zhigaagawanzhiig found us, nongom!

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

being away from nogojiwanong home for almost a year has been lovely in its own ways but it’s been hard as well because we’re away from the land doing the things we’ve become accustomed to over the last several years. there is so much to be grateful for here but without the familiar haunts and people, of course it will be different. this time of year, we would be out with our friend, Doug, spearing (he spears, me and ndaanis and whomever is with us help pole the boat around) and harvesting leeks, fiddleheads and asparagus. i know where to get morels but it’s a two hour drive and so, still waiting for those babies to make an appearance. i’ve been dreaming about all this anyways and craving the minerals, smells, and tastes of all these foods-medicines. minokimii is an amazing time of year. aki constantly gives us so much: sugaring runs into spring harvest into gitigaanke into fishing and berry, bark, and plant harvesting into manoominke and duck and goose hunting into deer and turkey hunting into winter with more fishing. life is full and busy and it makes me and ndaanis filled up and grateful. there is no better life. anyhow, when in a new place it takes time to learn about the land and for the land to know you. we’ve been pretty awed by the deer close by, the eagles, the hawks, rabbits, all kinds of small birds, spring peepers, and fireflies. we know where to get mokjiwanibiish (which is an hour away). so all this has been amazing. but, since i’m only here temporarily on a time-limited project, it makes little sense to try to find all the things. that said, i still put it out there to creation when i am out and about: it would be nice to see some miijim growing. to make itself known to us while we’re here.

anyhow, today we decided to get some air-time and walking-running time along a new trail i spotted a few months ago. today was a good day to go check it out. it was abwaa and zaagate. the rest of the story, i’ll tell with pictures. if it’s not obvs, we were pretty filled up, giggly, and grateful.

zhigaagawanzhiig zhigaagawanzhiig (onions)

leeks! ramps! or, onions (because it’s the only anishinaabe word i could find. if anyone knows the proper word, please share in the comment section.) [not seen: the fence we had to slip through to get here. 😉 I figured if buddy could pitch a tent on the other side of the river and fish around here and there then anishinaabe’ikawe amiinawaa ishkiniig’ikawe can harvest miijim in their ancestral lands].


after the asemaa goes down with some words, the food comes up. because we only had earbuds and phones, we had to make due with found tools. we were down with it. the smell of dirt and pungent mashkiki….mmmmm.


makoons tool & aki & plants makes for a big happy!


mama bear tool makes for a big haul! I started out with fingers; then a little stick; and then fairly soon into it i was thinking about anishinaabeg women back in the day and thought ppsshh. like heck they did it like this. they would have found a decent digging tool. so, i found one. it worked like a charm. i’ve been saying it for awhile now, every ikawe needs to have digging tools in her bundle.


urban onion in’yuns

aapidjii nendam! happiness is dirty hands, dirty nails, and fingers that smell like onion; nostrils cleared out from that strong, aroma of earth and powerful spring life.

yeababyLEAKSyea, baby! zhigaagawanzhiig inna city!

urbanonioninyunpowerUNITEzhigaagawanzh power unite!

definately diggin’ doing what we love. we were pretty stoked that zhigaagawanzhiig found us. despite all the cement, fencing, cars, and pavement.

zhigaagawanzhiigROOTSleavesredgreendirtlove in the kitchen, i

zhigaagawanzhiigHORIZONTALlove in the kitchen, ii

leekROOTS love in the kitchen, iii

zhigaagawanzhiigCLEANEDlove in the kitchen, iv

it’s like wiishkabaaboo… you get a lot from the tree but once you’ve worked it, it’s just real small. and yet, the mino mashkiki in it…….

these zhigaagawanzhiig will be used in a closing feast for a class i teach and the rest will be used in a quiche imma whip up for the folx at anishinaabemowin class. we’ll all just have some awesome anishinaabe breathe!


chi amiiagwech gizhe manidoo amiinaawaa aki. you made some anishinaabe happy today!

zhigaagawanzhiig – onions; I’m using it here to represent leeks/ramps until otherwise informed
nongom – today
nogojiwanong – place name for mississauga anishinaabeg, souteastern ontario
ndaanis – my girl
gitigaanke- making a garden
minokimii- later spring; that time when the green starts popping out of aki
aki – universe, earth, land
manoominke – rice
miijim – food
mokijiwanibiish – spring water
aabwaa – warm
zaagate – sunshine-y
anishinabe’ikawe – anishinaabe woman
anishinabe ishkiniig’ikawe – young anishinaabe woman
amiinawaa – and
wiishkaabaaboo – sap (maple)
asemaa – tobacco as medicine, spiritual offering
mashkiki – medicine
chi amiigawech – many/big thanks
gizhe manidoo – kind, compassionate, loving mystery; creator