Ojibwe story: the Snowbirds

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: The Snowbirds (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 The Snowbirds

The Snowbirds

Many years ago, there lived in the Ojibway encampment at the mouth
of the Kaministiqua River, a beautiful young Indian maiden, beloved
by all, and talented in the art of handicrafts. Many beautiful gifts
were fashioned by the clever fingers of White Dove. White Dove made
some lovely gifts of silver, found that summer on a trip to Silver

Two days before the great Indian feast of Thanksgiving,
White Dove and her lover, Nanokarsi, set out to take the ornaments
of silver to White Dove's grandmother, who lived a day's journey
away in the foothills of the “Nor-Westers” mountain range.
Taking only a light lunch for their midday meal, the young couple
bid their families goodbye, promising to return in time for the great feast.

Shortly after they had finished their noon lunch, they were unpleasantly
surprised by a chilling taste of wind. Immediately Nanokarsi climbed
to the top of a giant pine tree and looking north saw billows of
black, ominous clouds. Fearful of the storm, he urged White Dove
to run as fast as her legs could carry her but they had gone only
a short distance, when the storm burst upon them in all its fury!

The wind howled about them, whipping the heavy snow into enormous
drifts and blinds their vision. They wandered hopelessly until
nightfall. Then cold, exhausted and hungry, they laid down in the
shelter of a large rock, embracing each other to share their body warmth.

The Thanksgiving Feast was at its height when the old Chief, Running
Deer, solemnly announced the two had not returned and that he feared
they were lost in the storm.

All the braves volunteered to go in search of them. After four
days the searchers came upon the couple, still embraced, but sleeping
the Great Sleep, from which there is no awakening! The braves knelt
beside them and called upon Nanna Bijou, their Spirit God, to breathe
new life in their bodies.

The Great Spirit told them he could not bring them back as they
were now in the home of the Great Manitou, neither could he forbid
the Snow Spirit to come again. Nanna Bijou did, however, promise
he would give them a sign that would forever warn them of the Snow
Spirit approaching and, if heeded, would bring them no harm.

As the braves watched, they were amazed to see the bodies of White
Dove and Nanokarsi slowly disappear into the snow and, there where
they had lain, appeared two pretty little soft gray birds with striped heads!

As they flew into the air, they darted from left to right, making
the snowy plumage of their breasts and under their wings and tail
quite visible to the on-looker.

Where these birds come from, or where they go, no-one knows, but
when you see them swirling and darting around in large flocks, take
heed, for as surely as night follows day, snow is not very far away!