all the elements that make up anishinaabe life through ojibway makwa ikawe embodiment + anishinaabe feminist lens

Month: January, 2013

Briarpatch’s 2nd Annual Creative Writing Contest: The Shortlist

Briarpatch’s 2nd Annual Creative Writing Contest: The Shortlist


The lovely Zainab Amadahy

Kristyn Dunnion

Bretton Loney

Ryan Dodington


Have I said ‘whoa’ yet? 

Divided No More: Mindimoyenh & the Pipe Ceremony

Divided No More: Mindimoyenh & the Pipe Ceremony

This is an edited version of the original short story I published here on January 10th, 2013.

The website is created and moderated by Christi Belcourt and hosts several other fabulous articles on being divided no more during the INM revolution! 

Mindimoyen & The Pipe Ceremony

                                                                                    and then that mindimoyen, gichi piitzijid, that old one, that elder, that woman said her words:

Kwey Kwey (in the language of The People on whose land her feet stood)

Wachay (in the language of the One who was living there and giving up her life there, for The People)

Waynaboozhoo (in the language of her own People who acknowledge their greatest teacher in all things)

Se:ko, Taanshi, Tanisi, and Greetings in all the languages of all the Peoples of Our Lands. And, hello, bonjour for those who are still coming to learn their Mother’s tongue and their mothertongue, as well for those here in this circle who are not from this land but truly stand beside us, with full mind, heart, spirit, and body or are bound to us through your children.

               and in this way she went on acknowledging the People who came to partake in spirit and ceremony with each Other through the power of paawagan–the pipe, on that island. in this way she went on to speak her loving, reverent words to the directions and all the spirit families that live in each of the directions, live there in a continuous cycle of giving life. in this way she acknowledged all of life: seen & unseen, forgotten & remembered; present, past, and future; human and non-human. in this way, she acknowledged and humbly asked their presence. in this way, she and the People sang songs of life, of gratitude, of the coming dawn, of prophecy, of hesitancy, of joy, of lament, of warriorship, of life in the morning, of offering medicine, of butterflies and bears and rain…

                                                                                                                                                                                                               the island shivered.

mindimoyen then turned to those who stood beside her and spoke quiet words to them. her eyes watered; she looked down. she gave them each something and hugged them. she turned to the People and spoke her words:

The people here beside me have given up their life for the next few days to help me with this pipe ceremony and in that they have given up their life to help you. It matters not how they dress. If you see a man who is not in a ribbon shirt, ask yourself why you do not see the man who has placed himself here with Us. If you see a woman who is not in a skirt, ask yourself why you do not see the woman who has endured much to be here amongst Us. If you see a child running here and there,  this is a good thing that your eyes still let you recognize a child’s play. If you see someone who looks like neither man nor woman or who looks like both man and woman, see Them. These people beside me are Our Helpers. It is all of our responsibility to ensure their needs and the needs of their family are taken care of well while we are here.

                                                                                                                          and then she said her words:

For the past few moons the People have been rising, moving, dancing, writing, singing, blocking, walking, standing firm, standing up, reading, talking, laughing, fighting, crying, thinking, blogging, tweeting, driving, flying, giving interviews, educating, holding town hall meetings, strategizing, judging, joining, being included, being excluded, beading, hunting, snaring, being secure, being confused, being sure, making art, watching, listening, dreaming, praying, smoking, fasting, and starving….

The People have been doing this because The People have been compelled to do this. We are doing this as One. We have Helpers, too.

Those who have made Treaty with us, or agreements with us, or say they will make agreements with us are continuing to kill our People and are making moves to kill our Mother. They tried to kill our People when we did not want to Treat; they try now that we are in Treaty. They would do this to their own People as well. To the same Mother that will feed their children’s children. There are those of Our People who are a part of this.

My words are plain. I don’t dabble in eloquence over such things so please understand. If you are uncomfortable with these words, please understand; swallow your discomfort, hold it close in a bundle lovingly and listen with an open mind and heart. These days will be your chance to listen to those around you. These days will be your chance to use your words, your heart words, your thinking words, the words of your spirit.

             that old woman, she kneeled down on that old, worn out hudson bay blanket and she prepared Paawagan. she held him close to, lovingly. she rubbed the salt water from her eyes on his stem. she whispered into her bowl. she whispered into that asemaa (tobacoo) pressing her lips against her knarled hand. she held him & her and them up in all directions.

she smiled. 

the island shivered. 

mindimoyen spoke her words:

We are here on the matter of Windigo consuming us for hundreds of years. We are here in recognition that there are divisions amongst us, uncertainties. There is confusion. There is fear. We are hear because we want to be together. We want to be with each other in our closeness and in our distance. We are here to smoke this pipe and speak our words so that at the end of it, at the end of our dealing with Windigo and Windigo’s Helpers, we remain together as the Original Peoples of Turtle Island honouring first our Mother.

We remain together as the Original Peoples of Turtle Island honouring first our Mother.

Honouring first, Our Mother, for all time.

For those of us who believe that dealing with Windigo for the good of those of us living in sheds and with no water, please use your words and help us understand your heart and mind. Killing our Mother to feed our People makes no sense to this old woman. There are those here who also do not understand. My words are plain. Please hold your discomfort and hear me. Do not deceive yourself. Windigo is Windigo. There is no other way to say it or explain it. Windigo gets Power from our land in a different way than we get Power from our Mother. Windigo gets Power by taking us away from the land and animals and the lessons she has to teach us. Those who suffer in poverty amongst us do so because there is too much distributed to a few of us and we have forgotten the give away ceremony and we have forgotten to teach it. For those of us that think Windigo can be outsmarted, let it be so. Speak your words then here so that we can know your heart and mind and still stand on our Mother, with our Ogitchidaakwewag and her Helpers, and simultaneously beside you, in spirit, as you go on that path. If this is to be your way, let us, Your People, put you out on that Path in a good way, with all of us and your Protectors, your Power. If you intend on being a kind of Warrior that goes after Windigo, let your Self be known to us. Let your methods be known to us Your People, to this sacred shkode (fire) and mokijiwanibiish (spring water), these medicines, and all the manidooyag that are here with us at this very time. Let us know what you are doing so we can decide how to be with you. Your words often sound like those of Windigo and it is hard to tell what your meaning is. Your actions are not clear and create mistrust.

Tell us what Power you align yourself with? That of your Mother and Gizhewe Manidoo? Or, that of the institutions built by Windigo; the visions painted by Windigo?

For those of us who stand with our Mother and wish nothing to do with Windigo, speak your truth about that decision. Tell us why you stand where you do, how you do? Is it because you are not brave enough to face Windigo? Is it because you are brave enough to not face Windigo? Is it because you will not leave her side. Tell us your heart and mind and speak your words.

For those of us who are divided in our heart and mind. Talk about that. Give that to us to carry, give that to shkode, drink some mokijwaniibiish. Take your time, Be still. Tell us how you are able to be here and there at the same time. Tell us how you are unable to be here and there at the same time.

I am an old woman. I know where I stand. I am here with these Helpers and we are here for you. We are no better than you or no less. We will also share our words when the time comes.

Ahaaw. Let’s smoke.

*saasaakwe* (call out to the spirits)

                                             paawaagwan went around. the spirit of voice and listening went around. it took a long, long time. much was learned about each other. much became clear. the differences between the People became understood.

                                                                                                                                                                     the island shivered.

turtle island grew. 

                                                                mindimoyen said her words:

Now we know where we stand. Now we understand each other. Paawagun has given herself, himself, themselves to us to know Peace. Even in our differences that manidoo (spirit) is between us. Let us be together for our Mother first on these next few days. Then, let us come together again to discover how we might stop the suffering of our People by our own two hands, and lands, and gifts given to us by Creation. This is the medicine that will kill Windigo. Ahaaw. Mii sa iw.

                                                                                                                                and she spoke those words of thanks for the Spirits who came, the Pipe, the Helpers, and the People. she said the word that acknowledges all of our relatives. 

                     the next day, those Warriors and the People went over there to meet with Windigo. those other Warriors had a meeting of their own with The People in the land of the Buffalo. and those Warriors who were starving they stayed there, with The People on that Island, just across from where Windigo orchestrates. The People went the ways that were best for them. The People were still one in their own ways. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                       the Pipe was between them and so was the understanding that Mother is the priority, then the People. 

On Respecting Mushkego Ogitchidaakwe’s Path

much has been written on

good intentions,

much has been done with

good intentions,

from that place of






job creation

telling women

how to dress

how to act

how to wear

     our hair,

for our own


who to love

how to love


much has been taught about Anishinaabe law

has been spoken about Respect

for personal autonomy

for non-interference

for the spiritual responsibilities

that come to us

in song




personal autonomy

that is bound to


much has been said

about telling

Mushkego Ogitchidaakwe

to end her hunger strike,

for caring, good intention


little has been said

about respecting

her decision

and standing beside

her and her family

and her community,

little has been said

about holding

our own fears

and respecting her decision,

trusting it.

little has been said

on this by us,

us with our

full bellies,

our neighbours

who are not living

in sheds,

our young mothers

who can feed their babies,

men who are living with dignity,

Elders who are comfortable

in their changing bodies.

we do not

have to witness

genocide of those

we live with,

work with,

and love


and yet

we would

tell Ogitchidaakwe to

end her hunger strike,

go home

and witness that

which we do not

have to.

we would tell her to

end her hunger strike

instead of saying

“This is how I will

try to

ease the pain

your people

are enduring

and you are


watching them.

I will


Her People.

the beautifully awesome


her Mushkego land

grew up into

beautifully awesome


as Indigenous women

who starve ourselves

in all the ways we do

in our homelands,

we know what

we are doing

and why

we are doing it.

we have thought

it through.


the thing too.

Elder’ed about it.

listened to our Dreams.

we have bound

ourselves to our


our ancestors

our children

our nation

our land

and we are



we are



to do the things

we do.

we are Indigenous

women in our


and we know

what we are doing.

we know what

is best for our Selves,

Our Children,

Our Communities,

Our Nations.

that is why we do

what we do,

as strange

or scary

of awful

as it seems.

for the Indigenous Men of AFN at this time of transformation

I wrote the following poem in 2009 for my manuscript City & Cedar. She is a woman’s voice watching a man or men in her life go out there into the public Canadian arena while she tends the home fires: family, kinship ties, ceremony, land & relationship with land. She is a gentle pulling on him for 400 years to not forget, to not be swayed by the short-term gems & pressures heteropatriarchal capitalist colonialism (the kind of colonialism that puts man in the centre, erases fluid genders, forces male-female relationships, and puts wealth-generation and material status first) has to offer. She is a gentle reminder that he needs her and all Indigenous peoples of his community, his Nation, to change the colonial, occupied world we live in. She is a gentle, compassionate woman calling out to him, holding him accountable to the People and Her.


In the past few days, I have spent a lot of time thinking of Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo, Canada’s National Chief for the Assembly of First Nation (AFN). And his mother; wondering about the women in his life. I have been thinking of the male dominance of AFN and how they recently had the opportunity to make Dr. Pam Palmater the National Chief but chose not to, choosing to re-elect Shawn Atleo again. I think about the mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, partners, significant women, friends, colleagues, mentors, teachers, Elders, in their lives. I imagine these women and people are calling out to them to get their attention. While I centre Chief Theresa Spence, the women of Idle No More, and Pam Palmater in the revolution that is happening today, the ubiquity of colonial power and it’s entanglement with AFN must be engaged with. I think this poem from 2009 fits what is happening today.

nogsho wo (to call attention to someone)

go on up ahead there

walk     talk     be in the light.


remember me

back here

holding our heart,

remember to pause    and walk back to me

because it’s hard to get certain kinds

of the many Progress People out there

to slow down.


remember how to be brave     all your relations     your past

remember the future     the reason you are There in the first place,

do this so you can     in the very moment needed

call on all your words, your strength, your power* (if you have to)

so you can tell them

that you need

to walk back to me


talk to me

about the glories

and the struggles

and then sing to me

your moments of crumble

so that i can walk with you

to humility,

head up or head down

i will listen to you eagerly.


when you’re done sharing your knowledge


and be eager,

to ask me what i think,

what i feel,

what i know,

what i have smelled on the ground,

seen in the sky,

ask me about three different trees growing from one dead

about murmurs within buildings and between

ask me how my body is working and what it says

what comes of prayers when my lips are on the earth

or melting falling snow


in this way you will

walk     talk     be in the light

with new life


in this way     We

can push the boundaries

that shape our world.

* For Indigenous peoples, power comes from our relationships with the land, the animals, the language, our ceremonies, and the materials we make and utilize to manifest, feast, and affirm our powers. This is different than the power humanely inscribed and taken away in hierarchical colonial institutions.