The Fatherless Child

Willow Ptarmigan_3914

Wâpihyeskwew is said to have been exceedingly beautiful, so much so that the men of her village vied to become her husband. Before being betrothed, however, Wâpihyeskwew mysteriously became pregnant and in time gave birth to a child whose father remained unnamed.

Naturally, the village became determined to identify the one responsible, so the men gathered in a lodge and sat around the firepit to resolve the issue. The baby, they decided, was to be passed around the circle until it felt the need to relieve itself. Whoever the baby peed on, it was declared, would be considered its father.

Infatuated by Wâpihyeskwew’s undying beauty, Ohômisiw was determined to have her as a wife. As the baby was passed from one to another, he started gathering his saliva in anticipation. When the infant finally reached him, he slavered himself and exclaimed, “The baby peed on me!” The man sitting next to him, however, would not be fooled. “Ohômisiw is a liar!” He  declared, “He gathered his saliva and slavered himself to try to fool us!”

Wâpihyeskwew translates as ‘ptarmigan woman’ and ohômisiw as ‘Great horned owl.’ Note that predator/prey relationships are traditionally expressed symbolically as romantic or even sexual relationships, including the relationships that exist between us humans and the animals we depend on.

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