Published on January 7, 2013 by Casey
E’e, in the morning, when the men have gone out to hunt, these two women just walk off deeper into the forest, and disappear from that camp.
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They are happy, these two women. They are Skusi’skwaq, Weasel Women, and their skins are very white, like every Weasel Person’s fur is, in the wintertime. And these two Skusi’skwaq are sisters. Older Sister has Power. She takes them deep into the forest, and there she builds them a shelter-camp. Younger Sister makes a small fire.
Now it is night. The sun has gone beneath the earth, and those two sisters, those two Weasels, are lying there looking up at the stars. Older Sister says to Younger Sister, “Those are Persons up in the Sky World. Look at their eyes, shining up there.”
Younger Sister says, “Which one would you like to have for your husband, lying with you in the morning? One with big eyes, or one with little eyes?”
Older Sister says, “I choose that one there, the shiniest and brightest.”
Younger Sister says, “Oh, that one. That one is ugly.”
“So,” says Older Sister. “So then. Which one would you have?”
“I will have that little star there, the little red one.”
And then these two Weasel Women fall asleep, looking toward the east, where their two stars are hunting across the night. Now it is morning. Younger Sister stretches under her furs; she is waking up. Her foot touches something.
“Be careful!” cries a little squeaking voice. “You have upset the bark dish of nepi’jekwati, the medicine for my eyes.” Younger Sister sits up. Who has spoken? By her side is a little small old man, with a wrinkled face and sore red eyes. It is that small red Star Person. She has called him to be her husband, by talking in the night. She has called the Star With Sore Eyes.
Now Older Sister begins to wake up. She moves a little under her sleeping robes. “Watch out, woman,” says a man’s voice. It is a deep strong voice. “You have upset the bark dish with my sikwan, my red ochre.” Older Sister rolls over and sits up. Lying there next to her is a man, a tall man, a strong man. His face is painted with red ochre. It is her Star Husband, whom she has called to her by talking in the night. She has called the Star With Shining Eyes. So these two Weasel Women are caught again, and they must be the wives of Stars.
“I have nothing to give you to eat,” says Older Sister.
“We will not eat until we have come home from hunting,” says her husband. “You can gather wood and tend the fire, and prepare for our return. But there is one thing you must not do.”
“E’e,” says Younger Sister’s Husband, the Star With Sore Eyes. “There is one thing you must not do. You must not move that flat rock which lies before the wigwam. You must not move it, you must not lift it.”
“Very well,” says Older Sister. “We will cook for you on your return.”
Now many days go by. The Weasel Women go out to look for sipeknk, the ground-nuts, wild potatoes. They are digging them up, they are going to cook them. And Younger Sister is talking again.
“I wonder what is under that flat stone?”
“You leave that flat stone alone,” says Older Sister.
But Younger Sister keeps talking about it, and soon she has talked herself right up to it, and soon she has talked her hands right on it, and then she is lifting it up.
She lifts up the stone and looks under it.
“What is there?” asks Older Sister.
Younger Sister screams.
“Where are we?” shrieks Younger Sister. “Where are we, my Older Sister?”
Older Sister pushes her aside, and looks under the stone, looks to see what is making her little Weasel Sister yell so. And she sees: they are in the World Above the Sky. They are standing on top of the sky. The stone is covering a hole in it, and through this hole she can see down, down, down to the earth below, to the forest, to the little shelter-camp she built the night the two of them lay talking together about the eyes of stars.
Older Sister bursts into tears. Younger Sister bursts into tears. These two Weasel Women weep until their eyes are red with crying.
Way out in the forest of the World Above the Sky, the Star Husbands are hunting. And they begin to know something, feeling wrong. They begin to feel their wives crying. “We had better go back,” says the Star Husband With Shining Eyes. “They must have lifted the stone,” says the Star With Sore Eyes. “Listen to them crying.”
It is almost evening when those Star Persons come out of the forest. Their Weasel Wives are trying to cook, trying to pretend that nothing has happened.
But Star Persons have Power, and they know. “What has troubled you today?” they are asking their wives. “What have you been crying about?”
“Nothing is wrong,” says Younger Sister. “We have not been crying.”
“Ah,” says the husband of Older Sister. “I think you have been looking through the hole in the sky. I think you have been lifting the stone and looking down at your world. And I think that you are lonely and want to return to it.”
Older Sister looks up at her Star Husband. She cannot say anything. She looks at him and tears start to come out of her eyes.
“Very well,” he says to her. “You may go back to the earth world.”
The old Star With Sore Eyes tells them, “Tonight, Weasel Women, you must sleep close together. You must keep your fur robes over your heads. And in the morning, when the sun comes from beneath the earth, you must lie very still. Do not take the robes from over your heads, do not open your eyes. First you will hear the chickadee calling. Keep your eyes shut. Next you will hear Apalpaqmej, Red Squirrel Person, you will hear him singing. Do not open your eyes. After a long time, you will hear Atu’tuej, Striped Squirrel. He will sing, and then you may open your eyes.”
“If you do as we have told you,” says the tall Star Husband, “you will find yourselves back in your shelter-camp, the place you were lying the night you invited us to come and be your husbands.”
So these two Weasel Women lie down together and cover their heads with sleeping robes. The night passes, and in the morning they hear the chickadee. Younger Sister, always impatient, wants to leap up, but Older Sister forces her to lie still. “Wait! Wait until we hear Atu’tuej,” she says.
After a long while they hear something singing. What is it? It is Apalpaqmej, Red Squirrel. And that foolish Younger Sister, that silly Weasel Woman, she jumps at the noise and throws off the covers. And then she begins to squeal.
“Where are we, my Older Sister?”
Older Sister sighs and opens her eyes. The sun has come from beneath the earth, and these Weasel Women are back in their own world. But they have opened their eyes too soon on the way down, and now they are stuck in the top of a tall, tall pine tree, a kuow tree. There are no branches in this tree, except a few at the very top, and these two women cannot get down.