Origin Story

Told in English by James Frechette

Told in Menominee by Mike Hoffman


When Grandfather made the earth, he also made the sun and the stars. He then created the many spirit beings and gave them the forms of animals and birds. The animals were the underground beings. The principle underground being is the great Silvery White Bear. The birds, mostly eagles and hawks, are the Thunderers. The sky dwellers. The principal Thunderer is the Invisible Thunderer and is represented by the Golden Eagle symbol.

Grandmother, the earth, gave birth to a daughter, the moon. The daughter gave birth to twins. One of the twins grew to become a man. Grandfather gave him many powers so that he could complete the building of the world. He built the hills and the mountains, and made the forests, lakes and rivers.

When the building was completed and before there were people on the earth, at the place where the Village River meets the Bay In Spite of Itself, a Great Light Colored Bear emerged from underground and started traveling up the river. As he traveled he spoke to Grandfather. When Grandfather saw that the Bear was still an animal, he determined to allow the Bear to change his form. The bear was pleased at what Grandfather was going to grant him. So Grandfather changed him into a man, and he became the first Menominee, though he still kept his light skin.

The Great Ancestral Bear traveled along the river and after awhile found that he was alone. Looking up to the sky, he saw a great Golden Eagle circling overhead. He decided to call to himself the Golden Eagle and said: "Golden Eagle, come down and be my brother." Thereupon the Eagle descended, changed into a man, and became the brother of the Bear.

The two Brothers then traveled together. While they continued traveling up the river, they pondered on who they would call upon next to become their Brothers. While considering, they saw a Beaver approaching. When they met, the Beaver requested to be taken into the clan of the Thunderers. But, being a woman, was called Beaver Woman, and instead was adopted as the younger Brother of the Bear.

As the journey continued the Bear also adopted the Wolf, the Crane, and the Moose as Brothers, and each changed into a man. The five Brothers traveled up the river. One day the Bear told the Wolf, Crane, Moose, and Golden Eagle to go on separate journeys. Through their travels, each Brother met other animals and birds and each Brother adopted some of them as Younger Brothers. The Younger Brothers changed into men, and all together became the first Menominee people.