Legends and Storms

Pending Tempest,  Alberta 

July 24, 2010

The Cree have a legend from which the Qu’Appelle Valley and Katepwa Lake in Saskatchewan take their names.  The original legend was given a romantic twist by the poet Pauline Johnson and that version is what sticks today.

The legend is that a Cree brave was returning from travels that had taken him away from his lodge for a long time.  On the last day of his return trip, while he was paddling his canoe along the length of the lake where his village was located, he kept hearing a voice calling his name.  “Who calls?” he kept shouting back, but there was never any reply other than his own echo.  When he reached his village he was told that his sweetheart had died while he was away and, at the last, she kept calling out his name wanting him to be with her.

When the French started settling in the valley in the 1800s and learned of this legend, they created the name, The Qu’Appelle Valley, using the French for ‘who calls’.  The lake was better named, I think, because it comes from the Cree expression for ‘who calls’, which is “Awina Katepwēt” - thus Katepwa Lake.

As wonderful a story as this is, when the city dwelling cottagers, including my parents and uncles, started populating the shores of Katepwa, they came up with a more mundane explanation that Katepwa meant ‘Lake of Sudden Storms’.

At our cottage at Katepwa we did get sudden and furious storms.  When they came at night, the sight of the lightning was spectacular.  I witnessed these displays of nature’s energy from our veranda at the cottage.  Whenever there was a big storm, we would sit in that grandstand to watch as lightning bolts bathed the valley in light.  The accompanying winds were strong, churning the lake into frothy peaks that crashed against the shore beneath the veranda.  A wonderful calm usually followed.  The air, cleaned by the heavy rain, allowed me to see millions of stars in a beautiful prairie night sky.  I loved walking out the door next morning to be greeted by fresh, moist air, and cool, wet grass.  What a dramatic contrast such mornings provided to the hot, dry norm of the prairies in the summer.

Today, any dramatic summer storm takes me back to those family times at Katepwa, the lake where a love was lost.