Koluskap Meets the False Koluskap

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Bark Dish

Koluskap went to the St. Lawrence River encountering some huge serpents and finding deserted canoes and no men. “The serpents killed these men,” he thought. Arriving at a village, the Chief gave Koluskap some dried meat but no water. Choking, Koluskap asked, “Why did you give me meat without first pounding it with oil?” When the Chief answered that it was the customary diet for strangers, Koluskap threw the bark dish into the fire. “Do you want to kill me?” he asked. Insulted, the Chief explained that visiting strangers do great harm, “A powerful man up the river keeps a host of serpents which have nearly killed all of us.”


“Who’s this man?” asked Koluskap. The Chief answered, “He’s Koluskap, Chief of all Chiefs.” Incensed, Koluskap jumped up, shouting, “That is a lie! I am Koluskap! I’ll find and destroy this person!” His thunder brought down the camp poles of all the wigwams in the vicinity. Amazed, the Chief said, “You are Koluskap. I’m sure of this now.”


Koluskap said, “Give me two men to get him.” The Chief knew the men might die, but respect for Koluskap’s power overcame this. The two men went to the imposter’s door and heard a gruff voice bidding them to enter, adding that he would soon roast them in a fire. The two men relayed Koluskap’s message but the old man replied that if Koluskap wanted to see him, he would have to come in person.

Stone Canoe

The messengers returned to Koluskap but he made them return to the imposter again, instructing them to be more forceful in making his demand. But for a second time the imposter refused to go back with them. When the two messengers warned the imposter of dire consequences if he did not respect the demands of Koluskap, the imposter finally agreed, and said, “I’ll see this great man and I’ll make trouble for him.” The imposter instructed the messengers to carry his canoe to the river, but because it was made of stone, the two men could not budge it. The old man scoffed, “How strange that the great Koluskap has sent such weak men.” Then the imposter lifted the stone canoe and carried it as if it were made of bark.

On their way back to the camp, the messengers notice three girls sitting in a wigwam, their faces marked with scabs. When asked about their scars, the girls replied that the Koluskap imposter had tortured them with a hot poker. “We come from up river and have been here a long time,” the girls continued. “The old man takes us from any village he wants because all are afraid.” The messengers told the girls of the actual Koluskap being down at the village and for them to come along and seek Koluskap’s protection.

megwins pipamp

Koluskap was pleased to know that the imposter was on his way. “If he’d refused to come,” said Koluskap, “I could have destroyed him from here. Now I’ll wait for my brother, Mikumwesu to do it.” Then they all heard thunderous steps. “How loudly he’s coming,” remarked Koluskap. “He’s bold for a fake.” Koluskap filled his pipe with megwins pipamp (1), lit it and blew great clouds of smoke into the camp. He explained to the Chief that the smoke would protect the wigwam from the imposter’s club.


The imposter arrived and tried his club against the wigwam but it was strong enough to resist it because of the smoke. The old man immediately realized that he was up against someone with great power. He put on a bold face, however, and entered the wigwam to talk with Koluskap, who had two stones growing out of his cheeks. A few seconds later the three girls with the scabs entered and sat beside Koluskap.

Koluskap passed his pipe to the imposter for him to smoke, but the old man was unable to lift it. Koluskap laughed mockingly and said, “What a great fellow you are to assume my name when you can’t even lift my pipe. Why is it that you can carry a club and stone canoe and paddle but can’t lift my pipe?” The imposter answered, “I use a different kind of pipe. Try it yourself.” Koluskap took the pipe, but instead of smoking it, he handed it to the three girls. After they tried the pipe, Koluskap took it and threw it out the top of the wigwam. “That’s what I do with a stranger’s pipe,” said Koluskap, “and I may do the same to you before my brother comes.”

Wash in river

Koluskap then pulled from his pocket a stone which he gave to the girls and told them to rub their faces with it. Then they were instructed to go down to the river and wash their faces. The girls did as they were told and when they returned, the scabs had disappeared from their faces. The old man was very impressed by the great power of Koluskap. The imposter arose and wished to commence fighting, but Koluskap told him to sit still, he was not ready to destroy him.

Long Walk

Finally the imposter complained to Koluskap that he was ill and needed to return to his camp for some exercise but he would return the next day. Koluskap agreed, but informed the old man that he would have to return to his camp on foot because his canoe was broken. The pipe tossed out of the smoke hole of the wigwam had struck the canoe and smashed it. So the old man started back to his camp on foot.

1. dried sweet fern (Comptonia asplenifolia) leaves