Why we leave part of our kill for the wolves
The old man was laying on the floor of his lodge. He knew that the end of his life was near, so he called for his two eldest children to come to him. Holding their hands, he spoke: “My son…my daughter. My ancestors are calling to me and I must soon go.” He gathered his strength and continued, “If you wish to honor me, after I am gone you must look out for your younger brother Ma’iingan . Be kind to him for my sake. He is small and doesn’t yet know how to set the trap or to hunt. Therefore he needs your love and guidance since I will not be here to pass my knowledge on to him. Do your duty and help him.”
The old man soon died and there was great mourning in the village.
For a while the brother heeded his father’s words and did his best to care for little Ma’iingan. But after a while the responsibility became too much for him and he said to himself, “I am a young man and should be going to war, hunting with the men, and being free, not caring for a child who cannot even help himself.” He then left his lodge, took his finest horse to a man whose daughter he had long desired before he had to abandon his dreams to care for Ma’iingan, and took the girl for his wife. The elder brother and his new wife soon left to go trapping in the woods, leaving little Ma’iingan all by himself.
The elder sister, recently returned from berrying with the other women came home to find her elder brother gone and poor Ma’iingan alone and crying. Ma’iingan told her that for many days he had been alone and scared. The elder sister wept for Ma’iingan more than for herself, but soon she realized that it would be entirely up to her to care for Ma’iingan.
For many long months the sister hunted wide and far, caring for little Ma’iingan tenderly. But soon the loneliness and burden of caring for him all by herself grew wearisome. She sighed and said to herself, “Is this what my life is to be? Must I work all day and abandon hope of finding a husband and having children of my own?” So she put on her finest clothes, reddened her cheeks, and went forth and made eyes at the young men. One of them decided to take her as his wife, and soon, like the elder brother, she quite forgot about little Ma’iingan and her father's dying request.
Little Ma’iingan was left alone within the lodge. He waited and waited with a shrinking heart. Every time he heard a leaf rustle or a twig snap, he was sure it was his sister come home to hug him and cook him supper. Whenever he heard the wind he thought that maybe it was his brother returned to teach him to hunt. But it was not.
Soon his hope grew less and less, and then went out entirely. The sounds he thought were his brother and sister returned changed from hope to fear. In his frightened mind, the snapping twigs were monsters creeping up to grab him; the blowing wind was the Wendigo calling his name before coming to devoir him. Soon what little food his sister had left him was gone. He made due by digging for roots and gathering nearby berries. But Winter came at last, and, when the snow heaped on the lodge he was fast becoming ravenous from hunger.
Late in the Spring, the elder brother had returned from his trapping and was curious as to how his brother and sister were faring. He was walking up to the edge of the clearing where his family's wigwam stood. As he came into the clearing, he heard a low moaning noise that sounded half like a child and half like a wolf. Something in his heart said, “It is my brother Ma’iingan’s voice!” Searching the area he soon spotted a shape that was, from the neck down gray with shaggy hair. The face was that of his brother Ma’iingan, but it was maddened and the eyes rolled in his head. The elder brother cried, “Oh Ma’iingan! My brother, speak to me! Do you not know me, that I am your brother? Come to me, little Ma’iingan, I have come to care for you and I am sorry that I left.”
Ma’iingan was silent for a time. It was as if it was difficult for him to summon up a human voice. Then he spoke in the raspy voice of a wolf: “I know you not, and you are not my brother!” Ma’iingan continued, “I have no other brother than the wolves, and until your heart changes and the hearts of the people change, you are unworthy of calling the wolf your brother.” Ma’iingan then groaned and turned entirely into a wolf that ran away.
From that day forward the brother always made sure to leave some of his kill to offer to his brother Ma’iingan and the other wolves. He instructed the other Anishinaabe to do the same thing. In this way, we apologize for how Ma’iingan as neglected and ask him and the wolves to be our brothers once again.
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