"Giigoonh, Silent Being Of Lakes And Streams"
A new story told by Simone McLeod and Zhaawano Giizhik
Passing in the night
Glimpses of each other
as we leave our mother
Is it safety that we stay
inside our canoe our life
not ever making a choice
I strain my ear
to listen carefully
to just hear your voice
When calm is the sea
rustling of memory true
Calm waters eager heart
she feels my longing
moon she looks at you
Fog was designed
for lovers arms
reaching out in vain
I will wait once more
for cloudy nights
to bring you again
We all must fall
sometimes in life
to rise up strong
Learn to walk again
learn to smile again
learn right from wrong
Our journey our life
is our story our own
sit down my friend
For we can share
our words our dreams
Why must it end..."*
We are most grateful to our friend Charles J. Lippert who, in the course of writing this story, once again shared with us his knowledge of Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language.
Gidoodeminaanig, our clans
The five original doodemag, or clans, of the Anishinaabe ancestors who - at least - 700 summers ago gathered at Baawitigong, the rapids and waterfalls of Michigan´s upper peninsula -, hold a set of traditional responsibilities for the People. Each member regards himself or herself as member of a clan first, then a community. Traditionally, clan membership includes certain colors, songs, and ceremonies, along with responsibilities that belong to the doodem in question.
Although it is believed that farther back in history the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg were matrilineal – which means that doodem identity was passed through the mother – , nowadays the children usually become automatically members of the father's clan. Members of the same matrilineal or patrilineal clan, no matter how many miles apart, are kin and forbidden to marry, and are expected always to extend hospitality, food and lodging to each other. That tradition is carried on today. Tradition dictates that when members are buried, their doodem symbols appear on their graves to mark their lineage. Also, clan symbols appear in birch bark scrolls of the Midewiwin and and in the old treaty documents.
The Fish Clans
Traditionally, Giigoonh doodem members help children to develop skills and healthy spirits; they are the teachers, scholars, and the intellectuals of the Anishinaabe peoples. It is especially the Elders' task to teach about life through storytelling, chants, and dances, and to prepare the young for a vision quest.
About the painting
To Simone, this acrylic on canvas titled "Growth Within" touches the core of what true Woodland Art represents: using colors and form to create art that reflects a unique way of looking at the world. This is what Simone said about the painting:
A Good Way of Life
The teachings of MIDEWIWIN, the Lodge of Medicine and Ethics of the Anishinaabe People, tell us that each person has a path to follow, called The True Path of Life, a capricious trail with many digressions (dangers and temptations) traveling over four “hills”: infancy, youth, adulthood, old age. He or she who managed to live out life in all its stages was to receive and possess nature’s greatest gift: MINO BIMAADIZIWIN. Traditionally, MINO-BIMAADIZIWIN, ‘to live a good way of life’, has always been the central goal for the Anishinaabeg.
KNOWLEDGE ON THE ROAD OF LIFE /DOODEM OF LEARNING - white & yellow gold, silver, turquoise and red coral set of collar necklace and ear jewelry (sold). For prices see our website FisherStarCreations.com.
About the necklace
Divided over five elegantly curved white gold wires, Zhaawano fastened four moveable ornaments of precious metals and stones – to be placed in any desired position along the wires. The wires symbolize the five main GIDOODEMINAANIG (our blood relations; animal totems) of the Anishinaabe Peoples: Ajiijaak (Crane), Makwa (bear), Waabizheshi (Marten), Maanameg (Catfish), and Mikinaak (Snapping Turtle). These (archaic) totems denote the five needs of the People and the five elementary functions of society: respectively LEADERSHIP, DEFENSE, SUSTENANCE, MEDICINE, LEARNING, and MEDICINE.
The four moveable elements of the necklace, a gold eagle feather, a stylized fish head and tail of white gold and silver and a turquoise stone set in gold, pertain to the central concept of the design: the stages of life that we humans must pass through from birth to death. The elements also relate to the various phases of LEARNING: the human cognitive process and the transfer of knowledge and know-how.
In honor of the concept of learning and knowledge, Zhaawano adorned the fish head ornament of the necklace with an eye of turquoise; the two post-back earrings – which he placed on the wires of the necklace when he took the photo – are watching the world through eyes of red coral.
The concept of MINO BIMAADIZIWIN Zhaawano depicted by means of the asymmetrically cut turquoise stone, accentuated by a setting of 14K yellow and red gold and sterling silver. The rough surface and the black-veined matrix of the turquoise, along with the sharp and irregular corners of the setting symbolize the many dangers, disasters, and perils along life’s path.
Finally, the stylized 14K gold eagle feather fastened at one side of the collar necklace, refers to ojichaag bimisewin or ‘Spirit Flight’: the spiritual journeys the human mind is capable of - a special and often elusive dimension in our existence. A state of wisdom and knowledge can only be reached by inner spiritual growth and enhancement of consciousness. According to the lessons of aayaanikaaj mishoomisag, the Anishinaabe forefathers, no man begins to be until he has received his vision…
The Anishinaabe forefathers distinguished a variety of Giigoonhyag Manidoog (fish spirits) of at least three types, the first being Mishiibizhiwag, the Underwater Cats, and the others being Mishiginebig, the Sea Serpent who provides Knowledge of Medicinal herb and Makadeshigan or Black Bass, the spirit of the Underworld, who presented the People Medicine and rituals.
Underwater manidoog were not perse considered evil, and not always dangerous. They were supposed to possess powers that assist other water beings as well. Other metaphorical interpretations of fish include the Merman/Mermaid, who symbolize temptation.
A safe passage
The giigoonhyag manidoog have always been associated with the water realm, and revered by the Anishinaabeg and their neighbours the Cree as spirits who control the moods of the Lake and potentially dangerous guards of rapids and swift or troubled waters. Particularly Mishibizhiw, the Great Underwater Lynx, has the power to shapeshift into various animal forms. He is said to aid those who seek to cross dangerous water, provided that a suitable offer is made.
Makadeshigan and the gift of ceremony and health
About the bolo tie
Miigwech for reading and listening and giga-waabamin: see you later!
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. 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 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 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.