Aniw ye, the Giant Skunk and His Offspring Flung Like Mud

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Original text from Northern Tales: Traditional Stories of Eskimo and Indian Peoples By Howard Norman—Told by Frances Tshasha-Giberson;  Attikamek, Summer, 1982.

This pasta text taken from Shaman’s Drum magazine, Summer,

Aniw ye was a giant skunk, a monster He traveled all over. He searched and searched for people, the Ojibwa. If people hid in the ground, he rooted them up. If people hid in a cave, he stayed by the cave-mouth, and when they came out, there he was—waiting.  He turned around. 

He sprayed them. They died. That was called “sickness,” his spray  It was the only sickness around. That was long ago. The skunk’s spray was the only sickness to worry about. Not like today—today, in a hospital, hardly anyone’s in a bed there because Monster Skunk sprayed them. It still happens, though.  It can happen.

How did skunks get smaller?  I’ll tell you. It was a long time ago. As usual, Aniw ye was looking for Ojibwa. He had been finding them all along. But some days passed, and he hadn’t found any.  He had built up a lot of spray inside him. So he was moving slowly.

Far away, there was a camp. A camp of people. They were going out for a hunt.

“Let’s watch out for Aniw ye,” one said.  

This was always said. It was good to say this. “Let’s watch out for Aniw ye, because he’s out there, and we know he’s looking.”  

They set out but almost right away they found Aniw ye’s tracks.  

“These are empty ponds,” one said.    

“No, those are Aniw ye’s tracks...yes, they’re big.”

“Let’s go in every direction,” one said.

It was agreed, right away. It was agreed, “let’s go in every direction. That way, we might lead Aniw ye away from our camp, and maybe some of us will escape, too.”

They went in every direction. “We’ll meet at Fischer Lake,” one said. “No matter where you go, meet there.  Fischer Lake.”

Fischer Lake was where Giant Fischer lived.  He lived there, people had seen him there, and knew how large he was. They knew Giant Fischer and Aniw ye were enemies.

“What about her?” one said  He pointed to a whittle-up woman. An old woman, the oldest, who looked like a whittled stick. Frail as that. She sat there. “What about her? We can’t hurry to every direction, not if we have to take her?”

This old woman couldn’t walk alone, she fell, she couldn’t see, she fell and couldn’t even see where she’d fallen.  She was hobbled, blind.

One yelled into her ear, “We’re going. We’re running from Aniw ye. He’s nearby.  He’ll kill us.  We’re going.”

But the old one said, “I’m sitting here.”

The rest left here. She was left, sitting by herself. She was inside a hut.

Pretty soon Aniw ye found her. He bit off the top of the hut. He looked there. He saw the old woman. She had built a small fire. “Where’s the rest of your people?” Aniw ye said. The old woman didn’t hear whose voice is was. She thought it was a young man speaking to her. She answered. “They’ve left,” she said.

“They saw Aniw ye’s tracks, and fled. They’re gone. I’m old, can’t see, I’m hobbled, so they left me.”

“I’ll cure you,” said Aniw ye. He turned around. He bent forward, and raised his tail. He sprayed on the hut, and it blew to pieces, and the old woman disappeared. She--pssaaattt!  Gone!

Aniw ye followed a trail, a trail of tracks. He followed a trail of footprints. When he stopped, he looked and saw Fischer Lake. He grew angry, knowing Big Fischer was there. But he wanted those people. He chose to get them.

The people had arrived. They said to Big Fischer, “Aniw ye is on the way. We know this. He’s coming. He wants to kill us.”

Big Fischer said, “I know what to do. I can do it with your help. Listen: when Aniw ye gets near enough to spray, I’ll be hiding behind you. I’ll be hidden. Just when he turns his back, flee. I’ll know what to do. First, I’ll practice.”

Big Fischer pinched off some trees. He squeezed them tightly with his hands, the juices stayed inside though. He did this a few times.

“It’s time,” Big Fischer said.

“Yes--okay,” the people said.

They went out to meet Aniw ye. Giant Skunk was out there, he had crossed the lake. He stood there. The people approached.

Suddenly, Aniw ye spun around, his back toward the people but the people fled. Giant Fischer leapt forward and pinched  closed Aniw ye’s hole!  He kept the juices inside. He kept the spray in. “Let go! Ayu! Ayu! Ayu! Ayu!” Aniw ye screamed. But Big Fischer stayed pinched on him, until Aniw ye was dead; his own juices poisoned him.

“Build up a fire,” Big Fischer said.

The people build a huge fire. They kept tossing branches on. It was sparking up. They tossed Aniw ye on it, and he burnt. His ashes floated up, and where they landed, each became a small skunk. A skeunk like we find today.  That day, the winds were strong, and the ashes were drifted far. That’s why skunks live so many places. There’s plenty of them.