Monday, July 21, 2008
The Place where Thunder Birds Nest, Part 1
Sometimes your eyes can play tricks on you, you know.
This morning my sisters and I went to walk along a rocky road that runs along the foot of The Place Where the Thunder Birds Nest. This place is also called The Place Where the Thunder Beings Rest. This place is on Fort William First Nations reserve.
In Ojibwe, Thunder Birds are Animiki. They are magnificent thunderers who inspire people to see in new ways. Thunder birds are immense spirit beings whose wings flapping make the sound of thunder over the skies of Thunder Bay. Mary Lou at Mushkiki first told me the name of this sacred place where Thunder Birds gather from all over Turtle Island.
We packed coffee and the munkkis [donuts]our mother made. It said rain all day, but we went anyway. The path we walked was full of bird song. A whistling bird kept calling, but hid from our eyes. Small yellow birds darted across our eyes. Nuthatches, too, teased us. High above us, we saw what appeared to be faces in the stone.
The cliffs show nature to be a shapeshifter.
Atop the cliffs, hawks, eagles, ravens, and crows overlooked the bay, then shrieking, soared high among the stones. Because it is so quiet here their shrieks ring loud.
Lower down on the ground, my sisters and I saw an altar on the shore. This one is made of an old driftwood. It is a birds' altar, for they carry their prey to its table top.
We also saw that someone had placed some objects on a large smooth flat topped stone.
We saw a small tombstone-like rock standing among the scree.
The trail begins on the eastern side, along a bay on Lake Superior called Squaw Bay. My friend, Sharon, said it is actually called Squall Bay. The word 'squaw' has been grossly denigrated in English by the settlers and people today, too, but in its original meaning it is a powerful word. Marge Bruchac says the word "Squaw means the totality of being female." Marilyn Dumont writes that "Indian women know all too well the power of the word squaw" in her Squaw Poems.
My sisters and I walked along the rocky road to the far end of this cove, where we found a trail that we had never noticed before. It is difficult to find, but if you follow it down to the lake, it leads to
a hidden cove. An immense age-old lichen-covered stone rises out of the water like a wall. As you can see, a girl looks out from the end of this wall towards the far shore?
The Place Where Thunder Beings come to Rest and Nest from all over Turtle Island was re-named Mount McKay by the settler population, after some guy McKay. You can watch Winona LaDuke tell of the importance of language; she uses the example of "Mount McKay" to explain Indigenous philosophy and laws, and questions the penchant for "naming big mountains after small men."