Posts Tagged ‘respectful behavior’

I just finished watching “The Fault In Our Stars”, a great tearjerker about love, eulogies, etc.

It made me think of what I would say if I wrote my eulogy, and I realize that anything one says or writes, is a part of their eulogy.

I think part of my eulogy would be an apology. Because I can come across as hard and unyielding in the moment, when I know that my intentions are good. And that’s because of pride. Pride is such a defense mechanism, a flawed way of protecting yourself. It is a dis-ease, a dis-ability. It’s a way of hiding vulnerability in the moment. Of not being in the moment. Or perhaps of being someone you don’t want to be in that moment; when the moment is all we have, and that most important moment involves people.

Humility on the other hand, is being vulnerable in the moment, open to the moment and flexible in relation to all of its possibilities. That’s the funny thing about being vulnerable. I don’t know if it’s something that you can spontaneously feel in the moment once you have reached a certain level of awareness. It is only something that you can practice.

It’s like patience. I don’t consider myself a patient person though some other people may, I don’t know if patience will ever feel natural. I think it is something you can only practice. I only know that to date, I do not comprehend the feeling of patience. But with practice ( like choosing to wait in the longest grocery line) patience is becoming second nature. I don’t have to think about it. Perhaps when one reaches a certain level of awareness, anything/everything becomes second nature.

The point being that for me,

humility in the moment ,

is an intermittent short in the wiring.

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Nanabozhu is on his way to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, where the people are unique and peculiar.

“Can you pull up next to that guy driving that semi?” He rolls down the back passenger side window to the Chrysler Town and Country.

“I don’t think it’s going to accomplish anything.” Says the blond in the front seat.

“Well, I have to try,” he replies.

By now they are alongside the guy driving the semi at 75 miles an hour. Nanabozhu sticks his head out the window (which doesn’t quite open up all the way so he’s kinda squished through it.)  The trucker looks down at them and sees an older Anishinabe fellow squinting with effort as Nanabozhu tries to make a  rolling motion with the one hand he can get out of it.

The truck driver rolls down his window with a curious look on his face. With the wind whipping by, he thinks he hears Nanabozhu yell something like “Your barn door’s open!” (Which is a euphemism for “the zipper on your pants is undone”.) Nanabozhu can see him mouth “What?!” with an incredulous look on his face.

“Your back door is open!” Nanabozhu yells again. The trucker smiles and waves with that easygoing look of someone who has heard you say something but is too polite to tell you that they didn’t quite understand what you said.

Their Town and Country pulls ahead, leaving the truck behind with Ben their driver glancing back in the SUV’s rear view mirror to watch the trucker checking his side view mirrors looking like someone who, with a little thought, has finally  figured out what you were trying to say,  and the trucker finally begins to pull off the road.

Mission accomplished.

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Are the dead meant to fade away?

Are our forebears meant to be forgotten,
when the ones who loved them pass away?

Spirit houses are not made to last.
They are new at the time of death
and old and decrepit after a short time,
a few years.

This so the spirits of those who linger
near the world of the living
have time to transition.

In some of the reservation cemeteries,
there are the newest graves at the front,
with their gaudy plastic flowers and mementos
and bright and shiny polished granite
fading to graves halfway back.

On these, no plastic blooms.
They are the somber, weathered, dusty tombstones;
some in the lichen covered, obsolete limestone,
of those who could afford them.

And the simple wooden crosses
rotting and askew,
of those who could not.

And further back still,
the depressions in the grass
of those old, old ones,
silent and unattended,
unmarked and forgotten.

The lost ones

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Now that I am back, I have been thinking about the different feeling of living on the reservation versus living away from it.  The Anishinabeg are blessed to live in Red Lake. There is a different feeling living there.

Ours is big for one thing, so there is a lot to see. I found myself rediscovering places I had known before, but also discovering new things and new places. As time passes I discovered many things stayed the same and many things had changed.

The scenery is all so varied. There are different kinds of lakes: Red Lake, which is BIG, and small lakes, lakes of different sizes, lakes which have different kinds of fish in them, rivers creeks, swamps. sloughs, marshes,  Forests of different trees: Birch, Jack Pine, Norway Pine, Cedar, Poplar, Maple, Various Oaks and Tamarack, and all the different kinds of plants.

I also found myself enjoying spiritual experiences. I don’t mean supernatural experiences, I mean just meeting another/other beings. Sometimes those were people: family, friends, people from high school, and people I hadn’t met before. Sometimes they were the crows, deer, eagles, squirrels in mom’s back yard, mom’s or the many neighbor’s dogs, the huge bears at the dump, fish in the water, the partridges I heard out in the woods, ducks, geese, loons, a field mouse.

I am reminded that we take so many things for granted. I remember moving here to Missouri and seeing a Nuthatch hopping down (facing downward) a tree trunk looking for bugs. The first times it was such a novel experience. Now I take it more for granted. The point is however, that there are so many strange and beautiful things in nature, and I found myself wanting to travel about the reservation as an exercise in experiencing those things.

One difference, I suspect was that I felt this was land held in common with other Anishinabeg that I could experience as I wanted, subject to my personal controls of common sense, moderation, and consideration, and not to the outside rules imposed on me by an impersonal authority.

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In the old days, the Anishinabeg as a people where virtuous. Parents would not allow their young daughter to meet with a young man unattended. So it was that he would use a courting flute to woo her (and them).

At night, just after the sun went down, the young man would play his flute while hidden in the woods near their lodge. If she liked what he played, she would invite him in for further discussion. If she didn’t like what he played, then she would throw stones at him while making disparaging comments until he stole away in the night.

Mă·nō´mĭn was the name of the flute maker’s beautiful daughter. Her name meant “wild rice”. Her parents named her that for many reasons: one, because they liked the way it sounded; two,  just as wild rice was essential for the survival of the people, they knew they could not live happily without their precious daughter, and three, because her auntie, who was a powerful mĭdewiwĭn, prophesied at her birth that she would have a wild (as in free and unfettered) temperament.

Now being the flute makers daughter, and he having a very young son not yet old enough to learn the tricks of the trade, happily taught Mănōmĭn all of his flute making knowledge. This gave her quite the advantage over her friends. Not that she would take advantage of them, rather, that she knew things that would help her to make a better choice concerning her suitors.

For instance, she knew the four most important things about courting flutes and their owners: how the flute itself reflected the characteristics of it’s owner, who all the young men in the village were; the love magic associated with a courting flute, and how to make her own flute.

You see, either a young man came to the flute maker to learn how to make his own flute, or he came to the flute maker to have a flute made for him. This helped Manomin because she saw all the young men who visited her father.

But this was not all, for in this family, (and so in most of this village) a flute was traditionally as long as the forearm of its maker–from elbow to the longest fingertip. There was a hand’s breadth of space between the mouthpiece and the fetish, another between the fetish and the first finger hole, and still another between the last finger hole and the bottom. The bore was as large as the dominant forefinger of it’s owner and there was a thumb’s breadth between each of the six finger holes.

So, if the owner of the flute was a tall young man with big hands, his flute would be long, with a large bore and so would have a low tone. If the young man was short and had little hands, his flute would be short with a small bore and thus would have a higher tone. Knowing this, Manomin could generally figure out who played what flute.

In either case, the young man came to the flute maker to learn how to play his flute. For her father had to learn how to play his flute well in order to woo and win over his wife, and for a fee or trade he passed this knowledge on to his proteges.

Now, here’s the rub. You see, while each young man was given the basics on how to play a flute well. They all had to practice their flute in private, either deep in the woods, or at their own lodges, which were far away. Not only that, but they also had to create their own songs, becoming one with their own flutes during the process,  so Manomin could not know exactly what songs came from who.

Now, having this knowledge was compounded by another factor. There was love jē´bĭk,  or magic, that could be associated with a courting flute. If a young man wanted to entrance the young woman with his courting flute playing he had to get a personal item or piece of hair from his intended and incorporate it into the decoration of that flute. This was how he would hopefully “seal the deal”.

Knowing this, and knowing that her father wasn’t above trying to “stack the deck” for the  young man of his choice, Manomin was very careful to keep all of her personal possessions hidden away in her Mă·kăk´, which was a birch bark container that is square on the bottom and round on top, and routinely burned any strands of stray hair that ended up in her comb or brush.

Finally, knowing how to make a courting flute was knowledge that Manomin kept up her sleeve for later.


As things go, the courting started in earnest that spring.

It was late enough so that there were leaves on the trees and grass on the ground, but early enough that the mosquitoes and biting flies had not come out yet. It was still cool enough that Manomin would sit by the fire just outside the lodge by a large pile of river pebbles she had gathered over the previous months for that very purpose. These stones were large enough that she could throw them a great distance but small enough that if you were beaned with one it would hurt, but not knock you out.

There were many suitors. Some played so softly and tenuously that she could barely hear them. Manomin figured that she needed someone who played boldly to reflect their bold spirit. So she threw stones at them and they disappeared.

Sometimes she heard rustling in the bushes as if someone were fighting and she would call out and throw stones, letting them know that if they did not let each other play that she would have none of them. So it was by the agreement of the suitors that each one played on a different night until all had a chance.  They would play until Manomin got tired of listening and went inside the lodge or until she threw stones and chased them away.

Some of the songs were unoriginal, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. That got the stones. Some of the songs were painful. Their notes too high. Manomin figured that if she didn’t like the songs, that she wouldn’t like the young man who wrote them. Stones, stones, stones.  They were the recipients of stones as well.  Some of the songs were repetitive. Manomin did not want to have a boring relationship so those young men were stoned.

The songs that she liked the most were those that incorporated the sounds of her favorite courting  bird, the Mahng or loon,  and the various woodpeckers. The combination of tremolo in them was either from the player being nervous which she didn’t mind at all because it made her realize she had power to make that young man nervous, or because he was accomplished enough to deliberately incorporate that quality into his song. She also realized that having such a skill might translate into other areas as well. There were a few flutists whose songs made the hair on the back of her neck stand up, they were so thrilling!

The young men were also tenacious enough that they came back night after night. They would play one song that identified them  and then they would play the new songs they had made up over the past few days.


This lasted until near the end of the Fall when Manomin decided to do something totally unexpected. She pulled a flute she had secretly made out of her sleeve! Whenever one of the young men who were left tried to play their songs she would play hers. One of the young men tried to drown her out. She was sad to have to throw stones at him because his songs were so beautiful and sad that they made her weep, but she knew that if he was not smart enough to figure out that she mattered in this way that he would not treat her equally later.

Her playing initially silenced the remaining flute players until only one was left. He came every night and announced his presence with a short song, but Manomin started playing immediately after that.

Then a wonderful thing happened.

When there was a break in her song, the young man would play counterpoint.  When it was possible, and their flutes were in tune –which was very difficult because the notes of Anishinabeg flutes were not tuned to scale as the Europeans do, but were made to the measurements of the user, the young man would play harmony to her melody. This went on four nights with their songs becoming increasingly complicated and intertwined. On the last night, Manomin gave her final test. She ad-libbed! And the young man, well knowing how she played by this time ad-libbed right along with her. The result was a musical synergy that each could not have developed without the other.

It was on that night, just before the first snow fell, that Manomin invited the young man who would become her husband, in to meet her parents.

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I discovered I had a new superpower as I stepped off the plane in Bemidji. I was invisible! It’s true.  Grown-up people I didn’t know did not see me until I said something to them or did something to attract their attention. They looked right through me! This was not true for children. They could see me all the time. So it must have something to do with complicated minds.

This power became stronger as I traveled through Red Lake. Sometimes people could not see me, even if I waved at them! The interesting  thing about this super power is that while my friends could see me easily, the more people did not know me, the more it seems like I had a force field around me that actually repelled their gaze.  It just slid around me.  I’m not sure I want to say too much about it as the NSA and the CIA might want to make use of it. I know it would come in handy in places that are not Minnesota.

Perhaps it’s like the instinct in monkeys. You don’t want to look them in the eye because one of you might be afraid the other is hostile. I just wonder if this is an invisibility gene that comes from someplace.

The other interesting thing I found was that I was not alone in having this super power. It is also true that all the other Minnesotans and especially the  Indians have it as well. But I think it is like a fish being underwater. The water is all around us but since we are in it all the time we don’t notice it until someone points it out to us.

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Up to this point I have never re-blogged a post, (considering such a thing to be cheating). In this case, I thought Lori’s blog was so good that I’d make an exception. Enjoy.

Lori Potter

As we rapidly approach the end of 2012, I believe now is a good time to focus on something big.  What I’m talking about is an issue so deep and dark that it has plagued my community for at least twenty years.   It’s the root of many reasons why so many people are emotionally disconnected and refuse to attend meetings, volunteer, or have generally anything productive to do with the tribe whatsoever.  Yes, folks, it’s high time I address the elephant in the room because frankly, he’s been toying with my community for far too long.

I’m talking about…


Oh yes…a lot of crap can happen in twenty years.  There is indeed a list reasons why people feel the way they feel, and that list is very long.  It includes:

  • broken promises,
  • false assumptions of life-long prosperity spoon-fed to multiple generations,
  • secrecy,
  • political manipulation,
  • financial misleading,
  • threats to remain blindly…

View original post 583 more words

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I have many heroes in Red Lake, some great, some small, but I would like to write about the one who I think exemplifies the best qualities found in true Red Lakers.

Maydwaygwanonind or He Who Is Spoken To

His Anishinabe name was Mādwāgwănōnĭnd. His translated name is “He Who Is Spoken To”. The funny thing is, non-Indians could never get his Indian name right. I came across quite a few different–and strange–spellings for it in my web search.

There is not much in print about Maydwaygwanonind –two or three pages at best as far as I know, and most of that is from Episcopal Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple who was his spiritual contemporary. However, aside from the following facts, we can infer much from what was written about the character of this great “old chief”.

Maydwaygwanonind was born about 1806.1
He was about 92 years old when he died in the winter of 18982.
He was the principle head chief of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.
He had a flag with 38 Stars on it that Abraham Lincoln gave him.
One of his greatest achievements was keeping Red Lake Reservation from allotment.

Bishop Whipple described him as being,

“Six feet and four inches in height, straight as an arrow, with flashing eyes, frank, open countenance, and as dignified in bearing as one of a kingly race.”

J Maurice Farrar said:

“He [was] of immense stature, and [had]… a head which might have been the model for Michael Angelo’s Moses, with its grand mane of iron-grey locks and powerfully marked intellectual features”3

He could speak:

“…in a voice of thunder, and with a majesty of diction and action which might have become one of the old Homeric heroes in council”,3


“…with all the grace and dignity of a Roman senator,”    

Maydwaygwanonind was a man of many virtues.

He was humble and teachable. Once during a conversation with Bishop Whipple he said,

“I will now talk to you about my people. We have never sold any land to white men. They will come some day and ask us to make a treaty. Will you tell me what to say to them?”

Maydwaygwanonind knew that in these circumstances he was ignorant, but he was willing to ask someone he trusted to look after his best interests and follow their advice.

One hallmark of a wise person is that they learn from the mistakes of others. Maydwaygwanonind illustrated his wisdom when he said, “The Indians to the East have sold their land and have perished. I want my people to live”.

Maydwaygwanonind was true, and by that I mean undeviating.

“Mr. Kittson, one of the oldest of the traders of the Northwest, said… He is a man that no money could swerve from the truth”.

“The Old Chief” was dedicated. In the winter of 1863-4, he walked to get Bishop Whipple’s advice.

“…when the lakes were frozen, Madwaganonint walked one hundred and fifty miles to see me.”

This was no easy feat as any Minnesotan who has survived a winter can tell you. Maydwaygwanonind was about 57 years old when he made the journey and at our age the cold feels painful. In addition, being the frontier, Indian-White relations were strained; and being a tall Indian man, he probably didn’t get an offer to ride in the rare passing settler’s wagon or sled—if any were out at that time.

Maydwaygwanonind was astute. He showed this when he spoke to Bishop Whipple about another chief.

“The white men say they have bought my land. There are four principal chiefs. One-half the Indians are in my band and nearly one-fourth are in Ase-ne-wub’s band. Asenewub says he has signed no treaty. Whether he has or not the Indians will believe him. I did not sign because there were no houses, cattle, nor schools in the treaty. The game will be gone, and there is a place for my people’s graves. Will you help me? ”

… I asked him why he spoke as he did about Asenewub. ‘He had a horse given him,’ was the answer; ‘and white men do not give Indians horses for nothing.’ I afterward learned that the horse was a return for signing a paper.”

He was also faithful.

“Madwaganonint became from the first a regular attendant upon public worship. After due instruction, he was baptized and confirmed and from that time to the day of his death, he faithfully kept the “Praying day” and sought to lead his people to the Savior.”

“The old chief” was composed and considerate, even when under pressure. Bishop Whipple recounts this story of him.

“Many of the clergy and laity of the diocese will remember the speech which Madwaganonint made at the council at Duluth in 1886. I was presiding, and seeing the old chief standing at the door, and knowing that he had made the journey of two hundred miles to see me, I beckoned to him to come forward. Turning to the council, I said: ‘I want to introduce to you the head chief of the Red Lake Indians, our brother in the Church of Christ, whose village is the only one I know in Minnesota where every man, woman, and child is a Christian.’ Judge Wilder and Judge Atwater instantly rose, and the rest of the council followed.

With perfect composure Madwaganonint turned to me and asked, “Do they expect me to speak to them?”

“I think they will be very glad to hear you”, I answered.

Dropping his blanket from one shoulder, he stood with all the grace and dignity of a Roman senator, and said: “My friends, I am glad that when you chose a man to be your father, you chose one whose heart was large enough to have room for my people. I thank you that with all the work you had for him to do, you permitted him to come and tell me and my people that we have a Savior. I am an old man and almost home. Will you pray for me? Good-by. I have done.”

He Who Is Spoken To was the epitome of a spiritual and tribal leader. He,

“…sought to lead his people to the Savior… As their chief, he considered it his duty to see that the young men fulfilled their promises. He more truly represented the patriarchal chieftain and counselor than any Indian I have known.”

In addition, according to Bishop Whipple, his was the village,

“…whose village is the only one I know in Minnesota where every man, woman, and child is a Christian.”

Indians and Whites respected Maydwaygwanonind. When he entered a room to speak:

“…Judge Wilder and Judge Atwater instantly rose, and the rest of the council followed.”

Of his death Bishop Whipple wrote:

Headstone for Maydwaygwanonind or He Who Is Spoken To

"In memory of Madwaganonint, Head Chief of the Red Lake Indians, always faithful and true. He has gone to his reward."

“Only a few months ago, in the winter of 1898, I received a letter from the Rev. Francis Willis, at Red Lake, telling me that Madwaganonint had entered into rest. For a moment my heart was overwhelmed with sorrow, for I loved this noble red man, one of the truest souls I have ever known. He had seen great sorrows, and felt keenly the wrongs which his people had suffered, but I do not recall a word of murmuring from the brave heart. Over his grave near the little log church which, stands in the Red Lake forest, I placed a marble cross representing the rough trunk of the oak tree, at the base of which was inscribed: ‘In memory of Madwaganonint, Head Chief of the Red Lake Indians, always faithful and true. He has gone to his reward.’”


1. 1895 Minnesota State Census

2. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from: Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate, Being Reminiscences and Recollections of the Right Reverend Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Minnesota, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899. Chapter XIII, http://archive.org/details/lightsshadowsoflwhip

3. Five years in Minnesota: sketches of life in a western state, J Maurice Farrar, Minnesota, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1880, Page 139


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What is one called
who sneaks into their neighbor’s yard?
What is one called
who cowers under cover of pre-dawn darkness?
What is one called
who shatters their neighbor’s trust?
What is one called
who has no regard for another’s property?
What is one called
who harms a relative?
What is one called
whose reveling eyes reflect the flames
that burned down my grandma’s house
then flees at the sound of sirens?
What is one called?
Around 5 a.m. this last Saturday morning, one or more arsonists torched my grandmother’s/brother’s home on the reservation. Luckily, no one was living there at the time.

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An anthropologist friend asked me the following question:

“I’m teaching Indians of North America this year. One of my students (Anglo) objected to another student’s presentation, because she showed a film clip of a Crow elder, which also included a clip from the sun dance (re-created). He says the sun dance should never be shown. What is your opinion?”

This causes me to ask myself some questions:
“What is the nature of something sacred?”, and
“What is the nature of something secret?”
“Are the two intertwined, or can they be exclusive?”
“What is the nature of the request about the keeping of the sacred and/or secret?”
“How far does one go in respecting the wishes of an institution/organization or individual if they are not a part of it?”

Let me give you a clear-cut example from my own life first. It’s religious but it has bearing on Red Lakers and the example in question which I will get to. Then we can travel through waters that are a little more murky.

I’m Mormon. I’ve been to the temple. I’ve had my endowments, call them ceremonies, rituals, a sacrament, or whatever. They are sacred to me and they are supposed to be secret.

Addressing the secret part, I would say, as a member, I’m admonished in public church (where non-members can participate) on Sunday that because I should hold them sacred, that I shouldn’t speak about their content other than in general context outside of the temple. So publicly I can say that I go to something called an “Endowment” and in it I learn things and I make promises. However, what I wouldn’t speak of outside of the temple is what specific things I learned and the wording of the promises I make.

Now, what you probably already know is that if one doesn’t respect my and the Mormon church’s desire to keep these things secret. You can go online and see for yourself exactly what is there. Why? Because people who were disaffected/left the church or who deliberately weaseled their way to the point where they could participate in the endowment so they could secretly record it, made their own choice to ridicule what I and the church consider sacred and secret. I haven’t been to these sites but I would suppose that they present the information in a way that is neither respectful nor unbiased.

Ok. I can feel myself getting a little worked up here. This brings me to another point of the nature of the Sacred.

How do you know when something is sacred to you? I believe, simply put, it’s when you have strong good feelings about something Good. (Yes that capital G was deliberate.) Weep at the death of a loved one? That’s sacred. Get so choked up that you can’t talk about something? That’s sacred. Motivated to do something good because of something that happened to you? That’s sacred. Cry at a tearjerker? Maybe a little less so; but still, it’s sacred.

Let me speak a little about the sacred and secret in a certain case. The one where you get so choked up about something that you can’t talk about it. That has happened to me a few times about things both wonderful and sorrowful, but the sorrowful time I can use as an example happened a long time ago at my dad’s funeral so I can talk about it now.

For me, my relationship with him was intensely conflicted. So when he died, it hit me hard…really hard. When mom asked me to speak during the funeral—(Being an Elder in my church at the time—I usually had some words to say.) I couldn’t. I was so distraught that I could barely shake my head “no”. Sometimes something is a secret because you are too emotionally wrought, it is too hard, too painful, or too wonderful, to talk about, and when you revisit it, those same feelings arise again. Those feelings arising again are what keep some things a secret. You simply aren’t able to bring it forth.

This is different from those things that are secret because a person or organization wants to maintain power, or control, or keep their works of light from scorn, or–on the other hand–keep their works in darkness.

Conversely, the anger or irritation you feel when someone violates what you unknowingly hold sacred is a good indication that it is sacred as well. A pedophile steals the virtue of a child. A rapist destroys the virtue/innocence of your virgin daughter. Someone tortures a pet. Your home is vandalized or burglarized. Your spouse/mate cheats on you; sacred, sacred, sacred. Talk emotionally about something that has meaning for you and you get a cold flat stare or a negative head shake. That’s when you know you are “casting your pearls before swine”. Perhaps, you’re only a little irritated or chagrined you were teased for crying at the tearjerker; a little less so, but still sacred!

Now let’s muddy the waters. Let’s talk about the Mide’wiwin at the turn of the previous century. There are some good reference materials on the Mide’wiwin of that time. They are:

The Mide’wiwin or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibway” By Walter James Hoffman.
Chippewa Customs. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 86 (1929), 204 pp. By Frances Densmore
Chippewa Music. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 45 (1910), 216 pp. By Frances Densmore
Chippewa Music II. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 53 (1913), 341 pp. Music, illus. By Frances Densmore
Origin Scrolls of the Southern Midewiwin, by Selwyn Dewdney. (Not available to be read online.)

I’m providing these references because Hoffman and Densmore were respectful and the representatives from a number of different reservations they spoke to at the time believed the sharing of information would benefit everyone—especially their people—and it has and does! You can read most of these references online.
I believe these Mide’wiwin-of-old from a number of different reservations shared the information because they didn’t want it to get lost. However, that may be different from the feelings of the people who are in the Midewiwin now, but I don’t know.

The old Mide’ had different reasons for sharing what they did. Since they were the gatekeepers it was their prerogative to share. Now that what they said, sang and have shown are a matter of public record, the consequences are long lasting.

Now I’ll try and partially answer the question posed about your classroom situation. I think the student who voiced the objection may suffer from what I would call the Fundamental Indian Attribution Error (Caveat–when applicable). That error is that just because someone or some organization is American Indian; that the rules are all the same for all Indians everywhere.

There are over four hundred American Indian Tribes and Bands in the United States alone. Each one is responsible for its internal workings. In addition, within each one, the government and organizations within each Indian government are responsible for what happens to their constituents. Therefore they are all going to be different in some way. Many of these tribes do not agree with each other. Heck, people in each tribe don’t agree with each other, and within each tribe you will find bands that don’t agree, and people in each band who don’t agree, and people in each family who don’t agree, etc.

Some might hold that the ceremonial information itself is secret. You’ll find others that disagree. I think Indians practice a kind of detente about this. If you disagree with someone about something, you move away, or you keep quiet and express your opinions about it (and them) among your own, or in private. In the “old days”, it kept you from getting killed or beat up. (There is still some of that to consider at present in some places) but I believe it’s more important to talk about cultural things publicly today because factors which influence fraction of tribal cultural institutions are increasing.

The rest of my answer is this. My understanding is that a number of people in different tribes practice the Sun Dance. The gatekeepers of this ceremonial practice for each tribe are responsible for how much of their ceremony is public. That’s as far as their authority goes. While I think display of an actual ceremony would be incontinent, a recreation would be acceptable. This is because you are sharing the information about the ceremony in such a way in your classroom venue, that you are not exposing the actual participants and what they hold sacred, to the possibility of ridicule; and you are doing it by permission or instigation of these particular gatekeepers via audio-visual material they’ve created about their particular ceremony which frees you from the obligation of keeping it secret in your classroom.

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