Aug 122017

Legend of the Grouse Who Made Canoes for All the Birds

This is a blog I wrote on my kid’s webpage

I took the bare strands of the story and adapted it, hopefully, with meaning for kids.  Adults can learn from it, too.  Please pass on my link to children or adults with children.  Thanks.  I write under Pauline Gallagher for the kids site.

This is a blog I wrote on my kid’s webpage.

I live in the Province of Ontario, Canada.  About an hour’s drive by car is an enormous wilderness of lakes, rocks and forests.  People love to swim, canoe and camp in its park.   It is called Algonquin Park and is named after the Algonquin Indians or native people.

An Algonquin chief of long ago


People  in most countries of the world have legends.  These are stories that have a meaning or they are meant to inspire young people.  The following legend is about a grouse that build canoes for all the other birds.  We know that birds don’t build canoes, but we can learn from the following story.  It was told by Chiefs or Wise Persons to young Indian boys and girls.  See if you can get the message from the legend.

Ontario is a very large province in Ontario. Ottawa, the capital is in Ontario. The biggest city in Ontario is Toronto

The Grouse Makes Canoes.

The partridge has a long tail, but this is about the two grouses in the picture

The legend tells of a grouse that built great canoes for all the birds, but a bad one for himself?  Why would he do that?  Let’s find out.  A young Indian boy or girl would know the sound when  grouse beats (pecks) or stomps on a hollow log.  It is called drumming and that is the sound of an adult Indian making a canoe.  The Algonquins called the grouse “Mitchihess.”  And the story happens in N’karnayoo,that means “long ago” or in the old times.

Long ago, Mitchihess (Mitch-ee-hess) was the grouse that build canoes for other birds.  Maybe birds did not fly in those days.  Maybe baby-birds that could not fly were put in canoes.  Who knows?   Anyway, all the birds met with Mitchihess to receive their canoes.

The grouse

Kich-ee-pla-gon, the Eagle had a shell canoe and he paddled off, using the ends of his wings  as paddles.  Next came, Ko-ko-kas, the Owl and then all the other birds and they proudly paddled their canoes with their wings.  Even, the tiniest bird,  A-la-Mus-sit, the Humming Bird, had the tinest canoe and the birds were so happy for it.

The Fish-Hawk Watches the Boats


Now, Ish-meg-wess, the Fish-Hawk seemed to be the only flying bird in the area and he screeched out in joy, “Ak-wed-en Sko-u-je” which is the Algonquin language for  “A canoe is coming.”  In fact, he saw a squadron (a group) of canoes heading out to sea.

The Fish-Hawk was surprised to find that Michihess the grouse had not built a boat for himself.  He asked the partridge questions.  “Why are you not making one for yourself, Michihess ?  The grouse had not wished to do this, but decided he would build himself a boat.

“I’ll Build the Greatest Boat,” said the Grouse called Mitchihess

Mitchihess worked away for days.  He wanted his boat to be better than all the boats he had made for the other birds.  The news spread quickly and all the birds returned to behold (see) Partridge’s dream and spectacular boat.  Now, Mitchihess was good at building boats but not really good at thinking.  He decided that if a boat with two ends meant that it could go in two directions, then a boat that was round could go in ALL directions.   The birds saw a canoe that was built like a round nest.  The birds decided that partridge was clever and they wished their boats were like the one he owned.

Oh, No – It Won’t Go!

Now, Mitchihess looked around and saw the admiring birds.  He was so proud that he puffed up his feathers and walked proudly towards his round canoe.  He used his wings as paddles, but NOTHING happened.

He tried harder and the birds watched him go around in CIRCLES.

I’m Running Away to Hide

Now, the proud Mitchihess let his puffed up feather droop (fall down).

He was embarrassed.   He did not wait for any bird to laugh or point their wings towards his round canoe.   He rushed away on his legs and headed for the thick and dark bushes.  Most of the birds were sorry for him.  He had made a mistake.  All the birds had made mistakes, but they had been able to forgive themselves. They wanted to tell this to Mitchihess.  Owl said,


“I would say to him, forget your mistake with the round canoe.  Look instead at the wonderful canoes you made for others.”


The Eagle said, “His pride has made him run away from friends who love him.  He should have stayed and said, “Yes, I made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”

My Thoughts on the Legend.

I think we learned not to take our mistakes too seriously.  We all make mistakes.  We need to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.  We learn not to make the same mistakes again.

grouse hide in grasses and bushes

I think Mitchihess and all his later generations of grouses have forgiven themselves and are happy to live in the dark bushes and by rivers.  They are not a fast flying bird and hiding now saves them from hunters.  So, everything has turned out well for the grouses.

(Sometimes the word ‘grouse’ is confused with the word ‘partridge’)  They are two different species of bird.

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