing through the earth and who was only awaiting the right moment, furtively seized a live coal and disappeared underground while the old man was busy extinguishing the tufts which adorned the head of the caribou. A short time later a column of smoke was seen escaping from a mountain which rose up on the  horizon. The smoke was soon followed by tongues of fire and men found that the muskrat had succeeded in procuring fire for them.


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