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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaching Stories, part 18

“That Which Is Given to Us”

(A Native Perspective on the Notion of Wealth)


- Updated August 31, 2021


Images: ©2014 Simone McLeod


"Chi-miigwech for cleansing tears that can fall like the rain.
Miigwech for the beautiful sun that can really shine on your morning smiles.

Miigwech for the seasons who enter and leave your life like friends. Bringing rejuvenating temperatures at times when your soul feels cold.

Miigwech to the four legged who provide nourishment and protection. Blanketing us when we look at our naked loneliness.

Miigwech for the depth of our emotions that allow us to understand true joy by showing us pain.

Miigwech for another day that cannot be truly wasted if I choose to spend it curled up like a kitten reflecting on lifes mysteries.

Miigwech for allowing me to shed my raindrops as I water the flower that will bloom as new love within."

- Simone McLeod


Simone Mcleod
Offering a bowl of Giizhik (Cedar)
Simone McLeod Aki-egwaniizid
Offering a bowl of Asemaa (Tobacco)

Gaa miinigooyaang

Aki Omiigiwewin
Offering a bowl of Mashkodewashk (Sage)
Gaa miinigooyaang [gauh-mee-nih-GO-youn-g], “That Which Is Given to Us,” is an expression that reflects an age-old Anishinaabe belief that says that everything we have is given to us by the Great Mystery as a gift that we must humbly give thanks for.


The Anishinaabeg have always lived according the cyclical rhythm set by, as they call it, aandakiiwinan [aun-dah-kee-win-un], the seasonal changes. Survival and economic well-being depended upon being in balance and harmony with the plant world, the animal world, and the world of the supernatural. The Great Mystery and the animals provided the gifts of food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and dreams and the people completed the circle of giving through ceremonies, offering asemaa [ah-say-mah] (tobacco) and a myriad of other gifts in gratitude, and by sharing with each other.*

Gakina gegoo

All life forms were considered animated and inter-related “persons” or “relatives” (called akina inawemaaganag: all my relations) ([uh-kin-uh-'n-nah-way-MAU-gun-ug])-possessing a consciousness, rationale, and a will of their own. This means that the world was seen as one gigantic web of social relations, an extended family where the relationship between humans and the nonhuman and spirit world is one of continuous interfusion and reciprocal exchange. All these inawemaaganag or “next of kin persons” were, and still are, described as gakina gegoo,  “everyone and everything” or “all living things” ([guh-kih-nuh-gay-goo]). The Anishinaabeg believe that gakina gegoo bimaadad idash gakina awiiya bimaadiziwag: “everything and everyone is alive”, and gakina gegoo gii ozhigigaade ge inaabadag: “everything is created for a purpose.”

Offering a bowl of Wiingashk (Sweetgrass)
Traditionally, this philosophy of gakina gegoo, or inter-dependency of all things, lay at the heart of the economic system of the Anishinaabe Peoples: the individual was dependent upon his community for survival, the community was dependent on nature for survival, and nature was dependent on the Spirit World for survival. 

The traditional definition of wealth has always been the ability to have enough to share with the community, and to give away what one does not strictly need in order to survive. 

Sharing with each other and giving away more than one receives were therefore the greatest of the virtues…

Cultural clash of worldviews

Needless to say that the aggressive Euro-American/ Canadian supply and demand market economy of today has a profound, if not devastating, impact on the worldview and the economic survival of the First Peoples who have been inhabiting Turtle Island since the beginning of times.

To be continued...

Miigwech for reading and listening.

Miigwechiwendan akina gegoo na: Be Thankful for Everything!


The four sacred plants of the Anishinaabe Peoples:*

  • ASEMAA, tobacco, representing the Eastern direction. The oldtime Anishinaabeg also used giniginige (commonly written as “kinnikinnick”), a mixture of mishkoobimizh (red osier dogwood) and zaagaakominagaanzh (bearberry) and tobacco, or sometimes mishkwaabiimizh (red willow) with wiingashk (sweetgrass). Both asemaa and giniginige are still used in the offering of prayer to GICHI-MANIDOO, as a way of communication, their smoke lifting the prayers to the Great Mystery, or set on the ground in a clean place as an offering. Either offered through the fire (Zagaswaawin, smoking of tobacco) or just held in hand, using tobacco to extend prayers of thankfulness is something that is done on a daily basis as each new day is greeted. And to this day, Asemaakewin (tobacco offering) is customary when seeking knowledge or advice from an Elder or when a Pipe and/or a Drum is present.

  • GIIZHIK, white cedar, representing the Southern direction. When burned, its snipped leaves act as a purifier, giving out a pleasant piny scent, cleansing the area as well as body and soul of any participant.

  • MASHKODEWASHK, white sage, representing the Western direction. It is burned as a purifier, emitting a spicy scent.

  • WIINGASHK, sweetgrass, representing the North. This too, is a purifier, replacing negative with positive. It gives out a sweet, aromatic scent, especially when burnt or when it rains. When it is harvested, it is cut, never pulled. Many things are made with it such as wiingashkoo`iinan (coiled baskets), and when braided it signifies the hair of Omizakamigokwe (Ogashinan), the Earthmother.

> Read the next episode in the Teaching Stories series: I'm an Invisible Child.

Images: ©2014 Simone McLeod
Akina Inakaaneziwinan Wiikondiwin ("All Nations' Feast") acrylic painting by Simone McLeod (2014) 
Four details of the acrylic painting Aki Omiigiwewinan ("Gifts From Mother Earth") by Simone McLeod (2014)
To see more artwork by Simone, please go to our website Fisher Star Creations


Aki-egwaniizid miinawaa Zhaawano Giizhik/Wenoondaagoziwid Webaashi


About the authors/artists:

Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is a Nakawe-Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962 and a member of Pasqua Nation in SaskatchewanShe belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan). She feels a special kinship with 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.

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist, a writer, and a designer of jewelry and wedding rings, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists. He has done several art projects with Simone in the past.


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