Anishnabe found himself alone on earth. The Creator told him to give everything a name, and he did this, accompanied by a wolf. He discovered that only he, among the many species, was alone, without a mate, and he was lonely.
He traveled to the Great Lakes and while searching, heard a beautiful song coming across the water. The woman’s voice was singing that she was making a home for him. He fell in love with the voice and the song. In the days that followed, he learned how to cross the water and finally came to a lodge facing west. There lived a beautiful woman and her father, the Firekeeper.
This was the first union – Anishabe and the Firekeeper’s Daughter.
It determined the roles of men and women in marriage. They had
four sons, who when they were grown traveled to the four directions
of the earth. The son who traveled north had a hard journey,
but learned that the melting snow cleansed Mother Earth. Because
of the snow, the color for North is white. This son married
the daughter of the Spirit of the North and was given sweetgrass,
the first gift of Mother Earth. It is kept in a braid like a
The second son traveled east, into the yellow of the rising
sun. He learned that fire is the essence of life and gained
in knowledge of the Creator. He married the daughter of the
Spirit of the East, and was given tobacco to use in prayer,
to communicate with the Creator.
The third son went south, which is the woman’s direction from
which comes seeds and other things that give life. Red, the
color of life’s blood, is the the color for south. He married
the Spirit of the South’s daughter and was given the gift of
cedar, which is used to cleanse and purify the home and prepare
The fourth son went West, toward the mountains. Marrying the Spirit of the West’s daughter, he was given sage and learned that the setting sun represents the circle of life and its cycle. The color for West is black, for the dark time, and the sage, a strong purifier, is to keep illness away.
Smoke from the cedar and sage is fanned upward with an eagle feather because the eagle once saved the Indian people when the Creator would have destroyed them. The eagle told the Creator there were faithful people on earth, and was sent out each morning to see if the smoke still rose from the lodges of those good people. Fanning the smoke with the eagle feather symbolizes the eagle delivering the message to the Creator that his people are still there and still believe.