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

Month: October, 2014

Pottawatomi Food A Poem

Our Menu


Elk chorizo and egg burritos
Granola and yogurts
Puffed wild rice cereal
Deep fried squash french toast
Squash muffins
Squash doughnuts
Maple caramel sauce
Watermelon/apple juice


Buffalo hot dogs
Corn bread buns
Bbq quail
Squash soup
Wild rice stuffed acorn squash
Pizza with venison sausage
Salad with a pomegranate balsamic


5 spiced duck
Bake and cured salmon
Bean soup
Roasted red skin potatoes
Sweet potato pie
Pickled squash
Shaved squash and green beans


Paw paw ice cream
Watermelon sorbet
Squash cheese cake
Watermelon soda
Maple bacon candies
Deep fried maple leafs

* This exquisite menu, posted to a Facebook event, was planned and prepared by Angus Ogilvie and Jillian Collins as a Pottawatomi harvest celebration and feast held at Jijaak Foundation, a non-profit organization of Gun Lake Tribe ( Kevin Finney, Executive Director of Jijaak Foundation, hosted an amazing day of activities centering around Pottawatomi food sovereignty imbued with good old Jijaak fun and humour. Elders taught, babies, kidlets, and tweens played hard and some napped in the glow of the most majestic forest, women and men of all ages took steps to persist an old maandamin dance and song, and many of us learned so much today. Yebishawn OldShield shared with us the story of how she, with the help of her uncle Charlie’s knowledge on gardening, and a number of volunteers which included a core group of about three or four people, worked the gardens with heart, commitment, and hard work. Much of the food served at this festival was made from their many flourishing gardens at Jijaak. If there was ever a perfect dagwaagi (autumn) day in terms of place, people, spirit, and energy this harvest festival was it. Chi amiigawech akina agwaya for envisioning the good life; for sharing it, growing it, and proliferating it outward. I smell of fire smoke; my cheeks are burning from the wind, sunshine, and smiles; and, I’m left with anticipation that maybe next dagwaagi will be my year for deep fried maple leaves….

shift(y) states

when i was an indian
i used to think
my country.

when i was an indian
i used to think
my country

would never
to advance
greater cause

would never
the marginalized
mentally ill
or criminally thinking
to murder

would never
hand select
the perfect
collateral damage(s)

would never
good people with
a concoction
of psychological
warfear, false sense
of security,
and patriotism

would never
for greater cause.

when i was an indian
i used to think
my country.

Real-Life Arguments for the “R” Mascot: A Tragicomedy, in Quotes

Earlier this week, I attended a school board meeting that occurred in a community in lower western Michigan. Tagged with others via social media by a friend, I was made aware of the meeting and that the Board was opening the matter of their middle school mascot, the R’s, up for public commentary. The sense was that the community strongly supported keeping the mascot and that it might be beneficial to have as many of us there as possible to share our thoughts. Of course, all of us prompted to the meeting shared the same, or similar, views: the mascot is racist and we want better for all of our children. Although the matter is of public record, as is the name of the community and school board, I don’t name the school or town where this occurred for two reasons. One, this is a common issue in both Canada and the U.S. and therefore is not a phenomenon unique to the institution or community and given my purpose is to share insight into the phenomena and not the community, naming is not necessary in this case. Two, because I employ quotes to reveal one angle of the discourse at the meeting, I don’t particularly want to deal with the hate of angry white people or Indians should they ever come across something that reflects the truth of their baggage, here. Again though, I imagine the quotes are typical responses and while the theme of blood quantum is unique to a U.S. discourse, I feel the arguments could be heard at any meeting of the same nature anywhere in Turtle Island (i.e. U.S. and Canada). The people speaking these ideas in this context or elsewhere are not the problem; the ideology that allows a space for arguing for or against the mascot to even exist, the ideology that fuels the arguments, and the arguments themselves are the problem.

There’s so much to process but what I’m overwhelmingly left with—even days after the meeting—is the way racism was rationalized by the community members. Rationalized with more racism. Bi-zarre. I replay it and shake my head. I don’t feel rage, anger, disappointment, shock, or grief, which are some of the emotional responses people typically feel when exposed to racism; that I typically feel, too. What I am left with however is the realization that, for a few hours, all of us present were saturated in a display of white privilege, entitlement, racism, and odd identity issues. Upon reflection, I can’t help but sense that all of it was propelled at its roots by white supremacy and/or admiration for/ acquiescence to the dominant culture. I felt the Chair did a good job in ensuring dynamics didn’t escalate however in retrospect, I wonder how and why they let the racist statements occur and didn’t shut them down. I guess, if an entire institution is allowed to symbolize and use R as a mascot, and if the (un)acceptability of this itself is opened up for debate by “leaders” (which is RIDICULOUS by the way), then why would people within that institution or community draw boundaries on other racist comments? As evidenced by the meeting itself, they wouldn’t.

The things said were so incredulous that even the most racist, made me laugh. That’s all I could do–laugh, chuckle, and shake my head. I think my response, which was a new one for me, had to do with the fact that I was being vigilant for signs of escalation that might lead to physical violence or threats. (I actually removed all the markers of Anishinaabe-ness from my vehicle before I went in to the school.) In this light, racist commentary was laughable in the face of my concern for potential physical aggression or threats. I think my fears, founded on experiences others have had around resisting Indian mascots, warped my experience of the racist commentary in the room. I’m grateful for my peers, who weren’t impervious to it and repeatedly expressed their outrage about the meeting and the media coverage of it afterwards. Their reactions prompt me to reflect on how my own constant anti-racist work, and my fear of racialized violence, may distort my experience of racist comments today and into the future. It seems it’s so normal, I’ve come to expect that the best case scenario is no physical violence, which is sad. Have I become insensitive or obtuse to it or have I just accepted that we are living in a world structured by racism (as one of several subjugating social processes) and so because it is inevitable, have I decided the best course is to prioritize self-preservation and choose humour over heightened blood pressure? In this case, it seems so.

Anyhow, the purpose of this post is sort of my own way to debrief but most importantly  I want to document the bizarre and laughable arguments made in support of the R mascot at this school as a way to prepare others who may engage in getting rid Indian mascots in their community. We know there is a lot of work to do yet in this area. So, if you need that little something to launch you into a good cry read the following quoted recollections, some exaggerated. If you need some comic relief, they worked for me, maybe they’ll work for you. Mostly though, I share these so the bizarre-ness doesn’t take you off guard, when and if you find yourself in such a situation. I’m pretty sure, many of us have had, are having, or will have at some point in the future, the opportunity to respond to people or communities who have fierce love for Indian sports mascots. Maybe these quotes, culled from memory, will help prepare you for such an experience. With that, an R mascot tragicomedy, in quotes:

“I’ve lived here all my life and we’ve always enjoyed this mascot as long as we’ve had it. We can’t let a few bad apples ruin it for everybody. At some point somebody has got to stand up to these minorities and their complaining. I hope you have the courage to do it.”

“Everybody is going to be mad at us for something. The Indians will be mad at us for this just like I’m sure the colored’s are mad at us for slavery.”

“We’ve already lost our totem pole. We just lost our right to sing the tomahawk chant. What next? This is all we have left. The only symbol we have left. Are you going to take that away, too?”

“We’ve lost a lot, too. We just can’t lose anymore.”

“Our community has been through enough. If we lose this, it‘ll be too much.”

“I’m 1/235th Cherokee and I’ve gone to a pow-wow or two over there in [insert any city in Michigan] and my grandmother wah wah wah and I’m not offended by the R#$skins mascot.” I exaggerate with the 1/235th blood quantum; pretty sure it was 1/34567th Cherokee.

“I’m 1/18th Sioux and I’m not offended.”

“What will our children have to be proud of? They feel pride in their Indian ancestry when they see it.”

“Our boys! Our boys just love it out there on the field getting all pumped up for the games. You should see them! You should see their spirit. It’s gets them fired up to win. You can’t take it away from our boys.”

“I repeat, I’m 1/18th Sioux and I teach my children to see it in a positive light. The only reason you all see it as a bully thing is because that’s how you choose to look at it. You’re creating the problem when you choose to see it that way. If you would just stay positive and see it in a positive light, there would be no problem.”

^^^ Brilliant! This person has just solved all the problems of the world through advocating the powers of positive thinking AND they’ve identified the source of all the problems of the world: those of us who choose to see things negatively! Who would have thought?! And yet, despite the brilliance, people still felt the need to argue for the mascot…

“My wife is an Indian and she’s not offended.”

“Look, I’m not a racist. In fact, I just had a grandbaby born to our family who has Indian in him. I see nothing wrong with the mascot.”

“My wife’s an Indian and my two children are part Indian and they love the mascot. My sister in law is an Indian and once I talked to an Indian guy on the street and none of them is offended by the mascot.” Ok, I exaggerate. Buddy did not say he talked to an Indian on the street. But you get my drift.

“Listen, we don’t mean no harm by using this. We don’t mean to offend. It’s not our intent. Hell, my husband *puts her hand on her husbands back* is part Indian and he doesn’t have a problem with it.”

Note: Husband never moved or made a sound the whole time we were there.

“Look, I’m not a historian or a lawyer, I don’t have a degree in English but I’ll tell you this, I love our community and I think we need to bring this to an end. Let’s get rid of the mascot tonight and get rid of the Native history we teach in the school and nominate *points to old white guy in a wheelchair*. He’s a respected, known man in the community, has great values, loves this place and so let’s make him the mascot and call him a R#$skin. Let’s do that and get on to something that really matters, like literacy.”

^^ ??? Huh ??? ^^^

“Indians need to just get tough skin. Keep the mascot.”

“I used to be picked on when I was a kid in this community for being [insert Eastern European ethnicity] and that wasn’t nice. But that’s not what we’re doing here. This is not the same thing.”

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Which is obviously another way of saying, “Suck it up, buttercup. We want the R mascot to stay.”

“I’m 1/5th Indian and my kids are proud of our mascot.”

“I was walking down the hallway here at the school one day and my grandson seen me wearing my R#$skin shirt and he made a move to pull my jacket over it and said, ‘Cover that up don’t let anybody see!’ I mean look at what we’re doing to our kids. What are we teaching them?! I can’t even wear my shirt anymore!”

“I love my community, I love this school, and I love this mascot but you know with all this talk about getting rid of it, I’m starting to feel like a minority!”

The End.

binaakwi giizis

it’s everything, you know. the distance and travel, having all the homes and feels and we’re now living geometrically in a triangle waiting for the fourth place to call it because things happen like that. my heart. a heart can stretch like that. n’ode, it clings pathetic and righteous to the clean air left in the midst of windigos and zombies. if my heart had fingers they would be long and graceful, keying the grief, albeit in nanoseconds. still, my heart. n’ode. if my heart were a tongue, i would teach you to put ziinzaabaakwad on it once a year for the grief and loss, teach you to do this before all other things; I to you, too. and this, this is how we would love each other, well. this lagging in my mouth and heart, my brain, traveled from okemos across borders, real and imagined in real time and dream time and back, and now all the miles and kilometers stretching tendons in my left hip knotting up tendons and muscle in my left hip feels like the stains on her face, the ink stains on her face, ink blots of pale on cool white hovering in the night and cool air, odjig miinawaa maang right over there, twinkling in the new fall skies, eager, excited for the change. learning to live, to live with, learning to breathe in and out air and carbon monoxide mix forever brewing the alchemy of stories living in a body these years.

stories, brew, simmering. a gentle bubbling. a hot cup of medicine in a iron stained pot. a jig. a dance. a laugh. a wink.

a hot cup of tea. labrador, winter green, sweet gale, cedar brewing on the back burner while life happens. let it take care of itself back there, that old Mushkego woman said, let’s live life up here. you drink a cup of this everyday and all your (heart) ache will go away. grow a good story of pain, deceit, predation and walking through fire, walk through it ’til you get old. make a good one for your grandbabies, if you have any. make a good one anyways. tell someone everything when it no longer matters. when it becomes inconsequential; gotta keep it clean for the babies coming through, don’t leave your baggage for them. make a good cup of tea stain right there in your crows feet she said, pointing at my crows feet and shuffling her own over curled up linoleum etched with gritty love and booze, inconsequential moose hunts, and flirting. a hot cup of tea, spring tonic in dagwaagi, autumn. and, can you feel it? the pull? of river and cloud, of western spirits and roots simmering down for the night, the pull of dead leaves floating up in a gust of wind and let back down, rearranged. the pull of imagination and wonder.

med’cin. falling leaves medicine. the stories. a fire. a fire outside beneath a full moon, drop of tobacco and water, a berry. a shaker and drum. a song. a wondering. a wish raised up on a flicker of spark, a wisp of smoke. when nothing materializes, memory does.

roll that around.

the funk in my synaptic gaps isn’t a cold virus or a neurotransmitic (im)pulse gone astray, breaking away, isn’t a heart break, a yearning. it’s a stretching out of energy into a stringing of words together correctly and footnotes, digging deep for propriety and settling on the surface in the politics of poise, not poetry or rhythm let loose from finger tips. tat-a-taptap on keyboards. tat-a-taptap kind of truth. eya. kaa. the funk in my bones isn’t stuck there. go outside girl, check life out this night. open up the god damn window and breathe. the funk between my tendons and cells isn’t you. or longing. it isn’t because it’s easily thrust away into oblivion with all the things, all the feels of this full life blessed and propelling, being pulled into life’s longing for itself.

that anishinaabe, anishinaabeg in her folds.

yes. here in the folds of life herself.

it’s you in me and she draws you out. no use though. you want to live here. so you do. live with it then. live with it well. i do. i do not fight it.

looking up at night the cool air on my neck i recall falling leaves and the smell of rot as we circled the bend of our time but i loved it anyways. the smell of going no where felt good in the moment. going no where anywhere over a long distance that would never find an end with you, was interesting. i smelled decay coming around the bend and sniffed it out. sniffed it out as though it was walking towards me. can do that when you’ve been raised in a kind of home. can smell the decay and rot a mile away. but i won’t turn. not ever. won’t turn like a dead beautiful leaf signifying sugar in my roots, my moon, falling, twisting to the ground just to hit repeat. no, not me. i won’t turn. keep walking up through the forest of fire because its safe here. safe here in spring and fall. safe here in fasting season, in my heart fasting.

it’s you and she draws it out at night, an old man, old time anishinaabe ikawe, nini, aango’ikawe drawing the sickness out through a bone, a bleached out bone sucked marrow dry and then you, too. suck the sickness out like, chachiigijige. suck you out like marrow sickness.

chachiigijige. akiwenzii, my chum teaches me lots. how to eat plain like those old ones. how can they eat plan with maple syrup as ketchup, with words like chachiigijige, i wonder. nothing plain about that.

or panjige. sop it up good with bread.

fall foods. waste not.

this binaakwi giizis isn’t a cliché white dude doing his magazine commercial walk and life and nothing wrong with him doing his thing but i wonder what would he think of anishinaabe thinking about marrow and chachiigijige’n bones in the bush and raising up asemaa to odjig on the horizon, Nokomis sinking in the night sky behind a flaming forest. what would he think? what would he think about even us writing about it without capitals? what would the marketers think? the ec-dev’ers? the elitists?

anishinaabe’ ikawe harvesting wiigwas in place of getting mizise for supper. thoughts?

no meat; a good fire started with wiigwaas will do. anishinaabe’ikawe going outside at night to move the funk around in her body. look up and zaasaakwe out loud, put that asemaa down gentle and slow, almost wanting the middle class professional neighbours to see this ancient movement of body. rise up again with mindimoyen, one who carries the world with her, her words in my spine, soles, and soul. of all the women, she gives me hell and she clears the way, giving me permission to be even in the middle of giving me hell, lucky me, there’s actually two of her informing me, all feminine. what would he think of us here doing our kinship tie thing while he doing his Land’s End tie thing?

drawing out the funk from deep within, tripping well through to the next cycle, living the good life, even here, in this place. this third den on the horizon of this life. building a constellation here on the turtle’s back.

and Nokomis, this is all for you. my kind of prayer without ishkode in this space with so much to love. still though, you draw me out to the real. amiigawech Nokomis, aapidjii nendam for drawing it out, you up there sitting in coolness with ink stains all over your pale, round face. amiigawech for the cooling and the drawing me out, pulling on these waters.