Ojibwe story: Mountain ash berries

The term Ojibwe comes from Utchibou, name given to the XVIIe century to a group who lived north of what is now Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Here is one of their tales: Mountain ash berries (in English).

The Ojibway were part of a series of very close, but distinct groups, occupying a territory located between the northeast of the bay Georgian and eastern Lake Superior. These peoples who gathered near present-day Sault Ste. Mary are also called Saulteaux, a term that today refers primarily to the Ojibway peoples of northwestern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba.

Ojibwe Mountain ash berries

Legend of the Mountain ash berries

In late autumn or winter one will see an entirely different kind
of tree dotted here and there among the green pines and spruce.
These are Mountain Ash trees covered in a mass of brilliant red
berries. The more berries on the tree, the more severe the winter
will be. Why is this so? Legend relates that many years ago, even
before Canada had a name, a severe and terrible winter set in. Snowdrifts
formed in great heights and temperatures dropped to extraordinary
degrees below zero.

While in search of food, the Indian hunters became terrified when
they came upon hundreds of birds and small animals lying dead on
the frozen snow banks. Immediately they banded together in great
numbers and offered prayers' to the Great Manitou, as they were
frightened that the same evil spirits would destroy them too.

The Great-Spirit answered them by instructing them to take one
drop of blood from every dead bird and small animal and smear it
on the tree that meant life and death to their people. As the Mountain
Ash was the tree whence they fashioned bows and arrows, their only
means of survival, they chose it and set about as Manitou had made
them do. The following morning every tree they had smeared bore
thousands of berries. The birds and small animals that had survived
were perched on the mountain Ash branches eating the life-giving food.

The happy Indians danced late into the night, giving thanks to
Manitou, who in return gave his promise that whenever a cold winter
was approaching again, he would cover these trees with food.