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 hearing aids in Tempe AZ is the best solution for aged admirers.
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!!