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The oral history of our First Nations culture is a vast web of knowledge, each story intertwining with the next and branching out to touch another, this is why they were repeated over and over. It didn’t matter what lesson you were trying to impart, how to cultivate food crops, where to find medicines or a moral suggestion to change ones behavior, the same players and interactions can be used to teach all aspects of life.

It’s no surprise that Sister Strawberry shows up early in the creation story, after all they’re delicious and highly prized. Strawberries also ripen early in the season. Here is one version of how this came to be.

Before the world was whole there were beings that lived on the other side of the sky. There stood the Tree of Life, one day the Keeper of the Tree became distraught because no one could interpret his dreams, in his frustration he uprooted the Tree. This left a huge hole between the worlds. A pregnant woman who lived in the Sky world slipped and fell through the hole, she grasped at the edge and caught hold of the Strawberry and Sacred Tobacco, these she protected as she tumbled down toward Turtle Island. A flock of waterfowl saw this and rose up to catch her on their wings, Muskrat dove to the bottom of the great waters on which Turtle Island floated and carried mud to place on Turtle’s hard shell creating a softer landing. Here the birds lowered the woman and saved her. In happiness she began to dance and spread the mud all over Turtles back. She tried to be gentle but knew the sacred plants needed to live in the soil. She injured the roots when she planted the crops, the Deer Spirit saw and offered to help. With pruning and hoeing they flourished. The Sky Woman now named by the people as Grandmother, gave birth to a daughter, she was called the Mother of Life and with her came Sisters Strawberry and Tobacco.

The Deer Spirit has an interesting role to play in the story of Sister Strawberry, it’s through her lesson that we learn a cruel to be kind sort of mentality to produce more blooms and fruit. Strawberries have shallow roots and propagate with both seed and by “runners”, imagine the Deer nibbling away, eating flower and fruit, the plant root is stressed as it’s tugged and the plant needs to produce more flowers. The tiny plant at the end of the runner lives to fruit during the next season, perhaps out of sight from a hungry Deer. Some plants if left untouched will gradually stop concentrating on fruit production and just carry on by using runners, to keep the plant fruiting, a little disruption can be a good thing.


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