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The Flowering Moon

5 May 2010

Submitted by Wayne Dupuis

Legends caution never pick a lady slipper.  If any part is picked, the entire flower dies.  It grows out in the woods (nopeming) to mark the courage and strength (mashkawisen) of a small girl (ikwewens) who lived long ago; a girl who saved her people from a terrible disease. She did so by listening carefully to the elements, the whispering snow, the rumbling ice, and the dancing northern lights (Jii-ba-yag-nii-mi-wag). As the story goes, a whole community became sick during the winter. One little girl travelled miles to a neighboring village to get medicine (mash-ki-ki), the healing herbs. Such journeys were not made in the winter (biboon) because of the deep snow and treacherous conditions. But everyone was sick and she was the only one that could possibly make the trip. She put her Ma-ki-sins on and stepped out into the raging storm that set upon the region just as she left to get the mash-ki-ki.  She travelled over the deep ice covered lake and through the deep snow to the village that could supply the herbs needed to help the peoples’ healing. Once she arrived the whole village welcomed her and offered to take her home when the snow subsided. She knew they would not let her leave during the storm so she left in the evening.  During her travel home she got stuck in the snow and lost her ma-ki-sins.  She continued to travel homeward and her exposed feet started to bleed, leaving blood stained marks in the snow. Because of the Mash-ki-ki the people were healed.  However, the girl remained weak for a long, long time, but soon after the snow melted, she too recovered.  In the spring (zeegwan), when the woods turned green, she and her brother went to search for her lost ma-ka-sins. On the spot where she had lost her them, and wherever her bleeding feet had stepped, beautiful flowers grew. They were pink and white and shaped just like the little ma-ka-sins she had worn on her journey.  The people named the new flower ma-ka-sin waa-big-waan, which means moccasin flower.  Today it is called the lady slipper.

Ma ka sin waa big waan, or Lady Slipper.

Photo by Teresa Boardman,

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