Posts tagged ‘Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge’

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.

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.

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; and companies will even certify your translations – 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.