This powerful painting depicts the sacred creation story of the Anishinaabe Peoples. Legendary twins, man and woman, given birth by GIIZHIGOOKWE (Sky Woman) on the back of a Great Turtle (present-day Michilimackinac). She named them Anish, or spontaneous, for they were were apparently born out of nothing. They were neither rock or fire, nor water or wind. They were ANISH-I-NAAB-EG, Spontaneous Beings.
Unlike the first two children whom Giizhigookwe had conceived (one had been Ojichaag, made up of mere spirit while the other, Wiiyaw, was only made up of physical substance), the new Anishinaabeg, despite their differences, tended toward union with each other. As twins, they were complementary. Neither was complete or fulfilled without the other. Both inini (man) and ikwe (woman) had ojichaag and wiiyaw, and both had something that emanates from ojichaag: jiibaaman, or aura.
Once the new Turtle Island was complete, Giizgigookwe nurtured the twins to manhood and womanhood, and then, as her purpose and nature were finally fulfilled, she danced her sacred dance upward into the fading light of the sky. Here, after she had reached the moon, she changed her name in WEZAAWI-GIIZHIGOOKWE, Yellow Sky Woman, and up until today the People petition to her, and honor her, through NOOKOMIS DIBIK-GIIZIS, Grandmother Moon.
From here on, Yellow Sky Woman, through Nookomis Moon, watched over the twins by night; by day MISHOOMIS GIIZIS (the Sunfather) and OMIZAKAMIGOOKWE (the Earthmother) took care of them. And Yellow Sky Woman/Nookomis’ existence, her gift of life, and the primacy of women are still remembered by the Anishinaabeg each time Dibik-giizis, the Night Sun shines on their precious island-home...
The seven Mide-miigis shells that the artist depicted beneath the twins at the foot of the tree refer to the Midewiwin, the ancient, spiritual-medicinal Society of the Anishinaabe Peoples, and, in particular, to the legendary migration of the People from the Dawn land in the east to the Great lakes in the west. The sacred shells, sometimes regarded as a representation of the sun, are extremely respected and revered objects and the most essential and important elements in at least six different Midewiwin ceremonies. The image of miigis is drawn on a number of their sacred Origin birchbark scrolls, where the story and ceremonies for reenactment of the Creation Story are recorded in various pictorial mnemonics and diagrams.
The tree in the painting is giizhik, the white cedar tree or Sacred Tree Of Life, connecting Turtle Island and all of its children with the Sky World, where Giizhigookwe, after she changed her name into Yellow Sky Woman, found her abode behind the moon. Simone stylized the branches of the tree after the ancient diagram of the MIDEWIWIN MIIKANA or ANISHINAABE MINO-MIIKANA: the Good Life Road of the People (see insterted image). Each of the tree branches shows seven digressions or lines leading from life’s main trail, symbolizing the temptations mankind finds himself faced with as he tries to stay on the true path.