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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stories from the Land of Crane and Turtle, part 1

"Journey of Our People"

A story lives deep in our hearts...

Updated August 14, 2023


ZhaawanArt Unieke Trouwringen Design


"Tell me the facts, and I’ll learn; tell me the truth, and I’ll believe; tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever."

-Source unknown

Boozhoo, hello,

This blog story is the first in a series titled “Stories from the Land of Crane and Turtle." It's topic is a tale that lives deep in my heart: the history of our Anishinaabe ancestors. Like any other story that I write, today's tale encompasses the unique world view and cultural perspective of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe Peoples.

It is through my written stories that I aspire to retrace the steps of my forefathers and find the treasures and the tales that they left on the trail that brought us here. The story that will unfold here - accompanied by amazing artworks done by kindred artists, as well as some of my own graphic art and jewelry -, is related in the spirit of the Seven Fires Prophecy that, as it was originally taught among the practitioners of Midewiwin, marks crucial phases in the lives of the Anishinaabe Peoples and in their relations with the outside world. 

To describe our art is to tell a story, and to tell a story is to look into our hearts and reflect back to our Anishinaabe forefathers and their izhinamowin (worldview). So if you allow me, I will embark once again on my unquenchable quest for knowledge and understanding. I humbly invite you along for the journey and ask your help to return to our ancestors the stories that they left on their long journey from the Dawn Land in the east (Zhiiwitaagani-gichigami, the Atlantic Ocean) to the Land of Many Lakes in the west (Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin, the Five Freshwater Seas; the Great Lakes).


Today's blog story features an image of a canvas by the late Miskwaabik Animikii as well as artwork and jewelry of my own making and, last but not least, 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.


In the preparation of this blog post I have profited a great deal from the tremendous knowledge that my friend Charles J. Lippert has of Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwe language) and the traditional history of the Seven Fires migration of the Anishinaabe Peoples. His opinions and advice have been of invaluable help in keeping me focused on the details of the story and I am most grateful to him.

A special miigwech goes to Beatrice Menasekwe Jackson, a Midewiwin grandmother of the Migizi doodem (Bald Eagle Clan) who explained to me the role and function Marten clan members have in Anishinaabe society.


Traditional storytelling

"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.

Ever since our Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors could first communicate, they have gathered to share their stories; this they called aadizookewin. The Elders took in on them to pass on the traditional tales to the young generation. The content of these dramatic, often humoristic, narratives usually refer to the creation of the world as we know it, and to a myriad of animals, trees, plants, celestial bodies, and the aadizookanag (grandfather-spirits) that are out there.

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.


Ojibwe reflection


The Anishinaabeg who inhabited the shores and islands of Nayaano-nibiimaang 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 we 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.   

Spirit of the Rapids


Baawitigo Manidoo Ojibwe bolo tie by ZhaawanArt Trouwringen
OZAAWAAJIJAAK BIMISEWIN (Flight of the Sandhill Crane) overlay bolo tie by ZhaawanArt: oval sterling silver slide; sterling silver bolo clasp; turquoise stone in shadowbox setting, braided black leather bolo cord with sterling silver tips. The bolo slide measures ca. 40 x 60 mm (1.57 x 2.36 inches). Visit the website for details.

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 and Southern Ontario.

To see this representation of a flying crane is an intimate visit with the world of my ancestors, and I like to think that the rendering of this mysterious bird image into precious metal lays bare the heart and soul of my Baawiting heritage.


"Now, I will tell a traditional story"

Ahaaw, ningad aadizooke, meaning, “Now, I will tell a traditional story.” In the olden days, a storyteller usually prefaced a tale or narrative by uttering this sacred invocation - traditionally only in winter because it was then, in the time between the first autumn snowfall and the melting of the ice on the rivers and lakes in early spring, that the grandfather-spirits were closest to humankind. It was a statement that basically said that it was a manidoo (a being from the spirit world) that had inspired the storyteller to share the tale.

The story we are about to tell is inspired by - and loosely based on - a tale related in the mid-1800's by Dagwaagaane, the gichi-ogimaa (head chief) of the Crane Clan.¹ 

"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 Makadeshiganthe 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

Ajijaak ZhaawanArt trouwringen
Up until today, Gichi Ajijaak, the great sandhill crane spirit that GICHI-MANIDOO (the Great Mystery) had sent from the skies, holds a special place in the hearts and the stories of the Gichigamiwininiwag (the Ojibweg of the Great Lakes) in recognition of one of the defining moments in their history: the founding of Baawiting on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and after that the establishing of two more settlements much farther to the west. Baawiting, the fifth stopping place in the migration of the Anishinaabe Peoples, was to be the political and economic center of Anishinaabe Aki, their new land in the west, and from its rapids the diaspora spread out to the borders and islands of Gichi-gami (Lake Superior), as far as Manidoo-minisaabik and Mooningwane-kaaning-minis, two islands located respectively at the far end of Gichi-gami and in a bay in the southwestern part of the lake. Here, in gaa-zaaga'eganikaag, the "land of many lakes," wild rice grew in the lakes and streams, fish and fur was plentiful and the soil was fit to grow large patches of corn and squash; here, in the promised land, the People found life better than it had been in the east.

Thus, the crane played a central role in the creation of the fifth, sixth, and seventh stopping place. As the miigis shell had done before the People reached Baawiting, Crane served as a beacon for the Southern Ojibweg in their quest for gaa-zaaga'eganikag, the "land of many lakes" and he became the symbol of the fulfillment of a Prophecy that had been delivered to them when they still lived in the dawn Land.


Anishinaabe migration chart

The above charts, taken from the Decolonial Atlas, shows 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 Eshkwaykeeshik/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 Zhiiwitaagani-gichigami (the Atlantic Ocean) to Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag (present-day Leech Lake in Minnesota), west of Manidoo-minisaabik (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 Gichigami-ziibi (St.Lawrence river). 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 (Wenabozho), 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.” 
-William W. Warren

The following story relates the migration journey of the Anishinaabe Peoples, seen from the official, traditional viewpoint of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg of the Great Lakes area and mainly based on the birchbark records and oral traditions of the Midewiwin - the Grand Medicine Society of the Anishinaabe Peoples. This historical migration was depicted by the Midewiwin not only through pictographs on birchbark scrolls, but also recorded in place names, and also in song. The story that I present to you today is a illustrated (chronological) historical account of the migration alternated with several aawechiganan (parables) and aadizookaanan (sacred stories) and the role of the crane and the founding of Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie) as common themes.

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 globalization 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 themselves as Anishinaabeg as in “human beings." Theirs was not actually a world of nations, but rather a world of bands, clans, villages, and human beings. Anishinaabe Aki, instead of an "empire" in an European of Asian sense, was a vast space loosely knit together by a myriad of cultural, economic, and political alliances and exchange networks. 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 Miigis Grandfathers from the Dawn Land," painting by Zhaawano Giizhik. ©2022 NFT protected image.

"The Miigis Grandfathers from the Dawn Land," painting by Zhaawano Giizhik. ©2022 NFT protected image. See the website for details.


The migration journey

According to an old Midewiwin allegory, a great many strings of lives 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 Zhiiwitaagani-gichigami (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). 

The Miigis Being who appeared first out of the sea was a fish called Wawaazisii (Bullhead); he would form the phratry whose clans would deliver the teachers, scholars, and healers of the Nation. Bullhead, along with Ajijaak (Crane), Nooke (Bear), Moozwaanowe (Little moose-tail), and Aan’aawenh (Pintail Duck), created the original five clan groups. The sixth Being that came out of the sea, a Binesi-miigisag-ayaa or Thunderbird Seashell Being, is said to have sunk back into the sea after being exposed to the light and heat of the sun; others claim that he sank back into the sea to save the Peoples because he was so powerful that it was impossible to gaze at him without perishing...

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 Waabanakiig People. The messenger - some say that he was nigig, an otter, who mastered the Waabanakii language - 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.⁴ 


Miskwaabik Animikii Migration
Acrylic on canvas by Miskwaabik Animikii (Norval Morrisseau): "The Migration/Great Flood" (1973)


According to Abenaki tradition, about two to three millennia ago many people of the Waabanakiig 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 Nations' 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.

Along the migration, which would last approximately 1500 to 2500 years, small family groups or odoodemag (totem clans) stopped, set up permanent settlements - with the societies centered around the Medicine Lodge that was the forerunner of the Midewiwin as we know it today - and eventually became separate Nations. As they traveled deeper and deeper into unknown and often hostile territories, these courageous Waabanaki migrants started to refer to themselves as Anishinaabeg again: “Spontaneous Beings," after an ancient creation story that located the origin of the  Anishinaabeg in the sky.


AAYAANIKAAJ ISHKODE ( 'Ancestral Fire'). 2.16 x 0.47 inch (55x12 mm) eagle feather overlay pendant by ZhaawanArt: 14K warm yellow gold, 14 K red gold, inlay of 14K palladium white gold.

Along the Seven Fires migration journey that followed the waterways the St. Lawrence River, Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan and beyond, small family groups (clans) of the Wabenaakii Peoples stopped and set up permanent settlements while the larger body moved on. Also they set up midewigaanan, lodges of the Midewiwin (Grand Medicine Society), providing an institutional setting for the teaching of the world view and religious beliefs these Algonkin-speaking People had brought with them from the old country. 

In the period of the second fire, at least 1200 summers ago after reaching Lower Peninsula of present-day Michigan and northern Indiana (at the third stopping place), three groups began to emerge from the Waabanakii Nation, or - as they had started to call themselves - ANISHINAABEG:  the OJIBWEG (Chippewa), the elder brother appointed as ‘Faith Keepers’, or keeper of the religion and caretakers of the Sacred Rattle (and later, the Waterdrum ) of the Midewiwin; the ODAAWAAG (Ottawa) or Trader People, the middle brother responsible for sustenance; and the BODWEWAADAMIIG (Potawatomi) or People of the Fire Pit, the younger brother who came in charge of the Sacred Ancestral Fire. These three groups formed a loose political-military confederation, called the NISWII-MISHKODEWIN (Three Fires). The confederation of the Three Fires is still very much alive today, not only politically but also in a spiritual/religious sense;  the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, a contemporary movement of the Midewiwin Society, was inspired by the historic Three Fires Confederacy.

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.

The fire in the overlay design symbolizes the original council fire of the LENNI-LENAPE, the ancestors of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg when they still lived in Waabanakiing, the old country in the east. The Lenape were regarded by all Algonkin-speaking Peoples (such as Mi'kmaq, Algonquin, and Abenaki) as their grandfather, their ‘first among peers’. It was a term of great respect stemming from the widespread belief that the Lenape were the original People of the Dawn Land. This ‘grandfather fire’ thus predates the founding of the Three Fires Confederacy. The tripartite design that I depicted beneath the fire hints at the dividing of the Waabanaki/Algonkin/Anishinaabeg into three different nations and the founding of the Three Fires. 

Finally, the stylized bear paw design on the tip of the eagle feather refers to the bear who gave the Anishinaabeg the powerful Medicine of healing, renewal, and rebirth while they still lived in the Dawn Land; eagle feather and the bear paw combined stand for the strongest medicine and ultimate power.


Time of the First Fire

The First Prophet announced to the People that in the time of the First Fire they would leave their homes by the Great Salt Sea and follow the sign of the miigis. They were to journey west into strange lands in search of an island in the shape of a turtle. This island would be linked to the purification of the earth. Such an island was to be found at the beginning and at the end of their journey. Along the way they would find a river connecting two large sweet water seas. This river would be narrow and deep "as though a knife had cut through the land." They would stop seven times to create villages but they would know that their journey was complete when they found food growing on the water. If they did not leave, there would be much suffering and the Nation would be destroyed. The few survivors would be pursued and attacked by other Nations along the way so they must be strong and ready to defend themselves.

The first prophecy had stated that:

"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

In this time of the First Fire, large groups of migrants had slowly migrated down Gichigami-ziibi (the St. Lawrence River) to Mooniyaang (present-day Montreal); here the Nation would find the first "turtle-shaped island" marked by a miigis, as had been foretold by the Thunderbird prophet. Here, at the first stopping place, the Midewiwin Lodge was erected for the first time since the migrants had left the Dawn Land and the migrants that stayed in the area would become known athe Omàmiwininiwak, or Algonquin NationIt was the Algonquin who would be appointed as keepers of the Seven Fires Prophecy miigisaabiigan (wampum belt).


Anishinaabe migrations map from the Mishomis book
The Ojibweg/Anishinaabeg migrated from the East Coast, traveling along the St. Lawrence River and around Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin (the Great Lakes). Each stop they made was near water. According to Midewiwin sources the migration started approximately 2,000 years ago and possibly lasted 1500 years. Source: The Mishomis Book, "The Voice of the Ojibway" by the late Edward Benton-Banai.


The second and third 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 the area around Waawiyaataanong (present-day Detroit) 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 adopted by the overall group of  Anishinaabe Peoples.

It was here, at Waawiyaataanong, that the Anishinaabeg drove back a war party of Haudenosanee who attacked them. Later the Haudenosaunee gave the Anishinnabeg a wampum belt to seal the peace between them.

From this spot at the shores of the present-day Detroit  River the larger body of Anishinaabeg 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.


Minnesota Historical society


Gathering of the clans

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 around 800 CE 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.

After making its way via the Falls of Animikiiwaabad and the Detroit area to Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, the still considerably large body of Anishinaabe migrants moved southwestward to the Mackinaw area, and then, following the flight of a crane that the Great Mystery had sent, north to the legendary falls of Baawitigong, called nowadays Sault Ste. Marie (Baawitigong is the name of the settlements about Baawiting, the Falls of St. Mary).


The Founding of Baawiting


The Founding of Baawiting, digitized pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik ©2022. Source: Birth of the Bear Berry Tree.


Here, probably in the 15th common century, the odoodemag (totem clans) of the loon, the bear, the catfish, and the marten, gathering at the call of the crane, congregated a large town. It was also here that the People erected a Midewigaan (Grand Medicine Lodge), performing the Mide rites for the third time since they had left the homeland in the East, and soon Baawiting would become the political center of Anishinaabe Aki, the vast land of the Anishinaabe Peoples, as it still exists today.

Once they had colonized the area around Gichigami-ziibi (St. Mary's River) and 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 great trek westward through this immensely vast and practically inhabited territory was a heavy, tough undertaking often full of hardships and dangers. Not only had the migrants to conquer insurmountable natural barriers and face a myriad of little and big manidoog (spirits) and possibly dangerous mishibizhiwag and mishiginebigoog (catlike and horned, serpentlike underwater spirits) guarding the sacred landmarks and mystic locations – particularly near the waterways and coastlines -; they were also regularly hindered by warlike parties of Naadoweg (Kanien’kehaka or Mohawk) and other Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nations roaming the territory. The worst adversary, however, lurked in themselves...


Gold and silver post-back Ojibwe style earrings Wiindamaagewin
WIINDAMAAGEWIN/MIKINAAK MIINAWAA AJIJAAK: "Communication /Turtle and Crane" - 14K white gold &  sterling silver post-back ear jewelry by ZhaawanArt.

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.

Since he, after a devastating flood that swept Aki (the earth), served mankind by lending his shield for the re-creation of the world, Mikinaak has a special place of mediation in the worlds of the natural and the supernatural. After he had lent his back for creation, Nookomis Dibik-Giizis, grandmother moon, conferred on him special HEALING POWERS that have been held in reverence ever since!

Native Woodland art painting Sunset Ceremony

"Sunset Ceremony," painting by Zhaawano Giizhik. © 2022-2023 NFT image. Click here to view details. 


Time of the Second Fire

The Second Prophet of the Dawn Land had announced to the People that "they would recognize the Second Fire as soon as they, while camped by a sweet water sea, would lose their direction; the dream of a little boy would hereupon point the way back to the true path, the stepping stones to their future."

And so it happened! 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. Midewiwin sources date the formation of the Council of Three Fires to 796 CE at MichilimackinacSince 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.

The Fourth Stopping Place


Ojibwe Midewigaan
Open structure of a Midewigaan, a ceremonial lodge of the Midewiwin 


As soon as the southern branch of migrants - which had reached the fourth stopping place, which they called Manidoo-minising (present-day Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron), they finally rejoined the northern Anishinaabeg for healing as a single peoplehood. They reached the island, which they recognized as the fourth turtle-shaped island, by crossing series of small “stepping stone islands," and thus the Boodewaadami boy's vision of the Stepping Stones became true.

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 Gichigami-ziibi (the river that nowadays is called St. Mary's), the Anishinaabeg discovered the fifth turtle-shaped island of the Seven Fires Prophecy.

Seven stepping stones

Time of the Third Fire

According to Midewiwin tradition, the era of the third fire had arrived.

The Third Prophet from the Dawn Land had announced that in the era of the Third Fire the Anishinaabeg would find the path to the lands prepared for them and they would continue their journey west to the place where food grows upon the water. There, they were to await for one of the true givers of sacred medicine, a man who was named after the seventh prophet from the Dawn Land. This prophet was to guide and direct, teach and enlighten the newcomers in the ancient ways, stemming from the time "before the ice-runners walked."

Around six or seven hundred years ago, in the newly discovered land around the sweet water sea nowadays called Lake Michigan, and of which Baawiting would become the economic and political center, Five Mystery Beings emerged from the waters of Lake Michigan, teaching the new colonists of "the fifth stopping place" 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 (odoodemag or totemic clans) whose members thought of themselves as descendants of an ancient celestial ancestor among the stars - perceived on an earthly level in the shape of a fish, bird, land animal, tree, or manidoo (spirit being).


Emergence of the Ojibwe Clans from the waves of Mishigami

"Emergence of the Clans," painting by Zhaawano giizhik. ©2022 NFT image. Source: New Fisher Star Creations.


ZhaawanArt trouwringen Design

Naan-doodemag ('Five Totems') - white gold, silver, turquoise, red coral bracelet by ZhaawanArt trouwringen design.

This contemporary design is infused with my love for the rich oral history of my Native ancestors, the Baawitigowininiwag of Sault Ste. Marie. Its subject matter symbolically interweaves Anishinaabe history with an old Ojibwe legacy: a prodigious tale of the legendary emergence, six or seven hundred summers ago, of five Mystery Beings from the waves of Mishigami, or Lake Michigan.

The teachings of these Mystery Beings resulted in a new society framework. This framework ould become a solid social base for the historical military alliance of the Three fires- which was formed earlier by three large southeastern bands that had emerged from the nation of the Anishinaabeg: the Ojibweg, the Odaawaag, and the Bodéwadmik.

The oval turquoise stone protruding from the middle of the bracelet, elegantly framed by an oxidized silver crown mounted with red corals and small turquoise cabochons, symbolizes Mishi Gamiing (Lake Michigan); the red corals of the crown represent the five aadizoogaanag, or Mystery Beings emerging from its blue waters. In addition, the four small turquoise stones mounted on the crown represent the four nations that once made up the grand nation of the southern Anishinaabeg: the Ojibweg, Odaawaag (Odawa), Bodéwadmik (Potawatomi), and Misi-zaagiwininiwag (Mississauga).

The twisted silver wire that I soldered around the turquoise stone symbolizes the close kinship that exists among the different groups of the Anishinaabeg, their sense of oneness based not so much on politics, economics, or religion, but - first and foremost - on their totemic symbols. 

Finally, the three stylized eagle feathers appliquéd on the massive silver band of the bracelet - which I fashioned in the famous Hopi overlay style - symbolize the spirit of unity, and refer to the forming of the Three Fires, the aforesaid historical confederacy of three large Algonquin-speaking groups:
the Faith Keepers (Ojibweg), the Trading People (Odaawaag), and the Hearth Tenders or Fire Keepers (Bodéwadmik).


The Fifth Stopping Place

As a large body of migrants left the fourth stopping place on Manidoo-minising (Manitoulin Island), the trek continued westward, until a Sandhill Crane led them to a river connecting two large sweet water seas (Lake Huron and Lake Superior). This river, which was "narrow and deep as though a knife had cut through the land" had been prophesized by the First Prophet from the Dawn Land...

These newcomers colonized the area around Baawiting (today called the falls of St. Mary), with some moving inland to form other community villages. They were the forebears of the present Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa IndiansThese people, who are my ancestors on my father's side, depended primarily on fishing and hunting for survival. The sandhill crane that had led them there would eventually become the symbol of the Sault ("Soo") 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.²

To read more about the 5 clans that colonized Baawiting, click here.


Izhi-mikinaak-aabina-kwe turtle vision woman by Zhaawano Giizhik
Izhi-mikinaakaabinakwe (Turtle Vision Woman), pen and ink drawing © by Zhaawano Giizhik. 


Dream of the Turtle Woman

"Many moons ago, when the Anishinaabeg still lived in WAABANAKIING, the Dawn Land at the North Atlantic shores, an Anishinaabekwe (woman) had a dream - some say given to her by a Thunderbird - that she found herself standing on the back of a turtle in the water. The turtle's tail pointed in the direction of the rising sun and its head faced the the setting sun. This powerful dream was part of the niizhwaaso-ishkoden niigaanaajimowin (Midewewin prophecy of the Seven Fires) that led to the great migration to the area nowadays called Michigan and farther to the West, including seven stopping places. Baawiting, the Place of the Rapids on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was the fifth stopping place in this legendary trek that lasted at least two thousand years.

The five birds depicted on top of the Turtle's head symbolize the five Mystery Beings emerging from the Lake and the odoodemag that gathered at the rapids and falls of Baawiting to establish a stronger community; the shell in the Turtle's neck represents the Prophecy of the Seven Fires that led the People to the west, and the flying Crane depicted inside the Turtle stands for the creation of the new settlement at Baawiting. The lines emanating from the Great Lakes depicted inside the Turtle symbolize the migration of Ojibwe colonists who, perhaps between the 14th and the 15th century, began to use Baawiting as a starting point to spread out even farther to the north, the west, and to the western and southern shores of Lake Superior - where they - a northern branch following the miigis in the sky and a southern branch following the flight of a crane the Great Mystery had sent from the skies - would meet in the Promised Land where food grows on the water - and create many new settlements that still exist today."


The Sixth Stopping Place

From Baawiting, the migration split again, searching for the “land where food grows upon the waters." This was in the early 1600s. The smaller, northern branch trekked along the northern coast of Gichigami (Lake Superior). Families along this route were primarily composed of the odoodemag (clans) of Adik (Caribou), Bizhiw (Lynx), and Ginoozhe (Pike). A larger group of Ojibweg, which consisted primarily of odoodemag of Ajijaak (Crane), Nooke (the Bear), Maanameg (the Catfish), Maang (the Loon), and Waabizheshi/Mooz (the Marten and Moose clans), blazed a path westward along the southern shores of Gichigami. By the seventeenth century a large branch of migrants followed the flight of the crane along the southern shore of Ojibwe-Gichigami (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-minisaabik (Spirit Rocky 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.

The Seventh Stopping Place

“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)


Flight of the Clans Native woodland Art by Zhaawano Giizhik
"Flight of the Clans" ©2022 Zhaawano Giizhik

Once the clans of Crane, 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. As had happened previously, at the fifth stopping place at Baawiting, the Ajijaak odoodem (Crane clan) claimed the honor of having been the first to set up camp at the new site and to light the fire for the rest of the Ojibweg.

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.

The new homeland, however, was already inhabited by the Bwaanag (Dakota Peoples). In 1679, after years of animosities, both Nations formed an alliance. A peace agreement granted the Ojibweg and the Dakota better military protection and both Peoples made economic gains. The Ojibweg were allocated Mooningwanekaaning (La Pointe), Zaagawaamikong-wiikwed (Chequamegon Bay,) Wiikwedong (Keweenaw Bay), Waaswaaganing-zaaga'igan (Lac du Flambeau)Odaawaa-zaaga'igan (Lac Courte Oreilles), and Wiikwe-wayekwaa-gichigami (Fond du Lac). In exchange, the Ojibweg arranged  trade between the Dakota and the Wemitigoozhiwag (French) and kept the Dakota well supplied with guns, knives, kettles, and other trades goods as they sold Dakota furs to the Wemitigoozhiwag.

Mooningwanekaaning (La Pointe) was established as the epicenter of the Ojibwe Nation at the end of the 1690s. The town covered a space about three miles long and two broad, comprising the western end of the island. Ojibwe society flourished, led in council by the Ajijaak and Maang odoodemag (Crane and Loon clans) and protected by the ogichidaag (warriors) of the Nooke doodem (Bear clan). 

At Mooningwanekaaning, Ojibwe families thrived on fishing and cultivated gardens of pumpkins, squash, and corn. They also gathered wild vegetables and berries, had maple camps, and hunted moose, bear, elk, deer, and buffalo on the nearby lakeshore and farther inland. 

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 Wiishkoonsing (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 still inhabit a reserve in the Canadian province of British Columbia.


Anishinaabewaki chart

Anishinaabe Aki (homeland of the Ojibwe 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 Naadowewi-gichigami (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 Waabanakiig 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) jewelry by Zhaawano Giizhik
Eko-Ishwaaching Ishkode (The Eighth Fire). Ojibwe-style squashblossom necklace and matching post-back earrings by ZhaawanArt. 


The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Fire - and the Eight Fire

After the two branches of Anishinaabe migrants had left the falls and rapids of Baawiting in search of the Anishinaabe manoomin (wild rice; the food that grows on water), the prophecy of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh fire came to pass. 

The Fourth Fire Prophecy had been delivered by a pair of prophets who told the People about the coming of a light-skinned race, telling them these newcomers would bring new knowledge and articles but also warning them against the dangers they would represent: 

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.”  

These newcomers were of course the Wemitigoozhiwag (Wooden-boat People, the French) and the Zhaaganaashag (‘Off-shore Ones,’ the British), and, many years after that, the Gichi-mookomaan (‘Big Knives,’’ the Americans).

In the era of the Fifth Fire – during which time the migrants were still roaming the shores and islands of Gichi-ogimaa-gamiing (Lake Superior) -, a time came of great struggle, but unlike the era of the Second Fire in which the threat had originated from within their own ranks, this time the danger came from outside. The missionaries and the trader-merchants of the Wemitigoozhiwag and the Zhaaganashag set up a system of barter and trade and they began recruiting souls for their churches. Initially, the Anishinaabeg tended towards embracing the technologies the Europeans brought (and some even adopted the cross), but after a while they began to understand that this promise of a new way was false, because abandoning the old ways and the Seven Grandfather Teachings they had brought from the Dawn Land meant a disruption of the delicate social balance of Anishinaabe bimaadiziwin (their way of life) and the economic harmony they had with the natural order. 

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.”

In the time of the Sixth Fire it became clear that the promise of the Fifth Fire indeed had come in a false way as it already had started to destroy many lives and communities and the near-destruction of the Anishinaabe way of life seemed inevitable. 

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.

The Seventh Fire Prophecy had been delivered by a Miigis Being in the Dawn Land who stated that in the time of the Seventh Fire a New People would emerge who would decide to retrace their steps to the Teachings of the Dawn Land and ask their Elders to guide them into finding back the good red road. When this time arrived some Elders, however, remained silent because the youngsters had forgotten the proper ways to address them.

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 Anishinaabe 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…”


Gaagige bimaadiziwin-shkode
Detail (pendant) of the squash blossom necklace Gaagige Bimaadiziwin-Shkode ('Everlasting Fire Of Life') - sterling silver, turquoise & red coralVisit the website to read about the Prophecy of the Eight Fire.  

According to some Elders, Anishinaabe people are currently in the Seventh Fire and major changes on the Earth are to occur soon. Others believe that the era of the Seventh Fire has already come to pass and another Fire arising from the techings of the Seven Fires prophecy has been lit. This Eight Fire Teaching applies to all Peoples in contact with the Anishinaabeg, and it suggests that if enough people — of all colors and faiths — turn from materialism and instead choose a path of respect, wisdom and spirituality, environmental and social catastrophe can be avoided, and an era of spiritual illumination will dawn.


Simone McLeod painting Minjimemendamowin

Manidoo-minjimemendamowin("Spirit Memory: remembering the Mide ways and the doodem relations of the Anishinaabe Peoples"), 26x66" acrylic by Simone Mcleod, July 2013. Gathering of the five major clans of the Ojibwe People at the falls of Baawiting: Crane, Bear, Little Moose/Marten, Catfish, and Loon. 
©2013-2023 Simone McLeod


The Eight Stopping Place

As had been prophesized in Waabanakiing, the ancient land at the edge of the great salt waters in the East, the great migration of the Anishinaabe Peoples  - which spanned more than five centuries, possibly even a thousand or fifteen hundred years -  was marked by seven fires as well as seven stopping places. Eventually, as the re-experiencing of the past evolved into a new awareness, the Seventh Fire lighted a new fire, called Eko-nishwaaching (The Eight Fire). The Eight Fire reflects back to the past, when the People were not yet divided and in distress but still lived in accordance to the laws of nature, moved as one and shared a strong sense of belonging and group unity.

"Only then, if the people of all colors and faith choose the right path, a path of respect, wisdom and spirituality, will the Seventh fire light the Last Fire, an eternal fire of peace, which will unfold an era of spiritual illumination…”


Simone Mcleod

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. ©2012-2023 Simone McLeod.
By the same token, one might argue that the seventh stopping place (a turtle-shaped island in a bay in present-day Wisconsin), is followed by an eight stopping place; this, of course, is not a physical location but a symbolic place, a place of metaphorical meaning.

But what is the meaning of this eight stopping place? This is hard to tell since it is merely an idea rather than a tangible place. Could it mean it is a place to pause and look back and reflect on certain phases or eras in the history of the People?  Is it a medicine wheel, a mirror reflecting all aspects of human life and showing glimpses of a better future, of a time beyond the rampant poverty and discrimination of today, of a time when a generation will rise up that walks according to a more intelligent and respectful worldview than we experience now?

Perhaps, as Simone McLeod - who donated two epic works of art to this blog story - suggested, the eight stopping place will someday materialize itself in a great lodge in the East because, as she asked herself, “why else do I have this need to go there and why is it that I have run into other Anishinaabe people who are leaving everything and heading there too?”

When I asked Simone to summarize this blog story that we did together, and how she looks back on the great migration of the Anishinaabeg, she pondered it for a while, then said:

“It is so sad that such a peace-loving and nature-loving and family-loving people could experience so much pain and at the same time not even have a clue as to the overall hurt and healing that would eventually come.”

And then, after a brief pause, she added, “Yet, we are here.”

Haw sa, geget debwe: that we certainly are!

Giiwenh. That´s how far this blog story goes. Miigwech for reading and listening!

Giga-waabamin miinawaa, I hope to see you again.

Read part 2 in the series Stories From the Land of Crane and Turtle: Wenabozho and the Butterflies
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¹ Source: William Warren, History of the Ojibway People (1855).

² Source: Win Awenen Nisitotung, June 1991.

³ Source:Charles E. Cleland, Rites Of Conquest the University of Michigan, 1992.  
        p. 5-6. 

⁴ Source: Wikipedia.

Source: Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book - The Voice of the Ojibway.
         (St. Paul: Red School House publishers, 1988).

 Click here to view details about the jewelry set "The eighth Fire".


About the author/artist:

My name is Zhaawano Giizhik. My clan is waabizheshi, the marten.

As an American artist and jewelry designer currently living in the Netherlands. I like to draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of my Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors from the American Great Lakes area. For this I call on my manidoo-minjimandamowin, or "Spirit Memory"; which means I try to remember the knowledge and the lessons of my ancestors. 

The mazinaajimowinan or ‘‘pictorial spirit writings’’ - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos. 

Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many  generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the coastline where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet. 

It is these age-old expressions that provide an endless supply of story elements to my work  be it graphically, through my written stories, as well as in the context of my jewelry making.