by Richard L. Dieterle
The chief of minks and the paragon of that race is Jejąksígega, Mink. However, this name may also be given to any mink that stands as a kind of representative of the species in the story in which he occurs. Therefore, there are stories about Mink that may not be about the chief of the minks.
Mink is most often portrayed as a sportsman, but of a devious and tricky nature. He is a trickster, a cheat, and a thief, much like his associate Coyote. As a trickster, Mink frequently competes with Trickster himself. Once he was even able to trick the master. Mink first encountered Trickster in the middle of the winter. They decided to race to establish which of them was chief, but the only surface that was suitable was the frozen ice of a river. A pot of bear meat was placed at the finish line. During the race, Mink came to a crack in the ice and commanded, "Crack grow wider," then leapt over it. When Trickster came to it he asked, "What should I say?" Mink told him to say just what he had said, but when Trickster did, the gap in the ice became too big and Trickster fell in. The ice closed up and Trickster was trapped. Mink ate all the food, then dropped a bear dropping into Trickster's mouth. Mink escaped by swimming under the ice.1 However, Trickster had his chance to get even when Mink showed up as a visitor in the new village where Trickster was living. Mink did not know that Trickster had recognized him, so when Trickster persuaded him to court the princess, Mink agree. Before they left, Trickster fed him a meal of artichoke and fish oil, which is a powerful laxative. During the night, Mink could not help himself, and soiled the princess. Trickster ran up and down the village yelling, "The traveler has soiled the princess!" Mink was so ashamed that he was never seen there again.2 In another story, the same thing happens to Trickster at the hands of Turtle, which shows that Mink and Trickster have much in common.3
If not a bad spirit himself, Mink often marries into the man-eating Giants. Turtle's side and the Giants competed in lacrosse using a black stone ball painted red, wagering lives on the outcome. Mink and Coyote played with the opposite side because they were sons-in-law of the Giants. During the game, Mink was struck with the stone ball and his head was broken.4 In another lacrosse game, Pigeon Hawk, Coyote, and Mink were sons-in-law of the Giants. The other two sons-in-law were quickly overtaken, but Mink led his opponent Otter in a wild chase through the reed swamp before he was finally caught and the ball taken from him.5 This shows that part of the trickery of the mink is his ability at evasion, which we had seen revealed earlier when he escaped Trickster by swimming under the ice.
Links: Trickster, Coyote, Turtle, Giants, Pigeon Hawk, Otters, The Twins.
External Links: Fool's Paradise: a webpage dedicated to exploring the complex mythic/archetypal figure of Trickster.
Stories: mentioning minks: Morning Star and His Friend, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, A Mink Tricks Trickster, Mink Soils the Princess.
1 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 36-38.
2 Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) 49-50.
3 Paul Radin, "The Trickster Soils the Princess," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #47: 1-80.
4 Paul Radin, "Spear Shaft and Lacrosse," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #36: 1-81.
5 John Harrison, The Giant or The Morning Star, translated by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #11a, Story 8: 92-117.