A Kind of Anishinaabe Love Story

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

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.