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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Snake God Of Belle Isle

Title:     The Snake God Of Belle Isle
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

The Indian demi-god, Sleeping Bear, had a daughter so beautiful that he kept her out of the sight of men in a covered boat that swung on Detroit River, tied to a tree on shore; but the Winds, having seen her when her father had visited her with food, contended so fiercely to possess her that the little cable was snapped and the boat danced on to the keeper of the water-gates, who lived at the outlet of Lake Huron. The keeper, filled with admiration for the girl's beauty, claimed the boat and its charming freight, but he had barely received her into his lodge when the angry Winds fell upon him, buffeting him so sorely that he died, and was buried on Peach Island (properly Isle au Peche), where his spirit remained for generations--an oracle sought by Indians before emprise in war. His voice had the sound of wind among the reeds, and its meanings could not be told except by those who had prepared themselves by fasting and meditation to receive them. Before planning his campaign against the English, Pontiac fasted here for seven days to "clear his ear" and hear the wisdom of the sighing voice.

But the Winds were not satisfied with the slaying of the keeper. They tore away his meadows and swept them out as islands. They smashed the damsel's boat and the little bark became Belle Isle. Here Manitou placed the girl, and set a girdle of vicious snakes around the shore to guard her and to put a stop to further contests. These islands in the straits seem to have been favorite places of exile and theatres of transformation. The Three Sisters are so called because of three Indian women who so scolded and wrangled that their father was obliged to separate them and put one on each of the islands for the sake of peace.

It was at Belle Isle that the red men had put up and worshipped a natural stone image. Hearing of this idol, on reaching Detroit, Dollier and De Galinee crossed over to it, tore it down, smashed it, flung the bigger piece of it into the river, and erected a cross in its place. The sunken portion of the idol called aloud to the faithful, who had assembled to wonder at the audacity of the white men and witness their expected punishment by Manitou, and told them to cast in the other portions. They did so, and all the fragments united and became a monster serpent that kept the place from further intrusion. Later, when La Salle ascended the straits in his ship, the Griffin, the Indians on shore invoked the help of this, their manitou, and strange forms arose from the water that pushed the ship into the north, her crew vainly singing hymns with a hope of staying the demoniac power.

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Charles M. Skinner's short story: Snake God Of Belle Isle