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Creator and the Seasons
by C. J. Taylor, Illustrated by George Littlechild
Creator travelled the Earth making things right. One day, taking his giant birch bark canoe, he paddled across the tranquil waters of the world.
The canoe glided towards the shores nearest the rising sun. As he approached the distant horizon it grew colder. Fierce winds swept the waters into huge crashing waves. Great chunks of ice floated around him, making it impossible to paddle. Abandoning the canoe, Creator stepped upon the frozen earth. Looking north he saw only a vast blanket of white. There were no seals or polar bears.
To the south he saw the tall pine tree in robes of white. The bare branches of the oak and maple stretched skyward like huge fingers swaying in the wind. Great sheets of ice draped over the rocks along the rivers and streams holding the once-rushing waters. All the animals and birds had disappeared.
Creator looked upon the people. He saw much suffering. Without the seals to hunt, the Inuit house of ice was cold and their stomachs empty. The Cree were starving without the caribou and water foul.
"This is not right," he said. "Nothing can survive in this harshness."
With all his magic, Creator tried to bring warmth to the Earth. Nothing changed. No matter what he did, the Earth still wore a blanket of ice and snow.
Growing weak from his efforts, Creator sat down to rest on a high mountain. Suddenly, an icy wind swept around him, bringing great swirling curtains of snow. From the spinning white veil appeared an enormous ice giant. His old, cracked face loomed over Creator. A voice boomed through the screaming winds.
"I am Winter. My power is so great, the people shiver in fear, the animals run away, and the waters turn hard as rock. Even your magic is frozen. Soon the whole Earth will be mine." The ice giant began to laugh, swirling away on the winds. The bitter cold had taken Creator's magic.
"I will need help to make things right," said Creator. With his last bit of strength, he left the land of ice and snow.
As Creator continued on his journey, it grew warmer. Soft new grass cushioned his footsteps as he made his way on shore. Bright green buds burst open, bringing the forests to life. Overhead, flocks of ducks and geese cast their pointed shadows as they raced across the awakening Earth in V formation.
Creator came upon a handsome young man. He stood tall above the treetops as song birds darted about his head. In his arms, he held a basket full of berry bushes. One by one, he carefully planted each bush in the meadows.
"Good day, Spring," Creator called out. "I have come to ask for your help." Creator told Spring of his encounter with Winter.
"It is true," said Spring. "Each year Winter takes more time. Soon there will be nothing left for me. I will lose my power to wake the animals or call back the water foul. The peoples of the Longhouse will not be able to grow their corn, beans, and squash."
Both in agreement, Creator and Spring set off to find help. Their journey led them through lush forests, thick with undergrowth and busy with many creatures. The insects' high-pitched serenade clung to the hot, dense air.
They followed a long winding river that flowed into a deep lake. On its shores stood a beautiful woman with one foot in the water and the other on a sandy beach. Brightly coloured flowers decorated her long, black hair. In her arms she held a large clay pot and gently poured water, teeming with fish, into the lake.
Spring was the first to call out. "Good day, Summer. We have come for your help."
Creator again told of his encounter with Winter. Summer listened as he spoke of the frozen Earth, the missing animals, and the suffering people.
"Winter has taken so much of my time," added Spring, "it is difficult to do my work."
"Without your work, I cannot do mine," replied Summer. "I will lose my power. The buffalo will not return to the rolling hills or plains. The Blackfoot and Crow will have no food or skins for shelter."
"It is not right," said Creator.
"We will need help," Summer told them.
As the three travelled on across the Earth, the dark green trees changed to bright reds, yellows, and oranges. Cooling rains washed away the heat, leaving the air crisp. Water foul filled the skies. The woodlands were busy with the many creatures gathering food and preparing for a long sleep.
Finally, the three travellers came upon a range of rolling hills. Towering over them was an elegant man dressed in many colours. Around his feet sat an enormous pot of paint as colourful as the robes he wore. He moved about gracefully as he painted the landscape.
"Good day, Autumn," called out Summer. "We have come to ask for your help."
Creator told of his encounter with Winter.
"He takes too much time. Soon it will be impossible to do my work," said Spring.
"And I will be unable to do mine," added Summer. Autumn knew without Summer's powerful work, he could not create the beautiful colours he used to paint the Earth. He would be powerless to help salmon, whale, and halibut on their journey. The beautiful forests would die. There would be no food to hunt, catch, or gather for the Shuswap of the mountains or the Kwakiutl of the coast.
"I too have noticed that Winter comes earlier each year. But what can be done?" asked Autumn. "Not one of us is strong enough to push Winter back."
"It is not right," said Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
"It is true, Winter's power is great," Creator told them. "But there is one greater power."
"Whose?" they asked.
"Ours," answered Creator. "Together, our magic is stronger."
Creator led Spring, Summer, and Autumn along the path to the frozen lands of Winter. With each footstep, the land grew colder. Blankets of white covered everything. Howling winds sent sheets of frozen sleet whipping around them. From the centre of the twirling and twisting hail appeared the ice giant.
"Which of you wishes to challenge me?" screeched Winter.
Creator stepped into the tornado of swirling ice pellets. The winds stopped and there was quiet. He gathered his strength and summoned all their powerful magic. Creator began to grow so immense, his body filled the heavens.
"Winter," he called out. "We come as one." His voice echoed through the universe. The blanket of snow that covered the land began to melt as Winter's power disappeared. The ground where Spring, Summer, and Autumn stood burst to life with colour. Winter shrank back to his proper place in the cycle of seasons.
Creator looked upon the Earth. "This is right." And he was pleased.
C. J. Taylor is an internationally acclaimed artist and children's author of Mohawk heritage. She is a self-taught artist and storyteller who has organized exhibitions of Native art across North America. Her paintings are in many private collections in Canada and the United States. She has written and illustrated nine books for children, including her latest, Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita.
Known for creating culturally rich imagery and his use of high chroma colour, George Littlechild is recognized as one of the foremost First Nations artists working in Canada today. He is also the author and illustrator of five children's books including the award winning publication, This Land is My Land.