Tales from Temagami - Land of Deep Water

Origin of Constellation Fisher (Ursa Major, 'Big Dipper')

Fisher - Big Dipper - Ursa Major

The Fisher was living somewhere in this world. Nobody knows where. Now in those times they had no summer: it was winter, winter all the time. They knew that summer existed somewhere, but it never came to them, although they wanted it very much.

Now, once upon a time a man captured some little birds which are called ni'benis'e, "summer (guardian) birds". He tied them in bundles and kept them with him all the time. That was the reason why it was continually winter, for so long as he held these birds, they could not bring summer to the North Country.The people pondered very much how to go about freeing these birds from the creature who kept them. At last somebody discovered where this creature lived, and they decided that some one would go and try to free the Summerbirds. Now the Fresh-water Herring lived in the same wigwam with the man who kept the Summerbirds.

The Fisher at last decided to go and free the birds, so that summer would come. He travelled a long while and reached the wigwam where the captor and the Herring lived. When he went in, he found the Herring alone. He captured the Herring and put some pitch on his mouth, so that he could not cry out. Then Fisher took the bundles of birds and tried to break the bindings, so that he could free them. Using his teeth at last he tore open the bundles and the Summerbirds flew free into the air. Then the pitch broke from the Hering's mouth and he cried out, "Fisher breaks the bundle! The Summerbirds! Fisher breaks the bundles with his teeth! The Summerbirds!" Two or three times he cried out , until their captor heard him. Then he came up running, but when he arrived, the fisher and summer birds were far away.

The Fisher ran very fast to save himself. His pursuer had a bow and arrow with which he was going to kill him, but the Fisher sprang into the sky and climbed way up, with the hunter following behind him, still trying to shoot him with his bow and arrow. All he succeeded in shooting, however, was his tail, which is broken where it was wounded. ( This is the bent in the handle of the Great Dipper constellation. The small star Alcor is the wound ). Although they chased him continually, they never got him.


the End
Related by Aleck Paul, second chief of Timagami band, to Frank Speck in 1913

Photo of constellation Ursa Major is courtesy of Till Credner, www.allthesky.com