From “Decolonizing Education” to “Traditional Anishnaabe University”: A Photo-Essay

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

In thinking about what decolonizing education means I reflect on my own experience as an Anishinaabe woman attending a Ph.D. Indigenous Studies program in Michi Saagiig Anishinaabegogamig.[1] I recall the moment in 2009 when our professor in an Indigenous Knowledges course, Dr. Mark Dockstator, asked us to make a list of the things related to Indigenous knowledges that we wanted to learn about from Elders or Knowledge Holders who were associated with the course. Coming to the program with a foundation of Anishinaabe worldview, anti-colonial political consciousness, love for the land, and strong desire to reclaim all of Anishinaabewaya’ii[2] and Anishinaabewiziwin[3] I was beyond excited to have this opportunity to work with Gichi Piitzijig[4] to further learn about myself and Anishinaabe life.

For a fall and winter semester I was able to learn about cleaning zhiishiib (duck); hear local aadisookanan (sacred) stories; visit the Serpent Mounds (an ancestral burial ground) and the petroglyphs (a site where our ancestors documented the importance of life, creation, and clans in asin/rock); harvest mashkiki (medicine); and, make ziigamide (maple syrup). All of these activities may constitute a kind of decolonized education: working with Elders, being out on the land, and learning about Indigenous life, as it exists in the place where we as students are living.

However, what happens even in this decolonizing, Indigenzing context is that courses end and other academic responsibilities take their place. This education is contained within a syllabus, a semester, and a time frame. It is also often encased in risk-management regulations meant to protect institutions from lawsuits. Unless this decolonizing education is tied to the larger context and history of a student’s life as well as the context and history of the Indigenous life we are being exposed to, I would say it also runs the risk of i) operating as cultural tourism and ii) becoming commodified–a product to be purchased, consumed, and possessed through a sense of liberal entitlements granted vis-a-vis the business model of purchasing an education in multicultural Canada [added post-submission for publication].

While I am not sure if this course is intended as an act of decolonization or as an act of cultural promotion/celebration, seen through my own agenda of decolonization, such courses can be a step towards decolonizing education. In this context, I would like to share my experience as an Anishinaabe woman who attended a course in Indigenous Knowledges and because of the relationships built, the willingness of Mississauga to share time and knowledge, and because of my desire to continue learning Anishinaabewiziwin I was able to continue along this trajectory outside of the university. In my case, this decolonizing education allowed me to engage in biiskaabiiyaang—a returning to oneself (as Indigenous being).[5] While the course stopped, I could not stop being Anishinaabe. I could not and cannot stop attending what Lac du Flambeau Ojibway Anishinaabe artist, educator, and cultural do-er Greg Biskakone Johnson refers to as “Traditional Anishinaabe University”. For him, this university means, “the forest and the Elders” (personal communication, November 23, 2012). For me, as long as there is someone who will teach me and as long as I have land or access to land to attend Traditional Anishinaabe University, I will. One of the difficulties in this is what I am sure many Anishinaabeg run into: attending this university, which never stops, and carrying out the responsibilities that come with belonging to a colonial institution (i.e. academy, workplace).

The concept of Traditional Anishinaabe University encapsulates everything I have been learning in Michi Saagiig Anishinaaabegogamig for the past three years. To me, this kind of education moves from decolonizing education to Anishinaabe-izing education. It does not stop for a new semester or deadline. It does not stop for rain, snow, or cold weather. It does not stop for municipal workers; cottagers; nosey, indignant, even racist people witnessing Anishinaabe life still happening; deceiving conservation officers; aggressive police officers; rude private property owners who reside near sacred Anishinaabeg places; lack of wiigwaasatigok (birch trees); loss of hunting and fishing rights; or, lack of land to hunt on or lack of fish in the water to fish when those rights are restored. Traditional Anishinaabe University does not stop because Traditional Anishinaabe University is life and it is the source of life for Anishinaabeg people. I will go so far as to say that it ought to be a source of life for non-Anishinaabeg peoples (i.e. corporations, government) to consult given the significant destruction that has occurred to Anishinaabegogamig in the four hundred short years of residency here. Further, given that Anishinaabe knowledge about how to live in Anishinaabegogamig is grounded on thousands of years of knowledge generation built on the shoulders of Anishinaabeg giants it seems logical that non-Anishinaabeg would consult with our Elders on how to live in Anishinaabegogamig. Our knowledge comes directly from the land in which we live. This knowledge is undisrupted, sustainable, and holistic and it provides an education that maintains human and natural life; flourishes this life.[6] This education is ancient, relevant, and is foundational to Anishinaabewaya’ii and Anishinaabweziwin, and will endure as long as mashkikimakwe (mother earth) has something to give Anishinaabeg and as long as Anishinaabeg lay our asemaa (tobacco as medicine for making offerings to the land) and have a desire to be who we are.

It is in this context of my own experience of moving beyond decolonizing education to attending Traditional Anishinaabe University that I present the following photo-essay. The purpose is to provide a snapshot of what a decolonized education in the form of Traditional Indigenous University might look like. In this case, I illuminate what Traditional Anishinaabe University looks like, specifically Mississauga. I utilize photos to illuminate the dynamic nature of this education, the life force and beauty of this education, and to acknowledge the Mississauga homelands in which I am learning. I show why this kind of education is important and how it supports our on-going response and resistance to broader societal issues such violence utilizing Anishinaabe methods. I also show how this kind of education brings Anishinaabeg into direct contact with agents of colonization. It’s because colonization continues that decolonizing education is so important; why decolonizing education to the point of it making it nation-specific to the lands upon which educational institutions exist, is necessary and life giving.

I present this as a dibaadjimowin—a personal narrative based on my own embodied knowledge. In my discussions with Gichi Piitzijid about his thoughts regarding a photo-essay method he said, “Yes! Use visuals and if it is online then more people can learn about it!” (personal communication, November 3, 2012). I organize it with Anishinaabeg consciousness in mind: the seasons and the directions organize our life. As such, the starting point for this story is the present season of daagwagi (fall). I generally provide one photo for each season, describe it, and elaborate on how it illuminates the knowledge generated through attending Anishinaabe Traditional University. The photographs, and the knowledge I share about them, including the Nishinaabemowin[7], reflect what I have mostly learned from Gidigaa Migizi in my work with him and other Mississauga families; one Anishinaabe Knowledge Holder from the western parts of the Anishinaabeg Nation; and, my own reflection and interpretation. The photos portray various places throughout Mississauga homelands.

While all of Anishinaabeg life is a ceremony, this essay does not contain photographs of specific ceremonial practices that I participate in and utilize as a way to know the world. Also, places held most sacred to the Mississauga are not included (i.e. ancestral burial sites, petroglyphs). Finally, as my own ethic emerges in my learning about my relationships with wesiinyag (animals) and bineshiinyag (birds) I presently refrain from utilizing pictures of those that have given their life so that I can learn to feed my family and myself.[8] Indeed, I have relationships with those Mississauga clans (e.g. zhiishiib and waawaashkeshi [deer]) whose relatives have given them selves to me so that I can learn how to live with the land and from her. I would be uncomfortable if those families who have supported my family were to read this and see pictures of their dead relatives. I encourage people to become familiar with this part of Anishinaabe life if they are able to because there is much to learn about self-in-Creation and about how life works when you are taking a life that has been gifted to you for your sustenance.



This image holds three stories that are revealed through mooz daashkanan (moose antlers) who lived in the Treaty #3 area in Northwest Ontario. The daashkan on the left is a shed meaning moozo dropped his daashkan through the natural process of his growth and life. The daashkanan in the middle are from a mooz that gifted himself to Gidigaa Migizi for food. Offerings are made for this kind of engagement with Creation and offerings are made to the wesiinyag (animals) who has provided miijim (food). The daashkan on the right were found from a mooz who had been injured with a bullet and died but was not harvested. Gidigaa Migizi suspects that moozo ran beyond the ability of the hunter(s) to catch up to him. These dashkanan and the tertiary stories they tell begin to illuminate the lives of our relatives the mooz—they illuminate the fact that our relative the mooz has life that begins well before us as Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg. This is particularly important in a world inundated with human-centered, conquest-type dominant narratives about the mooz: the person wants to hunt mooz, the person hunts mooz, the person does not get a mooz/ the person gets a mooz, if a mooz is killed this is documented and circulated for posterity and dashkaanan are kept as trophies. The dashkanan here and the stories associated with them force us to engage in the lives of the mooz as first, being distinct from Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg and second, as having a life-force of their own before, during, and after contact with Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg. There are additional stories I have learned about that illuminate the real implications of Anishinaabeg worldview about our relationships with the natural world and how seriously we take these relationships, particularly how seriously how our Old Ones takes these relationships however those will be stories for other times.



Above is a photo waawaabigaanoojii pimikweganan (mouse tracks) and waawaabigaanoojii-wiish (mouse house) that I took in Waawshkigemonke (Mud Lake/Curve Lake First Nation) one afternoon while snowshoeing. In the winter, we can see a lot of tracks and learn about how the animals are living at this time of year. This may not seem significant at first however for me it reminds how the smallest of creatures in the harshest of seasons are living life in Anishinaabegogaming—in biboon, even waawaabigaanojiiyag are living and moving and have life.

When I think about the significance of this I think about how over time, this kind of learning and awareness generates a deep love, caring, and respect for all beings in Creation. I believe it is this kind of consciousness that prevents violence against self, each other, and the natural world. It is this sentiment that is reflected in the word nogdawindamin—achieving a state of well-being by caring for each other (Rosalind Johnston, personal communication, niibin (summer) 2008). If Anishinaabeg, and me as an individual in my Nation, can be aware, conscientious, and caring about the smallest of creatures in the slumber of winter and if we can be in awe of their strength, then perhaps we (and I) can become closer to manifesting the sophisticated ways of being that are embedded within the language our ancestors utilized, as reflected in words like nogdawindamin.

This is a photo of beading I am learning to do for an Indigenous art project about violence against Indigenous women in Canada called, “’Walking With Our Sisters’ A Commemorative Art Installation for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Canada”.[9] I put this photo in this biboon section because as I’ve been told, winter is the time when life has slowed down and there is time for this type of work. In my case, I started this beading in niibin and know of many people who do beading all year around. I suppose this difference could be considered an example of how Anishinaabe life is enduring but also fluid, flexible, and responsive to the context; an example of how tradition is adapted to a contemporary world.

Despite my rudimentary experience, beading has given me a lot to reflect on. For instance, I see beading as a form of writing. When I am beading, I feel like I am writing the land, documenting and interpreting her beauty, manifesting it for others to experience. Using a method that my ancestors used makes me feel connected to them somehow. The rhythm of beading gives my imagination space to roam; it allows me to remove myself from the present and travel around here and there across landscapes, times periods; it allows me to use my imagination to consider and experience all kinds of things about life here and in the spiritual. As I look at the photographs I took to hold the image for me, I am in awe of those Anishinaabeg who were able to imprint patterns of the land in their memory and heart and re-create them without photographs.

The pattern above and the colours I use are inspired by miskwemin—the raspberry plant. What is particularly interesting about this miskwemin is that it is indigenous to Anishinaabegogamig and differs from the popular plant we see growing in abundance. Working on the land with Gidigaa Migizi has taught me a lot about the flora that are indigenous to our homelands and that have been introduced. It has become important to me to familiarize my imagination with the landscapes in which our ancestors lived. In this way I can begin to have a sense of the abundance and flourishment they lived in for thousands of years. I think that they imagined we would also live in such abundance. Miskwemin is one example of something my ancestors would have been familiar with and this also makes me feel connected to them.

anishinaabe miskwemin

Anishinaabeg miskwemin represents endurance, sustenance, and beauty to me. For these reasons I have chosen this mashkiki to honour my best-friend Gina for the “Walking with our Sisters art installation”. Gina was murdered in a downtown park in Edmonton, Alberta in June 1990. Like this beautiful, strong, and life-giving plant, her spirit endures in my life. Memories of her inspire me and remind me of the sacredness of youth, friendship, and the importance of having people in your life who inspire you, who you admire, who stand up for you, and who make you laugh. And although she would tease me for my sentiments here I think given how she was treated in Canada as an “Indian girl” when in fact she was Nehiyaweh (i.e. Cree), she would be touched to know how the beauty of her spirit and our friendship continues to move through me, the land, and manifests as this beading. As girls we would pick berries around the rocks and lakes where we grew up and this is my offering to her.

The Anishinaabeg way of writing our land into being through beading, and then wearing it, is for me a sophisticated Anishinaabe intellectual tradition that shows our love for life. It requires extensive time, love, and skill in terms of getting to know the land and landscape where we are living. Historically, we would not have had to participate in art projects related to epidemic rates of violence against Indigenous women but because I have been so immersed in Traditional Mississauga Anishinaabe University, I am able to draw on something of our people to respond to an issue that has been brutally impacting our Nations for the past four hundred years—heteropatriarchal colonial violence against women.[10]

Ziigwan (Spring)

For the past three years in Waashkigemonki (Mud Lake/Curve Lake) I have been working ishkikamiziganing (in the sugarbush) with Gidigaa Migizi, another Mississauga family, and a non-Anishinaabeg family. Every year mashkikimakwe and ishkikamiziganing teaches me something important about this Anishinaabeg life and myself. The first year was significant in terms of decolonizing education: I learned that a great part of academic Indigenous Knowledge learning is wrapped in novelty. I began to realize this when the novelty wore off and knew the shift had happened when the novelty began to feel like work and this work impinged upon other academic expectations. It’s the moment when I thought, “I can’t go because I have to work on a paper” and in the next minute, realized that enaatigok (the man trees, the maple trees) and ziisaabaakode nibi (sugar water) do not stop flowing because I have had enough of the novelty or because I have other responsibilities. The sap does not wait for my schedule to ease. The sugar bush, like all of Anishinaabeg life, does not stop, and it does not run in accordance with people-made institutional schedules.

In this rupturing moment I had to pause and ask myself why was I here in this sugarbush? Why was I doing this traditional Anishinaabe University? This sugar water is a gift given to Anishinaabeg, as is hunting, as is beading, as in manoominke (harvesting rice), as is the language, as are the ceremonies. Am I going to walk away from all of these gifts? And what if I stay here in this ceremony? What about how hard it is? How lonely it can be or might be? Can I deal with this? Do I want to?

It was after the novelty wore off and I paused and asked myself these questions that I came to terms with what being in the sugar bush during ziigwaaning would mean. I now celebrate and humble myself to the life-force that is the sugar bush because she doesn’t stop until she is done giving the life she has to give; I celebrate and humble myself to the life-force that is Anishinaabe life found in traditional Anishinaabe University. This is not about finding an easier life to live, an easier life to life than the one Canada has to offer. This is about honouring the dreams of my ancestors; the gifts Gizhewe Manidoo (the great kind mystery) has given Anishinaabeg and therefore me; this is about maadjiimaadziwin—moving Anishinaabe life forward through the generations to the future[11]; this is about me feeling alive and whole and coherent with the Anishinaabeg world around me and not minding if it often puts me at odds with the Canadian world around me; this about me giving this life to my child.

In this moment, I took a deep breathe and knew that I would be back, if the People would have me. When the time came for my Elder and teacher to ask me if he could count on me to see it through next season once we started, I was able to say, debwewin (truthfully, from the heart) “Enh. I’ll make sure to go to the end once we start.” We are heading into our fourth season at ishkigamizigan and I am happy to say there are four families who consistently and lovingly walk into the life-force that is the sugar bush. Hiy hiy!!

Minokimii (Late Spring)

Anishinaabe life is so abundant.[12] This becomes clear when attending traditional Anishinaabe University continually throughout the seasons, year after year. There is no need for the over-consumption that is promoted in the economies presented to us through occupying nation-states. However, these economies would not survive if people knew how much there is for us on the land. These economies thrive in part because Anishinaabeg land has been taken from us and so even our own engagement with mashkikimakwe to sustain our lives becomes difficult, criminalized, and even dangerous.

Above is a photo of a forest in late spring about one hour north of Nogojiwanong on one of our leek harvesting trips. This is enaatigok megoyaag (a man-tree forest, a maple forest) just weeks after she was providing ziisaabaakode nibi (sugar water). The burst of new life is seen on the forest floor and on the treetops. This is minokimii—late spring when life is emerging from ahki (the land). The green on the forest floor is from the leeks that are growing. Imagine only weeks after supplying us with life giving sugar water we are now being provided food. This time of year has been inconsistent in terms of weather—one year we were inundated with mosquitoes and another year it was so cold it hurt my fingers to clean leeks once removed from the soil.

I want to share here that attending traditional Anishinaabe University is not without it’s dangers. At this university you quickly become aware that colonization continues to be active. I have several stories where agents of colonization have interfered with Anishinaabe life. On one particular occasion, municipal workers who were doing work on the road where four of our families had to travel to harvest leeks stopped the first vehicle heading out of the forest. The worker engaged our Elder, who was driving, in an aggressive manner. He was rude and very disrespectful because according to him, and the rules that govern him, we were on a road that a sign indicated we were not supposed to be. The way he talked to our Elder frightened our children. As these exchanges were happening my mind and heart were racing. My protective instincts compelled me to get out of my vehicle to intervene and hold this man accountable for his outrageous behaviour. However, I was also very cognizant that I did not want our children to witness angry exchanges or increase anyone’s anxiety. I also did not want my protective instincts to interfere with our Elder’s diplomatic skills; I did not want to do anything that would interfere with this ability to effectively deal with the situation. In the end, we endured the exchange and drove away. It is a vivid and unpleasant memory in our lives and our children’s lives of Anishinaabeg life in Canada in the 21st century. There are more as well.

Some may say that this kind of exchange would be a good reason to stay out of Traditional Anishinaabe University and remain in the classroom. Given the violence that occurs on the land when there are no witnesses or people to intervene on Anishinaabeg behalf I tend to agree.[13] I worry that there are particular dangers for women and children being on the land when being accosted by agents of colonization. I have some worries about the possibilities that I may have to deal with agents of colonization who are also racist, sexist, or misogynist. While I agree that there are dangers, I don’t agree that this is a reason to stop going on the land because I think interfering with our relationships with the land is one of the end goals of colonialism. I also don’t think that being on the land purely for the sake of being anti-colonial is a generative reason to be there either. For me, attending Traditional Anishinaabe University comes from my heart and desire to have more life, to be living the dream our ancestors had for us, to be honoring the gifts Gizhewe Manidoo gives to us. It is what makes me happy and I think this kind of education is best for my family.

Niibin (Summer)

GidigaaMigizi in Tall Manoomin 

In the above photo, Gidigaa Migizi is checking manoomin (Anishinaabe rice) at a local lake in late summer. Upon entry into the rice bed he says, “Wow. The people are going to freak when they see this!” Gidigaa Migizi’s surprise comes from believing he’d never see manoomin grow like this again in his life given the devastating impacts that the Trent Canal system has had on the land with flooding and changing water levels. Further impacting the food source of the Mississauga is the influx of cottage(r)s who interfere with the manoomin  growing on the gaming (shoreline) where their private property exists. Some of the behaviours that have been harmful to manoomin are putting poison in the water to kill this plant and/or pulling it out.

Manoominke (harvesting manoomin) is more than just about obtaining miijim (food). I have come to know it as a willful and intentional putting of oneself in the midst of creation and all her patterns and movement. As Greg Biskakone Johnson says, “Manomiinke is a ceremony that begins with asemaa and going to the forest to harvest cedar for ricing sticks” (personal communication, niibin (summer) 2012).  Manoominke as ceremony moves through our own bodies as we rhythmically move our arms over the rice and tap it into jiimaan (canoe) with our ricing sticks, as we push and pull jiimaan, as we paddle. Songs are song about moving around here and there in jiimaan. Like every other aspect of Anishinaabe life, asemaa (tobacco) is laid before and after the taking of something from mashkikimakwe (mother earth).

Manoominke as ceremony is easily seen in the rice bed. Entire Nations beside Anishinaabeg are dependent on this food and are engaged in all kinds of life here—ducks, geese, and beavers are some of these Nations. We witness our relatives living life here. To be amongst them and eating the same food they eat echoes the Anishinaabeg sentiment that we are all connected; that we must acknowledge all of our relations in this life and recognize our humble place amongst creation. That Anishinaabeg are so connected and dependent on these Nations is revealed in traditional stories. Leanne Simpson, a Mississauga woman, teaches through story that it was the Geese Nation that showed Anishinaabeg how to manoominke so that we could feed our grandchildren.[15] James Whetung, a Mississauga man who has been working for years to restore local rice beds, reminds us “the beavers and muskrat are doing a big job in revitalizing the rice too. They swim out there in the rice bed to eat and at the same time are re-seeding it and spreading seeds around for next year”(personal communication, niibin 2012).

Processing the rice shows us that our work has collateral benefits for some of our animal relatives and is also a part of a loving ceremony. For example, kwiingwas (the chipmunk) harvests from our piles of manoomin while it is being cured; she gathers it in her cheek pouches for her own food and winter storage. While this is not helpful for Anishinaabeg uses of that rice, it shows how Anishinaabeg and the natural world are in a close, if not reciprocal, relationship. In the spirit of ensuring I am not re-creating romantic notions of Anishinaabeg life I will share that processing is difficult, routine work. However, like all aspects of Anishinaabeg life, our orientation to the world provides us with gifts that protect us from becoming too overwhelmed by this reality. This is shown in how one Mississauga woman, Odemin Whetung, who is also a significant part of manoomin’s revitalization and is teaching me about manoominke, orients herself to the rice. While working with her one day, she was telling me about her process for turning manoomin (part of the curing process), and in doing so echoed a key element of Anishinaabewiziwin and Anishinaabewaya’ii. She said, with a big smile on her face, “It’s hard work and that’s why I listen to my tunes when I’m turning it. But you know I just put my love into it. Working the rice is an act of love and I do it in a loving way because that love goes into manoomin and the manoomin goes into the people” (personal communication, niibin 2012).

Final Thoughts

Anishinaabe Traditional University is a total and on-going immersion into the life and rhythms of Anishinaabe life. It is neither a course that has a clear beginning and end nor   can it be turned on and off depending on weather conditions. While it does have its parameters these are distinctly different than human-made ones generated in colonial institutions. They are determined by the seasons and Anishinaabeg’s close observation of the physical and spiritual world. They are also determined by the laying of asemaa before the taking of something from the land and after being given something.

I have included only a few photographs, from hundreds taken, of the Traditional Anishinaabe University that I’ve been attending in Mississauga homelands since 2009. My intent in showing aspects of each season is to immerse the reader in Anishinaabeg consciousness from my point of view as an Anishinaabe woman who is engaged in biskaabiiyang (returning to myself).[16] The discussion accompanied with each photograph reveals that this education is not an individual, isolated process. It is based on on-going relationships with others, movement, mobility, flexibility, engagement with the physical and the spiritual, and a willingness to insert self into the rhythm of Anishinaabe life. This photo essay is meant to provide one example of what deepening a decolonized education that begins with a course in Indigenous Knowledges might look like.

Traditional Anishinaabe University is important for personal life and familial life. It requires us as individuals to commit to decolonizing our orientation towards institutions and immersing ourselves in who we are; it always involves our children. It is important for building relationships between local Anishinaabeg families and building relationships with other Anishinaabeg throughout our Nation in Anishinaabegogamig. All of this nurtures Nation-building in the sense that it resurges our Indigenous ways of being with each other. It nurtures the building of relationships between Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg families. It is also important for generating nogdawindamin because when we are on the land we are constantly in a state of respect, awe, and gratitude. This contributes to caring about each other as human beings. Traditional Anishinaabe University provides us with ways to respond to the colonial violence we have been enduring and continue to endure today. It provides us with ways to connect with our ancestors. It allows us to utilize our imaginations to conceive of new possibilities for our lives and the futures of our children. Anishinaabe Traditional University teaches us how to feed ourselves directly and in the taking of this mashkiki and miijim from the land we are compelled to be in a constant state of gratitude and humility. Decolonizing the academy, decolonizing education looks like participating in the university of the local Indigenous peoples on whom homelands universities reside; it looks like immersing oneself in this higher learning. I hope my narrative about Anishinaabe University provides some insight into the richness, sophistication, and relevance of such an education.

After the Ceremony

[1] Translated this means where the Mississauga Anishinaabeg live and work, the place Creation gifted to the Mississauga Anishinaabeg. Michi Saagiig Gichi Piitzijid Gidigaa Migizi (Mississauga Elder Doug Williams), personal communication, niibin (summer) 2011. Relative to my own context, it refers to Nogojiwanong (Peterborough, Ontario).

[2] Translated this means whatever pertains to being an Anishinaabe person. Helen Agger, Following Nimishomis: The Trout Lake History of Dedibaayaanimanook Sarah Keesick Olsen(Penticton: Theytus Book, 2008) 286.

[3] This means all the elements that make up the Anishinaabe way. Ibid..

[4] This means Elders. Alan Corbiere, ed., Gechi-Piitzijig Dbaajmowag: The Stories of Our Elders (Manitoulin Island: Ojibway Cultural Foundation, 2011)

[5] Wendy Makoons Geniusz, Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings (Syracue: Syracuse University Press, 2009) 9-10.

[6] The idea of flourishing life comes from Leanne Simpson, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Nishinaabeg Resurgence, Re-Creation, and a New Emergence (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Press, 2011).

[7] This is the Mississauga spelling of Anishinaabemowin.

[8] I do take photos of hunting and cleaning however these are for educational purposes for my daughter and myself. I also realize that many Anishinaabeg share photos of their hunting, fishing, and trapping experiences and in no way want my position to be viewed as commentary on this trend. In fact, I have been well informed by such photos in my own learning. I hope my discussion contributes in positive ways.

[9] “This project is about these women, paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, grandmothers. They have been cared for, they have been loved, and they are missing [or murdered].” Walking with our Sisters,

[10] I locate myself amongst scholars, activists, and artists who name, interrogate, and work to eradicate violence that is targeted specifically against Indigenous women. I also struggle a great deal with the elision that occurs when focussing only on violence against Indigenous women alone when two-spirit, people who identify as queer or trans, and men have experienced and continue to experience violence while living occupied by heteropatriarchal, capitalist, colonial nation-states. My thinking on gendered and sexualized violence against Indigenous peoples is influenced Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (Cambridge: South End Press, 2005; W.J. (Bill) Mussell, Warrior-Caregivers: Understanding the Challenges and Healing of First Nations Men (Ottawa: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2005); Qwo-Li Driskill et. al., Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2011); Neal McLeod, Gabriel’s Beach (Regina: Hagios Press, 2008); Gregory Scofield, Kipochihkân: Poems New & Selected (Gibson: Nightwood Editions, 2009); Qwo-Li Driskill, Walking with Ghosts: Poems (Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005); and, the stories of violence that have been shared with me by women, two-sprit, people who identify as queer or trans, and men. Post-script, December 16, 2012: And, children.

[11] Kim Anderson, ­Life Stages and Native Women: Memory Teachings, and Story Medicine (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2011); and, Gidigaa Migizi, (personal communication, ziigwan (spring) 2012).

[12] The abundance of Anishinaabe life is discussed in Simpson, Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back.

[13] The Anishinaabeg I know who are hunters and/or gatherers (i.e. manoominke) have shared numerous stories with me about the violence—physical, threats, verbal animosity—that they have experienced on the land. All of these stories have been shared by Anishinaabe men.

[15] Leanne Simpson employs storytelling in a language nest she leads in one of the Mississauga communities. The story of geese teaching Nokomis how to harvest and prepare manoomin so she could feed her hungry grandchildren is one of these stories.

[16] See footnote 5.

Addendum: A version of this essay was submitted to Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society in 2012 for consideration in their volume on decolonizing education. I made the mistake of also publishing it to Anishinaabeweziwin as well and after inquiring with the editor of DIES I was informed that the paper could not be considered given it was already self-published. I was surprised to later receive editing feedback from DIES on this essay but was also happy to have the intellectual labour from other scholars given to my ideas and format. The most salient edit was that the essay was descriptive and required more theorization. Admittedly, I thought the feedback was ironic given the context of a call for submissions, in pretty much any genre, on the subject of decolonizing education. After sitting with the feedback, discussing the feedback with Doug Williams, receiving guidance from Manulani Meyer, and seeing how well the paper was being received by academics, peers, and everyday people in both Canada and the US, I decided not to respond to the editing suggestions. To date, this essay continues to be the most viewed on my site, is regularly utilized in course readings at the university level (to my knowledge), and is utilized as a model for course assignments. Miigwech for all those who support my writing, thinking, and work in anishinaabeweziwin.