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Monday, August 17, 2015

Artist Inspirations, Part 7

"Our Love Stems from a Dream"

- Updated May 29, 2022

Native Woodland Art painting The Dream Visitor


Boozhoo! Hello! Biindigen, welcome to my new blog story!

I am Zhaawano Giizhik. By way of a blog series called "ARTIST INSPIRATIONS," accompanied by my own jewelry designs, as well as works of art by myself and kindred artists, I seek answers to the question that once in awhile involves asking, "where does my inspiration come from?" And, in retrospect: "which artist or artists inspired me into creating a painting, a graphic art work, a piece of jewelry, a poem…or a song?"

Today's blog post, the seventh in the series already, features a colorful painting by me - titled "The Dream Visitor - as well as a set of multicolor gold eagle feather rings that I lovingly fashioned around a story that I recently wrote. Design, colors, as well as subject matter of the painting and the ring set were, on their turn, inspired by a beautiful, soaring poem by Simone McLeod and by three breathtaking acrylic canvases done by some of my all-time favorite artists: Anishinaabe artist Leland Bell from Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation, Manitoulin Island; Alberta-based Dene Suline/Anishinaabe artist Alex Janvier, one of the members of the celebrated Native Group Of Seven; and last but not least, my dear friend, late Thunder Bay-based Anishinaabe Medicine painter Moses Amik, who grew up on the fly-in reserve of Niibinamikong, Ontario and who died a tragic, premature death in Thunder Bay on February 13, 2017.

The titles of these paintings that lent their beautiful themes and colors to my ring design are, respectively: Discovering Wisdom, Purple Healing, and One Body, One Spirit. You will find the images of the paintings inserted in the below text.

Now, let me first tell you something about the wedding rings and what they represent.

The Wedding Rings

Zhaawano Giizhik wedding rings
For details of the these wedding rings see our website


Nindoonji-zaagi'idizomin bawaajiganing, “Our Love for Each Other Stems from a Dream” – such is the title of the wedding rings, characterized by their unique eagle feather design and contrasting, cool and warm gold colors in combination with a purple amethist stone. The color purple, in our culture, stands for Love, and for the unparalleled power of GICHI-MANIDOO, the sum of all Spirit and Life’s Mystery.
The rings, constructed by hand from 14K white gold, 14K red gold, and 14K yellow gold, feature the stylized images of an eagle feather. The men’s ring consists of a shank of red gold proudly carrying a white gold tail feather. The ladies’ ring shows a red gold wing feather carefully draped over a band of white gold; a single 2.5 mm brilliant-cut amethyst, set in a 14K yellow gold bezel, sparkles from the center of the feather design. Both wedding rings come in a comfort fit, which means the insides of the bands are slightly domed, resulting in a comfortable fit. The men’s ring shank is 5 mm wide, the ladies’ ring shank is 4 mm wide.


I lie down against the black

waiting to drift into the light

of my deepest and sweetest dreams

My eyes had barely closed

to welcome the bliss of night when

I could feel his hands take mine

How this real world changed
as my lids fell so heavy against my cheeks
that I could hear them shut

As I opened them on the other side
it was like stepping into the universe

being drawn up by star people

I saw him once before when so small

that my feet could barely take me

more than a few miles at a time

Always just above my real sight

until the darkness came this dream

before I awoke today

We travelled through them so vast

the constellations of stories past

I had been here before?

As my feet walked into the lodge

I closed my eyes and left again

Into the universe not for the first flight

That was taken when just a child

A hand taken to a place of freedom

Where no sounds or feelings could come

Where will I go tonight

When he comes

To take my hands...

A poem by Simone McLeod 

Woodland art painting The Dream Visitor

Bawaagan ("The Dream Visitor") Ⓒ 2022 Zhaawano Giizhik. Visit the webshop to order a print.


Dream of Eagle Feather Woman


I based the theme of the wedding rings on a short love story I wrote, titled Migizikwe Bawaajigan: “Dream Of Eagle Woman.” The above painting also serves as an illustration to the story. 

Once upon a time a lonesome woman named Migizikwe (Bald-Eagle Woman) lived in a wiigiwaam (birch bark covered house) on the edge of an Ojibwe village. She was known wide and far as a great artist and a healer, a member of Waabanowiwin, the Lodge of Dawn Healers. The people of the village whispered that every day after work she hung her garments alone, without a life partner to keep her warm at night. Each night, however, as soon as Eagle Woman lay down she entered the dream world, and it was there that she met her lover. This bawaagan, or dream visitor, was a guardian spirit, a “shape shifter” who sometimes appeared as makade-makwa (a black bear) and on other occasions as inin(a man)
As the story goes, for years this makade-makwawinini (black bear person) left at first daylight when Migizikwe’s spirit reunited with her body to meet the new day, and she would be alone again. But then, one evening in the fourth year, when Migizikwe's faith and patience were tested to the limit, tayaa! her dream lover wafted through the wall that divided both worlds and stepped right into the tangible reality that defined Eagle Woman’s everyday life! Thus the recurring dream became reality!
From the moment Makademakwawinini stepped into her world, he flung the doors of Eagle Feather Woman’s heart and soul wide open and at the same time invited her to enter the doors of his own heart and soul. Then, smiling, with eyes shining, their hands interlocked and their hearts intertwined, the brand-new lovers left Eagle Feather’s wiigiwaam and walked side by side on the Path of Life…

From Now on Your Dreams Are One

Bebaminojmat First Nation Woodland artist

Leland Bell: Discovering Wisdom


The lovers in the story?

They are you.

From now on your dreams are one, your feet touch the earth lightly, with a stride that is not only soft and humble but also truthful and determined. You will tread in harmony in mutual strivings, with a deep, growing understanding for each other, for mino-bimaadiziwin, a good way of life, and for GICHI-MANIDOO, the Giver and Master of Life. You will walk with a shared gratitude for Gidakiiminaan, our relationship to the land, and for the generosity of Aki, the Earth. 
Aki, or, as she is often called, Omizakamigokwe, Mother Earth, is the mother of all human beings, of the eagle, the bear, the sturgeon, the butterfly, the poplar tree and of all other related life forms that surround us.


Teaching of the feathers

Purple Healing
Alex Janvier: Purple Healing


The eagle feather symbol of these wedding rings, representing the mysterious power of dreams, brings you a special blessing, and reminds you of how tightly, and strongly, your spirits and hearts are connected with each other. The feather teaches you to always care for each other, and to respect and treat well others and the generations to come. It reminds you to view all life forms as indinawemaaganag: “our relatives.”
The red gold eagle feather adorning the ladies’ ring symbolizes the wing feather of Migizi, the white-headed eagle. In our culture, the color red fills the lower quadrant of the sacred life circle called Mashkiki Waawiyeyaatig, the Medicine WheelIt stands for Zhaawanong, the Southern Direction, which, as an intrinsic part of the life cycle, represents life that grows toward spiritual as well as physical maturity and adulthood. It is also said that red refers to the time of year called niibin, summer, and to the time of day we call aabitaagiizhigad, midday, when the mighty Migizi flies high up in the sky. The South brings understanding of, and for, bimaadiziwin, life in its deepest and widest sense.


Zhaawano Giizhik wedding rings
For details of the these wedding rings see our website


The white gold eagle feather of the men’s ring, representing Migizi’s mighty tail feather, symbolizes Giiwedinong, the Northern Direction - represented inthe top quadrant of the Medicine Wheel - , from where originate wisdom and spirituality (particularly the thinking of pure thoughts), and which also brings answers to questions revealing themselves during dreams. This is why the North also represents dibik, the night, particularly aabitaa-dibik, midnight, and biboon, the winter, whose nature and course can be as capricious and unpredictable as the world of dreams. It is also said that in the North lives waabi-makwa, a white bear, a sacred guardian who controls Gaa-biboonikaan, the Bringer Of Winter, keeping him in check in order to prevent him to become too harsh for Mother earth, the animals, and the humans.      

Meaning of the purple stone

Lastly, the mysterious glow of the amethist that I placed in the center of the ladies’ ring – its purple color strikingly harmonizing with the red luster of the eagle feather – stands for the power of love and for the love of GICH-MANIDOO the Great Mystery itself, and also represents bawaaganag, those spirits that at night peacefully enter the dreams of sleepers. 

Sometimes these dreamwalkers are ancestors who temporarily visit dreamers to share knowledge or confer on them healing or medicinal powers and occasionally remind them to be honest and moderate and patient and wise – but, in the context of the story told today, a shape shifter, a lover disguised as a bear, visits the dreamer to open up her heart - and then stays with her, and, eventually, becomes a partner for life...


Dibishkoo biidaanikwag, w’gii abi-ezhaa
Dibishkoo waabaanikwag, aabiji-maajaa

N’gishgendam w’gaa abi-ago-izhaad
N’gishgendam w’gaa ago-maajaad

N’gii magawig
n’gaa abi naanig na?

W’naagozi dibishkoo anang
W’waasa wendaagozi dibishkoo anang.

Moses Amik Ojibwe Medicine painter

Moses Amik (Beaver): One Body, One Spirit


("Like a cloud has he come and gone
Like a cloud drifted away forever

Sad am I since he came
Sad am I since he's gone

Now he has found my love
Will he return for my love?

Like a star in my eyes
Like a star beyond my grasp, my love.")


Images of paintings:

"Dreams Of Bear" by the late Gelineau Fisher;
"Discovering Wisdom" by Leland Bell;
"Purple Healing" by Alex Janvier
"One Body, One Spirit" by the late Moses Amik
"The Dream Visitor" by Zhaawano Giizhik.


List of Ojibwe words:*

Aabitaa-dibik = midnight ([AUH-bih-tauh-dib-ick])
Anishinaabe = human being; Native person; Ojibwe person; Odaawaa person; Boodewaadamii person; Oji-Cree person ([Ah-nish-ih-nauh-BEH])
Bawaajigan = dream, vision, trance ([Bah-WAUH-djee-gun])
Bawaagan = dream visitor; a guardian spirit animal ([Bah-WAUH-gun]) 
Bawaaganag  = plural form of bawaagan ([Bah-WAUH-gun-uck])
Biboon = winter ([Bih-BOON])
Bimaadiziwin = life ([Bim-AUH-dih-zih-win])
Biindigen = Come in! Welcome! ([BEEND-ih-gehn])
Bi-onjibaa =  it/he/she originates from ([Bih-oonh-djih-BAUH])
Boozhoo = Hello! Hi! Greetings!([Boo-ZHOOH]
Dibik = night ([Dib-ick])
Gaa-biboonikaan =  Bringer Of Winter; Orion constellation ([GAU-bih-BOON-ih-kaun])
Gichi-manidoo = Great Mystery (GIH-tchih-man-ih-DOOH])
Gidakiiminaan = our earth; our land ([Gid-ah-KEE-mih-naan])
Giiwedinong = in the north; from the north; to the north ([gee-WAY-tin-oonk[)
Gizaagi'idiwininaan = our Mutual Love ([Gih-ZAUH-gih-ih-dih-win-ih-NAUN])
Indinawemaaganag = my relatives ([In-dih-na-weh-maag-UNH-ak])
Inini = man ([ih-NIN-ih])
Makade-makwa = black bear ([Mah-kah-DEH-mah-KWUH])
Manidoo = spirit; mystery ([man-ih-DOOH])
Mashkiki Waawiyeyaatig = Medicine Wheel ([Mash-kih-KIH-wauh-wih-yeh-YAUT-ick]) 
Migizi = bald eagle ([Mih-gih-ZIH])
Migizikwe = Bald-Eagle Woman ([Mih-gih-zih-KWAY])
Mino-bimaadiziwin = good health; good life ([mih-no-bim-AUH-dih-zih-win])
Niibin = summer ([Neeh-bin])
Niibinamikong = Place Of The Summer Beaver ([NEE-bin-ah-MICK-ang])
Ojibwe = person belonging to the Ojibweg Nation ([Oh-DJIB-way)]
Omizakamigokwe = Everywhere On Earth Woman; Mother Earth ([Oh-mih-zuh-kuh-mick-oh-KWAY])
Waabi-makwa = white bear; polar bear ([Wauh-bih-mah-KWUH])
Wiigiwaam = lodge; house ([weeh-gih-WAUM])
Zhaawanong = in the south; to the south; from the south ([ZHAU-wah-NOONG])

* Please keep in mind that the above word list does not represent the full range of vowels or the tones that exist in the Ojibwe language, nor does it reflect the enormous diversity of pronunciations and intonations that are typical of a specific region or community. Please note that accurate pronunciation cannot be learned without respectfully consulting a Native Ojibwe Anishinaabe speaker either in the U.S. or in Canada.


Zhaawano Giizhik Tammo Geertsema

About the author/artist:

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in Amsterdam 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 Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist, a writer, and a designer of jewelry and wedding rings, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists.

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