Archive for January 5th, 2010

An Ojibwe legend tells the story of a spirit-boy named Winabojo, who one day went looking for feathers for his arrows. He discovered a nest of baby Thunderbirds. By turning himself into a rabbit, he tricked the Thunderbirds into carrying him to the nest, but when the parent birds flew away, Winabojo turned back into a boy and clubbed the young birds and stole their feathers. Then he jumped from the nest, clutching his handful of feathers.

When the parents returned to the nest, they were (understandably) very angry, and chased Winabojo. He ran for his life. Just before the Thunderbirds could catch him, Winabojo dived into a hollow birch log that was lying on the ground and was safe. The Thunderbirds gave up the chase, but before they left they put “pictures” of their baby birds with out-stretched wings into the birch bark so the sacrifice of their children would always be remembered. To this day, you can still see the branch scars on birch trees, the mark of the Thunderbird.

When Winabojo climbed out of the log, he blessed the birch tree for the benefit of humanity. The birch tree served native peoples in many ways. It provided sugar in its sap, transportation through birch-bark canoes, medicines and dyes from its roots. The bark was used to make many domestic items, including containers, utensils, wigwam coverings, torches, scrolls and tinder for fires.

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