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2/15 Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa - Respecting the Medicine Given by the Clans

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On this episode of Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa we have a conversation with Justin Boshey, who shares with us knowledge about the creation of the ginoozhe (the northern pike), and the beginning of the clans.

Justin Boshey is a member of the Lac La Croix First Nation, and is a traditional knowledge carrier, former chief, and first speaker of the Ojibwe language. Justin is a talented musician, speaker, and workshop facilitator. He presently resides at the Northwest Bay (Naicatchewenin) First Nation with his family.

Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa is produced by KUMD and the Department of American Indian Studies at UMD, with funding provided in part by the UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions, and by The Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Ojibwe language-related content in this episode:

My Anishinaabe name is Meshkawigaabaw and my clan is makwa. I was, I guess, raised out of Lac La Croix. It was an isolated community there for some time till almost the late 90's and 1990’s sometimes where we came out of isolation and then, we were the only isolated community in the area, never mind the Treaty Three area. We called the area Treaty Three.

And our language also was an old language that we spoke the language there - the words that our elders spoke was very original and lot of our stories that we talk about, like you know, even the area itself like if you look at Lac La Croix, you go to this warrior hill and the rock paintings of mazinaabikiniganan we call it mazinaabikiniganan. When some elders came there, I brought some elders there in 1981 or 82 when I was a chief. I was a young chief there and I brought some elders from other communities there and these elders what tell me that you know this place is a very historical place. It hits the center of North America. And this one elder said that a lot of the areas features the beginning of our stories. The stories that we tell like the Painted Rock itself while they talk about the area where Omashooz. Omashooz is one of the people we talk about from way back.

Anyway, he had his son-in-law, he didn't like very much and he wanted some way to get rid of him and what he did was he took him up this Warrior Hill, we call Warrior Hill. And the Warrior Hill has a history itself where it was used for other things also, during the Sioux and Ojibwe war, the Ojibwe people when they captured our Sioux friends and to release them they had to run up there and run down. And it's such a challenging thing to do and how the Sioux ever done that they must have been in quite a shape you know. Good shape to be able to do that.

Anyway, the story of that hill is ayi’ii, he convinced his son-in-law to slide and he says but you know what I have to tie you up. I have to tie you up because it's the only way that I think we can do this right. To slide down that hill and you can go really fast. So, his son-in-law agreed to that and so he tied him up and he made sure that sleigh would sink to the bottom of that when he went down the bottom he would sink also. So, he got him tied up and when he slid down there he went under. He went in the water and then Omashooz was really happy and he says, you know what? “Mii sa iwe ge-izhinikaazowin ani-akiiwang.” Meaning that this is what you're going to be called now for - till the end of time - till the world wherever it's going to go from here your name shall be this. “Ginoozhe giga-izhinikaaz. Mii ginoozhe ani-akiiwang.” You shall be known as a Northern. The Northern, that's where the name, the northern’s name came from is from the Omashooz’s son-in-law but he wanted to drown him and get rid of him but he didn't drown him. He became a species of something else. He became a water species. He became a northern, a Jackfish.

So, when the elders came there, that's what they said and that area has its original stories. There's other stories involved in and like a lot of that area has beginning stories of the stories we tell, especially the painted rocks that we have there and the islands in the surrounding area.

And that's what I did was I sat down with a lot of elders, in my time, when I was a chief. I wanted to, I wanted to bring back our culture, our culture and language. I wanted to learn and have others learn and by doing so, we did create a lot of awareness in the area, where our young generation became part of that, where they started to sing, they started to play, they started to become the area where a lot of people learned a lot of the original songs from. So, we had those young people trained to learn all these original songs that our elders sang out of Lac La Croix because of its isolation. And we had our first pow wow there in 1981. We invited people from Minnesota and Manitoba and they drove a long way across the ice to come to our first invitational pow wow and we didn't even have a road, you know, they went across the ice.

So that's my little introduction about who I am and where I came from. So, Lac La Croix is indeed a good little place to talk about, its culture, and its origin and our elders. That is where my stories are based on.

Owe ayi’ii Ojibweg gaa-yaad noongom dibishko go ayi'ii gaa-gii-tazhiikodaadiwaad ogoweg

Bwaanag miinawaa Ojibweg. Owe wajiw achigaadeg e’i gii-aadizookaanigaade wajiw. Mii maa owe Omashooz gaa-gii-izhinikaazod gaa-igwen gaa-izhi-zhaamaagwen oningonan ogii-shiingenimaan aapiji ogii-pimenimaad sa go ogii-shiingenimaan iniw odaanisan chi-onaabemaad. Gabe-ingoji ayaawan. Mii dash gaa-izhi-mikwendamogwen owe ge-izhichiged owe chi-wii-zhaamaad iniw oningonan omaa bigwaj. Mii dash gaa-izhi-debwetaagwad ingoding giga-shooshkwajiweyin imaa. Giga-shooshkwajiweyin. Booch dash iniwe ji-ayaayin ji-godaakopininan go wenda-mashkawapininan ge ji-gezhiibizoyang nawaj da-minobizo owe gaa-zhooshkopizod imaa gaa-zhooshkwajiweyin wii-zhooshkwajiweyin omaa noongom daa-gizhiibizo owe.  Ogii-inaan iniw oningwanan, gegoo odaapinind gegoo namanji agopinind owe ge-zhooshkobizoyan gaa-izhi-tebwetaagoyan.

“Mii gaanish owe ezhichigeyan, inga-gizhiibiz geget.” Mii gaa-igod. Niminwendam awe mii awe omashooz gekendang. Mii iw, “Inga-nisaabowenaa.” “Nisaabaawe maa iwe,” inendam. “Inga-nisaabowe maa ningwanish” dibishko miigaanishig nitam owe dibishko bamenimad awiiya. Eshkitaagwaditoon ishke-ayi’ii ningwan ikidowin ningwanish geget. Mii dash iwe gaa-ikidod awe enendang. Mii sa iwe sa nisaabaawe maa ingwanis nisaabawe maa amanjikobizod imaa zhooshkojiwebinag owe. Mii dash geget gaa-izhi-giishkizhiwaad gidago maanjikobinaad oningwanan. Ogii-maanjikobinan gaanji-kiizhiitaad “mii sa iye gaanjiwebininan ningwad ii gigichi-giziibiz da-niisaakiiwebizowin” odinaan. “Enhenh ingichi-gizhiibiz igo geget.” Geget gaa-izhi-niisijiwebinaan imaa gichi-bizo. Mii go eta ani-bagambizonid mii iw nibiikaang imaa gaa-ni-googii gaa-ni-googiibizod maa googiibizonid maa pane anaamiindim. Mii iye minwendam Omashooz ow ay mii iw gii-nisaabaawe giin sa geyaabi niwaabamasii. Owe dash niwiindamawaa awe ani-kiiwang mii owe geniin izhinikaazoyan odinaan onigonan. “Ginoozhe giga-izhinikaaz ge-ni-akiiwang.” Mii dash iwe noongom wenji-zhinikaazod ginoozhe. Mii awe Omashooz oningwanan. Mii inaadizoodeg iwe. Mii minik.

Miigwech Justin for that amazing story and being able to hear that in our language in gidoojibwemowininaan is such a special privilege and we're grateful to you for being able to share that with all of our listeners here in this session. I think the story that you told definitely speaks well to that very long standing spiritual legacy that's in the earth here, in the waters, in the trees, and in the animals and it reminds us that there's so much history that came even before humankind in this part of the world and in many of the stories that our old people would tell.

One of the things that you had some opportunity to share with our students, and with our community, was about the different awesiinyag or sometimes we call them gidoodeminaanig, our clans, and what the role and the meaning of our clans is in Anishinaabe life today. I know one of the things that many of our people talk about is this very kind of complex spiritual order that exists and the kinds of helpers that are placed on the earth to help guide, to help protect, to help look after Anishinaabe. So, in that same spirit of that story, you know connecting back to some of those first teachings, those first instructions. We were curious if you wanted to share anything else with our listeners and our community about the roles of our clans? How we can better work with those clan’s spirits to fulfill some of those jobs we were given to do here on the earth.

What I'll do is speak in Ojibwe first and I will talk about the clans. The clans, we were told were here first before the Anishinaabe came. So, I'm going to talk about that in Ojibwe.

Jibwaa dagoshing awe Anishinaabe mii maa gii-maamoobii’idiwaad awe Anishinaabebaniin. Aapiji gete-anishinaabeg owe gichibwaa’aawaad owe dash ongowe gidoodeminaanig mii maa gii-moobii’aa’aad ongoweg gidoodeminaanig mii dash iwe gaa-ikidowaad “aaniish gii-ichigeying owe ji-bi-dagoshing owe Anishinaabe. “Giga-bi-odisigonaan” gii-ikidowag agiw aya’aag gidoodeminaanig. “Aaniish ge-izhichigeyangiban ji-wiijiiyang owe Anishinaabe gewiin ji-ayaad ji-bimaadizid omaa gidakiiminaan?” A bezhig iinzan gii-kiigidod owe aw bezhig gaa-doodeminaan aw bezhig wedoodemimangwaa sa go. Miinzan ekidod “owe so noongom mashkikii giga-miinaanaan ge-anoojtaaged awe Anishinaabe.” Aaniish inaa niizhoo-gaaded awe Anishinaabe niizh eta go gaa- odayaan. Shkech owe gaa-niiyo-gaadewaad aapiji gaa-kizhiikaabatood gaa-pimisewaad gaa-ni-niingwaniwaad gaa-izhiseg.  Gaawiin gidaa-adimaasii awe gaa-taashkshki’aasiin ji-debibinaad ge chi-adimaad owe owe awesiinya’ gaa-yaawaad omaa gidakiiminaaning awesiinh. Aaniish naa ge-dazhiikaw awe awesiinh wiin gezhiikaabitood mino-bimose. Anaamiindim ge gaa-ayaawaad gezhii’aadagewag giigoonwag. Kina gegoo gizhiikaamagad gizhitaawag gegoo ezhichigewaad ogoweg awesiinyag. Mii dash awe a’a awe doodemimangwaa gaa-ikidowaad “owe mashkikii giga-miinaanaan” owe ge noongom ge-bimoochigaaged owe owe noongom. Oga-bimiwadashiwe owe noongom gaa-aabajitood mashkikii mii ge-izhi-gashki’aad chi-aaya’aawaad chi-nisaad iidog ge-amwaad. Aanish naa wiisiniwaad owe mii giinawind enaabadiziying gegiinawind mino-bimaadizid owe gimiinaanaan Anishinaabe bimaadiziwin gimiinaanaan mii enaadiziiying giinawind ezhi-odoodeminaang kina maa giinawind gibagidinaanaan mino-bimaadizid owe. Mii dash owe inaadisookaazod owe wedoodemaawid mii awe omiinaan iniw Anishinaaben bimaadiziwin. Shke dash ingoding owe noongom awe noongom gaa-pi-izhiwebak.

Gaanish inaa kina gigii-izhi’igoomin owe eni-naanaagadawendamang miinawaa naanaagadawendanziwang ge-dazhi-bimaadiziying mii noongom wenji-biminizha’amang owe sa noongom gizhewaadiziwin ingoding ge iwe gagiibaadiziwin achigaadeg noongom. Mii go miinzha niizh owe ezhi-biminizha’amang ingoding sa wiin ezhiseg mii dash iwe enda-dazhinjigaadeg owe Aadizookaan owe mashkikii gaa-gii-miinind Anishinaabe. Ingoding mii iwe. Shke owe noongom washki-anishinaabeg gaa-ni-ayaawaad noongom. Gaawiin geyaabi odaabajitoosiinaawaa iwe mashkikii owe chi-noojitaagewaad ongodwesh odaabajitoonaawaa noongom. Shke owe gii-miigaadiwaad ogoweg noongom shke bwaanag miinawaa  anishinaabeg. Mii iwe aabadak mashkikii ogii-aabajitoon a’a. Ayii dash owe gii-chigewaad owe gaawiin owe gii-izhi-miinaasii ji-aabajitoowaad ji-nisaad wiiji-anishinaaben wiiji-ayaan Anishinaabe owe ji-onji-wiisininid ji-mino-bimaadizid ji-onji-zaagi’aad ge aniw odoodeman. Dibishko dash iwe enaabajitooyan iwe ji-nisad awiya bemaadizid anishinaabe dibishko go gibaapinendaan iwe ezhi-odoodemiyan. Mii iwe enaadizookaadeg iwe. Mii iwe gaa-izhi-gagiikwed Anishinaabe owe odoodeman. Miich iwe ezhi-aadizookaazod gidoodeminaan. Gimiinigoonaan iwe mino-bimaadiziwin. Mii go minik iwe ezhi-dazhindamaageyaan iwe ezhi-odoodemid Anishinaabe mii iwe wenji-mashkawi-ayaaying awe gidoodeminaan gimiinigonaan owe ji-mashkawe-ayaaying.

The clans, long before humans were here our clans were here. And when the Anishinaabe, which is our people. When they were about to come to this earth, the clans got together and they talked about this and says how are we going to help the Anishinaabe? How can we enhance the Anishinaabe’s way of life? How can we make the Anishinaabe's way of life healthy and better? So, the one clan spoke up and he says that we will provide them the skills to hunt.

But because he cannot run as fast as the four-legged animals, we will have to give him something. Because he cannot catch those four-legged animals, or nor can he catch the ones with the wings, or the ones that in the water that swim really fast. So, we'll have to give him medicine.  So, when he uses that bow, or that slingshot, he will use this medicine to be able to capture these animals and use them for his food and that will be his way of providing to himself, to be healthy, to live a healthy life. So that's what they gave him. So that's what the clans were here for. They provided the Anishinaabe away of ayi’i a sustenance. A way of ayi’ii health - healthy living.

But ayi’ii the story goes beyond that, because there's sometimes we don't live in a perfect world. So, a lot of us we stray to becoming the not so perfect people. So, we began to abuse our privileges. And so, the ones during the wars, we started using this medicine to capture our enemy and started shooting our humankind and when we did that we began to abuse our privileges with what the clans had given us to use this medicine for. So, we have to understand that and this is part of our teaching to respect our clans. We have to respect this medicine that they gave us to hunt with and to provide our families and to give ourselves a healthy life. We have to think about our clans in that way because they're the ones that gave us that strength to become that good human being that we are when we want to be. Mii iwe our story.

That was a beautiful story. Thank you for that Justin just helping us better understand not only the purpose of our clans those clan animals that as Ojibwe, Anishinaabe people, we value and depend upon for our interrelationships but also understanding a little of where those clans come from and it's just so incredible to hear how even before there was Anishinaabe here already our clans were readying themselves, preparing themselves, and making this place welcome for the people. And it really does fit into some of the things that you have shared with us about that larger spiritual order that exists in the universe that helps guide the people and look after the people. And I know you have talked about those as being the Manidoog or the Aadizookaanag even and their role in helping guide Anishinaabe along in the world. Did you have anything you would like to also share with our listeners about any of those helper spirits in the world and how we can pay attention to them to better do our work here?

Before I was going to share last night was a little bit about the structures that I was going to talk about there, which is our Creator Miimiisaakwaa. Our Creator is at the very top and - and, he, my dad refers to him as Miimiisaakwaa. Miimiisaakwaa is also a name which is also comes from another saying that our elders, when they talked about Miimiisaakwaa, they used to talk about “aapji zagaakwaa ezhaaying.” And it's a term they used where this when you listen to this term “aapji zagaakwaa ezhaaying”, what this term “aapji zagaakwaa ezhaaying” means is, it's going to be challenging and the brush is going to be thick towards where we are going. And this is where the creators name came from is to reach where the Creator is at.

We're going to have to go through that and when we think about the Miimiisaakwaa and aapji zagaakwaa ezhaaying, we always think about the obstacles we face today on how hard it is to teach our culture, our language, how challenging it is for us to educate our children because we have so much adversity and this adversity it's also something that this ayi’ii “aapji zagaakwaa ezhaaying” talks about. And we have to, we will overcome that according to the teachings. We will overcome that. But to get to that we have to face that adversity first and that's where the name Miimiisaakwaa comes from and lot of people maybe don't understand that sometimes. It's an old name that goes back to about, the last time my dad heard about it was in 1935 and after that he never heard no more elders talking about Miimiisaakwaa. Because it is the residential schools and the area on both sides of the border that kind of discourage this ayi’ii, the teachings and the language itself, so a lot of it was forgotten.

So, he told me about this to. ayii’ii, teach that to other people, or others, our brothers and sisters, across the nation that to revive that name, Miimiisaakwaa, because it needs to be revived. That's why I'm sharing that.

Thank you so much Justin for sharing what you have here today. You have been so generous and so kind and those good things that you have allowed us to be able to think about here and continue to use in our lives so on behalf of our production team here and our student organization we would say to you in a good way aapiji gichi-miigwech. We thank you for all of this and look forward to visiting with you again sometime. Chi-miigwech.

Chris Harwood is The North 1033’s Production Director and (acting) Program Director, a morning/daytime host, and the host of Soul Village. He is also a musician, a music historian, an audio engineer, and an avid record collector.
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