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The Origin of Mosquitoes - A Red River Legend

Manitoba Pageant, January 1962, Volume 7, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

From The New Nation of August 27, 1870, page 3:

The Red River Indians have a curious legend respecting the origin of mosquitoes. They say that once upon a time there was a famine and the Indians could get no game. Hundreds had died from hunger, and desolation had filled their country. All kinds of offerings were made to the Great Spirit without avail, until one day two hunters came upon a white wolverine, a very large animal. Upon shooting the white wolverine an old woman sprang up out of the skin, and, saying that she was a "Manito," proposed to go and live with the Indians, promising them plenty of game as long as they treated her well and gave her the first choice of all the game that should be brought in. The two Indians assented to this, and took the old woman home with them, which event was immediately succeeded by an abundance of game. When the sharpness of the famine had passed in the prosperity which the old woman had brought to the tribes, the Indians became dainty in their appetites and complained of the manner in which the old woman took to herself all the choice bits. This feeling became so intense that notwithstanding her warning that if they violated their promise a terrible calamity would come upon the Indians - they one day killed her as she was seizing her share of a fat reindeer which the hunters had brought in.

Great consternation immediately struck the witnesses of the deed, and the Indians to escape the predicted calamity, boldly struck their tents and moved away to a great distance. Time passed on without any catastrophe occurring, and, game becoming even more plentiful, the Indians again began to laugh at their being deceived by the old woman. Finally, a hunting party on a long chase of a reindeer, which had led them back to the spot where the old woman was killed, came upon her skeleton, and one of them in derision kicked the skull with his foot. In an instant a small, spiral vapor-like body arose from the eyes and ears of the skull. This proved to be insects, that attacked the hunters with a great fury and drove them to the river for protection. The skull continued to pour out its little stream, and the air became full of avengers of the old woman's death. The hunters, upon returning to camp, found all the Indians suffering terribly from this plague. Ever since that time the Indians have been punished by the mosquitoes for their wickedness to their preserver, the Manito.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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