Materials required: projector, whiteboard
In reading the story of Klu’skap/Keluwoskap and his brother Paqtɨsm (in Mi’kmaw) or Malsom (in Wolastoqey), it must be remembered that the Waponahkiyik (Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqewiyik and Passamaquoddy) did not think of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as they are now understood. As the story is told here it is easy to think of Klu’skap/Keluwoskap as the good brother and Paqtɨsm/Malsom as the evil brother, but this can be misleading. Paqtɨsm/Malsom, a person with extraordinary spiritual power, uses these powers to help or obstruct others. When Paqtɨsm/Malsom creates Laks/Lahks, the wolverine, his intent appears wholly evil. Laks/Lahks, however, has important lessons to teach the animals. His lessons, though painful, benefit men and women. The Waponahkiyik believed that people are an integral part of the world and that they neither control nor dominate it.
Not all people drew a distinction between good and evil actions, intents and wishes. The Waponahkiyik did not connect actions or people to an ultimate power of ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ existing in the world. This is quite different from the Europeans’ belief in God and Satan. The important thing in this story is that it shows that what Indigenous people and Europeans believed was different and how these differences in belief could have factored in their relationships.
Klu’skap / Keluwoskap and His People
In the beginning there was just the forest and the sea — no people and no animals. Then Klu’skap/Keluwoskap came. He came from somewhere in the Sky with Paqtɨsm/Malsom his twin brother to the part of North America nearest the sun. There, anchoring his canoe, he turned it into a granite island covered with spruce and pine. He called the island Oktokonkuk (‘k-t’-G’M-koog)/Oktokomkuk (ak-da-gum-gook), the island we now know as Newfoundland. This in the beginning was Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s lodge.
The Great Chief looked and lived like an ordinary man except that he was twice as tall and possessed great Magic. He was never sick, never married, never grew old and never died. He had a magic belt which gave him great power, and he used this power only for good. Paqtɨsm/Malsom, his brother, also great of stature, had the head of a Baktusum (wolf) and the body of a man. He knew magic too, but he used his power for evil.
It was the warm time when Klu’skap/Keluwoskap came. As he set about his work, the air was fragrant with balsam and the smell of the sea. First, out of the rocks, he made Putlatmu’jk/the Little People (the fairies)/Mihkomuwehsu — small creatures who dwelt among the rocks and made wonderful music on the flute, such music that all who heard it were bewitched. From amongst them, Klu’skap/Keluwoskap chose someone to help him, Apistane’wj/Marten/Apistanewc, who was like a younger brother to him.
Next Klu’skap/Keluwoskap made the people. Taking up his great bow, he shot arrows into the trunks of the ash trees. Out of the trees stepped E’pijik/women/Ehpicik and Ji’nmuk/men/Skitapiyik. They were a strong and graceful people with light brown eyes and shiny black hair, and Klu’skap/Keluwoskap called them the Waponahkiyik, which means those who live where the day breaks. In time, the Waponahkiyik left Oktokonkuk/Oktokomkuk and divided into separate groups and today are a part of the great Algonquian nation — but in the old days only the Mi’kmaq, the Wolastoqewiyik, Penobscots, and the Passamaquoddy, living in the eastern woodlands of Canada and the United States were Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s People.
Gazing upon his handiwork, Klu’skap/Keluwoskap was pleased and his shout of triumph made the tall pines bend like grass.
He told the people that he was their Great Chief and would rule them with love and justice. He taught them to build birch-bark wigwams, how to make weirs for catching fish, and how to identify plants useful in medicine. He taught them the names of all the Kloqowejk/Stars/Possesomuk who were his brothers.
Then, from them, he chose an elderly woman whom he called Nukumij/Grandmother/Uhkomi, which is a term of respect amongst Indigenous people for any elderly woman. Nukumij/Uhkomi was the Great Chief’s teacher all her days.
Now, finally, out of rocks and clay, Klu’skap/Keluwoskap made the animals — Atu’tuej/Squirrel/Mihku, Tia’m/Moose/Mus, Muin/Bear/Muwin, and many, many others. Paqtɨsm/Malsom looked on enviously, thinking he too should have had a hand in creation, but he had not been given that power.
However, he whispered a Puowinewuti/evil charm/Mihkomuwehsuhke. The remainder of the clay in Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s hands twisted and fell to the ground in the form of a strange animal — not beaver, not badger, not wolverine, but something of all three, and capable of taking any of these forms he chose.
“His name is Laks/Lahks,” said Paqtɨsm/Malsom triumphantly.
“So be it,” said Klu’skap/Keluwoskap. “Let Laks/Lahks live amongst us in peace, so long as he remains a friend.” Yet he resolved to watch Laks/Lahks closely, for he could read his heart and knew that Laks/Lahks had Paqtɨsm/Malsom’s supernatural spirit in him.
Now Klu’skap/Keluwoskap had made the animals all jenu/giant/cinu. Most of them were larger and stronger than people. Laks/Lahks, the troublemaker, at once saw his chance to make mischief.
He went in his wolverine body to the Tia’m/Moose/Mus and admired his fine antlers, which reached up to the top of the tallest pine tree. “If you should ever meet a man,” said Laks/Lahks, “you could toss him upon your horns to the top of the world.“
Now Tia’m/Mus, who was just a bit stupid, went at once to Klu’skap/Keluwoskap and said, “Please, Master, give me a man, so I can toss him on my horns up to the top of the world!”
“Certainly not!” cried Klu’skap/Keluwoskap, touching Tia’m/Mus with his hand, and the moose was suddenly the size he is today.
Then Laks/Lahks went in his badger form to Atu’tuej/Squirrel/Mihku and said, “With that magnificent tail of yours, Atu’tuej/Mihku, you could smash down every lodge in the village.”
“So I could,” said Atu’tuej/Mihku proudly, and with his great tail he swept the nearest wigwam right off the ground. But the Great Chief was nearby. He caught Atu’tuej/Mihku up in his hand and stroked the squirrel’s back until he was as small as he is today.
“From now on,” said the Master, “you will live in trees and keep your tail where it belongs.” And since that time Atu’tuej/Squirrel/Mihku has carried his bushy tail on his back.
Next, the rascally Laks/Lahks put on his beaver shape and went to Muin/Bear/Muwin, who was hardly any bigger than he is today, but had a much longer throat.
“Muin/Muwin,” said Laks/Lahks slyly, “supposing you eat a man, what would you do to him?” The bear scratched his head thoughtfully. “Eat him,” he said at last with a grin. “Yes, that’s what I‘d do — I’d swallow him whole!” And having said this, Muin/Muwin felt his throat begin to shrink.
“From now on,” said Klu’skap/Keluwoskap sternly, “you may swallow only very small creatures.” And, today the bear, big as he is, eats only small animals, fish and wild berries.
Now the Great Chief was greatly annoyed at the way his animals were behaving and wondered if he ought to have made them. He summoned them all and gave them a solemn warning.
“I have made you equal to people, but you wish to be their master. Take care — or they may become yours!”
This did not worry the troublesome Laks/Lahks, who only resolved to be more cunning in the future. He knew very well that Paqtɨsm/Malsom was jealous of Klu’skap/Keluwoskap and wished to be leader of all the people himself. He also knew that both brothers had magic powers and that neither could be killed except in one certain way. What that way was, each kept secret — from all but the Kloqowejk/Stars/Possesomuk, whom they trusted. Each sometimes talked in the starlight to the people of the Sky.
“Little does Paqtɨsm/Malsom know,” said Klu’skap/Keluwoskap to the Kloqowejk/Stars/Possesomuk, “that I can never be killed except by the bloom of a flowering rush.” And not far off, Paqtɨsm/Malsom boasted to those same Stars, “I am quite safe from Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s power. I can do anything I like, for nothing can harm me but the roots of a flowering fern.“
Now, alas, Laks/Lahks was hidden close by and heard both secrets. Seeing as how he might turn this to his own advantage, he went to Paqtɨsm/Malsom and said with a knowing smile, “What will you give me, Paqtɨsm/Malsom, if I tell you Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s secret?”
“Anything you like,” cried Paqtɨsm/Malsom. “Quick, tell me!”
“Nothing can hurt Klu’skap/Keluwoskap except a flowering rush,” said the traitor. “Now give me a pair of wings, like those of the pigeon, so I can fly,”
But Paqtɨsm/Malsom laughed.
“What need does a beaver have of wings?” And kicking the troublemaker aside, he sped to find a flowering rush. Laks/Lahks picked himself up furiously and hurried to Klu’skap/Keluwoskap.
“Master!” he cried, “Paqtɨsm/Malsom knows your secret and is about to kill you. If you would serve yourself, know that only a fern root can destroy him!”
Klu’skap/Keluwoskap snatched up the nearest fern, root and all, just in time, for his evil brother was upon him, shouting his war cry. And all the Wi’sis/animals/Weyossisok, who were angry at Klu’skap/Keluwoskap for reducing their size and power, cheered Paqtɨsm/Malsom; but the people were afraid for their Master.
Klu’skap/Keluwoskap braced his feet against a cliff and Paqtɨsm/Malsom paused. For a moment, the two crouched face to face, waiting for the moment to strike. Then the wolf-like Paqtɨsm/Malsom lunged at Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s head. Twisting his body aside, the Great Chief flung his weapon. It went swift to its target, and Paqtɨsm/Malsom leapt back, too late. The fern root pierced his envious heart, and he died.
Now the people rejoiced, and the animals crept sullenly away. Only Laks/Lahks came to Klu’skap/Keluwoskap impudently.
“I’ll have my reward now, Master,” he said, “a pair of wings, like the pigeon’s.”
“Faithless creature!” Klu’skap/Keluwoskap thundered, knowing full well who had betrayed him, “I made no such bargain. Be gone!” And he hurled Kuntew/stone/Cinu after stone at the fleeing Laks/Lahks. Where the stones fell in the Minas Basin — they turned into islands and are there still. And the banished Laks/Lahks roams the world to this day, appealing to the evil in men’s hearts and making trouble wherever he goes.
Now Klu’skap/Keluwoskap called his people around him and said, “I made the Wi’sis/animals/Weyossisok to be friends of the people, but the Wi’sis/animals/Weyossisok have acted with selfishness and treachery. Hereafter, they shall be your servants and provide you with food and clothing.”
Then he showed the men how to make bows and arrows and stone–tipped spears, and how to use them. He also showed the women how to scrape hides and turn them into clothing.
“Now you have power over even the largest wild creatures,” he said. “Yet, I charge you to use this power gently. If you take more game than you need for food and clothing, or kill for the pleasure of killing, then you will be visited by a pitiless Jenu/Giant/Cinu named Famine, and when he comes among people, they suffer hunger and die.”
The people readily promised to obey Klu’skap/Keluwoskap in this, as in all things. But now, to their dismay, they saw Apistane’wj/Marten/Apistanewc launch the master’s canoe and Nakumij/Grandmother/Uhkomi entering it with Klu’skap/Keluwoskap’s household goods. Klu’skap/Keluwoskap was leaving them!
“I must dwell now in a separate place,” said the Great Chief, “so that you, my people, will learn to stand alone and become brave and resourceful. Nevertheless, I shall never be far from you, and whoever seeks me diligently in time of trouble will find me.”
Then waving farewell to his sorrowful Waponahkiyik, Klu’skap/Keluwoskap set off for the mainland. Rounding the southern tip of what is now Nova Scotia, the Great Chief paddled up the Bay of Fundy. In the distance where the Bay narrows and the great tides of Fundy rush into Minas Basin, Klu’skap/Keluwoskap saw a long purple headland, like a moose swimming, with clouds for antlers, and headed his canoe in that direction. Landing, he gazed at the slope of red sandstone, with its groves of green trees at the summit, and admired the amethysts encircling its base like a string of purple beads.
“Here I shall build my lodge,” said Klu’skap/Keluwoskap and he named the place Blomidon.
Now Klu’skap/Keluwoskap dwelt on Blomidon a very long time, and during that time did many wonderful things for his People.
|Oktokonkuk (‘k-t’-G’M-koog)||Newfoundland||Oktokomkuk (ak-da-gum-gook)|
|Puklatmu’jk||The Little People||Mihkomuwehsios (mme-k’m-WA-seez-,g)|
|Kloqowej plural Kloqowejk||Stars||Possesomuk (Bos-ze-zu-moog)|
|Puowinewuti||Evil Charm||Mihkomuwehsuhke (me-gom-eweh-su-gah)|
|Jenu||Giant||Cinu (Rock Giant) (Jean-o)|
|Paqtism (wolf-headed)||Man of extraordinary power||Malsom|
Now find out about how Klu’skap/Keluwoskap chose his territory!
Important note: Do not hesitate to click on “Pause” in the progress bar while looking at the animation, so you can observe more details in the pictures or the illustrations.