Legend of Glooscap

The relief was commissioned by the Band Council as a way to depict the well known Glooscap Legend of how Glooscap came to Newfoundland on the back of a whale and how the Mi’kmaq People of Newfoundland came to be known as the “Loon People”.

The K’Taqmkuk Mi’kmaq Museum exhibit is our way of expressing that our legendary guide and protector has heard our call and has returned once more to K’Taqmkuk” (Newfoundland).

The Introduction and Legend is from the book “Glooscap Legends” by Stanley T. Spicer

Lancelot Press


The following is taken from the book “Glooscap Legends” by Stanley T. Spicer

Legends of Glooscap

Introduction

The land of the Wabanaki, the land nearest to the sunrise, comprises the area along the Atlantic seaboard inhabited by numerous Indian tribes including the Micmacs, Malecites, Penobscots and Passamaquoddies. Through the years one of the great legendary figures among these peoples has been the god-man Glooscap.

Glooscap was endowed with supreme powers. He was credited with the creation of many wild creatures and the change in form of others. Even the land was not immune and structures of land and sea were attributed to his handiwork.

The stories of Glooscap and his works often have variances. Claimed by several tribes over a wide geographical area, each tribe passed on legends of its own. If he is known as Glooscap in the Maritime provinces, elsewhere he bore such names as Glooskap, Gluskap, Kuloscap and Klotescarp. There were, however, consistencies. Always he was portrayed as kind, benevolent, a warrior against evil and the possessor of magical powers.

The origin of this mythical figure is unknown. There are resemblances between the deeds of Glooscap and Viking Gods Thor and Odin, which suggest the possibility of contacts between the two races many centuries ago. Then some contend that Prince Henry Sinclair of the Orkney Islands, who visited the Bay of Fundy region and parts of northern and eastern Nova Scotia near the close of the fourteenth century, was the father-figure of Glooscap.

What is known is that two scholars of the Indian way of life were largely responsible for collecting and preserving these legends. Charles G. Leland undertook much work among the Indians in New England while Reverend Silas T. Rand labored for forty years as a missionary among the Micmacs during the last century. Together they put on paper tales that had been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

But the purpose of this work is not to analyze Glooscap. It is simply to present a few stories of his wondrous achievements.

Stanley T. Spicer


The following Mi’kmaw Legend mentions the island of Newfoundland

“The Kidnapping of Glooscap’s Family”

A mighty sorcerer possessed with all the powers of magic had moved into Glooscap’s land. No one knows from where he came but he had only one purpose and that was to destroy Glooscap. This sorcerer, Winpe, left suffering and death wherever he went for he was one of evil.

Once when Glooscap was lodging near Menagwis (Saint John, NB) he went on a hunting trip along the Fundy coast near Quaco. While he was gone Winpe saw his opportunity. He visited Glooscap’s lodge and kidnaped Grandmother and Marten. He planned to take them first to the Passamaquoddy then to Grand Manan, Yarmouth and on to Newfoundland.

Meanwhile Glooscap returned to his camp just as the canoe with the captives was pushing off from shore. He called to Grandmother to send back his dogs which she had taken with her. She placed the two small animals which were no larger than mice in a dish and gave the dish a push toward shore to the waiting hands of Glooscap. When Glooscap was ready to recover his family, he stepped to the shore and chanted his call for a whale. Soon a large whale swam to the shore and Glooscap stepped on his back and the whale swiftly carried him across the bay. On the other side he found a lone teepee in which lived an old man and woman. Carefully he questioned them.

“Yes,” they replied, “Winpe, the evil one, traveled this way with your family. But he has left much magic in your path. Whenever you meet the magic of Winpe you must eat a cranberry.”

Thus warned by the old couple, Glooscap found a cranberry bush and picked several of the berries. Then he hurried along his way. Soon he came to an old camp which the kidnapper had used. An old woman was living there alone.

When Glooscap entered the camp the woman pleaded with him to make a fire. “It is so cold and I am old and tired,” she said. Glooscap agreed to do so but first he ate a cranberry. The woman, who was really one of Winpe’s witches, found her magic gone.

Glooscap continued on his search and with him he carried his two dogs. While tiny in size these dogs could, at their master’s bidding, grow into great, angry beasts able to conquer any living animal or person. So when Glooscap next encountered two savage beasts in his path, left there by Winpe, the dogs each grew into the size of a bear and slew them.

The next obstacle Glooscap met was in the form of two beautiful maidens. These maidens tried to embrace him and thus slip a magic noose over his head which would remove his strength. Again the dogs grew in size and they disposed of the two witches.

Glooscap reached the Strait of Canso only to find that Winpe had gone on to Cape Breton.

Calling his whale he travelled to Cape North. But Winpe had now gone to Newfoundland. Again the whale was called upon and soon Glooscap landed in Newfoundland.

It was not long before he found Winpe’s camp. Watching through the bush he saw Grandmother and Marten cutting wood for the evil one. Both looked starved, their clothes in rags. Glooscap was angry and he quickly thought of a plan.

He threw a small stone and caught Marten’s attention. Marten, hungry and exhausted, smiled in joy at seeing the Master. Silently he edged toward Glooscap’s hiding place. But Winpe saw Marten edging away and began to come after him. Marten began to run and as soon as he reached Glooscap the two retreated into the forest depths. Then Glooscap hid the boy behind a large tree and waited for his enemy.

Winpe came crashing through the brush. Suddenly, he was face to face with Glooscap. He was surprised but only momentarily. Winpe called on all his powers and prepared for battle by growing larger than any human on earth. Up and up he grew until his head towered above the tallest tree. But Glooscap was not idle. He was growing apace and soon his head reached the very clouds. Winpe surrendered. Glooscap, knowing that no being as evil as Winpe should be allowed to remain on earth, killed him with a blow of his mighty bow. Thus after his long search his family was with him again.

Before leaving Newfoundland, Glooscap came upon a village of loons. They entertained the Master and his family royally and in turn he bestowed upon them many favors. As he left he told them to always remember him and to call if they needed his help. This was the birth of the peculiar, haunting, shrill cry of the loons. They are calling for Glooscap.

The end

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