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

Month: July, 2014

manoomin giizis

she looks like manoomin
thin, curved in wind
the colour of niibin,
full and long
still on the stalk
in water

she looks refreshing
(after sweating
with a lover
or a sweat
with others,
in prayer)

she looks
like miin giizis
is over
and so, too
this last juicy berry
rolling around
on my tongue

a distance,
hello and goodbye
to glowing green
settling down
for the night
in dew & sprinkler-
drenched lawn

she looks like
home, homesick
and my bundle
flying all shimmery
into the future

a sly, playful
sideways smile
in gold and champagne
harvest and full,
preparing to burst
preparing to burst

most of her
in the dark,
round and full
most of her, dark

miin giizis



all things miin giizis in strands of bead, vintage filter

all things blueberry moon
all things nibi and dibi giizhik
all things water and night sky

not included:
waawaatesiwag (fireflies)
anungoonhsag (constellations)


amiigawech to those social media ikawewag

Anongoonhs Kwe
Shirley Williams

for reminding me
how Anishinaabeg
know July

the first (anishinaabe) supper

minobimaadizwin (the good life) is having access to healthy food, having access to healthy anishinaabe miijim (food).

anishinaabe miijim, it’s also mashkiki (medicine).

what  better smell than that of a lake boiling on top of your stove?
the smells of a north western ontario lake coming from manoomin, boiling in my kitchen.

setting up shop in a new place requires such ceremony.

steam and fragrance
rise up
from iridescent bubbles.

a different kind of smudge.


the first supper

atikameg (whitefish, smoked)

manoomin (rice)
miinan (blueberries)
miskwamin (raspberries)
ziigamide (maple syrup)

cuz now i got fireflies

back home, at the mouth of the river home, it seemed if i wanted you in my life i had to go find you. searching. always a longing for, always an adventure in the searching, peering, stretching of optics beyond the slight rise in the hill, the gentle turn in the road. window down to let navy blue float in, gravel sounds, late night birdsongs, and amphibians mating. or something. over time, figured you out. knew where you’d be. what exact meadow, what patch of land, grass. grasses. long, thin, silhouettes against spruce spires and cedar settler fences. long, elegant grasses tangled up in each other because they seemed to want to be. hard to tell though, in the dark.

i got to know you and knew where you’d be. back home, at the mouth of the river home, it seemed i was always putting down my tobacco for you. when i closed my eyes puttin’ it down when i open my eyes puttin’ it down when i blinked away an eyelash or copper cup of tears puttin’ it down and, too, when you flew before me. always puttin’ down my tobacco for you. and the means to you, that old daaban. as it should be, too. always puttin’ that tobacco down just puttin’ it down like that.

geez. ain’t you something.

here in this little place of (grandmother and) little chief, you flick on and off, back and forth, unexpectedly everywhere it seems everywhere in this old daaban there you are, back and forth, off and on, glowing bright at night. flying dark during the day, such substance. there you are everywhere and it seems the season of you just doesn’t want to end. in this new light, you’re different. i appreciate you more in your mad love for life in the nightlight, moonlight, parking lot light, day light. i appreciate you more in your maddening love for me–my dashboard light, dim headlights, waivering heartlight. there you are beneath fireworks meandering behind metal fences and bushes, brighter than any first or fourth brighter than any blood shed heart bled from broken. there you are off and on outside this doorstep sitting and you don’t even care if it’s dark you don’t even care if it’s light rural road or city you don’t even care just care to be witnessed just care to be flying floating around with your black wings at day, luminescent ass at night.

blink. blink. blink. mesmerizing patterns.

on to you, friend, on to you and i love you.

i love you cuz now i got fireflies at night on old country roads, silent and alone and driving down city streets, headlights on low.

Translations (or, Translates Like Crap, as Helen Roy would say):

mouth of the river – nogojiwanong, peterborough
daaban – car
fireflies – waawaatesiwag
little chief – okemos

home is the people

where home
is a person,
not a place

home is
the people

cuz i got
fireflies here
and baby bunnies, too
golden rod
i got Her here
(at least half a moon)
rain and sunny days
carried over from june
i got streets
and cars
shopping malls
and phone

i got

where home
is a person
not a place

where home
is the people

Firecracker Moon

Another day of thinking through, feeling, negotiating, compromising with my body and the feeling of not going

and the feeling of going.

the feeling of (not) going to the festivities of the day. I was more than happy to be out of Canada on July 1st and I’m more than happy to be in America on July 4th but the feeling of tension, never too far away, on days like today.

Yesterday, the local radio station host went on about the Fourth and Christianity and the blessed lives ‘we’ all live here in America. I looked around at the pedestrians walking, as I was driving about Michigan State University: Did you hear what I just heard? Did I hear this right?

Does he know about water and Detroit? It’s only a few hours away. Does he know about Native American history and Slavery? Does he know does he know does he know know know …

Wha—what? Yes.

Yes, he said that. Yes, he did.

I turned it off. Kept driving.

That was yesterday.

I turned it off and kept keepin’ on most of today too.

Um, well, keepin’ on meaning wrestling with the genius that is my body all day and trying to turn it all off.

Turn off the fact of fireworks and rah rah and trying to keep in tune with my child’s needs: she wants to go.

She hasn’t said so but I know she wants to. We talked about it a few days ago because these thing always take planning and processing. A few days ago I felt strong and open to going to the Fourth of July fireworks—strong enough to shut out their meaning; strong enough to shut out the people celebrating. I was happy to tell her we would go back then and this morning, unintentionally pulled her into my ambiguous heart (again): sudden panic of being amidst patriots celebrating colonization turned independence on the dead backs of so many Indigenous, African, impoverished Europeans, and and and … all that.

I tell her how I feel.

Her voice and face tells me how she feels.

She never uses words to resist, protest the burdens of our collective, shared truth of colonization.

She knows.

She’s too young to know.

She’s not too young to know.

We’ve been here before. Every time there’s a holiday or something. I tell her I want her to be happy but my body, my body is a genius and it tells me to stay away.

I hear her voice, “Okay mom.”

I think of her memories when she is a woman. Turmoil. Tumultuous, ambivalent turmoil. My mom, the woman who was always conflicted. My mom, the woman who had a hard time letting go for a minute and allowing happy.

If I’m lucky, she’ll get me. She’ll get it. She’ll be okay with it all.

I think of memories she doesn’t know about: all the fireworks we went to alone, just she and I during the time I used to think of ‘my broken marriage’. I remember going to the Canada Day fireworks in the summer and Bon Soo fireworks in the winter year after year with her on my chest or in her stroller and me, filled with loneliness and pain about not fitting the family status-quo and fiercely determined to not succumb to that loneliness and pain because I knew that was a made-up world to make me feel that way, as a woman, a mom; me with my girl and us there at the fireworks. Her looking up. Little round face, bright eyes.

Her looking up. Me, looking at her face.

Her face, my fireworks.

I remember always, consistently feeling free in that moment. Those moments.


Free from the lonely.

Free from the constraints of not fitting the status quo, family-wise.

Free to be happy and feel joy.

I was free to move my body to a place of happiness and magic. I was free to move her to those same spaces. I was free beneath those fireworks. She was free with me.

Even if just for a moment.

A breathing hole of fireworks in the sky is still a breathing hole.

It’s 8:06 p.m. and before I end this:

I searched through boxes and boxes for this one book that has a word that’s perfect for today. I searched and searched and there it was, under my arse: unpacked book boxes piled on top of each other, my temporary make–shift kitchendesk chair. There it was: Frank K. Blessing Jr.’s anthropological book where he wrote down his observation of the Ojibway Indians. In that book, he says that the Anishinaabe knew this month as bah pahshkee gay gee zis ah bi tuh nee bin o gee zis and that this was the name used as far back as Cecelia Blakely’s grandmother’s memory (227).

This word, yes, problematic, and even in my limited understanding of the language, I can tell that maybe there are two phrases here to describe this moon time. But, I’m going to suspend the ‘wrong’ temporarily so that I might find a bit of breathing space through the part of his translation that I like:

firecracker moon.

July is Firecracker Moon.

Firecracker Moon, according the memory of some old Anishinaabe women.

That’s good enough for me.

If they could (go with the flow and) name our whole moon cycle after today, than surely I can step away from rejecting it completely. Surely I can do this for something better. And just like I’m going to temporarily step away from the limitation of this anthropological translation, I’m going to step away from awareness that it is very likely that, while some are not really celebrating american independence as much as they are socializing or having family time, many of the people who will be at the park are celebrating something that has harmed so many, including the Anishinaabeg and our relative Nations. I’m going to suspend that and allow myself the freedom to experience magic and joy this evening, and some freedom: she’s going to watch the fireworks and be happy and I’m going to see if I can see all that reflecting in her eyes.

Mino giizhigad. Chi amiigawech gizhewe manidoo gaa miizhyaang miinawaa chi amiigawech pawaamanag.