The muskrat is revered in the Ojibway creation story as an animal that sacrificed its life to save the rest of the world. It dove down deep to the bottom of the water when no other animals thought it could and grabbed a ball of earth that eventually expanded and became the entire continent of North America.
The rear of the muskrat, a small aquatic rodent similar to a beaver (but with a narrow, rope-like tail) has glands that emit a musky smelling scent (hence the name), a scent that is particularly strong in males during breeding time. The scent, along with scat and urine, are used to warn other muskrats of its territorial borders. Muskrats have a neat adaptation where their lip folds behind their incisor teeth which allows them to chew on vegetable matter while underwater.
Coyotes are amazing survivalists. Despite having been trapped, poisoned and hunted for the past 100 years by humans, Coyotes have managed to live almost anywhere. Coyotes continue to live nearby and inside our towns, cities and farms. They are among the only animals whose range have expanded as more and more humans populated Canada. Perhaps for this reason, the coyote is often known as "the trickster" in Ojibway culture.
One theory suggests that the role that the "trickster" plays in legends and stories is a very important one. It allows people to fantasize about doing things that society wouldn't accept, such as playing pranks or behaving in a generally ridiculous manner. By "embodying" these sorts of fantasies, the coyote serves as a sort of release valve for people.
The provincial flower of Ontario, this distinctive plant produces three white petals that grow to be about 5 to 6 cm long. The plant itself can grow to be about 40 cm tall, with big leaves that are about 15 cm long. As the season wears on and the days get shorted, their white petals slowly start to turn pink.
This plant is native to northeastern North America and common in mixedwood or deciduous forests. Traditionally, the root of this plant would be grated down and used to treat eye swelling and cramps. The bark of the plant was used to treat ear infections.
The meadow vole, also known as a field mouse, is one of the smallest mammals in the Pic River First Nation. One day, a very skilled trapper accidentally trapped the sun. He asked many animals to try to get the sun out of the snare, but they all failed.
As a last resort, the trapper asked the meadow vole to try. It bravely agreed and chewed through the snare even as the sun started to burn. Because the vole was so small, it was able to hide from the burn in the rope's shadow. Eventually, it chewed all the way through and the sun was released.
Pop open the stem of this familiar yellow flower and you'll learn why this plant translates in the Ojibway language as "milk root." Its traditional uses ranged from treating sunburns, kidney disease, and brewing a fine cup of tea!
With bright yellow blossoms and white puffball-like seed-heads, you are unlikely to confuse this common plant with any other. If you look at dandelions after dark, you will see that they are all closed up. Dandelion flower heads are sensitive to light, opening early in the morning and closing at nightfall and on cloudy days.
Frogs undergo a truly remarkable transformation called "metamorphosis" where they go from being little waterborne fish-like creatures called tadpoles into the croaking, leaping frogs we're all familiar with. The ability to change and adapt so dramatically probably explains why the frog is associated in Ojibway culture with emotional healing, cleansing, and peace.
Boreal Chorus Frogs are a fairly common species in the Pic River First Nation, though they are extremely small (between 2 and 4 cm) and tough to spot. You are likely to hear them before ever seeing them. They start up their frog chorus and throw their voices all over the place, which makes it seem like they're everywhere. But when you draw near, they suddenly go silent.
"They say it is our land. Let us use it!" These words of a Pic River Elder provide a good summary of the thinking behind Pic River's renewable energy development. The three hydroelectric facilities operating in the Pic River area take advantage of the naturally flowing water in order to spin turbines that in turn produce power, all the while respecting the land and the sacredness of water.
Prior to building them, it was essential that the projects did not interfere with the traditional way of living. The three stations operating are Umbata Falls, Wawatay, and Twin Falls. In 2009, when Twin Falls was acquired by the Pic River First Nation, it became the first generation station owned and operated by a First Nation in Ontario.
Aside from the three hydroelectric stations operating in the Pic River First Nation, there are two wind power projects under development, one in Coldwell and the other at Superior Shores. Wind power operates by spinning great, windmill-sized blades that catch the wind and spin turbines, which in turn produces electricity.
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