The Eastern Painted Turtle is small turtle, only reaching about 5-6 inches. It is very cold tolerant, having been observed to be active under ice (Pritchard, 1979). As with the other painted turtles, the Eastern Painted Turtle moves from a carnivorous lifestyle as a young turtle to omnivorous as an adult.
The painted turtle was designated the official Illinois state reptile in 2005 after winning the vote of the citizens of Illinois in 2004. Others up for the vote were the eastern box turtle and the common garter snake. The painted turtle is also the reptile symbol for Michigan.
The painted turtle is one of the most widespread and abundant turtle species in the USA and Canada and although it faces some local threats, it is considered to be of least concern in terms of current extinction risk.
I think you know by now a North American Indian story was coming up 😉
A Wyandot (Huron) Legend
Many years ago the world had two parts. Animals lived in the lower part, which was completely covered in water and had no land or soil. Above was the Sky World, where the sky people lived. The Sky World had lots of soil, with beautiful mountains and valleys. One day a girl from the Sky World went for a long walk and became very tired.
“I’m so tired, I need to rest,” she said. She sat down under the spreading branches of an apple tree and quickly fell asleep. Suddenly, there was a rumbling sound like thunder and the ground began to crack. A big hole opened up next to the apple tree.
“What’s happening?” screamed the frightened girl. She tried to move but it was too late. She and the tree slid through the hole and tumbled over and over towards the watery world below.
“Help me! Help me!” screamed the girl. Luckily two swans were swimming below and saw the girl tumbling down from the sky. “Come on!” yelled one swan. “Let’s catch her before she hits the water.” “Okay!” yelled the other. The swans spread their wings together and caught the girl on their soft feather backs. “Whew! That was lucky,” said the girl. “But what do I do now? I can’t get back up to the Sky World and I can’t stay on your backs forever.”
“We’ll take you to Big Turtle,” said the swans. “He knows everything.” After hearing what happened, the Big Turtle called all the animals in the water world to a meeting. He told them an old story about soil being found deep under the water. “If we can get some of that soil, we can build an island on my back for you to live on,” said the Big Turtle.
“Sounds good to me,” said the young girl.
The Otter, Beaver and Muskrat started arguing over whom would dive for the soil. “I’ll go,” said the sleek Otter, brushing his glossy fur. “No! I’ll go,” said Beaver, slapping the water with his big flat tail. “I’m the best swimmer,” said Muskrat “I’ll go.”
“Aaaachooo!” sneezed the young girl.” Guys, guys, would just one of you go. These swan feathers are getting up my nose and making me sneeze.”
“Sorry” said the swans.
“That’s alright,” said the young Sky girl.
Then Toskwaye the little Toad popped up out of the water. “I’ll go. I can dive very deep,” she said. The other animals started laughing and pointing at Toskwaye. “You! You’re too small and ugly to help.” Cried the others, laughing.
“Be quite!” said Big Turtle in a loud, stern voice. “Everyone is equal and everyone will have a chance to try”. The sleek Otter smoothed his glossy fur, took a deep breath and slid into the water. He was gone for a long time before he came up gasping for air. “It was too deep,” he said. “I couldn’t dive that far.”
“Now it’s my turn,” said Beaver. He slapped the water with his tail as he disappeared. After a long time he came to the surface again. “It’s too far” he gasped. “No one can dive that deep.” Muskrat tried next and failed.
“Aaaachoo!” sneezed the young girl. “This is not looking good.”
“Now it’s my turn,” said little Toskwaye the Toad. She took a deep breath and jumped into the water. She was gone a very long time and everyone thought they wouldn’t see her again.
Suddenly Otter pointed at the water, shouting, and “Look, look bubbles!” Toskwaye’s small, ugly face appeared through the water. She spat a few grains of soil onto the Big Turtle’s back, then fell back into the water – dead.
The Turtle ordered the others to rub the soil grains and spread them around on his shell. The grains grew and grew, until a large island was formed – big enough for the girl to live on. It grew into our world, as we know it today. And the descendants of the Sky girl became the Earth’s people.
Today, some people say the whole world still rests on Big Turtles back. When he gets tired and changes his position, we have earthquakes.
Toad has not been forgotten either. American native Indians call her “Mashutaha”, which means ‘Our Grandmother’. No one is allowed to harm her.
I wish more folks felt this way….
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl