Today's blog story features a pencil drawing and jewelry of my own making, as well as graphic art by Ojibwe Medicine Painters Chris Angeconeb and the late Norman Knott as well as the late Norval Morrisseau. I also consider it a great honor to be able to show a brand-new artwork by one of the most talented members the Canadian Native Woodland Art School has brought forth: Nakawē-Anishinaabe painter and poet Simone Mcleod. She created it exclusively for this blog post, for which I am most grateful.
CHRIS ANGECONEB, whose spirit name is Ezhinwed, is a talented third-generation Ojibwe Anishinaabe Woodland artist from Canada.
NORMAN KNOTT (1945-2003) was a gifted Medicine Painter from Curve Lake First Nation in southeastern Onario, noted for his outline drawings reflection his personal spritual beliefs.
SIMONE MCLEOD (her traditional name is Aki’waaboyaani’kwe, which means "Earth Blanket Woman" in the Ojibwe language) is an Anishinaabe artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962 and a member of the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) of her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba. Simone's work has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by many art lovers from the UK, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Greece, South Africa, Japan, India, and New Zealand.
In the Beginning
Many moons ago, when the World was not yet born, GICHI-MANIDOO (The Great Mystery, sum of all Mysteries) beheld a vision.
It saw in its dream a vast sky filled with many stars and the day-sun and the night-sun, and it saw the earth in the form of a giant sea turtle.
GICHI-MANIDOO placed first man on a land near the borders of a great sea, which soon would be known as WAABANAKIING, the Dawn Land. It was here that many winters later the offspring of first man, the great Anishinaabe Nation, would thrive before Seven Grandfathers came out of the Sea and gave them their Midewiwin belief, established five doodemag (clans), and a set of seven laws to live by. These same grandfathers also warned the Anishinaabe People of a threat arriving from the East that would bring sickness, starvation, and extermination and they convinced many to leave the Dawn Land and follow the waterways to a land far to the West, "a place where grows manoomin (wild rice) upon the waters (The Great Lakes)."
Gift of the Eagle Feather
GICHI-MANIDOO, understanding that it had successfully brought into existence its vision, soon realized there was still one thing missing, something that it would have to do in order to make its work complete. Because the humans who in those days lived in the Dawn Land did not know how to survive in nature and, being weak in bodily powers and thrown to the mercy of evil spirits were afraid of adversity and misfortune, they started to questioning everything that GICHI-MANIDOO had created.
Pondering what it could do to give the humans ways to express their hopes and fears and dreams and build in them a sense of direction and self-worth, GICHI-MANIDOO decided that it would give them the power to dream, and the power of prayer. As GICHI-MANIDOO was pondering through which category of beings it could confer these powers on the humans – the rooted ones, the crawling ones, the four legged, the finned ones, or perhaps the spiritual beings? -, MISHOOMIS MAKWA (Grandfather Bear) stepped up from his abode in the North and suggested that he, as the embodiment of birth and new life, would be the one to bring the humans dreams about new beginnings, so they would have a powerful medicine with which they could influence their fate and fashion their destiny.
GICHI-MANIDOO smiled thinking how bears embody virtues like bravery and spiritual healing and that eagles show strength and vision and clarity of mind. So GICHI-MANIDOO entrusted Mishoomis Makwa with the authority to govern the people’s dreams and it gave Migizi the title of messenger of their prayers.
- Zaagi’idiwin (Love)
- Minaadendamowin (Respect)
- Aakode'ewin (Bravery)
- Gwayako-bimaadiziwin (Honesty)
- Dabaadendiziwin (Humility)
GICHI-MANIDOO then explained that although these seven sacred teachings were equally important, the virtue of Aakode’ewin (bravery) was especially meaningful, for being brave is not about being audacious or acting the most daring or mighty, but being brave enough to incorporate all other teachings into one’s life, even if that means standing alone in the community. So, Makwa the bear was chosen to represent the law of Bravery.
GICHI MANIDOO also explained the importance of zaagi'idiwin, saying that to feel true love is to know and love the Great Mystery because its very breath is considered the giver of human life. Love given to GICHI MANIDOO is therefore expressed through love of oneself and if one cannot love oneself, it is impossible to love anyone else. Therefore, GICHI MANIDOO explained, love is an exceptionally important virtue.
you first learn to love yourself.
Migizi the Bald Eagle was chosen by the Great Mystery to represent the Teaching of love because Migizi flies high above the earth and sees all that is true, and is therefore closer to GICHI MANIDOO than any other creature. Love is the most elusive of all virtues and no other creature is so elusive as this mighty spirit-bird, and love has the same light and airy nature as his plumes.
GICHI MANIDOO also explained that Grandfather Bear and Grandfather Eagle are connected spirits. Doesn't Migizi teach humankind that wisdom and courage cannot exist without each other? Isn't there great wisdom in understanding that one cannot know love unless one is courageous? Isn't it so that one cannot walk the path of life without making changes once in a while and doesn't it take great courage to actually bring about the change?
Upon hearing this, the Anishinaabeg were filled with awe and great gratitude and they soon began to wonder who among them would be the first to receive such a powerful manidoo (spirit) feather. When GICHI MANIDOO sensed the eager anticipation of the Anishinaabe people it called upon two elderly medicine people of the Midewiwin to step forward, and it presented the Eagle feather to these oshkaabewisag (spiritual messengers) for inclusion in the Mide biinjigwasan (medicine bundle) that one of them carried. Then GICHI-MANIDOO instructed that the teachings of these two oshkaabewisag and the feather itself be passed forward to the next generation, and that the teachings of the successors of the Mide oshkaabewisag be passed to the generation after the next generation, and so on and so on into eternity.
looked up into the blue sky as it suddenly changed colors.
At last, the Eagle Grandfather had come to the world and to this day his feathers enrich the spiritual lives of the Anishinaabeg.