the shortest day of the year to be Anishinaabe

by waaseyaa'sin Christine Sy

turns out, this year, to be one of the best days of the year to be Anishinaabe.

Let me explain.

First, it’s winter solstice.

That means, the light is coming back.

Yay! The light is coming back.

And in Lekwungenwaki, the dark is dark and the dark is long so the light coming back is a hella good reason to sing a song:

waaaaaaaaaay-hey-yaah, way-hey-yaaa-hey-ohhh

waaaaaaaaaay-hey-yaaah, way-hey-yaaa-hey-ohh

way-hey-yaA-way-hi-ohh

way-hey-yaA-way-hi-ohh

way-hey-yaa, way-hey-yaa

wey-hey-yaa-hey-ohhhhh

Next, this year, I was sick as an animosh the last few days and being in that not-here world made me remember some things about anishinaabe medicine. Some winter medicine things. Some hot liquid things. Some boiling bones down to get the minerals and vitamins into my body things. Broth things. giigooNh aaboo things.

Yea, that’s right. Some fish broth things.

I remembered in 2013 when INM started and shortly thereafter then-Chief Theresa Spence  embarked on her fast in protest of Canada’s dishonourable relations with her nation, the Muskego nation. I remembered how her fast only included taking fish broth daily as a way to keep her healthy and strong while fasting from everything else. I remembered how my friend and teacher, Gidigaa Migisi taught those of us with questions, about fish broth—how to make it and how it was used for it’s nutrients and how it could be used to keep people alive.

While sick and somewhat in that other world, I told myself that as soon as I returned wholly back to this world, I would make up some broths and not only start taking those in to slowly return to eating but that I would start taking in more broths on a regular basis. There has to be nothing more healthy and nutritious than hot broth, especially when you are sick or aging (or eating a lot of processed foods, [like I do since I’ve left my territory]). So I went to get some giigooNh late last night but couldn’t find what I wanted and ended up getting some beef soup bones.

Today, I ventured out again and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I did find some geget cod (not farmed) from the Atlantic and thought you know, I may not be able to get atigamek or ogaa over here but I can get Icelandic cod and b’ye dat kind of cod is sum close to Atlantic cod and dat DNA or somethin’ of it is in me and me duckies’ bones too and b’ye da lord my dad used to make sure I took a cod liver oil pill every morning as a kid so lord tunderin’ I’m gonna use sum of dat dere cod dats four dollars off —geezus dat’s a gud price lah—and duck wouldchya look at dat? Now dat’s some good lookin’ cod, lah! Dat’ll make up some real gud giigooNh aaboo, b’ye.

Before I headed to the miijim adaawegamik (grocery store) I texted up my dear niij and asked him to remind me how to make up that broth. I also asked him if I could share it here as I knew I wanted to make a celebratory winter solstice post. He said he’d be honoured (which reminded me of the kind of person I want to be when I’m in my 70s). I personally wanted to share it here so Anishnaabe can have it, in case we forgot or forget. I remember all too well the years of not having the people in my life that I do today who can do what my mom couldn’t do and that is help me be and live anishinaabe. I know too well how hard it is to build that homefire and keep it going and so I put my tobacco down everyday for it. I want to share what has been shared with me in a careful, boundaried, ethical way.  So anyways ducks, here it is—Gidigaa Migisi’s Fish Broth Recipe:

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And, here it is, in practice—

… giigooNh (cod); green onion; Hawaai’in pink salt (a gift); dollar store black pepper; and, tap water (that comes from T’Souke [Sooke] and has been treated by the settlers so, instead of drinking it right from the source as T’Souke, Lekwungen, WSANEC, Cowichan, etc. folx have done for thousands of years, we can drink it, you know, treated, and straight from the tap).

And here it is, in more practice—

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… in a container-cum-saved pasta sauce jar, which leads me to the third and last-to-be-discussed reason why this years’ solstice has turned out to be the best.

This little bundle of food in a recycled pasta jar was carried off for a wee solstice-seasonal-odoodem ceremony on the top of PKOLS (Lewkwungen name for Mt. Tolmie as per Cheryl Bryce, which is the same as the name for Mt. Doug).

This particular little feast offering is a first for me and it felt right and good. Making and offering a feast whose main base is a fish broth?

Yaass.

I thought ninodoodem would definitely like that.

This offering also included some of the boiled fish (which is yum by the way), some frozen Saskatoon berries, and some ziigamide (maple syrup).

Geez, we Anishinaabe sure know how to do it up right.

My girl and I went and did our thing and you know, it was beautiful up there in the Garry Oaks, in the dark that was lit up by Nokomis, who is full tonight and despite being behind a thin layer of cloud, was quite illuminous. Apparently, there will be meteors tonight as well. The light IS coming back.

This evening, we also both had a good helping of the fish broth. It was tasty. It was oily. The oil lingers for a bit on the lips. Joseph Pitawanakwat says that that oil in our food is called mideh; he says it’s really good and powerful medicine. I believe it. We never get this medicine in this way anymore. So, let’s make broth and feed it to our babies. Let’s feed it to ourselves. Feed it to the old ones in our lives. The ones who are ill or recovering. Lets feed it to our lovers. To those who are grieving. Give a little bit to our pets. Let’s offer it to tibi giizis, to winter solstice, to our clans, our protectors, and to the spirit of what ever season we are in. Let’s offer it to the east and offer it with a song, a smudge, some asemaa, and our amazing, enduring Anishnaabe spirits.