How Dogs Came To The Indians

An Ojibwa story*


Two Ojibwa Indians in a canoe had been blown far from shore by a great
wind. They had gone far and were hungry and lost. They had little strength
left to paddle, so they drifted before the wind. 

At last their canoe was blown onto a beach and they were glad, but not for
long. Looking for the tracks of animals, they saw some huge footprints
that they knew must be those of a giant. They were afraid and hid in the
bushes. As they crouched low, a big arrow thudded into the ground close
beside them. Then a huge giant came toward them. A caribou hung from his
belt, but the man was so big that it looked like a rabbit. He told them that
he did not hurt people and he like to be a friend to little people, who
seemed to the giant to be so helpless. He asked the two lost Indians to
come home with him, and since they had no food and their weapons had
been lost in the storm at sea, they were glad to go with him. 

An evil Windigo spirit came to the lodge of the giant and told the two men
that the giant had other men hidden away in the forest because he like to
eat them. The Windigo pretended to be a friend, but he was the one who
wanted the men because he was an eater of people. The Windigo became
very angry when the giant would not give him the two men, and finally the
giant became angry too. He took a big stick and turned over a big bowl with
it. 

A strange animal which the Indians had never seen before lay on the floor,
looking up at them. It looked like a wolf to them, but the giant called the
animal 'Dog.' The giant told him to kill the evil Windigo spirit. The beast
sprang to its feet, shook himself, and started to grow, and grow, and grow.
The more he shook himself, the more he grew and the fiercer he became. He
sprang at the Windigo and killed him; then the dog grew smaller and
smaller and crept under the bowl. 

The giant saw that the Indians were much surprised and pleased with Dog
and said that he would give it to them, though it was his pet. He told the
men that he would command Dog to take them home. They had no idea how
this could be done, though they had seen that the giant was a maker of
magic, but they thanked the friendly giant for his great gift. 

The giant took the men and the dog to the seashore and gave the dog a
command. At once it began to grow bigger and bigger, until it was nearly
as big as a horse. The giant put the two men onto the back of the dog and
told them to hold on very tightly. As Dog ran into the sea, he grew still
bigger and when the water was deep enough he started to swim strongly
away from the shore. 

After a very long time, the two Ojibwa began to see a part of the seacoast
that they knew, and soon the dog headed for shore. As he neared the beach,
he became smaller and smaller so that the Indians had to swim for the
last part of their journey. The dog left them close to their lodges and
disappeared into the forest. When the men told their tribe of their
adventure, the people though that the men were speaking falsely. "Show us
even the little mystery animal, Dog, and we shall believe you," a chief
said. 

A few moons came and went and then, one morning while the tribe slept,
the dog returned to the two men. It allowed them to pet it and took food
from their hands. The tribe was very much surprised to see this new
creature. It stayed with the tribe. 

That, as the Indians tell, was how the first dog came to the earth. 

*Ojibwa

   {oh-jib'-way}
   The Ojibwa (or Chippewa) are a tribe of Algonquian-speaking North
   American Indians of the Upper Great Lakes. When first encountered in
   the 1600s by French explorers near Sault Sainte Marie, Canada, their
   small bands lived in tiny, self-governing villages without any tribal
   organization. Later, as they prospered in the fur trade and expanded
   their population and territory, the Ojibwa developed new tribal-level
   institutions, including the Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society. By
   the late 18th century the Ojibwa had driven the Iroquois out of the
   Ontario peninsula. They also moved into western Wisconsin and
   northeastern Minnesota, driving away the powerful Santee Sioux after
   a long war. In the early 19th century Ojibwa communities existed in
   the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and
   the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana,
   and Ohio. Generally located in areas remote from English and
   American frontier settlements, the Ojibwa managed to maintain many
   of their traditional cultural traits, such as skill in woodcraft and the
   use of birchbark canoes. The name Ojibwa is favored in Canada, but
   Chippewa is more often used in the United States. Chippewa on or
   near U. S. reservations number about 50,000 (1989 est.).

   James A. Clifton