Tradition: The Beginning of the Cree World
forms of this myth of creation and of the great flood
have been recorded from different Algonquian tribes. The
Crees were western members of the Algonquian family, which
is the largest of the language groups of the North American
particular version has been selected because it was recorded
by the great explorer-geographer, David Thompson, before
missionaries had been among the people who related it.
is the principal character in many Cree tales. His name
means "the Flatterer." It is spelled also Weesack-kachack.
the Creator had made all the animals and had made the
first people, he said to Wisakedjak, "Take good of
my people, and teach them how to live. Show them all the
bad roots, all the roots that will hurt them and kill
them. Do not let the people or the animals quarrel with
Wisakedjak did not obey the Creator. He let the creatures
do whatever they wished to do. Soon they were quarrelling
and fighting and shedding much blood.
The Creator, greatly displeased, warned Wisakedjak. "If
you do not keep the ground clean, I will take everything
away from you, and you will be miserable."
But Wisakedjak did not believe the Creator, and did not
obey. Becoming more and more careless and disobedient,
he tricked the animals and the people and made them angry
with each other. They quarreled and fought so much that
the earth became red with blood.
time the creator became very angry. "I will take
everything away from you and wash the ground clean."
Wisakedjak did not believe the Creator. He did not believe
until the rains came and the streams began to swell. Day
after day, and night after night, the rains continued.
The water in the rivers and the lakes rose higher and
higher. At last they overflowed their banks and washed
the ground clean. The sea came up on the land, and everything
was drowned except one Otter, one Beaver and one Muskrat.
tried to stop the sea, but it was too strong for him.
He sat down on the water and wept. Otter, Beaver and Muskrat
sat beside him and rested their heads on one of his thighs.
time the rain stopped and the sea left the land. Wisakedjak
took courage, but he did not dare to speak to the Creator.
After long and sad thoughts about his misery, he said
to himself, "If I could get a bit of the old earth
beneath the water, I could make a little island for us
to live on."
did not have the power to create anything, but he did
have the power to expand what had already been created.
As he could not dive and did not know how far it was to
the old earth, he did not know what to do. Taking pity
on him, the Creator said, "I will give you the power
to re-make everything if you will use the old materials
buried under the water."
floating on the flood, Wisakedjak said to the three animals
beside him, "We shall starve unless one of you can
bring me a bit of the old ground beneath the water. If
you will get it for me, I will make an island for us."
he turned to the Otter. "You are brave and strong
and active. If you will dive into the water and bring
me a bit of earth, I will see that you will have plenty
of fish to eat."
the Otter dived, but he came up again without having reached
the ground. A second time and a third time Wisakedjak
praised Otter and persuaded him to go down once more.
When he returned the third time, he was so weary that
he could not dive again.
are a coward!" exclaimed Wisakedjak. "I am surprised
by your weak heart. Beaver, I know, can dive to the bottom
of the flood. He will put you to shame."
Then he turned to Beaver. "You are brave and strong
and wise. If you will dive into the water and bring me
a bit of the old earth, I will make a good house for you
on the new island I shall make. There you will be warm
in the winter. Dive straight down as a brave Beaver does."
Beaver dived, and twice he came back without any earth.
The second time he was so tired that Wisakedjak had to
let him rest for a long time.
"Dive once more," begged Wisakedjak when Beaver
had recovered. "If you will bring me a bit of earth,
I will make a wife for you."
obtain a wife Beaver went down a third time. He stayed
so long that he came back almost lifeless, still with
no earth in his paws.
was now very sad. If Otter and Beaver could not reach
the bottom of the water, surely Muskrat also would fail.
But he must try. He was their only chance.
are brave and strong and quick, Muskrat, even if you are
small. If you will dive into the water and bring me a
bit of the old earth at the bottom, I will make plenty
of roots for you to eat. I will create rushes, so that
you can make a nice house with rushes and dirt.
and Beaver are fools," continued Wisakedjak. "They
got lost. You will find the ground if you will dive straight
Muskrat jumped head first into the water, down and down
he went, he brought back nothing. A second time he dived
stayed a long time. When he returned Wisakedjak looked
at his forepaws and sniffed.
smell the smell of earth," he said. "Go again.
If you bring me even a small piece, I will make a wife
for you, Muskrat. She will bear you a great many children.
Have a strong heart now. Go straight down, as far as you
This time Muskrat stayed down so long that Wisakedjak
feared he had drowned. At last they saw some bubbles coming
up through the water. Wisakedjak reached down his long
arm, seized Muskrat, and pulled him up beside them. The
little creature was almost dead, but against his breast
his forepaws held a piece of the old earth.
Wisakedjak seized it, and in a short time he had expanded
the bit of earth into an island. There he, Muskrat, Otter
and Beaver rested and rejoiced that they had not drowned
in the flood.
people say that Wisakedjak obtained a bit of wood, from
which he made the trees; that he obtained some bones,
from which he made the second race of animals.
say that the Creator made all things again. He commanded
the rivers to take the salt water back to the sea. Then
he created mankind, the animals of today, and the trees.
He took from Wisakedjak all power over people and animals
and left him only the power to flatter and to deceive.
After that Wisakedjak played tricks upon the animals and
let them into much mischief. That is why the Indians tell
many stories about him, to amuse themselves during the
long winter evenings.