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When My Uncle Was Bewitched [archive]

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When My Uncle Was Bewitched
by Ethel Peters

In the late 1970s, Canadian linguist John O'Meara traveled to the Delaware First Nation Reserve, in Ontario, to record the last speakers of Munsee Delaware. Among them was an elderly woman named Ethel Peters. Peters told O'Meara a witchcraft story she called "When My Uncle Was Bewitched.'' Here is the full version of the story in English and Munsee Delaware:

Delaware English
Nii numoxoomus waak noohum kxanuwak nxah amiimunzal. Nii nguk wunaxoo-kihkayiin, nal ha wa nzhiis, nal waak ktakan oxkweesus. Aapwu-noohum-wiinamalsuw, lum'tiisiinee. Nu oonju-tohpu-chpapiineewa amiimunzak. Nal nguk eel-nxoo-kihkayiit wiichumaawal kwukal ngumee wsaakiihaan amiimunzal. Nal nzhiis ngumee wtahwaalaawal ngukal wugfacutelu maash kwukal. My grandfather and my grandmother had three children. My mother was the oldest, then there was my uncle, then another girl. My grandmother got sick early on, she had rheumatism. That's the reason why the children were born far apart. Then my mother, because she was the oldest, she helped her mother, she always looked after the children. My uncle always loved my mother just as if she were his mother.
Eenda-nzhiis-wuskiilunuwiitu, wihwiicheeweew oxkweessal. Numoxoomus waak noohum wshiingiinawaaneewa, wtulaawal nzhiisal, "wsaamu-matahoxkwe, chii kshuwoolkoohan.'' When my uncle was a young man, he used to go around with a girl. My grandfather and my grandmother didn't like the looks of her, they said to my uncle, "She's too much of a bad woman, don't go overboard for her.''
Shukw nzhiis ngumee wiicheewaawal oxkweessal. Wiixkwii wunukwtun-paan, wtulaawal ngukal, "Ngata-takwapihna.'' But my uncle always went with the girl. All of sudden one time he came early, and he told my mother, "We want to get married.''
Shaa nguk wtulaan noohumal waak numoxoomsal, moxa mah wiingsutamoowuneewa. Shaa wtulaawaawal kwiissuwaawal, "Chii takwapuwaalaahan, wsaamu-mihmsahtakihle, kumamateelumukw-uch takwapuwaalatu.'' Right away my mother told my grandmother and my grandfather, and they really didn't like the sound of what they heard. Right away they told their son, "Don't marry her, she runs around too much, and she will abuse you if you marry her.''
Nal uw numoxoomus, wtulaawaal, "Naakeesh-uch kpeesi, chii shaa takwapuwaalaahan. Nal-uch punah kteepeelundam kuweewiihaaw ha wa eenduk.'' Then my grandfather said, he said to him, "You wait for a little while, don't marry her right away. Then you'll be satisfied, you'll know the way she is.''
Nzhiis uw, "kehla-uch mbeesihna-uch naakee.'' My uncle said, "Really we'll wait for a while.''
Shukw iiyaach ngumee wiicheewaawal waak ngumee maw-punawaawal. Wiixkwii nguk kulustam iin amiimunzal kata-kxanuw. Nal ha shaa nzhiisal wtulaan, "Ktulul ax amiimunzal kata-kxanuw.'' But he still went with her and always went to see her. All of a sudden my mother heard that she was going to have a child. Then right away she said to my uncle, "I told you that she would have a baby.''
Nzhiis shaa manoongsuw, uw, "kway mah ha njihnal nuwiicheewaawu.'' My uncle got angry right away, and he said, "Now I won't go with her anymore.''
Naakeesh shukw manoongsuw, nal waak mehtxii amiimunz taa wtulkiilun nal waak wunooch-wiicheewaan. Shukw ngumee magfgravematahkeewak, waak wa oxkweesus ngumee musu-aan, ahalumsuw. But he was angry for a little while, then again when the baby was a certain size he started going with her. But they always fought, and this girl was always going here and there, she was always leaving.
Wunukwtun-alumsiin wiixkwii lunuwal peeshuwee, aashteew iin wiitaweengee. Moxa nguk wuleelundam wuliiteehee, "Kway mah ha njihnal nzhiis punawaawiiwal.'' One time when she went away all of a sudden she came back with a man, and then she got married. My mother was very happy and she thought, "Now my uncle won't see her anymore.''
Naakeesh wiitaawsoomaawal wiitaweemaachiil, nal waak pakiilaan, nal waak nzhiisal papaa-kwiilawaan. She lived together for a short while with her husband, then she left him, and then again she started going looking around for my uncle.
Nguk uw, "mah nuweewiihaawu taa lu eeyaat, alumsuw ha wa maw-alohke.'' My mother said, "I don't know where he has gone, he left and he's gone to work.''
Nal mbee-neeka alumsuw. Nal tha sahki wiixkwii nguk pundam iin, ngwuteel wiikuwak. Nal nguk uw, "Kway ma ha njihnal kweek ndulaawu lehlapiit-uch lunum. Mehch ha kway kihkuw-aweenuw.'' Then she left too. Then after a while all of a sudden my mother heard that they were living together. Then my mother said, "I'm not going to say anymore to him about what he's doing. He's an adult now.''
Nal ngwuteel wiikuwak taa kohpii eenda-nzhiis eenda-lalohkeet. Moxa nzhiis ihalohke, loowanuwii ang saalaakhe, waak ang kaatxakhwe, nal ang sheendiihung wiikiit. Siikwanuwii aashteew ang faamulal alohkehtawe taa talu. Then they lived together in the forest where my uncle was working. My uncle used to work a lot, in the winter he used to cut logs, and he would cut cordwood, and he would live in a shanty. During the spring then he worked for a farmer some place.
Oolu-tapaalaawal yool oxkweessal waak oolaliihaawal, shukw wa oxkweesus ngumee alumsuw. Ahalumsuw kehkeexookwunahke, waak ang nzhiis peeyaatu peech-wiicheewaatu, wulu ang kehla aalu-kweek-lunum. Ach ang wtayaalu-kihkuloolaawal ngukal. Shaaw ang oxkweesus manoongsuw. He supported this girl very well and he took care of her, but this girl was always leaving. She would leave for many days at a time, and my uncle would come home [to my mother's] and bring her, and he really couldn't do anything. He couldn't even talk to my mother. Right away the girl would get angry.
Nal taas ang wunukwtun-paan nxooxwe, keexun ang paan nxooxwee. Aayaaxkwu nguk wununamun, uw, "Kway eet waak alumsuw, shiing-eet ang-nxoo-nootiike.'' Then one time he came walking alone, and several times he came walking alone. After a while my mother recognized that he was alone, and she said, "Now she must have left again, he doesn't like staying at home alone.''
Kach nooxw uw, "Mah, kwiilawaawal, xeet niil.'' Even my father said, "No, he must be looking for her.''
Kehla waak ngumee papaa-kwiilawaawal. He really was always going about looking for her.
Nal eet ang pehkiik taas moxkawaawal, nal ang waak maachiin. Nal nu kwunii-nu aaylee. Kwunii-wiitaawsoomaawal, ta sahku shiikaanzh luki wtaluwihkawaawal nzhiisal. Then eventually he would find her and then she would go back home; then she would leave again. So it went on like that for a long time. He lived with her for a long time, for a long time she really dominated my uncle.
Nal wiixkwii ngwutun-waapan nzhiis peech=, peetanoongsuw. Whtulaawal ngukal, "Shiikaanzh luki nuwiiniihukw. Mehch kway keexookwunahkee. Ngwutun piiske laalumatapiin nxoo, ndiit, "Kweek eet ha wa noonj-luki, ngumee nagfgravemaatawaakw. Piht und eet wa numutaanhookw.'' Then all of a sudden one morning my uncle came over and he was angry. He said to my mother, "She really made me mad. Now she's been away for many days. One night I was sitting around alone, I thought, `What is the matter with me, I'm always like that. Maybe she bewitched me.'''
Nal ha, uw, "haluwii na ndiiteehaan wunukwtun-alumsiin ndiit, "Ngwiilamun wchapihk.'' Then he said, "The more I thought about it, one time when she left I thought, `I'll look for the medicine.'''
"Nal ha mbapaa-kwiilamun wchapihk, weemu taa ndulu-kwiilamun." "Then I set about looking for the medicine. I looked everywhere.''
"Nal ha laaweelundam alaw eet na ndiiteehaan. Wiixkwii numushaatamun nuweendakwiiwan, ndiit piht undeet eekwuyaaniil ndulu-kwiilamun aashtee. Kehlaak waak. Heesh waapang ehawehayaan nuweendakwiiwan. Na alaami-pihtawiikwaakanung kuliikwaasuw wchapihk. Mah ha aween miimoxkamoowun mah kwiilang." "Then I gave up, I thought that for nothing. Suddenly I thought about my coat. I thought that maybe I'll search my clothing next. That's right. My every day coat. Inside the lining the medicine was tightly sewn. Nobody ever would have found it if they weren't looking for it.''
Shaa eenda-mihkwcheenungu shaa liiteehe, "Yoon eet kway.'' Shaa wtulu-wkahkhamun kootum. Kwutunumun wchapihk. Kehla waak chahkweeshuw, tagfgravetugfgravephaasuw, kwunoocheeyeeshuw. Paapunamun. Right away when he felt for it, right away he thought, "Now this is it.'' Right away he ripped his coat. He felt for the medicine. It was really short, it was tied in a bundle, it had a long little body. He looked at it for a while.
"Yoon eet kway noonj-luki-kihchu-maamateelumukwun. Mbeehaa kway paan apih nduloohumawaan.'' "This is the reason why she had been abusing me. I'll wait for her until she comes and I'll show it to her.''
Peekiik ta keexookwunahkiike, nal waak paan. Nal ha wtuloohumawaan. Wtulaawal, "Yoon, ha kway koonj-mateelumi, kway mah ha njihnal kiish-mateelumiiwu.'' She was gone for many days, then she came back. Then he showed it to her. He said to her, "This is it, the reason why you have been abusing me, now you can't abuse me anymore.''
"Nal kwachumung u ndaan taa ndulu-aseesahkaaheen. Nal ha nuweendakwiiwan waak eekwuyaaniil nooliixtoonal. Nah noonj-alumsiin, nah nu taa nukalaan.'' "Then I went outside and I scattered it. Then I fixed my coat and my clothing. Then I left from there, and I abandoned her.''
Peeyaatu ngukung wtulaawal, "Kway mah ha njihnal ngihkihkuloolaawu, waak ngataalaawu msuchee.'' When he came to my mother's, he told her now, "I won't talk to her anymore, and I don't want her at all.''
Nal nguk uw, "Kwaachund, mah noolsutamoowun shukw shaxkii-leew.'' Wulu kehla nzhiis waawiiniihkool. Mah njihnal kwihkata-kihkuloolaawiiwal, mah kwihkataalaawiiwal njihnal, shukw nguk wtulaawal nooxwal "Nal xeet na kway eel-wchapihk-aluwihkang.'' Then my mother said, "Goodness, I wouldn't have believed it had it not happened.'' She really angered my uncle. He didn't talk to her anymore, he didn't want her anymore, but my mother said to my father, "It's because he overcame the medicine.''


--written by Steve Wick, Newsday staff writer

Additional Reading

 American Indian medicine
 American Indian Tribes
 Munsee Delaware
 The Stockbridge Munsee
 Delaware Indians
 Wisconsin Native Americans

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