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  • Writer's picturezhaawano

Reflections of the Great Lakes, part 11: Encounter with a Black Bear

Updated: Jun 17, 2021


Namebine-giizis/Zaagibagaa-giizis (Suckerfishing Moon/Budding Moon), May 1, 2020



Today's story, illustrated by a beautiful line drawing by the late Anishinaabe painter Carl Ray a well as two images of a ring set created at my workbench, is inspired by a dibaajimowin - a true story or chronicle, based on personal experiences.

In July 2015, I spent a week in Animikii-wiikwedong (Thunder Bay), Ontario. Here, in the shadow of Nibaad Misaabe, the Sleeping Giant, and standing on top of Animikii-wajiw, the Thunderbird Mountain (called Mount McKay by Euro-Canadians) which is located south of the bay, I pondered about the story of how long ago the beloved manidoo Wiinabozho, friend of the Anishinaabeg People, turned to stone overnight in order to protect the sacred silver of the bay against the greed of the European invaders.

This was just minutes before I had an encounter with makade noozhek (a black female bear), right by the edge of the nest where the Thunderbirds rest during winter. The bear walked on all fours as she came out of the bushes, strolling around the corner in a leisurely way. When she saw me she stood on her hind legs and looked at me with a mixture of surprise and curiosity. I stood face to face with her for about 15 seconds; there were about 6 yards in between us. I am pretty sure her cubs were hiding in the bushes but she let me go unharmed. I took that as a good sign. A lady friend from Fort William First Nation explained to me later that she (that bear) was probably up there by Crescent Lake eating berries with her cubs... Good medicine!


These handcrafted storytelling wedding rings, which I designed in reminiscence of my experience on Animikii-wajiw, feature stylized designs of bear paws (which represent the bear and the gift of Medicine; not visible in the photo) and the Thunderbird Mountain; seven dots placed above the mountain and the stylized star represent the Grandfathers that dwell in the Night Sky. The hand-cut turquoise stone mounted at the base of the mountain (in the ladies' ring) symbolizes Animikii-wiikwedong, the Thunder Bay.


In my next blog story, which will be posted soon, I will dwell a little further on the mystic spirit of Animikii-wajiw, our Thunderbird Mountain...

Visit part 12 of the Reflections of the Great Lakes series: The Lake Remembers.

Visit my Fisher Star Creations website to view details of the above ring set.

Artwork: Bear, acrylic on paper by the late Anishinini painter Carl Ray (1976).

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