The Native American Legend of the Sleeping Giant and the Whiteman
Not very long ago, a Native American tribe known as the Ojibwa tribe roamed the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. They were much loved by the powerful god, Nanabozho, who was very pleased with their industrious nature and upstanding character. Yet the times were troubled. The Whiteman had arrived and was slowly destroying the Ojibwa way of life with their firewater and diseases. Nanabozho saw a way to help the peaceful Ojibwa but he warned if ever his kindness was revealed to the Whiteman, he would transform his gift into a curse and vanish into the stones.
The Great Spirit of the Deep Water, Nanabozho took the Ojibwa chief by the hand and showed him a narrow tunnel in the north-northwest area of Thunder Bay in modern-day Ontario Canada. There, the chief saw an enormous silver mine. He quickly called the rest of the tribe together and, after giving thanks and praise to Nanabozho, began to extract the ore. Soon, the Ojibwa became celebrated among the Algonquin Indians for the fine craftsmanship of their silver ornaments. Nanabozho was more beloved than ever, by the Ojibwa as well as by the other tribes.
However, not everyone was content to admire the blessing received by the dutiful Ojibwa tribe. The Sioux warriors grew envious of the silver decorations worn by their enemies. They tracked down the source of the silver and came upon the Ojibwa camp. They tried everything in their power to wrest the secret source of the silver from the Ojibwa tribesmen. They raided the camp, torturing and killing Ojibwa to try and make them divulge the secret location of the mine. Yet, the loyal Ojibwa never once gave away the secret of Nanabozho’s kindness.
People from the Sioux tribe (Public Domain)
Realizing that their blunt tactic was not working, the Sioux decided to take a different approach. The cunning chieftains disguised one of their most beguiling scouts as an Ojibwa tribesman and helped him to enter the camp undetected. Whilst there, the scout watched and listened. Soon, he had found out the location of the secret mine and left quickly to tell the news to his chieftains.
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However, on the way home, the scout made the grave mistake of stopping at a trading post for some food. Having nothing to trade, he offered one of the pieces of silver he had taken from the Ojibwa as proof of his discovery of the mine. The White traders’ eyes grew wide at the sight of such pure silver. As if of one mind, the white men set upon the scout in order to find out where the ore came from.
Unlike the Sioux, the Whiteman is very crafty and subtle in his persuasion. The traders did not even mention the silver or seem surprised that such an unassuming scout would be in possession of such riches. Instead, they offered to buy the scout a drink. And then another and then another and then another until the firewater had clouded the scouts mind and loosened his tongue. Only then did the cunning white traders ask him where he acquired such beautiful silver. The naïve scout, he agreed to show them the mine.
Nanabozho is one of the most powerful gods in the Algonquin pantheon. From him, no knowledge is barred. He had watched the Sioux scout infiltrate the Ojibwa camp undetected and decided to let events play out as they would. However, when he saw the scout grow drunk on the Whiteman’s liquor and tell them the secret source of the silver, Nanabozho knew that he had to intervene.
As the scout and two white traders made their way across the Thunder Bay, Nanabozho summoned a mighty storm. The winds howled, the rain lashed down in torrents, and the waves of Lake Superior rose to the size of mountains. The Algonquin Indians on the shores of the Lake were terrified, for they knew that a storm like this could only be the work of an angry god.
Nanabozho in the flood. (Illustration by R.C. Armour, from his book North American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore and Legends, 1905) (Public Domain)
When the weather finally calmed, the two white traders were dead and the Sioux scout was left huddled in his canoe, babbling like a madman. Moreover, where once had been a wide opening to the bay, now there was a large stone blocking the entrance. It was Nanabozho, lying on his back to block the bay, arms neatly folded across his chest. He had vanished, just has he had foretold would happen if ever the Whiteman knew about the silver mine. The mine itself was submerged under Nanabozho’s foot. The Ojibwa, able to read the signs, abandoned their silver works and thanked Nanabozho for the time they had been allowed to access the mine.
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Aerial view of Sleeping Giant (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Yet the Whiteman knows no such restraint. Mad with greed, he seeks to extract the precious ore from the Bay even to this day. Yet anyone who tries to go down the mineshaft is soon met with the flooding waters of the tides. Many have died in the attempt. Even modern efforts to pump the water out of the shaft have failed. No silver has been extracted from the Sleeping Giant’s Silver Islet ever since.
Bélanger, Claude. "Nanabozho Indian Story of the Creation."L’Encyclopédie De L’histoire Du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia. Marianopolis College, 2004. Web. 15 July 2016. http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/encyclopedia/NanabozhoIndianstoryofthecreation.htm
First People - The Legends. "The Sleeping Giant: An Ojibwa Legend."Native American Indian Legends. The First People, 2016. Web. 15 July 2016. http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TheSleepingGiant-Ojibwa.html
Kaminski, June. "Gichigami." Chi Mandoo. Great Spirit of Anishinabe Ojibwa Ancestors, 2008. Web. http://www.chi-manidoo.com/gichigami2.html
Tourism Board of Thunder Bay. "The Sleeping Giant." The Sleeping Giant. The City of Thunder Bay, 2016. Web. 15 July 2016. http://www.thunderbay.ca/Visiting/Beyond_The_City_Lights/About_Thunder_Bay_and_Region/local_legends/sleeping_giant.htm