Look out over Lake Superior from the city of Thunder Bay and you will see the Sleeping Giant of the North stretching horizontally above the water with his arms folded across his massive chest. Thunder Bay is the adopted home of Gitche Manitou. Manitou chose Thunder Bay, a place unspoiled by man, as the final resting place for his earthly body. He sent the rain to quench the fire and wind to cool the earth. His work was done. His spirit returned to Olelpanti where the hunting ground is far and wide and the game is unlimited.
Standing by the relentless Kawabeka Falls outside Thunder Bay, we cannot help but wonder of the similarity between Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Hiawatha eulogized in "The song of Hiawatha" to the Ojibway story of Green Mantle.
"On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the Great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manitou, the mighty,
He the Master of Life,
Saying to it, "Run this way!" descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.
From his footprints flowed a river,
Leaped into the light of morning,
O'er the precipice plunging downward
Gleamed like Ishkoodad, the comet.
And the Spirit, stooping earthward,
With his fingers on the meadow
Traced a winding pathway for it,
Saying to it, "Run this way!"
Green Mantle, the daughter of Chief White Bear, leader of a tribe of the Ojibway people, lived on the banks of the Kaministiquia River. She sacrificed her life so that the peace loving Ojibway could live and prosper in the land of their forefathers.
In the year of the big fire, long before the strangers came to trade, Sioux warriors trekked to the land of the Ojibway. They gathered near the Kaministiquia River vowing the Ojibway would dwell no longer in the forest of the Grey Owl. They waited for their scouts to return to lead them to the Ojibway village. True to the ancient custom of Sioux, war paint covered their bodies as they geared up for battle.
"And they stood there on the meadow,
With their weapons and their war-gear,
Painted like the leaves of autumn,
Painted like the sky of morning,
Wildly glaring at each other,
In their faces stern defiance,
In their hearts the feuds of ages,
The hereditary hatred,
The ancestral thirst of vengeance..."
Green Mantle learned the Sioux warriors planned to attack her people. She went to the Sioux encampment. She told them she had lost her way. Green Mantle promised the Sioux warriors she would lead them to the Ojibway village if they spared her life. The Sioux believed Green Mantle. They bound her in the lead canoe and followed her canoe in the fast flowing currents of the mighty Kaministiquia, not suspecting the great Kawabeka Falls waited down river.
Green Mantle and the Sioux warriors plunged over the great white water falls of the Kaministiquia. Green Mantle and the Sioux warriors were dragged deep beneath the raging water. Only their canoes returned to the surface.
"And the people from the margin
Watch him floating, rising, sinking,
Till the birch canoe seemed lifted
High into that sea of splendor,
Till it sank into the vapors
Like the new moon slowly, slowly
Sinking in the purple distance..."
Gitche Manitou awoke from his slumber and shed tears of sorrow for Green Mantle. He was overwhelmed by her sacrifice for the Ojibway people. He summoned the chiefs of all the nations to the hallowed wigwam of the elders camped between the two mountains in the canyon called Quimet.
All the Chiefs came and all listened as Gitche Manitou spoke with tender words of sadness. He decreed that Green Mantle would live forever within the rising mist of the magnificent waterfalls called Kawabeka and that only the chosen may share his sorrow.
When you venture to Kakabeka Falls, look for Green Mantle in the mist at the place where the sun touches the water. If Gitche Manitou blesses you, you will see her.