Little Brown Duck Shingebiss (A Chippewa Indian Tale)

Excerpted from “My Book House” (edited by Olive Beaupre Miller)

In his lodge on the shores of Lake Huron lived little brown duck, Shingebiss. When the fierce North Wind swept down from the glittering land of Snow, four great logs for firewood had little brown duck, Shingebiss.

Brave and cheery was Shingebiss. No matter how the North Wind raged, he waddled out across the ice and found what food he needed. Pulling up the frozen rushes that grew in this little pond, he dived down through the holes they left and got his fish for supper. Then away to his lodge he went, dragging a string of fish behind him. By his blazing fire he cooked his fish for supper and made himself warm and cozy.

At last the North Wind shrieked: “Woo-oo-oo! Who dares brave Big Chief North Wind? All other creatures fear him. Only brown duck, Shingebiss, treats Big Chief North Wind as if he were a squaw-breeze!”

So the North Wind sent cold, icy blasts, and he made high drifts of snow, till not a bird or beast dared venture forth save Shingebiss. Shingebiss still went out just as he had before and paid no heed to the weather. He got his fish every day, cooked his supper every night, and warmed himself by his fire. “Ah!” raged Big Chief North Wind, “little brown duck, Shingebiss, cares not for snow or ice! North Wind will freeze his holes, so he can get no food; then Big Chief will conquer him!” So the North Wind froze the holes where the little brown duck fished and heaped his pond with snow.

But when Shingebiss found his holes closed so he could not reach the water, he did not even murmur. He just went cheerily on till he found another pond on which there was no snow. Then he pulled up the rushes there and made new holes for himself through which he could do his fishing.

“Brown Duck shall know who is Chief!” the North Wind howled in anger and, for days and days and days, he followed the little brown duck. He froze up his holes in the ice and covered his ponds with snow.

But Shingebiss walked forth fearlessly, just as he had before. He always got a few fish before each hole was frozen and he still went cheerily home every night dragging his fish with him. “Woo-woo-woo! Woo-woo-woo!” The North Wind now roared in fury. “Big Chief will go to the lodge of little brown duck, Shingebiss. Big Chief will blow in his door, sit down by his side, and breathe icy breath till he freezes.” Now Shingbiss at that moment had just eaten his supper and he was sitting cozily warming his little webbed feet by the blaze of his bright burning fire.

Carefully holding his breath, so Shingebiss should not hear him, quietly, very quietly, North Wind crept up to the lodge. But Shingebiss felt the icy cold come in through the cracks of the door. “I know who is there,” he thought. And begin to sing sturdily: “Ka-neej, Ka-neej, Bee-in, Bee-in, Bon-in, Bon-in, Ok-ee, Ok-ee, Ka-weya, Ka-weya!” And the North Wind knew he was saying: “North Wind, North Wind, fierce in feature, You are still my fellow creature; Blow your worst, you can’t freeze me; I fear you not, and so I’m FREE!”

Then the North Wind was raging, but he kept his voice to a whisper and he said: “Big Chief will freeze him!” So North Wind crept under the door, he slipped up behind little Shingebiss, and sat down by the fire. Now Shingebiss knew he was there, but he paid no heed at all. He kept singing louder: “Ka-neej! Kaneej! Bee-in, Bee-in.”

“Big Chief will stay till he freezes,” whistled the fierce North Wind, and he breathed his iciest breath. But at that moment, Shingebiss leaned over and stirred his fire. A shower of sparks leaped up and the log glowed ruddy gold. The North Wind’s frosty hair began all at once to drip, his icy face started to drip, the tears ran down his cheeks, the mighty puff of his breath grew fainter and fainter and fainter. But Shingebiss still sat warming his little webbed feet by the blaze and he still continued to sing: “North Wind, North Wind, fierce in feature, You are still my fellow creature.”

At length the North Wind gave a shriek. “Big Chief is melting!” he cried. And he rushed headlong through the doorway and flung himself on a snowbank. “Strange little brown duck, Shingebiss,” he murmured weakly to himself. “Big Chief North Wind can’t starve him, can’t freeze him, can’t make him afraid! Ugh! North Wind will let him alone. The Great Spirit is with him.”

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