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The flag of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians was designed by tribal member Karen Lee over 40 years ago.

The central aspect of the turtle is Mother Earth sustaining us with constancy and generosity. Long ago, Turtle emerged from the water with earth on its back, providing a living place for human beings and all creatures between sky and water. The turtle is the medium of communication, the emissary of beings of this world and time and beings of another world and dimension of time. The turtle symbolizes thought given and thought received and represents clarity of communication between beings. Aqua symbolizes plant life and growing things. The turtle is the head of the fish clans.

The crane represents eloquence of leadership and direction. The voice of the crane is unique and infrequent. When crane speaks, all listen. The crane is the spokesperson for the clans.

The Mountain Ash tree is the sacred tree of the Anishinaabeg. Its leaves, berries and bark are used for medicines. The tree is able to survive in places where other trees cannot. The Mountain Ash is used as an example of strength, durability and strong character by the people.

East, the direction of the rising sun, is thought of as a grandfather personifying the winds and natural phenomena of that direction. East is the direction of the physical body. It symbolizes all that is new in the creation, like all newborn creatures, including man. Like the rising sun, a new day is brought to light. So it is with all things. Knowledge is brought to consciousness and like the circling of the sun, the seasons change. The east is the time of change. It is the spring, the time of change from blackness to beauty. It is the sun breaking over the horizon.

The rabbit represents Nanabozho, a messenger of G’tchi Manitou, an intermediary on earth among different species of beings and an advocate for the Anishinaabeg, to whom he imparted the gift of knowledge. From the east leading to the west is a yellow path. It is said by our elders that this is the path of life, the path of the Great Warrior, the Sun. We give thanks to our eastern grandfather.

In the circle of life, the southern direction represents maturing life, like young men and women. It is the time of year we call summer, the time we call midday, the time of day the eagle soars. South is the direction of full understanding.

From G’tchi Manitou, the eagle received the gifts of strong wings, keen sight and proud bearing. The head of the Bird Clan, the eagle symbolizes courage and pre-knowledge. His sphere is the mountains and the heights.

Red symbolizes earth and fire. We give thanks to our southern grandfather.

West is the direction of the setting sun, the time of gradual change as from daylight to darkness and from life to death. It is evening, the change of life in middle age. It is change like the leaves or the hair on our heads from natural color to the likes of autumn frost. The west is the time of full maturity. It is the time of insight. West is the direction of the emotional part of ourselves.

From G’tchi Manitou, the deer received the gift of grace. The deer symbolizes love. The deer was once one of the Anishinaabeg clans.

Black symbolizes change from this life. We give thanks to our western grandfather.

North is the time of our elders, our old people. It is a time of wisdom, so much like the answers found in our dreams. It represents the night, as a time called midnight, and a time called winter when things are as unpredictable as our dreams. The north is representative of those things that are positive, a time of snow and purity.

The bear received the gift of courage and strength from G’tchi Manitou. Another of the Anishinaabeg clans, the bear is representative of all medicine powers in creation. Claws dig medicine roots. Bear passes knowledge on through dreams, visions.

White symbolizes spirituality. We give thanks to our northern grandfather.

The rainbow is the beautiful bridge to the spirit world and the colors of the universe. Red is symbolic of earth and fire yellow is the path the sun crosses through the sky. Blue is symbolic of sky and waters.

From wherever we stand upon our Earth Mother we have companionship of these four directions; our Earth Mother with her blessings of food, clothing, shelter and medicine cares for us. We give thanks to our Earth Mother, the direction below us. The direction above recognizes the daytime and nighttime skies of our creation. This is where we look to acknowledge the G’tchi Manitou, the Creator. The Creator gives us everything we know, like the rainbow, a beautiful bridge to the spirit world and colors of the universe. Therefore, our greatest acknowledgement is to the Creator of the entire universe.

© 2017 - Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY