Editor's note: The following text was reprinted
in Resource Library on December 17, 2007 with the permission of the
Tweed Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the text,
or wish to obtain a copy of the catalogue from which it is excerpted, please
contact the Tweed Museum of Art directly through either this phone number
or web address:
From Dreams May We Learn:
Paintings and Drawings by Rabbett Before Horses
Narratives by Jean Buffalo
- Young Nanabozho
- Relates to Young Nanabozho
- Nanabozho was a supernatural being. Of all the powers
he possessed, none was more singular than his power of transformation.
Nanabozho could assume a new form, shape, and existence at will, and in
an instant. He could be a man, and change to a pebble in the next instant.
Nanabozho could become a physical being, but essentially he was a supernatural
- Nanabozho had much to learn about the nature, extent,
and limitations of his powers.
- He not only had to learn what they were, he had to develop
them, and foster their growth. It was the only way he could accomplish
his purpose. Having no material body or form, Nanabozho would neither be
accepted nor understood. He learned this early in his association with
- For his attributes, strong and weak, the Anishnabeg came
to love and understand Nanabozho. In him, they saw themselves. Reflected
in his conduct was the character of men and women, young and old. Although
he was a paradox, a physical and spirit being, doing good and unable to
attain it, the Anishnabeg learned from Nanabozho. For his teachings he
is known as the Emissary of Kitchi Manitou.
- Relates to Madonna & Child and Sudden Gust
- One day, Winoah was out picking berries in the fields
and became separated from her companions when she had to urinate. Winoah
forgot the ancient taboo never to face the west when performing the act
and squatted directly toward the west. Tiny drops of blood fell upon the
living plants below her, which then brought to us Nanabozho in living form,
as part mortal and spiritual being.
- Within days of Nanabozho's birth his mother Winoah died.
Winoah was a human being. Her name means "to nourish from a breast."
Though she was the mother of four incorporeal beings, she was not taken
as a spirit herself. Upon meeting Epingishmook (Manitou of the West), Winoah
fell in love with the spirit and married him. She was to have married of
her parents choosing so that through marriage, love would be attained.
What she did not acknowledge when falling in love with the spirit, was
that she was unable to retain his love and companionship. In the end she
lost his love and company and died of grief. His grandmother Nokomis, the
mother of Epingishmook, was left to care for Nanabozho. He was the fourth
son of Winoah and Epingishmook.
- Epingishmook was the spirit husband of Winoah, and as
such he was an immortal being. At the same time he had a physical aspect
about him that rendered him vulnerable to flint. Though he could be injured
he could not be killed. When Nanabozho learned that Epingishmook might
have caused his mother's death, he sought out his father for revenge. Even
though Epingishmook was wounded in the battle with Nanabozho, he did not
consider the battle as a loss, rather as an injury to bring the battle
to an end. Hateful as Epingishmook might have been for leaving his wife
and children, Nanabozho respected him for the wisdom he had about life.
It was from Epingishmook that Nanabozho received the gift of tobacco, the
pipe of peace, and the ceremony of the pipe. Nanabozho received from his
father the purpose to live out his destiny, to fulfill his work and not
to be diverted by a sense of personal gain.
- Unlike his brothers, Nanabozho was timid. Everything
frightened him. He fled from shadows, sudden movements, thunder, spiders,
snakes and owls. Only with Nokomis' explanations did Nanabozho overcome
his fears. Nanabozho's disposition was at times bright and sunny, at times
gloomy and benevolent. He behaved more like a human being than a Manitou.
He was sent to the world by Kitchi Manitou to teach the Anishnabeg. He
could be human, but in nature and essence, was a spirit. He possessed supernatural
powers which were not equivalent to Kitchi Manitou, but much more. He became
the messenger of Kitchi Manitou, an emissary on earth between the different
species of beings, and a protector for the Anishnabeg.
- Nanabozho had great powers of transformation. At times
of need he could become
- a being of any species, but he would then have the limitations
of that form of being.
- He was constantly searching for the presence of his mother,
and was curious to learn more about the nature of his father. On numerous
occasions, he would ask Nokomis about his origins, and she would respond,
"Be patient, the time will come when you
- are older." Nanabozho knew that one day he would
be reunited with his mother
- and father.
- Creation of the First Butterflies
- Relates to Creation of the First Butterflies
- Kitchi Manitou elaborately embellished the mountains,
cliffs, ridges, and the slopes. Thinking that perhaps the massive rocks
were too imposing, dark, gray and dreary, Kitche Manitou fashioned small
stones the size of plum pits, of brilliant white, crimson, green, blue,
yellow, and amber hues. He hurled these brilliant pebbles against the mountains
and rocky sides of the earth. Immediately, the rocks and mountains began
to sparkle. The Anishnabeg found the shimmering rocks and mountains more
beautiful than anything else, and ceased admiring other beautiful things.
- When Nanabozho came to live among the Anishnabeg, he
found the people inordinately of rocky and mountainous places. So much
so, that they neglected the meadows and the forests. Nanabozho complained
to Kitchi Manitou saying, "The Anishnabeg are so fond of the many
colored mountains that they have forsaken other forms of beauty. Besides,
only grown up men and women enjoy these beautiful sights, and there is
very little for infants and the very young. Can you not remove the gemstones
from the mountains and give them to the children? The mountains need not
lose their majesty or their character."
- Kitchi Manitou agreed that there was little in the physical
world to bring joy and happiness to the children. He therefore permitted
Nanabozho to "Do what needs to be done." After some thought,
Nanabozho collected all the colored pebbles and threw them into the air,
so high that they went to the moon. The moon immediately changed the stones
into butterflies of many soft colors, fluttering and dancing in the wind,
making the eyes of children twinkle. They became the spirit of children's
Please click here to return to
article for From Dreams May We Learn: Paintings and Drawings by Rabbett
Resource Library wishes to
extend appreciation to Peter F. Spooner and Topher McCulloch, Tweed Museum
of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth for their help concerning permissions
for reprinting the above text.
Visit the Table
of Contents for Resource Library for thousands
of articles and essays on American art.
© Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights