A long time ago the Dakota people were camped along the shores of Spirit Lake (Devils Lake) near what is now the present day town of Minnewaukan, North Dakota. Their camp was a beautiful place where fish were plentiful, the deer roamed nearby, and the people were happy.
One day, as the women were preparing meals near the shore and the children were swimming and playing in the shallows of the lake, a monster appeared suddenly from under the water and grabbed one of the children – dragging them away to their death. The women were in panic! The monster, it was reported, was a rather large, flat bodied creature with short legs, scaly sides, and a broad head with a long snouted mouth containing many sharp teeth. The men took their canoes out onto the lake, but they could find no trace of the child. For many weeks following this incident, the monster would occasionally run up onto the shore and try to steal children, attacked the tribe’s horse, and terrified the Dakota greatly. Nobody could think of what to do to stop this horrible creature from terrorizing the people.
The men of the Dakota held a council to decide what to do. After deliberating for a while, it was decided that a messenger would take tobacco across the lake to a village of Ojibwe who were living on what is now Graham’s Island. At that village was a medicine man who was known to be very powerful and who had faced terrible monsters in the past. It was hoped that he could stop the creature from killing any more Dakota children.
The Dakota envoy rowed across the lake and presented the tobacco to the Ojibwe medicine man. Taking the tobacco, he smoked it and told the Dakota messenger that he would do what he could to help. That night he prepared many herbs and medicines to help him in his quest; he prayed to the manitous to help him and give him strength; and the next morning he took his canoe out to the lake until he found the spot where he suspected the creature was coming from.
The medicine man took some herbs from his pouch and chewed them up. These herbs would give him the power to dive deep into the water and to hold his breath for a very long time. Once he had chewed his medicine, the medicine man dove over the side of his canoe and swam very deep to the bottom of the lake. At the bottom he saw a large hole – a cave of sorts – that he determined led to a series of underground rivers and lakes where the creature was hiding. While there, he took more medicines from his pouch and said prayers to the Manitou. He cast the medicine into the hole and sealed it up so that the creature could not return to that spot again. With that task complete, he swam to the surface and climbed back into his canoe.
The next day and the days following, no trace of the monster was seen. The Dakota invited the Ojibwe to join them for a feast to celebrate the defeat of the creature. For years following this act, the Dakota and Ojibwe lived at peace with each other and shared Spirit Lake and its bounty.