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Raised-By-His-Grandmother

This version of the legend comes from Pliny Earle Goddard's 1917 collection Chipewyan Texts.

An old woman heard a little child crying. After she had looked for him some time she discovered him sitting under a caribou chip. As he was a very little child she put him in her mitten, carried him home, and undertook to raise him. Whenever caribou were killed, and his grandmother went out after meat, the boy asked her to bring him the feet of the young caribou. One time when she went out after meat, the boy sat and waited for her return. When he saw her coming, he began calling to her, " Grandmother, the feet, the feet." "Grandson," his grandmother said, "the feet are not for you. You are not the only child. 'He is always asking for young caribou feet. This time he shall not have them,' they said about you." " Let them all freeze, let them freeze," he said. " What will your uncles do, if you say that?" his grandmother asked. "'May they find the last poor bear, the last poor bear,' you may say," he said. Then he told his grandmother when they moved camp, "Do not take me along." "What will we do? We shall die for want of meat," she said. "No, we will not die," the boy replied.

When the people had all moved away, the boy went back to the campsites and pulled away the partly burned sticks from the fireplaces. After a while, he came to the deserted camp of his uncles where he found the partly burned feet and hoofs of the caribou. "It looks like partly burned hoofs right here," the boy said to his grandmother. " Grandmother, carry me over in that direction." She took him on her back and carried him. When she had gone a long distance she put him down to rest. "Grandmother, sit there and fish in that small slough." "There are not any fish there, grandson," she replied. " Yes, there are," he said. The old woman then cut a hole through the ice and let down a hook into the water of the small slough. She immediately pulled out a large trout. " Put the hook in again," the boy said. When she put the hook down again, she pulled out a jackfish. "That is enough," the boy said. "We will camp not far from here." She made a shelter of spruce boughs in which they lived for some time.

"Make snowshoes for me," the boy said one day to his grandmother. She made him small round snowshoes. Then he asked her to make him some arrows. When she made them he wanted her to dress him. As soon as she had done so, he said, " Put on my snowshoes. I am going outside a little way to play." When he had been gone some time his grandmother went out to look for him. She followed his tracks for some distance and then came where his snowshoes, his arrows, and his poor little clothes were lying. From that place there was only a line of caribou tracks. His grandmother turned back, crying, and saying to herself, "My little grandson has left me and become a caribou." When she got back to her camp, she sat far into the night waiting for him and crying. She heard something outside and later heard a noise again. "What can it be," she thought. It was Raised-by-his-grandmother who came into the house and said, " Take off my belt." As his grandmother loosened it, many caribou tongues fell out. "We will go after them to-morrow," he said. "Where I went, there were many caribou."

The next day, as his grandmother was carrying him along, the boy pointed the way saying, " It is over there." When they came to the top of a hill near a large lake she saw something lying on the ice. " There they are," the boy said. As they were walking along together on the lake, he said, " That young caribou, the farthest one that lies dead over there, laughed too much at me. Roast its head for me." She saw that he had killed many caribou. While he was playing with them, he bit their tongues and killed them all. They camped there by the shore of the lake, where the old woman dressed the caribou and brought them into the camp. "I am going to play with the head you roasted for me, grandmother," the boy said. He took it out-of-doors to play with, and the magpies ate it up.

After a while, without his grandmother's knowledge, the boy went to the place where those who had left them had camped. He found where they had scraped the snow from the ice to fish. All the people had frozen except his uncles who had found a bear. The uncles found the tracks of a young caribou on the ice and the spruce with which he had cleared it of snow. " Perhaps it was not just a caribou that did it," the uncles said to each other. " May be it was the small child we left behind which mother was carrying." They followed the tracks of the caribou until they came to a big lake. There they found where he had walked along with small round snowshoes. These tracks led them to the place where Raised-by- his-grandmother was living with her. They had much meat there.

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More stories to read:

 Native American nature legends
 Native American hero tales
 Legends about caribou

Learn more about:

 Dene myths
 Dene language
 Chipewyan people



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