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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Love Stories From The Land Of Many Lakes, part 2

Nibegomowini-negaawajiw




"Sleeping Bear And Her Children"

A love story told by Zhaawano Giizhik and Simone McLeod


- Updated August 2, 2017

Spirit Of The Bear trouwringen by ZhaawanArt
Spirit Of The She-Bear wedding ring set by ZhaawanArt. Click here for prices


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Aaniin. Biindigen! Hello, welcome to this blog!

Today's blog story is the second in a new series named "Love Stories From the Land of Many Lakes."

It is a collection of love stories written and provided with jewelry images and illustrations of artwork by us as well as by kindred artists. The stories are based on aadizookaanan (traditional stories) of our People, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg of Gaa-zaaga'eganigak, the land of many lakes - the Great Lakes area of North America.

These narratives are of a sacred, healing nature and told within a romantic context, their allegorical themes often provided with a personal touch.

The following tale is a zaagi'iwewi-aadizookaan (sacred love story). It is narrated in the form of a frame story, in this case several metaphoric tales of a traditional, sacred nature placed within a larger story that has also embedded in it some autobiographical elements.

The story we will relate today is not about the love between a man and wife, but about a mother’s love for her children.

We are most grateful to our friend Charles J. Lippert who, in the course of writing this story, once again shared with us his incredible knowledge of the Anishinaabe language and culture.

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The Story Of Standing Firm


Once there lived a girl in an Ojibwe village who was named Ashkibag (monarch butterfly) by her parents at birth. Her doodem was Name, the clan of the Sturgeon People. When she turned 15 summers she had a dream of a bear and from then on her name was Mashkawigaabawiik (“Standing Firm”).

As Mashkawigaabawiik turned into a young woman she fell in love with a man from another Nation, which dwelled to the north from where the Ojibweg lived. His village was located across the same lake on whose borders her parent's wiigiwaam (lodge) stood. The man from this other nation was named Mishtahi Ochichaak (“Big Sandhill Crane”). He was known wide and far for his leadership skills and the Elders of his Nation whispered that he was predestined to be an okimaka, a spokesman and first in council.

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Zhaawano Giizhik Tammo Geertsema



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The love that Mashkawigaabawiik felt for Mishtahi Ochichaak was answered by him, enticed as he was by her pretty face surrounded by beautiful black curly locks. People had told him that besides her beauty, the Ojibwe girl that lived across the lake was known for her good nature and an extraordinarily artistic talent. However, Mashkawigaabawiik happened to be three winters younger than Ochichaak and since she, besides beautiful of appearance, was also shy of character, the thought of marriage with this Ginishtinoo man from the neighboring village made her insecure, and at night she could not sleep because of it. In fact, she was afraid she would never be able to live up to his expectations and those of his People…
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Simone McLeod Aki-egwaniizid


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Marriage took place, and Mashkawigaabawiik lived in Ochichaak’s village for many years and from their union sprang niizhoodenhyag, a twin, a boy and a girl. But Ochichaak did not turn out to be the kind of man she first saw in him, nor was she happy with his family who did never show her much appreciation for who she was. Every day, all day long she sat in Ochichaak’s tipi cooking, sewing, and mending, but each day she became more sad because there was no time to create beautiful beadwork and colorful paintings on deer hides like she had done when she still lived on the other side of the lake. 
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One day Mashkawigaabawiik decided to leave her husband, and she secretly packed her needles and beads and art supplies and a few clothes, and she stole away from his side in the middle of the night. With a heavy heart because she had to leave her children, but determined to return to the village of her family where she once lived carelessly and free like a butterfly, she steered her canoe toward the shore of the other side, and she sang a last song for her husband.



“How much I craved freedom
You once owned me, I was
flying free in a closed world
you did not see I was sad.

This day through a smoke hole
I was called to come home
a smell oh so fragrant
false dreams are now gone.

Afraid to take steps
to freedom of flight
I looked for many hours
by day and cold nights.

Owner I see you
your vigil in the shadow
loyalty now questioned
And now I must go.

There are no butterfly nets
that can stop what's begun
for it is time for freedom
it is time for the sun.

Do not try to stop them
the beautiful sounds
of wings so softly beating
from sky to the grounds.

When we try to hang on
to something we own
turns out we then hurt them
the loves we have known.

Lost now are the colors
I brought into your life
find yourself a new one
and cause her no strife.

Trust, love, and respect
can go a long way, yet
your actions are your choice
by the end of the day...



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Norval Morrisseau Miskwaabik Animikii
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Years went by and Mashkawigaabawiik took up her old life in the Ojibwe village at the lake, and she developed romantic feelings for another man, a man belonging to Waabizheshi doodem (the Marten clan) who possessed a strong but also kind-hearted nature. His name was Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi ("He Whose Voice is Carried By The Winds"). It was not before long that Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi asked Mashkawigaabawiik’s parents for her hand and this made Mashkawigaabawiik very happy, but in her heart she could not forget the niizhoodenhyag (her twin children) whom she had left behind in the village on the other side of the lake.

Mashkawigaabawiik’s mother, whose name was Aazhawash (“Wafted Across”), sensing her daughter’s feelings of guilt and her longing for her children, decided to offer her council by sharing her own outlook on life, after which she concluded her reflection in the form of an aadizookaan (metaphoric story of a sacred nature).

“Someday”, Aazhawash told her daughter, “when you will walk happily with this man named Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi, you will find the strength in your heart needed to return to the Ginishtinoo village on the other side of the lake and visit your children. One day, they will have children too. You must tell them the sacred story that I will tell you today. Tell them to love their children unconditionally and always to remember to love their children like you have always loved yours. And tell them the importance of determination and faith in everything they do, no matter the curves they encounter on the road of their journeys. Tell them to pursue their dreams and never give up, no matter what others might say about the choices they make in life.”

“One thing I have learned on this life’s journey, indaan (my daughter), is not to pray for strength for oneself or for those we love. To pray for strength is to ask that the road ahead be hard. It is only through rough roads and hard lessons that we gain strength.

Once we are standing outside under the stars not praying for strength, it is then that we are at a loss for words.


We find that we really must find out more about ourselves. That the Great Mystery placed us on the earth as individuals and that we are on our own paths, responsible solely for ourselves and our children and not for how or what others think, or the path of life that is theirs to walk.


We cannot live to appease those around us for it is then that we get lost in someone else’s path and that small empty place inside ourselves begins to grow."


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Simone McLeod ZhaawanArt Fisher Star Creations



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After a short pause Aazhawash continued:

"You must always remember to walk your own road and follow your own dreams indaan; walk someone else’s road and follow someone else’s dreams and it will lead you nowhere. Fly like the butterfly; stand firm like the bear.”


“Many summers ago, before you left us to live in the nisawa`igan (tipi) of the man who lives across the lake, you undertook a makadekewin (vision quest). You fasted in solitude in a glade in the middle of the forest. Surrounded by tall cedar trees you fasted until after four days and three nights you received your first waaseyaabindamowin (life-guiding dream). In this dream, a bear rested his paw on your leg and told you that you are destined to walk the spiritual road as a mazinibii`igekwe, someone who has received the gift of creating images, whose able hands makes visible to others the world of the ancestors, thus reflecting  the manidoo-minjimandamowin, or Spirit Memory, the collective knowledge of the People."


“It is important that you always remember it was the bear, a mystic dream visitor and respected teacher of mankind, who gave you spiritual and artistic powers and the higher mental capacities needed for judgment and decision-making in your later life.”

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Nibegomowini-wiikwed


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The Sacred Tale Of Sleeping Bear


Aazhawash looked at her daughter who was listening silently and after a long pause she spoke again.

Ahaw indaan, 'ngad aadzooke." (Now my daughter, I will tell a sacred story.) 

“Many strings of life ago a Makade Noozhek (female black bear) named Mishi-makwa (Great Bear), fleeing from a raging forest fire, urged her two makade-makwaansag, or black bear cubs into the watery shelter of a vast body of water. Mishi-makwa knew that her children would be safe as long as they managed to swim across to the opposite shore. With calls of encouragement and steadfast love, Mishi-makwa  guided her cubs across Mishigami (the great lake; Lake Michigan). But ni`aanh! it was a long journey and the makwaansag became so tired that they fell behind. 

When Mishi-makwa reached the opposite shore, she climbed up on a giishkaadaawanga (where there is a steep hill in the water that reaches to where the sand meets the sky) to watch for her children. But the poor makwaansag could not make it to the shore! Mishi-makwa stayed and waited in hopes that her cubs would finally appear. She waited there for many suns and moons. Now, a great many seasons have come to pass since she last saw her children and she still waits today...

Impressed by the mother bear's determination and faith, GICHI-MANIDOO decided to honor the makade-makwaansag, and from the deep bottom of the big lake two islands came roaring out right where the bear cubs had drowned, and then the winds respectfully buried the sleeping bear mother under a blanket of fine white sand. Here she waits to this day, as an everlasting symbol of encouragement and steadfast love.

And to this day, our People call the sleeping bear covered with sand nibegomowini-negaawajiw, "fine-white sand hill where one waits in the night in the water for game." Also, our People named the two bear cub islands manidoo-minis (spirit island) and manidoo-minisens (small spirit island) and the bay that harbors the drowned bear cubs nibegomowini-wiikwed, "bay where one waits in the night in the water for game."

Giiwenh, so the story goes.”

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Edelsmid Zhaawano
Spirit Of The She-Bear wedding ring set by ZhaawanArt. Click here for prices


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Dream Of The Bear


Mashkawigaabawiik, after hearing the story of the black bear and her two children, thanked her mother for the counsel and she went outside her parent’s wiigiwaam to prepare for her marriage with Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi. After the marriage ceremony there was a feast and the playing of games. Mashkawigaabawiik and Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi lived happily together as man and wife, but vague, undefined feelings of sadness over having had to leave behind her children still lingered in Mashkawigaabawiik’s heart. Then, one night, a bear appeared to her in a dream. The bear spoke to her the following words:



"Gego gashkendigen
Gego mawiken
Minode`e giniijaanisiwag
G’ga noondaagoog giniijaanisag
Zhayiigwa g’ga bizaanide’e
Zhayiigwa g’ga bizaanendam.”

(“Do not be sad
Do not cry
Be kind to your children
Your children will hear you
Soon your heart will be at peace
Soon your mind will be at peace.”)


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Healing Journey by Aki-egwaniizid


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The Reunion 


Just before daybreak, Mashkawigaabawiik, after she had sung her morning prayers, rushed down to the water of the great lake, jumped into her husband’s wiigwaasi-jimaan (birchbark canoe) and started paddling across the lake on whose opposite shore her children lived.

Her heart was filled with butterflies of anticipation of seeing her children again after such a long period of time. All across the lake she sang in a quiet voice a song that nevertheless was heard by all creatures living along, and on and beneath, the water:


“No one ever does
travel truly alone
gone on their wings
never known at the time
feelings of great loss
no longer are mine
Smiles are inside me
to see plain as the day
as those butterflies took
the bad dreams away
Little child wanders now
in the rays of the sun
with love deep inside
and so happy to run
in new fields of flowers
so big and so bright
I see the monarchs
what a beautiful sight
No one ever does
travel truly alone.”



After seventeen hours of travelling, Mashkawigaabawiik paddled her canoe close to the opposite shore of the big lake. Then, inaa! she could not believe her eyes. Standing on the sandy banks of the lake lit by the soft blue light of daybreak stood her niizhoodenhyag who had grown into two young and handsome adolescents. At first, Mashkawigaabawiik trembled with excitement, but shortly after she had drawn the canoe on the beach and held her children in her arms a feeling of tranquility filled her heart and mind. She remembered the words of the bear that had visited her in the dream and finally understood the lessons of her mother.

As Mashkawigaabawiik and her two children sat down she told them of her dream about the bear. And just as her mother had done with her, she told her children this:

One day, you will have children too. You must tell them the sacred story that I will tell you today.

Tell them to love their children unconditionally and always to remember to love their children like I - although I could not always be there for you -  have always loved you.
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And tell them the importance of determination and faith in everything they do, no matter the curves they encounter on the road of their life’s journeys. 

Tell them to pursue their dreams and never give up, no matter what others might say about the choices they make in life.

One thing I have learned on this life’s journey, niniijaanisag (my children), is not to pray for strength for oneself or for those we love. To pray for strength is to ask that the road ahead be hard. It is only through rough roads and hard lessons that we gain strength.

Once we are standing outside under the stars not praying for strength, it is then that we are at a loss for words.

It is then that we find that we really must find out more about ourselves. That GICHI-MANIDOO placed us on the earth as individuals and that we are on our own paths, responsible solely for ourselves and our children and not for how or what others think, or the path of life that is theirs to walk.

We learn that we cannot live to appease those around us for it is then that we get lost in someone else’s path and that small empty place inside ourselves begins to grow.


Remember to walk your own road and follow your own dreams niniijaanisag; walk someone else’s road and follow someone else’s dreams and it will lead you nowhere.

You must always fly like the butterfly and stand firm like the bear.

Ahaw niniijaanidog, 'ngad aadzooke (Now my children, I will tell a sacred story…)”

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Zhaawano Giizhik Unieke trouwringen
Spirit Of The She-Bear wedding ring set by ZhaawanArt. Click here to see more wedding bands by ZhaawanArt


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Giiwenh. Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidibaajimotoon wa’aw zaagi'iwewi-aadizookaanBi-waabamishinaang miinawaa daga.

So the story goes. Thank you for listening to us today, to let us tell you about this sacred love story. Please come see us again!

Click here to read the third episode in the series "Love stories from the Land of Many Lakes": "Does a Canoe Have Dreams?"

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Simone McLeod
Zhaawano Giizhik Tammo Geertsema





About the authors/artists:

Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is an Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962 and a member of Pasqua First Nation of Saskatchewan. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan). She feels a special kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba. Simone descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.


Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins, the doodem of his ancestors from Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist and a writer and a jewelry designer, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists. He has done several art projects with Simone and hopes to continue to do so in the future.

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Jewelry and jewelry photography by Zhaawano Giizhik.

  • Wedding ring set "Noozhekwa-manidoo" ("Spirit Of The She-Bear"), overlay 14K yellow and red gold on 14K warm yellow gold and 14K palladium white gold and red gold on 14K warm yellow gold. 
Pencil drawings by Zhaawano Giizhik and Simone McLeod, copyright ZhaawanArt Fisher star Creations.
  • Black-and-white pencil drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik: detail of Wiidigemaaganag (Niizhomaangwag) ("Life Partners/ Two Loons") (2003).
  • Crayon drawing by Simone McLeod: detail of "Twins in Sweat Lodge Womb" (2013).
Painting, acrylic on canvas by Miskwaabik Aninmikii (Norval Morrisseau): "We Are One In Spirit".

Painting, acrylic on canvas by Simone McLeod: detail of "Journey To The Dawn Land" (2012).


"Healing Journey" ("Bear Paws Hidden In The Base Of Mother") acrylic on canvas by Simone McLeod "(2012)

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2 comments:

  1. Beautiful! And profound. I will take that story into me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Laura! I am glad you like the story.

      Delete