he Origin of the Medicine Mask


Story provided by Jake Thomas,

When the Creator created Mother Earth, he also provided all the necessities for the livelihood of mankind. Before he created man he went on a journey to inspect and check all his creations making sure nothing would interfere with his plans for mankind. During his travel he met with an unknown being which he did not know existed.

The Creator questioned the unknown being, "Where do you come from?"

The unknown being replied, "I have been here ever since the earth was created."

The unknown being questioned the Creator, "Where do you come from?

The Creator replied, "I am traveling and examining my creations because I am about to create man to walk on earth as I wish him to be happy and content."

The unknown being explained why he thought he was the creator: "I have originated from the circulating air which surrounds the earth. Now, we both think we created Mother Earth. The Creator agreed, "This shall happen. Now, we shall turn around with our backs toward the mountain. You shall be first."

The unknown commanded the cliffs of the highest mountain, "Move forward right against our backs."

Shortly afterward, the Creator spoke again, "We shall turn ourselves around and face the mountain." As this was done the Creator saw that the mountain had moved half the distance from where they were standing. The Creator then realized the unknown being had strength and power.

Anxiously and more determined, the unknown being spoke, "It's your turn."

The Creator commanded the mountain to return to its original place. The mountain did return to its original place.

The Creator said, "We shall turn ourselves around." He commanded the cliffs of the highest mountain, "Move forward right against our backs."

With the roar of the mountain, the unknown being was so healthy and lively, swiftly turned around and bumped his nose against the cliff which had moved so near to their backs. The unknown being then realized the Creator had more strength and power and that the Creator was the Creator of this earth.

With much pain, the unknown being spoke, "It is true that you are the 'finisher' of Mother Earth."

The Creator warned, "It wouldn't be right if you stayed here on earth because you have such great power. It wouldn't be right for you to be seen by the people for they would be frightened when they see you because you are so ugly. This is the reason I must send you to another place."

The unknown being begged and pleaded, "I would be very grateful if I could stay here on earth and help the people as you have witnessed my extra-ordinary power. As the people stand on earth, I shall guard and protect them with my power. I am able to stop sickness. It shall be my duty to drive away any illness which may come to the people. If a high wind, tornado, or hurricane comes to destroy the earth, I shall stand in front with my extra-ordinary strength and power to protect the people so they will be content and happy and I shall see that this lasts as long as man continues to populate the earth."

The Creator asked, "What shall the people call you?"

The unknown being spoke, "It would only seem right that the people shall call me grandfather, Hatowi:kwa, because of my extra-ordinary power. My clothing comes from the skins of a large animal which serves as a guardian and it also has strength and power."

"I have a stave which is made from the mighty hickory and stands out from all others. It serves as a cane to steady me when I move about. If a mighty wind comes, I shall hold the stave high in the clouds to prevent it from destroying the earth. The stave shall pierce the ground and go as far as the roots of the mighty hickory and you shall know how far my strength and power go. It shall keep all harmful creatures underground so the people shall be content and happy."

"I shall make noise with my (snapping) turtle rattle which shall be as loud as it is strong to drive away disease. As I move about with my rattle, I shall make a noise so loud that the whole world shall notice my strength and power."

"You are bringing mankind to walk on earth, I shall work with them. One (of them) shall go to a living basswood tree in the forest, burn the sacred tobacco so he may communicate with me, and I shall assist him as he carves an image of me. This mask shall be used by the men of the medicine mask society. I shall stand behind their backs and transfer my powers to them. When my grandchildren think of me, I shall sense it, I shall go and assist them in whatever way they desire. The ceremony shall be held in the individual's home where my grandchildren shall also become members of this society. I shall help with my strength and power to guard and protect the people so they shall be happy and content. The mask shall be taken to various ceremonies to revitalize its strength and power."

"There is a large-size flower which grows upon this earth called the sunflower. It is to be gathered by my grandchildren, the oil shall be extracted and my face shall be anointed with this oil. If any harm, illness, or calamity comes I shall see that this would not destroy your creations. My face shall shine as a beam of light and immediately all danger shall cease, nothing shall harm the living, and this should remain known to my grandchildren."

You have supplied the white-corn from which my grandchildren shall prepare my food (the parched corn) it shall be made into mush. The sacred tobacco shall be burnt by my grandchildren as it is an offering to me. The sacred tobacco is used to bind the promise we made and this is the way it shall be in future. The pot of mush prepared shall be placed before me as it is my most favorite food during the time of feasting and a portion of this food must be set aside for my spirit, the remainder you shall share among you. My grandchildren shall think of me at the time when there is a change in the circulating air, in the spring and in the fall.

"Also, there is a certain tree called the hard-maple which will give an abundance of sap and when the people see the sap running that is the time it shall be harvested: When the circulation of air warms up, this is the time when things you planted (created) become new. The people shall tap the trees by drilling a hole in the tree and plugging the hole with a sumac sprout. The maple sap shall drip into dug-outs made from split pine blocks, carried in elm bark vessels by the people, boiled in earthen pots in an open fire until it forms into maple sugar. The maple sugar is added to flavor the mush that has been especially prepared for me. As the seasons warms up (when the cool air changes into warm air) the people are happy because they see this once more. My grandchildren shall know the medicine mask society is about to visit them in their homes. "

"Also, my grandchildren shall prepare themselves for planting season. From that time on, with my strength and power shall guard and protect the newly planted corn crops (and other crops) from any disease, floods, or high winds. In the surrounding villages where my grandchildren live, the circulating air shall change again and that is the time the newly ripened food supply (the three sisters: corn, beans and squash) shall be harvested. The large squash shall be taken and added to flavor the mush that has been especially prepared for me at that time (when the warm air changes into the cool air). During this period, my grandchildren shall know the medicine mask society is about to visit them again in their homes. "

"When the air is very cold and there are strong winds, I shall help with my strength and power to guard and protect the people from any danger the cold weather may bring so they will be happy and content."

The Creator spoke, "I have chosen a place for you, where you shall stay at the cliffs of the highest Mountain. You shall never be seen by the people as you are so ugly and you have such extra-ordinary power. You have mentioned certain things which your grand children shall follow and I agree it shall be that way. We shall combine our strength and power to support the people so they shall be happy and content and this is the way they shall know it for time to come. There shall be other people (not yet born). It will only be right that they cherish and fulfill these promises for time to come. Always remembering, this is the way we have promised one another from the very beginning of time.”

Now this was confirmed by our Grandfather, Hato’wi, and the Creator.

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