Interpretation by George Ironstrack
When I look at this minohsaya ‘painted hide,’ I am reminded of a Myaamia ‘Miami’ and Waayaahtanwa ‘Wea’ Winter Story in which the gift of a single Ciinkweewaankana ‘Thunder Being Feather’ offers the potential of transformation. In this story, the Ciinkweensaki ‘Young Thunder Beings’ gift one of these feathers to a human who transforms into one of their kind and joins them in their attempt to free their brother who is held captive behind Ciinkwihtanonki ‘Niagara Falls.’ The Ciinkweensaki, together with their transformed human ally, win a victory in battle at Ciinkwihtanonki, but they fail to find and free their brother, and so the sound of his rumbling continues to be heard in that place. To my eye, any of the elongated diamonds descending down from Ciinkwia or Ciinkweensa’s wings could symbolize the transformative gift of this feather. When I look at this minohsaya, I think of a web of interconnected questions. Did the artist who painted this robe have a story like this in her mind while she worked? When used, did this robe communicate a connection to the power of Ciinkwia and of transformation? Did the robe serve as a reminder of an important place, like Ciinkwihtanonki ‘Niagara Falls?’ Today, Myaamia people continue to use many of the shapes represented on this minohsaya in artforms like ribbonwork, tattoos, and even screen printed t-shirts. We continue to use these designs to represent new stories about ourselves as a community and as individual Myaamiaki.