The legend of the Mishtamishk

It is said that a great bear lives in Lake Pekuakami (lake of the Porcupine nation or Lake Saint-Jean) lives. He is called Mishtamishk. There was a «divergence» at one location and a magnificent forest along the shore.

It was there that the great beaver built his lodge. The one called Mishtapeu, the giant, arrived at this location, saw the beaver and chased him. He tried a number of times all around Lake Pekuakami until nightfall, but that day he did not succeed in catching the great beaver.

He decided to wait near to the dam in order to be aware of the beaver if he ever came out of his lodge to try to escape.

Mishtamishk had a friend, it was Utshashk, the muskrat. He went to check whether Mishtapeu was sleeping, since he was watching for the beaver. And the latter said «Yes, he is going to sleep soon ».

The muskrat returned from time to time to check the area and dove close by.

At one time, he heard nothing. He knew that he was sleeping. He went to tell Mishtamishk who came and saw him sleeping soundly. The beaver, ingeniously, decided to cover himself with mud to make his escape easier.

When he had finished, he passed over the top of him, followed the edge of the shore and went down into the river.

When Mishtapeu woke up, he was aware of the trick that the great beaver had played by burying himself in the mud. He got up in a hurry and quickly went to see who went down river. He looked when running along the edge of the lake and arrived at the rapids. Having got there, he lost sight of him.

The following day, the beaver was sitting with his back turned to the direction from which Mishtapeu came, and he was sleeping. Mishtapeu ran along the edge of the lake; the beaver heard him, and slid rapidly into the water and went further down along the river.

Mishtapeu took a rock, and threw it in the direction of the great beaver but missed him.

Mishtapeu did not succeed in catching him, since the river became wider and wider and the water deeper and deeper. They said that he followed him right to the sea, but he could not catch him.

They said that, sometimes, when the water is low at a particular point, one could see the rock that Mishtapeu threw at Mishtamishk.


The oral tradition

The legend shows three characters: Mistapeu, Mishtamisk and Utshashk living on the shores of the Pekuakami.

With this legend, the elders showed that the Pekuakami was well known before the arrival of the first European explorers. They told us why the Mishtapeu was forced to come to the lake.

Mishtamishk (the great beaver) had made his dam at the outlet of the lake. Mishtapeu (the giant) had chased the beaver all around the lake passing through all the rivers. From this came the knowledge of the lake and its tributaries.

He came down the Saguenay, arrived at the great river, then to the sea. This text is only part of the legend relating to the Pekuakami.