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A short story by Charles M. Skinner


Title:     Mackinack
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

Not only was Mackinack the birthplace of Hiawatha: it was the home of God himself--Gitchi Manitou, or Mitchi Manitou--who placed there an Indian Adam and Eve to watch and cultivate his gardens. He also made the beaver, that his children might eat, and they acknowledged his goodness in oblations. Bounteous sacrifices insured entrance after death to the happy hunting-grounds beyond the Rocky Mountains. Those who had failed in these offerings were compelled to wander about the Great Lakes, shelterless, and watched by unsleeping giants who were ten times the stature of mortals.

These giants still exist, but in the form of conical rocks, one of which-called Sugar-Loaf, or Manitou's Wigwam--is ninety feet high. A cave in this obelisk is pointed out as Manitou's abiding-place, and it was believed that every other spire in the group had its wraith, whence has come the name of the island--Michillimackinack (place of great dancing spirits). Arch Rock is the place that Manitou built to reach his home from Sunrise Land the better. There were many such monuments of divinities in the north. They are met with all about the lakes and in the wooded wilderness, the most striking one being the magnificent spire of basalt in the Black Hills region of Wyoming. It is known as Devil's Tower, or Mateo's Tepee, and by the red men is held to be the wigwam of a were-animal that can become man at pleasure. This singular rock towers above the Belle Fourche River to a height of eight hundred feet.

Deep beneath Mackinack was a stately and beautiful cavern hall where spirits had their revels. An Indian who got leave to quit his body saw it in company with one of the spirits, and spread glowing reports of its beauties when he had clothed himself in flesh again. When Adam and Eve died they, too, became spirits and continued to watch the home of Manitou.

Now, there is another version of this tradition which gives the, original name of the island as Moschenemacenung, meaning "great turtle." The French missionaries and traders, finding the word something too large a mouthful, softened it to Michillimackinack, and, when the English came, three syllables served them as well as a hundred, so Mackinack it is to this day. Manitou, having made a turtle from a drop of his own sweat, sent it to the bottom of Lake Huron, whence it brought a mouthful of mud, and from this Mackinack was created. As a reward for his service the turtle was allowed to sleep there in the sun forever.

Yet another version has it that the Great Spirit plucked a sand-grain from the primeval ocean, set it floating on those waters, and tended it until it grew so large that a young wolf, running constantly, died of old age before reaching its limits. The sand became the earth. Prophecy has warned the Winnebagoes that Manibozho (Michabo or Hiawatha) shall smite by pestilence at the end of their thirteenth generation. Ten are gone. All shall perish but one pure pair, who will people the recreated world. Manibozho, or Minnebojou, is called a "culture myth," but the Indians have faith in him. They say that he lies asleep on the north shore of Lake Superior, beneath the "hill of four knobs," known as the Sleeping Giant. There offerings are made to him, and it was a hope of his speedy rising that started the Messiah craze in the West in 1890.

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Charles M. Skinner's short story: Mackinack