On this episode of Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa we continue our conversation with Obizaan [Lee Staples], a spiritual advisor for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Chato Gonzalez, Obizaan's apprentice and translator. They talk with us today about healing the Anishinaabe community by honoring and returning to traditional ways.
Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa is produced by KUMD and the Department of American Indian Studies at UMD, with funding provided in part by the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and by The Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Ojibwe language-related content in this episode:
Mii dash o'ow waa-tazhindamaan a’aw Anishinaabe bebakaan igo inaadizi. Gaawin bezhigwaning izhi-bimiwidoosiinaawaa i’iw bemaadiziwaad. Mii imaa gaawiin ingikaamaag aw Waabishkiiwen gaa-toodaagowaad. Ishke o'ow aanind a’aw Anishinaabe gii-ni-debwetawaan inow Waabishkiiwen wayezhimigod. Ishke dash nebowa ayaawag, aanawendaanaawaa i'iw akeyaa Anishinaabe inow Manidoon gaa-anoonigod. Mii o'ow waa-tazhindamaan. Ishke dash imaa ingii-shawendaagozimin nebowa ingiw gidinawemaaganinaanig ishkweyaang gaa-ayaajig. Geget gii-mashkawigaabawiwag gii-minjiminamowaad inow akeyaa inow Manidoon gaa-miinigoowaajin nebowa go gii-ayaawag gaa-pimiwidoojig i’iw gidinwewininaan. Eshkam sa wiin igo aanind gegaa go gii-pangiiwagiziwag. Ganabaj eshkam nebowa da-ni-ayaawag oniigaaniimiwaang.
Shke dash igo, mii i'iw naadamaagod a‘aw Anishinaabe imaa biinjina eni-minjiminang eni-bimiwidood i'iw akeyaa ingiw Manidoog gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawaawaad inow Anishinaaben da-ni-izhi-bimaadizinid. Mii imaa biinjina zakab eni-izhi-ayaawaad. Naago gaye imaa nebowa o'ow akeyaa ingii-miinigowizimin i'iw akeyaa ezhi-asemaakeyang i'iw anishinaabewiyang mii gaye imaa enaadamaagod omaa biinjina.
Shke imaa aabiding indizhibii’aan i’iw ingii-kiizhitoon ozhibii’igeyaan ingiw ingii-tibaajimaag ingiw zhingosag naa ajidamoog. Shke, namanj go i'iw gaa-izhiwebadogwen. Nebowa gii-ayaawag ingiw zhingosag eshkam nebowagiziwag pii dash iniw awesiinyan.
Mii ingiw zhingosag idash i'iw nebowa gii-ayaawag ishke dash imaa gii-niibowagiziwaad gaa-izhi-inendamowaad wii-kimaakandawaawaad inow owiijii-awesiinyiwaan. Ishke dash mii inow gaa-awakaanaawaajin inow ajidamoon mii i'iw zhingosag gaa-inaawaad inow ajidamoon, “Gidaa-webinaanaawaa i'iw akeyaa ezhi-bimaadiziyeg ajidamoowiyeg, gaawiin onaajiwanzinoon. Gaawiin giga-naadamaagosiinaawaa giniigaaniimiwaang.”
Mii i'iw zhingosag gaa-inaawaad: “ Giwii-ayaawininim ajidamoowiyeg i'iw isa
da-ayaangwaamitooyeg da-ni-gikendameg zhingos enwed, naago gaye da-ni-bimiwidooyeg o’ow zhingos gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amawind da-ni-izhi-bimaadizid da-webinameg i’iw enweyeg gaa-inweyeg i’iw ajidamoowiyeg.”
Shke, eshkam a’aw zhingos geget gii-aangwaamitoonaawaa imaa mii go waaj igo gaa-izhi-mamaawaad inow oniijaanisensiwaan ingiw inow ajidamoon gii-izhiwinaawaad widi ingoji gii-kikinoo’amawaawaad i’iw ge-ni-gikendamowaad i’iw ozhingosan iniw waa-ayinwed. Naago gaye imaa da-ni-bimiwidood i’iw ezhi-bimaadizid a’aw zhingos. Ishke dash i’iw aano go nebowa a’aw ajidamoo aw gii-mamigaazod gii-tebwetang inow zhingosan wawiiyezhimigod aanind igo imaa gii-ayaawag gaa-aangwaamitoojig da-bi-minjiminamowaad i’iw akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigowiziwaad ajidamoowiwaad
Ishke dash a’aw mii ingiw zhingos geget ingiw ajidamoog gaa-pimiwidoojig ge akeyaa iniw Zhingosan ezhi-bimaadizinid gii-aanawenimaawaan egoopadenimaawaan iniw owiiji-ajidamoowan ingiw sa geyaabi endazhi-bimaadizijig i'iw akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigowiziwaad. Mii i'iw gaa-inaawaad ge ingiw odabinoojiimiwaan ingiw ajidamoog “webinamog o'ow akeyaa inweyeg gaawiin gegoo odinaabasinoon.” Ishke mii aw zhingos niigaanii- oniigaaniiminaang booch a’aw da-mamooyang enwewaad wiinawaa. “Mii i'iw ge-naadamaagoyang.”
Mii dash i'iw mii go wawaaj igo gaye imaa baa-odaminowaad nooj ezhichigewaad ingiw ajidamoonsag mii imaa gii-naniibikimindwaa gaye aanawi bemiwidoowaad i’iw wayeshkad gaa-izhi-miinigowiziwaad endin inwewaad mii dash i'iw meta go ingiw ajidamoog ingiw gaa-odaapinangig i’iw akeyaa aw zhingos ni-izhi-bimaadizid a’aw wenda-naadamawindwaa. Ishke dash i'iw gomaapii gaa-ani-izhiwebak mii imaa gii-kanawaabandang a’aw ajidamoo eshkam i’iw gii-kagwaadagizi mii imaa gaawiin zakab imaa biinjina gii-ayaasiin naago gaye imaa gii-maamiigaadiwaad gaawiin gii-maamawichigesiiwag
Nebowa imaa misadaawendamowin wiisagishkaagowaad omaa ge-onjikaamagadini imaa gii-wiindamaagowiziwaad i’iw da-aanjitoowaad i’iw ezhi-bimaadiziwaad. Ishke imaa nebowa imaa maanaadak imaa biinjina gii-pimiwidoonaawaa ingiw ajidamoog gii-aanawenimindwaa mii go pane go baa-ayaawaad i’iw dibishko gii-nishkaadendamowaad maji-izhiwebiziiwinaagoziwaad gii-inigaa’idiwaad, ishke dash o’ow gomaapii ingiw ajidamoog gaa-izhi-moonendamowaad gegoo go maneziwag. Mii gii-moonendamowaad i’iw gaa-wanitoowaad i’iw megwaa ajidamowiwaad mii dash i'iw gomaapii gaa-izhi-gikendamowaad i’iw ge-ni-izhichigewaad. “Daga, azhe-giiwedaa da-odaapinamang da-azhe-mamooyang o'ow akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziyang ajidamoowiyang da-niigaani da-ni- izhi-bimaadiziyang.”
Mii dash geget gaa-izhichigewaad a’aw ajidamoo gii-mamood pii azhe-giiwemagadinig ge gii-ni-bimiwidoowaad i'iw akeyaa mii i'iw wayeshkad gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowiziwaad i’iw da-bimaadiziwaad. Ishke dash eshkam o'ow o-ni-minokaagonaawaa o-ni-minowaanigoshkaagonaawaa. Ishke dash imaa mii go gaye ingiw ajidamoog gii-azhe-mamoowaad i’iw gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziwaad inwewaad. Ishke dash ingiw Manidoog geget gii-minwendaanaawaa miinawaa gii-noondawaawaad inow ajidamoon odinwewetooninid imaa akiing i'iw akeyaa gaa-izhi-ina’oonwaawaad. Geget gii-minawaanigotaagoziwag ingiw ajidamoog naago ge inow manidoon izhi-zhawenimigowaan. Mii dash a’aw ajidamoo gii-minawaanigozid weweni gii-ni-izhi-ayaad o'ow biinjina.
Shke dash imaa eni-dazhindamaan ingiw awesiinyag gaa-izhiwebiziwaad mii go imaa eni-bizindang awiiya mii go imaa da-ni-moonendang i’iw gaa-izhiwebiziyang Anishinaabewiyang. Geget gigichi-wayezhimigonaan aw Waabishkiiwed gii-wenda-anoojii’igoyang wenda-bagijiwebinamang i’iw akeyaa gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowiziyang da-asemaakeyang enweyang ge-ni-izhi-bimiwidooyang gibimaadiziwininaan. Mii i'iw gaa-onjikaamaag wenda-gagwaadagizid noongom dash a’aw Anishinaabe aanind geyaabi eni-bimiwidood i'iw akeyaa a’aw Waabishkiiwed gaa-miinigoowizid da-ni-izhi-bimaadizid. Mii go imaa kawe minik inwewetooyaan.
So, what Obizaan was talking about was not all Anishinaabe live their lives the same. Originally, we were given one way to live, but, you know, there's many of us Anishinaabe who believe those things that we were told, that we were inferior, we were different, and what happened is so many of us end up discounting the ways that we were given; our ceremonies, our way of life, our language. Those are given to us by the Manidoog and we turned away we looked down at those things.
And, he has a story. He talks about the weasels and the squirrels. Long, long time ago, that they were living together out there in the woods in the wild and they had their own way of life. The weasel lived their life. The squirrels lived their life, and finally one day, the weasels, they wanted everybody to be weasels. They thought their way it was the best. There was only one way there should be and it was the weasel way. So, as time went on, they ended up telling the other animals they had to be like weasels and they told the squirrels, "You have to be like us, your life's no good.
You know the squirrel life - that's not the way to live. Our life's better. If you're a weasel you'd be better. You have to learn how to be a weasel. Speak like us, live like us. So, eventually, the squirrels believed that. Eventually they internalized that. They left their way of life, they started to become weasels, they started talking like weasels. They started teaching their children how to speak like a weasel, but at the same time, there were always those handful of squirrels that kept their way of life. There was that same traditional pocket, like we have today with our elders, that held onto our language and our ceremonies that are reteaching all our people.
What happened was, those squirrels, they started living like that. They lost their squirrel ways. Those other squirrels, they started, they were telling their fellow squirrels, you know, that they were wrong, don't take that weasel way. But they didn't listen. They continued to live that way, and they watched them.
They were just fighting, they weren't getting along, they are having a hard time and they were just pitiful. Nothing would go right for them. Then, all of a sudden, something happened to them. They finally realized that, all this was happening was because they started becoming weasels. They really thought they were weasels. They sounded like weasels. Something dawned on them and they said, "Hey, you know," they started telling each other, "C'mon guys, we gotta... we're squirrels, we gotta be squirrels. Let's go back to our squirrel way of life, you know, we were given this way of life by the Manidoos is how we were put on this earth: to be squirrels. Here we're living like weasels.
So, eventually enough of them got together and they started doing that and they started speaking the squirrel languages and squirrel ceremonies, squirrel way of life and all those Manidoog were just happy. You know, when they looked down on their squirrels, they were just happy to see them living their life, practicing their ceremonies, speaking their language, because, after all, it was those Manidoog that gave those squirrels their way of life. And this is the same thing that's happening to us as Anishinaabe.
You know, those Manidoog put us down on this earth a certain way and they put the white man down here a certain way, but what would happen is the white man started telling us that we have to abandon our ways, just like the weasel and the squirrels and we did and we have been, but there's those pocket of elders that are still here and still pushing us to come back and showing us the right way that we should be living.
We just have to get together and help our fellow Anishinaabe and say, "Hey, we've got to be Anishinaabe again. Let’s speak our Anishinaabe language, live our Anishinaabe life, and all those hardships that we're having, you know, especially talking about those leadership roles. A lot of that stuff wouldn't be happening if we just lived our Anishinaabe life. Not saying that we're better, but live the way that we were put on this earth to live as Anishinaabe. Speak our Anishinaabe language, practice our Anishinaabe ceremonies.
What that does to our spirit it brings peace to it once we go back to our original ways. That's what's missing with a lot of our Anishinaabe people. That's why they're always grabbing out there, something to feed them. They're missing it.
Mii dash omaa wii-ni-dazhindamaan i’iw sa inaajimoyaan i’iw sa akeyaa ge-izhi-naadamaagowaad ingiw naagaanizijig bemiwidoojig i’iw Anishinaabe-bimaadiziwin. Ishke niin enendamaan mii imaa mii i'iw biinjina eni-naadamoogoyang bi-azhe-giiweyang a’aw ina’aangwaamitooyang a’aw Anishinaabe iniw Manidoon gaa-miinigod akeyaa. Mii imaa biinjina zakab iniw ojichaagwan izhi-ayaad a’aw Anishinaabe. Gaawiin mii go inaadizisiin mii i'iw akeyaa izhi-ayaan izhi-naadamaagoowizid eni-aangwaamitood inow Manidoon akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigod. Ishke a’aw Anishinaabe a’aw wenda-aanawendang o'ow akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziyang dibishko bagijiwebinang inow Manidoon gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagod ani-izhi-bimaadizid mii imaa biinjina ojichaagwang dibishko mii go naadizid dibishko gegoo go manezi mii i'iw ezhiwebizid gaawiin dash imaa sakab ani-izhi-ayaasiin. Ishke dash ingiw naagaanizijig enishinaabewijig mii i'iw ge-aangwaamitoowaad da-ni-izhi-mamoowaad inow akeyaa inow Manidoon gaa-miinigowaajin da-ni-naadiziwaad mii i'iw da-naadamaagowaad ge-minawaanigoshkaagowaad da-gwekiwebinigaadeg dash wiin i'iw maanaadak i’iw mii imaa da-ni-mino-wiij-ayaad dash inow owiiji-anishinaaben da-mino-wiiji-anokiimaad inow owiiji-anishinaaben o'ow zakab imaa biinjina ge-ni-izhi-ayaad mii i'iw niin enendamaan.
Mii o’ow ishke imaa Anishinaabeg o’ow anokiitawaan booch da-naadamawaawaad inow Anishinaaben enokiitawaawaajin da-miinaawaad da-waabanda’aawaad i'iw bimiwidoowaad aw Anishinaabe akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowizid da-ni-izhi-bimaadizid weweni ni-naanaagadawendamowaad da-waabandamowaad o’ow gaa-izhiwebiziyang Anishinaabewiyang. Mii i'iw gaa-wenda-anishinaaji’igooyang gii-odaapinamang gii-mamooyang a’aw Waabishkiiwed akeyaa ezhi-bimaadizid. Ishke mii i'iw ge-wenda-minokaagoyang aw Anishinaabewiyang kina da-bii-azhe-giiweyang o'ow akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziyang da-ni-izhi-bimaadiziyang.
Shke imaa indazhimaag ingiw Ajidamoog imaa gii-azhe-mamoowaad sa gaa-miinigoowaad i’iw da-inwewaad. Geget ingiw Manidoog gii-minowaanigowiziwag eminotawaawaan inow ajidamoon noondawaawaad imaa baa-inwewetoonid imaa akiing i’iw akeyaa gaa-miinigoowiziwaad da-inwewaad. Mii i'iw ge-onji-aangwaamitooyang Anishinaabewiyang da-ni-gikendamang gidinwewininaan. Ishke ingiw Manidoog geget da-minowendaanaawaa noondawaawaad miinawaa inow Anishinaaben eni-aabajitoonid inow akeyaa gaa-izhi-miinaawaad. Mii imaa ge-onjikaamaag imaa da-zhawendaagoziyang da-ni-naadamaagoowiziyang Anishinaabewiyang geget ominwendaanaawaa ingiw Manidoog waabandamowaad i’iw Anishinaabe gaawiin geyaabi o'ow aanawendaziin gaa-izhi-ina’oonaawaad ezhitwaawaad ezhichigewaad asemaakewaad nooj igo akeyaa ezhi-bimaadiziwaad. Mii imaa ge-naadamaagojig dash ingiw naagaanizijig imaa mii i'iw akeyaa geget gichi-naadamaawaad inow owiiji-anishinaabemiwaan eni-bimiwidoowad eni-waabanda’iwewaad o'ow waabamigoowaad inow owiij-anishinaabemiwaan bimiwidoowaad i’iw akeyaa Anishinaaben omanidoon gaa-miinigoowaajin. Mii imaa geget da-minosewaapan aw ishke nebowa ayaamagad gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowiziyang gaye aw Anishinaabewiyang da-manaaji’ang a’aw giwiiji-anishinaabeminaan giwiiji-bimaadiziiminaan biinish ko gaye a’aw aki kina gegoo imaa eyaamangidwaa Manidoowaad. Ishke mii imaa ge-ondinigewaad ingiw aangwaami’aawaad aabaji’aawaad inow odasemaawaan da-asemaakawaawaad inow Manidoon imaa eyaanijin imaa kiing da-naadamaagowaad inow da-wiingeziwaad da-ni-bimiwidoowaad odanokiiwiniwaa. Mii go i'iw.
You know, if we take a look at what has happened to us as a people, what has caused all of the turmoil and the infighting in our community is the result of all of this pressure from the Chi-mookomaan to abandon our ways. And that's what created the factions.
And a good leader should realize the best thing they can do in their leadership role in serving their Anishinaabe community is to bring all of that back to be a role model. To practice all of those things we have been given as a people. As we take all those teachings back, to learn the language, what it does it brings peace to us within. It settles us down. We're not miigonaadiz, kind of like, I can picture the spirits of a lot of our people that abandoned our ways. Their spirit is like a gunny sack full of jackrabbits, they're just, they're not at peace. So, for them to do that, to advocate that in their leadership role and role model, that is the best thing they can do to serve their organization, also the Anishinaabe people that they're serving.
I cited that. What happened to the squirrels. Once they came back to their squirrel chatter, those Manidoog were happy to hear them. Their chatter across the land again. Hearing those squirrels using the language that they had given them and for us, as Anishinaabe, for us, the very same thing.
We come back to learning our language and using the day every day, those Manidoog are going to be happy to hear that. And they can only look down in a favorable manner to us and help us and take care of us as a people. They would be so happy that we came back to what we were originally given by the Manidoog. And then to practice all the different ceremonies, too, that were given. It is that stuff that nurtures our spirit. Helps us along. Bring that back in our lives. It may take a while to get to that point, but you know, like here at LCO, you got that Waadookodaading that so many young kids that just know the language. It's incredible. We're on our way. We're on our way. So, that’s why I like being here.
What Obizaan was talking about is, just kind of recapping everything he had just talked about earlier and how this all plays a role in leadership, in our communities, and we have a spirit inside of us, each one of us. And that's what our spirit wants. Their spirit is Anishinaabe, and they want to live Anishinaabe. They want to be they want to be part of the ceremonies. They want to speak our language. By us taking on the white man's way of life, then we don't allow that to happen and then our spirit is lacking that and we won't be at peace and the reference that Obizaan uses is a gunny sack full of rabbits.
These rabbits are jumping around all which way. This way, that way, trying to get out of that gunny sack. That's our spirit inside of us. We're always bound up and never at ease. What our leadership has to realize that, to look at that, and that it's those things that we were given as Anishinaabe mean that will help us as a community and we need to embrace that.
Within our organizations that we're working for, we need to be role models and show the people, show our workers, on how to live that way and how to be at peace and how to live our Anishinaabe ways and embrace that. We're only hurting ourselves by abandoning our ways, picking up all the ways of the white man, that if we were to embrace who we are as Anishinaabe then many of those problems won't be there.
You know, the same as he talked about with the story of the weasel and the squirrels. How they were happy, and then as they took on the way of the weasels, all kinds of things started happening. They were fighting, they weren't happy, and it wasn't until they came back to living as squirrels that they became happy and peaceful inside and the same is for us as Anishinaabe.
We've taken on that way of life for so long that we have to stop and go back to the way that we were living before and then we'll be happy. It was those Manidoog that gave us this way of life, Manidoog gave that way of life to the squirrels, Manidoog gave that life to us as Anishinaabe and we need to embrace that and they'll be happy to hear us again, speaking our language, doing our ceremonies.
And, we have to make sure that we respect our fellow Anishinaabe, fellow human beings, everything around us, everyone and everything is spiritual in the sense, you know, that the Manidoog had put those things, put us and those other things, around us, so there's other beings around us, and they're spiritual beings as well, and we have to use our tobacco and to remember them and we have to honor them and treat them respectfully.