Who Calls? The Legend of the Qu'Appelle River

One of the most beautiful rivers of the Canadian north-west is the Qu'Appelle River. The name Qu'Appelle means “Who Calls”, a French name that was derived from its Cree name Kah-tep-was, or the “River that Calls”. The river flows through a beautiful valley, which is well wooded in some places, and it is connected with an interesting Indian legend.


Long ago, in the heart of autumn, the beauty of Indian summer was casting its glory over the valley. A young Cree man was traveling from the south to claim his promised bride from a village where her family lived. He paddled alone in his birchbark canoe along the beautiful river, enjoying the glorious leaves in change. Day after day he paddled, dreaming of his beloved, and of their future happiness when they returned to his village.

As darkness approached one evening, he found himself in an area that was had clusters of beautiful forest on both sides of the river. Ahead of him lay the broad stream winding through open prairie, and a far distance beyond that was the village where his future bride dwelt. Rather than stop, he decided he would paddle on. However, soon a foreboding feeling of coming evil crept up on his mind. He couldn’t understand what could be causing it, but a chill ran down his back. As he was surrounded on both sides by trees, he worried it might be the Dakota Sioux seeking to ambush him, but instead of being attacked he heard someone call his name!


​Quite distinctly he heard his name called again. It floated across to him on the quiet evening air. He looked around to see if anybody was in sight, but the only thing he saw was a hawk soaring above the tops of the trees. “Who calls?” he shouted as bravely as he could, while fear seized his heart. “Who calls?” There was no reply—only the gentle breeze rustling through the colorful leaves, and the rippling of the water under his canoe. He raised his voice: “Who calls?” Again he heard his name, distinctly spoken, but not by a mortal voice he could see. Full of foreboding, he quickly paddled for the open prairie and the bright moonlight it offered.


The stream now left the forest behind, and glided into open country. After a while he thought he could see the fires of the village where his beloved lived in the distance. His mood lightened and he paddled hard, hoping to get there in short time. He soon landed his canoe and walked up the bank to where her lodge was. As he drew near the lodge, he saw her family gathered around, but their faces were sullen and many were painted black. Some of the women were wailing! It was the death song chanted for a departing spirit.


He soon found that his betrothed had fallen sick with smallpox. As she lay dying, she had called out his name several times. He thought of the voice he had heard in the woods. In silent sorrow he turned and left the village. He re-entered his canoe, floated away on the bosom of the beautiful river, and was never heard of again.

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