Elmira Jerome (Chippewa)

Biography | Historical and Cultural Context | Critical Commentary | Further Reading

A Legend of the Pottawatomi

The Pottawatomi Indians believe in two spirits, Kitchemanito, symbolizing the Great Spirit, and Matchemanito, the evil spirit. When Kitchemanito first made the world it was inhabited by a class of beings who looked like men, but who were perverse, ungrateful, wicked dogs, who would not even raise their eyes from the ground in Thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. Seeing this, Kitchemanito plunged the people and the earth into a great lake and drowned them all. But he afterward withdrew the earth and made a handsome young man. This man, being all alone, was very sad and lonely, so Kitchemanito sent him a sister to· cheer and comfort him.

After a number of years this man had a dream which he related to his sister. He told her that five suitors were to come to see her; but she was forbidden by the Great Spirit to even look up and smile at the first four, but the fifth one she could speak to. When the men appeared she acted as she had been told. The first one was Usama, or tobacco, but as he was rejected, he fell down and died. The second was Wapako, or pumpkin, and he met the same sad fate. The third, Eshkossimin, or melon, and the fourth, Kokees, or bean, were treated likewise and ended their lives. But when the lucky fifth, Mondamin, or maize, came along, she pulled aside her skin tapestry door and gave him a hearty reception. They were then married and from this union it is believed sprung the whole Indian race.

Mondamin then buried the four unsuccessful suitors, and from their grave grew tobacco, melons of all descriptions, and beans. These they thought were sent to them by the Great Spirit in order that they might have something to offer him as a gift for their feasts and ceremonies. Also that they might have something to put into their cooking kettles along with their meat.

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