Long ago, on the banks of a river, there lived a people who depended on this river’s water for everything. The river was their livelihood, for they travelled, fished, cleaned and cooked with the water from the river and also picked their medicines, berries, and nuts that grew next to it.
One morning, two young men walked to the bank of the river to collect water. Once they reached the water’s edge they noticed that the river had dried up. They ran up to the wigwam of Sakom (Za-gom) – the chief. They told Sakom what they had observed, so Sakom asked the young men to gather the people in the center of the village to share what they had experienced.
That evening, they met with the Elders Council and decided to send their two finest runners upriver the following morning to see what had happened to the water.
That next morning at day break the two young runners journeyed upriver to find out what was holding back the water. At midday, as they turned a corner, they reached their destination. They were surprised to see a large wall of boulders keeping back all the water. Sitting on top of the wall of boulders was an ugly, huge green creature. As the two runners stood at the base of the dam they looked up and said, “Can you remove the wall of boulders and let the water run free, because our people need water to survive.” The ugly green creature looked down and replied, “NO WATER”.
So, the young runners decided to climb the boulders and tackle the ugly green creature and remove the boulders themselves. They didn’t even get a quarter of the way up when the ugly green creature reached down with its skinny long arms and knocked the two young runners down to the ground. The two men got up and brushed themselves off. They were bruised a little from the tumble off the boulders. They agreed to go back to their village and tell the people what they had experienced.
They arrived back home early that evening, so Sakom gathered all the people once more to get advice from the Elders Council. The Elders said, “We will hold another ceremony this evening.” So, they did.
All night they danced and sang until dawn. Then, at daybreak, the people saw a tall man walking from the edge of the forest towards them. He had two long braids and carried a long staff. As he approached the circle, Sakom shouted, “KELUWOSKAP, YOU HAVE COME TO HELP US.” Keluwoskap replied, “I heard your sad songs from afar and knew that you needed my help”.
Sakom then told Keluwoskap what the two runners had experienced with the ugly green creature. Keluwoskap then asked Sakom to send two of the best storytellers to come with him so they would be able to retell what they had witnessed. Off went Keluwoskap and the two storytellers to the place of the ugly green creature.
Finally, they reached the place where the boulders held back all the water. Still the ugly green creature was perched on top of the large boulders enjoying all the water for itself.
Keluwoskap approached the bottom of the dam and looked up and told the ugly green creature, “Please put the boulders aside and let the river run freely, for the people need water to live.” The ugly green creature replied, “NO WATER”. Keluwoskap hit his staff hard on the ground and grew taller.
This time, Keluwoskap demanded, “Put the boulders aside and let the river run freely.” Then the ugly green creature reached for his birch-bark cup and swooshed it into the bottom of the river and filled the cup with mostly mucky water and said “HERE, THIS IS ALL YOU ARE GETTING”. Then, Keluwoskap hit his staff hard on the ground for the second time and grew as tall as the birch trees.
Keluwoskap then reached across and grabbed the ugly green creature with one hand and started to squeeze it and squeeze it until it began to shrink smaller and smaller. The ugly green creature’s feet grew long and flat, its back curved like a bow, and its eyes bugged out like it was scared.
Keluwoskap then whispered into his hand and told the ugly green creature, which was now a small ugly creature, “From now on, you will always need water to survive and you will always fear people.” Then, Keluwoskap threw the little green creature on the ground and all it could say was,”RIBBET, RIBBET,” and hopped into the forest.
Keluwoskap then pushed down a great tree onto the boulders. This scattered the large rocks all over the area. Also, the tree was so large that it formed a deep dent into the earth. So, the water followed the indent all the way to the ocean and became the beautiful and bountiful river we call Wolastoq (Saint John River). The branches of the tree became connecting rivers, brooks, streams and ponds and the huge leaves created lakes, marshlands and wetlands.
Keluwoskap and the two storytellers journeyed back to the village and told the people what had happened. When the water reached the village many of the people jumped into the river. The people loved water so much that they asked Keluwoskap to turn them into various types of fish, like salmon, trout, sturgeon and eel.
That evening they held a ceremony to honor Keluwoskap for his mighty deed. Later that night, Keluwoskap departed back to his wigwam and told the people, “If you need my assistance again, hold a ceremony and I will come”. The scattered boulders are located at Menahqesk (modern day Saint John). The base and roots of the tree venture all the way to parts of what are known today as Maine and Quebec.
- This story originates from Wolastoqey tradition. Tell the story to the class and ask them who they think the ugly green monster might have become? What purpose do frogs now serve in the waterways? What else exists in the rivers that was not there before? Why does Keluwoskap help the people? What will cause him to come back? How does this story show that people are connected to water? Does this story have the elements of a treaty, like responsibility or respect?
- Create illustrations for this story. Print off the story and number each paragraph. Divide the class into pairs. Give each pair a paragraph and ask them to search for an image (preferably a photograph) that would represent their paragraph. If there are place names in their paragraph find a photograph that shows the place as well as the environmental element. (eg: the rocks at Grand Falls – Grand Sault should have both rocks and the falls). Have students place and glue their text and photographs on a single large page of paper. Once this is completed create a flip book (layers of page from shorter pages to longer pages) of this story. If possible, have students read this book to students in a lower grade.
- View or read some other stories about the significance of water like Keluwoskap creates Sugarloaf Mountain. Here are links to two stories one Mi’kmaw and the other Wolastoqey. https://www1.gnb.ca/0007/Culture/Heritage/VMC/sugarloaf.asp or http://website.nbm-mnb.ca/Koluskap/English/Stories/index.php. Was water shared? Now try writing your own story about the importance of water.
- Evaluation: How do we use water today? How do we protect it?