Published on January 20, 2013 by Casey
Cree and Dene legends about magical waters that cure blindness.
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A blind man, with his wife and daughter, camped one September on a mountainside. Here the women snared groundhogs for their food, since the man was unable to hunt. One day the wife saw a large caribou near the tent and cried out, “Look, there is a caribou.”
Her husband called to her softly, “Take a cord and stretch it out in line with the caribou so that I may feel along it and guide my arrow”.
She stretched out the cord, while he drew his bow from its case. Rubbing an arrow under his arm to give it medicine power, he notched it to the bowstring, aimed along the cord, and shot. The arrow pierced the caribou’s heart.
“Ai ya”, shouted his daughter in triumph. “Be quiet”, hissed the mother, who was tired of living with a blind man.
Turning to her husband, she said, “Your arrow missed. The caribou has fled.”
He did not answer. He had heard his daughter’s shout and knew that his wife was deceiving him, but he was helpless.
Early the next morning mother and daughter butchered the dead caribou and stole away, carrying with them all the meat. The blind man missed their voices. He groped anxiously around the camp, discovered that they had deserted him, and flung himself on the ground in despair. There he lay for four days. Then he decided to wander on, feeling his way with a stick.
As he stumbled along, weeping, he cried aloud, “In my youth I had many medicines. Will they not help me now in my hour of need?”
Two loons, a male and a female, heard his cry and flew near. “I will help you,” said the female. “Put your arms round my neck and hold tight.”
He mounted on her back and clasped her neck. Both loons flew toward a neighbouring lake. “Dive under me”, called the male to the female.
They dived, and the female, passing under the male, rose to the surface again at the far end of the lake. “Can you see now?” she asked the man on her back.
“Just a little”, he answered.
They dived again, emerging at the opposite shore. “Now can you see?”
“Yes, I can see clearly now. Thank you for your help.”
The loons flew away, and he returned to his old camp. Finding it still deserted he followed the tracks of his wife and daughter to the new camp they had set up. The women were absent snaring groundhogs, but he satisfied his hunger from the meat that was hung up to dry and waited for them.
They entered the camp at sunset, masking their surprise under a cloak of silence. He too said nothing. The lived together as before, except that now he was able to hunt again.