"Journey Of Our People"
A story lives deep in our hearts...
Today's blog story features a pencil drawing and jewelry of my own making, as well as two acrylic clan paintings by ᓇᐦᑲᐌ (Nakawē-Anishinaabe) artist Simone McLeod.
One canvas, a loon, is part of a new series of clan paintings, the other one is the first in a series depicting Simone's personal quest in life in the form of a spiritual, eastbound journey back to the Great Lakes and beyond.
Simone (her traditional name is Aki-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is an Anishinaabe artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to the Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) and she feels a close kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba.
Simone descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her work has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.
"The fundamental essence of Anishinabe life is unity. The oneness of all things. In our view history is expressed in the way that life is lived each day. Key to this is the belief that harmony with all created things has been achieved. The people cannot be separated from the land with its cycle of seasons or from the other mysterious cycles of living things - of birth and growth and death and new birth. The people know where they come from. The story is deep in their hearts. It has been told in legends and dances, in dreams and in symbols. It is in the songs a grandmother sings to the child in her arms and in the web of family names, stories, and memories that the child learns as he or she grows older. This is a story of the spirit - individual and collective."
William W. Warren (1825-1853), historian, member of the Midewiwin, and great-grandson of Chief Waabijijaak (Whooping Crane) of the Crane Clan.
Aadizookewin shaped Anishinaabe society, and it was understood that the grandfather-spirits were really fond of the sacred stories told and retold as they found great pleasure in listening to them along with the children. Not only did the aadizookaanag play the protagonist role, they even assisted the aadizookewininiwag and aadizookweg (male and female storytellers) in the creation of these stories!
Throughout time, a dibaajimowin (a ‘true story’ based on historical, often personal experience) would sometimes lose its dimension of time and place and - depending on the context - turn into an aawechigan or even an aadizookaan; respectively a parable with a moral undertone and a sacred story with a supernatural theme. This way, narratives became midewaajimowinan (traditional teachings) that stressed essence rather than historical detail; wrapped in metaphors and symbolism they served to educate the young about their culture and the history of their People.
But most importantly, these allegorical stories - whether they were based on the historical migration of the People or recounted supernatural events like the origin of Turtle Island - familiarized youngsters with mino-bimaadiziwin; an extensive set of moral values, humor, and common, day-to-day community values that led to inner development, personal growth, and proper social behavior.
The Anishinaabeg who inhabited the shores and islands of gichigamiin (the Great Lakes) have always sensed and appreciated the powerful majesty of the lakes and their omnipresence in their daily lives. They maintained personal relationships with aki (the land) through a myriad of sacred sites. To them, there was always a story hidden in the scarlike slopes and the pretty beaches of colored sand, the isolated caves, and the countless coves and caverns lining the freshwater lakes' shorelines. They knew that the painted rocks and natural surroundings of the lakes have always been filled with many mysterious beings and lessons and songs and teaching stories, magically and rhythmically washing ashore by the tidal waves since the beginning of times.
It is against this magic background that Simone and I chose to relate to you - aided by images of contemporary artworks and historical migration charts of the Midewiwin - the dibaajimowin about the great Migration of the Anishinaabeg and the aadizookaanan of a dream about a turtle and a Mysterious Crane that led my ancestors to the falls of Baawiting on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
It is time to honor the ancestors by retracing their steps and follow their legendary journey from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes in the west. So, please follow us along and enjoy the words and the artworks that pay tribute to a past that is still alive and an essential and palpable part of our heritage and cultural identity today.
The stylized image of a flying crane on this elegant piece of jewelry allegorizes the origin of Baawitigong (Boweting, Sault Ste. Marie), the legendary gathering place for the five major totemic clans of the southeastern Ojibwe Anishinaabeg. Being the descendants of my ancestors, these people – whose official name is now The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians – still live in the region of what is nowadays called Upper Michigan State.
"Now, I will tell a traditional story"
The story we are about to tell is inspired on - ad loosely based - on a tale related in the mid-1800's by Dagwaagaane, the gichi-ogimaa (head chief) of the Crane Clan.*
"Many moons ago, GICHI-MANIDOO sent Ajijaak (a sandhill crane) to earth on a mission. While the spirit-bird was descending, he uttered loud and far sounding cries heard by ininiwag (humans) and manidoog (spirits) alike. Some say the cries must even have startled Makadeshigan, the spirit of the Underworld! Slowly circling down above Gichigamiin, the Great Fresh Water Lakes, sending forth his echoing cry, pleased with the numerous whitefish that glanced and swam in the clear waters and sparkling foam of the rapids, crane finally chose a resting place (known as the fifth stopping place) on a hill overlooking beautiful Baawiting. Again the crane sent forth his solitary cry and the clans of Makwa (bear), Awaasii (catfish), Aa'aawe (pintail) and Moozoonii-Waabizhesh (combined clans of little moose and marten) gathered at his call. They soon congregated a large town near the Rapids and a Ceremonial Lodge of the Midewiwin (Grand Medicine Society) was erected there, and for the second time since the People had left the Dawn Land the sound of the Midewiwin Grandfather Drum reverberated across the land and the waters. Since then the crane, who is sometimes called Baswenaazhi (the Echo Maker) and regarded as a symbol of eloquence and leadership, presides over all councils."
How it all began: the great diaspora of the Anishinaabeg
The migration of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg as told in the aadizookaan (sacred story) of the flight of the Crane has a counterpart in the 19th-century Midewiwin birch bark migration chart. This chart, originally created by Miskogiizhig (James Red Sky, Sr.), on a 2.6 m long birchbark scroll and redrawn by B. Nemeth, portrays the migration of the Southern Ojibweg from the Atlantic Ocean to Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag (present-day Leech Lake in Minnesota), west of Manidoo-minis (Spirit Island, the sixth stopping place along the migration route) near Onigamiinsing (Duluth, Minnesota). The chart depicts the migration route abundant with portages and sacred places, often guarded by potentially dangerous serpentlike and catlike spirits.
Looking at the left portion of the chart, Gichigami (Lake Superior) is recognizable by the stylized sand bar that seperates the western end of the lake from Nagaajiwanaang (Fond du Lac in Minnesota). Baawiting, located at the eastern end of Gichigami, is also recognizable by a stylized drawing of the falls of the St. Marys River. East of Baawiting, Lake Huron is clearly identifiable as well as a series of stylized rivers and portages probably representing the French river, the Mattawa, Ottawa, Mooniyaang (Montreal), and the St.Lawrence rivers. The Atlantic Ocean is represented by a stylized shoreline where the ancestors of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg once lived. It was here, in the Dawn Land, that according to Midewiwin tradition a bear revealed for the first time in history the secrets of the Medicinal Society to the Anishinaabe People, and it was here that the Six Miigis Beings emerged from the sea and shared their message to the Eight Prophets of the existence of several turtle-shaped islands in the west.
The journey from the Dawn Land to Gichigami took place in a period ranging from approximately 1000 BCE to the Common Era to the 12th to the 14th common century, and the route from Gichigami to Leech Lake was developed in the late 17th to mid 18th common century as Mekamaadwewininiwag (the Pillager bands) pushed westward in search of new hunting grounds.
Prophecy of the Seven Fires
"Our forefathers, many strings of lives ago, lived on the shores of the Great Salt Water in the east (Waabanakiing, the Dawn Land). Here it was, that while congregated in a great town, and while they were suffering the ravages of sickness and death, the Great Spirit (Gichi-manidoo), at the intercession of Manab-o-sho (Wiinabozho), the great common uncle of the An-ish-in-aub-ag, granted them this rite wherewith life is restored and prolonged. Our forefathers moved from the shores of the great water, and proceeded westward. The Me-da-we (Midewiwin) lodge was pulled down and it was not again erected, till our forefathers again took a stand on the shores of the great river near where Mo-ne-aung (Montreal) now stands. In the course of time, this town was again deserted, and our forefathers still proceeding westward, lit not their fires till they reached the shores of Lake Huron, where again the rites of the Me-da-we were practiced. Again these rites were forgotten, and the Me-da-we lodge was not built till the Ojibways found themselves congregated at Bow-et-ing (Baawiting; outlet of Lake Superior), where they remained for many winters. Still the Ojibways moved westward, and for the last time the Me-da-we lodge was erected on the Island of La Pointe, and here, long before the pale face appeared among them, it was practiced in its purest and most original form. Many of our fathers lived the full term of life granted to mankind by the Great Spirit, and the forms of many old people were mingled with each rising generation. This, my grandson, is the meaning of the words you did not understand; they have been repeated to us by our fathers for many generations.”
It is important to understand that, although this blog story makes frequent use of names like Anishinaabe (plural: Anishinaabeg) and Ojibwe (plural: Ojibweg), these names are a result of globalisation and do not necessarily reflect the identities of the People that existed in the pre-contact era. Given the limited framework and context of this blog post it is inevitable that it makes use of commonalities and generalities and only reflects the history of the People as a collective; unfortunately, this does not entirely do justice to all the individual threads that history has woven into the overall "tribal history" as we know it today. Today, "Anishinaabe" is often used as a modern umbrella term covering a vast multitude of different ancient cultural identities. However, before contact with the Europeans, when the People referred to themselves as Anishinaabeg they did not regard themselves as one Nation, they simply identified themseves as Anishinaabeg as in "human beings". Instead of one cultural and political "tribal group" there existed many individual groups of Anishinaabeg that were, at the most, interrelated by (clan) ancestry or marriage. These many groups identified themselves as, for example: Baawitigowininiwag, Makadewaagamiwininiwag, Gichigamiwininiwag, Gichiziibiwininiwag, Noopiming-dazhi-ininiwag, Amikwaa, Marameg, Andaawe, Nigigwak, Nookezid, etcetera, etcetera.
So, in relating the history of the migration journey of the Anishinaabe Peoples, we acknowledge that there exist many threads with many different traditions, but this is how we understand it from the way we have been taught, and it is in this light that we will humbly share the story with you.
The migration journey
According to an old Midewiwin allegory, a great many strings of life ago a large group of Anishinaabeg left their homeland in the Great Lakes area in search for a land of Abundance, which they presumed was in the east. After many years of travelling the migrants came to the northern shores of the Atlantic ocean, and so long did they remain that most forgot their origin, and they began to refer to themselves as WAABANAKIIG, People Of The Dawn Land. For many years these Waabanakii People were seemingly living a life undisturbed by strife, turmoil, or disagreement. One day six Omishoomis-imaag (Grandfathers) - or Midemiigis-gaa-niigaani-gikendangig (Cowry Shell Prophets) - emerged from the Ocean, and they established a system of kinship based on odoodemag (clans or totems). After sharing their message to eight gaa-niigaani-gikendangig (prophets), seven of these prophets asked their mizhinawe (messenger) to see if he could find ways to improve the condition and wellbeing of the Waabanaki People. The messenger began a quest that would lead him to an abinoojiinh (child), and after receiving approval from the Seven Grandfathers, the mizhinawe tutored the child in mino-bimaadiziwin (how to live a full and healthy life). Each of the Grandfathers then instructed the child with a principle, a guideline that honored one of the basic virtues intrinsic to mino-bimaadiziwin. These Niizhwaaswi Gagiikwewinan (Seven Sacred Teachings, or laws) became the foundation of Midewiwin spiritual practice.
Along with a set of moral values and a new form of kinship, the Grandfathers left the Waabanakii People with seven niigaanaajimowinan or gozaa-bandamowinan (predictions) of what the future would bring, warning them of a time when a light-skinned race would arrive at the shores and bring death and destruction. If the People would not leave, the shadow of illness would befall on them, their once happy world befouled, and the waters would forever turn bitter by disrespect.
Until today, these predictions, which referred to seven different time periods called ishkoden (fires), represent key spiritual teachings for Turtle Island, suggesting that the different colors and traditions of the human beings can come together on a basis of respect. ****
According to Abenaki tradition, about two to three millennia ago many people of the Waabanakii Nation decided to heed the warnings of the Prophets and they embarked on a journey back to their ancient homeland in the west; many Waabanakiig, however, decided to stay behind to protect the
Eastern doorway of their Nation from the light-skinned race that had been prophesized to soon arrive at the shores of the Dawn Land. As the journey was marked by the niizhwaaso-ishkoden (seven fires), the migrants were told that a miigis (a radiant cowry shell appearing in the western sky) and an ajijaak (sandhill crane) would show them the way. One of the seven ishkoden came in the form of a vision handed over by the most powerful of the Miigis prophets who had emerged from the Ocean, and who was associated with an Animikii-binesi (Thunderbird). An Abenaki woman who dreamed of this powerful Thunderbird-related prediction told the People about several mikinaako-minisensing (turtle-shaped islands) that would be encountered during the westward migration.
After receiving permission from their omishoomisimaag ("Grandfathers"; the Lenni-Lenape) to leave the Dawn Land and assurance from their oyoosimaag ("Fathers"; the Waabanakiinyag or Abenaki peoples) and their wiijiimiwaan ("brothers"; the Miijimaag or Mi'kmaq) of their safety in crossing other Nation's territories, a large group of Waabanakiig moved inland, away from the coast of the Salt Sea. This decision would initiate the biggest mass migration in the history of Turtle Island.
The Scared Scrolls of the Midewiwin mention Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island; Place of the Big Snapping Turtle) as the sacred place where the Niswii-mishkodewin Confederacy was founded and where the Three Brothers committed to work together, each taking an economical task. Ojibweg, the Faith Keepers, gathering wild rice and heavy winter furs; Odaawaag, the Trader People, transporting them to Bodwewaadamiig, the Hearth Tenders in the south in exchange for corn, beans, and squash which they then took back north. It is said that for a thousand years the Three Brothers cooperated and celebrated at the annual harvest of fish at Baawitigong, which is now the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie located at the border between Michigan and Ontario.
Time of the First Fire
"The Nation will rise up and follow the sacred shell of the Midewiwin Lodge, and each time a radiating shell emerges from the water of a lake or appears in the sand at its shores, they will know where to stop and establish a settlement. This Mide Miigis (Sacred Seashell) will lead the way to the chosen ground of the Anishinaabeg. You are to look for a turtle-shaped island that is linked to the purification of the earth. The Midewiwin Lodge will serve as a rallying point for the Nation and its traditional ways will be the source of great strength."
The first stopping place
Once Mooniyaang had been colonized, the larger body of migrants proceeded to ANIMIKIIWAABAD (or Wayaanag-gakaabikaa, the Niagara Falls) - where they encountered the second island the shape of a turtle - and beyond, to "a place where two lakes are connected by a narrow river". Once they had reached Waawiyaataanong/Waawiyegamaa (the 'Round Lake', Lake St. Clair in Ontario) - and discovered another turtle-shaped island that would become their third stopping place -, they had already separated into several divisions or subnations such as the Misi-zaagiwininiwag and the Omàmiwininiwak. The N’biising, which are said to have lived in the area of what is now Lake Nipissing in Ontario before the immigrants from the east arrived, were eventually adapted by the overall group of Anishinaabe Peoples.
From this spot near present-day Detroit the larger body of Anishinaabe migrants proceeded to the area now known as Lower Michigan State - which they possibly reached prior to 800 C.E.. From here, as they still followed the radiating miigis in the sky, they went on to several regions north and west of Lake Superior and, from there on, west of Lake Michigan.
Some traditional sources state that it was here, about 1200 years ago on the Lower Peninsula of present-day Michigan, that the Anishinaabeg eventually separated into three large Nations - the Ojibweg (the "Older Brother"), the Odaawaag (the "Middle Brother"), and the Boodewaadamiig (Bodéwadmik) (the "Younger Brother"). After they had formed a loose political confederacy called Three Fires, all three Nations started to occupy the area around Naadowe-Gichigami (Lake Huron), but still many migrants decided to move on and to continue following the waterways to the West.
Once they had colonized the area around Baawiting, the Ojibweg and the rapids became synonymous with each other, with the Ojibweg known by the Dakota peoples that already lived there as Iyo-ḣaḣatoŋwaŋ ("Villagers of the Waterfall”, referring to the cascading-waterfalls of Baawitigong); and later by the French as Saulteurs ("cascaders") and Saulteaux ("cascades").
The story of how the Crane showed the Baawitigowininiwag (Ojibweg of Sault Ste. Marie) where to lay the foundations of a new community and new ways to organize their society, inspired me in designing this set of white gold and silver overlay post-back earrings. It is an abstract image of Crane resting on a turtle's back. Turtle symbolizes a hill overlooking beautiful Baawiting, which he chose as his resting place after leading the People all the way from the Atlantic coast to the promised land in the heart of the Great Lakes area. Viewed in a larger context, Mikinaak (turtle) represents Turtle Island, the American continent where the Creator placed the Original inhabitants of the Land.
Time of the Second Fire
Not long after reaching the southern shores of Miishii'iganiing (the Michigan lakes) and Mishigamiing (Lake Michigan), the Anishinaabeg had become lost and their once strong sense of oneness shattered, and they split in a northern and a southern branch. The southern group divided into three nations (the Ojibweg, the Odaawaag, and the Boodewaadamiig), when one day a Boodewaadamii boy - as had been predicted when the People still lived in the Dawn Land - dreamed of islands in the form of Stepping Stones. The direction of the Mide Miigis (sacred shell) had been lost, the Midewiwin diminished in strength, and the boy's dream about the Stepping Stones pointed the way back to the traditional ways of the Dawn Land People. Like a prophet in the Dawn Land had predicted, now the time of the Second Fire had arrived:
"A boy will have a dream and the dream will show the direction to the stepping stones to the future of the Anishinaabe people."
Hereupon, the Misi-zaagiwininiwag, who had migrated along a northern route by the present-day Credit River to what is now Georgian Bay, called for the three groups of the southern branch - whom they regarded as "lost ones" - and entrusted them with the task of forming a political confederation, called Niswi-mishkodewin or Council of Three Fires. Since the dream of the Stepping Stones, which came from a Boodewaadamii boy, proved the vision and leadership of his People, the Boodewaadamiig were appointed as the oboodawaadamoog (hearth tenders) of the council.
This was at the third stopping place.
|Open structure of a Midewigaan, a ceremonial lodge of the Midewiwin|
It was here, at the fourth stopping place on Manidoo-minising, that for the second time since the Anishinaabeg had left the Dawn Land a Midewigaan (Ceremonial Lodge of the Midewiwin) was erected and the age-old beliefs from the motherland were rekindled. The ancient Midewiwin rites were carried out again, the sound of the Mide water drum reverberated across the island and the waters of the lake, and Manidoo Minising became the cultural center of Anishinaabe Akiing (the Great Empire of the Ojibwe Peoples). Once the revived rites and ceremonies had healed the broken peoplehood, the migration trek continued to Baawiting, the fifth stopping place - where, not far from the rapids of the river that nowadays is called St. Mary's, the Anishinaabeg discovered the fifth turtle-shaped island of the Seven Fires Prophecy.
Time of the Third Fire
According to Midewiwin tradition, the era of the third fire had arrived.
In this new land, of which Baawiting became the economical and political center, Five Mystery Beings emerged from the waters of Lake Michigan, teaching the new inhabitants of Michigan how they could formalize and extend a vast net of kinship that would forever cement the different groups together. Hereupon the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg of Michigan began to form five groups of patrilineal kin (odoodeman or totemic clans) whose members thought of themselves as descendants of an ancient animal ancestor.
The teachings of these Mystery Beings resulted in a new society framework, and were ultimately followed by a historical alliance, formed by three large southeastern bands that had emerged from the nation of the Anishinaabeg: the Ojibweg, the Odaawaag, and the Bodéwadmik.
The members of the present Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians are descendants of these newcomers who colonized the area around Baawiting (today called the falls of St. Mary), with some moving inland to form other community villages. These people, who are my ancestors on my father's side, depended primarily on fishing and hunting for survival, and have been identified with the Upper Great Lakes region for at least 500, up to 1000 years. The sandhill crane that had led them there would eventually become the symbol of the Sault tribe.
By the end of the 18th century, my ancestors had settled to the extent that there were major centers of population located on Gichi-minis (Grand Island , near Munsing), Point Iroquois (Mashkinoozhekaaning /Bay Mills), Baawiting /Baawitigong (respectively the falls and cascades of the St. Mary and Sault Ste. Marie), Ishkonigan-minis (Sugar Island), Bootaagani-minising (Drummond Island), and Gitigaani-ziibi (Garden River, Soo, Ontario). These historical sites still have settlements of Anishinaabe People living on or nearby today.**
To read more about the 5 clans that colonized Baawiting, click here.
|Izhi-mikinaakaabinakwe (Turtle Vision Woman), pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik|
Dream of the Turtle Woman
From Baawiting, the migration split again, searching for the 'land where food grows upon the waters'. This probably took place earlier than 1650. By the seventeenth century a large branch of migrants followed the flight of the crane along the southern shore of the Ojibwe-Gichigamiing (Lake Superior) and they encountered a small island in a bay, not far from Onigamiinsing ('at the little portage'; present-day Duluth in Minnesota) that would be called Manidoo-miinis (Spirit Island); here, for the first time in history, they saw fields of manoomin (wild rice), as had been predicted when their forebears still lived in the Dawn Land. This would become the sixth stopping place in their migration story.
“While our forefathers were living on the great salt water toward the rising sun, the great Megis (miigis; sea-shell) showed itself above the surface of the great water, and the rays of the sun for a long period were reflected from its glossy back. It gave warmth and light to the An-is-in-aub-ag. All at once it sank into the deep, and for a time our ancestors were not blessed with its light. It rose to the surface and appeared again on the great river which drains the waters of the Great Lakes, and again for a long time it gave life to our forefathers, and reflected back the rays of the sun. Again it disappeared from sight and it rose not, till it appeared to the eyes of the An-is-in-aub-ag on the shores of the first great lake. Again it sank from sight, and death daily visited the wigwams of our forefathers, till it showed its back, and reflected the rays of the sun once more at Bow-e-ting (Baawiting; Sault Ste. Marie). Here it remained for a long time, but once more, and for the last time, it disappeared, and the An-ish-in-aub-ag was left in darkness and misery, till it floated and once more showed its bright back at Mo-ning-wun-a-kaun-ing (La Pointe Island), where it has ever since reflected back the rays of the sun, and blessed our ancestors with life, light, and wisdom. Its rays reach the remotest village of the wide-spread Ojibways."
-William W. Warren
While the southern branch was discovering new territories the other branch followed the miigis in the sky along the northern shore of the lake, trekked though the area of Gaa-ministigweyaag (Place of Islanded River, present-day Thunder Bay), and, still following the radiant shell in the sky, made a sharp turn toward the east. Here, not far from Wayekwaa-gichigamiing-wiiwedong (present-day Duluth/Superior Harbour), they encountered the southern branch and they informed them that they had heard about the existence of an island northeast of Spirit Island, which, as had been prophesized 500 years earlier, was the last turtle-shaped island awaiting them at the end of the journey.
|Representation of an old pictograph of the westward migration along the borders of Gichigamiing (Lake Superior)|
Once the clans of Loon, Bear, and Catfish and the allied clans of Marten and Moose had arrived at the last mikinaako-minis (turtle-shaped island), the Elders of the Nation sensed the long journey was near its end. This seventh and final stop was called Mooningwane-kaaning-minis (meaning the place of the yellow-shafted flicker) - La Pointe on present-day Madeline Island - and it was here, on this island nearby Zhaagawaamikong (Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin), that, for the fourth time since the Anishinaabeg had left the Dawn Land, the Grandfather Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge sounded its voice and it was here that the Mide rituals were performed in their most original and pure form.
Smaller settlements established by offshoot groups popped up along the lake shore from present-day Fond du Lac on the west to Keweenaw Bay on the east, and in the winter moons hunting bands traveled deep into Wisconsin woods to the south. Each summer Ojibweg from the whole area as well as from the north shore of Gichigami, came to Mooningwane-kaaning-minis for the Midewiwin ceremonies.
In 1715, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg controlled the whole northern peninsula of Michigan and a small area south of Mooningwane-kaaning-minis; by 1760 this territory had expanded the whole northern section of Wisconsin. By the mid-18th century, the clans of the Gichi-gami Anishinaabeg occupied all of Lake Superior's shores and fields of manoomin. While the southern and northern branches were colonizing the shores and islands of Gichigami and settled in its surrounding valleys and forested lake country, a westerly division of the northern branch of Ojibwe migrants had continued the westward trek along Gojijii-ziibi (Rainy River) and Miskwaagamiiwi-ziibi (Red River of the North), across the Great Plains - until, centuries later, an offshoot group of migrants reached the Pacific Ocean where they stll inhabit a reserve in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Anishinaabe Aki (homeland of the Anishinaabeg) including Nishnawbe Aski , pencil drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik
Bands of Ojibweg that already lived in southern Ontario, because of their big stake in the fur trade with the Europeans and other Native Nations of the area, began ranging far north of Gichigamiin, increasing their access to prime beaver territory. These hunter and trapper people, who called themselves Bangii (called Bungi or Plains Ojibwe by the Americans) and Nakawewininiwag (Nakawēk; called Saulteaux by the French), became culturally influenced by their neighbors the Nēhiyāwak (Plains Cree). Other extremely ambitious bands pressed westward to Red Lake; these powerful, well-armed bands who called themselves Mekamaadwewininiwag (Pillagers band) bore the brunt of war against the Bwaanag (the Dakota Nation), and eventually they entered the Plains of North Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
By the 1800's, Anishinaabe Aki (Ojibwe Country) covered an area from the shores of Zaaga'igan Huron (Lake Huron), Gichigami (Lake Superior), and the upper part of Mishigami (Lake Michigan), all the way across the southern part of Canada and the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota to the Turtle Mountain area in North Dakota. Farther to the south, there are even communities in the present-day states of Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, and Indiana, descending from Ojibwe migrants who at one time in history had left Baawiting to venture southward.
The Waabanaki Peoples from the Dawn had had finally reached and colonized the promised land and it seemed that the prophecy of the Miigis Grandfathers had been fulfilled...
|Eko-Ishwaaching Ishkode (The Eighth Fire). Ojibwe-style squashblossom necklace and matching post-back earrings by ZhaawanArt.******|
The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seven Fire - and the Eight Fire
“Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept them in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”
“If the people accept this promise of a new way and abandon the old teachings, then the struggle of the Fifth Fire will be with the people for many generations. The promise that comes will prove to be a false promise. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people.”
“Those deceived by this promise will take their children away from the teachings of the Elders. Grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the Elders. In this way the Elders will lose their reason for living ... they will lose their purpose in life. At this time a new sickness will come among the people. The balance of many people will be disturbed.The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”
“If the New People will remain strong in their quest the Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinabe Nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit. It is this time that the light skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood, and sisterhood. However, if the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to Anishinaabe Akiing will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth's people…”
|Detail (pendant) of the squash blossom necklace Gaagige Bimaadiziwin-Shkode ('Everlasting Fire Of Life') - sterling silver, turquoise & red coral.Go to our website to read about the Prophecy of the Eight Fire.|
The Eight Stopping Place
Babaamaadiziwin Waabanakiing, Journey To The Dawn Land, acrylic painting by Simone Mcleod (2012), depicting a journey back to the land of her Mother's People in Manitoba and farther west, to the Place of the Rapids (where her ancestors once lived) and even beyond, to the Dawn Land at the Atlantic coast. Symbolically, the painting depicts a spiritual journey back to the Seven Grandfathers Midewiwin teachings of her People originating from the ancient homeland in the East. Copyright Simone Mcleod Fisher Star Creations.
Read part 2 in the series Stories From the Land of Crane and Turtle: Wiinabozho and the Butterflies.
* Source: William Warren, History of the Ojibway People (1855).
About the authors/artists:
Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is a Cree/Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She is a member of Pasqua First Nation of Saskatchewan and belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) of her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River "#16" First Nation) of Manitoba. Simone descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.