Posts tagged ‘Midewiwin’

Cannabis is not Anishinaabe medicine. In fact, it’s contrary to our way of life.

I’ve got something important to share. It may not be popular but I have to say it. So here goes.

Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include the use of cannabis.

The use of cannabis, either recreationally or medicinally, is contrary to Anishinaabe teachings and sacred law.

Sacred law tells us that using anything that alters our spirit in any way, is a big no-no. I learned this long ago in in the Midewiwin Lodge and from many true Anishnaabe leaders, teachers and healers over the years. It’s the one reason why I personally chose not to use alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.

I’ve seen several mind-altering herbs, roots, vines and leaves, all natural products, make their way into our communities from outside Indigenous healers. This includes anything from peyote to ayahuasca. Such potent hallucinogens and their purveyors have also left a lot of pain in their wake.  I’ve even heard some Anishinaabeg speak about a “whiskey ceremony” where a shot is passed around while telling stories. Forget what you’ve been told – this is not the case.

Yes, cannabis is natural. It might not lead to issues of hardcore dependence and overdose that we are seeing from opioids in our communities. And sure, it is somebody’s medicine.  But it is definitely not Anishinaabe medicine.

In our Creation Story, Msko-Gaabwid, the red-standing one, was placed on Earth with all the things he needed. Tobacco, the very first medicine, is a medicine that is almost entirely spiritual in nature because that very first human being was very much spirit rather than physical. However, as the world evolved, our eldest ancestor began to become more and more physical. As such, Anishinaabe, as he was to be known, had more physical needs including the need for food and medicine. It is said that medicinal plants gives themselves to us. Food plants give themselves to us too.

Anishinaabe and all his descendants are to keep all Creation in balance including our own physical vessel. More than that, we are to keep our body, mind and spirit pure and unaltered. We are told of these types of substances in our Creation Story. Our medicine people knew of these things. But plainly and clearly, we are told not to ingest anything that disrupts that balance, or may disrupt our interrelationships with all those in Creation.

When we take cannabis, alcohol and narcotics and use it in such a way that it makes us “high”, we disrupt the balance within us and around us. We hurt the balance between the body and the spirit. Our Spirit is disrupted. Dependence on these substances will ultimately affect our emotional and mental balance as well. Eventually, no matter how gentle the effect is, long-term use of these substances will also take a physical toll.

This kind of hurt my heart a bit. Ode’imin, the pure and beautiful strawberry, a chief medicine food, has become a cannabis edible.

Many of our Grandmothers and Grandfathers are concerned over the impacts that cannabis will have on our youth.  Evidence shows that using cannabis increases the risk in the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses. Also, there is evidence of the risk and repercussions associated of chronic and problem cannabis use, increased risk of depressive disorders, social anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Today, I’m seeing a lot of nonchalance about the use of “medicinal” cannabis for any number of remedies.  Even more disturbing, there is a lot of indifference to the legalization of “recreational” cannabis.  We should be concerned over our already high incidence of addictions, mental illness, chronic disease and inter-generational trauma among Anishinaabe people. Making cannabis more accessible, through community-based dispensaries or even from the LCBO in town is so concerning to those who live by our traditional ways.

The use of cannabis has been discussed in our traditional societies and Lodges over the years. No matter how many time it’s raised, (“Well, it’s going to be legal soon.” “Many people use it for medicinal purposes.” “It’s not really going to hurt anybody.” “My auntie needs it for her eczema.”), the discussion is never a long one.

Again, with emphasis added: Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include use of cannabis. Period. It just doesn’t get any clearer from an Anishinaabe point of view.

That’s bad news for some Chiefs and leaders, pot-activists, cannabis enthusiasts, clever businesspeople, medical dispensaries and corner drug dealers.

I might be out of touch, unhip or too beholden to our Anishinaabe beliefs – but I thought I’d put it out there. They are our beliefs and there are many of us that stand by them.


One of the greatest gifts given to us by Gzhemnidoo is the gift of freewill. And the first teaching we are given when we hear the Creation Story is that “all Creation stories are true”. Meaning, we are all entitled to our beliefs and we can all choose our own paths that are right for us.
The purpose of the blog was to share our beliefs and perspectives from Anishinaabe teachings. No one is expecting everyone to live by them to the letter, or that they cannot evolve. However, this perspective regarding spirit-altering medicines hadn’t been shared and I felt strongly that it needed to be put on the record.
Taking medicines in a responsible way that honours them, honours our bodies and honours Creation around us is well within our ways. As some wise people point out, there are ways to use cannabis without getting high, disrupting our spirit or abusing the medicine.
As I acknowledged in the blog, this is somebody’s medicine. If they find relief and comfort in that, by all means. But it’s important to hear all aspects of the discussion, including those perspectives given to us in our Creation Story and original instructions as Anishinaabeg. Miigwetch.

New book “Sounding Thunder” honours a true Anishinaabe hero

soundingthunderMy good friend and Midewiwin brother Waabishki-makwa (Brian D. McInnes) has written a new book about his great-grandfather The Late Francis Pegahmagabow.  I’ve spoken with him over the years about this book, probably when it was a mere idea, long before he was writing it.  For him, it was much more than a literary work but a labour of Love, respect and rightful acknowledgement of a true Anishinaabe hero and Canada’s most decorated indigenous soldier.

He isn’t just a hero because of his medals or his actions in the military, Francis Pegahmagabow was truly the embodiment of what it means to be Ogitchidaa.  He wasn’t just a warrior who stood up to protect his people during war-time, he was a role model and true public servant in many ways.  He used his bravery and courage far beyond the battlefield for the benefit of his community and all Anishinaabeg people.

The legacy of Binaaswi-ban, Adik dodemun has been celebrated by our local Anishinaabeg communities for many years, but only recently shared by all Canadians.  We remember him through the stories of his family, including my uncle Baimassige-ban (the late-Merle Pegahmagabow), many Wasauksing Elders, political and spiritual leaders, academics and writers like Brian, Waub Rice and Joseph Boyden.

I’m looking forward to reading more about this man I’ve heard so much about.  Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow is published by the University of Manitoba Press and will be available on September 16.

Congratulations, Waabishki-makwa.  You make us proud, my Brother.  Chi-miigwetch for keeping his stories and memory alive.

Sounding Thunder:
The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow

By Dr. Brian D. McInnespegahmagabow_statue

Francis Pegahmagabow (1889-1952), an Ojibwe of the Caribou clan, was born in Shawanaga First Nation, Ontario. Enlisting at the onset of the First World War, he served overseas as a scout and sniper and became Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldier.

After the war, Pegahmagabow settled in Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario, where he married and raised six children. He served his community as both Chief and Councillor and was a founding member of the Brotherhood of Canadian Indians, the first national Indigenous political organization. In 1949 and 1950, he was elected the Supreme Chief of the National Indian Government.

Francis Pegahmagabow’s stories describe many parts of his life and are characterized by classic Ojibwe narrative. They reveal aspects of Francis’s Anishinaabe life and worldview. Interceding chapters by Brian McInnes provide valuable cultural, spiritual, linguistic, and historic insights that give a greater context and application for Francis’s words and world. Presented in their original Ojibwe as well as in English translation, the stories also reveal a rich and evocative relationship to the lands and waters of Georgian Bay. In Sounding Thunder,  Brian McInnes provides new perspective on Pegahmagabow and his experience through a unique synthesis of Ojibwe oral history, historical record, and Pegahmagabow family stories.


Dr. Brian D. McInnes

Brian D. McInnes is a professional educator and author dedicated to diversity education, youth engagement, and organizational leadership. A member of the Wasauksing First Nation, McInnes has a deep interest in the preservation of Indigenous cultures and languages and is an accomplished speaker, presenter, and writer in English and Ojibwe. Brian is a descendant of Francis Pegahmagabow, and writing Sounding Thunder was an important opportunity for him to contribute to the legacy of his great-grandfather.

We are not the children of the 8th Fire… Far from it.

“We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.”


I don’t like to write anything pessimistic. When you start off your column with “I don’t like” you know it’s going to be one of those days.

Nanaia Mahuta.  Photo by  Radio New Zealand.

Nanaia Mahuta. Photo by Radio New Zealand.

This morning I was trolling through Facebook, eating my veggie omelette and drinking my decaf coffee. I offered congratulations to my friend Nanaia Mahuta, MP from the Waikato River region of New Zealand. Nanaia became the first Maori MP to wear the moko mauae, the traditional Maori chin tattoo. She said: “I wear my kauae tehe (moko) proudly… to bring the most positive aspects of what we have as a Māori culture, our mātauranga (knowledge) Māori, our world view, into New Zealand.”

It’s so good to see that Indigenous people from around the world, including many Anishinaabe, who are taking steps to make our language and culture a priority.

A good day, so far.

I scroll further down my Facebook feed only to get a punch in the gut. I put my omelette down.


According to Keith Montreuil:

“In 1996: 36000 people identified as first language speakers (mother tongue) half of which were using the language everyday in the home. 65% of those speakers are over the age of 60 (in 1996). Fast forward ten years and we see the amount of first language speakers has dropped to 19000 (a drop of nearly half) and this is ten years later.. So that group of 60 year olds are now a group of 70 year olds. It’s predicted that the amount of first language speakers (mother tongue) will drop to less than 10000 by this year, 2016. “

These are stark and troubling statistics.  It makes me so sad, almost hopeless.

I scroll down a little further and up pops an ignorant photo posted by Janet Gretzky, the wife of my hockey hero.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 9.46.10 AM

Fuming, I started to share and write a call to action. But it occurred to me that this isn’t supposed to happen this way. We were to be the children of the 8th Fire.

The Anishinaabe, through our 8th Fire Prophecy, were predicted to thrive. We were to become equals, to come together with our other brothers and sisters in our territory and contribute towards becoming one great nation. Our language and culture would be sought after. The colonizers would realize the folly of assimilation, value our ways of life, and seek out our advice and traditional knowledge for the betterment of society and Mother Earth.

We are not the children of 8th fire. We are far from it. That’s as pessimistic as it gets.

It’s time to turn it around.

We have to realize that a prophecy isn’t just going to magically happen on it’s own. It isn’t karma, destiny, fate or the will of God. The Midewiwin certainly can’t influence midichlorians, as the Jedi do, to impose our goodwill over the Earth. There will be missteps and setbacks along the way.

We must learn from our Anishinaabe prophecies. We must act to avoid those missteps within the prophecies. For example: The prophecies tell us that “the rivers will run with poison and the fish will become unfit to eat”. That’s precisely why Anishinaabeg women are standing up for the water. We must learn and adapt in order to take ourselves, our families, our nation in the right direction to ensure we lead the Anishinaabeg into that eighth and final fire of glory.

We must continue to take action. This action must be personal action.

  • Only I (only you), can work towards learning Anishinaabemowin.
  • Only I (only you), can take political action that makes our language a governmental priority for our First Nations governments, political leaders and our federal and provincial government by demanding programs, funding and support to our priorities.
  • Only I (only you), can stand up to those who act inappropriately by furthering negative stereotypes and trivializing our culture and it’s sacredness.
  • Only I (only you), can say something when you see an act of racism or someone who is treated disrespectfully.
  • Only I (only you), can contribute personally towards the goals of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The 8th Fire is coming. We all need to be ready for it whether it’s this generation or the next. We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.

Never give up. Never succumb to statistics and social media pessimism (even if it is mine).

Random Thoughts today…

lobster_brkfJust waiting for a conference call to start so I thought I’d put a few thoughts on paper.

BREAKFAST – This morning I had fresh maritime lobster with a fat-free cheese slice, egg white omelet (6 points on Weightwatchers).  Check out the photo.  The lobster kinda looks like when my Dad used to deep-fry bacon for his famous, moose-bacon cheese burger on fry bread (21 points).

TODAY’S BLESSING – “Gzhemnidoo (Great kind spirit – the Creator).  I look to you, in a humble way, for your help in my quest to lose weight and make healthier choices in life.  I’m having some difficult times in staying positive and following-through.  Today, I ask the Spirit World, the Grandmothers and Grandfathers all around me, to help me in this important personal goal.  Please look after me in dealing with my diabetes, that I stay focussed, take my medicine everyday and live healthy.  I think about all those, like me, living with diabetes and I ask that you look after them and their daily struggles.  Today, I give thanks for all your great works, for Creation around us, for this good and beautiful life, mno-bimaadiziwin.  I thank you for this wonderful Mide life, mice bimaadiziwin.  I give thanks for all your gifts, for my family and the health of others during this holiday season.  I broke my fast today with a tall, glass of clear, fresh water, nibi/mide-waaboo.  That sacred water that flows to us, with great kindness, from that third level above us.  I give thanks for the water and for the food that grows on Shkawkamig-Kwe (Mother Earth).  Miigwetch (thank you), Grandfathers and Grandmothers.  Take pity on us, Gzhemnidoo.”

FOOTBALL – It was a very interesting night in NFL football.  The Bears won.  The Packers came back after I had all but given up on them.  The Vikings upset the high-flying Eagles.  My Midewiwin family must be really happy today.  Quite a few upsets this week as well.  My Broncos and miracle quarterback Payton Manning losing to the Chargers was a bit of a shocker.  Pats lose.  Saints lose.  One social media comment I seen summed the whole weekend:  “Mediocrity prevails yet again.”

CHEYENNE SAUCIER – I had a great time at the Assembly of First Nation’s annual Christmas Party last Thursday.  It’s been a long while since I attended as it usually isn’t my kind of thing.  The dinner was amazing, the company was fun and interesting and the entertainment was top-notch.  Had a chance to listen to and meet young Cheyenne Saucier from Wikwemikong.  I bought her latest CD of country covers called The Nashville Sessions Vol. 1 to play in my car.  The level of talent among Anishinaabek youth is astounding.  She’s going to go far and I wish her luck in her career.

HOLIDAY PLANS – Holiday Dinner will be at Junior and Laurie’s place this coming Saturday.  We’re looking forward to a great feast, albeit, a feast of small portions for me.  Deborah and I are bringing a fresh, roasted, bone-in ham with a honey mustard glaze.  Griffin and Miigwans are Florida bound with their mom and Val for their holidays.  They depart this Friday so I won’t see them until next year.  Fortunately, they will be staying with us this Thursday night so we can exchange gifts.  Katherine Faith will be home on Christmas Eve.  Although she will be visiting her boyfriend Jake’s family over Christmas.  Deb and I will be on our own for Christmas night.  No fancy dinner planned.  We might go to a movie like we’ve done in the past.  In all likelihood, Deborah, myself, Katherine Faith, Jake, Jasmine and Fiona will head someplace warm for the holidays.  We will celebrate New Years in the warm climate of a five-star resort.

Nimoosh, the Spirit of our eldest Companion

pennyNimoosh (dog), the cousin of mayiingan (wolf), is our closest companion of the four-legged.  At the time of Creation, Anishinaabe and mayiingan walked Mother Earth together, learning new things, supporting each other, and experiencing life as companions and individuals. Some dogs had very bad situations when they grew up due this they are carrying psychological traumas, you can notice this when they bark all night. It happened to my dog, we were able to solved it reading an article where it teach you how to get a dog to stop barking at night.

Gzhemnidoo, in his wisdom, separated the paths of Anishinaabe and mayiingan by encouraging them to develop their own relationships and to follow the original instructions provided by the Creator to each species.


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Much later in our history, with great kindness, Gzhemnidoo gifted us with the domesticated nimoosh.  Nimoosh carries that same unconditional loyalty, Love and kindness that was first shown Anishinaabe by mayiingan.  We continue to walk our own paths, different but parallel, but we share much with each other.  They share our joy, elation, pain and stress.

Nimoosh will never leave your side.  Nimoosh seeks nothing other than the attention and Love, reciprocated by their masters, their chosen companion.  They flourish with your caress of their fur and return that affection with a gentle nuzzle and wet, whiskered licks.  You can be gone for a few minutes and they’ll greet you at the door like they haven’t seen you in years. They have long memories and will never, ever forget you.

Despite being different species, they are considered our brothers and our sisters and an important part our families.  Best of all, the Creator said that Anishinaabe and Nimoosh will never be separated again.  Even in the Spirit World, they will continue to walk that parallel path and we will see them again when they greet us when we reach the Western Door.

  • In Loving memory of Penny, the beautiful and long-time companion of the Richardson-Fontaine-Metallic-Janvier family.
  • In Loving memory of Sadie, the frisky and loyal companion of my brother Dennis Jr.
  • In Loving memory of Dixie, the red-haired best friend of Shawn and the Anderson family.

Three Fires Spring Ceremonies, June 11-16, 2013

Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge
Annual Spring Initiation Ceremonies

June 11-16, 2013
Madigan Park, Madigan Road.
Off HWY # 2, 3 miles east of Bad River Indian Reserve, Wisconsin

Download the full notice in Adobe PDF.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, June 8th and 9th
Advance Preparations

Boozhoo, Nindaway mawgunidoog! It is that long awaited for time for us to gather! We have lots of advance work to do. These early days are a great time to visit, catch up with your Mide family, and get great fresh air and exercise! Lodge pole gathering / grass cutting / grounds work / wood-cutting / sweat lodge building & preparation / transporting equipment to Madigan Park / kitchen readiness, cooking, cleaning, etc. Whew! Come early if you are able to do so, or plan to stay after ceremonies to help with the take-down, clean up at the ceremony grounds and kitchen, and putting things safely in storage at the Mide School. Weyweyni!

Ceremony preparations & planning / work details/ Sweatlodges for Oshkawbaywisug and Mide leadership

Midewauniquay Water Offering / Sweatlodges For Initiates

9:00 a.m. –  Work Detail Preparatory work continues.
12:00 noon Lunch – hosted/prepared by Mide-wahnikwe, to be served at Madigan Park (if its raining lunch will be served at the Mide School instead).
2:00 p.m. –  Water Bundle preparation immediately following lunch.
3:00 p.m. –  Water Bundle Offering, locations TBA
Afternoon: Sweat Lodge Preparations for Initiate and Midewiwin Sweats

Daily Ceremonies Schedule, listen for important announcements

Day 1:  Wednesday, June 12th
Fire Lighting, First Day

6:15 a.m. –   Fire Lighting followed Daybreak Ceremony presided by Bawdwaywidun
11:00 a.m. –  Drum Call-In
Preparations for Initiation lodge work continue/ Fern Gathering begins
1:00 p.m. –  Noon Feast: Host Community
Midewiwin Lodge Session
T.B.A. Grandmother’s Gathering
7:00 p.m. –  Evening Feast: Grand Chief’s Family
Initiates Evening Sweat Lodges continue TBA

Day 2: Thursday, June 13th
Initiate Teaching Sessions, Initiation Lodge Building

6:15 a.m. –  Sunrise Ceremony
7:30 a.m. –  Break and Lodge Preparations
10:00 a.m. –  Morning Session (All Midewiwin & Initiates present).
New Chiefs Raising & Recognition, Celebration taking place prior to Noon Feast
12:00 Noon –  Feast: Wabizhayshi Clan
1:00 p.m. –  Initiate Teaching Sessions
Mide Tree/pole gathering, Fern Gathering, tying, continues until completed; Initiation Lodge Building continues until it is completed.
6:00 p.m. –  Evening Feast: All Chiefs and Midewauniquays Sponsor

Day 3: Friday, June 14th
Initiations New Life Ceremony- Grandfather Feast- Initiates Feast

5:30 a.m. –  Door Opening Ceremony and Call In.
8:00 a.m. –  Initiates final walk to the Mide Lodge Door. Initiations ALL DAY
12:00 Noon –  Feast: Binayshee Clan (Lodge Opening)
6:00 p.m. –  Evening Feast:  Mooz/Mahng Clans

Day 4: Saturday, June 15th
Complete Initiations

6:00 a.m. –  Call in, Completion of Initiations
12:00 p.m. –  Noon Feast: Mukwa Clan
Initiations continuing until complete.
New Life Pole Celebration & Dance Out
TBA Ogitchidaw & Buffalo Dance Celebration
6:00 p.m. –  Evening Feast: Bizhew/Miengun/ Amik / Nigig Clans
TBA Jingle Dress Medicine Dance

IMPORTANT NOTE:  *** THE MEDICINE DANCE, INITIATION CEREMONY, IS LED BY THE MIDE SPIRIT. There have been times the Ceremony has extended into Sunday, or even Monday,  to complete  the ceremony for all Initiates… We will respond to the movement of the Spirit and complete our Mide work. 

Day 5: Sunday, June 16th
Lodge Protocols & Wrap-up

CLEAN UP  (Taking down of Initiation Lodge / Camp and Mide School clean up, etc.)
Travel lunch to be provided by 2012 Initiates 

Hugs, Tears, Peace. Gi Guh Waubuh Mi Goo, Neekawnis. Bawdwaywidun Banaise, Chiefs and Quays of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge

Download the full notice in Adobe PDF.

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

So much to be Thankful for

There is really so much to be thankful for.

One can be thankful for the beautiful October weather we’ve been having.  With the sunshine and warm temperatures, it must be Anishinaabe niibin (Indian summer)!  Some of you might be thankful for the results of a recent election, if that’s your thing.  Others might be thankful for the start of a brand new hockey season.  I know Winnipeg Jets fans are!

No matter what we are thankful for, we must always be mindful of the many people who go without.  Many Anishinaabe people live in everyday poverty, living cheque-to-cheque.  Some are luck to have some food on the table and a roof over their head.  Some aren’t that lucky.  This week I signed up to donate to the United Way and I encourage you all to do the same if you have the means.  It really means a lot.

But despite even our most difficult situations, deep inside each of us, we have a lot to be thankful for everyday.  We are thankful for the world around us, our family and our children.  We are thankful for the kindness of our Creator, G’zhemnidoo in giving us good life – mno bimaadiziwin.

That’s what thanksgiving is all about.

Today, I’m thankful for my partner Deborah and the beautiful feast she put on tonight.  Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, homemade cranberry sauce and her terrific marshmallow turnip casserole.  Mmm. It was good.  Still some pumpkin pie to eat when she gets back from Shoppers.

Deborah, I’m thankful for your beautiful kindness and Love and for walking this road with me.  Miigwetch niwiidigemaagan.

I’m thankful for my healthy and beautiful children, Waabgwaniis, Zoongaabow, Miigwans, Jasmine and Fiona.  They make life worth living seeing them all grow up to be wonderful people.  I had a great day with all of you at Chappell Farms yesterday.  Miss you so much, Katherine Faith.  Wish you could be here with us.  I Love you all.

I’m thankful to all my family, my Mide relatives, my friends and colleagues today.

Most of all, I’m thankful for this life.  Sure, I have struggles sometimes, like living with diabetes.  But it’s all part of life’s challenges.  I also know that if I lay tobacco down, and I ask my Loved ones for help, I know I’ll never alone.

Miigwetch niikaanisidoog.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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

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.