The Story of the Turtle Sole

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Heather Steppler (Wolf Clan, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation) is the amazing artist who created the designs for our soles. Her maternal ancestors were musically, artisitcly and spiritually inclined and include traditional birch bark biters and medicine women. After she obtained a degree in Fine Arts, Heather embraced her heritage by learning beading, medicine picking, Aboriginal crafts and attending powwows with her husband and two children.

 

heather

 

 

In order to make a fully functional sole for our spring and summer moccasins, Heather worked closely with Vibram to perfect her design. She had to make sure that there was height variation and ample space between elements in order to ensure proper grip. Now we have a high-function warm weather sole that is also the canvas for a uniquely Aboriginal story.

 

 

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THE SPLIT CIRCLE:

A whole circle connects the life energy, yet it is divided to show man and woman, mother and father, the spirit world and the physical world.

 

THE SKY:

Throughout the sky, flowing lines represent energy flowing through all beings.

 

THE PRAIRIE GRASS:

The turtle swims towards the prairie grasses that have always sustained life.

 

THE TURTLE:

Legends speak of Turtle Island, a land created when a clump of soil on Turtle’s shell grew into what we now call North America. Marking on Turtles back represent moon cycles.

 

Image Credit: Iroquois Indian Museum
Image Credit: Iroquois Indian Museum

 

“Among the First Nations peoples, eight unique stories of creation exist and have been adapted in several forms: the earth diver, world parent, emergence, conflict, robbery, rebirth of corpse, two creators and their contests, and the brother myth. The Iroquois story is representative of the Earth Diver theme of genesis.

 

The first people were the Sky People, they lived beyond the sky because there was no earth beneath. One day the chief’s daughter became very ill and no one was able to provide a cure for her sickness. A wise elder was consulted and he told them to dig up a tree and lay the girl beside the hole that remained. The Sky People respected the elder and began to dig up the tree. Suddenly the tree fell down through the hole and dragged the chief’s daughter with it. As the girl fell she saw that below was only an ocean of water. Two swans were alarmed by the girl falling and decided she was too beautiful to drown so they swam to catch her. They landed her on the back of the Great Turtle, and all of the animals of the earth gathered.

 

The Great Turtle councils that the Sky Woman is a symbol of good fortune. He orders the animals to find where the Sky World tree had landed in the ocean and to bring it back with its earth-covered roots. The swans lead the animals to the place where the tree had fallen into the ocean. First otter, then muskrat, and then beaver dove in search of the tree. Each animal came back to the surface without the tree and died from exhaustion. Many other animals tried but they also died. An elder woman toad volunteered. She dove and remained below a long time. All of the animals thought she had been lost, when at last she surfaced and before dying managed to spit a mouthful of earth onto the back of the Great Turtle.

 

This earth was magical and contained the power of growth. The island grew and grew until it was large enough for the Sky Woman to live on. The two swans set the woman upon the island and circled it encouraging it to grow into the world island it is today. Yet the world was dark. Again the Great Turtle called for the animals to gather. They decided to put a great light in the sky. A little turtle volunteered and climbed up to the sky with the help of the other animals’ magic. Little turtle climbed into a black cloud and crawled around the sky collecting the lightning as she went. She made a big bright ball from the lightening and threw it into the sky. Then she collected more for a smaller ball which she also threw into the sky. The first ball became the sun, the second ball became the moon. Then the Great Turtle commanded the burrowing animals to make holes in the corners of the sky so that the sun and moon could go down through one and climb up again through the other as they circled. So there was day and night.

 

The Sky woman lived on the island on top of the Great Turtle’s back. She gave birth to twins, one good called Tharonhiawagon, one evil called Tawiskaron. From the breast of Sky Woman grows three sisters corn, beans, and squash.”

 

 

 

*Source: UCalgary Applied History

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