There was water everywhere and mother of the children of the spirit of all possibilities realized that something was needed for those animals that could not live in the water. The one who could envision anything and everything was called “Kitchi Manitou” and he was the creator of the Ojibwa people, a tribe of the First Nations of Canada. There are many variations of the mythology of Kitchi Manitou. In most, there are lesser Manitous, the spirit of the wind, the Sky God woman who bore Kitchi Manitou’s children, and the water Manitous.
The Water Manitous were not happy that Geezhigo-Quae, the Sky God, was having the children of Kitchi Manitou and they flooded the world with water. Sky Woman as the deity of the sky was called realized she needed to help those animals who could survive in the water. Suddenly she saw an animal that, although it breathed air, could swim. She called the big giant turtle to help and other animals that could swim.
Their myth stated that if Sky Woman had some of the soil from which Kitchi Manitou had made the world, then she could recreate some land and save the animals that could not survive in the water. The giant turtle tried to dive to the bottom of the ocean but it could not reach the depths it needed to reach to get some of the soil. The other animals tried, the loon and the beaver. No one had any success. Finally the last animal to try was the small muskrat. Everyone was losing hope and fear was taking control.
We all have recently felt the fear in many due to the recent tragedies last week in Paris and today in Mali. When almost two hundred people are taken hostage it shakes all of our confidence in the safety of our homes and lodgings. Many do lose hope and even more have reacted in fear.
The muskrat in the Turtle Island myth of the Ojibwa knew that same fear. However, in the myth, the muskrat decided that no one else was left and it was it time to make the effort. Muskrats are not very deep divers so no one had much confidence. The muskrat took several deep breaths, according to the legend, and then disappeared beneath the surface of the waters. The day turned to night and the muskrat did not reappear.
A new day dawned in our story and suddenly Sky Woman saw something floating in the distance. It was muskrat but he had perished in his quest. Suddenly they notice something held tightly in one of his paws. It was the soil, the soil needed to make new land for the animals and the children Geezhigo-Quae, the Sky Woman would bear, the children of Kitchi Manitou. The little, lowly muskrat had done what no one else could, what no one else had the faith to do.
Sky Woman rubbed the soil on the back of the big giant turtle and suddenly a continent grew. The Ojibwa mythology says the land was called Turtle Island; we know it today as the continent of North America. In time the children of Geezhigo-Quae, who now was given the name Nokomis, and Kitchi Manitou were born and they in turn had children who then had their own children.
In time, this family that had its beginnings on soil that took root on the back of a turtle made possible because of a lowly muskrat who gave his effort for the good of all, spread across the land of Turtle Island. They became known as Ojibwa, Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, and Mississauga. Today we call them Canadians and Americans. All due, according to the myth of the Ojibwa, because of a muskrat who tried, who did not give in to fear but instead gave life his very best.
We have all those times when fear rises to the forefront of our emotions. Fear is not always a bad thing. It can protect us and give us cause to rethink our actions. However, when it comes to the very essence of life, we cannot let fear define us. We have a choice in everything we do and sometimes things are not as successful as we might like. This does not mean that we have failed, though. The muskrat is not extinct and the Ojibwa believe it is because one gave his life for the world.
Life offers us many lessons every day. We can learn from our experiences or we can let them defeat us. The husband of one of the victims in Paris wrote this week to the terrorists: “I will not give you my hatred.” We cannot give life our fear. Life needs our efforts. We will thrive when we break through our fear to try. The success is in the effort, not the results. Results are seldom quantifiable so who can say what real success is? To define success depends on perspective. When we realize that we win when we live a life of faith and goodness, then winning becomes possible in every way for everyone, even a little muskrat.