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

Month: February, 2014

A Kind of Anishinaabe Love Story

A Kind of Anishinaabe Love Story

Trent University’s student newspaper made a call for love related submissions for the pre-February 14th publication. I decided to share an Anishinaabe story about Nanaboozhoo that I reworked from an earlier reworking. I’ve heard the gist of this story and read it in various places many times over the past several years. For me it’s akin to the Nanaboozho and the Duck story. Everybody’s heard it, versions of it are published everywhere, it is rarely cited to one source but rather just shared and/or acknowledged as being passed from a family member who also heard it from a family member.

Such is the nature of Anishinaabe collective knowledge, collective oral tradition?

Anyhow, I first wrote this out from the remnants of a Nanaboozhoo and Smartberries story that were in my memory and I wrote it in response to the context I was in last December 2012: teaching students in Indigenous Literature at Trent University, entering into the season of story-telling, and recognizing the high stress levels of students at the end of term, heading into exams. That versions, published as a “Note” on my Facebook was edited into this piece published in the Arthur.

As a final interesting note, I hoped to use the Anishinaabe word for smartberry in the Arthur publication however was not able to recall it or find my source. Since that time, I have been able to find it: nibwaakaaminens, meaning smart berry or smart pill; nibwaakaaminensan for plural. The stem, nibwaakaa, is a verb, meaning to be wise, intelligent. (“Glossary”, Oshkaabewis Native Journal, 8 (1), Spring 2011: 139). Now the way to know a word, and the way to know this word more…to be closer to the truth of it would be to understand how it is being used, to know the context in which is it used. I’ve searched the journal front to back for the story that this word is used in but have not yet been able to find it. I continue to look..word by word by word. 🙂 When I find that story that uses this word, I’ll try to figure out how it’s used and then come back and share some more about this word, nibwaakaaminens. Until then, how about a little Anishinaabe love story?


The following is an Anishinaabemowin source for one publication of this story:

Gaa-kiikinaajimod ZHAAWANOOWININI (Collins Oakgrove), “Nenabozho Miinawaa Onibwaakaaminensan.” Oshkaabewis Native Journal, 1(3), 1991: 167-168. Appeared in print in South-western Chippewa, A Teaching Grammar by Giles L. Delisle, Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota, 1970. It is retold here by the above mentioned language teacher.

Nana'b'oozhoo & His Family

Nana’b’oozhoo and His Family

In the spirit of getting to know Nana’b’oozhoo a little more, above, a diagram of he and his family, as taken from Basil Johnston’s The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995).

Starting with Nana’b’oozhoo, the youngest of four brothers, to the left are Cheeby-aub-oozoo, Pukawiss, Maudjee-kawiss. Winonah, their mother, is the daughter of Nokomis.  When Winonah died days after giving birth to Nana’b’oozhoo, Nokomis cared for him thereafter.

Ae-pungishmook is the spirit of the west & Winonah is the first breast feeder (personal communication, Elder Doug Williams, abi’aboon 2011, Nogojiwanong [Peterborough]). She is human with spirit-like attributes and birthed her babies about a generation about (e.g. 20 – 25 years). Maudjee-kawiss means first son (this is his second name; first born daughters are named Maudjee-quawiss); Pukawiss means the disowned (this is his second name as well); and, Wau-boozoo, meaning white tail in reference to the rabbit, later became named Cheeby-aub-oozoo meaning the ghost of rabbit.

Super Bowl MMMM (x a million)

oooooo tibi giizis
cradled deep and low
waning slow
this aanshin giizis

great tilt and silver
a sliver hanging light
holding this night
heaving with snow

ooooo nokomis
cradled deep and low
anishinaabe super bowl
four billion years old

hiy! hiy!

tibi giizis – night sun; moon
nokomis – grandmother, kinship term for tibi giizis
aanshin giizis – turning around moon; reference to makwa (bear) turning around in her den preparing to give birth; February

*chi amiigawech to gichi piitzijig Edna Manitowabi and Doug Williams for teaching my daughter and me about this moon cycle and her meanings through language and ceremony. it is everything.

1) In North America, today is widely known as NFL Super Bowl XLVIII, a national football league known for utilizing imagery of Indigenous peoples, imagery that is racist and dehumanizing. Today, ahead of the Super Bowl game, the National Congress of American Indians released a video titled, “Proud To Be”. The video highlights all the preferred and dignified ways in which Indigenous peoples are known and simultaneously resists the racist name of one football team, the Washington R—–. This video was released through Indian Country Today Media at
2) In roman numerals, M is 1000.