• Voices from the Gathering PlaceSault Ste. Marie: 1622 - 1870

Die Stromschnellen von St Marie (The Rapids Of St Mary), Frank Buchser, 1868

By kind permission of the Kunsthaus Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland

This website was created by teacher Peter White for the Algoma District School Board

Bamewawagezhikaquay

 

Jane had two names. Her Irish father gave her "Jane" while her Anishnaabe mother named her Bamewawagezhikaquay.

 

It's a nice coincidence that the first Native American poet had such a poetic name. Bamewawagezhikaquay means, "the sound the stars make rushing through the sky."

 

Have you ever heard the sound a shooting star makes? None of us have. We can only imagine what such a sound would be.

 

The sound that Jane's imagination made were the words of the poems she wrote. The little sample below shows how her creativity was full of the Anishnaabe love of the earth, (the poem is dedicated to a spring flower called Miscodeed in Anishnaabe), and the rhyming couplets are drawn from the poetry tradition she learned from her Irish father.

 

To the Miscodeed

 

Sweet pink of northern wood and glen,

E’er first to greet the eyes of men

In early spring, — a tender flower

Whilst still the wintry wind hath power.

How welcome, in the sunny glade,

Or hazel copse, thy pretty head

Oft peeping out, whilst sill the snow,

Doth here and there, its presence show

Soon leaf and bud quick opening spread

They modest petals – white with red

Like some sweet cherub – love’s kind link,

With dress of white, adorned with pink.

 

Another short poem of Jane's written in Anishnaabe was composed as she returned to Sault Ste. Marie after traveling all the way to Ireland with her father.

 

She had been terribly homesick in Ireland and the sight of the pine trees, a tree that doesn't exist in Ireland, filled her with excitement.

 

To the Pine Tree

 

Shing wauk! Shing wauk! Nin ge ik id,

Waish kee wau bum ug, shing wauk

Tuh quish in aun nau aub, ain dak nuk i yaun.

Shing wauk, shing wauk No sa

Shi e gwuh ke do dis au naun

Kau gega way zhau wus co zid . . .

 

Translation (not literal)

 

The pine! the pine! I eager cried,

The pine, my father! see it stand,

As first that cherished tree I spied,

Returning to my native land.

The pine! the pine! oh lovely scene!

The pine, that is forever green . . .

 

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft Johnston Family Papers Item Number HS4906 Courtesy of Bentley Historical Museum, University of Michigan