Archive for the ‘Oral Tradition’ Category

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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Winter Full Moon
Manidoo-giizisoon (Mă´nĭ·dū-Gē·zĭ·sūn´): Hmm. An attempt at a translation would be  “spirit- [yearling moon, or little moon, or new moon]” an interpretation might be “little spirit moon” but you can see how something gets lost in the translation because the object to which the adjective little refers, gets transferred to spirit, instead of moon; but maybe it was supposed to be that way all along, as, in its relation to January which is Gichi Manidoo Giizis or Great Spirit Moon or Manido Giizis (spirit moon).
Bibooni-giizis (in the Eastern Candian border lakes): It is my Winter moon
In either case an  (animate noun)
Ojibwemowin is a fantastic language for interpretation because of all of it’s subtleties!

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“I’m from Minnesota

Got no one to call my own

So I go a lookin’ for you Hi-ya



If you’ll be my honey

I will be your suger pie

Wei ya hi

Wei ya hi ya!”


These are lyrics from an old 49er song. These were sung for round dances where young people could socialize with each other after a powwow.

Here is a link to a softer kind of 49er that I think you’ll enjoy. It’s called the “Eternity Song” by Randy Wood and friends. The English lyrics are:

“As long as the grass grows, river flows.

As long as the wind blows,

That’s how I will love you,

for all eternity”.

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I sometimes think just a word’s interpretation is in itself poetic.

Găsh·kă·dē·nō – gē´zĭs (Noun Animate)




“Frozen Over Moon”



From the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary

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Wootihu didn’t know what to think about this style of delivery so he mostly kept quiet as he paid attention to the current of the river.

Soon they would see Muskrat dwellings and Nanabozhu would turn into a Muskrat and talk about the social habits of Muskrats. And then he would say out of the blue, “The Bagwajiwinini were a virtuous people, in all senses of the word.”

While Nanabozhu was talking and transforming back and forth; navigating Mud River was not so easy for Wootihu, as it was shallow in some places and deeper in others. So the water was sometimes up to his ankles, and sometimes up to his neck. While he was splashing through the river he had to listen carefully as Nanabozhu would get lost in thought and would speak only when he felt like it.

“The reason you don’t see many of them now is because they are so caught up in their own cares, they do not often go out of their way.”

Wootihu heard this all the while plagued by mosquitoes which whined irritatingly around any of his exposed skin, and deer and moose flies would painfully bite him whenever they could find a spot to land–usually tangling in the hair on his head.

The mud sucked at his feet, slowing him down and tiring him out.

That was how they traversed the whole length of Mud River as it meandered around and up through the reservation, until they arrived at the bridge by the Fishery. The place that Wootihu originally thought they were going!

The only beings Wootihu had seen were a few kids  swimming in the pond just before the bridge and some houses back of town. This had taken them eight more hours and the longest night of the summer was approaching.

“I was hoping we would have seen one by now.” said a dejected and worn out Wootihu.

Nanabozhu eyed Wootihu with a hint of sadness. “I’ll take you to a place where I know one will be at home, but I’ll have to blindfold you because it’s so close to downtown Redby.

So Nanabozhu blindfolded Wootihu and turned him around four times, and led him by the hand, taking him circuitous ways until they arrived inside of the home of the Bagwajiwinini. Night had descended.

Nanabozhu’s parting words were, “I will leave you here so you can ask him all the questions you want when you see him, but don’t take the blindfold off until you have counted to eight, as I make my exit.”

With that, Wootihu heard footsteps out of the house and a door closing softly as he slowly counted to eight by one thousands. And then took off his blindfold.

Wootihu found himself standing in front of his bathroom mirror.

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Now, Wootihu thought that they would walk a few blocks to where Mud River emptied out into Red Lake at the Fishery, but they walked all the way from Wootihu’s house which was in Redby–on Copper City Road, and took the Kinney Lake Trail road past Kinney Lake and onward to the South Edge of the reservation. Then they took the south boundary road east to where Mud River entered the land of The People, just West of Highway 15.

This took them from sunup to noon as the south boundary was a good ways away!

While they walked there, Nanabozhu subtly drew Wootihu out to talk about himself, and his family, and the things that were important to him. Which he didn’t mind at all, as although he recognized that Nanabozhu was doing this, he realized as the Anishinabeg do, that one had to approach some subjects circumspectly, (especially when talking with a demigod). Wootihu knew that Nanabozhu would talk about the Bagwajiwininiwug in his own good time and in his own way.

“Okay,” said Nanabozhu, “You’ll have to wade down Mud River because they will be by the river bank and the best place to see the entrances of their houses, is from the middle.”

“What do their houses look like?” asked Wootihu.

**** To be continued ****

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Wootihu almost forgot to ask his question as he looked at Nanabozhu. He looked like the quintessential Anishinabe. He was handsome, and he had thick, jet black Raven hair; the kind with the purple highlights. He was tall, about five feet ten inches; tall enough that most women looked up to him but not so tall so as to intimidate naive or foolish men. He had bright but dark brown eyes that glinted like a raptor. And a nose that had just enough of a suggestion of a hook to it to make him interesting.

Now Wootihu was an honest if somewhat innocent Red Laker, so he told Nanabozhu; “I would really like to meet a Bagwajiwinini–one of the little people. But I am afraid you will play some kind of trick and leave a permanent mark on me and the rest of the Anishinabeg to show you did it.”

“Hmmm”, said Nanabozhu eyeing Wootihu speculatively. “I promise I will not lie to you, and I will not leave any physical mark on you.  And concerning the Bagwajiwininiwug, they are all over the reservation, if you know what to look for.” Nanabozhu smiled that little boy smile of his. “For your part, it will probably take us all day to find one and you’ll have to invest a lot of effort. In which time you will not be able to use any modern conveniences such as a car, or your cell-phone, and I will tell you just enough about them so you can know one when you see one. “How about that?” said Nanabozhu with a smirk on his face.

“Deal” said Wootihu. And they spat on their hands and shook them.

There may be some Bagwajiwininiwug at Mud River,” said Nanabozhu. “Let’s look there.”

**** To be continued ****

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