This is a story I heard from Marie at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore during my Summer Sleeping Bear Trip. I think she said it was an Ojibwe story, and I’m paraphrasing a lot. With that in mind, here goes:
Long ago, the Earth knew only cold. Never did the children of Fisher, Lynx, or Otter play in the sunlight of spring. There were no spring bird songs, for the birds could not survive in that frigid world. There was only cold and deep snow, and that’s all any of them had ever known. They all were gaunt with hunger all of the time, but Fisher was a smart Fisher. He wanted to bring some warmth to the Earth. He had heard that above the sky was a place called Sky Land, and that up there, the weather was always warm. Fisher decided that if he could break the sky open, he could bring warmth of Sky Land to the Earth about him. He enlisted his best friends to help him on his quest. These were Otter, Lynx, and Wolverine.
Together, the four friends traveled to the tallest tree on all the Earth. Otter tried to reach Sky Land first. He climbed to the very topmost branch and took a flying leap at the sky. Alas, he fell to earth, and in doing so, he found out that he could slide quickly over the snow. He completely forgot what he had been trying to do because this new thing was a lot of fun. So, off he went sliding down the hills in the snow. Lynx tried next, but he too failed and was distracted. Wolverine was a powerful and steadfast creature and at first, he too failed. But he doggedly climbed the tree and jumped and jumped again and again. At last, he was able to sink his claws into a tiny crack in the sky that he had created. He pulled and pushed, and at last broke a small chunk of the sky open. He fell to Earth and told Fisher what he had done. Fisher and Wolverine then tried to get into Sky Land through the tiny space. Luckily since they were so gaunt with hunger, they were just barely able to fit through.
Once inside Sky Land, they were amazed. The trees were not the cold and leafless sticks in the ground like it was below. They were filled with leaves and blossoms. There was rich cool grass to run and frolic through, with gentle streams of cool water. Most importantly, there were berries and good food for Fisher and Wolverine. They ate and ate, and then ate some more. They put food on their backs and thought of how happy their family and friends would be to have all this wonderful food.
As they were wandering around eating nearly everything they could, they came across the village of the Sky People. There was smoke rising from the hearths, but there was no one outside their dwellings. However, Fisher and Wolverine did notice that outside every place was a bird in a cage. There were all kinds of birds there. Fisher and Wolverine decided to let the birds free.
Quickly, they chewed through the clasps of the cages and let the birds loose. However, doing so caused a commotion loud enough for the Sky People to wonder what was going on outside. They ran outside to find Fisher and Wolverine looking quite sheepish. The Sky People were very angry!
Fisher and Wolverine took off like shooting stars and headed for the hole they had made. The Sky People were right on their tails. They ran faster than the Sky People and arrived at the hole a short while before them. However, all their eating had made it so that they couldn’t fit through the hole anymore. So, Fisher and Wolverine frantically beat on the bottom of Sky Land while the Sky People drew near.
Wolverine beat and clawed at the crack and Fisher chewed at the corners. Soon, a small piece fell off, but it wasn’t big enough yet. Just as the Sky People were nearly upon them, Wolverine gave a mighty crash to the outer part of the hole, and broke it open enough for him to get through. Wolverine jumped down onto the Earth. Looking up, he that poor Fisher didn’t make it. They Sky People had got to him just before he could get through the hole.
The Great Manitou saw all this and admired Fisher’s caring and courage. He put Fisher up in the sky for all to see (also known as the Big Dipper), and also allowed Fisher to bring Skyland to the Earth for a part of the year. Fisher brings the spring when he arrives, and as he is leaving, it is fall time. When he is gone, the Earth is as it was, a cold and wintry place.
And that’s the story of Fisher.