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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Rodriguez

An Ojibwe Story of Creation Analysis

The hero of our story can be the most unlikely character of all. But the most unassuming one will always rise above. Who is the hero of our creation, and what was their ultimate purpose in our design? From the beginning of time, humans have pondered what our existence meant, and it seems that the answer can be found in the form of self-sacrifice. In the creation story of the Ojibwe people, their hero, Nanabushu, re-created the Earth after the terrible flood. Nanabushu saved several diving animals who would collect a former piece of the Earth, but only one animal was courageous enough to go the distance. This animal's self-sacrifice is the heart of the Ojibwe story of creation which hopes to communicate to our generation the gift of self-sacrifice for the good of the world. The people of the Ojibwe tribe value their stories on a spiritual level and are rich with life lessons on how to live a good life. Animals are highly respected in all aspects of the tribal livelihood and have an essential place in their stories. This special story demonstrates that the act of self-sacrifice, or giving yourself up for the highest good, is a path to reaching your whole purpose in this life. As we all ponder on our meaning of life, let's look at Ojibwe's creation story to reflect on our sacrifices and how we can transfer more good into our world.


The Ojibwe people describe a great terrible flood that wiped away all the world's good and evil. But, their hero, Nanabushu, could not leave Mother Earth to completely parish, for it was worth saving some good to carry over into the next generation. So, upon a raft, Nanabushu saved seven animals who would help re-create the new world. Something big was required of each of these animals. In the eyes of the Ojibwe people, it was a noble gift that each animal offered. It was the gift of self-sacrifice and courage. A duck, a loon, and a beaver each had the opportunity to dive deep into the water in search of a piece of Earth for Nanabushu, but none were successful. Frustrated and wounded, these animals could not help restore the beautiful Mother Earth. The one animal who was not asked to dive was the Muskrat. However, the Muskrat was humble enough to offer himself to dive for a piece of Earth. The Muskrat dove, reaching depths beyond that of the duck, the loon, and beaver. He dove so deep that when Nanabushu pulled him back up, he was dead. But, his sacrifice was not in vain. In each of his paws, in his mouth, and beneath his armpits was a little piece of Earth. How beautiful, that most humble of creatures, the most unassuming character, succeeded in initiating the start of re-creation.


A self-sacrifice is a form of martyrdom, which is not always respected today. We live in a generation who is more in tune to looking out for themselves and ignoring the less fortunate around us. In a world where we can get anything with one click on Amazon and immediate gratification on social media, we are more self-absorbed and selfish than any generation before. We wonder if it's even worth sacrificing ourselves for the greater good when we know most of us will not get any credit. The Ojibwe story of creation reminds us to be humble like the Muskrat. We do not need constant credit for the good we do, nor does the whole world need to know about our small acts of kindness. There will never be enough likes on Facebook or Instagram to give us joy. The Muskrat reminds me of the sacrifice of Jesus in the story of Christianity. The world was remade after the flood during the time of Noah, and then thousands of years later, Jesus came into the world in the most humble of ways, to redeem humankind. Jesus's hero journey for redemption was about self-sacrifice, a lesson he passionately strove to teach all his disciples. Jesus, like the Muskrat, was not looking to become a hero; they both were looking to save Earth from the shackles of greed, selfishness, and evil.


Our generation may look selfish and self-absorbed, but it is good too. We understand technology better than most and can use that to serve others, and we have ample access to social media platforms to spread words and acts of kindness. Our friend, the Muskrat, can dive with us to the depths of the flood waters of our lives as we search for ways to serve others to bring about goodness in this world. Our hero journey is just beginning in our lifetime.

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