“who is caribou?” is one of the most famous questions of North American indigenous cultures. The answer to this question, unfortunately, is not that easy to determine. The myths of the Wild Man, the Wild Woman, the Four Winds, the Wild People, the Wild Eagle, the Six Nation, the Sioux, the Lakota, all give rise to a lot of confusion in relation to who is Caribou.
Most North Americans believe that the Wild Man and Wild Woman existed simultaneously, long before the dawn of mankind. Their stories, songs, and legends are part of the Indigenous culture of the United States, Canada, and many parts of Latin America. Daniel Victor Snaith, a Canadian singer and composer who has played for bands such as the Caravan and the Roxy, is one of the few modern artists who have also dabbled in the realm of Wild Man and Wild Woman mythological images. In his song “The Bruise,” from his album What Are The Gods Saying? (1977), Snaith sings about the Wild Man who “makes a lot of women fall in love with him.”
According to one story, the Wild Man lived among the Indians when they lived in caves along the riverbanks. He was the chief of the tribe and the only other male who held authority. Women were not allowed to trade or marry within the tribe. When a woman was married outside of the tribe, her children would be taken away by the Wild Man and thrown into the fire. Those children who survived were given shelter and protection by the Wild Man until they grew old enough to return to the Wild Ones.
One of the most intriguing legends concerning the Wild Man concerns how he relates to the Wild People of the North. The Wild People was earlier known as the Wendigo, the people that disappeared in the mid-nineteenth century due to the massive birch shortage. They were said to be an ancient group who had an uneasy peace with the people of the North, but who gave their descendants the gift of life in the form of caribou. It is unclear whether this legend was related to the Wild Man or the Wild Woman; it is, however, an interesting part of the mythology of the Canadian arctic region.
The name of the Wild Woman in many Canadian First Nations tribes is Taku ‘walk (or Taku’ waath). She is often represented by a beautiful maiden in a long white dress, sometimes covered with feathers. In some versions of the legends, she is also sometimes shown as a dark, evil-looking old woman. Her role in the mythology of the Wild Men of the North is an important one – she is the keeper of the woods and is responsible for the animals’ sustenance.
Some versions of the story to tell about the Wild Woman and the Wild Man creating the world, only for the Wild Woman to be disappointed when she realizes that the man she has created does not want to share her creations. In other stories, the Wild Woman is considered the creator of the world, but the men who enter the forest are willing to share their wives with her. Regardless, of which version of the story you prefer, the question ‘who is caribou?’ can never truly be answered with certainty because no two accounts are identical.