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An Ojibwa folktale tells of a shaman who tempted the spirit world. In a dream, the shaman learns that if he performs the correct rituals the spirits would reward him. The next morning, the shaman goes to the lakeshore and slaps the surface of the water with a stick and sings a special song as instructed in the dream. Immediately the lake erupts into a huge whirlpool and Michipeshu, the giant water panther, rises up to confront the shaman. The shaman boldly and greedily asks the monster for medicine to make him healthy and rich. Surprisingly, Michipeshu agrees to the shaman’s request. The medicine works for a time but the shaman’s wish comes with a terrible price: as his prosperity increases, his wife and children weaken and die. The shaman lives out the rest of his life sad and alone.

In our version of this story, ships of all kinds are pulled into Michipeshu’s whirlpool in November- the month of most Great Lakes shipwrecks. This is due to shipping companies’ desire to make one last profitable haul before the onset of winter. Like the shaman, they also tempt the gods.

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