Story Starter December 2017 – James Simon Mishibinijima

Our December Story Starter features artwork by James Simon Mishibinijima, one of Canada’s foremost Native artists.

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art pictured here. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original, in English, and based on the featured artwork. Submit your entry in the comment section below.

There is no restriction of age, location (subject to local laws), or cost associated with entering the contest. You have until midnight on December 31, 2017 to submit your story. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Finalists and winners will be determined by judges selected by the OWC and will be announced Spring 2018.

 e look forward to reading your Story Starters.

About The Artist

Credit: Jean Simon

One of Canada’s foremost Native artists, James Simon Mishibinijima has created a unique body of work over the past four decades, attracting a loyal following in North America and overseas. He was born in 1954 in Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island, where he grew up immersed in the legends of the Ojibway people.

From the 1970s onward, Mishibinijima has explored many sacred places around Manitoulin Island and originated the coveted Mishmountain series, among others. His uplifting philosophy has found resonance with those who seek solace in the midst of tragedy, and meaning in a world that is often confusing and frightening.

In his work Mishibinijima underscores the wisdom of the Elders’ teachings as a way to foster respect and peace. He also emphasizes the interconnectedness of all life and calls upon nations to preserve our natural surroundings for the benefit of our children.

Want to check out past contest entries? Click here.

Feeling inspired? Paste in your 100-word original entry below!

** Please note the delay between comment submission and approval. Please submit an entry one time only -thank you!**

  • The Importance of Conversing with Elders (100 words, exclusive of title)

    “I turn to you for guidance.”
    “And I turn to you for assistance.”

    “I look to you for knowledge.”
    “And I enjoy your inquisitiveness.”

    “I wonder about your stories.”
    “And I appreciate your curiosity.”

    “I admire your strength.”
    “And I, yours.”

    “I respect your wisdom.”
    “And I, your youth.”

    “You remind us the ways of our ancestors.”
    “And you share the variations of new generations.”

    “You keep tradition in our lives.”
    “As do you.”

    “You clarify things that have no explanation.”
    “And you look for answers where there are none.”

    “Thank you, for your patience”
    “And you, for your persistence.”

  • The voice of time is heard through the dialogue of the two sides of the wheel…

  • When a wee child, my gran spoke to me of dreams. She talked as if they were real things. So small, I didn’t understand that there was a difference between those realities. Later I discovered — or was told — that Gran wasn’t always right in the head. I mention this because I had a dream last night that I thought was real. Two trembling creatures held hands. One reached its free hand toward me. Fearful, I ran, not knowing whether it was young life holding onto death or death holding onto life. I wanted no part of either.

  • Grasping the youth’s hand
    He sucks marrow from young bones
    And straightens anew

  • Weakened by his foolishness man grasped natures hand in a vain attempt to save himself. But he despoiled the partnership at the expense of everything else. Gone are the species that blended so well, reducing the remnants ineffectual as they reach across an empty chasm in a pointless search for survival.

  • soul to soul, we breathe, connected, there is no other way …

  • Spirit Helper’s Prayer

    Come with me, Anishinabe,
    let me help you understand.
    Take my hand, can you feel
    how we are connected?
    Kitche Manitou created all the
    creatures that roam the Earth
    and made them equal… except for you.
    We are your spirit helpers.
    You dream your power from us.
    But your desire disturbs the rhythm.
    Your anger damages the harmony.
    Your greed destroys the balance.
    Anishinabe, how can I make you see?
    Your spirit helpers will never recall
    the power we give you, but
    you must stop killing our Mother.


    Hold on Mother Nature, please
    For we’re the only ones left
    You warned them
    Of icecaps melting
    Polar bears starving, dying
    Oceans rising, islands sinking
    but they refused to listen

    Earthquakes, tsunamis
    Volcanoes, droughts, and forest fires
    Technology over nature they insisted

    East versus west
    North Korea against the U.S.
    The Middle East ever in turmoil
    With Armageddon threatening
    Yet they failed to hear your cry

    Keep holding my hand
    Mother Nature, please
    It’s never ever too late
    For wounded as we are
    And as desolate the future
    Together we’ll make it whole again

  • Swallow Your Eye

    Come swallow your eye,
    for your wisdom rests within,
    we will see where we fit,
    you to me, each reaching,
    feeding off the excitement
    of want and touch.
    We will walk together,
    with hands entwined,
    and meld where our organs
    stretch to form the bridge
    that yearns to make us one.

  • So take my paw and
    may Michelangelo’s spark
    of life ignite you.

  • This Man and Nature walked in harmony once. Over time This Man grew greedy and was tricked by Windigo, who took all of This Man’s possessions.

    This Man searched and searched for Little Bear to ask for forgiveness. Finally This Man found Little Bear.

    Would Little Bear restore the mountains, forests, land, and the clear waters?

    This Man promised to honour and protect those gifts.

    “It is a promise to me and to yourself,” Little Bear said, as he took This Man’s hand. All of Nature was returned.

    Can This Man keep his promise or will Windigo win again?

  • “Not all who are chosen heed the call, but all who heed the call are chosen.” He said his eyes rested steady on mine.
    Surprised that this three foot entity commanded such attention – I followed through the thickest brush until we stood sheltered in a thicket of Junipher trees.
    A loud quiet blanketed us.
    “You are not the chosen one, but time is short” he said as he withdrew something from his pocket.
    Downhill, beyond the shadow of canopied trees were two doors.
    “Choose wisely,” he said ” it opens only one.” Then he handed me the key.

  • We trudged through knee high snow knowing we were lost. Grandfather was grateful for my steps as I crunched through the crust. He has seen 79 winters and is tired. The moon was our guide but is no comfort .
    “ I see a cave ahead . “ I shouted to him. “ we will take shelter until dawn “. There was no reply.
    The cave was deep , warm and had a fire pit with logs. The glow from the flames revealed the symbol on the wall.
    Grandfather grinned and said, “I know this place . I was here with my elders as a boy. The spirit drawing means protection. We are safe “.

  • We had nothing in common, the bear and I. He said we were keepers of the earth.
    I leaned into him, my face blank, my words to him empty vessels, spewing a hollow diatribe, heavy and pointed as flint arrows.
    Tears trickled down his warm brown face. “The Mother is dying, can’t you see?”
    “The Mother?” In my blindness and my greed, I took a swipe at the land, razed the forests, tainted the air, and sullied the water. Laughed at the bear with his enigmatic talk of The Mother.
    Today, I found out, we are brothers.

  • Us

    Don’t be frightened, for the wild in me is free
    and you are unarmed.
    Take my hand and we’ll go as one,
    an unexpected truce,
    beast leading man through the boreal wood,
    across creek and over bluff
    where common differences have caused enough.

    Don’t be frightened, for the wild in me is free
    and you are unguarded.
    Walk with me and we’ll know as one,
    the incontestable truth,
    us, mutually reliant on the boreal wood,
    the blueberry briar and bog
    where common yearnings rise from the fog.

    Don’t be frightened, for the wild in me is free.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead December 31, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Mankind has a lot to learn from the animals that share our earth. It is our honor to share this land, and if we listen to the other inhabitants of the land, they will teach us how to respect it and preserve it for future generations. We can live at peace. We can understand their needs and we can listen. Lending an ear is our way to understanding. Listen.

  • Patricia von Holstein-Rathlou December 31, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    The fragile, lost human needed her help or it would not survive on earth.
    She had been watching him wander aimlessly in the forest, the cold dark forest.
    He was new to life, to earth.
    The shaking, quivering human was frightened as she quietly approached him.
    She stood for a moment in front of him. He realized there was no danger.
    As she gently took his hand,his spirit bonded with hers.
    He would need her help, protection and guidance forever and ever.
    She had brought the fragile,lost human home.

    The mounds of soil and star flakes trembled, ready to become. Reaching down, the being from the distance dark night beyond the visible stars, extending an elongated limb to touch a quivering mound. The tip of the appendage joined with the heavenly mix of world and air becoming interfused, indistinguishable, a single thread. Energy was exchanged and the first birth began to flow upward. The long sliver of matter, still fused to the being, began to quiver and take shape. The first birth was the bear.

  • It is time young bear
    For you to guide and teach them
    Hold us in your heart

  • *** CONTEST CLOSED. Thanks to all who entered and good luck! ***

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

back to top