Why the Weasel Is Nervous
The weasel, Sihkooseu, once played a bad trick on the Bitter Spirit, Wesukechak. That is whey they are not friends.
The important chief Bright Nose, Wastasekoot, of the Swampy Cree tribe, had a lovely daughter who was admired by many chiefs who wished to marry her. Though she loved one of the chiefs, here father decided to hold a council and the first chief to guess her secret name could marry her. She agreed because the thought that the only one who knew her name was the one she loved.
Bitter Spirit decided to enter the contest with everyone else. Since he did not know her name, he made a plan to discover it. He went to the old net maker, the spider, and asked him to call on the girl and, by some trick, discover her name. Spider agreed. He climbed a tall tree, spun a long thread, and floated on it until he neared the camp of the chief with the beautiful daughter. Then he floated down onto the top of the chief’s wigwam, peeped down, and saw the father and daughter talking about the contest, and heard the chief whisper to his daughter, ‘Nobody will ever guess that your secret name is For-ever-and-ever.’ In this way, the Spider discovered her name. He was very pleased with himself at learning this so soon, and set off to tell his friend.
Spider walked many days through the forest because there was no suitable flying wind. He gegan to worry that he would arrive backk too late. Then he saw the weasel and begged his help. He asked Weasel to hurry and tell Bitter Spirit the girl’s secret name and Weasel agreed. But as Weasel started running, he began to think things over and decided to use the information for himself instead of telling it to Bitter Spirit as he had promised. The more he thought about this, the more he liked the idea.
Weasel went to the chief’s camp when the guessing contest was being held. One by one, the guessers failed. Since the girl’s suitor knew her secret name, he felt safe and did not go early, so Weasel was there before him. When Weasel’s turn came, he told the chief that the girl’s name was For-ever-and-ever. The chief was amazed and the daughter fainted. Being honourable, the chief accepted Weasel as his son-in-law-to-be and set the date for the marriage. Weasel was very happy, so happy that he forgot about his mean trick.
The spider finally reached home and asked Bitter Spirit when his wedding was to take place. Bitter Spirit replied that he did not go to the council, since he did not have the name in time, but he had heard that Weasel had won the girl.
Spider was very angry and told Bitter Spirit what really had happened. Bitter Spirit became very angry and told the girl’s father about it. Then the chief became angry with Spider for listening and with Weasel for his trick. He decided that they were all at fault and his daughter could choose for herself. The happy girl did so.
Weasel heard that he was to be punished, so he ran away. He ran and ran. Even today, he stops and listens and trembles, as though Bitter Spirit is still chasing him.
Swampy Cree Stories
Audio Versions in Cree and in English
A really good book on Cree, and one which points out the dialect differences as well, is “SPOKEN CREE”, published by Pica Pica Press out of the University of Alberta Press. There is also an extensive audiotape collection that is available with it. First published in 1962, it is based on the Cree of James Bay, Canada.
When light first came to the earth, O-ma-ma-ma the earth mother of the Cree people gave birth to the spirits of the world. The first born was Binay-sih, the thunderbird who protects the animals from the sea serpent, Genay-big. Thunderbirds shout out their unhappiness or anger with black clouds, rain and fire flashes in the sky. The second born was Ina-kaki, the lowly frog who heightens the sorcerer’s powers and helps to control the insects in the world. The third born was the trickster Wee-sa-hay-jac, who can change himself into many forms or shapes to protect himself. The fourth child was Ma-heegun, Wee-sa-hay-jac’s little wolf brother. They travel together with Wee-sa-hay-jac on his back. The fifth born was Amik the beaver, who is greatly respected because he is an unfortunate human from a different world. Fish, rocks, grasses, and trees all came from the womb of the great earth mother O-ma-ma-ma. The earth was inhabited a long time by only animals and spirits because Wee-sa-hay-jac had not yet made any people.
The most famous leaders and chiefs included Chief Poundmaker, Chief Big Child, Starblanket,
Flash in the Sky, Chief Big Bear, Chief Fine Day, and Chief Cut Nose.