THE GREAT CLIMBING PLANT AND THE FLOWER AND
THE STAR: A TALE ABOUT LASTING FRIENDSHIP
"To stretch so freely
In the morning rays
The flower she plays
A deeper look inside
See hidden on her face
How tears take wetness
Down to a special place
Where in quiet solitude
Beauty takes shelter
Cloaked in hope's arms
Entwined they swelter
We are all but flowers
Needing hands that groom
Thirsting for the moisture
That will make us bloom..."
The story of the great climbing plant, and the flower and the star…it is a story that is
very close to my heart. This story is about a friendship that is not allowed by the outside
world. It is also a metaphorical tale about living and working with the options that are
available to us. The great trail of vine or climbing plant that has its roots deep in the
Earth and reaches high into the Sky World is really a metaphor, it could be anything...it
could be a way of reaching out to one another in the most difficult circumstances.. it
could be the sharing of stories and art making through the Internet across vast distances
and time zones.
Like the flower and the star in the following story, soul mates communicate through the
great climbing plant. The girl in the story is able to communicate with the star by sitting
as closely to the vine’s stem as possible. The story is about using the love and respect
two people feel for each other as a means of expression in their art, about trying getting
over feelings of loneliness and pain and bending their hurt and despair into something
positive...something that might even inspire others too, something good and positive that
will survive the tooth of time...
THE STORY OF EARTH FLOWER
The story starts as a tale about a beautiful young Anishinaabe woman. She lived in the
center of Anishinaabe Aki, the land of the Ojibwe People, in a village at the foot of the
Falls; she went by the name of Aki-waabigwan (Earth Flower). She belonged to Name
doodem, the clan of the Sturgeon People.
Aki-waabigwan was not so much occupied with the same things the other young women
her age were interested in. She spent most of her time roaming the hills and playing with
butterflies in the valleys. She kept herself very busy going on adventures and learning
new things and making new friends. She was very curious about the world around her.
This is what made her truly happy. However, she was not only known among her People
for her playfulness and her good nature; she also possessed an extraordinarily artistic
One day Aki-waabigwan noticed a young man passing through her village and when she
asked her parents who he was, they told her his name was Ojiig (Fisher Marten) and that
he lived in a faraway village to the north of the Falls. From the moment they exchanged
glances Aki-waabigwan and the handsome stranger fell in love with each other...But
since he belonged to the same doodem as she, it was not allowed for them to join…after
the young man had continued his journey, poor Aki-waabigwan stayed behind, knowing
that she would never see the beautiful stranger again…so great was her sadness, so
tormented were her dreams, that she decided to consult omishoomisan (her grandfather),
a wise man who had much knowledge about dreams and the aches of the heart.
Grandfather invited Aki-waabigwan into his wiigiwaam (domed birkbarch lodge) to sit
with him at the fire, and after she entered the lodge she offered him asemaa (tobacco)
and respectfully adressed him as follows:
"Nimishoo! Grandfather! If you allow me I will tell you now about what lives in my
Then, as Aki-waabigwan was looking into his smiling eyes, she commenced to tell him
about the stranger whom she had fallen in love with and her fear of never seeing him
again in this life. Then, she told him about a dream-vision she had the night before:
“I lied down against the black
waiting to drift into the light
of my deepest and sweetest dreams.
My eyes had barely closed
to welcome the bliss of night when
I could feel his hands take mine.
How this real world changed
as my lids fell so heavy against my cheeks
that I could hear them shut.
As I opened them on the other side
it was like stepping into the universe
being drawn up by star people.
I saw him once before when so small
that my feet could barely take me
more than a few paces at a time.
Always just above my real sight
until the darkness came this dream
before I awoke today.
We travelled through them so vast
the constellations of stories past
I had been here before?
As my feet walked into the lodge
I closed my eyes and left again
Into the universe not for the first flight.
That was taken when just a child
A hand taken to a place of freedom
Where no sounds or feelings could come.
Where will I go tonight
When he comes
To take my hands...”
A LADDER TO THE SKY
Mishoomis, knowing that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation, and
understanding the depth of the pain and grief that shone through the dream-vision his
granddaughter had related to him, sat quiet for a while before he spoke. Finally, this is
what he told Aki-waabigwan:
"Ahaw, 'ngad aadzooke (Now, I will tell a traditional story).”
“A long, long time ago, GICHI-MANIDOO (the Great Mystery) created only strong and
All were happy and prospered in Anishinaabe Aki, their turtle island home. Death was
unknown to them. A huge biimaakwad(climbing plant or vineshoot) grew in the heart of
It was a living ladder, connecting the Earthmother and her children with the realm of the
One day, because of the foolishness of an old woman who tried to climb him, the Trail
of Vine collapsed under her weight. Disaster fell upon their happy homes, and the
Anishinaabeg lost the gift of health and immortality.
Many, many left on Jibay-miikana, the path of souls...
Then GICHI-MANIDOO, feeling pity on the poor Ojibwe People, sent Wiinabozho with
the Gift of Medicine. Called Wisakejak by our relatives to the north, Wiinabozho is a
Spirit Messenger gifted with powers of transformation, the son of the West wind and a
mortal woman, and very sympathetic toward our People...
So, Wiinabozho sought out a young man whom he called ODE’IMIN (Heart Berry or
Strawberry), teaching him all there is to know about plants, roots, and herbs, and how to
make the Standing People (the trees) lend their powers of healing and growing to the
Ode’imin, who thus became the first of a long line of Mide (Medicine) men and women,
passed on his newly acquired knowledge, and our People became a healthy and
prosperous nation again!
In order to keep alive the knowledge of curing and the wisdom of ANISHINAABE
BIMAADIZIWIN (how to live a good life), Ode’imin founded the MIDEWIWIN, the
Society of Medicine Men And Women Who are In A Sacred And Unseen State - a very
old association of medicine people and philosophers that still exists today. And to this
day, noozis, the MIDEWIWIN and the special gift of medicine are celebrated by the
various peoples of the Anishinaabeg!
Giiwenh. So the story goes.”
“BE LIKE THE FLOWER IN THE STORY, NOOZIS””
After pausing a while, Grandfather continued:
“I know noozis (my grandchild), this is a sad tale because it speaks of suffering and
disaster, but it is also a story of great beauty.
I have told you this tale because I know you are not like that poor old woman whose
desperate dreams made her climb the living ladder, this trail of vine whose branches
reached all the way into the sky. You will learn to understand the art of reaching out into
the sky world by sitting like a flower in late summer, staying as close to the roots of the
climbing plant as possible. Through the climbing plant, you will talk and reach out to the
star high up in the sky. This way the star will hear you and he will use the climbing plant
to send to her his dreams and thoughts and words, to return to her the love she sends up
to him. The star will know that the flower, whose voice he hears from up there, deserves
to have the love she sends to him returned to her tenfold.
Although it is sad that the flower cannot use the trail of vine to live in the sky world
forever, and the lone star cannot descend to the home of the flower that lives on the
earth, the star will see that the flower flourishes each day a little more, and it will make
him happy. It will make him so happy that at clear nights, the Ojibwe People will notice
that the star shines more brightly on their homes than before. And the faces of the
Ojibwe People will forever reflect the deep, shining love that the star holds for the
Grandfather concluded with the lesson learned:
“Inside the tale of the climbing plant and Ode’imin who restored the gift of health and
long life to the People, lives another, hidden tale. It tells the story about the flower and
the star. This story is also about you and the stranger from the north and the eternal love
you hold for each other. Be wise noozis, be like the flower in the story for she teaches us
that the power of love to create healing is unlimited. Try to understand the ways of the
heart and the healing medicine it holds. Do not get caught up in your dreams of longing
and hurt and despair, do not spend your life dwelling on sorrow and mourning a lost
Breathe through your heart instead.
Be like the flower in the story noozis, and you will live to be a happy and strong person
who is a shining example to her People."
Aki-waabigwan thanked her grandfather for the story he had told and the wise counsel
that he had given her and she went outside, determined to do as her grandfather had
From that time on she passionately expressed her individual dreams and heartbreak,
transforming it into works of incredible beauty and she gained wide and legendary
recognition among her People and far beyond as one who creates healing art for the
benefit of individuals as well as for the Nation - enh, for all Nations - as a whole. All of
her works of art, initially inspired by the sad story of the Flower and the Star, became
stories of hope, strength, and determination and until today her proud artistic legacy
shines like the Fisher star
Shared with Permission
Written by Zhaawano Giizhik,