Joseph Jacobs is translating an oral tradition and recreating the images of Iroquois legends in the soapstone known as steatite. Born in 1934, the self-taught carver has spent most of his adult life as a labourer. An industrial accident prevented his return to manual labour and in 1974, Joseph started carving with home-made tools. His compositions beg oral interpretations and this is his contribution to the culture of his people.
Joseph Jacobs' commission for the House of Commons in Ottawa was completed in 1985. The 12' X 4' limestone, five panel relief was installed in the members' entrance in 1986.
The Sky World
This is the creation story of the Iroquois Nation. They believe the world to have 7 levels - the middle level is our world and at the time of this story, it was covered in water. Above in the sky world a young woman became pregnant much against her father's wishes. Her father was the ruler of the sky world, he became so enraged when he discovered his daughter's pregnancy so much that he ripped up a tree. This created a large hole in the ground of sky world, it looked down into our world covered in water. He threw his daughter down the hole, wanting her to die.
The animals of our world were highly concerned when they saw sky woman falling to earth. The woman was plummeting towards the water when the geese came and caught her on their wings, breaking her descent. The great turtle surfaced and told the other animals that she could live on his back. The animals dove deep into the cold waters surrounding the turtle to get mud, this they spread upon the turtle's back to make it soft for her to live on. She was the First Woman, who gave birth to the First Man and they lived upon Turtle Island - which now people call North America.
There was a peaceful village in the woods. One day a beautiful woman came. She lived with the people. Everyone liked her, she was fun and laughed a lot. The children especially loved her. Then winter came and the days of laughter were over.
The birds went away and the animals went into their sleep. The forest greens were all gone and dead. "Soon we will be dead too if our food doesn't last." The villagers were scared. The children cried. The young woman was worried for these people. Soon she was deadly sick. She told the women of the village, "When I die you must bury me in an open, sunny place. In the spring you must visit me daily and water my grave." The women did and there was much joy as this woman gave the villagers what we call the "Three Sisters". In the warm weather the Three Sisters grew from her grave, corn from her head, squash from her middle and beans from her feet. The 3 foods are the staples of the Iroquois diet, they are stored every fall and last all winter. The beautiful woman saved her people and now they call her "The Sister Guardian".