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Mythology of the Ojibwe

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kimberly huggler

on 9 October 2012

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Transcript of Mythology of the Ojibwe

Kimberly Huggler, Walking-River, Maggie Driver, and Alicia Todd Mythology of the Ojibwe History of the Ojibwe The Ojibwe had a clan system that was originally divided into seven groups. Each clan was represented by an emblem animal, or a totem. The clan's representative animal dictated the role that clan played in the overall tribe. Creation Myth Rituals Treatment of Women Loon Crane Fish Hoof Bear Bird Martin The community identified them with bears
Many tribes considered women to be dangerous during their menstrual periods
Women had to hide in the woods
Couldn't look at a man, because they would contaminate his blood
'Strong and potentially dangerous powers' The Crane and Loon clans represented chieftanship. They provided government for the other members of the Ojibwe. They also checked each other's power. The Fish clan acted as a mediator between the Loon and Crane clans. The also acted as the teachers and scholars for the Ojibwe. They helped children develop proper and healthy spirits. The people of the Bear clan acted as the police and guardians of the tribe. They patrolled the lands surrounding the tribe, and in doing so, they learned about the properties of the many herbs and roots in their region. Because of this, the Bear clan was able to discover medicinal properties of the plants for their tribe. The people of the Hoof clan are gentle, like the animals they represent. They provide housing and recreational activities for the rest of the Ojibwe. They also act as the poets and pacifists of the tribe. Gitchi Manitou, the Great Spirit and the Great Mystery, had a vision, a dream. He created Mother Earth first, then the animals, and the Anishina'be, or The Original People, last. Each of the items possessed its own unique spirit and nature. There is a place for and purpose for each life that was created. It was said that the Original People were given the power to dream. Man dreams or prays to attains certain powers from the spirit helpers because man is weaker than other animals. Women like Mother Earth were given the power to give life and that is why women are considered powerful. The Great Spirit then made the Great Laws of nature so that all living things can live in harmony. The Great Laws dictate the rhythm of life, birth, growth, decay, and the movement of planets and stars.

At some point the Anishina'be began to fight with one another and it upset the Great Spirit because there was no harmony or respect for the living. The fighting made Gitchi Manitou send forth a great flood which destroyed the harmony and balance of the Red Earth. Only a few animals and Nanabozho, the hero of the Ojibwe, survived, by floating on a log. Nanabozho decided to swim to the bottom of the ocean to find some Earth in order to rebuild the world. But Nanabozho could not swim to the bottom, nor could most of the other animals, like Loon or Turtle, for the ocean was too deep. Finally, little Muskrat volunteered to try to retrieve some Earth. All the bigger animals laughed at little Muskrat, but Nanabozho said that little Muskrat could try if he wanted to. Little Muskrat was able to just barely get to the bottom of the ocean, and scoop up some Earth in his paw. But little Muskrat did not have enough air to return to the surface. Nanabozho saw little Muskrat's form floating in the water, and carried little Muskrat's body to the log. All the animals were sad that little Muskrat had sacrificed his life, but they were overjoyed when they saw that he had found some precious Earth. Turtle offered to carry the Earth on his back, so Nanabozho placed the ball of Earth upon Turtle's back, and with the help of the Four Winds and Gitchi Manitou, a new land was created for all the animals and people to live on. The new land became the home of the Ojibwe, and ever since both turtles and muskrats were honored for their sacrifice in creating the new world. Those of the Martin tribe were the Ojibwe's warriors, hunters, and gatherers. They fought to defend the tribe's territory and excelled at strategy. The Bird clan were the spiritual leaders of the Ojibwe, and were considered the head of the Ojibwe society. They maintained a healthy spiritual relationship with the Earth, and were said to strive for the highest reaches of the mind, just as the eagle soars to the highest reaches of the sky. Works Cited

The Naming Ceremony:
To begin the Naming Ceremony, the parents of the child to be named must ask that the medicine man or woman seek a name for their child. Seeking can be done through fasting, meditation, prayer or dreaming. The spirits will tell the medicine person what the name is to be and then there is a public gathering where the medicine person burns tobacco as an offering. The medicine person pronounces the name to each of the four directions and everyone present repeats the name as it is announced. The Spirit World then accepts and can recognize the face of the child as a living thing for the first time. After the child is recognized as a living thing, the spirits and ancestors will guard the child and prepare a place for them for once their life ends. At the ceremony, the parents ask for four men and four women to sponsor the child and the sponsors publicly vow to support and guide the child. General History The Ojibwe lived from present-day Ontario in Canada to Montana, and make up the largest Native American group north of Mexico. They are a Algonkian-speaking people, and oral traditions claim that the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi were all once part of a larger ethnic group that gradually diverged. The languages of these three groups are all very similar, which supports this claim. The Ojibwe call themselves "Anishinaabeg", which means the "True People," but other Native Americans called them "Ojibwe" or "Chippewa", which both meant "puckered up". This was probably because the Ojibwe often moccasins, which were puckered at the seam. They managed and directed their own activities, the men who helped did not oversee the women but played assisting roles
Men led male-oriented pursuits, while women leaders supervised activities within the female domain Certain tasks were more appropriate for men and others for women.
Ex.- Hunting and trapping were ideally for the male domain, while gathering and gardening belonged to the female domain
Domains overlapped, women and men often worked together, having separate duties in the same general activity
Ex.- In canoe building, men created the frame and paddles while women waterproofed the exterior The United States government sources named three Ojibwe women as recognized leaders or chiefs of their bands Women could enter male-dominated domains and men into female-dominated domains through culturally recognized channels with respect from the group
On some occasions, elderly women were chosen as spokespersons for hunting bands
Cooking- decided when to cook and the portions each family member would get
Tailoring- tanned hides, sewed clothes for their family, and fashioned furs into blankets
Trading- sold wattap, wild rice, maple sugar, furs
Building wigwams- controlled everything that went on and around the lodge
Assumed full responsibility for their infant children until they were weaned- mother determined when weaning should take place
Children- could decide how many children they wanted and had the option of abortion
Marriage- Mother decided the first marriage arrangement for sons and daughters, (they had the option of divorce and most divorced from their first husband)
Medicine- treated illness in general as well as serving the special medical needs of other women, such as childbirth, abortions, and preventing miscarriages
Peacemakers- Wives were sent to tribes to establish peace Ojibwe Camps The Ojibwe Pantheon "An Introduction to Ojibway Culture and History." Ojibway Culture and History. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
"Animikii." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Bagwajiwinini." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
Buffalohead, Priscilla K. "A Fresh Look at Ojibway Women." Farmers Warriors Trade. Minnesota Historical Society, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.
Callahan, Kevin L. "An Introduction to Ojibway Culture and History." Ojibway Culture and History. Kevin Callahan, 26 Sept. 1998. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Chibiabos." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Culture & Traditions." Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
"Gitch Manitou." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Mishipeshi." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
Misiginebig." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
Milwaukee Public Museum. "Ojibwe History." Indian Country Wisconsin. Ameritech, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Nanabozho." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Nokomis." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"OjibweOral Tradition." Ojibwe Oral Traditions. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
"Pukwudgie." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
Rockwell, David B. Giving Voice to Bear: North American Indian Rituals, Myths, and Images of the Bear. Niwot, CO: Roberts Rinehart, 1991. Print.
"Roles of Women." School of Arts & Sciences. N.p., 2012. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
"The Creation Story - Turtle Island." 29 Sept. 2012. PDF File.
"Windigo." Native American Language Net. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. Animikii Animikii were the giant "thunderbirds" of Ojibwe mythology. They were revered as powerful spiritual entities, and the beating of their massive wings was said to cause the sound of thunder. They rarely bothered themselves with humans, for they were so powerful. Animikii literally means "thunderer". Nokomis Nokomis is the wise, old grandmother of the hero Nenabozho. Her name simply means "grandmother". She is also considered the Earth-Mother, from whom is derived the Water of Life, which sustains all plants, animals, and men Gitchi Manitou Gitchi Manitou is the great creator of the Ojibwe tradition. The name literally means "Great Spirit", which is one of the most common phrases used by Native Americans to address the all-powerful god. Gitchi Manitou is an abstract and benevolent being, rarely dealt with humans, and did not even have a specific gender at first. Gitchi Manitou is credited for creating the world, although some aspects of the world are credited to the hero Nanabozho. Memegwesi The Memegwesi were dwarf-sized riverbank-dwelling spirits. They are generally kind beings that were said to appear only to children or people pure of spirit, but they could through canoes off course or steal items if they were disrespected. They were typically described as being very small and hairy, and their name might have originated from the Alongian word for hairy, "memii". They were also said to have been created from the bark of trees. Nanabozho Nanabozho is the benevolent hero of Ojibwe mythology. His name has a wide variety of variations due to the different dialects of the Ojibwe and Chippewa across North America. He is most often considered the son of the West Wind or the Sun, with Nokomis as his grandmother, who raised him since childbirth. Sometimes he is an only child, but other times he is said to have a twin brother or is the eldest of four brothers. His most important brother figure is Chibiabos, or Moqwaio, who was often depicted as a wolf. Nanabozho is associated with rabbits and is sometimes called the Great Hare, or Misabooz. However, he is rarely shown as taking the physical form of a rabbit. Nanabozho is also a major trickster and does many mischievous things, but he is never immoral, unlike other traditional trickster figures. Instead Nanabozho is virtuous and a teacher for humanity. Despite the fact that he can be foolish or humorous in his teachings, he is always good, and therefore greatly respected by the Ojibwe people. Windigo Windigos are the evil, man-eating monsters of Ojibwe mythology. Sometimes they play the role of monsters in legends, meant to frighten. However, sometimes it was told that Ojibwe that committed great sins, such as cannibalism, were turned into Windigos as punishment. They are described as giants that are covered in or composed of ice, with the body of the original human trapped inside. Usually the only way to free the trapped human was to kill them. Mishipeshi Mishipeshi is a powerful and evil spirit that is depicted as a cross between a panther and a dragon. Called the Water Panther, Mishipeshi lurks in deep waters and is responsible for the drownings of men and women. Some myths describe Mishipeshi as the size of a real lynx, but others describe the monster as enormous. Mishipeshi is also said to have a long tail made of copper, have a sawtooth back, and either deer antlers or horns. Misiginebig Misiginebig were the underwater horned serpent whose name literally meant "Great Serpent'. It was said that they lurked in lakes and ate humans, and that their sworn enemies were the Thunderbirds, who could strike them down with one bolt of lightning. Chibiabos Chibiabos was said to be the twin brother, adopted brother, or closest companion to Nanabozho. He is sometimes associated with rabbits like Nanabozho, but is most often depicted as a wolf spirit with the physical form of a wolf. One myth has Chibiabos murdered by water spirits, which leads to a vicious chain of events where the world is destroyed by a great flood. Nanabozho accepted the fact that Chibiabos could not be resurrected, so he became the ruler of the underworld, where he takes good care of the dead. Bagwajiwinini Similar to the European pixies or gnomes, Bagwajiwininis were small, forest-dwelling creatures who were often mischievous but generally good-natured. They liked to play tricks on people, and were only dangerous if they were disrespected. They were described as knee-high or smaller, and their name literally means "person of the wilderness". The Underwater Panther There once was a big lake in the middle of a village, and in the middle of the lake there was an island, which made it impossible to go straight across. One day, one of the village was holding a dance, and the people from the other side of the lake started making their way to the other side of the lake.

Two women left after everyone else had gone. The two women were sisters-in-laws, and one of them was foolish. She was steering the canoe and headed straight across the lake to the island. The other warned her not to, but the foolish one kept on going. The first girl carried a paddle with her everywhere, but did not use it for paddling. As they got to the island, they started to cross mud, and in the center of the mud they saw a hole of clear water swirling around like a whirlpool. When they started to cross it, a panther leaped out and attempted to turn the boat over with his tail. The girl hit the panther's tail with her paddle, saying "Lightning is striking you." The paddle cut off the panther's tail and it fell into the boat. It was a solid piece of copper about two inches thick. The panther ran away through the mud, as the two women laughed.

One girl said, "I guess I scared him. He won't bother us again." When they got across, the girl gave the piece of copper to her father. The copper tail of the underwater panther had magical powers, everyone wanted a little piece of the tail to carry for luck. Her family became rich from the tail of the panther. Legend of the Windigo The little girl ran out to face the Windigo, with a sumac stick gripped in each hand. She had two dogs which ran ahead of her, and killed the Windigo's dog. But still the Windigo came closer. The little girl grew in size, getting bigger and bigger until she was as big as the Windigo himself. With one sumac stick, she knocked him down, and with the other she crushed his skull. She was able to do this because her sumac sticks had turned to copper. After she killed the Windigo, the little girl swallowed the melted tallow and gradually returned to her original size.

Every villager rushed over to the Windigo's body and began to chop him up into tiny pieces. The Windigo was made of ice, but in the center the villagers found the body of a man whose skull had been crushed in. The villagers were very thankful of all the little girl had done, and they gave the child everything she wanted. Of all the spirits who dealt with man, none were more respected or revered than the mighty Thunderbirds. Many of the manitou, or spirits, were once men or women, but the Thunderbirds had always been manitou, since the beginnning of time. They lived in the mountains and served Mother Earth from behind the clouds that they created themselves. The Thunderbirds were great beings of immense power, mystery and good. However, they were to be feared.

Most men and women had nothing but the highest respect for the Thunderbirds, but there were some foolish and curious people who wanted nothing more than to travel to the Thunderbirds' domain. These people wished to merely see the Thunderbirds, and hoped that the Thunderbirds would not be offended by their trespassing. But all who traveled to the Thunderbirds' sanctuary were never seen again, for they were destroyed.

Although men and women were forbidden to enter the realm of the Thunderbirds, occasionally the Thunderbirds would disguise themselves as humans and come down from their sanctuaries to live among the people.

A man once fell in love with a woman, not knowing that she was actually a Thunderbird in disguise, and asked her to be his wife. The woman also loved the human, but warned the man that, as much as she loved him, when she was summoned by her family she would have to leave. She did not tell the man who she really was. The man agreed that she could visit her family any time. Other men noticed the man's wife and thought the young man was lucky, but there was one man in particular who lusted for the young woman.

One morning, he watched the husband take his canoe and leave for islands in the lake. The man went to the home of the man and woman, under guise of a visitor who was calling upon the man and woman.

The vile man tried small and sweet talk at first. When these drew laughter from the young woman, he was encouraged. Finally the vile man told the woman what he had come for.

In shock, the young woman reminded him that she was married. But the man wouldn't accept her excuse. He grabbed her and tried to wrestle her to the ground, but she fought back, raking his arms and face with her nails. She was stronger then he thought. In desperation he drew his knife and slashed at her. He lashed out again and again, blindly, and managed to force her back. Before long the woman slumped to the ground, gashed and bleeding. The vile man drew back and fled.

When the young husband returned home, he found the home in disarray. He ventured into the home, and found shreds of his wife's garments, covered in blood. Distraught, the husband immediately followed the trail of blood, expecting the worst. The blood led away from the house and into the wilderness. Funerary Ritual:
When someone dies, many families will crinkle up a little strip of birch bark like an accordion, and then tack it up by the door. This was done to keep spirits out of the home. The piece of birch bark on the door was supposed to look like a snake and spirits are supposed to be afraid of snakes and they will stay out of the home.
The people also say that spirits are afraid of black and that is why they blacken the foreheads of babies and young children, to protect them. The blackened forehead keeps the spirits from trying to take the children with them into the afterlife. Another way to protect the children from spirits was to not allow them to go to funerals. Children were not allowed to go to funerals until they were old enough to ask "What’s happening here?" The man had been frantically searching for his wife for almost a day, when he came to the bottom of a mountain whose peak was believed to be the home of the Thunderbirds. The trail of blood led directly up the mountainside. The young man didn't care what happened to him, even if he was destroyed by the Thunderbirds, as long as he could find his wife.

At the peak, he came upon the enraged Thunderbirds. The young man would have been destroyed at once if the wounded Thunderbird had not defended him. The wounded Thunderbird turned out to be his wife. But the Thunderbirds were still angry at human beings and planned to unleash the hardest winds, the heaviest rains, and the hottest hail of fire and brimstone. However, the young woman who was in fact a Thunderbird pleaded with her kin to spare her husband and his kind.

The Thunderbirds were at first unwilling, but they soon gave in to their daughter's pleas. However, they could not allow the man, having set eyes upon Thunderbirds and their world, to return to the world of humans. Instead he would have to remain in the realm of Thunderbirds. This arrangement could not have pleased the young man more.

But suitable as this arrangement was with his wishes, the young man found his situation much worse. He couldn't go anywhere or do anything, and he was unable to eat what the Thunderbirds ate. Unless the Thunderbirds brought him food that he could consume, the young man would starve and die there.

For their daughter's sake, the Thunderbirds took pity on the young man and changed him into a Thunderbird, allowing him to forever remain with his wife. The Thunderbird Wife Roles/Responsibilities: A kettle swung over the fire, and the villagers realized that this was the sign that the fearsome Windigo was coming. No one had the strength or courage to dare to face the giant ice monster. The villagers decided to send for a wise, old grandmother that lived at the edge of the village with her little grandchild. The grandchild, after hearing her grandmother say she was powerless to defend the village, asked what was wrong. Upon hearing that the Windigo was approaching, the girl asked for two sticks of peeled sumac as long as her arms. The child took these home with her. All the while the villagers moaned that they would all be eaten by the Windigo and huddled close together.

That night it turned bitterly cold. The grandchild told her mother to melt tallow in a kettle over the fire. The people watched as the tallow melted. But as they watched the trees began to crack open and river froze solid. This was caused by the ice monster, the Windigo, who was as tall as a white pine tree. The Windigo was coming over the hill, getting close and closer to the village. All the Anishina'be died, as well as most of the animals. Only Nanabozho, the hero of Anishina'be tradition, survived, along with most of the animals that could fly or swim. Nanabozho survived by hanging on to a giant log. He floated in the new ocean, searching for dry land, but to no avail. Nanabozho allowed the surviving animals rest on his log when they needed to. After some time, Nanabozho spoke to the animals.

"We have been searching for land for a long time. Instead I will dive under the water to the bottom of the ocean. There I will grab a handful of Earth, and bring it back up. From this we will shape new land for us to live on, with the help of the Four Winds and Gitchi Manitou."

Nanabozho was gone for a long time, but he finally resurfaced, exhausted and out of breath. Nanabozho was unable to reach the bottom of the great ocean, and did not bring back any Earth. The animals were silent for a long time, until Mahng, the Loon, spoke up. "I can dive great depths, for that is how I catch my food. Allow me to dive to the bottom of the ocean, and I will try to bring back some Earth in my beak." n was gone for a long time, so long that the other animals thought the Loon must have drowned. But finally the Loon came back up, but he was barely conscious. The Loon was not able to bring back any Earth, so Zhing-gi-biss, the Helldiver, volunteered to dive to the bottom of the ocean. "Everyone knows I, the Helldiver, can dive great distances, so allow me to try to bring back some Earth." A long time passed, and once again the other animals thought the Helldiver had drowned. But the Helldiver finally floated back to the surface, unconscious. When he woke up he claimed that there must be no bottom to this ocean.

Many other animals tried to reach the bottom of the ocean, including Zhon-gwayzh', the Mink, and Mi-zhee-kay", the Turtle, but no one succeeded. After all hope seemed lost, and after it seemed that they would never get the precious Earth, a small voice spoke up. It was Wa-zhusk", the little Muskrat, who stepped volunteered to try. The other, bigger animals all laughed at the little Muskrat, but Nanabozho told them it was only up to Gitchi Manitou to judge others, and that the little Muskrat could try if he wanted to. So little Muskrat dove into the ocean, and was gone a long time. He was gone much longer than the other animals, and everyone thought that Muskrat had surely died trying to get some Earth. But little Muskrat had indeed reached the bottom of the deep ocean, and scooped up a small ball of Earth in his paw. With the last of his strength, little Muskrat began swimming for the surface, his air almost gone. The other animals were certain that little Muskrat had drowned, when Nanabozho spotted something under the water. Nanabozho saw little Muskrat, floating slowly to the surface. He dove down and pulled little Muskrat onto the log, but little Muskrat had been underwater so long and he had no life left in him. The other animals mourned for the death of little Muskrat, who sacrificed his life for their sake. They all sang a song of mourning and praise as his spirit passed into the spirit world. Nanabozho noticed that little Muskrat's paw was tightly clutched, and Nanabozho unclenched it. Inside, Nanabozho found the small ball of precious Earth, and all the animals rejoiced, for not the Earth could begin anew.

Nanabozho took the small ball of Earth from little Muskrat's paw. Just then, Turtle swam up and offered to let Nanabozho use his back to bear the weight of the new land. So Nanabozho put the ball of Earth on Turtle's back, and suddenly the Four Winds began to blow. They spread the Earth farther and farther, and the Earth began to grow larger and larger. It grew until it formed a Mi-ni-si', or island. The animals all danced and sang as the island grew, and still Turtle was able to bear the weight of the Earth on his back. After a while the Four Winds ceased to blow, and the island stopped growing. The new island became the second Earth and home to the Ojibwe.
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