When I returned to Leland's Kluskap-Malsum story, it was with the idea of quickly discrediting the story (by means of this incongruity bolstered by internal textual evidence), so I could move on to the question of why Leland did what he did. Instead I found myself simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the way a well-meaning folklorist of the late nineteenth-century treated the stories and the storytellers he encountered. As a consequence this study is about the way a particular "Indian" story came to prominence and the impact it continues to have....
I have to be tentative myself about the impact of Leland's promotion of the Kluskap twin story has had on the self understanding of native people. There is some evidence that some Abenaki and Micmac peoples have appropriated the Kluskap-Malsum story, that their creative response has been to make this story their own. Despite some excellent work, we still do not know very much about the process whereby native peoples of this region melded their traditional, preEuropean contact way of life with Roman Catholicism. The existence of the story on the predominantly Roman Catholic Tobique Reserve as late as 1962 would indicate it was still useful to some Maliseet people at that time, most probably in the process of creating a religious alliance or co- evolution. Among the minority Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot "traditionalists," people who understand themselves to be rediscovering and following traditional, preEuropean contact spiritual ways, I have heard the Kluskap-Malsum story from only one elder. Despite the fact that he has been telling the story for over ten years, I have heard no other "traditionalist" tell the story either spontaneously or when questioned. I gather from this that Abenaki and Micmac "traditionalists" generally have not found this story particularly meaningful.
There is one other dimension to the impact of this story on native self- understanding. In my experience native students in the courses I teach on Native American religions are often interested in discovering more about their "Indianness," by which they seem to mean at least something not European or EuroCanadian. Turning to stories as a key, they will usually find Algonquin Legends. When any Abenaki or Micmac concerned, like these students, with discovering more about their "Indianness" find Leland and his lead story about Kluskap and his evil wolf brother Malsum, I contend they are at least distracted -- if not thrown -- from their path if they take seriously Leland's implied claim that this story was once central in their ancestors' lives. At the very least the vilification of Malsum the Wolf, central in Leland's story, runs counter to the positive characterization of Wolf in many other stories, including Aquin's Kluskap twin story. Further, the dualism of the story, the radical distinction between good and evil as well as the notion that in the past times all humankind was wicked, seem out of place when set beside the host of other stories where these ways of seeing the world are not the case. Finally, whatever wisdom this relatively minor story gave its hearers about ways of understanding what we today would call "family violence" has been obliterated in part by the editorial standards Leland imposed on both his data and his consultants.
The third area in which Leland's promotion of the Kluskap twin story has had an impact is the interrelationship of native and nonnative peoples. By shifting this story to the center of Abenaki and Micmac story traditions, Leland has distanced nonnatives even further from understanding the native people whose land they occupy as part of the spoils of conquest. Leland, of course, was not concerned a hundred years ago with this problem since, according to popular wisdom based on the culmination of a history of conquest, "the Indian" was destined to extinction. What has happened instead is that Abenaki and Micmac people have co-evolved with the society they call "dominant." They have done this despite the dominant society's consistent misunderstanding of their religious traditions. The nonnative's skewed understanding has been distorted by the history of conquest, a history that produced and was in turn driven by distorting stereotypes of "the Indian." As a consequence, the process of trying to understand the people that have lived longest on the land now called North America -- in this study's case the Maliseet and Micmac, the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot -- is fraught with difficulty. Leland's decision to promote the Kluskap twin story to the center of Abenaki and Micmac story traditions has compounded the difficulty. This promotion, then, perpetuates in ways Charles Godfrey Leland could never foresee, that conquest history.
* Algonquin Legends was reprinted by Dover Press in 1992. It is now easy to obtain.