Ojibwe Tale: Primacy of Plants

The term Ojibwe comes from Utchibou, name given to the XVIIe century to a group who lived north of what is now Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.Here is one of their tales: The Primacy of Plants.

The Ojibway were part of a series of very close, but distinct groups, occupying a territory located between the northeast of the bay Georgian and eastern Lake Superior. These peoples who gathered near present-day Sault Ste. Mary are also called Saulteaux, a term that today refers primarily to the Ojibway peoples of northwestern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba.

Ojibwe The Primacy of Plants

The Primacy of Plants

Roses were once the most numerous and brilliantly colored of all
the flowers. Such were their numbers and such were the variety and
richness of their shades that they were common. No one paid much
pay attention to them; their beauty went unnoticed, their glory unsung.

Even when their numbers declined and their colors faded, no one
appeared to care. Cycles of scarcity and plenty had occurred. There
was no cause for alarm. There is degeneration and regeneration.
Plenty always follows scarcity.

But year after year roses became fewer in number. As the numbers
and wealth of the flowers diminished, the fatness of the rabbits
increased. Only the bear, and the bee, and the hummingbird were
aware that something was wrong.

The Anishnabeg felt that something was not quite right but they
couldn't explain it. They only knew that the bear was thinner and
that the bear's flesh was less sweet than formerly. The bears found
smaller quantities of honey and what they found was less delectable.
The bees and humming-birds found fewer roses. The Anishnabeg were
bewildered; the bears blamed the bees; the bees were alarmed. Aim
no one could do anything.

Eventually, one summer there were no roses. Bees hungry; humming birds
grew thin; the bears raged. In later years, that summer was known
as the Summer of the Disappearance of the Rose. At last, everyone
was alarmed. In desperation, a great meeting was called. Everyone was invited.

There were many days of discussion before the meeting decided to
dispatch all the swift to search the world for a single rose; and,
if they found one, to bring it back. Months went by before a humming-bird
lucky to discover a solitary rose growing and clinging to a mountainside
in a far off land.

The humming-bird lifted the faint and pallid rose from its bed
and brought it back. On arrival, medicine men and women immediately
tended the rose and in a few days restored the rose to life. When
he was well enough the rose was able to give an account of the destruction
of the roses.

In a voice quivering with weakness, the rose said, “The rabbits
ate all the roses. »
The assembly raised an angry uproar. At the word, the bears and
wolves and lynxes seized the rabbits by the ears and cuffed them
around. During the assault the rabbits' ears were stretched and
their mouths were split open. The outraged animals might have killed
all the rabbits that day had not the rose interceded on their behalf
saying, “Had you cared and watched us, we might have survived.
But you were unconcerned. Our destruction was partly your fault.
Leave the rabbits be. »

Reluctantly the angry animals released the rabbits. While the rabbits
wounds eventually healed, they did not lose their scars which remained
as marks of their intemperance. Nor did the roses ever attain their
form brilliance or abundance. Instead the roses received from
Nanabush thorns to protect them from the avarice of the hungry and
the intemperate.

Nanabush, in endowing the roses with thorns, warned the assembly,
“You can take the life of plants; but you cannot give them life. »