In August, I was sitting along the shore north of Grand Marais watching the sunset and the colors of the clouds captivated me with their fiery shades of pinks, reds and oranges. I had been working on this piece to honor the wisdom carried by Name (Sturgeon) throughout their lives in Gitchi Gami (Lake Superior). While researching this piece, I discovered that the oldest recorded Name had been 152 years old. This piece of information had me thinking about how wise one would be at the end of that lifespan. My Grandfather was one of the wisest people I have ever met, which led me to think about the importance of the Grandfather teachings of Indigenous people.
The Name in this painting has a total of 152 individual white fins reflected in the dots throughout his body, in honor of the oldest recorded Lake Sturgeon. The zhingwaak (pine trees) in his body, reflect the seven Grandfather teachings of humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and finally, love. With a lifespan of more than a century, in this piece, the Name swims in the still waters of Gitchi Gami having received the lessons of these teachings. In this time of collective stress, this piece not only serves as a reminder of the natural beauty around all of us, but also to hold onto to the lessons shared from our elders, especially the Grandfather teachings.
Sam Zimmerman is a Grand Portage Ojibwe direct descendant who continues the storytelling traditions.