top of page
  • Writer's picturezhaawano

Reflections of the Great Lakes, part 14: Zhingibis and the Spirit of the North Wind

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Manidoo-giizis (Spirit Moon), January 5, 2022


Click on the image to view details of the wedding ring set Biboon Zaaga'iganiing (Winter on the Lake)


Aaniin! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizooke wigamigong; enji-zaagi'iding miinawaa gikendaasong. Ninga-aadizooke noongom giizhigad! (Hi! Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge where there is love and learning. Let's tell a sacred story today!)

Today's story is the fourteenth part of a series named "Reflections of the Great Lakes."

It's a collection of stories provided with jewelry images and illustrations of artwork by myself as well as by kindred artists. The stories are aadizookaanan ( traditional stories of a sacred nature) of our People, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg of Gaa-zaaga'eganikaag, the land of many lakes -- the Great Lakes area of Turtle Island (North America). The narratives contain a myriad of allegorical themes, often provided with a personal touch.



The contrasting black-and-white colors of these wedding rings, the minimalistic design in combination with the stylized and oxidized outlines of the sun and the waves of the lake, conjure up images and stories of BIBOON the winter spirit who, with his annual freezy breath, keeps the lakes and rivers of the northwoods in his icy grip. However, besides a time of cold, disease and scarcity, winter season is also symbolic of inner warmth and positive values like resourcefulness, self-reflection, and mutual protection. The waterfowl designs at the back of the wedding rings, depicted as mirror images of each other, are stylized representations of Zhingibis the grebe, a beloved character in many aadizookaanan (sacred stories) that Ojibwe grandparents tell their grandchildren in the long winter moons. This aadizookaan, which is known to non-Natives as “The Legend of Shingebis and the Wintermaker” (why Euro-Americans persist in calling these stories 'legends' I do not know), is a metaphorical tale about a brave and very resourceful grebe (you know, those hell divers who dive like lightning and make these funny "WUP-PUP-PUP-PUP-pup-pup-pup-caow-caow-caow-caow” sound), who bravely withstands the fury of Giiwedin, the Spirit of the Northwind.




The sacred story of the wedding rings reflects the annual battle between two great forces in nature: Ziigwan, the spirit of Spring, and Biboon, the spirit of Winter.

The gete-ogichidaa (old warrior) Biboon, who, if he had it his way, would keep the lakes and rivers of the Northwoods in his icy grip all year around with his freezy breath, is engaged in a permanent conquest with this oshki-inini (young man) called Ziigwan, for whom he harbors a special hatred. Ziigwan is the antipode of the fierce old warrior; possessing a kind and gentle nature, his abode is in the land of zhaawani-noondin (the South Wind), a place of perpetual warmth and flowers and bird song. Thus, each year around Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon), Biboon and Ziigwan test their strength for dominion over Gaa-zaaga'iganikaag, the land of Many Lakes.


Zhingibis Miinawaa Biboon Ojibwe aadizookaan
Zhingibis Defies the Spirit of Winter, line art by Zhaawano Giizhik. © 2022 Zhaawano Giizhik.


"Once upon a time Zhingibis lived in a wiigiwaam (lodge) by a lake and went about his daily life during biboon, the winter moons. Giiwedin, the Northwest Wind, noticed that the small bird was unaffected by his icy breath. This infuriated him and he did everything in his power to defeat Zhingibis. The smart little grebe invited the North Wind inside his wiigiwaam (lodge); when he sat there by the fire in the warm lodge, he did his best to freeze the fire, but Zhingibis would stir it up and it got very warm in the lodge. Weaker and weaker from the heat, the North Wind, whose body was made of ice, slowly but surely melted; he finally turned and left. He – albeit reluctantly – admitted defeat, and praised the strength of Zhingibis, the resilient little grebe who could not be frozen or starved. Meanwhile Zhingibis did not acknowledge the Northwind as his enemy, but simply a fellow creature who could not harm him..." The moral of the story – follow the path of Zhingibis and you will always be warm and have plenty of food during the cold season - is also a metaphor exemplifying mental strength and the virtue of perseverance and fortitude. In the context of these wedding rings, it means that couples must always take good care of each other, protect each other (“keep each other warm”) and keep focused so that they are able to withstand together the challenges and adversities they encounter, and in the end will walk with their heads up tall and their eyes clear.

Such is the sacred story of these wedding rings.

Ahaaw sa. Mii sa ekoozid nindaadizookaan, na? Well, that is the end of the today's teaching. Or is it?

Today’s aadizookaan would not be a good story if there weren’t a ginebig (snake) in the grass! Haw sa, there’s always a catch! The catch is, that the story hasn’t ended yet. In fact it has only just begun…to read it, go to Zhingibis and the Return of the Heart Berry.

Miigwech gibizindaw noongom. Thank you for listening to me. Giga-waabamin wayiiba giishpin manidoo inendang, I will see you again soon, if the Great Mystery wills it. Mino bimaadizin! Live well!


210 views0 comments


bottom of page