Wild Goose Island
A Montana Legend
retold by S.E. Schlosser
In the middle of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park is a small island halfway between two shores. Many moons ago now, there were two tribes living on either side of the lake. While there was no direct warfare between them, the two tribes avoided one another and had no dealings one with the other.
All this changed one day when a handsome warrior on the near shore saw a lovely maiden from the other tribe swimming toward the small island in the middle of the lake. He was instantly smitten by her beauty and leapt into the lake to swim to the island himself. They met on the shore of the little islet, and the maiden was as taken with the warrior as he was with her. They talked for hours, and by the end of their conversation, they were betrothed. After extracting a promise from his beloved that she would faithfully meet him at the island on the morrow, the warrior swam home to his tribe, and she returned to hers.
Oh, what an uproar they met upon their return. Neither tribe was happy at their meeting, and all were determined to break the betrothal instantly. What to do? The man and the maiden had no doubts at all. In the wee hours of the morning, each swam out to the little island to meet one another -- from their to flee to a new land where they might marry. As soon as they were discovered missing, warriors from both tribes set out in pursuit, to bring the renegades back by whatever means available.
But the Great Spirit was watching, and took pity on the young lovers. He transformed them into geese, which mate for life, so they could fly away from their pursuers and so that they would always be together. When the warriors arrived on the island, the found not a man and a woman, but two lovely geese walking among the small trees and bracken. At the sight of the warriors, the two geese stroked their necks together lovingly and then flew away, never to return.
From that day to this, the little island at the center of St. Mary Lake has been known as Wild Goose Island.