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A reader previously asked the question of whether I knew of any other clans in the Red Lake System. At that time I did not. But I’m pleasantly surprised to learn, and pleased to share, that more existed in antiquity. Here is the source of that knowledge:

From the Bulletin of the Minnesota Academy of Natural Sciences, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Volume 2, 1880-1882, Red Lake Notes. Pages 99-100.
Totems of Red Lake Odjibwas. –Herewith is subjoined, in the hope that it may be of use for future reference, a list of the totems of the Red Lake band of Odjibwas. There were named to the writer by the old chief, Little Rock, who is a leading medicine man belonging to the grand medicine, as it is called, and who was pointed out as authority in the matter under investigation. Miss Mary Warren, to whom Odjibwa and English are alike mother tongues, kindly undertook to act as interpreter in the case. This cultivated lady is thoroughly conversant, not only with the purely theoretical range of the totem system, but likewise with its practical workings and she has taken especial pains to ensure a precise translation in the present instance.
TOTEMS OF RED LAKE ODJIBWAS
Bald Eagle,      Eagle,          Lynx,           Snake,
Bear,                 Eelpout      Marten,       Sturgeon,
Catfish,             Elk,             Mermaid,    Wolf,
Crane,               Loon,         Moose,         Woodpecker,
Rabbit,             River.

A Rabbit totem, or clan, and also a River totem, are found among the Odjibwas: but it is the belief of Little Rock that no representatives of these totems are at present living at Red Lake.
The Bald Eagle totem, and the Eagle totem, represents each, a clan altogether distinct from the other and independent of it.
The Loon clan was formerly a large one here. Mr. warren tells us concerning it that in olden times when the civil policy of the tribe was much mixed up with their religious and medicinal rites, “the totem of the Mong (Loon) ruled over them, and Musk-wa, or Bear totem, led them to war.” May-zhuck-ke-osh, former head brave of the Red Lake band, is of the Bear Totem.
The Martens, and next below them in point of numbers, the Bears, are held to be the two largest of the lake clans.
The term Mermaid stands out in such bold relief, as embodying an idea naturally foreign to an aboriginal and especially to an inland tribe of savages, that, at first, I hesitated to accept it as a correct exponent of the thing meant. However, I was assured by both Little Rock and Miss Warren, that the Odjibwa totem name under consideration is really properly translated by this word, and further, that the word signifies with the Red Lakers what it does with us; but I could get no clue to the origin of the myth thus curiously brought forward. I have since learned that these people formerly believed their lake to be haunted by mermaids.
While a red Lake Odjibwa will never name himself to a second person if he can avoid the necessity, he is always quite willing to mention his “family mark” or totem. The latter trait is prominently exhibited at the government school, where the pupils are prompt to exchange genealogical confidence with their friends, and to assert the ties of clanship as well as consanguinity.

[ My note: This, contrasted with the present 7 clans, just goes to show that tribal culture is a dynamic and changing thing! ]

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2019-10-21 10.20.58

Why am I not content
to leave well enough
alone?

Perhaps some day,
when I grow up,
I can do those things
you do so well?

And then,

gentle admonishment from my distant Grecian friend, whose works I so admire from afar,

(with perhaps a little mutual admiration society…)

“You paint so well with words,
you probably all-ready paint so well,”
she says.

*  sigh  *

I guess until I grow up,
I’ll just have to paint by number,
first with words,
second by color.

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Every once in a while an Indian (read American Indian) will give a friend or family member a nickname. Sometimes these names are given just for fun, other times they are given to help that person be humble. “Dances With Wolves” comes to mind.

I actually know some of my aunts and uncles by their nicknames: Ishky, Bunny, and Boogens are three.

I told my wife that I finally figured out what her Indian nickname was.

“Well, what is it?”, she asked.

“Too Many Pillows”, I said.

She laughed… because she knew it was true.

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Midnight in Red Lake.

The air is cool through the open bedroom window.

Dogs are barking.

Somewhere in the distance,

to the Northwest,

someone singin’ Indian.

Their song fades in and out.

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You perch with your mate,

directly in front of me,

and unmistakably declare your name.

The sound of your name follows you as you fly around.

I see you… A Grey Crested Tit Mouse.

Why has no one else heard this wonderful thing?

 

 

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Dear Readers,

In two weeks, I am going to present at a fortune 100 company as part of their diversity program. I have a half hour for my presentation and a four-by-eight table on which to place pictures or things. I get to talk about being “Indian”.  (In my case, being a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and having ancestors from the Red lake, Leech Lake and White Earth bands as well.) I suppose my audience will be people I’ve met from a relative’s department, and perhaps some of the big wigs from the company.

Having lived on and off the reservation and having degrees in American Indian Studies and psychology, it would be easy for me to come up with my perception of what being Indian means.  However, as part of the presentation, I would like to know and present two things. 1) What you would like to know about a person/people from these cultures if you are not from there, and 2) what you would like other people to know if you are.

For fellow Anishinabeg, I’m aware that we come from many different  reservations, reserves, places and experiences, and want to take this into account. But I need your input in order to do so. If you would like me to keep your replies confidential, I can do that, as this blog is set up so that I have to approve,  and can edit, your reply before posting it. I would however like to use your reply and at least note where it comes from.

Yours Sincerely,

Russell Littlecreek

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In Anishinabe it would be…Mino Noos Giizhigad

Mē·nō Nūs Gē·zhē·gŭd: Happy (My) Father’s Day!

 

Dear Dad,

You would have been 90, and still going strong today, if you hadn’t smoked.

Love,

your son.

 

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