Once in the far north there lived a Manitou whose name was Ojeeg, or the fisher. He and his wife and one son lived on the shore of a lake and were very happy together.
In that country there was never any spring or summer, and the snow lay deep on the ground all the year round. But this did not bother the fisher.
He went out every day and always brought back plenty of game.
The son wished to be a great hunter like his father, so he often took his bow and arrows and went out to kill birds. But he nearly always returned with numb hands and crying with cold.
One day, as he was returning, feeling very discouraged and ready to cry, he noticed a red squirrel on the top of a tree. As he reached for his arrows to shoot him, the squirrel spoke,”Put away your arrows and listen to me. I see you go out each day and always return nearly frozen and with never a bird. Now, if you will do as I tell you, we shall have summer all the time instead of the snow. Then I shall have plenty to eat, and you can kill all the birds you wish. When you go home, you must cry and sob. When your mother asks you what the matter is, do not answer, but throw away your bow and arrow and cry harder than ever. Do not eat any supper, and when your father comes home, he will ask your mother what is the matter with you. She will say that she does not know, that you only sob and cry, and will not speak. When he asks you to give the reason of your sorrow, tell him that you want summer to come. Coax him to get it for you. He will say it is a very hard thing to do, but will promise to try. Now remember all this and do as I tell you.”
As the squirrel finished speaking, he disappeared, and the son returned home. Everything happened as the little squirrel had said, and when the son asked his father to get summer for him, Ojeeg replied, “My son, this is a hard task you have given me. But I love you and so shall try for your sake. It may cost me my life, but I shall do my best.”
Then he called together all his friends, and they had a feast. A bear was killed and roasted, and they arranged to meet on Thursday to begin their journey.
When the day came, they all gathered; there was the otter, the beaver, the lynx, and the wolverine. Ojeeg said good-bye to his wife and son, and the party set out. For twenty days they travelled through the snow, and at last came to the foot of a mountain. The animals were all very tired by this time, all but Ojeeg. He was a nimble little animal and used to long journeys.
As they began to go up the mountain, they noticed footprints and marks of blood, as if some hunter had gone before them with an animal he had killed.
“Let us follow these tracks,” said the fisher, “and see if we can get something to eat.”
When they reached the top of the mountain, they noticed a small lodge.
“Now be very careful and do not laugh at anything we see,” said Ojeeg.
They knocked at the door, and it was opened by a very strange man. He had a huge head, big, strong teeth, and no arms. He invited them to come in and eat. There was meat cooking in a wooden pot on the fire. The man lifted it off when they were not looking, and gave them all something to eat. They wondered how he could do this, and how he had killed the animal, but they soon learned the secret. He was a Manitou!
As they were eating, the otter began to laugh at the strange movements of the Manitou, who, hearing a noise, turned quickly and threw himself on the otter. He was going to smother him, as this was his way of killing animals. But the otter managed to wriggle from under him, and escaped out of the door.
The rest remained there for the night. When they were going in the morning, the Manitou told them what path to take and what to do when they reached the right spot. They thanked him and started on again.
For twenty more days they travelled, and then they reached another mountain. They climbed to the top of this, and they knew by certain signs it was the spot the Manitou had described. So they seated themselves in a circle and filled their pipes. They pointed to the sky, the four winds, and the earth; then they began to smoke. As they looked up at the sky they were silent with awe, for they were on such a high mountain that the sky seemed only a few yards off. They then prepared themselves, and Ojeeg told the otter to have the first try at making a hole in the sky. With a grin the otter consented. He jumped up, but fell down the side of the hill. The snow was moist, so he slid all the way to the bottom. When he had picked himself up, he said, “This is the last time I shall make such a jump; I am going home,” and away he went. The beaver had the next turn, but did no better, The lynx had no better luck. Then came the turn of the wolverine.
“Now,” said Ojeeg to him, “I am going to depend on you; you are brave and will try again and again.”
So the wolverine took a jump, and the first time nearly reached the sky; the second time he cracked it, and the third time he made a hole and crawled in. Ojeeg nimbly followed, and they found themselves on a beautiful, green plain. Lovely shade trees grew at some distance, and among the trees were rivers and lakes. On the water floated all kinds of water-fowl. Then they noticed long lodges. They were empty, except for a great many cages filled with beautiful birds. The spirits who lived in these lodges were wandering among the trees. As Ojeeg noticed the birds, he remembered his son. He quickly opened the doors of the cages, and the birds rushed out. They flew through the air and down through the opening in the sky.
The warm winds, that always blow in that heavenly place, followed the birds down through the opening and began to melt the snows of the north. Then the guardian spirits noticed what was happening, and ran with great shouts to the spot where all were escaping. But Spring and Summer had nearly gone. They struck a great blow and cut Summer in two, so that only part of it reached the earth. The wolverine heard the noise and raced for the hole, getting through before they could close it. But the fisher was farther away and could not reach the hole in time. The spirits closed up the opening and turned to catch him. He ran over the plains to the north, going so fast that he reached the trees before they could catch him. He quickly climbed the largest one, and they began to shoot at him with their arrows.
There was only one place in the fisher’s body where he could be hurt,—a spot near the tip of his tail; so the spirits kept shooting a long time before an arrow struck that spot. At last one did, and he fell to the ground. As it was now nearly night, the spirits went back to their lodges and left him there alone. He stretched out and said,”I have kept my promise to my son, though it has cost me my life. But I shall always be remembered by the natives of the earth, and I am happy to think of the good I have sent them. From now on they will have different seasons, and eight to ten moons without snow.”
In the morning they found him lying dead with the arrow through his tail, and to this day he may be seen in the northern sky.