Origin of Men of Mana-Bozho

At a certain time, a great Manito came on earth, and took a wife of men. She had four sons at a birth, and died in ushering them into the world. The first was Manabozho, who is the friend of the human race. The second Chibiabos, who has the care of the dead, and presides over the country of souls. The third Wabasso, who, as soon as he saw light, fled to the North, where he was changed into a white rabbit, and, under that form, is considered as a great spirit. The fourth was Chokanipok, or the man of flint, or the firestone.

The first thing Manabozho did, when he grew up, was to go to war against Chokanipok, whom he accused of his mother s death. The contests between them were frightful and long continued, and wherever they had a combat the face of nature still shows signs of it. Fragments were cut from his flesh, which were transformed into stones, and he finally destroyed Chokanipok by tearing out his entrails, which were changed into vines. All the flint-stones which are scattered over the earth were produced in this way, and they supplied men with the principle of fire.

Manabozho was the author of arts and improvements. He taught men how to make agakwuts, 1 lances, and arrow-points, and all implements of bone and stone, and also how to make snares, and traps, and nets, to take animals, and birds, and fishes. He and his brother Chibiabas lived retired, and were very intimate, planning things for the good of men, and were of superior and surpassing powers of mind and body.

The Manitos who live in the air, the earth, and the water, became jealous of their great power, and conspired against them. Manabozho had warned his brother against their machinations, and cautioned him not to separate himself from his side; but one day Chibiabos ventured alone on one of the Great Lakes. It was winter, and the whole surface was covered with ice. As soon as he had reached the centre the malicious Manitos broke the ice, and plunged him to the bottom, where they hid his body.

Manabozho wailed along the shores. He waged a war against all the Manitos, and precipitated numbers of them to the deepest abyss. He called on the dead body of his brother. He put the whole country in. dread by his lamentations. He then besmeared his face with black, and sat down six years to lament, uttering the name of Chibiabos. The Manitos consulted what to do to appease his melancholy and his wrath. The oldest and wisest of them, who had had no hand in the death of Chibiabos, offered to undertake the task of reconciliation. They built a sacred lodge close to that of Manabozho, and prepared a sumptuous feast. They procured the most delicious tobacco, and filled a pipe. They then assembled in order, one behind the other, and each carrying under his arm a sack formed of the skin of some favorite animal, as a beaver, an otter, or a lynx, and filled with precious and curious medicines, culled from all plants. These they exhibited, and invited him to the feast with pleasing words and ceremonies. He immediately raised his head, uncovered it, and washed off his mourning colors and besmearments, and then followed them. When they had reached the lodge, they offered him a cup of liquor prepared from the choicest medicines, as, at once, a propitiation, and an initiative rite. He drank it at a single draught. He found his melancholy departed, and felt the most inspiring effects. They then commenced their dances and songs, united with various ceremonies. Some shook their bags at him as a token of skill. Some exhibited the skins of birds filled with smaller birds, which, by some art, would hop out of the throat of the bag. Others showed curious tricks with their drums. All danced, all sang, all acted with the utmost gravity, and earnestness of gestures; but with exactness of time, motion, and voice. Manabozho was cured; he ate, danced, sung, and smoked the sacred pipe. In this manner the mysteries of the Grand Medicine Dance were introduced.

The before recreant Manitoes now all united their powers, to bring Chibiabos to life. They did so, and brought him to life, but it was forbidden him to enter the lodge. They gave him, through a chink, a burning coal, and told him to go and preside over the country of souls, and reign over the land of the dead. They bid him with the coal to kindle a fire for his aunts and uncles, a term by which is meant all men who should die thereafter, and make them happy, and let it be an everlasting fire.

Manabozho went to the Great Spirit after these things. He then descended to the earth, and confirmed the mysteries of the medicine-dance, and supplied all whom he initiated with medicines for the cure of all diseases. It is to him that we owe the growth of all the medical roots, and antidotes to every disease and poison. He commits the growth of these to Misukumigakwa, or the mother of the earth, to whom he makes offerings.

Manabozho traverses the whole earth. He is the friend of man. He killed the ancient monsters whose bones we now see under the earth; and cleared the streams and forests of many obstructions which the Bad Spirit had put there, to fit them for our residence. He has placed four good Spirits at the four cardinal points, to which we point in our ceremonies. The Spirit at the North gives snow and ice, to enable men to pursue game and fish. The Spirit of the South gives melons, maize, and tobacco. The Spirit of the West gives rain, and the Spirit of the East, light; and he commands the sun to make his daily walks around the earth. Thunder is the voice of these Spirits, to whom we offer the smoke of sa-mau (tobacco).

Manabozho, it is believed, yet lives on an immense flake of ice in the Arctic Ocean. We fear the white race will some day discover his retreat, and drive him off. Then the end of the world is at hand, for as soon as he puts his foot on the earth again, it will take fire, and every living creature perish in the flames.Citations:

  1. Axes.[]

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Archives of aboriginal knowledge. Containing all the original paper laid before Congress respecting the history, antiquities, language, ethnology, pictography, rites, superstitions, and mythology, of the Indian tribes of the United States. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1860.

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