A Cree Legend
Before Creation the world was a great and unending lake with no shore. There was no light upon the earth because Pîsim the sun would only visit when it wanted to, so everything was cold and mostly in darkness. Because he was tired of living in darkness and anxious to keep the sun from wandering away, Wisakedjak constructed an enormous snare trap to catch the sun.
The next time Pîsim came near the earth he was caught in Wisakedjak’s trap. Pîsim struggled in vain to get free, but the rawhide cords of Wisakedjak’s trap were too strong. Pîsim grew angry and he flashed and raged. Because he was so close to the earth, his fires threatened to burn everything up. Wisakedjak worried that the waters would turn to steam, so he decided to make a deal with the Pîsim, because although he was frightened of Pîsim’s fires, he still wanted his light and warmth.
Wisakedjak told Pîsim that he would give him his freedom back, but that he must come to the earth as often as he left the earth – creating a morning when he came; a day while he was here; and an evening when he went away. The night would be the time when Pîsim was free to go elsewhere. Pîsim agreed to do this if Wisakedjak would set him free.
But now another difficulty presented itself. Pîsim could not free himself from the trap, and Pîsim’s intense heat and fires prevented Wisakedjak from getting close enough to untie Pîsim. Wisakedjak asked all of the creatures if they could untie Pîsim, but as each one went close to Pîsim his heat and fire would burn them terribly and they could not do it because they feared to die.
Of all the animals, the Amisk the beaver was the last to try. Amisk was an ugly creature, having big, flat teeth in his head and ugly fur that was all coarse and bristly hair like that of a pig. Using his teeth, Amisk chewed and chewed at the rawhide snare. All the while Pîsim’s fires burned Amisk’s fur, which was smoking and curling away from the heat. Eventually, Amisk succeeded in chewing through the cords, and Pîsim rose from the earth and took his rightful place far away (but not too far) from earth
Seeing that Amisk no longer had any fur – having it burned away by Pîsim’s fires – Wisakedjak called to Amisk and thanked him for his service to the world. Wisakedjak rewarded Amisk by giving him the most beautiful, soft coat of fur. Even though he had a new fur coat, Amisk found that his teeth had turned a brown color because they were scorched by fire. Amisk asked for new teeth, but Wisakedjak told him that he should wear his teeth as a badge of honor, showing the world that he once saved them from the fires of Pîsim.
This is how the beaver came to have the most beautiful fur and their distinctive brown teeth.