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Kettle & Stony Point First Nation History Culture Stories

Nanabush and the Moosehead
by Barry Milliken

“ Well, one time Nanabush, he was always travelling a lot of the time,  anyway, he travelled this one time, he was travelling through the bush and he came through he came to a big clearing.  He looked across to the other side of that clearing, saw this big ole’ bull moose come out of the trees over there, and that moose saw Nanabush too, and that moose said to himself
‘Oh geez there’s Nanabush!  I better get out of here or he’s gonna talk to me!’

And he turned around and started trotting away and sure enough Nanabush called out to him.  ‘Oh brother, hold up for a minute I wanna talk to ya!’  And that moose just stopped where he was, and Nanabush came across the clearing, and he’s talking as he’s coming along, he says, ‘How come you’re always trying to get away from me?  Don’t ya ever wanna talk to me -- are ya scared of me? Am I not to be trusted?’

And that moose he didn’t say anything.  He just stood there to see what Nanabush was gonna do, or gonna say, and Nanabush, he says, ‘Oh boy!  You shoulda seen the place where I just came from!’  He says, ‘There’s people back there killing each other!’  Hesays, “It’s terrible, this place I came from!’

And as he’s talking, Nanabush is stringing an arrow into his bow, and he’s saying, ‘Oh boy! They’re aiming over this way!   And they’re aiming over that way!’  And he’s swinging his bow around like that as he’s talking, and he aimed his bow right at that moose, at the sight of that moose, and before that moose could jump away Nanabush shot ‘em.   And that moose fell to the ground, and he said, ‘Oh I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you Nanabush!’  And he died.

And Nanabush, oh, he felt so good!  He congratulated himself.   He was so clever and he says, ‘Oh boy!  I’m gonna have plenty to eat for a while!’  But of course, being Nanabush, he wanted to eat as much of it as he could right then and right there!  So he got out his good sharp knife and he started cutting up that great big moose.

He cut all the different parts up.  He cut all the fat off that he needed to cut off [and to] separate while he had to go back and get a great big chunk of white birch or birch bark first that he put down on the ground.  And he started putting these chunks of meat on that birch bark, and he got it all set out like that.

He started a fire.   He got this one good, real nice, prime chunk of meat.  And he got his spit, and he put that through that meat and started that fire.  He got that spit up to start cooking that nice piece of meat and he put all that other meat out on that birch bark.  And all that fat that he cut off that meat, well he strung that up to a nearby tree that was right close by and he hung that up in the lower branches of that tree.

And he was working hard, and he was working up quite an appetite. And he couldn’t wait for that nice piece of meat to get done on that [over that] fire.  Finally, it was smelling good and his stomach was rumbling away.   He says, ‘Oh boy!  I can’t wait!’  He took that meat off that spit and he sat down to have himself a real nice meal.

He was just ready to chomp into his first bite and he hears this terrible noise coming from somewhere.  Oh a terrible noise!  He looked around and he couldn’t see where that was coming from.  He says, ‘Oh man, I don’t know what that was!  But anyway I’m too hungry to care!”  And he’s already to take his first bite again, and [he heard it again].  He stopped and looked around and he could see that it was coming from up in that tree.  The same tree where he hung all that fat.

And it was way up in the upper branches.   And the wind was causing two of these branches to move around and rub together and causing this terrible noise that Nanabush kept getting interrupted by.  And he says, ‘Oh geez!  Well I’ll fix that!’  And he cut another piece of that fat that was on that meat he was going to eat, and he climbed up into that tree, and he got up into where those branches were rubbing together.

And he put that fat up there right in there where those branches were rubbing together.  And just as he did that, a big gust of wind came up and moved those branches.  And Nanabush found that he was caught right by the cuff of his shirt, or his jacket, and he couldn’t get his hand out of there.  Try as he might, he couldn’t get his hand out of there.  Oh man! He was hung up there up in that tree.  That’s all he could do was wait to see whether the wind was gonna come up again and let him go

While he was hanging up there, all these ‘wenhsiiyak’, from all these animals all around, they started getting the smell from Nanabush’s meat that he was cooking, and all that meat he put out, and boy, they all came running to that place.  And that’s all that Nanabush could do was to look down from where he was hanging and watch all those different animals eat that meat that he put out.  Oh man!  They feasted, and he was yelling at them and threatening them but all they did was laugh at him because there was but lots of time when he played tricks on them and this time the joke was on him.  So they had a good laugh and they had a good feast, and they said “See ya later!  Gawaabmin Nanabush!’

Nanabush cursing away up there, and those animals were gone.  And the wind came up again and Nanabush found that he was released from between those branches.  He came scrambling down that tree and he looked around and all he saw everywhere he looked, all he saw was bones!  Everything was picked clean by all those animals.  That’s all they left him!  All that was left was this big ole’ moose head that was lying there.  That’s all they left him.

He looked at it and he was so darn hungry he could eat just about anything by then, and he tried picking that up, and he tried gnawing on that nose of that big moose head.  Oh that wasn’t very good!  He didn’t like that so he kind of turned it around, and he looked inside of there.  Oh there was some nice brains still way in there inside that moose head!  And he said, ‘Oh man!  Those look good!’

And he tried to stick his hand in there and his fingers wouldn’t reach it.  He tried sticking his mouth [in there], and tried sticking his tongue in there as far as he could --  he just couldn’t reach those nice juicy brains that were in there inside that moose head!  He says, ‘Oh man!  How am I gonna get those out of there?’  He looked down and going along the grass was a little ‘waabginoojiinh’, a little mouse was going along in the grass.  He said ‘Oh brother, can you help me?   I need some help!’

And that waabginoojiinh, that mouse, says ‘Well what am I supposed to do Nanabush?  I can’t help you!  You know I’m so small!’  Nanabush says, ‘Well you have some magic that you can do!  Can you make me small like you are?’  And the little mouse says ‘Well I don’t think so!  You’re just too big; I couldn’t make you small as me!’

So Nanabush says, ‘Oh please, please!   I’ll do anything!’  Then he got real whiney.  He was so hungry!  Nanabush got whiney when he wasn’t getting what he wanted, so that little mouse says, ‘Well about all I could do is make part of you small.   I could make your head small, maybe then you would be able to get in there at those brains!’

So Nanabush says ‘Yeah, yeah, okay.  That will work, whatever it takes!’  So that little waabginoojiinh worked his magic and Nanabush’s head had gotten real small.  Nanabush got down on the ground where that moose head was and he stuck his head in there as far as it would go and  that little mouse told him, ‘You have to remember that you can’t stick your head out too far or move around too much or else that spell is gonna be broken!’

Nanabush says, ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever eh!’  So he gets down on the ground and he’s getting in there as far as he could.  He couldn’t get some of those juicy brains and he [tried] to get [in] as far as he could, stretching his neck to get his head in there first.  And all of a sudden, his head got big again!  Nanabush’s head was stuck fast inside of that moose head!

Nanabush got up off the ground as fast as he could, and he lifted that big moose head up, and he stumbled around!  He tried to keep that big moose head from falling over, and he stumbled in one direction.  He ran into something.  He says, ‘what is that, or, who are you?  And that one he ran into says, ‘Always on the ridge do I stand.’  And Nanabush says, ‘Oh, you must be birch tree!’  
‘Giiyak’go!’ says that other one, ‘That’s who I am!  I am birch tree.’  And Nanabush says, ‘Okay.’  He started going again.  He’s stumbling along trying to keep up to that big heavy moose head, and bang!   He ran into something else!  And he says, ‘Who are you?’  He almost got knocked right over backwards!  He gets back up and says, ‘Who are you?’  And that one says, ‘Always on the hillside do I stand.’  And Nanabush thinks, ‘Oh! You must be pine tree!’

“Giiyak’go! That’s me, I am the pine tree,’ said that one.  Nanabush says, Okay’.  He gets going again, and this time he feels like he’s kind of running down a hill.  He’s going faster and faster, he could hardly keep up to that big heavy moving moose head, and then bang!  Once again he hits something.

This time he got knocked right over backwards!  He almost got knocked right out!  He says, ‘Oh man! Who are you?’  And that one says, ‘Always by the water do I stand.’  Nanabush says, ‘Oh well you must be cedar tree.’  And that one says, ‘That’s right!   I am the cedar tree.’  Nanabush says, ‘Okay well I gotta keep going.’ He keeps going.  By now he realizes he’s going out into the water, and not only that, he’s going deeper and deeper!  He’s trying to keep that moose head up, and he’s trying to keep from falling over, and he’s going deeper out into that water.

Pretty soon he’s swimming and paddling to keep that big moose head above the water, and he’s getting tired.  He heard somebody calling from a distance away.  Somebody says, ‘Hey look at that big moose out there on the water!  Let’s go get ‘em!’ He heard these people getting a canoe ready and heard them getting into it.  Then he heard them paddling out towards him and Nanabush tried to swim and paddle as far and fast as he could but those people are getting closer and closer to him.

He hears them saying, Oh boy!  We’re gonna have some good moose meat to eat today! Oh boy!’  And just as he thinks he can’t go any further, Nanabush feels the ground under his feet.  He feels the ground and he goes stumbling onto the shore.  But just as he’s getting onto the shore, he slipped on some slippery rocks!   He fell right over and that moose head hit a big rock split right open!  Nanabush went stumbling ahead onto the shore.  He started laughing.  He says, ‘Oh we’re gonna have some good moose meat today! -- I don’t think so!’  And he kept on running, and he ran right into the bush.  That’s how nanabush got away, and that’s how the story goes,  Nanabush and the moose head.  Mii iw.”

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