The Memegwesi (or May-may-quay-so-wuk) are small beings that live inside high remote ledges, rock faces and on the craggy shores of riverbanks. In some Anishnaabe traditions, the Memegwesi can only be seen by children and medicine people. And yet in others they appear to everyone, and can help humans who gift them with tobacco or other items. Most often the Memegwesi are described as being child-sized and hairy with a large head, and a strange voice that sounds like the whine of a dragonfly. The Cree and Innu describe them as having narrow faces; some storytellers say they have no noses; and others say that they were originally created from the bark of trees. Many encounters with the Memegwesi remain in the oral histories of different tribes, and they are often portrayed as benign creatures, but can blow canoes astray or steal things when they are not shown the proper respect. The Memegwesi have been observed engraving symbols on rocks, and carving small canoes out of stone. Alternate names for these beings in other regions are Apa'iins or Pa'iins, which literally means "little people."
When I visited the Temagami region in northern Ontario, I experienced the primordial feeling of the landscape directly, and had encounters with ancestral spirits that live on in particular trees and the outcroppings of the Canadian Shield. There is a fragment of a story in local folklore about the Teme-Augama Anishnaabe ("Deep Water by the Shore People") traveling on Lake Timiscaming who encountered the Memegwesi.
"The Anishnaabe were passing a high ledge of rock where the water was very deep and where they had set their nets. They found that someone had been stealing their fish. They proceeded to watch the nets and soon saw three Memegwesi floating on a log like a canoe, using sticks for paddles. As the Anishnaabe pursued them the Memegwesi hid their faces, but finally the Anishnaabe caught up and captured one. When the Anishnaabe called out, one of the little people quickly turned and they caught a glimpse of how ugly he was. The Anishnaabe took a carving tool from the Memegwesi as the entire group disappeared, riding their log right through the rock wall to the inside, where they could be heard crying. The Anishnaabe then returned the carving tool to them by throwing it at the rock, and it went right through to the inside, where the Memegwesi were living."
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 22-May-19 21:10 by Pegi Eyers.