Chepi Sepe, Ghost River. The Cree who lived here long ago must have had a reason for giving the Spirit River such a name. The story, if there ever was one true origin, has become diffuse over the years, and through translation. It is unfortunate that it has become forgotten rather than embellished like many a good ghost story.
The vast, empty territory of over 100 years ago must have been a ready setting for the imaginations of the few early inhabitants. Darkness, wild animals, and unusual noises still haunt the open fields (modern grasslands) and areas of thick bush. Descending into the narrow-walled bed of the Spirit River is a bit like going underground, where noises from the upper world are muted and the river’s twists make it impossible to know what is just ahead of you… or right behind you. It’s not surprising that there are a couple of spooky legends of how Spirit River got its name.
One is of a party of Cree hunters, camping at the base of a hill. They had separated, some staying to set up camp and some tracking game near the river. One of the hunters crept near enough a deer to take a shot, bringing it down with skill.
After the elation of the hunt and the kill, the harder task of carrying the meat back to camp remained. The man felt drained, suddenly realizing he was alone at the bottom of the river cut with the deer’s body. It was growing dark as well. He called out for his companions to come and assist, and he heard several answering shouts.
The hunter waited, longer than seemed reasonable. All was still. He called again, slightly annoyed, and again, within seconds, heard replies. But no one appeared at the edge of the cliff above, or around the bend in the river.
It didn’t take much longer for the hunter to realize that it was not his companions calling. Was it just an echo, or was it a ghost? By then it was dark, and he was spooked. Leaving the deer where it lay, he climbed out of the valley and ran through the darkness back to camp. By the time he arrived, he was thoroughly convinced that many spirits were chasing him. The entire party packed up and left their camp to the spirits of the river.
Another legend of Chepi Sepe will be published tomorrow.
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