There was once a young man named Sikihpsis, who was out hunting with his older friend Meschakanis. It was early winter and the ground was dusted with snow and it was easy to track deer and moose. They were deep in the woods and on the trail of what looked like a huge moose when a sudden snowstorm swept in. They soon became lost and were terrified that they might die if they couldn’t find shelter soon.
As they staggered around in the blinding snow, Meschakanis spotted a wigwam in the distance. They lost sight of it several times in the whiteout, but eventually they made their way there and entered the door. The lodge was empty and looked like it was abandoned many seasons ago, but it offered them shelter from the storm and they soon had a warm fire going to warm themselves. Eventually they fell asleep.
During the middle of the night, Sikihpsis was awakened by an intense chill. He wondered if the fire had gone out and he sat up to get more wood and rekindle it. To his horror he saw a strange woman with black hair and white clothes kneeling over his friend Meschakanis’ body. Her hair draped around his face and she was making a horrible sucking sound!
As she sat up from Meschakanis’ body, Sikihpsis noticed that his friend looked like he was frozen as ice. The woman turned to Sikihpsis and crawled forward towards him. She pushed him down on his back and soon her face was so close to his that he could see her terrible black eyes and his face was surrounded by her hair. As she stared into his eyes, she suddenly stopped and sat back. She said to him, “My, aren’t you a handsome young boy. I would kill you as I did your friend, but it would be a shame to waste such beauty.” She continued, “I will spare your life, but you must never tell anyone what you saw here this night, or I will kill you.” With that, she turned from Sikihpsis and crawled out of the lodge, leaving him frozen in fear. Sikihpsis soon rekindled the fire and was sad for the death of his friend. The next day he made his way back to his village and slept for several days. He never told anyone what he saw. When asked what happened to his friend Meschakanis, Sikihpsis said that he had fallen through the ice and was lost.
That spring, Sikihpsis was out hunting for ducks when he happened to run into a strange and beautiful young girl. She was not from his village and when he asked her who she was, she said that her name was Keewatin, and that she was on her way to visit her relatives on the other side of the lake. They began to talk and soon they were happily gazing into each other’s eyes and Sikihpsis forgot all about hunting ducks that day. Sikihpsis asked her to come visit his mother and to take a rest for a while, as the walk to the other side of the lake would take a long time and she should rest before she undertook such a journey. She accepted and his mother was very taken with Keewatin. After a few days, Keewatin seemed to forget all about her trip to visit relatives and eventually Sikihpsis and Keewatin married.
Years went by and Keewatin gave Sikihpsis ten beautiful and strong children. She was a loving wife and he was a loving husband to her.
One cold and blustery winter night when they were sitting in their lodge, Sikihpsis thought of the night when his friend Meschakanis was killed and he was spared death at the hands of the ice witch. He looked at his beautiful wife, to whom he had always told the truth, and a sudden urge came to him to tell her about that night. She was peacefully sitting next to the fire sewing. Sikihpsis sat down next to her and said, “My wife, I have never told anyone what I am about to tell you.” He continued, “Once, on a night just like tonight, I encountered a witch who killed my friend with her cold breath and who spared me.” Keewatin looked at him and said, “Why do you tell me this?” Sikihpsis said, “I love you and you are my closest confidant. I feel that I must tell someone, or else I may go mad.”
Keewatin stood up. She turned to Sikihpsis and he saw that her eyes were the cold, black eyes that had stared into his all those years ago! Keewatin screamed, “Why did you speak of that? Why did you speak of that night? I should kill you for that, because now I cannot stay with you any longer!” She seemed to radiate cold and Sikihpsis shivered and shrank away from her. She said, “Sikihpsis! Now I must leave, but again I will spare your life! Our children need a father, but you have robbed them of a mother by speaking of that night. You have broken the spell and I must now return to the forest where I must haunt the trees during the winter.” She then turned and rushed from the lodge and Sikihpsis sat alone, cold and crying for Keewatin.
From that day forward, every winter, Sikihpsis searched the forests around his camp whenever a snowstorm blew, hoping to see his beloved Keewatin. He sometimes thought he heard her voice in the wind, or caught a glimpse of her through the driving sleet, but he never saw his beloved wife again.