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Little Bear Boy

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                   

  The little bear boy (No. 17) was the one who did this. He then remained among the Indians (No. 18) and taught them the mysteries of the Grand Medicine (No. 19); and, after he had finished, he told his adopted father that as his mission had been fulfilled he was to return to his kindred spirits, for the Indians would have no need to fear sickness as they now possessed the Grand Medicine which would enable them to live. He also said that his spirit could bring a body to life but once, and he would now return to the sun from which they would feel his influence.  

This is called Kwí-wĭ-sĕns´ wĕ-dī´-shĭ-tshī gē-wī-nĭp—“Little-boy-his-work.”

From subsequent information it was learned that the line No. 22 denotes the earth, and that, being considered as one step in the course of initiation into the Midē´wiwin, three others must be taken before a candidate can be admitted. These steps, or rests, as they are denominated (Nos. 23, 24, and 25), are typified by four distinct gifts of goods, which must be remitted to the Midē´ priests before the ceremony can take place.

Nos. 18 and 19 are repetitions of the figures alluded to in the tradition (Nos. 16 and 17) to signify that the candidate must personate the Makwa´ Man´idō—Bear Spirit—when entering the Midē´wiwin (No. 19). No. 20 is the Midē´ Man´idō as Ki´tshi Man´idō is termed by the Midē´ priests. The presence of horns attached to the head is a common symbol of superior power found in connection with the figures of human and divine forms in many Midē´ songs and other mnemonic records. No. 21 represents the earth’s surface, similar to that designated at No. 22.

Upon comparing the preceding tradition of the creation of the Indians with the following, which pertains to the descent to earth of Mi´nabō´zho, there appears to be some discrepancy, which could not be explained by Sikas´sigĕ, because he had forgotten the exact sequence of events; but from information derived from other Midē´ it is evident that there have been joined together two myths, the intervening circumstances being part of the tradition given below in connection with the narrative relating to the chart on Pl. III A.

This chart, which was in possession of the Mille Lacs chief Baie´dzhek, was copied by him from that belonging to his preceptor at La Pointe about the year 1800, and although the traditions given by Sikas´sigĕ is similar to the one surviving at Red Lake, the diagram is an interesting variant for the reason that there is a greater amount of detail in the delineation of objects mentioned in the tradition.

By referring to Pl. IV it will be noted that the circle, No. 1, resembles the corresponding circle at the beginning of the record on Pl. III, A, with this difference, that the four quarters of the globe inhabited by the Ani´shinâ´beg are not designated between the cardinal points at which the Otter appeared, and also that the central island, only alluded to there (Pl. III A), is here inserted.

The correct manner of arranging the two pictorial records, Pls. III A and IV, is by placing the outline of the earth’s surface (Pl. V, No. 21) upon the island indicated in Pl. IV, No. 6, so that the former stands vertically and at right angles to the latter; for the reason that the first half of the tradition pertains to the consultation held between Ki´tshi Man´idō and the four lesser spirits which is believed to have occurred above the earth’s surface. According to Sikas´sigĕ the two charts should be joined as suggested in the accompanying illustration, Fig. 2.






Fig. 2.—Sikas´sigĕ’s combined charts, showing descent of Min´abo´zho.
 

Sikas´sigĕ’s explanation of the Mille Lacs chart (Pl. IV) is substantially as follows:

When Mi´nabō´zho descended to the earth to give to the Ani´shinâ´beg the Midē´wiwin, he left with them this chart, Midē´wigwas´. Ki´tshi Man´idō saw that his people on earth were without the means of protecting themselves against disease and death, so he sent Mi´nabō´zho to give to them the sacred gift. Mi´nabō´zho appeared over the waters and while reflecting in what manner he should be able to communicate with the people, he heard something laugh, just as an otter sometimes cries out. He saw something black appear upon the waters in the west (No. 2) which immediately disappeared beneath the surface again. Then it came up at the northern horizon (No. 3), which pleased Mi´nabō´zho, as he thought he now had some one through whom he might convey the information with which he had been charged by Ki´tshi Man´idō. When the black object disappeared beneath the waters at the north to reappear in the east (No. 4), Mi´nabō´zho desired it would come to him in the middle of the waters, but it disappeared to make its reappearance in the south (No. 5), where it again sank out of sight to reappear in the west (No. 2), when Mi´nabō´zho asked it to approach the center where there was an island (No. 6), which it did. This did Ni´gĭk, the Otter, and for this reason he is given charge of the first degree of the Midē´wiwin (Nos. 35 and 36) where his spirit always abides during initiation and when healing the sick.

Then Ni´gĭk asked Mi´nabō´zho, “Why do you come to this place?” When the latter said, “I have pity on the Ani´shinâ´beg and wish to give them life; Ki´tshi Man´idō gave me the power to confer upon them the means of protecting themselves against sickness and death, and through you I will give them the Midē´wiwin, and teach them the sacred rites.”

Then Mi´nabō´zho built a Midē´wigân in which he instructed the Otter in all the mysteries of the Midē´wiwin. The Otter sat before the door of the Midē´wigân four days (Nos. 7, 8, 9, and 10), sunning himself, after which time he approached the entrance (No. 14), where his progress was arrested (No. 11) by seeing two bad spirits (Nos. 12 and 13) guarding it. Through the powers possessed by Mi´nabō´zho he was enabled to pass these; when he entered the sacred lodge (No. 15), the first object he beheld being the sacred stone (No. 16) against which those who were sick were to be seated, or laid, when undergoing the ceremonial of restoring them to health. He next saw a post (No. 17) painted red with a green band around the top. A sick man would also have to pray to the stone and to the post, when he is within the Midē´wigân, because within them would be the Midē´ spirits whose help he invoked. The Otter was then taken to the middle of the Midē´wigân where he picked up the mī´gis (No. 18) from among a heap of sacred objects which form part of the gifts given by Ki´tshi Man´idō. The eight Man´idōs around the Midē´wigân (Nos. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26) were also sent by Ki´tshi Man´idō to guard the lodge against the entrance of bad spirits.

A life is represented by the line No. 27, the signification of the short lines (Nos. 28, 29, 30, and 31) denoting that the course of human progress is beset by temptations and trials which may be the cause of one’s departure from such course of conduct as is deemed proper, and the beliefs taught by the Midē´. When one arrives at middle age (No. 32) his course for the remaining period of life is usually without any special events, as indicated by the plain line No. 27, extending from middle age (No. 32) to the end of one’s existence (No. 33). The short lines at Nos. 28, 29, 30, and 31, indicating departure from the path of propriety, terminate in rounded spots and signify, literally, “lecture places,” because when a Midē´ feels himself failing in duty or vacillating in faith he must renew professions by giving a feast and lecturing to his confreres, thus regaining his strength to resist evil doing—such as making use of his powers in harming his kinsmen, teaching that which was not given him by Ki´tshi Man´idō through Mi´nabō´zho, etc. His heart must be cleansed and his tongue guarded.

To resume the tradition of the course pursued by the Otter, Sikas´sigĕ said:

The Otter then went round the interior of the Midē´wigân (No. 34), and finally seated himself in the west, where Mi´nabō´zho shot into his body the sacred mī´gis, which was in his Midē´ bag. Then Mi´nabō´zho said, “This is your lodge and you shall own it always (Nos. 35 and 36), and eight Midē´ Man´idōs (Nos. 19-26) shall guard it during the night.”

The Otter was taken to the entrance (No. 37) of the second degree structure (No. 38), which he saw was guarded by two evil Man´idōs (Nos. 39 and 40), who opposed his progress, but who were driven away by Mi´nabō´zho. When the Otter entered at the door he beheld the sacred stone (No. 41) and two posts (Nos. 42, 43), the one nearest to him being painted red with a green band around the top, and another at the middle, with a bunch of little feathers upon the top. The other post (No. 43) was painted red, with only a band of green at the top, similar to the first degree post. Nos. 44 and 45 are the places where sacred objects and gifts are placed. This degree of the Midē´wiwin is guarded at night by twelve Midē´ Man´idōs (Nos. 46 to 57) placed there by Ki´tshi Man´idō, and the degree is owned by the Thunder Bird as shown in Nos. 58, 59.

The circles (Nos. 60, 61, and 62) at either end of the outline of the structure denoting the degree and beneath it are connected by a line (No. 63) as in the preceding degree, and are a mere repetition to denote the course of conduct to be pursued by the Midē´. The points (Nos. 64, 65, 66, and 67), at the termini of the shorter lines, also refer to the feasts and lectures to be given in case of need.

To continue the informant’s tradition:

When the Otter had passed around the interior of the Midē´wigân four times, he seated himself in the west and faced the degree post, when Mi´nabō´zho again shot into his body the mī´gis, which gave him renewed life. Then the Otter was told to take a “sweat bath” once each day for four successive days, so as to prepare for the next degree. (This number is indicated at the rounded spots at Nos. 68, 69, 70, and 71.)

The third degree of the Midē´wiwin (No. 72) is guarded during the day by two Midē´ spirits (Nos. 73, 74) near the eastern entrance, and by the Makwa´ Man´idō within the inclosure (Nos. 75 and 76), and at night by eighteen Midē´ Man´idōs (Nos. 77 to 94), placed there by Ki´tshi Man´idō. When the Otter approached the entrance (No. 95) he was again arrested in his progress by two evil Man´idōs (Nos. 96 and 97), who opposed his admission, but Mi´nibo´zho overcame them and the Otter entered. Just inside of the door, and on each side, the Otter saw a post (Nos. 98 and 99), and at the western door or exit two corresponding posts (Nos. 100 and 101). These symbolized the four legs of the Makwa´ Man´idō, or Bear Spirit, who is the guardian by day and the owner of the third degree. The Otter then observed the sacred stone (No. 102) and the two heaps of sacred objects (Nos. 103 and 104) which Mi´nabō´zho had deposited, and three degree posts (Nos. 105, 106, and 107), the first of which (No. 105) was a plain cedar post with the bark upon it, but sharpened at the top; the second (No. 106), a red post with a green band round the top and one about the middle, as in the second degree; and the third a cross (No. 107) painted red, each of the tips painted green. [The vertical line No. 108 was said to have no relation to anything connected with the tradition.] After the Otter had observed the interior of the Midē´wigân he again made four circuits, after which he took his station in the west, where he seated himself, facing the sacred degree posts. Then Mi´nabō´zho, for the third time, shot into his body the mī´gis, thus adding to the powers which he already possessed, after which he was to prepare for the fourth degree of the Midē´wiwin.

Other objects appearing upon the chart were subsequently explained as follows:

The four trees (Nos. 109, 110, 111, and 112), one of which is planted at each of the four corners of the Midē´wigân, are usually cedar, though pine may be taken as a substitute when the former can not be had. The repetition of the circles Nos. 113, 114, and 115 and connecting line No. 116, with the short lines at Nos. 117, 118, 119, and 120, have the same signification as in the preceding two degrees.

After the Otter had received the third degree he prepared himself for the fourth, and highest, by taking a steam bath once a day for four successive days (Nos. 121, 122, 123, and 124). Then, as he proceeded toward the Midē´wigân he came to a wig´iwam made of brush (No. 179), which was the nest of Makwa´ Man´idō, the Bear Spirit, who guarded the four doors of the sacred structure.

The four rows of spots have reference to the four entrances of the Midē´wigân of the fourth degree. The signification of the spots near the larger circle, just beneath the “Bear’s nest” could not be explained by Sikas´sigĕ, but the row of spots (No. 117) along the horizontal line leading to the entrance of the inclosure were denominated steps, or stages of progress, equal to as many days—one spot denoting one day—which must elapse before the Otter was permitted to view the entrance.

When the Otter approached the fourth degree (No. 118) he came to a short post 178 (No. 119) in which there was a small aperture. The post was painted green on the side from which he approached and red upon the side toward the Midē´wigân [see Fig. 4.] But before he was permitted to look through it he rested and invoked the favor of Ki´tshi Man´idō, that the evil Man´idōs might be expelled from his path. Then, when the Otter looked through the post, he saw that the interior of the inclosure was filled with Midē´ Man´idōs, ready to receive him and to attend during his initiation. The two Midē´ Man´idōs at the outside of the eastern entrance (Nos. 120 and 121) compelled the evil Man´idōs (Nos. 122 and 123) to depart and permit the Otter to enter at the door (No. 124). Then the Otter beheld the sacred stone (No. 125) and the five heaps of sacred objects which Minabo´zho had deposited (Nos. 126, 127, 128, 129, and 130) near the four degree posts (Nos. 131, 132, 133, and 134). According to their importance, the first was painted red, with a green band about the top; the second was painted red, with two green bands, one at the top and another at the middle; the third consisted of a cross painted red, with the tips of the arms and the top of the post painted green; while the fourth


Fig. 4.—Peep-hole post.
 

was a square post, the side toward the east being painted white, that toward the south green, that toward the west red, and that toward the north black.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

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