As evening drew near, all the campers listened wide-eyed to the ancient Anishinaabe/Ojibway story of a people who had strayed from their harmonious ways and begun to argue and fight with one another — so much so that the Great Spirit caused a devastating flood upon the Earth, destroying the people and most of the animals.
Only Nanaboozhoo, Grandmother said, was able to survive the flood along with a few animals and birds who managed to swim and fly.
On the dark blue tarps — rolling floodwaters — spread across the floor of the church sanctuary, the children floated on the log of a Pendleton blanket. As Grandmother directed, one by one, Nanaboozhoo, Loon, Helldiver, Mink and Turtle tried to swim to the bottom of the floodwaters to fetch a bit of the Earth that lay far below.
All failed, until the littlest animal, Muskrat, stepped forward and said, “I’ll try.” The animals laughed at little Muskrat who thought he could do what the bigger animals could not.
Muskrat dove into the water and was gone much longer than any of the others. Then they spotted him. He had swum to the bottom, grabbed some earth in his paw and floated back to the surface. The animals pulled him onto the log.
“He is dead,” they cried, and the animals mourned as little Muskrat passed on to the Spirit world.
Opening Muskrat’s tiny paw, Nanaboozhoo carefully took the little mound of earth that Muskrat had sacrificed his life for and placed it upon Turtle’s back. As the four winds blew, the little mound of earth grew and grew until it became Turtle Island, or North America as it is known today.
As Grandmother Kara, I spoke to children at Keepers of the Earth summer camp about how our father, the Great Spirit, created us as his children. We are brothers and sisters to one another, and relatives to all beings of creation.
We are part of the great web of life, interconnected and interrelated to one another. In this life, there is nothing that can be thought about, said or done that does not affect the whole.
But the children of North America are fighting still. What can we do? Our faiths’ stories teach us that goodness overcomes all odds, that love is stronger than the might of the most evil of men.
Our ancestors have passed on stories like Nanaboozhoo and Turtle Island to teach us that each of us, through thoughts, words and deeds, has the power to create our own reality.
“Walking in beauty” is the Native American understanding that we try our best to walk in present-moment awareness of the great web of life, and as best as we can, live in harmony with all our relations, walking in good heart for all that God has created.
For the web of life to continue, we must do as little Muskrat did and say, “I’ll try.”
Kara Hawkins, one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, can be reached at email@example.com.