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Kluskap (or Glooscap) is the mercurial god-giant-hero-protohuman central to Mi'kmaq creation myth and he appears frequently in Mi'kmaq (and other Wabanaki Confederacy First Nations) stories. In essence, he is the origin, the wellspring, of the Mi'kmaq people, giving rise to them, protecting them and teaching them all their skills. In an interesting parallel to the distorting impact of 19th century folk-tale collectors on Celtic myth, stories of Kluskap have evidently been similarly coloured by Charles Godfrey Leland's 1884 The Algonquin Legends of New England or Myths and Folk Lore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Tribes, and adopted by the tribes themselves as they seek to reclaim their culture, territory and traditions.
(See Parkhill and Hornborg.)

The name Kluskap means 'liar' and his stories frequently display the patterning of the trickster archetype.


A Mi'kmaq Creation Story

On the other side of the Path of the Spirits, in ancient times, Kisúlk, the Creator, made a decision. Kisúlk created the first born, Niskam, the Sun, to be brought across Sk•tékmujeouti (the Milky Way) to light the earth. Also sent across the sky was a bolt of lightning that created Sitqamúk, the earth, and from the same bolt Kluskap was also created out of the dry earth. Kluskap lay on Sitqamúk, pointing by head, feed and hands to the Four Directions. Kluskap became a powerful teacher, a kinap and a puoin, whose gifts and allies were great.

In another bolt of lightning came the light of fire, and with it came the animals, the vegetation and the birds. These other life forms gradually gave Kluskap a human form. Kluskap rose from the earth and gave thanks to Kisúlk as he honoured the six directions: the sun, the earth, and then the east, south, west and north. The abilities within the human form made up the seventh direction.

Kluskap asked Kisúlk how he should live, and Kisúlk in response sent Nukumi, Kluskap's grandmother, to guide him in life. Created from a rock that was transformed into the body of an old woman through the power of Niskam, the Sun, Nukumi was an elder whose knowledge and wisdom were enfolded in the Mi'kmaq language.

Nukumi taught Kluskap to call upon apistanéwj, the marten, to speak to the guardian spirits for permission to consume other life forms to nourish human existence. Marten returned with their agreement, as well as with songs and rituals. Kluskap and his grandmother gave thanks to Kisúlk, to the Sun, to the Earth and to the Four Directions and then feasted. As they made their way to understand how they should live, Kluskap then met Netawansum, his nephew, whom Kisúlk had created in his human form from the rolling foam of the ocean that had swept upon the shores and clung to the sweetgrass. Netawansum had the understanding of the life and strength of the underwater realms and he brought gifts from this realm to Kluskap, including the ability to see far away. They again gave thanks and feasted on nuts from the trees.

Finally they met Níkanaptekewísqw, Kluskap's mother, a woman whose power lay in her ability to tell about the cycles of life or the future. She was born from a leaf on a tree, descended from the power and strength of Niskam, the Sun, and made into human form to bring love, wisdom and the colours of the world. As part of the earth, she brought the strength and wisdom of the earth and an understanding of the means of maintaining harmony with the forces of nature.

They lived together for a long time, but one day Kluskap told his mother and nephew that he and his grandmother Nukumi were leaving them to go north. Leaving instructions with his mother, Kluskap told of the Great Council Fire that would send seven sparks, which would fly out of the fire and land on the ground, each as a man. Another seven sparks would fly out the other way and out of these seven sparks would arise seven women. Together they would form seven groups, or families, and these seven families should disperse in seven directions and then divide again into seven different groups.

Like the lightning bolts that created the earth and Kluskap, the sparks contained many gifts. The sparks gave life to human form; and in each human form was placed the prospect of continuity. Like Kluskap before them, when the people awoke naked and lost, they asked Kluskap how they should live. Kluskap taught them their lessons, and thus he is named "one who is speaking to you" or the Teacher-Creator.

Source: This segment is based on a story taken from the ancient teachings of Mi'kmaq elders. The ancient creation story was compiled by Kep'tin Stephen Augustine of Big Cove, New Brunswick. See Introductory Guide to Micmac Words and Phrases, compiled by Evan Thomas Pritchard, annotations by Stephen Augustine, observations by Albert Ward (Rexton, N.B.: Resonance Communications, 1991). Another version is recounted by Reverend D. MacPherson in Souvenir of the Micmac Tercentenary Celebration (St. Anne de Restigouche: Frères Mineurs Capucins, 1910).

Source: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada