Tales from Temagami - Land of Deep Water

Muskrat Warns the Beaver

The Muskrat, Beaver, Dog and some Ojibwa were companions and hunters. They were real people who could talk to one another. They started out one day and came to a small lake and there they saw Beaver houses and families. It was early in the winter. They said, "That's a good lake to drive the beaver, as it is all rocky and they can't escape. The season is right and so we will come tomorrow with dogs." The Beavers were in their houses and they saw the Indians, but they could not hear the talking. The Muskrat heard,however, and went to the Beaver and told them. "You must look out for yourselves, uncles. Those Indians say you are very easy to catch." Now, the Muskrat had stayed outside the Indians' wigwam and listened to what they were saying, until his feet got so cold that he could not stay no longer. So that this, was all that he had heard to tell his uncle the Beaver.

The next morning the Indians came to the lake and broke the Beaver's houses, and the big Beaver told the young ones, "When you see dog passing, whistle." So the young Beavers went to different places under the ice and when they saw a dog passing, they whistled and all were thus caught and killed by the men. But the big Beaver didn't whistle, and he escaped. The Indians said, "Where's the big Beaver?" Then they went back and had a big feast on those they had caught. In those days people used to cut a flat bone from the hind food of the beaver and throw it into the water, so that the dogs wouldn't get it. These hunters, however, made a mistake and forgot to save that bone. They lost it. (They used to suspend the beaver by a swinging string and roast him, saving all the bones from dogs in order to throw them into the lake, as they thought that there would be just as many beavers there again in the autumn as the number of bones thrown in.)

So the Indians had their feast, and when they threw the bones into the water, one of the little Beavers came back to life and went back to his parents. He said to them, "I had a fine time, father. They hung me over the fire, and I danced for them." Shortly all the Beavers came back, but one of them said, "I'm very sick, father. They didn't use me right." This was the Beaver whose bone from his hind foot the hunters had lost. He was very sore and disgusted and showed his father the fresh mark of his foot where the flat bone was lost, when they asked him what was the matter. The Beavers did not like this and they became angry. So nowadays the Indians tell the young boys neither to talk about the Beavers, nor the prospects of a hunt before attacking a beaver colony, lest the Muskrat hear them and tell the Beaver. And also, when the hunting dogs suddenly go off from the camp and run over the ice, the hunters say the dogs hear the beavers whistling.

Nimush on ice

the End