Enjoy this story of the mosquito as told by Red Cliff descendant, Ida Nemec. Please feel free to leave any other legends of the mosquito that you may have heard in the comments. Miigwetch!
Long ago in the land of the Ojibwe, everything was good. Summer brought miini-giizis, the Blueberry Moon. The people offered prayers of thanksgiving to Gitchi Manito, the Great Spirit.
Then something strange happened. One of the hunters did not return after spending the day in the forest. Someone said, “Don’t worry; he is probably on the track of a rabbit or deer. He will return in the morning. But he never returned. Then a woman went to the creek for water and never returned. Later that day a grandmother went in the forest for wood, and she never returned.
The “white hairs”, elders gathered in one place. As, they talked of the disappearances in their village, a “white hair” named Waboose remembered a story he heard long ago when he was very small. The people had disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again, and suddenly he knew. The Windigo had returned and was in the forest eating the people.
The Windigo is a terrible giant of the forest. His ways are very strange. You might be out in the forest sitting down or gathering firewood and you hear: T-R-R-R-O-M-P T-R-R-R-0-M-P T-R-R-R-O-M-P, the great heavy footsteps of the Windigo. You might turn around quickly or you might turn around very slowly, but you will never see the Windigo. He has the power to turn himself into anything he wants; a boulder, a birch tree, or an old stump. You never know where the Windigo is until he has you and then it is too late!
That evening the People held a council meeting to decide what to do about the terrible Windigo. They decided they had to trap him, so they went deep into the forest and dug a deep pit. They put venison in the bottom of the pit and covered it with birch bark, logs and sticks so the Windigo could not tell it was there.
Everyone hid in the forest behind trees and bushes and waited for the Windigo to come. Deep in the middle of the night when it was very dark, they heard a sound. T-R-R-R-0-M-P T-R-R-R-O-M-P T-R-R-R-O-M-P. Then another sound. SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF. He was smelling the venison. Or…. was he smelling the people?
Suddenly there was a great C-R-R-R-A-S-H and they knew they had caught the Windigo. Quickly the people ran to the edge of the pit and threw in glowing embers from their council fire. Soon a great fire was roaring in the bottom of the pit. The people were frightened and ran back to their hiding places. When it was quiet they crept back to the edge of the trap. There in the bottom of the fiery pit was the Windigo. And he was furious! “I’ll get you for this” he roared. I’ll come back again and again and again – and I’ll eat you and you and you and your children and their grandchildren forever and ever. Terrified the people fled. This time they waited a long, long time and until there was no sound from the pit. When they returned all that was left of the terrible Windigo was a pile of ashes. “Gather the ashes” said Waboose. So they gathered the ashes and took them to the top of a high hill and threw them high up into the air, scattering ashes all over the North Woods. The WIndigo was no more. Gone to the Land of the Shadows.
In fact, the people had almost forgotten about the terrible Windigo. Then one summer day Waboose and his grandchildren were sitting by a lake, fishing. ‘Aaaaa!” shouted Little Brother, suddenly and struck his arm. “Oh!” cried his granddaughter and slapped the back of her hand. “Aiee!” they both shouted as they swatted themselves here and there.
Waboose looked closely and he noticed something strange. Though there was no fire anywhere nearby, little ashes seemed to be floating in the air. The ashes gathered in a cloud around the three friends. They were landing on his skin and BITING him! They left little bumps that itched and itched. “It is the Windigo! He has come back”
“Yes, my granddaughter, I’m afraid he is back and he will be coming back every summer from now on eating all of us, just as he said he would”.