Posts tagged ‘Midewiwin’

Restoring Anishinaabe Culture takes Faith

There was a time, in the relatively-near past, when Anishinaabe people knew exactly who they were.  This was unquestionable.

As early as the early-1900s, we had our language.  We had our systems of governance.  We had our own Spirituality.  We had our own way of life – from how we were born to how we died.

We had so much that was inherently Anishinaabe…

How we raised our children.
How we healed our illnesses.
What we learned and how we were taught.
How we earned our living.
What we harvested and what we ate.
How we lived our lives. How we Loved.  How we laughed.
How we treated our Elders.
How we sang, created art… how we entertained and socialized with one another…

The sum of all these things is culture.

“Native Culture” isn’t just a band office program.  It isn’t just our annual pow-wow.  It isn’t an evening language class or even the summer pow-wow trail.  It is the sum of all those things that make us uniquely Anishinaabe, including our traditional teachings, our way of life, how we talk to each other and how we pray to the Creator.  Culture is our collective identity and how we see ourselves.

And, it’s sad to say, much of it has been lost to history.

But the loss of culture was not our fault.  We have no reason to be ashamed.  There is good reason why we lost our way.

It is a well-documented fact that Christianity was forced upon the Anishinaabe and many other First Nations across North America.  Early missionaries, including that of the jesuit mission in Garden Village (later the Holy Spirit Mission) were established with the sole purpose of converting the heathen, soulless Indians into good Christians worthy of heaven.  Later, the establishment of residential schools, like those in Spanish, Chapleau and Sault Ste. Marie, tore apart our families and community with the forcible removement and systemic abuse of our children.  All in the name of assimilation, intolerance and the Lord Jesus Christ.

But this was done so subtly, so systematically, and so successfully, that our people have come to accept that they were Christian and that very little was done to our people as a whole.  I’ve heard some survivors say they were grateful for their education at residential school and thankful that their Christian faith guided them through those tough times away from their families.

As a result, we have a whole lot of mixed-up Christians singing pow-wow and hand-drum songs, dancing their hearts out, taking Native language classes and marching for Treaty Rights.

I’m not writing this to discourage those like-minded individuals, who are working to raise their families as Anishinaabe.  There are many people out there that have shed their colonial outer garments for an AIM t-shirt.  They know the challenges of living a life in search of something more.  Trying our hardest to give our children what was kept from us.

We try our hardest, but we don’t think Anishinaabe anymore.  In reality, very few Anishinaabe people can actually speak Anishinaabemowin.  Those that speak Anishinaabemowin, can think in their language…  but mainly about Jesus and their shame of being Indian.  Original Sin is something far more profound when you have dark skin.

We need to turn the corner on re-establishing our nationhood and re-defining our inherent, indigenous culture as Anishinaabe people.

I have said many times, we need to gradually assimilate into our own culture.  This is something my friend Brian Loukes calls “acculturation”.

This begins through education. We must have the courage to transform our entire education system into a truly Anishinaabe institution.

We need to restore our language.  This can only be done through language immersion programs in Anishinaabemowin – the official language of our people.  Our children need to be able to think in Anishinaabemowin once again.  This doesn’t mean we turn our backs on English.  This is the 21st Century.  We do have to be proficient in both languages.

Nor do we need to sacrifice principles of good education to find our way back to Anishinaabe culture.  We still need to read and write, learn mathematics, science, geography, biology and chemistry.  We can all do this in Anishinaabemowin and being mindful of our own world view.  We do, however, need to be taught our own history, philosophy and way of life.  We need to be educated about our Treaty and inherent rights.  We need to be educated in the traditional ways of protecting the environment.

Most importantly, we need to have Faith.  We need to have Faith that we, the Anishinaabeg, are as important as any other nation on this Earth.  We must have Faith that our language and culture is just as valuable as any other.  We have Faith in our abilities to govern ourselves and teach ourselves.

We have to give up our reliance on others, including the government.  We can indeed be self-sufficient and prosperous, economically, socially and culturally.

But Faith is one of the problems.  With the dominance and influence of Christianity in our communities, we won’t be addressing Faith anytime soon.

You see, the Anishinaabe people have our own Faith and spiritual way of life.  For all intents and purposes, we have our own religion.  Our entire society, including our language and culture, are deeply rooted in Spirituality.  These are the original teachings and way of life of our ancestors, Gte Anishinaabeg.  We have a society expressly dedicated to living and protecting this way of life called the Midewiwin.  This beautiful society keeps many of the most profound teachings of the Anishinaabe, including our Creation Story, the philosophy of Mno-Bimaadiziwin and the Seven Grandfather Teachings.  These teachings are only the tip of a very immense iceburg that is the full expanse of Anishinaabe belief, custom, Spirituality and culture.  Much of it remains totally unknown to 99 per cent of Anishinaabe people.

Many Christians, Anishinaabe or not, are not willing to trust in their own inherent belief systems.  The teachings of the Church are so ingrained in our society, so well instituted in our families and communities – it may never be shed in favour of traditional Anishinaabe spirituality.

Assimilation and Christianity has been so subtle, so systematic, and so successful that we no longer see that there is anything wrong.  We can go about our lives, sending our kids to school.  We do our best to learn about “Native Culture”, taking Ojibwe language classes and drumming and dancing on the weekend.  Come Sunday, after confession, we can settle down to our nice family dinner with the confidence that we will go to heaven.  Confident that St. Peter, will meet us at the Pearly Gates and welcome us with open arms.

I wonder what pow-wow weekend is like in Heaven and if Jesus is the Emcee?

A Scientific view of National Aboriginal Day

There is one thing that is on my mind on this National Aboriginal Day.  Particle physics.

Maybe I’ll back up a little.

One of my favourite movies of all time is My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  In addition to his exploits with Windex, I fondly recall how Kostas “Gus” Portokalos can take a word, any word, and show you that the root of that word is Greek.

Well, today is your lucky day.  Just as most things can be explained through indigenous traditional knowledge, I will explain how particle physics relates to me as Anishinaabe and how scientific theory can be explained through indigenous traditional knowledge.

Now…  I’m not going to go into depth.  I’m sure a future Midewiwin University will graduate their first graduate in physics.  Only then will these details be elaborated on.

But my thesis statement for this National Aboriginal Day is simple:  the Anishinaabe are incredibly sophisticated people, with a beautiful culture, a wealth of knowledge and have contributed to world society in so many ways.

Anishinaabe people understood many concepts of science.  Certainly, our understanding of cosmology and astronomy was well documented.  How else would modern science know that today is the summer solstice?

Let’s start with medical science.  Anishinaabe people had a full understanding of medicine and the human body.  Our oldest teachings of mno-bimaadiziwin (the good life) tell us how we must all live with a mindful balance of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.  Sound familiar?  This is something that we hear about now more than ever before.

When any one of more of these break down – there are sophisticated healing methods to restore that balance.  Physical health, for example, requires a rigorous assessment and understanding of the patient’s condition and background before any combination of medicines can be administered.  Not only holistic or homeopathic medicines – but bona fide natural and skilfully prepared pharmaceuticals administered by professional medicine people.

We understand our place in the world and that we are only a small, insignificant part of the greater universe.  Through our unique gift of intellect, we took on the role as stewards of Mother Earth.  Possible our greatest contributions of indigenous traditional knowledge is through ecology and environmental science.

Our Creation Story tells us that the universe was indeed created with a big bang.  This isn’t described to us as a violent event, rather the first thought of our Creator.  This thought moves out in every direction, continually expanding outward on an infinite scale.

When it comes to physics – Anishinaabe people certainly understood the concepts.  However, this is based on our traditional teachings, worldview and understanding which is quite different from many others.

We indeed had a number of basic understandings of particle physics.  We understood there are many sub-elements to even to the basic physical elements:  fire, water, air, earth and stone.  These sub-elements can not be seen or described.

Our teachings tell us that some of these sub-elements originate in space – the place between the Sky World and the Spirit World.  Earth, for example, is made up of up to nine different gifts provided to us from the older brothers of our Mother Earth.  At night, a learned Midewiwin teacher can point out the origins of the Earth from those celestial bodies through their path across the sky orbiting our grandfather Giizis – the Sun.

From a more elemental perspective, our intellectuals understood the concept of infinite smallness and infinite bigness.  The bonds of mass and energy, whether they are infinitely small or infinitely big, are constantly in motion.  This scientific principle, which includes the basic principles of particle physics, is explained through Spiritual Force.

The most fundamental teaching to Anishinaabe is that everything that is living, or is animate, has a Spirit.  Even those things that may not be seen as animate (a rock or sand, for example) has a Spirit.  All Spiritual entities are connected in an unseen realm, the Spirit World.  This exists unseen by those of us who inhabit the physical realm, a concept better explained by Stephen Hawking’s theory of space and time.

At the sub-particle level of any given element is Spiritual Force.  A living force, an energy pattern, an electrically-charged movement of matter.

I’m not talking “The Force” here and I’m by no means a Jedi.  But perhaps George Lucas had something right.

Unfortunately, science cannot easily explain the Spiritual Force.  In fact, modern western science cannot explain “Spirit” whatsoever.  And questions remain:  What charges various sub-atomic particles?  What causes a fertilized reproductive cell to begin dividing?  For the Anishinaabe, the answer to these has always been known:  Spirit.

First Nations continue to be an untapped source of knowledge.  Anishinaabe people have a wealth of indigenous traditional knowledge that can explain much of the unknown – including some of the unexplained mysteries of science and of life itself.

On National Aboriginal Day, we shouldn’t only celebrate the culture of First Nations people that we can see…  we should also appreciate the knowledge of First Nations people that continue to remain unseen.

Anishinaabe Teachings are within reach

What are “teachings”?

It’s a simple enough question that has a vast array of answers.

Some Anishinaabeg people think a teaching is a form of unsolicited, mystic wisdom. You sign up for a weekend event or conference, someone will no doubt provide you with some teachings.

Some think teachings are what a knowledgeable speaker says at a pow-wow. Some think it is anything that is said in a ceremony. If you go to enough ceremonies – you’ll have your share of teachings. While many others think it is history or individual knowledge given in the “oral tradition”.

Some will go so far as saying that teachings are anything that an Elder says. Well, there are just as many definitions of “Elder” as there are for “teachings”. Some think The Elder is KISS’ worst studio album.

The teachings that I’m speaking of don’t come from any unsolicited, mystic wisdom. The teachings that I’m writing about don’t come from individual knowledge or someone’s life stories.

The teachings that I’m speaking of are a specific set of indigenous knowledge. In this case, Anishinaabe indigenous knowledge.

These teachings have specific wording in the Anishinaabemowin language. These teachings don’t change. Sure, words can evolve over time and can be translated – but their meaning is always the same when they are given. These teachings have an origin and a specific story of their own. They also have corresponding traditional songs. Beautiful songs. Each teachings has a specific place among a multitude of places. They also have innumerable specific purposes. The teachings that I’m speaking of don’t come at random.

Believed me, these are quite different from the teachings you receive from your local Elder around the pow-wow campfire.

I’ll draw a parallel from Christianity.

Jesus Christ has teachings. Those teachings come from the Holy Bible – which is the source of Christian wisdom and contain a specific set of teachings from the Christian Lord.

But if I were to say that: Jesus came to me in a dream last night – and said that we must all wear yellow socks in honour of the crucifixion. In that dream, Jesus himself lifted his golden robe and showed me his yellow socks – which were soothing his sacred wounds. He said: “Wearing these yellow socks should be part of your ritual stigmata.” He spoke to me in ancient Arimaic, which I fully understand and speak in my dreams.

Most Christians would say “B*llsh*t!” – no matter how believable I am while I testify with my arms to the sky. And rightly so.

But when an “Elder” comes forward, honourarium paid for by the band office, and provides our communities with “teachings” – we gather in droves, like he or she is distributing loaves and fishes.

No matter how many “Elders”, “teachers”, “shamans”, “mystics”, “traditional people” and “consultants” you consult – there is only one true source of our original, Anishinaabeg teachings. The Midewiwin Lodge.

The Midewiwin, the “way of the heart”, is a society that was given the role to teach, practice and preserve the traditional knowledge and original spiritual way of the Anishinaabe people.  The Midewiwin is the source of our Creation Story, the story of Waynaboozhoo, our Clan System and the Seven Grandfather Teachings.  The Midewiwin hold these teachings in trust for all Anishinaabe people. In fact, our teachings tell us that the Spirit of this Lodge, Mide-mnidoo, was provided to the Anishinaabeg by the Creator to look after us and provide us with a sense of closeness and kinship to G’zhemnidoo.

We have something else in common with Christians. Anishinaabe teachings are indeed written down – contrary to the many people out there that think everything Indian people are taught comes down in the so-called oral tradition.

The wigwaas (birchbark) scrolls are an incredible record of Anishinaabe indigenous knowledge. I’ve seen these scrolls with my own eyes, and held them with my own hands. They are an incredible record of our Creation story, our history as well as our vibrant, Spiritual past and sacred teachings. Some scrolls, corresponding teachings and songs are a record of our original instructions given to us directly from the Creator. We may lack a Moses but we have our very own Anishinaabe ten commandments! Well actually, a great deal more than ten.

The Anishinaabe are no different that any other indigenous nation. Many other nations have traditional societies that look after their traditional knowledge and teachings. The best example is the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) people. The source of their knowledge is the Longhouse. No one can purport to provide Mohawk teachings or Oneida wisdom without being a sanctioned member of the Longhouse. If they did, they’d be quickly called on it: “B*llsh*t!”

Unfortunately, for the Anishinaabe, our traditional knowledge is very old and is long lost in almost every single one of our communities. Our history and prophesies tell us that the Midewiwin foreseen what would happen to our people and our ancestors chose to hide our ways and keep them secret. Unfortunately, that also worked against us. Our ways and knowledge were simply were forgotten. Our indigenous knowledge and traditional societies have long since been taken away from us and labeled as devil-worship. The Midewiwin have been replaced by more civilized values and Christianity.

However, as more and more Anishinaabe people are regaining their identity – they are seeking to learn more about their traditional ways. Some are choosing to return to those ways entirely. Sadly, a great many people – confused by the melting pot of “Aboriginal” knowledge – are swept up by new age and pow-wow spirituality. Other Anishinaabe people choose to live a hybrid life attending a plethora of ceremonies, fasting, sweat lodges, sun dances, rain dances, and round dances belonging to other nations. However, this makes them quite healthy and happy and it provides many people with fulfillment in their lives. Many are oblivious to the fact that their practices are borrowed from other nations.

However, within reach – and right under their noses – is true, Anishinaabe knowledge.

Still, many people simply don’t want to put in the work it requires to earn this knowledge. Many feel the Midewiwin are a secret society, or a selfish, protective cult holding this knowledge for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All Anishinaabe people are entitled to this knowledge and are welcome to study all the Spirit will offer. However, it requires time, effort, a commitment to the society and a commitment to living a good and just life. As our Grand Chief Bawdwaywidun has always said – if you want to know: “Come to the Lodge.”

Three Fires Midewiwin Mid-winter Ceremonies

February 24-28, 2010
to be held at Mide Learning Center
11126 West Highway #2, Saxon, Wisconsin.


Pre-Work (Woodcutting, Snow Removal, Etc.)
Saturday to Tuesday  

Camp Day   Wednesday, February 24.  Meetings and Sweat Lodges
6:00 p.m.  Lodge Meeting: Grand Chief Presiding; Work Details/Schedules
8:00 p.m.  Sweat Lodges for Teachers, Leaders, O’shkawbewis/workers 

Day 1  Thursday, February 25.  Lighting of the Fire
6:21 a.m.  Lighting of the Fire, Fire Chief presiding
7:39 a.m.  1st Sunrise Ceremony: Grand Chief, Chief Drum
~ Mide Wayahniquay preparation of Water Offering ~
10:30 a.m. D rum Call in: All Midewiwin and Initiates to be in the Lodge
~ Lodge Opening Ceremonies & Protocols ~
12:00 p.m. Water Bundle Offering
1:45 p.m.  Welcome Feast hosted by the Grand Chief and Family                          .
2:00 p.m.  Teaching and Preparations
~ Grandmothers Meeting  (TBA) ~
6:00 p.m.  Feast: Bizhew, Miengun Clans

Day 2   Friday, February 26.  Ceremonies Continue
6:45 a.m. Sunrise Ceremony
7:30 to 9:30 a.m.  Break and Lodge Preparations
10:00 a.m.  Drum Call in: All Midewiwin & Initiates to be in the Lodge
~ Lodge Ceremonies & Protocols ~
11:00 a.m.  Naming and Clan Declarations (All people waiting for their name please advise your namer/seeker and your sponsors that you will be present)
12:00  Noon Feast: Host ~ Jingle Dress Society
2:00 p.m.  Initiate Preparation and Teaching Sessions
3:00 p.m.  Special meeting  ~ Leadership and T.R.C.
6:00 p.m.  Feast: Host ~ Water Clans
~ Evening Initiates Preparation and Teachings Continue ~

Day 3   Saturday, February 27.  Ceremonies Continue
6:45 a.m.  Sunrise Ceremony
10:00 a.m.  Drum Call in: All Midewiwin & Initiates to be present.
~ Lodge Ceremonies & Protocols ~
12:00 Noon Feast:  Host ~ Mahkwa Clan
2:00 p.m.  O’Gitchidaw  / Buffalo Dance¦lt;br /> 6:00 p.m.  Feast: Host ~ Waubizayshee Clan
8:00 p.m.  Jingle Dress Healing Dance TBA,

Day 4   Sunday, February 28.  Protocols and Wrap up
6:45 a.m.  Sunrise Ceremony
10:00 a.m.  Lodge Call in
~ Healing Bundle: February Full Moon ~ Preparation Instructions ~
Noon Travelling Feast ~ Hoof and Loon Clans
CLEAN UP  Mide School, House, Kitchen, Grounds.

Hugs, Tears, Peace.



  • Come early to help ready or plan to stay later to help clean up. There is a LOT of work that needs to be done: wood cutting, water truck, snowplowing, kitchen preparation, sweat lodge work, rocks, wood. Lodge repair. Etc. ALL help/helpers are greatly appreciated!
  • Remember to bring you feast bundle.
  • Clans are expected to contribute $250.00 to the cost of the cook, utilities at the Mide School over and above your Clan Feast food/costs.
  • A Three Fires School Board meeting will be convened, time TBA
  • Those wishing to prepare the Healing Bundle (see Sunday Agenda) will need to have these items ready: Burgundy and Black cloth. Burgundy and Black narrow ribbon; seven small black stones and a small (e.g. just a square inch or so) of bear hide.
  • Donations are always appreciated!
  • Donations for the Mide Mall: Proceeds from the Mide Mall are applied to cover the costs of ceremonies.
  • Medicines: cedar, sage, sweetgrass, traditional tobacco, copal and charcoal burners, bear root etc. are always welcomed. If you have bear hide to share, bring it.
  • Ceremony feast foods: fish, wild meat, wild rice, traditional corn, staples for the kitchen in general: spices, cooking oils, coffee, tea, maple sugar, maple syrup.
  • Cleaning supplies (environmentally friendly) and tools; serving trays, dish cloths, paper towels, etc., dish-washing station.  
  • Feast cloths are often in short supply. Fresh cloths for each feast should be available. If you bring one to use, put your name on it unless you are donating it to the lodge.



Odanah, Wisconsin
(17 miles west of Mide School on US Hwy 2)

Bad River Casino 1-800-682-7121 ~ Hotel is fully booked.

Ashland, Wisconsin
(26 miles west of Mide School)

Ashland Motel     715-682-5503
Bayview Motel     715-682-5253
Bell Motel  715-682-4109
Lake Aire Inn  715 682-4551
Lake Side Motel  715-682-4575
Super 8 Motel  715-682-9377

Ironwood, Michigan
(13 miles east of Mide School)

Advance Motel  906-932-4511
Americ Inn Motel   906-932-7200
Comfort Inn   906-932-2224
Indianhead Motel 906-932-0800
Ironwood Motel   906-932-5520
Sandpiper Motel  906-932-2000
Super 8 Motel   906-932-3395
Budget Host Inn   906-932-1260
Crestview Motel   906-932-4845
Royal Motel  906-932-4230

Hurley, Wisconsin
(12 miles east of Mide School)

Days Inn 715-561-3500
Ramada Inn 715-561-3030
Starlight Motel 715-561-3085


Gi Guh Waubuh Mi Goo, Neekawnis.

Hope To See You Soon, My Mide Relatives And Initiates.

Meiwe,  Bawdwaywidun

What do you mean you’re going to Ceremonies?

Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge Grand Chief Eddie Benton-Banai

“I’m going to ceremonies.”

If you work for an aboriginal organization or around First Nations people, chances are you may have heard the phrase.  You may even know a few people that take time off every few months in order to attend ceremonies.

But what does that mean:  “going to ceremonies?”

Here’s the answer from an ethnographic, socio-anthropological point-of-view.

But please understand that this article is a plain-language, nuts and bolts overview of a very rich and diverse way of life.  It certainly does not depict the intense spiritual and intellectual traditions of the Midewiwin way of life.

The Midewiwin is holistic in it’s being.  Meaning that birth, formal education, higher education, family life, marriage, parenting, value systems, vocations, governance and leadership, laws, the clan system, social structure, healing and medicine and even our social life… they all exist within Midewiwin Lodge.  Even more specialized societies and ceremonies, like the Sundance, Sweat Lodge, Ogitchidaa, big drum, shaking tent – they all exist within the Midewiwin.

Today, much of that has been assimilated by broader society.  Sadly, most communities have long forgotten about the Midewiwin society.

But for the Midewiwin people, our lives are dedicated to living this way of life and our central concept of mno-bimaadiziwin, or the Good Life.

In case you haven’t picked it up already, my family and I belong to a traditional society called the Midewiwin.  If you Google Midewiwin, a whole world of Ojibway sorcery opens up on your screen.  Grand Medicine Society, Secret Society, Shamanism, Mysticism…  These are just colourful, spooky words to describe our traditional spiritual way of life.

Midewiwin simply means “way of the heart” in the Ojibwe language.  Our society existed long before European contact and is one of the oldest spiritual movements in North America.


There are only a small number of functioning Midewiwin Lodges across Anishinaabek territory, mainly centred in northwestern Ontario and Minnesota.  Our Lodge, called the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge is probably the largest Midewiwin community.  The Eastern Doorway of our Lodge is centred in Ontario and central Michigan; the Centre Fire is located in Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the Western Doorway is centred in southern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

Historically, the Midewiwin consisted of the Algonkian people of the Great Lakes area:  the Anishinaabe.  Linguists thoughtfully sub-divided the Anishinaabek nation into the Ojibway, Odawa, Pottawotomi, Algonquin, Mississauga and Chippewa.  Today, many other nationalities have found their way to the Midewiwin including the Lene Lenapi, Ho-chunk, Haudenasaunee, Cree, Mik’maq, even a Mayan and a couple of Choctaws and Cherokees.  You can call us the United Nations of traditional societies.

Our gatherings take place each season usually on the Full Moon.  Spring Ceremonies take place in June, Summer Ceremonies take place in August, Fall Ceremonies take place in late-October or November, and Mid-winter ceremonies take place in February or March.


The ceremonies themselves take place in a beautiful, spiritual place called the Midewiwin Lodge or Mide-wiigaan.  The Lodge is an elongated framed structure made of maple saplings tied together in a special configuration.  In school, you might have been taught that this is called a “wigwam”.  Our Lodge has been known to be as long as 140 feet to accommodate greater numbers.

There is special meaning to each part of the Lodge itself including it’s doorways and the four levels of supports that enclose the sides of the Lodge.  For example, the “path of life” is set of parallel poles that reach out from the earth forming the Eastern Doorway.  They run along the highest part of the roof, right across the length of the Lodge and back down into the earth at the Western Doorway.  The fireplace is at the centre and heart of the Lodge.

People sit along the edge of the Lodge, both inside and outside the Lodge.  There are special placements for drums, leadership, Elders, initiates and special guests.

Ceremonies usually last at least four days beginning with Fire Lighting Ceremony.  Fire Lighting is done by the men, who have the traditional responsibility to provide and look after the fire for the full four days.

Lately, to accommodate the needs of the Lodge – ceremonies have been known to start on the Wednesday and last five days.


The most essential part of Midewiwin Society is our belief in the Creator, the Spirit World and in our special caretaker Spirit, called Mide-mnidoo.  The Midewiwin Spirit is called into the Lodge and is present throughout the duration of ceremonies.  The Spirit is embodied in the sacred Grandfather Water Drum, who presides over the Lodge.  The Grand Chief and the Doorway Chiefs of the Lodge sit at the Grandfather.  There are also several Little Boy water drums, who are the helpers of the Grandfather.

The term ceremonies is plural for a reason. There are many diverse ceremonies that take place in the Midewiwin Lodge.  Following fire-lighting, there is a daily sunrise ceremony that takes place.  This consists of a tobacco offering, sharing of the sacred pipes, a water offering conducted by the women and sharing some food, usually berries.

The tobacco offering takes place a number of times during the day.  During a series of songs, each man, woman and child offer tobacco in a bowl that goes around the Lodge.  The tobacco is gathered by tobacco dancers who fill pipes and offer them to the Spirit.  The Pipe is first smoked by the Elders on behalf of all those in session.  The tobacco is spoken for in prayer and brought around for everyone to smoke.  Most just touch the pipe stem to acknowledge the Spirit.

The Water Ceremony is a beautiful ceremony conducted by our women.  The Midewaanikwe hold the water up in copper vessels while a beautiful water song is rendered by the women.  The water is spoken for in prayer and a small amount is shared with everyone attending the session.  The water is no longer just nbi – it is then considered sacred medicine water, Mide-waaboo.

After the mid-morning tobacco offering and water ceremony, the mid-day feast takes place.  The feast is a ceremony into itself, consisting of a number of protocols, then sharing of a great traditional meal.


The afternoon session typically have a number of purposes.  Usually, during the early days of ceremonies, the afternoon is used for meetings. The Lodge leadership meetings or conducts workshops on occasion.  The Grandmothers council also gets a chance to meet.

During the time, the Road People begin assembling the Midewiwin initiates – those who have declared their intentions to join the society.  In recent years, between 45-60 people are initiated annually into the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge.

Preparing the initiates is an important job and requires time.  For example, the evening session on the first day is set aside for Sweat Lodge ceremonies for teachers and initiates.  Throughout Summer, Fall and Mid-winter Ceremonies, the initiates receive their four sacred teachings – which is solely for the Midewiwin people.  They also receive four songs to help them in preparation for the initiation that takes place over the course of two to three days during Spring Ceremonies.  A special initiation Lodge is built for that purpose.  It is the most beautiful time for Midewiwin people, to welcome new brothers and sisters into the Lodge.

There are many levels, or degrees of the Midewiwin.  In our Lodge, our leadership and teachers do their work as Fifth Degree and Fourth Degree Chiefs.  During the height of Midewiwin history, Midewiwin priests (as they were called in the history books) attained levels as high as Eighth Degree Midewiwin.  Each level of learning requires further intense commitment and level of understanding.


One of the most exciting part of ceremonies are the Ogitchidaa Dance, the Buffalo Dance and the Jingle Dress Healing Dance.  These are special ceremonies that usually take place in succession on the Saturday of ceremonies.  There is a lot of dancing, singing, feasting and fellowship.

The Ogitchidaa Dance is a lively session of singing and dancing led by our veterans in our Lodge and it’s a means to re-enlighten our pride and tradition of the Ogitchidaa Society.

The Buffalo Dance is done by those who are just developing into adolescence.  These brave Buffalo Dancers give a four year commitment to abstain from drugs and alcohol, boy-girl relationships and go through this time as a role models for other youth.

The Jingle Dress Healing Dance is a time of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing for the participants.  The Jingle Dress dancers do their work during this sombre, yet powerful ceremony.


The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge has a unique history, in that it was envisioned the Midewiwin Society would need to bridge the gap between the old ways and the young people.  That involved the controversial decision to allow English to be used in the Lodge for those who could not understand.  Today, ceremonies are still only conducted in the Ojibway language, although individual interpreters assist those who are unable to understand the language.  Learning the Ojibway language is a crucial commitment to being a part of the Midewiwin Society, as the work of the Spirit can only be done in Ojibway.