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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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The Dream of Onowutaquto - He that Catches the Clouds

From The Superior Telegram March 26, 1921
Reprinting a story in their Upper Wisconsin in History and Romance series - the writings of Henry & Jane Schoolcraft
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

A long time ago there lived an aged Ojibwa and his wife, on the shores of Lake Huron. They had an only son, a very beautiful boy, whose name was Onowutaquto, or 'He that Catches the Clouds.' The family was of the totem of the Beaver. The parents were very proud of him, and though to make him a celebrated man, but when he reached the proper age, he would not submit to the wekoondewin, or fast. When this time arrived, they gave him charcoal instead of breakfast, but he would not blacken his face. If they denied him food he would seek for birds eggs along the shore or pick up the heads of the fish that had been cast away and broil them. One day they took away violently the food he had thus prepared, and cast him some coals in place of it. This act brought him to a decision. He took the coals and blackened his face, and went out of the lodge. He did not return but slept without: and during the night he had a dream. He dreamed that he saw a very beautiful female come down from the clouds and stood by his side. "Onowutaquto," said she, "I am come for you - step in my tracks." The young man did so, and presently felt himself ascending above the tops of the trees - he mounted up, step by step, into the air and through the clouds. His guide, at length, passed through an orifice, and he, following her, found himself standing on a beautiful plain.

A path led to a splendid lodge. He followed her into it. It was large, and divided into two parts. On one send he saw bows and arrows, clubs and spears, and various warlike implements tipped with silver. On the other end, were things exclusively belonging to females. This was the home of his fair guide, and he saw that she had on the frame, a broad rich belt, of many colors, which she was weaving.  She said to him, 'my brother is coming I must hide you.' Putting him in one corner, she spread the belt over him. Presently the brother came in very richly dressed, and shining as if he had point of silver all over him. He took down from the wall a splendid pipe, together with a sack of apakozegun, or smoking mixture. When he had finished regaling himself in this way, and laid his pipe aside, he said to his sister, 'Nemissa (which is elder sister,) when will you quit these practices? Do you forget that the Greatest of Spirits has commanded that you should not take away the children from below? Perhaps you suppose that you have concealed Onowutaquto, but do I not know of his coming? If you would not offend me, send him back immediately.' But this address did not alter her purpose. She would not send him back. Finding that she was purposed in her mind, he then spoke to the young lad, and called him from his hiding place. 'Come out of your concealment,' said he, 'and walk about and amuse yourself. You will grow hungry if you remain there. He then presented him a bow and arrow, and a pipe of red stone, richly ornamented. This was taken as the word of consent to his marriage, so the two were considered husband and wife from that time. Onowutaquto found everything exceedingly fair and beautiful around him, but he found no inhabitants except her brother. There were flowers on the plants. There were bright and sparkling streams. There were green valleys and pleasant times. There were gay birds and beautiful animals, but they were not such as he had been accustomed to see. There was also day and night as on earth, but he observed that every morning the brother regularly left the lodge, and remained absent all day, and every evening the sister departed, though it was commonly for but a part of the night.

His curiosity was aroused to sole this mystery. He obtained the brother's consent to accompany him in one of his daily journeys. They traveled over a smooth plain, without boundaries, until Onowutaquto felt the gnawing of his appetite and asked his companion if there were no game. 'Patience! My brother.' Said he. 'We shall soon reach the spot were I eat my dinner and you will then see how I am provided.' After walking on a long time, they came to a place, which was spread over with fine mats, where they sat down to refresh themselves. There was at this place a hole through the sky: and Onowutaquto, looked down, at the bidding of his companion upon the earth. He saw below the great lakes, and the villages of the Indians. In one place, he saw a war party stealing on the camp of their enemies. In another, he saw feasting and dancing. On a green plain, young men were engaged at ball. Along a stream, women were employed in gathering apukwa for mats. 'Do you see,' said the brother, 'that group of children playing beside a lodge. Observe that beautiful and active boy.' Said he, at the same time darting something at him, from his hand. The child immediately fell, and was carried into the lodge.

They looked again and saw the people gathering about the lodge. They heard the shesheqwan of the meets and the song he sung, asking that the child's life might be spared. To this request, the companion of Onowutaquto made answer - 'send me up the sacrifice of a white dog.' Immediately a feast was ordered by the parents of the child, the white dog was killed, his carcass was roasted, and all the wise men and medicine men of the village assembled to witness the ceremony. 'There are many below,' continued the voice of the brother, 'whom you call great in medical skill, but it is because their ears are open, and they listen to my voice, that they are able to succeed. When I have struck one with sickness, they direct the people to look to me: and when they send me the offering I ask, I remove my hand from off them and they are well.' After he had said this, they saw the sacrifice parceled out on dishes, for those who are at the feast. The master of the feast then said, 'We send you this Great Manitou,' and immediately the roasted animal came up. Thus their dinner was supplied, and after they had eaten, they returned to the lodge by another way.

After this manner they lived for some time: but the place became wearisome at last, Onowutaquto thought of his friends and wished to go back to them. He had not forgotten his native village, and his father's lodge: and he asked leave of his wife to return. At length she consented. 'Since you are better pleased,' she replied, 'with the cares and the ills, and the poverty of the world, than with the peaceful delights of the sky and its boundless prairies, go! I give you permission, and since I have brought you hither. I will conduct you back: but remember, you are still my husband. I hold a chain in my hand by which I can draw you back, whenever I will. My power over you is not, in any manner, diminished. Beware therefore, how you venture to take a wife among the people below. Should you ever do so, it is then that you shall feel the force of my displeasure.'

As she said this, her eyes sparkled - she raised herself slightly on her toes and stretched herself up, with a majestic air: and at that moment Onowutaquto awoke from his dream. He found himself on the ground, near his father's lodge, at the very spot where he had laid himself down to fast. Instead of the bright beings of a higher world, he found himself surrounded by his parents and relatives. His mother told him he had been absent a year. The change was so great, that he remained for some time moody and abstracted, but by degrees, he recovered his spirits. He began to doubt the reality of all he had heard and see above. At last, he forgot the admonitions of his spouse, and married a beautiful young woman of his own tribe. But within four days, she was a corpse. Even the fearful admonition was lost, and had repeated the offense by a second marriage. Soon afterwards, he went out of the lodge, one night, but never returned. It was believed that his wife had recalled him to the region of the clouds, where the tradition asserts; he still dwells, and walks on the daily rounds, which he once witnessed.

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