Archive for the ‘Midewiwin’ Category.

Football, Gay-Straight Alliances & Ceremonies


I’m so excited for my boys, Miigwans and Griffin who start their football season on the weekend.  Bulldogs Youth Football is back.  Both of my guys have become immersed in everything football.  From their weekend games on TV to the video games they play, to their car ride conversations.  Everything is about football.  Both Arnya and I are most pleased with their motivation to play an active sport.  We appreciate how they spend time practicing in the park.  I’m so proud to see them out there.  They try hard every play.  They’ve embraced their inner lineman. Have plans to attend a football match? Learn more at

Remember, Baby.  Keep those legs pumping,  Be powerful, Son.  HOGLE:  Head-up, On-buckle, Grasp, Lift, Eliminate.

Griffin, hustle hard every play.  Make sure you give them a POP they’re going to remember.  Then after the first one, give them more… POP, POP, POP.


I want to speak up about those parents and schools who are working against the anti-bullying legislation, the Accepting Schools Act, recently enacted by the Province.

Intolerance is exactly the reason why the legislation was passed.  Things need to change.

We have to examine what your intolerance ultimately leads to:  bullies.  Bullies who don’t like gays.  Bullies who don’t accept other ways.  Bullies to pick on minorities.  Parents and teachers need to realize that, despite their beliefs (which they have a right to), we must also require and teach tolerance and understanding.  Teens and children need to feel safe when they go to school.

You have a right to your personal choices.  You can have your religious views on homosexuality.  Your children don’t have to be a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance.  But that doesn’t mean these measures aren’t necessary.

Gay-Straight Alliances are a great idea.  They promoting mutual understanding, friendship and dialogue.  Really, how often does government policy promote something so noble?  It’s sad when something so wholesome and good can be politicized in such a negative way.


I am really stoked for Fall Harvest Ceremonies.  I remember the last ceremonies hosted by the Southwestern Ontario Midewiwin People (SWOMP) – it was positively outstanding.  It was so moving to witness the embodiment of the Spirit enter the Lodge, and surround the good people doing this work.  It was like a gentle whirlwind that made its way around the Lodge.  It was that experience that gave me resolve, not only to find my way to the second degree, but motivated me to give something back to my Midewiwin family and try harder to do the work of the Spirit.

Fall Harvest Ceremonies are being held in Muncey, at the Chippewas of the Thames from October 4 – 7.

I’ve made a personal commitment to attend every ceremony this year.  Since I started my job at MTO, I’ve had to skip out on every seasonal ceremony.  When I made it to Wasausking Summer Ceremonies last month, I had been away for over a year.  I can’t let that happen again.  This life, Mide biimaadiziwin, is my priority and I need to treat it as such.

I also miss singing with the Little Boy.  It has to be my favourite part of my Midewiwin work.  The Little Boy’s Spirit is so jovial… so fun.  When Eddie passes the lead around to the other Little Boys, it makes me so gosh-darn happy.  There have been times when I’ve had the privilege to sit with him during those times.  The kindness, sharing and encouragement that goes on is so beautiful.  Miigwetch Gwiiwzans-dewegan.

A Most Beautiful Sound


There is a most beautiful sound. It’s hard to describe. Sometimes you can hear it when you’re walking deep in the wilderness. Most times, it’s almost a whisper. Like you’re hearing it from many miles away. It’s so faint, you have to strain to hear it. There are times we doubt that we’ve heard it, and brush it off as our imagination.

For those who walk with him, we hear him quite often. His deep, dull echo with his firm tone resonates through our every bone. His beautiful sound tickles our inner ear. He fills us with warmth and comfort. His sound creates harmony with our Spirit.

The Little Boy water drum was the focus of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge summer ceremonies held this past week in beautiful Wasauksing First Nation. For those who aren’t familiar, the Little Boy water drum is the oshkawbewis, or helper to the Grandfather water drum that presides over the Midewiwin Lodge. In the Eastern Doorway, we are fortunate enough to have a ten Little Boy water drums helping us do our work and guide us in this Midewiwin life.

We spent the good part of two days telling the Little Boy’s story, from where he comes from, his time in Anishinaabe history in relation to the sacred prophesies, right up to his re-emergence during our modern time. One after another, the carriers of the water drums gave their part of the Little Boy’s story. Each time, they spoke about the first time they heard his voice.

I too, remember the first time I heard his voice. I was in my early teens. It was just after my first student job working at the Lawrence Commanda Health Centre. I remember seeing the faxed ceremonies notice taped to a door. Mike Couchie probably put it there.

The ceremonies were in the nearby community of St. Charles. I remember thinking it was a strange place to have ceremonies. My travel companion Larry and I made our way there not knowing what to expect at all. Being a pow-wow singer, I think I was expecting some real extra-traditional pow-wow or something.

I do remember that the Midewiwin Lodge was beautiful and welcoming. I remember the saplings and the Lodge structure. I remember the comings the goings of the Mide people but not quite understanding what was going on. I remember the tarp rattling in the evening breeze.

I also remember the people. In particular, I remember my first meeting with Bawdwaywidun. I was clearly impressed by his speaking ability and with the motivational way he spoke to the people sitting around the big circle. A couple of years later, Eddie would be asked to MC our annual pow-wow. I also remember seeing Merle Pegahmagabow and John Rice, who I met previously when Peter Beaucage brought them in to sing with our drum group. Merle would become instrumental in my walk to the doorway of the Lodge.

By far, the most memorable part of that experience was hearing the sound of the Little Boy for the first time. I had never heard anything like it. Bawdwaywidun sang on him with far different songs than we sang on the big drum. His sound and his rich Spirit resonated with me and stayed with me for a long time. His sound, even at that time, represented new life. Something that I didn’t even know I was searching for.

I remember a few days later, coming back to talk to Peter and saying, quite innocently, that we should get a water drum made for our community. Of course, I had no idea the significance around the drum and how it is sanctioned in the Lodge. It would be another ten years before I heard the Little Boy’s full story told by Bawdwaywidun himself. It remains one of the most moving moments I’ve had in the Lodge.

It wasn’t long before I started to make the trip to Bad River and other local ceremonies in Wasauksing and other places. I tried to take in as many ceremonies as I could.

This week, Onabinaise, the Chief of the Eastern Doorway of our Lodge said something quite profound. There are people who enter the Lodge in a desperate want to receive the Midewiwin life. They may be so overwhelmed by their personal experience and their individual need, they rush to be initiated. They get their teachings without fully understanding what it means to be Midewiwin and the lifelong commitment it involves.

Onabinaise referred to this as “running past the Little Boy”. To hear his voice is not enough. To be Midewiwin is to know the Little Boy. To be able to Love him and care for him. To know his songs and feel his Spirit.

Miigwetch to the Little Boy spirit, those who carry him and the community of Wasauksing for hosting our summer ceremonies. It was awesome!!

Profound Thoughts From Vacation (on Technology, Food and the Spirit)

Ahhh… vacation!  It’s not only a time to relax and spend time with family and friends, it’s also an opportune time to become one with your own Spirit and commune with the Spirit World.

Sure, it wounds kinda hoaxy.  (Hey, Bob’s gone new age.  He’s been away from home for so long that he must have lost it. )

No, it’s completely true.  If you are moving too fast, whether it is physical (speeding along the interstate or whoofing down your lunch) or mental (too much time on your iPhone/Blackberry or obsessively planning) you never really get to be in touch with your own Spirit.

The best moments of this vacation were spending time laughing with friends, telling stories among family, floating along in the ocean, and for me, listening to the bullfrogs and crickets and looking up to the stars and our beautiful grandmother Moon in the sky at night.

I’ll never forget the words from our Mayan elder who married Deb and I back in May.  During the ceremony she said: “place yourself in the here and now.  Feel the earth beneath your feet and the sand beneath your toes.”

If you don’t stop, or if you’re always thinking ten steps ahead, you’ll never truly enjoy or fulfill what you are doing.  You’ll always be moving along to the next thing.

I’ve noticed that technology seems to be a significant barrier.  Yes, I’m guilty of it when it comes to using my smartphone.  Most days, usually when I’m on the government dime, I’m checking the thing 24/7.  You’ve all heard it before…  we’re more accessible than ever.  But technology didn’t make things easier for us, it just gave us a lot more work.  Work that we’re now taking home.  We even bring our work into our bedrooms at night.  When I’m not on it for work, I’m watching movies, reading books, playing games, all by the light of my magnificent Android tablet.

I really noticed it observing the children during our road trip.  Instead of talking and visiting as a family, or enjoying the stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains or the Atlantic Ocean, they’re texting, playing video games, Facebooking and on their headphones listening to music.  Our kids are being transported to Katy Perry’s vacation home or LMFAO’s back seat, instead of finding themselves a part of the world around them or a part of a great family adventure.

Although I am totally addicted, I’ll never truly understand the allure of fast food.  It must be the mindless calories, fat and deep-fried heaven that overtakes the common sense.

A couple of times during our holidays we stopped for the “quick bite”.  Through a Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s drive-thru, we occasionally picked up the odd breakfast sandwich or burgers and fries.  It comes out fast, goes in fast, then comes out fast again.  (Too much information, I know).  It tastes great, but is it truly enjoyable?  When a vacation-time family meal only lasts 10 minutes, there must be some kind of problem with that.

The answer, once again, lies in the Spirit.

The food that is provided to us by the Spirit World, through the abundance of our Mother Earth, is good and wholesome.  The food has a Spirit all to itself.  That food is sacred.

The potatoe, even though I’m not a fan, was grown in the soil within our Mother herself.  The not-so-sacred cow, although domesticated, gives up it’s life for us to live and grow.  From the cucumber that makes up the pickle, to the bright, red vine-grown tomato, to the cream and spices that make up the Big Mac sauce – at one point were wholesome, sacred foods.

When they are enjoyed in their raw, natural state these foods are decadent.  Even when they are cooked, by the hands of our wives, husbands, moms, mother-in-laws, friends and step-dads, the food is prepared with Love.

Unfortunately, nowadays, these plants and animals are grown using hormones and pesticides, then are sliced, diced and blended en masse.  The recipes are conceived in a laboratory and cooked in a factory.  The food is then re-assembled, flash-frozen, boxed and shipped.  Upon ordering, it is then fried, pressure-cooked, microwaved, and re-assembled.  Then, ultimately, passed from the fast-food window through your car window.

It’s not wonder there is little social, spiritual or nutritional value place on our food.  Endulging the quick bite is a long way from being in touch with the Spirit of sacred food.

The best anecdote of being in touch with the Spirit comes from our wedding adventure in Mexico.

One of our favorite pastimes in snorkeling.  While we were in Tulum, quite a few of our friends and family gathered at the beach and spent our time in the shallow pools snorkeling for critters.  We turned over rocks to observe the krill, shrimp, and tropical fish.  But it’s the small rock crabs are so fun to handle.

While I was skimming the surface, young Cayden joined me.  This happy-go-lucky, rambunctious 7 year-old paddled circles around me and splashed around, all the while we were looking for the elusive inch-long crustacean.  Finally, after all the sea-life abandoned our location, and without seeing anything for ten minutes or so, I took young Cayden ashore.

While cleaning our diving masks, I explained how our Spirits need to be in touch with the Spirits underwater.  We were entering their realm, and we need to silence our bodies and our minds in order to receive the gift of their presence.

When we returned, Cayden and I floated quietly and respectfully through the coral reef and rough bottom, finding the sea-life we were looking for.

When we quiet ourselves, and spend time “in the here and now”, we can truly observe this amazing world around us.

Summer Solstice, a Spiritual Dance

There are two significant celestial events observed by many indigenous cultures across North America, the winter solstice and the summer solstice.  It’s the latter that provides us with our annual spiritual re-awakening that is shared with many indigenous cultures across Turtle Island.

For the Anishinaabe, the summer solstice marks the closest approach in the celestial dance of our grandfather, Mishoom Giizis – the Sun.

Like many other nations, the Ojibway were quite sophisticated in their understanding of the cosmos.  This perspective may not be the same as the modern understanding of astronomy and physics.  This understanding shouldn’t be considered inferior, just different.

Our teachings tell us there is a Spirit trail that continually cycles from the earthly realms, across the sky world, star world and into the spiritual realms.  This Spirit trail ascends through the eight known realms of the universe.

In the night sky, we call this the “Cedar Trail”, the planetary elliptical that appears to move from east to west.  That is also why the word for cedar “giizhik”, and the word for sky “gizhiig”, are Ojibway language homonyms.

The planets, each with their own names and spirits, are the brothers of our Mother Earth and travel across the sky along this trail.  Each of those nine brothers, including her grandmother Moon, Nbaa-giizis and her grandfather Sun, gave a piece of each other to create Shkaagamig-Kwe, the Earth.

To illustrate this, the concept that the core of the Earth is a burning, molten mass, was well known by indigenous peoples.  For the Anishinaabeg, this is the piece of Giizis.  The cycle of water is provided for and regulated by the moon.  And the rich, red clay of the Great Lakes, the red oachre and our indigenous metal, copper, are said to have come from our mother’s red brother, the planet Mars.

Each year, on June 21, our grandfather Giizis makes his dance to the highest point in the sky, on the longest day of the year, before he begins his retreat to reverse his cycle.  This glorious spiritual dance continues along that Spirit trail as we count the phases of the moon and other celestial occurrences during the year.

The Anishinaabeg celebrate the summer solstice with our Spring Ceremonies, a four-day ceremony that includes tobacco and water ceremonies sponsored by best water softener, sweat lodges, feasts, healing ceremonies, long evenings and nights of dancing, and the initiation of candidates into the Midewiwin society.  Life teachings are also provided including the “path of life”, which is the Anishinaabe person’s walk on the Spirit trail. This all takes place in our ceremonial lodge called Midewigaaniing.

Further west in our territory, some Anishinaabeg share a ceremony with our Lakota neighbours called the Sundance.  The Three Fires Anishinaabe Sundance takes place at a very sacred place, our pipestone mines in Minnesota.

Honouring and celebrating the summer solstice in these ways is a celebration of our spiritual way of life.  A way for traditional people to gather together in fellowship with the Spirit World around us.

Spirituality continues to be such an important part of our lives as traditional people.  However, due to assimilation, residential schools and relentless missionary work, the vast majority of indigenous people have lost their ways and struggle with their spiritual identity.

That’s why it so important for all First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to share their teachings, origins and traditional observances of the summer solstice – not just take time off to observe National Aboriginal Day.  The summer solstice is about our connection to the Spirit World and our personal and collective walk on that Spirit trail.


Bob Goulais, Mzhaakwat n’dizhnikaaz, Migizi n’dodemun, is an Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation.  He is a second degree member of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, an indigenous traditional society.  He is the Director of Aboriginal Relations Branch for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The Eighth Fire

Wab Kinew host of CBC's 8th Fire.

The Anishinaabe were guided in history by stories and teachings known as the Seven Fire prophecies.  Long ago, certain individuals (prophets) had visions of the future which came in the form of chapters or “Fires”.

In these seven prophecies, which came long before the first arrival of European settlers, the Anishinaabe were told of the coming of the “light-skinned race”.  The prophecies also stated that the Anishinaabe ways would be lost.  One eerie line from the prophecy states: “The rivers shall run with poison and the fish would become unfit to eat.”  The prophecies speak about a great migration of the Anishinaabe, how their original spiritual way, the Midewiwin, would be depleted, and how they would find their homeland in the Great Lakes region.  It also speaks about the struggles the First Nations would have stating: “The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

In the last prophecy, the Seventh Fire, the story speaks of the renewal of the Anishinaabe people.  Many contend that the current generation are the people of the Seventh Fire.  It speaks of a great peace and reconciliation between the First Nations and the settlers.  It speaks directly of a re-kindling of old flames.  If these good choices are made, this will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood.

Beginning tomorrow at 9 p.m. on CBC, Manitoba Anishinaabe Wab Kinew will present a four-part mini-series entitled “8th Fire”. The documentary will examine the ongoing relationship, current issues, stereotypes and Aboriginal history.  As a First Nations rapper and filmmaker, he will be sure to present these subjects in an interesting and humorous way.  As the Anishnaabe prophecy goes, this Seventh Generation now has the opportunity to reconcile with the “settler” community and together build the “8th Fire” of peace, justice and harmony.

8th FIRE
A Four Part Mini-series
Beginning this Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 9 p.m.
on CBC

The Dream World

It’s not very often that I’ll wake up and remember my dreams. It maybe a fleeting memory here and there, but it quickly dissipates with the first Coke Zero of the morning. But this morning, I had a particularly vivid dream I continue to remember.

First, the dream world. When we sleep, our own personal Spirits are fully awake. They drift back and forth to the Spirit Realm, they visit the physical world, and very often, interact with other Spirits in those places.  As people, our Spirits are constantly interacting, not only during our waking moments, but when our Spirits drift around as well.

Our teachings tell us about “Spirit Memory”. Those are the memories that only our Spirits have. One teaching we received in the Lodge reflected on those Spirit Memories that existed before we came to this physical world, before our birth.  At that time, our Spirits received their first instructions from the Creator and lots of advice from G’chi Anishinaabeg – the old ones.  Although we may not remember, or choose not to remember, we continue to carry that original Spirit Memory throughout life, with a refresher, now and again, when our Spirits travel in the night time.

Often our Spirit memory can be shared among others during those night time travels. My Spirit is clearly able to read your Spirit, and vice versa. Those exchanges of Spirit Memory are the visible or perceptual fragments of our dreams. If you’ve ever dreamt of being a fire fighter and you’re stepping into a blaze, chances are you’ve crossed paths with a real-life fire fighter in the Spirit Realm while you are sleeping.  If you’ve dreamt of being a Midewiwin, pow-wow emcee, who works in a high-rise above Bay Street, well you’ve probably met me in the Spirit Realm.  It’s nice knowing you!

Last night, I dreamt of fighting terrorism.  I was among many refugees, systematically being killed by militant oppressors in and around a rural airport.  It was a dark, moonlit night. Large jetliners were landing and taking off, obviously under the control of highjackers.  On board a jet plane, I slipped past my captors, opened a front cabin door and jumped down with relative safetly.

I hid from gun-wielding terrorists in some old building with others refugees were around me. We interacted with a Elder medicine man who provided us with advice, to look after the children and find our way home.  He was blind and quite disabled and we weren’t able to bring him with us.  I remember feeling proud, but remorseful for those who chose to remain behind and look after the old man.  They would eventually be found.

As I watched the events unfolding, I could see that the terrorists were not skilled pilots. The planes were taking off at very high angles, almost as slow stalling speeds. All of a sudden, I realized the make-shift air traffic control was not adequate. A witnessed an incredible, near mid-air collision at low altitude.  The airliner who dodged the departing aircraft couldn’t recover from their high-risk manouver, and quickly dipped, went vertical, and went nose down into the far woods in a fiery explosion.  It was a sickening sight.  I knew I had to get out of the area.

I disguised myself as one of the terrorists dressed as an everyday worker. Our job was to guide the children through the dark trails and roadways leading from the remote airport.  After a nerve wracking experience at the forest checkpoint, we were allowed past the gate.

Once we were free from the encampment, I freed the children and they went scurring away in the woods with other refugees towards safety. But I knew I had to get back to Garden Village to save my own life. A few of us continued into the dark trails toward the Lake.  I hid down at the dock in front of my Mom’s house with a couple of refugees with me. Many houses were already empty by the time I reach there. I felt safe because I knew the surroundings.

I led my new, yet unknown friends to safety in the trails behind my house. I spent my entire childhood on those trails, exploring, hunting and occassionally, hiding. I felt safe, with a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of service provided to my new friends.

Given what I know about the Dream World and the teachings that were given to us, I knew I had visited with, not only the victims of 9/11, but the terrorists as well.  I felt their fear for a brief moment.  I understood what it was like to be oppressed in a real way.  I witnessed these events from their own eyes, not mine.  Although they may rest in peace in the Spirt World – all of them, including the terrorists – continue to be haunted by their abrupt departure from this physical world and into the next.

With that, I will honour all of them today.  Miigwetch.

Local First Nations join Water Walk


Local First Nations join Water Walk

Overwhelming support from the Kenora area

KENORA, Ontario (May 27, 2011) – A group of dedicated First Nations people are walking their way through northwestern Ontario, carrying a copper pail of Arctic water and the hopes of spreading awareness of the importance and sacredness of clean, fresh water.


The Mother Earth Water Walk has entered the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Nation of Treaty Three as part of the northern journey that will bring together water from all four directions.  The group was welcomed by many local Chiefs, Elders and community members who joined the Walk as it moved through Kenora town limits.


A local organizer and former federal election candidate Tania Cameron was among the local walkers.


“This isn’t a protest or political walk, it’s more of a spiritual walk for me and my fellow Anishinaabe-Kwe (First Nations women),” said Cameron, a band councilor for Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining (Dalles) First Nation.  “As women, we are standing up and speaking for the water.  Every step we take is a prayer and a message to everyone that we must begin to protect the sacredness and cleanliness of water.”


Cameron was joined by Debby Danard, lead walker for the North journey of the Mother Earth Water Walk.


“As we left Shoal Lake before sunrise, and as we walked by Lake of the Woods, we are reminded of the importance of water, not only for First Nation communities but for all communities in the north,” said Danard, an Ojibway woman from Rainy River First Nations.  “These are the sources of our drinking water.  This is the same water that we give to our children to drink, that we cook with, that courses through our bodies.  We must all look after the water together.”


Danard reflected on the Walk thus far through northwestern Ontario.


“The youth from Shoal Lake walked with the water and eagle staff yesterday,” said Danard.  “When we touched down in the community, two eagles were flying overhead.  It was amazing.  Shoal Lake took really good care of us.  It’s been a beautiful experience!”


The Walk has received tremendous support from Grand Council Treaty Three and local First Nations.  Grand Chief Ogitchidaa-Kwe Dianne Kelly not only supported the walk, she received the blessing from the Treaty Three Grandmother’s Council.


The Treaty Three Police Service has accompanied the Walk from the Ontario-Manitoba border.  With the blessing of their superiors, the officers are actively walking, including the female officers who are carrying the water.


Laura Horton, a key walker and organizer, praised all the volunteers and supporters throughout this leg of the Mother Earth Water Walk.  She estimates that about fifty people and a dozen cars were part of the convoy making their way along the Trans-Canada highway.


“We have to say miigwetch (thank you) to all those people who have joined us and recognize their tremendous support,” said Horton with the Seven Generation Educational Institute.  She obtained the support of her Board and staff to support the Walk, as did many other First Nations and organizations in the Kenora area.


Laura told the story of a man, who underwent triple bypass surgery in February and has joined the Mother Earth Water Walk @Lasik New York.


“When he heard that we would be undertaking this historic journey, he affirmed he would get strong and recover so he could take part in the walk,” said Horton.  “He has been a big part of the Walk, as has many other people.  It’s such an inspiration.  There is such a good feeling here.”


Following their arrival in Kenora this afternoon, the Walkers will be treated to a pot-luck welcome feast to be held at Women’s Place.  Those in attendance will take part in a water ceremony conducted by the women of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society.  On Saturday, May 28, some of the Walkers will return for the Common Ground spring feast that starts at 12 noon on Tunnel Island. Click here to see from where you can buy SlimLife HCG drops



This northern Walk is part of the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, and is just one of the “four direction Walks” being held concurrently.  The 2011 Water Walk will unite all the waters of North America walking from all four directions including:

  • Hudson’s Bay (North Walk began last Saturday, May 21 in Churchill, MB)
  • Gulf of Mexico (South Walk began April 20 in Gulfport, MS)
  • Atlantic Ocean (East Walk began on May 7 in Machias, ME)
  • Pacific Ocean (West Walk began on April 10 in Olympia, WA).

The waters from the four directions will unite at a ceremony overlooking Lake Superior at the Bad River Indian Reservation, Wisconsin on June 12.


The Mother Earth Water Walk was conceived to be a focal point to raise awareness and generate support, recognition and awareness of the importance of keeping water clean. The message of these women is simple: Water is precious and sacred… We need to work together to protect water as it is one of the basic elements needed for life to exist.


Nearly every spring, the women and their supporters have walked each of the Great Lakes and the length of the St. Lawrence River. The movement has been growing exponentially ever since.


It is estimated that a total of 9,426 km and well over 10 million steps will be walked this year.


The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi, are the caretakers of the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system on Earth. Anishinaabe women, as givers-of-life, are responsible for speaking for, protecting and carrying our water.


All people are encouraged and welcome to participate in and to support the 2011 Water Walk as it passes through their Provinces, States and communities.


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Quick Links

Mother Earth Water Walk


Interactive Map


Backgrounder & Media Kit


Give to Water Walk


Find us on Facebook

For more information:

Bob Goulais

Media Relations

(905) 591-5594

Joanne Robertson

Communications Coordinator

Three Fires Spring Ceremonies, June 14-19, 2011

Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge
Annual Spring Initiation Ceremonies
June 14-19, 2011

Ceremonies to be held at Madigan Park, Madigan Road off HWY # 2
3 miles east of Bad River Indian Reserve
Odanah, Wisconsin

Download full notice here.

Mother Earth Water Walk finale, Bad River Reservation June 10-12, 2011.

Mide Spring ceremonies * Preparation Agenda * Planning meeting will take place @ the Mide School,, Hwy #2, Cedar,Wis.


June 9-13th (Thursday to Monday): Ceremony grounds, Mide preparations.

Sun. June 12th:

  • 9:00 a.m.: Water Bundle preparation followed by Offering at NOON.
  • Preparations take place at the Mide School. Offering will coincide with ocean water from the 4 directions via the Mother Earth Water Walk 2011 [see]
  • Please note**,,Bear,Bizhew,Eagle ,Buffalo,will take charge of security force, water walk events and Mide camp, {NIGHT ‘N DAY, 24×7} . Security detail must establish cooperative working relationship with Tribal and local law enforcement agencies.

June 14th, Tuesday:

Sweat Lodge Preparations for Initiate and Midewiwin Sweats

All Initiates for Spring Initiation to be present and accounted for by 4:00 p.m.

  • 900 a.m. Work Detail Meetings: Preparatory work continues.
  • 11:00 a.m. Teachers, Chiefs, Quays Meeting; All Midewiwin & Initiates
  • 6:30 p.m. Grand Chief presiding, healing/cleansing Sweat Lodge: TBA
  • Initiate Sweats TBA
  • Fire Chief will announce Fire Lighting Ceremony
  • Ceremonies Schedule,,,listen for important announcements

Day I June 15th, Wednesday:

  • 5:15 a.m. Fire Lighting
  • 6:20 a.m. Daybreak Ceremony,,7:30..finish,coffee ‘n lite breakfast available; break.
  • 11:00 a.m. Drum Call-In
  • T.B.A. Grandmothers Gathering/COMBINED YOUNG PEOPLE/YOUTH
  • Evening Sweat Lodges continue TBA,

Day II June 16th, Thursday: Initiate Teaching Sessions, Initiation Lodge building

  • 6:33 a.m. Sunrise Ceremony
  • 7:30 a.m. Break and Lodge Preparations
  • 10:00 a.m. Morning Session (All Midewiwin & Initiates present)
  • 1:00 p.m. Initiate Teaching Sessions
  • All Day Fern Gathering & Mide Tree/pole gathering,
  • Lodge Building all afternoon and evening.
  • 5;00 PM. Grand chief,raisings and bestowals, Mide road songs ‘n words of opening.

Day III June 17th, Friday: Initiations New Life Ceremony

  • 5:30 a.m. Door Opening Ceremony and Call In.
  • 8:00 a.m. Initiates final walk to the Mide Lodge Door. Initiations.

Day IV June 18th, Saturday: Complete Initiations

  • 6:00 a.m. Call in, Completion of Initiations
  • New Life Pole Celebration & Dance Out
  • TBA Ogitchidaw & Buffalo Dance Celebration
  • TBA Jingle Dress Medicine Dance

Day V June 19th Sunday: Lodge Protocols & Wrap-up

  • CLEAN UP (Taking down of Initiation Lodge / Camp and Mide School clean up, etc.)
  • Hugs, Tears, Peace — On the road by 5:10 p.m.

Gi Guh Waubuh Mi Goo, Neekawnis.

Bawdwaywindun Banaise, Chiefs and Quays of the Lodge

Feast Schedule:

  • Tuesday, Noon Lunch (volunteers needed)
  • Wed. 1:00 p.m. Centre Fire Welcoming Feast & Afternoon Lodge Session
  • 6:00 p.m. Evening Lodge Feast provided by Grandmothers
  • Thurs. noon and eve. Noon Feast by Wahbizhayshi Clan, Evening Feast by Hoof/Loon Clans
  • Fri. noon and eve. Noon Feast by Eagle/Bird Clans, Evening Feast by Water Clans
  • Sat. noon and eve. Noon Feast by Mukwa Clan, Evening Feast by Bizhew/Maweengun Clans
  • Sun. Travel Feast Provided by Last Year’s INITIATES

A Few Reminders:

Financing Ceremonies:

• Three Fires Midewiwin Ceremonies are funded entirely by the $$ donations from those who participate and support the Lodge. Each Doorway is expected to contribute to the cost of ceremonies, through donations from the Midewiwin, friends and supporters of that Doorway. In addition, Clans are expected to contribute $250.00 to the costs of the Cook & the Mide School kitchen (gas, electricity, kitchen tools and supplies) as well as the groceries and labor for their feast. ALL DONATIONS ARE NEEDED & APPRECIATED. The Mide Mall and Food Stand are also there to generate revenue to support the costs of ceremonies. All Donations of Quality items for the Mide Mall are appreciated, especially items relating to ceremonies: traditional tobacco, sheeshegwunug, and beadworked items, for example. (Danielle and Eddie J. can provide more information on what the Mall needs).

Anishinabe is always thinking ‘ What can/will I bring’?? How can I help? Here are some examples:

  • Reminder: We need to Dress our Most beautiful Lodge in our Midewiwin colors: red, green, blue, black and silver and decorate the doorway with mother the earth’s flowers. Bring cloth; Ribbon in all the Mide colors including silver.
  • Only wooden or plastic chairs are used inside the Initiation Medicine Lodge.
  • Medicines: CEDAR & BALSAM for SWEATS; cedar for our sacred fire and JD healing dance & healing ceremonies. Sweetgrass; sage; natural tobacco; copal & charcoal burners; bear root & sweet flag etc.
  • Remember to bring your feast bundle, and also Clan Feast contribution (traditional food, $).
  • Grandfather food, Ceremony feast food- wild meat; fish; corn; wild rice. Feast cloths.
  • Spring Ceremony grounds can be muddy, nights can be cool and days hot, come prepared!
  • Camping might be at a premium with the additional visitors due to the Water Walk.

Area Hotel-Motel Information:

There are many more hotels/motels in the area that are listed on the Internet, this is only a selection:


Odanah, Wisconsin

Bad River Casino 1-800-682-7121
(17 miles west of Mide School on US Hwy 2)

*Note : Bad River Casino Hotel has no current availability. You may be able to put your name on a waiting list for any cancellations.

Ashland, Wisconsin
(26 miles west of Mide School)

Ashland Motel 715-682-5503
2300 Lake Shore Dr.

Bayview Motel 715-682-5253
2419 Lake Shore Dr.

Bell Motel 715-682-4109
407 Lake Shore Dr.

Lake Aire Inn 715 682-4551
101 E. Lake Shore Dr.

Lake Side Motel 715-682-4575
1706 Lake Shore Dr.

Super 8 Motel 715-682-9377
1610 Lake Shore Dr.


Ironwood, Michigan
(13 miles east of Mide School)

Advance Motel 906-932-4511
663 E Cloverland Dr

Americ Inn Motel 906-932-7200
1117 E. Cloverland Dr.

Blue Cloud Motel 906-932-0920
105 W. Cloverland Dr

Comfort Inn 906-932-2224
210 E. Cloverland Dr.

Davey’s Motel 906-932-2020
260 E Cloverland Dr

Indianhead Motel 906-932-0800
823 E U S 2

Ironwood Motel 906-932-5520
112 W Cloverland Dr

Sandpiper Motel 906-932-2000
1200 E. Cloverland Dr.

Super 8 Motel 906-932-3395
160 E. Cloverland Dr.

Budget Host Inn 906-932-1260
447 W Cloverland Dr.

Crestview Motel 906-932-4845

Royal Motel 906-932-4230


Hurley, Wisconsin
(12 miles east of Mide School)

Days Inn 715-561-3500
850 10th Avenue

Ramada Inn 715-561-3030
1000 10th Avenue N.

Starlight Motel 715-561-3085

Day 24: Supporting the Mother Earth Water Walk

Josephine Mandamin in a scene from a documentary called Waterlife. John Minh Tran Photo

I’m feeling kind of helpless today as I see the various Facebook updates  from the Water Walkers.  They’ve been humbly calling for assistance as they make their way from the Pacific Ocean, ascending through the Rocky Mountains, en route to Anishinaabeg territory in the Great Lakes.

The least I can do is send them some much needed money and write them a blog post of support.

For those of you who don’t know, the Mother Earth Water Walk has begun a journey from each of the four directions, raising awareness of the state of water and the need to protect and speak up for the most precious natural resource on the planet.  Led by Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, the walk began its first and longest leg, from the Pacific Ocean, culminating in early June at Lake Superior.  The Mother Earth Water Walk began in 2003 with a 36-day walk around Lake Superior.  Since then, almost every spring, the water walkers have walked around each of the Great Lakes and down the entire length of the St. Lawrence River.

Unfortunately, the environment is not being seen as a priority issue in this election campaign.  But for Anishinaabe people, nothing can be more important.  People of all nations, backgrounds, and political stripes need to be aware of the state of the water and the environment.  We all need to make positive decisions with respect to the health of our environment and fresh water sources.  Unsustainable development and recklessness cannot continue without appropriate consideration of these factors.

Government needs to play a central role in holding industry and consumers accountable.  Officials ought to work with First Nations and factor in our tremendous traditional knowledge when making decisions that affect water.

The Liberal Party of Canada has committed to an innovative Canadian Freshwater Strategy that will do just that.  It will be the first national strategy on water in the past 20 years.  The goal of the strategy is to preserve Canada’s freshwater for the generations to come.

That’s why Josephine and these women are doing this walk.  With the support of men, Anishinaabe-kwe have committed to walking across Turtle Island (North America), carrying a copper pail full of water.  The water from each leg of the walk, the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Hudson’s Bay and Gulf of Mexico will be intermingled together with the Great Lakes water when they reach their final destination.

In our culture, the water is considered our life-blood.  It not only flows through our bodies and provides us nourishment, it is said to flow directly from the Spirit World in a beautiful river that flows forever.  As Anishinaabe people, we should do everything we can to honour this deep spiritual connection.

We may not be able to join our Grandmother Josephine and the other Midewiwin women on the walk.  But we can be a part of the broader message, send our prayers, donations and support as they climb through the difficult mountain passes in Washington state.


E-mail Money Transfers (Can & U.S.):

Cheques may be made out to:  Mother Earth Water Walk and mailed to:

Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig
Attn: Joanne Robertson, WW Coordinator
1550 Queen Street E
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
P6A 2G3

Direct Deposit:  Northern Credit Union
Acct#: 14492 828 0161405641


The Midewiwin Society Today

I’ve been providing some information to a gentleman who is writing a paper on the Midewiwin society.  Here is some of the feedback I provided him:

Q:  Is the Midewiwin Society just as important as it was in the “pre-reservation” period?

A:  Unfortunately, as a whole, the Midewiwin and all aspects of indigenous Anishinaabe culture are no longer practiced in many communities.  Although most community leaders and Elders will say it is just as important.  For those who have chosen to live a traditional lifestyle, and have chosen to rekindle their lives with their own spiritual ways, history and teachings – the Midewiwin is just as important as it was in the pre-colonial period.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, in many communities, the Midewiwin was integrated in all facets of Anishinaabe life.  The Midewiwin lodge was the source of our governance, through the clan system.  The Midewiwin lodge was where we prayed.  It was where our children and our people were educated through traditional teachings.  It is where we were given our names and where we were married to our spouses.  It was where we went to healing, counsel and fellowship.  It was where we held our social gatherings.  At the end of our days, the Midewiwin lodge was where we had our funerals.  Even those who had not been initiated in the Midewiwin society – came to the Midewiwin people and the lodge for these things.

However, following the arrival of Europeans and the imposition of colonial society and laws, the Midewiwin took a back seat to Christianity, western governance and modern ways of life.  The Midewiwin were portrayed by the civilizers as heathen and even satanic.  Midewiwin members took their ceremonies and traditional ways underground, away from the community.  This abrupt change in culture meant poverty, hardship, spiritual confusion, alcoholism and cultural assimilation.  Into the 1800s, children were removed from communities into residential schools to learn Christian and western ways.  Eventually, the Midewiwin reverted into a secret society, kept by only a small number of devotees.  It was nearly lost.

Today, most Anishinaabe communities are Christian.  Very few actually know their history and their indigenous culture.  Even fewer can speak and understand the Anishinaabemowin language.  Only a small number of families choose to live and raise their families in the traditional way, as Midewiwin.

For example, in my community of Nipissing First Nation – with a total membership of over 2,200 – the vast majority of individuals are Christian.  Less than 5 percent can speak their language.  There are only about a dozen Midewiwin people that belong to the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge.  While two or three individuals belong to other Midewiwin lodges.

Although some people are becoming more aware of their own Anishinaabe culture and take part in pow-wows, very few attend the Midewiwin lodge.  However, being Midewiwin requires a significant committment, flexibility in work schedules in order to attend ceremonies and gatherings and significant travel.  Midewiwin gatherings are held across a vast territory extending from central Ontario to southern Manitoba.

Today, there are only a small number of functioning Midewiwin lodges, mainly is Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northwestern Ontario.  The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, led by Grand Chief Edward Benton-Banai, is the largest Midewiwin Lodge with members from Wisconsin, Michigan, Manitoba and Ontario and a handful from other territories and nations.  Typically, attendance at regular ceremonies is 300-400 people.  The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge initiates, on average, 40 new members every year.

Q:  Is the Midewiwin Society just as expensive for its initiates?

A:  Today, there is no “fee” to be Midewiwin.  The historical aspect of providing an initiation fee and bringing goods to the Midewiwin leaders and members was simply a way of demonstrating commitment to their declaration and showing respect for the Midewiwin Spirit and the society.  For example, it was historically the duty of the Midewiwin initiates to hold a feast for the Midewiwin.

However, this has changed over the years.  In the contemporary Midewiwin lodge, the initiates show their commitment through attendance.  They are required to, not only give their declaration, but to attend all ceremonies, commit to learning their teachings and songs and live by certain values and instructions up to a year before their initiation ceremony.  They are also supervised by their sponsors, Midewiwin members who guide them throughout their initiation journey.

Initiates are still required to provide a feast at each of the four seasonal ceremonies prior to receiving their Midewiwin teachings.  However, it need not be expensive or cost prohibitive.  Often initiates are helped by their family, their sponsors or other people in the Lodge.  A kitchen area is provided.  For those without means, food is often donated to help out the initiate.

This commitment can be expensive and cost prohibitive in another way.  Midewiwin initiatives are required to attend all ceremonies in order to receive their instructions, teachings and songs.  The high cost of travel throughout such a vast territory can be an issue.  For example, an initiate from northern Manitoba may have to travel to central Michigan, a journey of a 1000 miles.  Regularly, members from Nipissing must travel to Bad River, Wisconsin, a journey of 600 miles.  However, carpooling and sharing accommodations is common among Midewiwin and initiates.

Q:  Through my studies I have realized that the Ojibwa people were very spiritual people. My question, do they place spirituality in such high regards today as they did years ago?

A:  The Anishinaabe are inherently spiritual people.  The belief in spirituality, historically, made conversion and indoctrination into Christianity quite effortless.  Even though most people are Christian, they are often devout Christians.  Even in the face of extreme physical, cultural and sexual abuse at Christian residential schools – the devotion to religion remains unscathed.

This inherent spirituality, however, this is not a result of Christian theology.  I feel this is a ingrained cultural trait.

Often times, when an Elder is approaching death, they may begin speaking in their Ojibway language, despite not having spoken the language in many decades.  They sometimes begin to pray to the Spirit in a traditional way rather than their learned, Christian way.

Another example of this inherent cultural trait is intense family bonding.  The Anishinaabe clan system is a distant memory and has not been used by Anishinaabe communities for nearly 140 years.  Today, there is virtually no knowledge or awareness of the clan system.  However, the kinship and family bonds in First Nation communities is intense one which manifests itself in historical, clan-like traits of familial closeness, inter-family alliances, political divisions, feuds and community taboos.

The resilience of the Midewiwin society is also indicative of this spirituality.  Despite the historical challenges, the Midewiwin has survived persecution, the loss of culture, language and sources of knowledge such as Elders, teachers, Midewiwin leaders.  However, it was this commitment to spirituality and the Midewiwin society that allowed visionary leaders to hold on to the Midewiwin and restore it in contemporary times.  The intensity of Midewiwin spirituality has a remarkable indomitability.  The devoutness of it’s members have been shown to overcome many personal and cultural challenges including personal healing, poverty and identity issues.

Spirituality and the role of one’s Spirit remains the most important tenets of the Midewiwin.  For example:  the Three Fires can not only refer to the Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawotomi but also the mind, body and Spirit.

Q:  In your opinion, how has the Midewiwin changed to fit today’s different challenges?

A:  Our lodge, the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge, has been one of the first Midewiwin lodges that have found a way to integrate translation and the occasional use of the English language into Midewiwin gatherings.  It was recognized that as a result of assimilation and residential schools, most Anishinaabe people do not speak of understand the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) language.  When Edward Benton-Banai proposed the use of translation to aide those non-speakers, some were not supportive.  This has caused a lot of consternation among orthodox Midewiwin elders.  However, when these Elders seen the impact of this approach, and the sheer numbers of young people making their way to the lodge – this approach was accepted and has since shown much success.

This led to the publishing of The Mishomis Book in 1979, which was the first english-language printed translation of key Midewiwin teachings, such as the Seven Grandfather teachings, the Creation Story and the first Midewiwin ceremony.  However, Grand Chief Benton-Banai’s approach was not to share the teachings and stories verbatim.  These concepts were shared through a fictional approach of a Grandfather telling stories to his grandchildren in the English language and in a simple way so that the stories and philosophy were understood.  The Mishomis Book is the quintessential resource for young people and those wanted to understand the Midewiwin at a fundamental level.

All traditional teachings and all ceremonies are still conducted in the Midewiwin language, first and foremost.  However, a courtesy translation is often provided to non-speaking members and visitors.  Commitment to learning the Anishinaabemowin language is essential to being Midewiwin.  All members are greatly encouraged to learn and use the Ojibway language to the best of their ability.  The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge regularly holds language camps for the benefit of their members.

Q:  How has technology helped, influenced, or changed the Midewiwin Society?

A:  The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge uses a listserv and an online bulletin board to communicate to members and their families.  The Three Fires Midewiwin also has a website and a Facebook page.  These tools are used to better communicate gathering information, arrange carpools, discuss ceremony logistics and arrangements.  It is also a means to promote Midewiwin life to those that might be interested.

Many Midewiwin people are everyday people, like artists, students and professions.  Many use the internet on a regular basis.  For example, I have a blog dedicated to my life, not only as a communication professional and an Anishinaabe citizen – but to share my life as a Midewiwin man.

However, traditional teachings and traditional knowledge are not to be shared across these networks.

The modern Midewiwin society also has many of the conveniences of home.  Our Three Fires Midewiwin School, located in Cedar, Wisconsin has a full-sized Midewiwin lodge indoors so mid-winter ceremonies can be held in comfortable surroundings.  The lodge provides a kitchen in the school house as a modern convenience and in order to prepare food safely for hundreds of people.

All ceremonies now make use of in-lodge lighting and sound systems.  Often times, lodges are created that can be over 100 feet long.  So to be able to communicate across the length and width of the lodge requires a reliable, multi-speaker sound system.

Modern publishing and academia have provided a forum to bestow the values of the Midewiwin into mainstream society.  Internet publishing, books, thesis and texts have assisted in the public education of Anishinaabe culture and Midewiwin spirituality.

Museums and collections are more accurately and respectfully portraying the Midewiwin in a proper light.  Midewiwin people are consulted on collections, exhibits, conservation and research.  Modern approaches to anthropology, archaeological practices and museum policy are now much more inclusive and respectful of Anishinaabe people and their spirituality.

This technology and modern conveniences have made the Midewiwin society more accessible and open for all Anishinaabe people.  The growth in the lodge in the past 10 years celebrates this fact.  Many of these technologies and innovations have led to a first-time awareness of the Midewiwin society and indigenous Anishinaabe culture.  This has led to more Anishinaabe people finding their true identity as citizens of the Anishinabek Nation.  It has also led to more people attending the Midewiwin ceremonies, funding healing in the Midewiwin lodge, a substantial increase in the number of Midewiwin initiates and more awareness of our Anishinaabe spiritual ways.

Q:  Is the ceremony still annual?

A:  Midewiwin ceremonies are held every season.  Summer cermonies usually take place in August, Fall Ceremonies take place in October.  Mid-winter Ceremonies take place in February.  Spring Ceremonies, which is the largest annual gathering, takes place in June.  This is when the Midewiwin initiations take place in the initiation lodge.  This usually takes place during the full-moon in June at Madigan Park, Bad River, Wisconsin.

Other gatherings take place throughout the year.  This year there is a Midewiwin History Gathering taking place at the Three Fires Midewiwin School in Cedar, Wisconsin over the new year.  There are always regular language camps, fasting camps, Midewiwin learning-continuing education opportunities, regional ceremonies and gatherings, sweat lodges, etc.  In some areas with larger Midewiwin populations (i.e. Bad River, WI, London, Ontario, Mount Pleasant, MI) activities take place on a regular basis.

The smaller Midewiwin lodges have annual ceremonies, smaller local ceremonies and come together on special occasions.