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Star Stories, part 26: A Message From the Thunderbirds

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Gashkadino-giizis/Baashkaakodin-giizis (Freezing Moon), November 20, 2022




A maji-ishkode, or fireball from the Sky, hit Aki (Planet Earth) on Saturday morning (November 19), near Niigaani-gichigami (Lake Erie). Western astronomers dubbed the asteroid "#c8ff042."

An asteroid is a relatively small chunk of rocky minerals that orbits the Sun, and is often described as a minor planet. When the orbiting object is larger, it's called a planetoid.

There are several names in in our language that denote an asteroid. Baashkanangoog (shooting stars); waazoowaad anangoog (long-tailed stars); wiiyagasenhmood anangoog (dust-tailed stars); onwaachigewin/niigaanaajimowin anangoog (foreboding/prophecy stars), and enwaachiged anangoog (prophet stars).

An asteroid is a minor planet of the inner Solar System. Most can be found orbiting in biinj-ayi'ii waawiweyaa (the "inner" asteroid belt between Ogichidaa (Planet Mars) and Ogimaa (Planet Jupiter)). Sizes and shapes of asteroids vary significantly, ranging from 1-meter rocks to a dwarf planet almost 1000 km in diameter; they are rocky, metallic or icy bodies with no atmosphere.

The maji-ishkode that hit the earth yesterday was less than a meter (about 3 feet) in size. Impact should have been around Brantford, Ontario. That’s north of Lake Erie; west of Buffalo, New York; east of Detroit and southwest of Toronto. With such a populated area, many people had the chance to see the fireball’s entry into the atmosphere. People on Twitter reported seeing the bright flash of light, along with the sound of atmospheric entry and even shaking, probably from the sonic boom.

An Anishinaabe tradition relates how the great bay Azhashkiiwaaboo-wiikwed ("Muddy Bay," nowadays Hudson Bay) was created by a MAJI-ISHKODE ("evil fire" from the sky).

Many moons ago, young thunderbirds roamed the skies freely. They were troublesome birds always causing great, destructive storms in their rambunctious play. One day their fathers held counsel and agreed that the troubled young thunderbirds needed an activity to keep them out of trouble. The Elder thunderbirds decided that they were going to teach them how to play baaga'adowewin (lacrosse).

Instead of baaga'adowaanag (lacrosse sticks), the young thunderbirds used their wings to wield a ball that their fathers had made from lightning. However, their furious play and flapping of wings caused a great storm and the ball fell to earth. The lightning ball hit the earth and the impact created what is known today as the Hudson Bay. The smaller pieces of the lightning ball created all of the smaller lakes in Northern Ontario. The stars fell from the sky and broke into thousands of pieces that blink off and on. The rest of the falling stars changed into fireflies and the young thunderbirds promised to never cause trouble again...

To read more about the topic of comets and asteroids, see: Ojibwe star Map.

Illustration: "Wenabozho and the Message From the Thunderbirds" ©2022 Zhaawano Giizhik

> Available as a high-quality Limited Edition wall photo print and a canvas print in several sizes; visit the website to order.

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