Tuesday, November 25, 2008

when ojibwa sing of love and records suggest the stars...

testpressing

constellation

to begin with, please listen to this:

ojibwa love song.

i really shouldn't say anything about it so that the beauty of this ojibwa love song resonates in your head without any words...

after that breath, i can tell you only that this recording, by an ojibwa indian, is probably from the 1940's or early 50's, and was probably recorded onto tape at a radio station and then dubbed onto this acetate, which has no label or writing. the disc contains recordings of 5 songs, as well as some introduction of the singer.

along with the song, i had hoped to add an ancient image of an ojibwa, or perhaps some text of an ojibwa love story, but alas my book of american indian legends, contains only two stories by the ojibwa, neither of which seemed to relate to the beautiful sounds on the recording.

i decided to scan the blank disc, and leave it at that, but once it landed upon the scanner, i realized the image with all the holes reminded me of images in the book of constellations i used in working on when stars become words. these two images then sent me back to the indian legends book to discover a tale, not by the ojibwa, but by the wasco, called "coyote places the stars":

one time there were five wolves, all brothers, who traveled together. whatever meat they got when they were hunting they would share with each coyote. one evening coyote saw the wolves looking up at the sky.

"what are you looking at up there my brothers?" asked coyote.

"oh nothing," said the oldest wolf.

next evening coyote saw they were all looking up in the sky at something. he asked the next oldest worlk what they were looking at, but he wouldn't say. it went on like this for three or four nights. no one wanted to tell coyote what they were looking at because they thought he would want to interfere. one night coyote asked the youngest wolf brother to tell him, and the youngest wolf said to the other wolves, "let's tell coyote what we see up there. he won't do anything."

so they told him. "we see two animals up there. way up there, where we cannot get to them."

"lets go up there and see them," said coyote.

"well how can we do that?"

"oh i can do that easy," said coyote. "i can show you how to get up there without any trouble at all."

coyote gathered a number of arrows and began shooting them into the sky. the first arrow stuck in the sky and the second arrow stuck in the first. each arrow stuck in the one before it like that until there was a ladder reaching down to the earth.

"we can climb up now," said coyote. the oldest wolf took his dog with him, and then the other four wolf brothers came, and then coyote. they climbed all day and into the night. all the next day they climbed. for many days and nights they climbed, until they finally reached the sky. they stood in teh sky and looked over at the two animals the wolves had seen from down below. they were two grizzly bears.

"don't go near them," said coyote. "they will tear you apart." but the two youngest wolves already headed over. and the next two youngest wolves followed them. only the oldest wolf held back. when the wolves got near the grizzlies nothing happened. the wolves sat down and looked at the bears, and the bears sat there looking at the wolves. the oldest wolf, when he saw it was safe, came over with his dog and sat down with them.

coyote wouldn't come over. he didn't trust the bears. "that makes a nice picture though," thought coyote. "they'll look pretty good sitting there like that. i think i'll leave it that way for everyone to see. then when people look at them in the sky, they will say, 'there's a story about that picture,' and they will tell a story about me."

so coyote left it that way. he took out the arrows as eh descended so there was no way for anyone to get back. from down on earth coyote admired the arrangement he had left up there. today they still look the same. they call those stars the bid dipper now. if you look up you'll see that three wolves make up the handle and the oldest wolf, the one in teh middle, still has his dog with him. the two youngest wolves make up the part of the bowl under the handle, and the two grizzlies make up teh other side, the one that points toward teh north star.

when coyote say how they looked, he wanted to put up lots of stars. he arranged stars all over the sky in pictures and then made the big road across teh sky with teh stars he had left over.

when coyote was finished he called meadowlark. "my brother, when i am gone, tell everyone that when they look up into the sky and see stars arranged this way, i was the one who did that. that is my work."

now meadowlark tells the story about coyote.

text from american indian legends and myths, selected by richard erdoes and alfonso ortiz, pantheon 1984.

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3 Comments:

Blogger ArtSparker said...

Coyote is a typical artist here (if I can talk trash about my own kind), putting up work so be admired rather than engaging in the social activity of the wolves. A wonderful story.

11:11 AM  
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