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Article: Oral Tradition: The Beginning of the Cree World

Several 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 Indians.

This 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.

Wisakedjak is the principal character in many Cree tales. His name means "the Flatterer." It is spelled also Weesack-kachack.

After 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 each other."

But 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.

This time the creator became very angry. "I will take everything away from you and wash the ground clean." He said.

Still 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.

Wisakedjak 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.

In 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."

He 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."

Still 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."

Then 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."

So 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.

"You 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."

Twice 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."

To 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.

Wisakedjak 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.

"You 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.

"Otter and Beaver are fools," continued Wisakedjak. "They got lost. You will find the ground if you will dive straight down."

So 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.

"I 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 can go."
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.

Joyously, 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.

Some 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.

Others 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.