"Wenabozho and the Wild Roses"
Wayeshkad (How It All Began)
One day the young hunter decided to mention to his mother his wish to find and marry the girl whose People roamed the high plains in the far-away land in the west called Manidoo-abi (“Land Where The Spirit Sits”). Upon hearing her son’s wish and sensing his grief she urged him to travel to the far-away land and ask Bizhikiwiginii-waabigwan’s parents for her hand.
The First Journey
The journey to the far-away land in the west took Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi many moons. One evening in late fall, after traveling two summers and winters through an immensely vast and practically inhabited territory in which he encountered many hardships and dangers Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi found the hunting camp in which Bizhikiwiginii-waabigwan and her parents lived.
“Enh geget”, responded Wenoondaagoziwid-webaashi. “Yes, certainly! I will bring a deer to your bajiishka’ogaan and then leave, but only to return in binaakwe-giizis, the leaves falling moon.”
The Second Journey
(“I care for no one else
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Ningim dibishkoo wabaanikwag, aabiji-maajaa.
“Like a cloud has she come and gone
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Many suns passed before the Great Meeting reached an unanimous decision: they called on one of the few hummingbirds that had survived the famine to search the world and find out if there were still roses left, and, if he would find one, to bring it back. Moons went by before the brave Naanooshkaashiins discovered a solitary rose in a far-away land in the west, clinging to a mountain slope as she was desperately trying to catch the last sunrays of the day. Hereupon Naanooshkaashiins carefully lifted the withering rose from her bed and carried it to the Anishinaabeg, who assembled their best Medicine men and women, calling upon them to tend the rose and restore her to life. In four days the rose was well enough to give an account of what happened to her siblings, and, after everyone had congregated again, she managed to say in a voice that quivered with weakness, “It was waaboozoog, the hare, who ate all of my relatives...”
Makwa the bear, Ma’iingan the wolf, and Bizhiw the Lynx, although still enraged, obeyed the words of the rose and, be it reluctantly, released the waaboozoog. But gichi-wiiyagaaj! alas! the waaboozoog, nor the roses, would ever be quite the same again noozis! The waaboozoog did not lose their disformities and the oginii-waabigwaniin never attained their former beauty and abundance. While the scars on the hares' faces remained as a reminder of their excessive indulgence of appetite, it was Wenabozho, the friendly manidoo (spirit) himself, who endowed the roses with thorns to protect them from the insatiable greed of hungry animals. In doing so, Wenabozho imparted on all those who were present at the Great Meeting an important lesson: plants can exist alone, yet neither animals nor men can exist without plants. Disturb the fragile balance and disaster will fall on everyone. You should therefore never cease to cherish and tend our relatives the plants, Wenabozho warned the animals and the humans. Never take them for granted!
Then Wenabozho addressed the Anishinaabeg. 'The thorns I gave to the roses are a reminder of the journey of your lives' he spoke. 'The thorns symbolize the hard-won lessons and teachings without whom you all would surely fail and die. The roses, therefore, represent failure and neglect, but they also stand for acceptance, awareness, self-reflection, mental growth, gratitude, and love.
And so, nisayedog miinawaa nimisedog, my brothers and sisters, roses are bimaadiziwin, life itself!'
Click here to read the sixth episode in the series "Love stories from the Land of Many Lakes":"Gibwanasii and Thunder Eagle Woman."
* Traditional Ojibwe story freely adopted by the author from the book Ojibway Heritage by Basil Johnston, University Of Nebraska Press, Bison Book Edition, 1990. Page 43, The Primacy Of Plants.
- Ogin (Wild Rose), sterling silver brooch set with red coral and onyx by Zhaawano Giizhik (1995) Website: http://www.fisherstarcreations.com/wild-rose
- The Sacred Story of the Wild Prairie Rose, pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik (2015)
- Children's Animals Friends, acrylic on canvas by Miskwaabik Animikii (Norval Morrisseau) (ca. 1985)
- Wiinabozho And The Storytellers' Mirror (detail), digital painting by Zhaawano Giizhik (2014)