The Story of Iyash




Thunder and lightning brings new clean air and is a cleanser. The Thunderbird stands for good and for cleansing.

The serpent stands for an evil force and evil forces can be changed to do something good, as we see in this story.




The Beginning

    Iyash was a young man whose name was the same as his father's. His father had two wives and they all lived together. One of the wives was Iyash's mother and the other wife was a younger lady. One day the younger wife spoke bad to Iyash. Iyash didn't say nor do anything bad and he just kept sitting on the ground. After that she got very angry and she went  to Iyash's father and told him that his son Iyash wants to get rid of him and take his place as head of the house. Iyash's father, the older Iyash, believed his younger wife and decided to get rid of his son, the younger Iyash.

    The older Iyash told his son to come with him to get some eggs. They went to the shore of the lake and they got into their canoe.  They went to an island. When the younger Iyash got out of the canoe the older Iyash quickly pushed the canoe away from the island's shore leaving the younger Iyash on the island. As the younger Iyash shouted calling the older Iyash telling him not to leave him, the older Iyash went away with the canoe. The younger Iyash started to cry. He cried for a long time. The day was coming to an end and the young Iyash lay down and cried till he fell asleep.

    After the night passed and stranded on the island, Iyash, woke up, he heard someone call him. He looked and he saw a great serpent looking at him from the lake. The serpent asked him why he was crying. He told the serpent that he was left stranded on the island. The serpent told him that it could take him back to the mainland's shore. Iyash asked what he should do. The serpent told him to sit between its horns and to strike the horns whenever he wanted it, the serpent, to go faster. Iyash sat between the serpent's horns. The serpent started going towards the land away from the island when clouds came.  Iyash saw the clouds and he struck the serpent's horns. The serpent went faster and it started to thunder. The serpent asked Iyash what the thundering was. Iyash told the serpent  that it was the serpent's body splashing on the water. The serpent came closer to the land and the Thunderbird came. The Thunderbird sent a lightning hitting the serpent. The serpent threw Iyash foreward and Iyash fell onto the land. The serpent tried to escape from the lightning by diving into the water, but the water was to shallow. The Thunderbird sent another lightning and another striking the serpent. The lightning killed the serpent. Iyash was safe on land. The Thunderbird protected Iyash from any evil the serpent could have caused him.



From here we learn that when someone accuses a person with something, if we don't look for the truth and what really happened, we can cause injustice and suffering to a good person.













From here we learn how a harmful creature like the serpent can help us and that we still need to be careful from that creature that can harm us.




The Foxlady

    Iyash was lying on the shore of the mainland after the serpent tossed him onto it. He got up and started walking. He decided to walk close to the shore, because his home was close to the shore and to keep track of where he was going. 

    He came across a Mudookwan which is a Wigwam type of home. In the Mudookwan he saw an old lady with an earth pot over a fire next to her. She told him to come in. He came in and sat down. She asked him where he was going. Iyash told her what had happened to him and  that he is trying to find his way back home. She then told him that he will face several tasks on his way home and she told him to drink the soup that she was preparing in the earth pot over the fire next to her. The earth pot was small. Iyash looked at it and took it with confidence. He started to drink the soup and he drank for a long time before he put the earth pot down. When he looked at the pot it still wasn't empty. He then said to himself: "I wish I had a stomach like a wolf." He drank from the pot again and when he put it down it still wasn't empty. He then said to himself: "I wish I had a stomach like a bear." He drank from the pot again and when he put it down it still wasn't empty. He then said to himself: "I wish I had a stomach as big as a  pond. ." He drank from the pot again and when he put it down it still wasn't empty. He then said to himself: "I wish I had a stomach as big as a lake." He drank from the pot again and he put it down. When he looked at it he could see the bottom of the pot. The pot was empty. The old lady seeing that said to Iyash: "You have succeeded in your task and now you can go on your journey home." The old lady then gave Iyash some animal fat, three stones, a piece of wood that had the qualities of a piece of meat, a large piece of caribou fur and a piece of mink fur. After that she told Iyash that it was getting late and that he should wait for the morning before he continues on his journey. Iyash already had a full stomach from the soup that he drank and he felt tired from all the things that he did that day. He accepted the old lady's offer to stay and rest till morning and he went to sleep in a comfortable part of the Mudookwan.

    Morning came and Iyash woke up. He saw a fox next to him in the Mudookwan. The fox told him that she was the old lady that he saw before. She also told him that she would go with him for only the first part of his journey after which she would have to go back.



Here, just like throughout the whole story, we learn that we should listen to the elders and accept their advice. The elders have the experience and knowlidge of the things one goes through in life.



The Old Man

    It was still morning when Iyash and the fox got out of the Mudookwan. Together they set out on their shared part of Iyash's journey. They walked close to the shore with Iyash keeping an eye on the shore making sure that he doesn't lose his way home.

     They came across a Mudookwan with an old man sitting inside it. The old man saw Iyash and said: "Come in and sit down young man; you must be tired." Iyash did as the old man said and the fox sat next to Iyash. The old man took an earth pot that had soup in it and said to Iyash: "Young man you must be tired and hungry; here have some soup." As he was giving the soup to Iyash, not letting Iyash see, he put some poison into the soup. Iyash accepted the pot with the soup. The old man then put another earth pot with soup in front of the fox and said: "Your animal must be tired and hungry to, here is some soup for it as well." The fox drank the soup from both the earth pots without the old man noticing. In the meantime Iyash took out and ate the animal fat that the old lady now in form of a fox gave him. The fat made Iyash feel strong and full while the fox drank all the soup without getting poisoned, because foxes are resistant to poisonous food. 

    The old man didn't know that Iyash ate the fat instead of the soup. He thought that he couldn't poison Iyash. He let Iyash have a good night's rest and continue on his journey the next morning.



Here we learn that the elders are there for us to give us the right start in life and that we have to be able to face any obstacles in our lives and overcome them without expecting others to do that for us.




Many Hooks

    In the morning Iyash and the foxlady got out of the Mudookwan and the foxlady told Iyash that he did well. Then she reminded Iyash that she had to return to her Mudookwan and that he has a long journey ahead of him. She left and Iyash continued walking. 

    He was worried about getting lost and he kept looking at the lake's shore as he walked. He was walking between trees in the woods that he was going through. Suddenly he saw in front of him many hooks dangling from the trees. He stopped. He saw that he couldn't go between them and that they were to low for him to crawl under them. Then he took out the piece of wood with the qualities of meat that he had with him. He threw it at the hooks and the hooks grabbed it pulling it up, shredding it into pieces. Iyash quickly ran under the hooks and got away from them.

    After he got away from the hooks he looked back at them. He stood looking at them for a short while. He was glad that he listened to the foxlady and that he took all the things that she gave him. He then turned away from the hooks and went on walking on his journey.



Mother and Two Daughters

    Iyash was walking when he came across a Mudookwan. He saw an old lady with two young ladies inside. He kept walking and he got closer to the Mudookwan.

    The old lady saw him and called him telling him to come inside and rest. He came inside and the old lady told him that the two young ladies were her daughters. She told her daughters to go outside and bring some firewood in order for her to prepare some food for Iyash. The two young ladies went outside, but they didn't take any tools for cutting wood. This made Iyash curious. When he heard wood being cut outside he looked outside in the direction of the sound. He was surprised to see the two young ladies cutting wood with their sharp teeth.

    Soon after dinner was ready it was time to go to bed. The old lady told Iyash that she gave her daughters to him to be his wives and that he can sleep together with them. Iyash knew that it would be his end, because of their sharp teeth. He took the three stones he had with him and because of it being bedtime he was able to throw the stones between the deadly sharp teeth of each of the ladies as they were resting in their beds. Their teeth were made blunt by the stones and they were no longer a threat.

    In the morning Iyash woke up glad that his life was saved. He was able to help the ladies not to be a threat. This made the women the way they should be and Iyash continued on his journey.



Here we learn that we have to be wise in choosing with whom we have friendships and relationships. Bad friendships and bad relationships can cause us to fail and even to perish.




Iyash could have hid or pretended to be someone else, but he didn't do that. He bravely faced his obstacles and hardships to come.









Two Sisters

    Walking on his journey home Iyash kept his eyes on the lake's shore. He saw two old women walking back and forth, between the shore and their Mudookwan. The two old women had skin covering the place of their eyes which made them blind. He also saw that they had very sharp, antler like, points sticking from their elbows.

    The two old ladies were sisters and were cannibals. Whenever a visitor would come to their Mudookwan, they would kill the visitor with their sharp points on their elbows. To get water they had a string leading them from their Mudookwan to the lake. To know whether it was morning or evening they would listen to the sounds of the birds.

    Iyash came and sat inside their Mudookwan. One of the sisters felt the presence of Iyash. She started poking around the Mudookwan with a stick. Iyash first hesitated a little, but then he let the stick touch him. The old lady said: "Iyash." He replied: "Yes?" The two sisters rejoiced with Iyash being in their Mudookwan, because they were cannibals and wanted to kill him. They treated him well and they talked to him nicely. Iyash had a good rest, but it was soon time for him to go and continue his journey. He told them that he had to leave. The two sisters then sat at the door of the Mudookwan with their backs turned towards each other. They were ready to strike Iyash with the sharp points on their elbows as soon as he would try to go out of the Mudookwan. Iyash quickly took the caribou fur that he had with him and threw it between the two sisters. They started stabbing the fur and they stabbed each other. They both fell to the ground. Iyash then cut of the skin that was covering their eyes and he cut of the points on their elbows. He then left.

    As soon as he left he heard the two sisters laughing with joy behind him. They were happy that they could see. After being able to see they weren't going to be cannibals any more. They wouldn't need the sharp points on their elbows and they would live like all other people.



From here, just like in throughout the story, we learn that we should bravely face all the obstacles and hardships facing us in our lives.




Here, just like in the previos section of this story, we learn that we can help a harmful person if we cause that harmful person to be healed and stop being harmful to others.



The Man and the Dog

    Iyash was in the bush when night came. He lied down to sleep in the bush. He reflected on his journey during the night and he fell asleep.

    In the morning he got up and continued on his journey. He came across a hill and he climbed it. From the hill he saw a Mudookwan with smoke coming out of it. From that he knew that someone lived in it and he decided to go there.

    When he approached the Mudookwan he saw many hands hanging on strings from trees on the path. It was also a place full of rocks. From that he knew that the person in the Mudookwan killed people. He tried to go beneath the hands and to get away from that place. While he was doing that he accidentally touched one of the hands. All the hands moved and made a noise. This signaled the man in the Mudookwan and his dog ran out of the Mudookwan Iyash. Iyash was frightened and he quickly ran and hid in a hole in the rocks. When the man came Iyash took the mink fur that he had and pushed it forward while making sounds of the mink. The man said to his dog that it was only a mink and went back to the Mudookwan. The dog stayed and kept making noise, but the man in the Mudookwan didn't pay attention to him. Iyash crawled out of the rocks through another hole that led under and behind the hanging hands.

    Iyash quickly got up and left that place. He was walking quickly while the dog kept making noise behind him. Iyash kept walking fast until he got far away and the noise of the dog could not be heard any more.



Here we learn that just like being wise in choosing with whom we have friendships and relationships we have to be wise in choosing places that we go to. Going to wrong places can cause us great loss and even get us to perish.


After returning from a long and hard journey Iyash was respectful to his parents. He didn't barge into the Mudookwan but instead waited for his mother to come out. He also didn't disrespect his father that exiled him. Instead of arguing with his father he talked to him with respect and everything returned to the way it was before.

The toad that lives where there is water and the beautiful bird robin that sings and flies through the air remind us of all the good things.



The Return and New Beginning

    Iyash was still on his journey when another night passed. He kept walking when suddenly everything around him started to look familiar. He walked down to the shore of the lake and he saw his father's Mudookwan in the distance. His father, his mother and his father's other wife were all there. He saw that his father's other wife had a son. He also saw that his mother was very sad and crying. Everything else was the same.

    He went to the Mudookwan and waited. His mother came outside and saw him. She rejoiced and Iyash was also very happy to be home and to see his mother. Then his father came out and was surprised to see him. The older Iyash and the younger Iyash then talked and everything was back to like it was before.

    Iyash and his mother left his father's Mudookwan. Iyash became the toad living in ponds making beautiful sounds. The mother of Iyash became the robin, the beautiful bird that sings beautifully at sunset and sunrise. After that the earth was again a beautiful place.



Here we learn that we have to respect our parents and treat them well. we also learn here that when there is injustice done, we shouldn't encounter it with another injustice. Encountering injustice with injustice only keeps the circle of injustice going. Damage cannot be corrected by making more damage. Bad things have to be encountered with good things and with healing. By doing good and by healing, the circle of doing bad things is broken and the bad things go away. That way people and  animals, plants,  earth,  water, air and all prosper and what was hurt heals.



The Legends of Iyash (an Oji-Cree Traditional Story) Prepared by Miighan-Kurt Co.

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