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
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