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Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Katharine Berry Judson

Book Overview: 

It is a loss to American literature that so much of the legendary history of these Indian tribes has gone, beyond hope of recovery. Exquisite in color, poetical in feeling, these legends of sun, moon, and stars, of snow, ice, lightning, thunders, the winds, the life of the forest birds and animals about them, and the longing to understand the why and the how of life—all which we have only in fragments…. As in all the other volumes of this series, no effort has been made to ornament or amplify these legends in the effort to make them “literary,” or give them “literary charm.” They must speak for themselves. What editing has been done has been in simplifying them, and freeing them from the verbose setting in which many were found. For in this section of the country, settled before it was realized that there was an Indian literature, the original work of noting down the myths was very imperfectly done. These tales come from the following tribes: Winnebago, Chitimacha, Wyandot, Biloxi, Ojibwa, Mandan, Menomini, Cherokee, Sioux, Knisteneaux, Choctaw (Bayou Lacomb), Fox, and Natchez

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Indians what they must do when they came out of the earth. The creator showed the Indian how to skin the deer, and prepare it for food, and how to use the skin for dress.

When everything was ready, he said, “Make a fire.”

[Pg 9] The Indian said, “I do not know how.”

Therefore the creator made the fire. Then he said, “Put the meat on the fire. Roast it.”

The Indian did this, but he did not turn the stick. Therefore it was burned on one side and not roasted on the other. So the creator showed him how to turn the stick.

Then the Great Mystery called all the Indians up out of the earth. They came out by tribes. To each tribe he gave a chief. Then he made a head chief over all the tribes, who should teach them what they should do.

The Great Mystery also made Good and Evil. They were brothers. One made pleasant things grow. The other spent all his time spoiling his brother’s wo. . . Read More