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Stories from the Land of Crane and Turtle, Part 4: Wenabozho and the Magic Bow

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Miini-giizis (Blueberry Moon) ( (July 17, 2023)


 

Native woodland painting Wenabozho and the Giant Moose
Wenabozho and the Giant Moose, painting by Zhaawano Giizhik

 

How the magic bow of the big warrior from Dinetah came in Wenabozho’s possession and how he lost it again - and created the Milky Way along the way . A contemporary traditional story told by Zhaawano Giizhik – with illustrations by Aaron Paquette and the author.

Welcome back in My Storyteller Lodge... Today, I will tell an awechigan (parable) about the need for humbleness; How the supernatural hero Wenabozho attained magical power but then lost it because of his laziness and vanity... The story that I will relate today is about Wenabozho (“His Trembling Tail”), also known as Mishaabooz, the Great Hare. Wenabozho, who was born on an island at the outlet of Gichi-Anishinaabeg-gami (Lake Superior), lived with ookomisan (his grandmother) in a wiigiwaam on the shore of the big lake. His mother, whose name was Wiininwaa (“Nourishment from the Breast”), had miraculously disappeared into the sky the instant he was born, never to be seen or heard from again, so this is why his grandmother raised him.

After Wenabozho’s birth the people in the nearby summer village whispered that Wiininwaa died and disappeared from the face of the earth because she had faced the wrong wind after being warned by Nookomis not to face in such direction... Wenabozho happened to love his grandmother a great deal. He would gather misan (firewood) for ookomisan, he brought her giigoonh (fish) and wazhashkwedowag (mushrooms) and ojiibikan (wild roots) and helped her pick miinan (berries) and trap the waaboozoog (rabbits) that lived in the underbrush. A good and dutiful grandchild he was! But he also had another side. In fact, he had many sides.

Geget sago, Wenabozho was truly not a typical man. It was commonly believed that Gichi-manidoo, the Great Mystery, entrusted him with the task to teach the People, and one of his first tasks was to name all the plants and animals and to teach the Anishinaabeg the curative powers of plants and mino-bimaaadiziwin: how to live a good, long, and prosperous life. Since he was sired by E-bangishimog (the Wind Spirit of the West) and born of an anishinaabekwe (woman) and thus aabitaa-manidoo (half spirit) aabitaa-anishinaabe (half human), he possessed tremendous abilities and strengths – qualities that people nowadays would regard as extraordinary but back in the days were accepted at face value and not thought to be very unusual at all.

The reason Wenabozho was so well-loved, therefore, were not his supernatural powers, but how he used them; the Anishinaabeg loved him, not just for naming the plants and the animals, but also for introducing medicine to cure the sick and, last but not least, for his tireless efforts and inclination to help little children, the poor, and the weak. There was truly not much that Wenabozho could not do in order to help his People! He roamed freely with the spirits of the land, the sky, and the waters and had the ability to shapeshift at will into virtually any creature and form, including a rabbit or hare, a tree, or a rock! His creation of the second world after the first flooded, his role as securer of the right for the Ojibwe people to hunt and fish and as artist who showed them how to paint their dreams and visions on the rocks, and his embezzling of fire to give to his Grandmother which in turn gave fire to the Ojibwe people, are among the many things that made him the most beloved aadizookaan (supernatural character) in their aadizookaanan (sacred stories). He conversed with every creature in the Universe, inclusing those that live in the Sky. He mastered every language known among men and spirits. He even knew what the bineshiinyag (birds) were saying in their songs, and he was even known to walk among the stars and converse with the spirits that dwell there! There were so many things Wenabozho could do! He could run gabe-giizhig (from dawn until dusk); he could swim in the coldest of ziibiwan (rivers) and zaaga'iganan (lakes). Some say that his footsteps were so long that he could easily cross the widest gami (big lake) in one step! Ishte, some folks even claimed that they had seen him seize the lightning in his hands and that at his command terrible storms broke loose from their caves! Yet at the same time, on his command also, the gentle winds blew, the mountains became green and the flowers of spring bloomed everywhere…

Mii gwayak, yes, this and many more things Wenabozho was capable of! All these things, and many more things, he could do so well that probably his greatest liability was his being unconscious of his many shortcomings and weaknesses…

“What shortcomings and weaknesses are those, exactly?” you might ask. “I thought you just said Wiinabozho was a good-natured fellow and a hero to his People?”

Haw dash, well now, if you really want to know… be sure to continue reading, nindinawemaaganidog



Illustration: Wenabozho and the Giant Moose from the Sky ©2023 Zhaawano Giizhik

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