The Story of the Fisher Constellation

Animation of the Fisher story

Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003


Flash Video

The story of the Fisher constellation is a favorite among the Anishinabe and is often told by grandfathers who live their lives as hunters and trappers.

The story explains the origin of the seasons and stresses the importance of cooperation, determination, self-sacrifice, and sharing for survival.

It also teaches us that each part of creation has its own special gifts for the well-being of all.

The story of Fisher is perhaps unusual in that most stories related to the Big Dipper describe it as a Great Bear.

In reality, the Fisher is a small fox-sized animal related to the weasel.

Fisher was a great hunter. He lived in the winter world with humans, birds, and other animals. Many times the winter was so severe that they would run out of food.

Many perished from the cold and the lack of food. One day he decided that their only hope was to go to the summer world and bring back the warm weather.

But the villagers and animals of the summer world were not willing to share summer.

So, Fisher called all the winter animals and birds together to discuss what should be done.

Muskrat, who lived between the two seasons, was the only one that knew summer was hidden on a far away island.

In the centre of this island, there stood a lodge and on the wall of this lodge, hung the bag of summer.

No one could get near it, for it was closely guarded by Sandhill Crane and Frog.

Even when all the summer creatures went out to hunt, these two guardians always stayed behind.

If anything was seen to approach the island, all the hunters jumped into their canoes to go and see what it was.

It would be extremely difficult for the winter animals to obtain the bag of summer.

A plan was created, and the time had come for Fisher and his friends to make their move.

That night, Owl flew towards the lodge where Crane and Frog sat guarding their precious treasure. He landed and peeked inside to see where the bag was hanging.

Next, Muskrat was sent to gnaw the hunter’s paddles to the breaking point. The strongest swimmer of all the long-legged animals was Caribou.

He started to swim toward the island and as soon as the hunters spotted him, they jumped into their canoes and began paddling towards him.

Caribou swam as fast as possible away from the island until the paddles broke and the hunters were stranded on the lake.

Caribou then doubled back into the lodge catching Frog and Crane by surprise.

He quickly grabbed the bag and ran until he met the winter animals. They took turns carrying the secret bag of summer into their world.

When the summer animals finally drifted to shore, they began to track the winter animals to recover their secret bag of summer.

They finally caught sight of Fisher who was now carrying the bag.

Fisher took to the trees to flee from them but he could not climb high enough to escape the hunter’s arrow which struck him.

The arrow took him clear into the dark northern sky, taking with him the secret bag of summer.

Ever since that time, the summer and winter animals have agreed to share the seasons.

Each would have six months of winter, and six months of summer.

The creator knew that Fisher wanted to protect his friends from starvation and death, so he prevented him from falling to earth and placed him among the stars.

Every year, Fisher crosses the sky; when the arrow strikes him, he rolls over onto his back in the winter sky.

When winter is almost ended, he turns over onto his feet and starts out once more to bring warm weather back to earth.

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