A wiigwaasabak is a birch scroll, sewn together with cedar roots, used ceremonially by Ojibwe medicine men. They use geometric diagrams to explain many complex things and have been handed down for generations. This particular 2.6-meter long wiigwaasabak was made by Eshkwaykeeshik (James Red Sky). It recounts the historical journey of the Ojibwe people from their home along the Zhiiwitaagani-gichigami (Atlantic Ocean) to the Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin (Great Lakes) which occurred in the 14th and 15th centuries.
“After the Great Manito ot God had created all creatures on earth, he found they were dying off and decided he needed to get them to worship him, but he didn’t know how so he called a meeting of all the birds and all the creatures on earth to talk about it ‘somewhere across the Big Water, where this Manito was.’
The Manito needed someone to take his message to the people and asked who would do it. The Bear was there and said, ‘I’ll take it across to the people.’ The Bear went off with the message of Everlasting Life, but it was very heavy to carry and he could hardly walk. When he came to a wall, he couldn’t get through it at first until he stuck his tongue out, which made a hole that he could get through. He did this each time he came to a wall, and the four wind manitos stationed at each of the cardinal directions thanked him for the work he did. He came upon four walls before he finally got through to Midewegun or Mide lodge.
The Bear had successfully carried the Pack of Life thus far when he met Megis, the shell, who took over the trek down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, past the Lachine Rapids to Mattawa, on down the French River to Lake Huron, through the Straits of Mackinac to Sault Ste. Marie.
Somewhere along this stretch of the journey the Megis transferred the Pack of Life to the Otter, who carried it along the south shore of Lake Superior to the Keeweenaw Peninsula, on to LaPointe in Wisconsin, breaking through a sand bar at Fond du Lac at the west end of Lake Superior and travelling up the St. Louis River westward to Leech Lake.”
~ Eshkwaykeeshik (James Red Sky)