Windigo and Other Tales of the Ojibways – Herbert T. Schwarz – Norval Morrisseau

Windigo and Other Tales of the Ojibways
Herbert T. Schwarz/Norval Morrisseau
McClelland and Stewart Limited
1969

“The time has come for us to record the story of our people,” writes Norval Morrisseau. “I listened to many of these stories and to our legends and ancestral beliefs as they were told to me by the wise men of the Ojibway. I wrote some of them on paper, and I drew and painted them as best I could for the Ojibway and for all the children of our white brothers to see.”

Retold by Herbert T. Schwarz, here are eight legends of the Ojibway, illustrated in the traditional style of the tribe with two-colour drawings by the Ojibway artist, Norval Morrisseau.

Windigo, an Indian trapper, is transformed by an evil spirit into a giant with an insati­able appetite. Three young braves defy the traditions of their ancestors and climb the Forbidden Mountain, where they are be­witched by a Thunderbird Woman. Red Bird of the Ojibways and Medicine Turtle of the Assiniboines, both great chiefs and conjurors, battle to see whose magic is more powerful. Pantenata sympathizes with the strange being Paakuk and hears the eerie story of his sin, which condemned him “for hundreds of years to fly around and around the world, between the moon and the sun, day in and day out, till the world’s end.” Silver Cloud suddenly becomes a bright red mushroom, right before his brother’s eyes. Beautiful Ishka-Maatuk flees from an unwanted mar­riage in her father’s village. Whisky-Jack angers the water spirit Mishipeshu with his arrogance, and is swallowed by a monstrous trout. His greed for silver causes the white trader Balthazar to deceive the friendly In­dians, and incurs the wrath of the great god Manitou…

Morrisseau recounted the tales that in­spired his paintings, and from his descrip­tions, Herbert T. Schwarz has built an im­aginative collection of stories for readers, young and old alike. These are tales that will interest those already familiar with Indian lore as well as those discovering the Thunderbird or Manitou for the first time.

Herbert T. Schwarz

Born in England, Herbert T. Schwarz gradu­ated from Sheffield University Medical School and the University of London, then emigrated to Canada in 1950 at the age of twenty-eight. He taught first at Ottawa University Medical School, and in 1952 moved to Montreal to join the University Clinic of the Royal Vic­toria Hospital and the Donner Building for Medical Research at McGill University. He soon became fascinated by French-Canadian history and culture and in 1965, opened La Galerie Cartier, an antique shop in the an­cient residence of Jacques Viger, the first mayor of Montreal. A year later, while con­sultant to the Quebec Pavilion, Dr. Schwarz met the Ojibway artist Norval Morrisseau, and this book began.

Norval Morrisseau

Born at Sand Point Indian Reserve on Lake Nipigon, Norval Morrisseau, whose tribal name is Copper Thunderbird, is descendant of Ojibway chiefs. Morrisseau is a self-taught artist, and he was discovered by the art dealer Jack Pollock who arranged his first show in 1962 at The Pollock Gallery in Toronto. ‘Time’ magazine (Canadian edition) commented about the event that “Few ex­hibits in Canadian art history have touched off a greater stir.”

As well as being the single source of graphic expression of Ojibway legend and myth today, Norval Morrisseau is one of the few initiated members of the tribe who is willing to act as an interpreter of Indian learning and lore. The journals he kept were edited by Selwyn Dewdney and published in 1965 as Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway. When the artist met Dr. Schwarz, he was executing a sixteen-foot-high mural for the Indian Pavilion at Expo 67. They struck up an immediate friendship-which led to Dr. Schwarz’s retelling of the Ojibway stories, and Norval Morrisseau’s illustrations.