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"Creation of the First Butterfly" Rabbett Strickland

"Creation of the First Butterfly" Rabbett Strickland

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This ready to hang giclee on canvas measures and is painted by Rabbett Before Horses Strickland.


Rabbett Strickland depicts these scenes from Ojibwe oral histories. Nanaboozhoo is a spiritual shapeshifter and plays key roles in life stories, one of these is The creation of the First Butterfly. The story:


Long ago, when human twins were born to Spirit Woman, she relied on the animals to help her take care of them. All the animals loved the first human babies and did everything they could do to help them.

The dog watched over them. The bear gave his fur to keep them warm. The wolf hunted for them. The doe provided them with milk. The beaver and the muskrat bathed them. The birds sang lullabies to them.\

The dog was an excellent guardian. The twins had only to cry out and the dog jumped to his feet, his tail wagging. When he found out what was troubling the children, he set it right- or called someone else who could help.

Did the babies need fresh moss to keep them comfortable? The dog appealed to the muskrat and the beaver. Were the babies hungry? The dog ran to the wolf, or to the doe who gave the babies her nourishing milk.

Were the flies bothering the infants? The dog asked the spider for help-or jumped and snapped at the pests until the babies laughed.

When the babies wanted to be amused, the dog did his best tricks for them. He rolled over, he sat up, and he wagged his tail. He tickled the babies into delighted laughter by licking their noses. When the babies were quiet again, the dog sank down beside them and covered his eyes with his paws-to rest until he was needed again.

After a long time, it became clear that something was wrong with the children. The worried animals, who had been summoned by the bear, gathered round twins.

“Brothers,” said the bear, “the children cannot walk. They do not run and play as our young do. What can we do to help them?”

The wolf spoke first. “They eat the meat I bring them. They are not weak.”

The doe agreed. “Every day they drank milk.”

The beaver and the muskrat told the other animals that the twins waved their arms and legs with great strength at bath time. Indeed, they often splashed and splashed until the beaver and the muskrat were soaked and out of patience. Then the twins laughed as if they understood what they had done.

They went on waving their arms and legs as the fish had taught them to do.

When Nanabush came to play with the children, the animals told him of their concern. Nanabush thought awhile and then he said, “You have cared for the children very well. In fact, you have care for them so well that they never need to do anything for themselves. All little ones need to reach out for what they want instead of always having everything handed to them. I shall find out what we can do to help the babies learn to walk.”

Nanabush journeyed far to the west, to the land of high mountains, where the cloudy peaks stretch up to the sky. From the towering heights, he called to the Great Spirit who was the creator of the children and had been watching over them. The Great Spirit would know what should be done to teach the children to walk.

In reply to Nanabush’s call, the Great Spirit told him to search along the slopes of the mountains. There he would fin thousands of tiny sparkling stones. Nanabush did at the Great Spirit had said.

He collected hundreds of stones-blue ones and green ones and red ones and yellow ones. Soon he had a huge pile that gleamed through the clouds.

Nanabush squatted beside the pile of colored stones and watched them for a long while-but nothing happened. At last Nanabush grew bored and restless and began to toss the stones, one after another, into the air. As the stones fell back to earth, he caught them.

Then he tossed a handful of stones into the air, catching them as they fell back. He threw a second handful, but this time nothing dropped back into his outstretched hands. Nanabush looked up. To his astonishment, he saw the pebbles changing into winged creatures of many colors and shapes.

The beautiful creatures fluttered here and there before they came to nestle on Nanabush’s shoulders. Soon, he was surrounded by clouds of shifting colors. These were the first butterflies.

The butterflies followed Nanabush back to the twins, who crowed with pleasure and waved their legs and stretched out their arms to the beautiful creatures. But the butterflies always fluttered just beyond the grasp of the small, outstretched hands.

Soon the twins began to crawl, and then to walk, and even to run in their efforts to catch the butterflies.

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