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When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,

Teachings from Paul Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs (Ed.)
University of Minnesota Duluth

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"This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society."

"This publication was made  possible in  part by the  people of  Minnesota  through  a grant funded by an appropriation  to  the  Minnesota  Historical Society  from the  Minnesota  Arts and Cultural  Heritage  Fund. Any views,  findings,  opinions,  conclusions  or recommendations expressed in this publication  are those  of  the authors  and  do not necessarily represent those of the State of  Minnesota, the  Minnesota  Historical Society, or the  Minnesota  Historic Resources Advisory Committee."

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The Windigo Cannibal
and Other Life Trials and Adventures of Gwashun,
the Boy Who Did Not Obey His Father and Mother:
Our Favorite Story

We like to hear one another's stories. We know that if you hear each other's stories it's more pleasant to understand one another.

Indians are not going to tell a story just for fun. The Indian told stories to show what would happen if you would go out into the world. We tell them in order to see the way -- just an example of the way -- we should live. Our stories are to get the children to think of, to beware of, where the danger spots are in life. The story of Windigo(1) and Gwashun tells us the way we should listen to our folks and to the rulers of this earth. If they're wrong or right we'll see that flash(2) in the story. We'll see a flash which blazes the path of life for us.

I enjoy hearing stories. In the evening when we had a storm or when it was cold outside, we used to listen to stories. We didn't have any television, any radio, or anything of that kind, so to settle our evening before retirement we'd ask a story from the Grandma in the house or in the wiigwaam or tipi or log cabin or whatever we had to live in. We used to love to sit around the fire and listen to them tell stories. When the old timers were telling a story you could picture what was happening in your mind, just like you were watching a TV show. You could picture every word in your mind. The stories were always interesting too.

Anytime when we were together we'd ask the old folks to tell about the little boy Gwashun. But they would tell this story only in the fall, or in the winter, in the evenings. We believe that story telling has an effect on the weather. We also believe the animals are affected by stories. That's why there are summer stories and winter stories. It goes by the weather. If you tell a winter story in the summer the Indians say a frog or something crawling on the ground will come and listen in on you. They'll come up to your bed. A snake or an insect or some other crawler will come to you. We go by signs.(3) There are signs that are given to us. And crawlers are not a good sign! Indians' Grand Medicine uses a lot of crawlers as messengers. One or two of them could be poison to a body! We don't like snakes to come crawling to us, we don't like frogs to come onto us, and we don't want some crawlers to bother us when we're at peace. So we don't tell these stories in the summer. We know the crawlers will come if you do. That's what we believe in, so in the summer we say it's too warm to tell stories. If it's warm and you tell a story -- if it's summertime when you tell a story of wintertime -- you've done wrong! The medicine man and medicine women, the Indians, the Grand Medicine people, the Indian story-tellers, they all believe in that, and they respect everything. That's our Indian belief, and part of our belief in power.(4)

Everybody likes to hear the story of Windigo and Gwashun. The old folks told us this story many times, a long time ago. But sometimes it would take us a long time to get this story out of them. We had to show that we would listen. That's the way they did it. You'd have to show them that you'd listen to a story before they would tell it. We'd ask some of the older class, "Tell a story. Tell us a story."

"What story do you want?"

"Windigo and Gwashun."

"There are certain stories, certain words that we shouldn't say in our lives at a certain time."


"For the Great. You have to respect that Great Spirit up there when you tell stories. There are stories you are not supposed to tell in the summer, and stories you are not supposed to tell in the winter. That Windigo and Gwashun story is only for cold weather. But . . . it is getting cold. . . . I'll tell you a story." And Old Uncle Henry Buffalo, or Grandma Buffalo, or one of the other old folks would tell the story. They told it in Indian.

The storytellers are Indian men and Indian women. They're all Indian-minded -- they think in Indian -- and they tell the stories in Indian. I still think about how the old Indians said it in Indian when they told the story of Windigo and Gwashun years ago. I still think about that story all the time, in Indian. In Indian -- that's the way I think about it! And I believe in that. I pretty near know it by heart in Indian, because that's the way they always told it. It's right in my head in Indian, and I keep it that way. And I keep it all together that way. We don't take one part from one story and another part from another story and mix the two. We never do. We wouldn't know where to leave off or where to begin if we did that. And one more point. I shouldn't translate this story when the Indians are around. But now as a white man wants to learn our stories, our ways of living, I'm ready to help tell it in English the way it was told to me in Indian.

There are very few left that know all of this story. Lots of them said, "I can't remember all of that. I lose track. It's hard."

"Yes," I said. "That's a hard and long story."

Many others could tell stories too. I don't pretend to tell stories myself as a storyteller. But I try, because, after all, people like to hear the history of the Indians years ago. It takes time to tell certain stories. Some of my stories are so long that some people now-a-days get tired. But when we heard these stories years ago as kids, we didn't notice the time. The way time goes by when you're listening to a story! And all during the stories, even the long stories, the younger class would look and listen, and the older class would sit and think.

There is another man like Wenabozho. There are four men, great men. Of course, there is Wenabozho. One other man is Ma-gii-kay-wis. He's pretty near the same as Wenabozho. Ma-gii-kay-wis is kind of a smart man. They were all smart men. Practically, they were all smart in the olden times. There was a third man, but I can't hardly remember his name. . . . It was Bay-bú-ka-way. Bay-bú-ka-way is somebody with a face full of whiskers. The whole of his face was whiskers. I don't know what he does. He was built up in a different area. And, there is WINDIGO, a great man that learned something.

We have a name for a giant. . . . It's the WINDIGO!!

WINDIGO was a great man and its time was in the very early days. It was a time when the WINDIGO was a rough man and a giant. Early there was a WINDIGO. . . . He was a person. It is through imagining that he's a person.

There was a little boy they call Gwashun. He was old enough to understand; he was seven or eight years old. At one time Gwashun and his folks lived by a lake shore. That lake shore was frozen over with ice in the fall of the year. And that ice was very thin way out away from the shore. This little boy was with his folks, and Gwashun's old folks told him, "If you go out on that point of this great lake, there's a weak spot on that ice along the shore. That big lake never freezes much during the winter. You might meet danger by that weak spot. You might meet danger there. And in that danger maybe it'll be very rough for a little boy."

The little boy looked. "What's the danger?"

"Well, there's a great man we respect out there. If you go beyond that point on that ice, you might get in danger. Something might happen. Anything might happen. There's a WINDIGO out there. He is a dangerous man. He is the biggest man, the greatest man. He is one of the greatest. He can do anything. He has power."

The little boy thought of this. "I wonder who the WINDIGO is. I wonder why my folks tell me, 'Do not go by that point?'" The little boy said, "I'll see what my father and mother mean not to go out by the point. I'll see what they mean. I want to find out and see what's wrong."

He took his top, a pointed stone the shape of an egg, and played with it on the ice.(5) He'd whip it with a piece of buckskin with a whip on it. He'd pick it up, then whip it again. And every time he whipped it, the stone would go toward the point.

At the time, he kept looking back, and since nobody saw him, he thought, "I'll go a little more." Every time he looked back he'd go a little more. Finally he got a little too far away from home. He got too close to that point, the great point of that great lake. And from the point he went out to the edge of the ice -- way out beyond the point.

"Nobody returns when they go there," he was told.

And he got there and he didn't return.

When he first got there everything turned dark. Everything turned dark and he looked up at the clouds. The clouds were so close that they turned everything dark. Everything turned dark, a little bit. There was a dark shade to the ice too. And when he got to the dark ice, that was a warning that the WINDIGO might come. He knew deep water was coming, but he didn't realize WINDIGO was coming also. The dark ice was his warning, but he didn't know it.

He looked around. He looked up. In that cloud there was somebody who reached down to grab him. There was a WINDIGO right there. When the WINDIGO reached down he was taken by the wind of the clouds. The cloud was just like a storm taking him up. WINDIGO came along and picked him up. "You're my boy now. You disobeyed your father and mother." That was the last he remembered about being on the ice.

When he came to he was in the place where it was built up with rock -- like a mansion. It was chi-o-gi-mah wah-kay-i-g^'n -- "a chief of houses." It was stone -- nothing but stone -- and a little timber, and it was by a lake shore. There was a great city there, just like a fort, and everything was made of stone. It was a city of stone, with slanted walls, but it wasn't very high.

It was built out of rock by the people who handle rock. Indians in the real old days were husky and worked in big crews. They fitted the rock together, then used clay for chinking -- a lot of that clay. The great stone mansions(6) were built along the great seas by the big Indians. But these castles were made of clay chinking and by the lake action they washed down. Near the big seas the waves come in twenty feet high. Sooner or later the clay washes out, and the rock falls off. After a while the rock sinks in the dirt by the action of the waves.

Inside the great stone mansion Gwashun looked around. It looked like a room, a prison room. There was a big kettle in there -- a great big iron kettle -- on a fire.

Then this great man -- the giant -- rolled the stone away from the doorway with his big hand. The big giant was WINDIGO. WINDIGO! He poked up the fire. When he got the fire going he stuck a big stick in the kettle and stirred around. He paddled with a kind of a stirrer, and told Gwashun, "You sit there. You're my boy now. You did not obey your father and mother. You were not supposed to come on that point, but I'll be good to you and I'll keep you. This place will be warm enough for you."

The giant left. He was big enough -- he was so great in size -- that he could hardly go through the little doorway. When he was out, he plugged up the doorway with the big rock.

Gwashun was wondering what was boiling in the kettle.

There were five or six boys in that room who also disobeyed their father and mother. And he got acquainted.

"What are you doing here?"

They said, "We didn't obey our father and mother. The giant got us. And this is where he's going to take care of us. This is the place he puts us when we don't mind our folks. He's the WINDIGO. And that's the WINDIGO's kettle. That's a small kettle to him."

Gwashun said to the other boys in there, "What is this kettle for?"

"This is for the boys that don't listen. We've seen him put little boys in that hot kettle. He eats people when they don't listen."

"What's he cooking in there?"

"Boys like us."


Gwashun started to think. "There's only one way out of here: I have to try and get out. I'll try to slip out." How could he slip out with all the stone? There was only a little hole up there above the big rock that was closing the door, just big enough for a snake to go out. It was all rock on that point, and he couldn't bust that rock.

He couldn't do anything, and finally he thought to himself one day, "When the WINDIGO comes, I'm going to stay by the doorway and just slip out when he takes the big rock away."

The WINDIGO rolled the big stone away one morning, and came in so jolly. And he was laughing. He saw Gwashun alone. "Ah," he said, "did you have something to eat yet? You're pretty good. You're a pretty little boy. You're a little fat, and, oh, you're nice. You might as well eat a piece of this meat." And he dug out a big chunk of meat. The WINDIGO said, "That chunk of meat will be one bite for me, but that'll make a good big meal for you."

Gwashun had to eat something; he was so hungry. It was good. The meat was well cooked.

Gwashun began to wonder, "I wonder if I can slip out when the giant has his back turned." He looked around. He didn't see the other boys. He didn't know whether these other boys slipped out. He didn't know whether the giant put them in the kettle or not. Gwashun didn't know whether the boys slipped out, but he had an idea the boys got away.

There was a little light spot in the doorway which was just big enough so that when WINDIGO had his foot close to the kettle you could slip by. Gwashun went for the doorway and got out through that little hole while the giant was fixing up the fire. He slipped out and he ran through the woods, over the rocks.

Oh, it was tough going. It was so tough he even tore his buckskin clothes. He suffered. He was frightened. He was panicked. He was running so fast he didn't know where he was going. Finally he stopped to get his wind. When he got his wind and he looked back, he saw that there was still a big cloud hanging over way back, many miles in the direction in which he was going away from. "That's where I left that place."

The big giant looked all over for the boy. He looked down by the point to see whether he went back on the ice. While the giant was doing that, the boy was going through the woods.

After a while the boy stopped again, and looked back. He looked ahead. He looked back. Somebody spoke to this little boy in the wilderness.

He turned his head. There was a wolf there, a big wolf. He had great teeth, the big wolf.

"Ho, ho, my little boy. You look like you're having trouble. Where are you going?"

Gwashun was always told, "Whenever you get lonely, you'll meet somebody else." Here the wolf came along, so he told him, "I'm lost. I'm going to my folks. I want to find my folks."

"What's your name?"

He said, "I'm a giant's boy, Windigó oo-go-s^'d."

"Oh, little boy," the wolf said, "I'll help you -- if you're not afraid of me."

"I can not be afraid of you, Mr. Wolf. I cannot be afraid of you in any way."

The wolf said, "Get on my back. Crawl in my big hair" -- it was a big wolf -- and, he continued, "hang tight and I'll take you to a place where a good man is. Shut your eyes and hang tight."

The wolf went running through the brush, through the great timber, and Gwashun could hear the brush whipping by. He was sailing through the woods, through the brush.

Finally the wolf stopped and said, "Open your eyes. You will see the city.(7) There's a city here and I'm going to leave you off at the blacksmith shop. There's a big blacksmith shop here."

He could hear the anvil ringing as he got off of the big wolf. The big wolf looked at him and the little boy said, "Thank you." Then the wolf told him he'd be able to go in this blacksmith shop to see the blacksmith, the great blacksmith.

So the little boy started to set off to see the blacksmith.

Before the wolf was leaving he said, "Come here little boy. Come back."

And the little boy said, "What? What is it?"

The wolf said, "I want to help you more. You'll be getting into trouble out in the world all alone. And you're getting to be a man. You're growing up to be a man. There will be times that you will have to spend your life alone in the world. It'll take time to find your folks." So he said, "I have a present for you. Here." And the wolf handed him a little silver box -- a tiny little silver box.

They had silver years ago. They dug up hardened quicksilver somewhere. This is a rich earth. They dug it up somewhere. They got the silver and re-melted it and made a box. They made a lot of stuff like that years ago.

"When you're in trouble, shake that little box. Shake that little box three times. And the third time you shake that little box, you will find happiness -- maybe. If you do the right thing on my orders, if you believe in anything, you'll find happiness. But if you don't do anything right, you'll never make it out of this big timber land, this big timber field by the rocks. So go to the blacksmith and he'll help you. Maybe you'll be able to have the blacksmith do a little work for you."

The little boy looked. He said, "What can he do? What can I ask the blacksmith to do for me?"

The big wolf said, "You shake that box once. I'll show you."

He shook that box once. The little boy was looking at the wolf.

"Turn your head around."

The little boy turned his head around and he saw a pretty horse standing there with a saddle. It was a beautiful horse, silver.

"Now you take that horse and have the blacksmith put the shoes on. He likes to do that work," the wolf said. "The blacksmith is happy to put shoes on the horse. You tell him you're lost. Good-bye friend," the wolf said. The great wolf said, "Good-bye and take care. Watch your life as you go in this big world, the great world. Take the right road and the right road will lead you to your happiness.(8)"


And the wolf sailed away -- pretty -- through the brush.

The boy turned to his horse. His horse bowed down and the little boy got on the horse, on a saddle -- a pretty silver saddle. He stuck that little box in his pouch and said to himself, "The wolf told me that if I'm in danger I should shake that little box." He kept thinking about that and never forgot the wolf's orders.

He went into the blacksmith's shop. The blacksmith was big and strong and he had whiskers on his face. He was chewing something in his mouth and was looking at the boy with his great teeth sticking out. He was a mean-looking blacksmith.

The boy looked around. Everything was smoke. The blacksmith shop was all smoked up. And it was made of stone.

"What do you do here, Mr. Smith? Where are all the horses?"

He said, "There's been a great change here and the king sends his sIs-shi-máh-g^-nIsh -- his assistants, his soldiers(9) -- here with his horses and I shoe them for a living."

"Where you from little boy?"

He said, "I'm lost. I have a horse here that has no shoes -- no shoes on his feet. I understand by your friend in the wilderness that I have a long rough life to go through."

All this time the blacksmith made the little boy wait a while. All the while the boy waited he had to work around the blacksmith shop, here and there, but he got fed by the blacksmith. He had to wait a long while, but the blacksmith finally shoed his horse with nice, pretty, brand-new shoes. At that time the blacksmith made the horse shoes from raw iron. They finally got the shoes completed on the horse and the boy remembered that he hadn't paid the blacksmith. He told the blacksmith, "I don't have any money to pay you."

The blacksmith said, "You have worked for me and I don't have any money to pay you either."

"Well what about my board, my meals?"

"That's nothing. That's all I get for a living, the way times are. My little boy, I live a life as a blacksmith."

The boy worked there for so long that the blacksmith told the little boy, "Come on. You have finished your work like a good boy." He told that little boy, "Get on your horse, go out into the field, and see what your horse can do. You tried walking, but you didn't make it. Now ride your horse and ride it right; take care of your horse and he will take care of you. You go out and pick your own life. So good-bye."

And the horse started out.

"He'll go north, south, east, and west -- anywhere you want to go," the blacksmith called out as the little boy and the horse rode off.

So the boy took off and was roaming the country. He'd go along here and there; maybe he lived on berries, maybe he lived on the squirrels, maybe he lived on the mice, maybe he lived on anything he could see. The earth is made to live on, if you live right and know how to live.

He had some experience of being alone and camping out. He had found rocks that he started fires with -- friction cells. The mii-sw^m-mi-ah-sIn rocks have friction so hard that rubbing together they ignite the wood for fire. He started fires with friction rocks and bark and old rotten wood.

At places, he'd stop for a long time. He thought to himself. "I need practice traveling." He thought that he needed practice traveling and decided that he'd keep on roaming and roaming. He thought that it may be many years that he might roam.

He got to be a good big man, and his horse was very smart. A horse is a smart animal. The horse knew that the boy was lost. A horse understands when you talk to him. Any animal you treat good will answer you in its best way. The horse took care of the boy. The horse wanted to go a certain way all the time, so one day the boy let the horse go his way and the horse kept going.

And the horse kept taking him farther. But the horse stopped at good places. And he stopped when they would come to water. There were water springs there and he stopped by them. The horse would enter these places. When the horse was dry he went to one of these springs for water. The horse knows how to live. They know their wild way of life. He stopped wherever he could find food for himself and the boy.

The boy lived a life. He ate stuff that the animals eat. Any wild animal knows how to live. The boy always ate something that was good for him. Some stuff didn't taste very good -- like bark and some things they made tea out of -- but he ate it anyway. The boy lived with the wild horses and wild animals, and he himself became wild.

He used the birch bark lots -- for a dish, and for fire.

And then he discovered that he could make a bow and arrows for his protection. By the bow and arrow he gained lots of wild game which he wanted. And he kept making a bigger bow; as he got older, the bow got bigger. He knew how to handle the bow, and he carried it on his saddle. After a while he had a great bow and arrow, with a stone head on the tip, and tied on the end were feathers. How he decorated it to pass his time! He worked hard all the time.

Well, the little boy still had that little box in his little vest pouch; the box was very small. He remembered, "Only when I'm in trouble am I supposed to shake that. If I'm not, it'll never work. When I'm in trouble, I'm supposed to use that."

So he went along and he came to a place, a beautiful place all of stone. It looked like a fort to him. It had windows, stone windows. The stone buildings just had holes, like port holes, for windows. He saw a big castle standing by the lake shore. That was in the old days when the soldiers and rulers and masters first came and took over the Indian, when they took over their rulings. He stopped his horse, and his horse looked. His horse whinnied like he was happy. The horse was happy because he knew there were other horses there. And the boy's horse wanted to go up there by them.

Just that minute the great king saw him. dI-báak-wI-nii-gáy, oo-gii-máa-gíi-gId-du$, that's the ruler, that's the king. The great king said, "We have company."

The soldiers came out with their weapons and swords. They were beautifully dressed. The beautiful soldiers stopped the little boy. When they stopped the little boy they said to him, "Hello Mr. Boy. Where are you from?"

"I'm from the woods."

"Do you live there?"

"I have to."


"I became lost."

"You were in trouble, that's what you were in. You didn't mind, did you? Do you have folks?"

"I used to, but I lost them. I lost my mind. I didn't obey."

"How did you lose your mind?"

"I didn't obey. A big cloud came and a big hand took me, and that's the last I remember."

"I know what you did. The big giant got you. The WINDIGO got you. That WINDIGO picks up anybody that doesn't obey the rules of your people. That WINDIGO picks up anybody who doesn't listen to the experienced people who are trying to bring you into the world."

The Captain of the soldiers said, "You come! You're one of them that's roaming the country, and when we catch somebody like that, we bring them to the castle that we have here!"

The Captain of the soldiers opened the big gate and shoved the boy in the castle, and then he shoved his horse in.

There were soldiers sitting along the castle walls. They were the great king's guards. The boy didn't dare to move. They took his horse and put him in a different compartment -- a horse stall -- and they put the boy in a prison cell. "You shall see your horse, at times. By the orders of the king we do this."

Oh boy! He stayed in the castle as a prisoner. "I didn't do anything wrong," he was thinking. But then he thought again and remembered that he had done wrong by not listening to his father and mother. Now they cannot help him. And he doesn't know where they are. "Hmmm. So I'm in for it," the little boy said.

The next morning the big gate of the prison cell opened. "Little boy" -- he wasn't little then, by that time he had been roaming many years, along the country. He was roaming when he came to this castle.

"Mister," the soldier said, "the great king wants to see you." And the soldiers with swords took him to see the king. They had shields with their swords, and they took him before the king as a prisoner. The king said, "Bring him in my room."

The boy walked into the room and the king was sitting on a big chair. The king was dressed full of silver and gold; he had a beautiful uniform. So did his guards; they had brass and gold sparkling on their hats. They were beautiful men, husky looking. The king looked at the boy. The boy looked at the king and the king said, "You sit down there." And the boy sat down, of course.

The boy was getting pretty big after all this time that he was strolling the woods, the country, the world -- not the whole world, but the country that he was in.

"The boy's coming into the world." The king said, "Look here. This is my daughter -- the great daughter. Isn't that a nice looking daughter?"

"She is."

And the girl cast her eyes on him. She had a sweet smile to him. She had a sweet smile to him and she looked at the little boy, the man, the prisoner, and the man looked at her with a sweet smile. They were both smiling. You would think they were mind-reading one another.

The great king said to the young man, "I am talking to you. You're the one that's supposed to look at me."

He said, "May I have a soldier here? Three of them . . . to go after this great daughter!"

And they brought in the three best men that they had.

Then the king turned to the boy again, "Even with your silver horse and beautiful saddle," he said, "you cannot buy that daughter until you've proven yourself, until you've proven that you could be a man of the stones, the castle I have. The castle of my home is solid. Before I can keep you, you have to prove yourself that you're a man. You have to be a hero; you have to be a true man and show that you're a man. I have three sword-men here, all ready. If you can beat them, maybe you'll have my daughter."

So the prisoner said, "I will try. That's the only thing I can do." He thought about his little box that he had in his vest pouch. "Mr. King, I will try to beat your men."

The king said, "Take the boy to the cells. Lock him up so he can't get away tonight. Tomorrow he's going to try to beat my best men, you three. I have one, two, three greats. If he can beat you men, then I will accept him here. But if he can't, he shall be condemned; if he can't, he shall be destroyed."

Oh, boy . . . they were having a council.

The little boy, now a young man, looked pretty husky after riding horses all the time and they wondered about him. The soldiers and the guards of the castle had a meeting. They said, "There's only one thing we can do. The girl had her eye on him and he had his eyes on the girl, and they were pretty near smiling. There must be something that she's attracted about, so he has to be destroyed."

The guards and the soldiers all agreed, "Sure."

The king called the Captain of the soldiers, "Captain, tomorrow I want you to take your three men and stand them in the ring. And I want the soldiers to see how good this man is. Take the best man you have with a sword, and that man and the little boy may have a sword fight. That's the only way he'll win my daughter. If he can't, he's no man!"

The guard of the castle and the Captain of the soldiers said to the boy, "You should have a sword. Have you got one?"


"Can you get one?"

"I think I can."

"You should have a sword. You see this? We have a sword, like this. Get one, nothing bigger, nothing smaller. Can you get a sword this big?"

The boy said, "I think I can. I will try."

"Have that sword tomorrow when we're ready for you."

So it happened that they put him in a locked cell alone. He took that little box again and shook it, and there fell a sword, just the same kind, but of a better material. It was made of better material, but it was the same kind. It was a nice and heavy sword. It was a better material, and it was a dandy. "This is my sword," he said, and stuck that sword on the side of his belt.

So the next morning they called him in after they had another meeting. They called him, "You shall come. We see you have a sword. Oh, a beautiful sword. That's the same thing we have. Okay. Fine."

During the meantime he could hear the swords clattering in the ring before he went in. The king's men were practicing. They were practicing, and they had shields; they were practicing for him. He knew what was going on. When he walked in, the people pulled others aside to look on. The whole city came and looked in: "We have a stranger in town. Let's see if he's any good."

The people of the town -- of the city -- said, "I believe that boy looks good. He's honest; he looks honest. Well, we'll see if he is honest. Maybe he's got power."

So anyhow, they talked as on-lookers.

The chief guard of the castle and Captain of the soldiers -- the best man of the three guards, and the one that the girl was supposed to marry -- was sent out first. He was husky; he was the strongest, and he was a boss of the whole works.

The king said, "If you get any one of my three best men with that sword, or if they get you, that's all right. I want you to prove how good you are. So let's go to it."

They took the boy into that ring and those sword-men were walking around. The best man on the sword was there -- with a shield. The poor boy didn't have any shield. And the great king said, "Don't give him our shield. Don't furnish him any shield, as long as he's in the ring now. He's supposed to be prepared."

But the people said, "That's not fair to go in without a shield."

But he went in even without a shield, as an honest man.

The people said, "If he thinks he can do it, all right."

Then, just about that time, the best man came a-dancing with his sword. That sword was swinging and the boy just stood back and was crowded. But he slapped that guard's sword down just like nothing. And every time the boy hit the guard's sword, it almost snapped, but his sword never even bent. His sword was solid. And when he'd make a motion you could hear that sword whistle by. How quick he was with it!

The king's man commenced to be scared. The best man of the guards and soldiers commenced to be tired and scared of the boy. He tried hard to stab the boy. He tried hard to chop him down. The boy was so quick, so brave, so honest, that the best man couldn't chop him down. Then the boy made up his mind. "It's about time that I showed him. I gave him a chance to get me."

It was about that time the boy stepped back, and just when he was stepping back -- just that quick -- the boy had that sword in that man's heart.

The man laid down.

The two others each said, "I will try it."

The boy said, "You better not. Your best man has lost."

The little boy fought the second of the three, the next best sword-man the king had. The second guy didn't last two minutes with him. The second man tried going after him right away, but the boy saw him come and slapped him down. How quick he was with that sword! He slapped the second guy in the neck with the sword, and he went down.

"But you are going to be tired some time, you know. The third man'll get you," the king said. "Go to him!"

The third guy also figured that the boy was tired. The third sword-man was big and strong, and he was sure that he was going to be the best. And the third guy came to the boy and chased him around the ring with the sword and the shield. This boy didn't have a shield, but he had his hand up in the air. He said, "Great! Down!"

And he went after the third sword-man and cut him down.


That was a good fight they had.

Everybody ran to him. They were scared of him and wanted to grab his sword.

The king said, "No. Nobody touch that sword. You see that guard? If you touch that sword, I'll have that man strike you down."

The people ran to the boy. The crowd ran to him. "You're great. You're great. You have proven yourself that some Great Spirit is helping you. We saw that hand without a shield. When you were without a shield you used that Shield-up-in-the-air -- the Great; you had one hand in the air, and one hand on the sword. We saw that you were asking the Great Spirit to help you. You wanted help from that Shield-in-the-air, and the minute we saw that, we saw the king's man go down with your sword."

The boy was a sword-man that had proved himself to be great!

Who was he?

What was he?

He remembered his experiences; this boy remembered the experience of the people that were in the prison. He never forgot the experience with the animals helping, and the WINDIGO. And he remembered the lectures of the great blacksmith.

He remembered that the big, strong blacksmith told him, "Beware! There are great men around. You don't know who they are. Watch yourself and when the time comes you will be prepared for them." Those were the lectures he got, and he took them -- he took them!

The people whispered to the boy. They whispered lots, because they didn't want their enemies to hear. "You're getting to be big. You're coming into the world." They whispered to him. They didn't tell him loud or anything, they whispered in his ear, "Look out, you're coming into the world."

After the third man went down, they helped the boy out of the ring and the king told the new Captain of the guards to bring the boy to his great castle. The boy went in a second door of the castle. He went in a third door, and the third door was all red and flashed with gold trimming. When the boy went in, he stood in the doorway and the guards opened the door. The king rose from the chair and said, "My great friend, come unto me. Come unto me. You have proven yourself. You have proven that you are a great man. You have shaken hands with me."

He turned and looked at his daughter. Then he turned back and said to the boy, "You have won my great daughter. You shall marry my great daughter. I want her to have a great man who will be able to take care of her in life. I want her to have someone to care for her in the future, with your way of life. I want someone to care for her with your people and with my people. You shall have my daughter, and you shall become a king -- the great o-gii-mah, chi-o-gii-mah, the King, the great leader of all."

"Your Honor . . . ," the boy said, but before he could finish the girl grabbed him by the hand and kissed him. She kissed him on both sides of the cheeks. She said, "I love you. I loved you when first I saw you. I read your eyes, your sweetest smile. You have come to me. I will marry you."

And the king fired all of those master guards who were giving the boy a rough time; he fired all of them. He said, "You go out into the world and bum like I did when I was young, and earn your own living. Your easiest job is over, and your cruelty is all done. I will repay you now."

They had a great time for the boy's wedding. At that feast the king said, "My people. You know that he won the fight, this boy that came. He is a great man. He shows his honesty. He shows his hard way of life."

He told the boy, "you'll be the husband to my great daughter here. You shall go out in this world. You shall live here until you want to move from this place. If you want to move, or if you want to live here, the whole area is yours. You shall run it right. You shall work hard for yourselves, and that way you will make it through honesty. So you are married to my daughter. And you, my daughter, are married to this man. Daughter, you are married to this son."

"Friends," he said, "he's married to my daughter and he shall be the prince of my place. For my people, I was a king for a long time. I'm getting old as a king, so my son-in-law will be the prince. As the prince, I'll give him all the power. Whatever he wants to do, let him run it. I'm feared to say anything against him. He's so good and so honest and I'm so happy my daughter is going to have a great man."

So they got married. The marriage was certained by the king. And the king gave her the chair on one side of himself, and he gave the boy the chair on the other side. They had a great feast when they married.

Pretty soon out came the king's wife. The king's wife said, "My son, go out into the world and get food for her. Go out in the world and teach all of them the hardest way of life."

The woman reached over, "Daughter, he's the master of you. I cannot say a word to you any more. I cannot say a word to you, or to him."

And the king said the same: "Now we're retired. You people shall take and help us, and help all in the country. You shall rule this great stone building with its stone walls. Right from this moment this is yours."

So they walked in the other room and they sat together there and they were all having a big feast. Everybody was looking, and the boy said, "I remember great days." The people of the area of this great castle walked by, shaking hands with them, hugging them, and they were happy with big smiles.

It's getting to the end of the story.

So everything went along. They were married and the feast was all over. After everything was all over, everybody went home. The people went home; they bid them good-bye, happy marriage, happy days, and everything, and they left. And the people knew that there was going to be a big change coming to the area.

The soldiers said, "We may see different changes with these new great Captains guarding. There'll be a big change with this great man; he's so fast and quick with his mind. And he's so honest. He's a man of his word. I think there's going to be a big change in this great city, in this great castle."

The new king and his new wife went into the castle. And the two sat together. They had a special room for them to talk, to sit and talk, and the two talked together. They talked it over. And the girl said, "Where's your horse? I like your horse too. He will have a good barn. Your horse will have a good barn."

"I am glad my horse will have a good barn. I think the world of that horse. He is very smart."

"What do you mean?"

"I talk to my horse."

"Does he talk?"

"No, but he understands me. He's the one that helped me find the way here. I shall go see my horse, to see if he's there."

He walked out, and the Captain of the guards did not make a move when he walked. The boy's clothes sparkled; he had changed all together. When he was fighting with a sword he just flashed all over, his clothes were turning with silver. He went out to see his horse, like he told his new wife. There was his horse standing there. His horse was beautiful with silver on the saddle. But the horse had his head down. He wouldn't eat. The boy wondered what was wrong with the horse. "Maybe they did something to my horse."

But the horse said, "No."

He was so surprised when the horse spoke: "Little boy, as you have grown up now, and have gone into the world, you shall take that sword that our friend of the animals gave us and you shall cut me right back of the ears. Cut my neck off. If you're brave enough, do that, and the light of the world will come."

"I can't! I can't! You brought me here!"

"Yes, you shall. If you can't lay that knife over the back of my neck, if you can't hit me hard, lay it back of my neck and I'll show you how."

"I can't! I can't!"

"Go ahead. I'm not going to wait long," the horse said. "Something might happen if you don't do what I tell you. That's why I brought you here."

So the boy laid the sword back of the horse's neck, with the back edge on the horse's neck, and he put his hands over his eyes.

"Now!!!" the horse said.

The boy heard something drop. He peeked through his fingers and saw that horse's head was down. Somebody said, "Now take your hands off from your eyes and look."

The boy raised his eyes, and where the horse was standing there now stood a great man. There was a great man standing, looking at him. He said, "I'm your uncle. I'm your uncle, my boy. I'm your dad's brother.(11) I had a hard time to bring you back here. I met you down there by the big wolf's home. I hear that you're a great man now. Now you shall go out in the world and you should be happy. But I want to tell you something, my boy. You didn't obey your father and mother in the first place, so that's why you had to go through all this hardship. That's why you had to ask all of our animal friends for help. And that's why the Great Spirit has had to help you."

His uncle had power. His uncle had lots of power and through his Indian beliefs and will power he could help the little boy. That's what he was there for. And that's why the horse is smart as a man. Indian powermen talk to the horse, they clean the horse, they train the horse. Horses are easy to train. They're as smart as a man. They see you, but they cannot talk. Years ago, people changed themselves into animals to help people out when they were in trouble.

"Now I want you to go back down with me to where we came from," the horse told the boy.

Just about that time the old king called on him. He said, "You've proven yourself that you're great. There's only one thing that we've missed here."


"You cannot run this castle without a key. Have you got the key?"


He thought to himself, "They might blame me."

"There's a golden key for this castle, but it's lost. I asked the girl if she had the golden key and she said that she's the one that lost it. Now we have the marriage here. I have to call off the marriage if the golden key isn't found."

Everybody paused.

Everybody looked.

"That's a hard one. Where did she lose it?"

The boy walked up to the girl, "Where did you lose it?"

"The Captain of the sergeants took me out for a ride in this boat and I lost my key to the castle in the water. It dropped out of the boat," she said.

"Where at?"

"Quite a ways out there in the lake -- about half way out -- out into the seas, maybe a couple of miles. The golden key is there. I accidentally dropped the golden key out there."

"Did it have a ring on?"

"No, it was just the golden key. It dropped out of my hand."

The young boy said, "I will try to go get the golden key. I'll go to this lake. Don't worry about the key. I shall go get that key. I'll try. I shall try."

He knew what to do. He went down and he put some tobacco in the water. He said, "Great Spirit, come back unto me."

The Great came back unto him.

"I have a problem. It's getting rougher all the time. Will You help me please?"

He called all the fish in and he threw a feast for the fish by the dock which he had. He spoke to the sea, the land, the water and the land: "You have messengers in the waters of all types. I have a question to ask, for our underwater help. We have lost a golden key and I want to ask all of you to help me find it."

Pretty soon he saw a bunch of fish in the water coming right to the shore and going after the tobacco that he threw in. The fish were big and small. Different sizes of fish -- all different sizes of fish -- came into the meeting.

He said, "Fish! I'm asking you a question."

They all stopped that quick.

"Will you listen to me?"

They all listened to that great man talk.

"Is there any one of you that has seen a key on the bottom of that sea?"




"Well, go on."

They all left.

"All right then."

A "lawyer" came behind. A "lawyer's" supposed to be a fish that people say they don't like. You know what a lawyer is; that's what we call an "eelpout." You know how they look. It's an eel fish. It has a long tail. And they're very good eating. They have the nice rich liver; it's fat, just like cod liver oil. It's a healthy fish.

A "lawyer" came behind. He is a very slow fish, but that "lawyer" will get there eventually. That lawyer was pretty well dressed. There were check lines on the lawyer. There were spots here and there. He looked so beautiful with his coat shining, with a smile. The lawyer was happy.

"Lawyer. I want to find out if anybody knows where the key is. That's why I called you in for this feast."

The one that some say isn't good for anything spoke up. "Say," he said, "I'm sorry I got here last, but I was just told something about this golden key. I heard it was dropped out there in the lake by this new king's wife. It fell out of the boat, and there's nothing that can get in that palace without it. No king will get in there until that key is returned. That's the message I got."

"Lawyer, did you see anything on the bottom of the water?"

"Oh yes," he said. "Oh, yes."

"What did you see? Please tell."

Lawyer spoke up. The lawyer -- that's the eelpout -- spoke up. "Say, I think I understand what you are talking about. When I travel, I generally poke along next to the bottom. And you see the pretty designs on my back. I travel so proud with those designs. Well, as I was coming along, I saw something shining in the sand bottom. I thought I saw some gold out there. But I didn't know what it was. It looked like a little stick. It's not very big. I hit it around, and it moved. It looked like it could have been the golden key. At least I think it might have been the key because I think what I saw was metal."

"Go get it."

He went just as fast as he could go. Boy that eelpout shot out of there. An eelpout can go(10) when they want to. He was gone. He was gone a little while. He wasn't gone a few minutes when he came out of that water with the golden key. He came back and he had the key. The lawyer came to the top of the water and the great man took that key.

The old king's daughter was waiting there too, and the little boy gave her the key. "This is your key."

They walked up to the castle and saw the power horse -- that horse who was the man with power who was then his uncle.

"See?" his uncle said, "I'm helping you all the time. I turned into the horse to meet you. Now son,(12) think it over. Who helped you? Your father and mother didn't. You wouldn't listen to them, and your uncle had to help you. So now come on, I'll show you where your father and mother are."

They took a trail by that sea. They took a trail and they walked over to a familiar place. "You see that point out there?" He said, "See that point out there? That's where WINDIGO got you."

"You see that house there. An old log house?"


"Son, that's where your father and mother are. And we shall see them."

They went over to the house, and the boy and his uncle walked in, and asked them, "Ah, oh, are you so and so?"




"Ohhh, my boy!! Ohhhh, my son!!"

"That's our son!! That's our son!! That's our son, GWASHUN!! Ohhhh, we didn't know where you went."

"Where were you?"

He said, "I didn't mind you. I was lost. The great WINDIGO took me. Now, I regulate this area. Come on, for a better home."

And the old people had a better home in the castle, and they were all happy.

Now this is just a story, my children, to think of what'll happen if we don't listen. That's the story of Windigo Cannibal and Gwashun, the boy who did not obey his father and mother.

That's the end of the story.

I have been thinking of that story all the way through, and I have been thinking that it is true that if you go wrong, you'll never make it. But if you're right, you'll always make it -- with help. That's what I believe in.

When I heard the story of Windigo and Gwashun in my time, I thought it was just like they were talking about me. When I heard that story I thought about Otter Tail Point on Leech Lake. I thought of a big body of water anyhow. And I went in that giant's house when I left home. I thought, "I'm going out into the world, and there's one friend to help me. That is the one I was supposed to be afraid of -- a wolf, a big one. He would help me. He knew the shape I was in. And the blacksmith helped me. And the animals helped me with food. And the air and the water helped me. So I became a man. I myself became a man through the hard work which I had done. I worked for all of my living, with the help of my friends, and my uncle. And, when I could, I always went back to my folks."

God that hits hard!

That story is what the young folks should have now. Then they'll think back to their poor father and mother. "Where are they? Where am I going? I have to go back and look for them."

"Too late now, because they're old."

Power. Power! That's what did it -- the Great power.



That should be a picture -- a moving picture.

When he was fighting the best of the king's sword-men the boy raised one hand. Read it! Read that left hand! And he was fighting with his right hand.

Whose heart was in that raised hand?

His heart was in that hand. He was saved. He was asking the Great Spirit all that time, "Please help me. Please help me."

If you ever heard this story of Windigo and Gwashun told by the old Indians, you'd think a lot. I still think a lot of that. That's a good one. And when I'd tell that story, I'd laugh at that.

They'd all look at me and say, "Boy that's a good story, Paul."


Oh, he had a tough time to get that key! And when he did get that key back -- with the eelpout's help -- that meant she had the key in her hand. Nobody could open the door without it. That's what they tell to the kids. But the older class can understand what the key is for. The key is for the door of her room at the castle. The young boy can never get in that girl's room without that golden key, so he had to get that, with almighty power.

Stories, stories! Good enough? I heard that a lot. And when I tell that story of Windigo and Gwashun people tell me, "Jesus Christ you got a good memory."

"Ya," I said. "I like it, that's why I can remember it so well." I almost cry sometimes when I tell that. And everybody else likes it. That story is a good one. I like that story. I always like it. That's our favorite story.

I think people will understand what the points are to that story. The younger class would hear those stories, and boy! that hurt them. How hard that little boy had to battle! And how hard these soldiers had it by the ruling that they had to battle for the king! And that horse, that spirit -- his uncle became a great spirit looking for him. His uncle turned into a horse. And the little boy shook that box and the horse was there. Gee, that's power! And the king quit because he knew he had truth and a powerful man before him. I think the king felt there was no horse, "That's his uncle with power; he changed himself into a horse."

All of that happened by a big body of water, by a lake of some kind. But it could happen anywhere.

Believe it or not, that's the story. It's a story of how strong the will power is!

It's a story that's trying to teach the children, "Watch out. Beware of the waters." That's what it means. It's a story to teach young people what the waters are, what the ice is, so they'll be cautious when they're playing on the ice. And, of course, it's a story to warn them to obey their father and mother. And always, when the little kids at that time heard . . . "WINDIGO" . . . they knew right now it was very dangerous.


1. For further information see: Victor Barnouw (Ed.), Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales and Their Relation to Chippewa Life, (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977); Jennifer Brown, "The Cure and Feeding of Windigos: A Critique," American Anthropologist, 73:1 (1971), pp. 19-22; Joseph B. Casagrande, "The Ojibwa's Psychic Universe," Tomorrow, 4:3 (1956), pp. 33-40; John Robert Colombo, Windigo: An Anthology of Fact and Fantastic Fiction, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1982); Richard J. Preston, "The Witiko: Algonkian Knowledge and Whiteman Knowledge," in Manlike Monsters on Trial, edited by Marjorie M. Halpin and Michael M. Ames (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980), pp. 111-131; Herbert T. Schwarz, "Windigo, and Other Tales of the Ojibways," (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969).

For information on the so-called "Windigo psychosis" consult the following sources: Charles A. Bishop, "Northern Algonkian Cannibalism and Windigo Psychosis," in Psychological Anthropology (Papers from the IXth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Chicago, IL, August-September, 1973), edited by Thomas R. Williams (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), pp. 237-248); Thomas H. Hay, "The Windigo Psychosis: Psychodynamic, Cultural, and Social Factors in Aberrant Behavior," American Anthropologist, 73:1 (1971), pp. 1-19; Basil Johnston, Ojibwa Heritage, (N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1976); Louis Anthony Marano, "Windigo Psychosis: The Anatomy of an Emic-Etic Confusion," Current Anthropology, 23:4 (1985), pp. 385-421; J. Anthony Paredes, "A Case Study of 'Normal' Windigo," Anthropologica, 14:2 (1972), pp. 97-116; Seymour Parker, "The Wiitiko Psychosis in the Context of Ojibwa Personality," American Anthropologist, 62 (1960), pp. 603-623; Vivian J. Rohrl, "A Nutritional Factor in Windigo Psychosis," American Anthropologist, 72:1 (1970), pp. 97-101; James G. E. Smith, "Notes on the Wittiko," Papers of the Seventh Algonquian Conference, 1975, Edited by William Cowan, (Ottawa: Carleton University, 1976), pp. 18-38.

2. A realization of the importance of what's going on. It is sort of an "Aha!" experience, or a "Eureka moment."

3. See Ch. 33, "Messengers and Unusual Events," and Ch. 34, "Fireballs, and The Shadow Man."

4. See Ch. 27, "Power."

5. Cf., Ch. 15, "Lacrosse and Other Camp Games."

6. As indicated above, this is really "chief of houses."

7. A large gathering of people and houses.

8. For more on "the road of life," and choosing roads at a "Y," see Ch. 11, "Campfire Talks."

9. His guards.

10. Can really swim fast.

11. Paternal uncles played an especially important role in Chippewa/Ojibwa/Anishinabe society, which traditionally tended to be patrilineal and patrilocal. In patrilineal societies fathers' brothers' are always members of your own patrilineage. Mothers' brothers' are not of one's patrilineage. Dodaims (clans) among the Chippewa/Ojibwa/Anishinabe are patrilineal; they are essentially extensions of one's primary patrilineal family group. Cf., Ch. 24, "Courtship, Marriage, and Living in with the In-Laws."

12. In a patrilineage (in this case including the dodaim group) both a man's own biological son and his nephew (his brother's biological son) and are in the same family lineage, and they're often both referred to as "son" (which is more or less like calling them by a kinship term which means something like "next-generation-male-of-our-lineage" -- and they are the individuals who will carry on the family line [females do not carry on their own family lines in a patrilineage]). In this case, when the horse-converted-to-human (the little boy's "uncle" [the boy's father's brother]) says to the little boy, "Now son, think it over," he is stressing their lineal family relationship. Traditionally, in a patrilineage, a man looks after and is responsible for the next-generation males of his lineage (including both his own sons and his brothers' sons). Cf., "Patrilineal Kinship." Accessed 31 July 2018.

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