7/15 Ojibwe Stories - Gaganoonididaa: Music and Dance

Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa this month features Larry Amik Smallwood, a language instructor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, who (in both Ojibwe and English) talks about ongoing changes in Ojibwe culture in areas such as music, dance and traditional regalia.

 


7/15 Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa - Cultural Changes

Larry Amik Smallwood grew up in Aazhoomoog, the Lake Lena District of Mille Lacs. He has worked as a language instructor for the Minneapolis Public Schools, Nay Ah Shing School, the Leech Lake Tribal College, and the University of Minnesota - Duluth. Since 1999, he has served as the director of language and culture for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Ayi’ii omaa anooj ko ingagwejimigoo omaa da-dibaajimotawagwaa ingiw bezindangig. Gaawiin dash awiiya niwii-paapinodawaasiin awiiya ge-bizindang. nashke bebakaan gidizhitwaawin omaa bebakaan gidizhichigesiimin. Gaawiin indaa-aagonwetawaasiin a'aw gichi-aya’aa gaa-izhi-kikinoo’amawaad gewiin i’iw oniijaanisan maagizhaa ozhishenyan. Bebakaan eta ge gidizhitwaawin. Meta go widi keyaa niin kaa gaye gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawaawaad ingichi-aya’aamag, ingitiziimag. Mii akeyaa ezhi-gikinoo’amaageyaan mii akeyaa ezhi-wiindamaageyaan. Anishaa gaawiin, gaawiin ge niwii-gichi-gikendamookaazosiin. Gaawiin niwii-izhichigesiin i’iw eta go dazhindamaan i’iw iko wayaabandamaan bebakaanak.

 

Inashke ingow negamojig miinawaa ingow ikwewag nagamowaad omaa wii-aabaji’aawaad dewe’iganan.  Ingii-tazhimaa gaa wiikaa gaa wiikaa gii-izhiwebasinoon i’iw mewinzha. Anooj dash gow zhigwa ani-izhichige aanind a’aw anishinaabe bagidinaad iniw ikwewan imaa da-namadabinid dewe’iganing da-nagamod. Gaawiin izhiwebizisinoon i'iw. Gaawiin gaye gakina gegoo ingikendanziin. Anishaa go indibaajim minik omaa ko gegwejimiwaad omaa.

 

Gaawiin niwii-paapinodawaasiin awiiya bezindang dash. Gaye a’aw inzhishenyiban Naawi-giizis gaa-izhinikaazod mii gaye gaa-izhid aabiding, “Gaa inigokwe aanawi go giga-gikinoo’amaage gego chi-wiikaa widi go dibaajinanigaazoken. Gego gaye ingoji izhaaken da-wiindamawadwaa. Gaawiin keyaa ge gidizhichigesiimin i’iw.” “Ahaw” ingii-inaa. Mii akeyaa gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawid gaye niin. Kina gidinigaazomin ge anishinaabewiyang. Kina ge giwiikwajitoomin da-gwayakochigeyang kina go awiiya izhichige i’iw. Miinawaa ko gaye asemaa bagidinaan gaa-bagidanamowaad ge-wiinawaa ingiw waa-nitaa-ojibwemojig da-wiidookaagoowiziwaad ge gewiinawaa. Inashke awenen ge-bimiwidood o'ow gidizhitwaawininaan giishpin gakina ingow chi-aya’aag ani-jaaginewaad? Booch wiidookawangwaa ingiw weshki-ojibwemojig. Gego gaye baapi'aaken weshki-ojibwemod. Gidaa-wiidookawaa giishpin awiiya nisidotawid omaa wiidookawaadaaning ingiw weshki-ojibwemojig. Giga-wiidookaagonaanig dash ge-giinawind ingoding

 

Mii i'iw omaa minik ezhi-gaagiigidoyaan. Miigwech.

 

--

When I was growing up I was raised in a traditional community. And every day it was a, we did something pertaining to our culture. Everything we did was cultural. Actually, we did our tobacco all the time used tobacco all the time for every little thing.  The elders that raised me, had of course hung around a lot of other elders and people would come and visit and when they would visit and talk about the culture and listen to them say, “things are going to be changing pretty soon because of the loss of language” as they were talking about. And this is back in the ‘50’s, and I see a lot of that happening. A lot of our people are starving for a culture, of the ones that were not really raised or lived on reservations. So, I noticed when I was living in Minneapolis. A lot of our people, by our people I'm saying our Anishinaabe people or Ojibwe's I can say, were grasping things from here and here from this culture that culture and trying to mix them together and I noticed that I was I was getting into my twenty's and everything.

 

We have a way, we were given the ways, and nobody at that time took time to go back home or to seek out elders and ask them questions. This I suppose started around the ‘60's when we got away from a lot of that and they started mixing up different ways so to speak one of the things that I noticed was when we go to different pow wows, these locals pow wows you know around the Midwest here is the singing. Each tribe had their way of singing and their beats, I noticed a change came about starting, I suppose around the ‘70's. You take us local Ojibwe people I would say from around Mille Lacs, Lac Courte Oreilles, St Croix, Leech Lake, Fond Du Lac, and that area, I remember way back then.

 

The actual Ojibwe songs were a pretty rapid beat or singing. And now that's all changed in the ‘70's in the late 70’s they adopted the new way of singing or another tribe's way of singing by a much slower beat that's one of the changes I've seen. Also, the drums, there are a lot of them that have changed. I remember the old bass drums they used to have for good times and just general show pow wows and stuff they used that, and they started getting into using actual hides from the elk or a deer or something like that. Those changed drums are getting nicer and fancier which is good. They got away from the old bass drums that we used to use.

 

But the singing too. It's always been our way. Us southern Ojibwe, as they like to call us we never had women singers sit on a drum. They never did as far back as the elders could remember it was not that way. Women were important. They stood in the back or sat behind actual singers and they would sing the songs with the men they would be called Zhaabowe-kweg. Zhaabowe means a voice comes through, and that sounded really good they still do that, there is still a lot of them that like there Zhaabowe and it sounds really pretty you know it had some really good voices on some of our women. But for a woman to sit at a drum that was a big no no here and it still is in our local culture here. It might be OK out west you know whatever they do out there that that's not our business. But here locally in Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, I should say, it's not allowed and I know there's a group of women now that go around singing with hand drum and I've seen that and I've asked a couple of our elders over there, and they said gaawiin gii-miinaasiin wiin a’aw da-izhichiged.

 

And then there was also ten, twelve, fourteen years ago there was a women's group that wanted to set up, and they were not allowed because it's not in our culture. So. there's a lot of changes that I've noticed. Also, dancing is changing all a lot our Ojibwe people. Local Ojibwe people had black material, black velvet, and then they put their beadwork they used to have leggings and vests and almost like a turban.

 

And the Ojibwe's now have adopted a lot of different styles and it's all looks good and it's all good but I don't see hardly any of those old traditional Ojibwe style dance outfits anymore. You know we've always had the jingle dress here, it started around 1900, and I talked about that earlier, but that was it and there was all, all fast dancing and really having a good time you know. You know we see other tribes too, you know. They look good you know.  I know you used to be able to tell what tribe that individual is from that you see dancing by his outfit or her outfit you know it's all really nice but a lot of it has changed.

 

You mentioned how the drums changed since you were growing up how 30 - 40 years ago people used just bass drums because you know things were more social events like pow wows, since we have you know these more traditional drums of the deer hide in there and they're living things is there a certain way that singers and others that are around these drums that are supposed to behave around these drums even though they're not ceremonial drums per se?

 

Even though they're not ceremonial drums you know you should behave you know, just the certain protocol goes to being a singer and sitting in a drum whether it's a bass drum or whatever you know those songs that you're singing those are gifts. A lot of them come from dreams. They have been in their tribes for many years you know, and so you should behave. There's a lot of times you know we have alcohol involved and that's really frowned upon. The only drums that haven't changed are the actual OJIBWE, the ceremonial drums that we have back home here that never leave the community where they actually have members of those that remain the same since we've gotten them. But it's all good you know singers should behave and you know be a role model to other little singers, you know.

 

I was at a pow wow this weekend over in Red Cliff, Wisconsin and they had some young boys come out there and do some hand drum songs, and the little boys really are good singers. They have good role models I know a few of them personally and their role models are pretty good and their father is really involved with them.

 

It was a big thing up north and a little out west over there you know and then kind of caught on around here. We've always had a hand drums in our homes and of course in our some of our games like the moccasin game you know a hand drum was required for some of the opposing team to sing you know and when they take turns at kind of to entertain and also to distract the other team when you hide that one item there. But we've always had hand drums. But now lately when they start coming around with competition pow wows and they start having hand drum contests which is good it's all good you know and there's more of a chance also to have individuals come out and sing against another individual. You know. It's a lot of fun. Different songs you know, the Cree have theirs, we have ours here and a lot of our guys on here will sing sidestep songs with their hand drums which is perfectly normal around here. I mean other people might think hey that's strange he's using the hand drum and singing the sidestep songs but it's all good.

 

Well if you're Ojibwe you go clockwise, other tribes sometimes the men will go counterclockwise and there's a reason for that but Ojibwe’s go clockwise. Back in the ‘80's I heard an elder get up and holler at some dancers that are going counter-clockwise and he got up and hollered at them you men you go clockwise we know what tribe you're from, you're from here, you're local, so you go clockwise. He said, if you want to go counterclockwise there's a drum over here and one of the local reservations you're part of the ceremony. They go counterclockwise, you go sit and participate in that drum ceremony if you want to dance counter-clockwise. No, it's always clockwise and I mentioned To a few times to some of our dances but you know again the saw other tribes doing it, they think it looks cool you know and they go counterclockwise but no the Ojibwe’s go clockwise.

 

And I know it as I've learned dancers used to design their own outfits as they like them. And some dancers they're shown in a dream what their outfit should look like or somebody instructs them in a dream what to do but it's pretty much the individuals choice and of course our fancy dances that’s more of an athletic dance and it’s really good to watch fun to watch. And even the girls fancy and the girl's fancy shawl dance came from out west in Montana as I was told by another elder in Washington D.C. when we were at the gathering over there. She said the old ladies used to sit around in the evening out there and got cool so it would cover up with their shawls and once in a while they would go out there with an intertribal with their shawls on.

 

All the younger girls saw that and they started putting up the shawls and pretty soon they became fancy shawl dancers. And I didn't know what the elderly lady was presenting about out in D.C. so I thought it was pretty cool so I know the origin of the fancy shawl dance, the jingle dress so far. Always learning and never too old to learn. But yeah you can design your own outfit the way you see fit, you know and try to keep it local. You know what I mean.

 

I saw a guy dancing with Oneida style outfit this weekend. That's completely different style but he had a bustle on and all kinds of other things and he was kind of mixing it. We were sitting up at the announcer’s stand just you know and just commenting on that you know we didn't know how or where he got that style, you know what I mean. He was a good dancer but I mean his outfit didn't match anything. And then we have dancers that just like to come out and dance and they don't put any effort into their outfit you know. They'll come out with a pair of tennis shoes, bells, and a T shirt. And some of those people I feel like man I wish I could work with this guy to give him an outfit. If I could I, wish I was rich so I could buy this guy an outfit because I see some good dancers out there but you know nobody will help them make an outfit. They just have their bells and their tennis shoes and their vests, maybe, and a hanky or a choker.  But you know it's probably not their fault you know. But it's all about having fun, anyway. And you go to your competition pow wows these people put thousands of dollars into their outfits. They are always fun to watch too.

 

I don't have anything suggestions for them I mean they should know, you know? I've seen some things that I like too you know and I made it a point to go and get those things and I do have a traditional outfit but I don't ever have a chance to go and dance and I'm thinking about doing it this weekend at least going out for some inner tribal on Saturday night or something I've had a new outfit now for about nine years and I haven't yet worn it. And couple weeks ago in Hinkley I'm appointed to pick up the feathers around there and a gentleman dropped his father and I went picked it up to him and talked to him respectfully and he appreciated it. And about twenty minutes later, he came up to me and he said I made something for myself and he said I appreciate your appreciation of my culture and you know I appreciate yours and I want to give this to you and he gave me a full eagle bustle. I opened up my big mouth and I said “Oh, good I'll wear this next year here and come through grand entry.

 

So, I got to do that. You know that's I wasn't expecting anything like that, you know it's one thing to talk about you know some people will drop an eagle feather and somebody will go pick it up and they won't do anything they'll just keep it or take it away from something. You know we don't punish an eagle when he drops his father from above. We don't punish him nor do we chase that eagle around and try to stick it back in him so that veteran and who picks up that feather, it's his feather.

 

You know if you were to drop a feather and I picked it up that's mine. If I want to give it my buddy over there are so many needs that feather it's my right to do that or if I want to give it back to you it's my right you know. But again, if I took it away from you and wanted to give it to somebody else, I'm kind of punishing you and we don't punish an eagle for dropping his feather. We talk for it, we encourage you to make sure it's fastened on properly and that's the way we would do it. Other tribes have a different way of handling dropped feathers some of them will adopt the ways of the people out west and have veterans dance around and pick it up and do all that. And when I announce at pow wows, too, I always ask them that how do you guys handle dropped feathers here or how do you guys handle whistleblowing here? As an announcer, I got to know that, you know, so something happens and I can announce that.

 

That's one thing too about emcees. I emcee a lot of places locally and out east and I am an employee of that tribe that asked me to come out and emcee for them. So, I have to listen to them. The committee tells me what to do you know I can't go over there and tell them what to do and try to run things the way I see, you know it's not my job. My job is to work with that tribe or that reservation and announce for the committee, what the committee says I say to the people and the dancers and singers.

 

Usually there's a spiritual adviser you know siting there and I'll usually ask him how do you guys do this you know what's the protocol for this? Once in a while I'll see something that's simply not the way we do things you know I can't say anything you know I want to but I bite my lip. There are a few things there that I see you know, like a woman or father dancing with their child that's forbidden. You know when you when you get a gift out there in a pow wow circle, and you dance for that gift, and you hold it up that's same thing you're doing with your child when you're dancing, you’re holding your child up there. You're offering your child that's why we're very strict on that. (you mean as far as like a baby) Yeah, right any child again go out there and carry a child around.

 

Another time I saw a girl on YouTube, dirty dancing with a jingle dress on. Now, if I'd had been there at that place and me coming from where the jingle dress came from I would of went over to her and hollered at her. And I would have hollered at her Dad and Mother if they would have come over and stuck up for her. That's not the way to have a jingle dress those are spiritual dresses.

 

When I announce somewhere I usually give little teachings out you know. And I look at the crowd and see who is out there and If I see a whole lot of non-natives out there I will make it a point to talk about some of the different styles or some of the different regalia or whatever, you know. I'll mention that kind of educate people you know otherwise they will think we're just a bunch of Shinaabes out there dancing and hollering and doing what not. But you know so I kind of educate if I can.

 

Well, just sit and watch and observe and. That's about it I can't give many instructions really. Just make sure if you're going to take a picture of somebody of it you go ask that dancer, you know, if you can take his picture. You know it's kind of a have an insult sometimes I ask somebody if I can take your picture so make sure they ask the dancers if they can take a picture. I don't know some people say no pictures here, no picture allowed here you know and I what the heck I looked in history books and all kinds of pictures of things that are going on. So, I don't know what's going on and some people a long time ago and knew their pictures being taken or if they didn't or what, you know.

 

It almost seems like that's kind of a bigger issue I feel like in the Southwest. Some of those Pueblo communities have signs that say no picture taking.  (right) It's probably just their history of just their interaction with non-natives where people come and that's what they want to do for no other reason.

 

Now over in Mille Lacs at their annual traditional pow wow there that they have in August, we have our ceremonial drum there in the open but that's there for people to put tobacco on you know for safety of the people who are coming over to visit. That's what we have that ceremonial drum there. That you do not take pictures of.

 

One of the reasons, is that some hobbyists or somebody that will come along and try to duplicate it or try to learn from it somehow or something so we said no pictures of that drum. You know.

 

To me what makes Mille Lacs unique, is our ceremonial drums and our Midewiwin ceremonies. See we have never gone underground or hid anything even when we were supposedly not allowed to do these things and we didn't listen the people over there were strong and we are going to keep on using our ceremonial drums and we are going to keep on doing Midewiwin and that's it so they did. You know one time we were laughed at the Mille Lacs band because we were a little pitiful reservation along 169 and also, up in East Lake in Aazhoomog. You know.

 

Well we had some pretty strong leaders back then they were bound determined to make it a better community and they did. And then you know we have the two big casinos and the government doesn't give all the money that we make to each individual person and I mean we've got community development going on. I mean you've seen our schools, our houses, the highways, our different programs that we have and that's good and then we get a little bit what's left over each month to help us out and I like it that way. You know, let’s make our community look good, let's get all the services for these people, and we can worry about money later. And the language, it's always been part of Mille Lacs. It's always been number one but it's dwindling. We lost a lot of elders between 2000 to 2013.

 

We just lost another first speaker here last week, former Chief Executive Marge Anderson. Now she was traditionally Lady, spoke her language and she's gone so that's one less speaker we have now. In the late 90's, there were probably 200 people that spoke the language still and now that is way less than 100. But we have young people that are learning they have to learn because of all our ceremonies that we have you know.

 

I don't know if they look to Mille Lacs but man there are a lot of young people learning the language I mean you take LCO, you got that Waadookodaading school, you got people just dedicated to the language. Also, over in Leech Lake, Fond Du Lac, all these young people and it makes me really glad that they're doing that and I don't know, I like speaking Ojibwe to those students and their picking it up and, and all I'll not say they're saying this wrong. If they say something to me it's wrong I'll just say I'll repeat it but I'll repeat it the correct way make them feel good they're learning. I will never laugh at it that way or really criticize anybody trying to learn their language. I might smile. Maybe sometimes I'll smile out loud.

 

Ayi’ii omaa anooj ko ingagwejimigoo omaa da-dibaajimotawagwaa ingiw bezindangig. Gaawiin dash awiiya niwii-paapinodawaasiin awiiya ge-bizindang. nashke bebakaan gidizhitwaawin omaa bebakaan gidizhichigesiimin. Gaawiin indaa-aagonwetawaasiin a'aw gichi-aya’aa gaa-izhi-kikinoo’amawaad gewiin i’iw oniijaanisan maagizhaa ozhishenyan. Bebakaan eta ge gidizhitwaawin. Meta go widi keyaa niin kaa gaye gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawaawaad ingichi-aya’aamag, ingitiziimag. Mii akeyaa ezhi-gikinoo’amaageyaan mii akeyaa ezhi-wiindamaageyaan. Anishaa gaawiin, gaawiin ge niwii-gichi-gikendamookaazosiin. Gaawiin niwii-izhichigesiin i’iw eta go dazhindamaan i’iw iko wayaabandamaan bebakaanak.

 

Inashke ingow negamojig miinawaa ingow ikwewag nagamowaad omaa wii-aabaji’aawaad dewe’iganan.  Ingii-tazhimaa gaa wiikaa gaa wiikaa gii-izhiwebasinoon i’iw mewinzha. Anooj dash gow zhigwa ani-izhichige aanind a’aw anishinaabe bagidinaad iniw ikwewan imaa da-namadabinid dewe’iganing da-nagamod. Gaawiin izhiwebizisinoon i'iw. Gaawiin gaye gakina gegoo ingikendanziin. Anishaa go indibaajim minik omaa ko gegwejimiwaad omaa.

 

Gaawiin niwii-paapinodawaasiin awiiya bezindang dash. Gaye a’aw inzhishenyiban Naawi-giizis gaa-izhinikaazod mii gaye gaa-izhid aabiding, “Gaa inigokwe aanawi go giga-gikinoo’amaage gego chi-wiikaa widi go dibaajinanigaazoken. Gego gaye ingoji izhaaken da-wiindamawadwaa. Gaawiin keyaa ge gidizhichigesiimin i’iw.” “Ahaw” ingii-inaa. Mii akeyaa gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawid gaye niin. Kina gidinigaazomin ge anishinaabewiyang. Kina ge giwiikwajitoomin da-gwayakochigeyang kina go awiiya izhichige i’iw. Miinawaa ko gaye asemaa bagidinaan gaa-bagidanamowaad ge-wiinawaa ingiw waa-nitaa-ojibwemojig da-wiidookaagoowiziwaad ge gewiinawaa. Inashke awenen ge-bimiwidood o'ow gidizhitwaawininaan giishpin gakina ingow chi-aya’aag ani-jaaginewaad? Booch wiidookawangwaa ingiw weshki-ojibwemojig. Gego gaye baapi'aaken weshki-ojibwemod. Gidaa-wiidookawaa giishpin awiiya nisidotawid omaa wiidookawaadaaning ingiw weshki-ojibwemojig. Giga-wiidookaagonaanig dash ge-giinawind ingoding

 

Mii i'iw omaa minik ezhi-gaagiigidoyaan. Miigwech.