aciika neehi aciika alaankwa (Fisher and the Fisher Star)

aciika neehi aciika alaankwa (Fisher and the Fisher Star)
Colin Pyle

What follows are recordings of student observations from kišiinkwia kiilhswa (July/August 2009) to cecaahkwa kiilhswa (April/May 2010).  Each student was asked to observe one feature (plant, tree, animal, celestial body, or weather phenomena) and its connections to other features.  In addition each student was asked to visually represent these connections by constructing a visual web.

niipinwi neehi teekwaaki (Summer and Fall)

The ecological feature that I have been observing is the fisher and fisher star, or aciika neehi aciika alaankwa (fisher is approximately the same as the constellation the Big Dipper and the Fisher Star is also know as Polaris, the North Star). This perspective was very difficult for me to find some connections between other features because mine is much different than everyone else’s.  I still managed to find a few connections through some existing ones and one that I made up.

One connection I made with my constellations is its connection with the sun, killhswa,  and the moon, tipehki killhswa.  As the sun sets and the moon rises, that is when my constellations first become visible and when the sun rises again, they disappear. In the late spring and early summer the sun sets later in the day and aciika iis high up in the Northeast of the sky.  As the year progresses and the sun sets earlier, the constellation is hidden below the tree line during the early evening (when most people are moving around outside), so the timing of sunset has a major effect on my feature as well as on the visibility of the moon.

Another feature that connects with aciika neehi aciika alaankwa is culture.  I chose this feature because I feel like it is the best way to connect multiple things.  One part of culture that connects to the fisher and fisher star are stories.  Stories were a big part of our culture and constellations tell many of the stories involved with us.  I believe that aciika neehi aciika alaankwa also tells us a story.  One story that Myaamia people talked about was when Aciika (the fisher) lost his head and is wandering around the pole star looking for it.  I think this directly relates to the change in seasons because as the it goes from Spring to Fall, the North Star lowers in the sky.  It lowers to a point where our people not have been able to see it because of the treeline (blocked vision).  I think this leads to my next point about direction.  This is another thing it provides to our culture.  The fisher star, also known as the North Star, was commonly used for our people to find their ways back to their villages, maybe after a long hunt and so on.  This is why they probably had the story about the fisher who lost his head, because he couldn’t find his way home and they said he looked to the pole star to find his way home.  I have learned so far that by observing one thing and hearing other peoples observations on other features, you can easily relate to them because almost everything has a connection in nature, which is one of the most important parts to Myaamia life.

Circle representing the connections Colin observed in 2009

Click here to see the complete web created by all the students as well as the translations for all of the words on the circle.

pipoonwi neehi miloohkami (Winter and Spring)

Since last writing about my ecological feature, I have noticed a few things that have changed since then.  I was very general when I explained where Aciika and Aciika Alaankwa were up in the sky before.  When we first started these observations, my constellations were high up in the night sky and very visible.  As it turned into winter they slowly moved down in the sky toward the treeline, where they almost weren’t visible.  Now that it is spring time, Aciika and Aciika Alaankwa are becoming increasingly more visible again.  This relates to the stories I talked about in my last writing as well.

I also did not know too much about the story of Aciika (even though it is an Ojibwe story).  I mentioned briefly that I believed it was linked to a story, since most constellations do have a story behind them.  I now know the story is based on a weasel-like animal named “Ojeeg” (Aciika in Miami) who was asked by his son to “bring back summer.”  He couldn’t refuse his son, so he went to find the birds of summer through a hole in the sky, and then is eventually killed for his actions by the spirits who were holding it (in one story he is beheaded for this).  The actual cycle of Aciika and this story go hand in hand because in the winter when he is barely visible, he could be going back to look for the birds of summer again.  Towards summer, he is easily visible in the night sky and it is at this time that “the birds of summer” make their return migrations to our homelands.

A few connections I made with my constellations are its connections with the sun, killhswa,  and the moon, tipehki killhswa.  As the sun sets and the moon rises, that is when my constellations first become visible and when the sun rises again, they disappear. At the beginning of Spring when the sun sets, aciika neehi aciika alaankwa is high up in the Northeast of the sky.  As year progresses and the sun stays up in sky longer, the constellations move as well, so the sun has a major effect on my feature, as well as the moon.  One feature that I noticed is also connected and is different from my original thoughts is frost (first and last), or teekwahkahki.  When frost first develops it hints that winter is coming.  When winter comes, that is when Aciika leaves the night sky to “go find and bring back summer.”  When the last frost arrives, that is when Aciika becomes visible again, which means it is spring again.  I guess this also means that thunderstorms, ciinkwia, also could be connected.  The first thunderstorms also mark the sign of spring and the arrival of Aciika.  These are just all of the connections I have made with the other observations in class, but there many more pertaining to the Myaamia people that go beyond ecological observations.

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