“Many moons ago, when the world as we know it was still young, oginiig, or roses, were the most numerous of all the flowers and the brilliance of their colors used to be unrivaled. So beautiful were the roses to their spirit and senses that the Anishinaabeg held roses in high regard. However, over time the sweet flowers which flourished by the myriads in a great variety of color tones became so common that tayaa! the Peoples of the Anishinaabeg forgot to mark the brilliance of their colors! Ehn, even the dazzling deep perfume which floated from their petals lost its charm to them! The Anishinaabeg had taken the oginii-waabigwaniin for granted.
And this is why, when the oginiiminagaawanzhiig, the rose bushes, started to decline in number and the roses, the richness and brilliance of their petals, diminished, no one seemed to care, no one deemed it necessary to become alarmed. After all, why should they be concerned? Was the cycle of scarcity and abundance not just a part of the natural order of things, a logical development in the process of bimaadiziwin, life itself? Was the natural cycle of decay and regeneration not something that applied to their relatives the roses as well? Yet atayaa! Woe betided them noozis! it was by reasoning like this, that the Anishinaabeg began to overlook the fragil nature of the balance that exists between all living things in general. Enh, our forefathers closed their eyes to the circular dependency, that delicate fabric of the web that the Great Mystery had woven between plant, animal, and man...with disastrous consequences...
Not before long noozis, the waaboozoog (hare) started to become affected by the scarcity of the oginii-waabigwaniin that once had covered the earth as far as the eye could see, their fatness decreasing and their bellies screaming for food. Although the Anishinaabeg vaguely sensed that something was not quite right - the fur of makwa, the bear, became less rich and its meat tasted less sweet than it used to - it were our relatives the aamoog (bees) and the nenookaasiwag (humming birds) who were the first to be alarmed, and, naturally, in the longer term the bears themselves, since they too depended on the nutricious honey that the roses used to yield in abundant quantities.
Eventually, one summer there were no roses to be seen anywhere and the Anishinaabeg, as their little winged relatives almost became extinct and the makade-makwag (black bears) became moody and even outraged, finally started to worry and even to despair, and at last, everyone, humans and animals alike, became alarmed and started to blame each other. So noozis, it was at the end of this summer, which is still known to our People as Oginiig Angwanaagwadwag Niibin (The Summer Of The Disappearance Of The Rose), when more and more conflicts were reported and famine and desperation were at its highest, that a Gichi-zagaswe’idiwin (Great Meeting) was called. Mizhinaweg (messengers) were sent to all four corners of Aki (the earth) to call upon all the spirits and animals and human beings to congregrate and sit around a huge campfire; everyone was invited, eveyone attended.
During the Great Meeting the delegates of the Anishinaabeg and of every animal being that roamed earth, sky, and waters, chose Makwa, the bear, as ogimaa, the First in Council. "Aaniin nisayedog ashi nimisedog gaye! (Hello brothers, and you too sisters!)" Makwa spoke, "Like you, I am worried about the extinction of our relatives the roses because the honey that their flowers used to yield is becoming scarcer by the day and my People, as well as our little winged relatives aamoog and nenookaasiwag are starving! What do you suggest we can do to help bring the roses back?"
Many suns passed before the Great Meeting reached an unanimous decision: they called on one of the few hummingbirds that had survived the famine to search the world and find out if there were still roses left, and, if he would find one, to bring it back. Moons went by before the brave Nenookaasi discovered a solitary rose in a far-away land in the west, clinging to a mountain slope as she was desperately trying to catch the last sunrays of the day. Hereupon Nenookaasi carefully lifted the withering rose from her bed and carried it to the Anishinaabeg, who assembled their best Medicine men and women, calling upon them to tend the rose and restore her to life. In four days the rose was well enough to give an account of what happened to her siblings, and, after everyone had congregated again, she managed to say in a voice that quivered with weakness, “It was waaboozoog, the hare, who ate all of my relatives...”
Upon hearing the rose’s account the Council raised a furious uproar that was heard all over Aki. Within seconds the poor waaboozoog that were present that day were seized by the larger animals who beat them up and ferociously swung them around by their ears. So violent was the assault that the ears of the waaboozoog became stretched and their mouths split open! The poor waaboozoog were almost killed that day! But then the rose spoke again, saying, “Tayaa! Good golly, do not kill the waaboozoog! Our destruction was your fault too! Had you cared and looked after us, we might have survived but all of you, animals and humans alike, were indifferent to our faith...so leave the poor waaboozoog be!”
Makwa the bear, Ma’iingan the wolf, and Bizhiw the Lynx, although still enraged, obeyed the words of the rose and, be it reluctantly, released the waaboozoog. But gichi-wiiyagaaj! alas! the waaboozoog, nor the roses, would ever be quite the same again noozis! The waaboozoog did not lose their disformities and the oginii-waabigwaniin never attained their former beauty and abundance. While the scars on the hare’s faces remained as a remainder of their excessive indulgence of appetite, it was Wiinabozho, the friendly manidoo (spirit) himself, who endowed the roses with thorns to protect them from the insatiable greed of hungry animals. In doing so, Wiinabozho imparted on all those who were present at the Great Meeting an important lesson: plants can exist alone, yet neither animals nor men can exist without plants. Disturb the fragile balance and disaster will fall on everyone. You should therefore never cease to cherish and tend our relatives the plants. Never take them for granted!
Giiwenh. So the story goes.”
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