On this episode of Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa we have conversation with Obizaan [Lee Staples], a spiritual advisor for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Chato Gonzalez, Obizaan's apprentice and translator. Obizaan talks about the passing of Mille Lacs elder and longtime Ojibwe Stories contributor Larry Amik Smallwood. Obizaan conducted Amik's funeral in April, and he discusses teachings about our journey to the spirit world. Obizaan also discusses growing up with Amik in the Aazhomog community.
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:
Mii dash noongom waa-ni-dazhindamaan noomaya go maa enendaagwak a'aw anishinaabe maa keyaa gechi-wanitaasod mii a'aw Amik gii-inendaagozid da-ni-aanjikiid. Ishke dash a'aw Amik geget nebowa ogii-ni-giizhiikaan imaa megwaa gii-pibizhaagiid imaa akiing.
Ishke gaa-izhi-gikinoo'amaagoowiziyaang mii ko ingiw gaa-nitaawiigi’jig gaa-ikidowaad bebezhig a'aw Anishinaabe gegoo go maa inendaagozi wenji-asind omaa akiing ge-ni-giizhiikang. Ishke dash a'aw mii wa'aw Amik gaa-izhichiged nebowa maa ogii-ni-giizhiikaan megwaa maa gii-pibizhaagiid imaa akiing. Ishke mii a'aw niwiidabimaag inaa wiidabimag inaa omanidoo-dewe'igan gii-kanawendamaageyaang geget gii-wenipanizi imaa gii-wiidabimag geget i'iw gii-wawiingezi gaawiin ge gii-sanagizisiin naago gaye nebowa inow bemaadizinijin ogii-naadamawaan gii-kikinoo'amawaad i'iw gidinwewininaan naage nebowa inow anishinaaben gaye ogii-maajaa'aan megwaa imaa gii-ayaad a'aw Amik biinish gaye nebowa inow owiiwen'enyan ogii-ayaawaan gii-wiindaawaso gaye wiin a'aw Amik.
Ishke dash imaa ko ani-dazhindamaan a'aw Anishinaabe geget ominwendaanaadog zhigwa ani-aanjikiid ani-bima'adood i'iw miikanens ani-naazikaaged widi eni-izhaad a'aw gidinawemaaganinaan gaa-kwiinawaabaminaagozid omaa akiing.
Geget ominwendaanaadog omaa a’aw moonendang gekendang gii-ni-giizhiikang i'Iw keyaa gaa-izhi-inenimigod inow Manidoon aandi ni-izhi-bimiwidood iw bimaadiziwin. Ishke mii o’ow enenimag a’aw Amik geget gii-minwendaanaadog zhigwa gii-moonendang enigokwekamig inow anishinaaben imaa gaa-naadamawaad megwaa maa gii-pibizhaagiid imaa akiing. Mii ko a’aw Anishinaabe eni-giizhiikang gegoo iko Zhaaganaashiimoyaan Anishinaabe success ezhi-wiinjigaadeg ow Anishinaabe eni-giizhiikang iniw Manidoon gaa-inenimigod maa eni-dazhiikang megwaa imaa gii-pibizhaagiid maa akiing.
Ishke mii iw wenji-mikwendamaan i'iw ishke gii-wenda-zaamiikamaan i'iw minikwewin mii ingiw gaa-nitaawiigi'ijig gaa-izhiwaad, "gaawiin gigii-inendaagozisiin omaa da-nishwanaajitooyan maa giwiiyaw megwaa maa bebizhaagiiyan omaa akiing gegoo go gigii-inenimigoog ingiw Manidoog omaa da-ni-izhichigeyan megwaa omaa bebizhaagiiyan omaa akiing. Mii go maa kawe minik inwewetooyaan. Gaawiin go memwech kina gegoo maa indaa-aanikanootamaagesiin ishke ingiw gekendangig Ojibwemowin mii maa daa-ayaamwaad i'iw daa-minwiiwaad dibishkoo oda-ishkonamawadwaa gegoo maa da-aanikanoosidoowaad wiinawaa.
So, to translate a little bit what Obizaan was talking about, he was talking about Amikogaabaw – Amik - Larry Smallwood, that we have recently lost in our community, and it was a big loss for us.
Amik did a lot of work in our community and he helped out a lot of people. He did a lot in his lifetime. He talked about a teaching that he was always taught and passed down from his old people was that there’s a reason why each one of us was put on this earth. There’s something for us to accomplish and it’s our job to figure out what that is and to pursue that and Amik really did that in his lifetime. He mentioned some things that he had accomplished such as Obizaan and Amik sat together and took care of ceremonial drum in the Aazhoomoog in Minnesota. Talked about how easy it was to work with Amik, you know he was always there. He was always helpful. He was easy going because he helped a lot of people, a lot of people showed their support you know and that made it easy as a whole to take care of that ceremonial drum together.
He taught language for many years You know there’s language materials that goes back years and years, that he could find of Amik’s that was major things that he worked on that he left back for us to utilize. He was conducting funerals as well. He traveled all over the place, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Canada, Michigan. He helped a lot of people in that way. And he also gave a lot of Anishinaabe names. He has a lot of OJIBWE names all over the place as well. Those are just a few things that Amik helped out in a lot.
It must be a good feeling you know when we make that transition to that spirit world. When we go down that path it must be a good feeling, to know that you were put on this earth for a purpose, went after and you accomplished it, and it’s your time to leave knowing you’ve completed all that. Amik must really be happy and have a good feeling as he makes that journey for all he has done to help Anishinaabe while he has been here on earth. He always told people in English, Anishinaabe’s success.
The reason he remembers all this, during Obizaan’s younger days, that he talked about in his younger days that he knew drinking and doing different things, the old people that raised him always reminded him that he wasn’t put on this earth to be foolish and drink his life away that there was something for him to accomplish and do. And that’s exactly what Amik did you know. He found out his purpose and went after it. He did a good job at it.
Mii dash go naa bangii nawaj niwii-tazhimaa a'aw Amik. Ishke mii go o’ow dibishkoo gaa-izhi-zhawendaagozid gaa-izhi-zhawendaagoziyaan imaa gii-nitaawigi'igooyaang ishke gaawiin dedebinawen inow ogitiziiman ogii-wiiji'awaasiin inow gichi-aya'aawaanijin ogii-kanawenimigoon. Ishke dash ingiw gaa-nitaawigi'igoojin gaawiin aapiji ogii-kikendaziinaawaa ow da-zhaaganaashiimowaad mii go pane gii-ojibwemowaad.
Mii go gaye maa gaa-izhi-inaadiziwaad ingiw gaa-nitaawigi'igojin mii pane gii-naazikamowaad kina gegoo a’aw anishinaabe gaa-miinigoowizid akeyaa da-ni-biindaakoojiged. Ishke dash inow mindimooyenyiban gaa-nitaawigi'igojin Ojiingo gii-izhi-wiinaa naage a’aw akiwenziibanen gaa-nitaawigi'gojin mii a'aw Biidaanimadiban gii-izhinikaazo.
Ishke dash ingiw gaye niin ingiw nigitiziimag ingiw gaa-nitaawi'igijig a’aw mindimooyenyiban Naazhik gii-izhinikaazo Nazhikewi-gaabawiikwe naage i’iw a’aw akiwenziiyiban Ogimaawabiban gii-izhinikaazo. Mii go gaye niin maa dibishkoo gaa-ondinamaan sa gekendamaan iw Ojibwemowin. Mii eta go gaa-kikendamowaad gaawiin aapiji gii-nitaa-zhaaganaashiimosiiwag.
Ishke dash i'iw mii go pane gii-mawadisaadiwaad geget ogii-minwenimaawaan inow gaa-nitaawigijig inow Amik gaa-nitaawigi'igoji. Mii go maa pane gii-naadamaagewaad a’aw wenjida ge a'aw gimishoomisinaan a’aw dewe'igan gaa-ni-ganawenimaageyaang naago wawaaj go gaye Midewiwing gii-izhaawaad. Ishke a'aw nimaamaayiban a’aw gaa-nitaawigi'id ingoji mii iw gaa-izhi-wiinaad inow Ojiingo inow mindimooyenyan a’aw Amik gaa-nitaawigi'igoojin. Mii o’ow Gashkiiwegobagiz izhi-wiinaan nooj iko ezhi-wiinaad inow owiiji-bimaadiziim a'aw anishinaabe mii i’iw gaa-izhi-wiinaad inow mindimooyenyibanen.
Mii go maa kawe mink inwewetooyaan.
So Obizaan went on to talk a little more about Amik. He was talking about their upbringing. Obizaan and Amik, they were both raised in the same community. They were both raised away from their biological families. They were taken in by old people some elders from the community. The people that took them in didn’t speak English very well, little at all. They only spoke Ojibwe. This is the reason why Amik and Obizaan they both know the language and spoke the language fluently. It’s because that’s all they heard in their homes.
And at the same time, they both lived ceremonial lives. The old lady that had raised Amik her name was Jiingo and the old man that had raised Amik, his name was Biidaanimad - Biidaanimadiban. That was the old man’s name who raised Amik. Obizaan talked about the old lady that had raised him and they called her Naazhik - Nazhikwegaabawikwe and that old man that had raised him was Ogimaawab. They were raised the same way you know, in the same community. He’s talked more about. They only spoke Ojibwe. They lived ceremonial lives. They spent their lives around ceremonial dances and Midewiwin lodge. He was just talking about those old ladies, they’d visit each other. Those families they’d visit each other all the time because they lived in the same community. They had a nickname for each other and they called each other Gashkiiwegobagiz.
Geget gii-wawiinge Anishinaabewiwag ingiw nigigitiziiminaanig Amik. Ishke, nimikwendaan aabiding gii-wiindamawid gii-windamawid a’aw Amik a’aw akiwenziiban gii-izhiwinaad inow odaabaanan maa da-na’ichigaazonid da-ganawaabanjigaazonid weweni da-bimibizonid inow odaabaanan. Mii zhigwa maagizhaa gikinoo’amaagozid a’aw Amik gii-pi-dagoshimoonod mii maa gii-kagwejimaad inow akiwenziiyan, “Aaniin dash i’iw gaa-igooyan widi Odaabaanikewigamigong.” Mii dash a’aw Akiiwenziiban gaa-ikidod, “A-1 condition odayaan indoodaabaan kid” imaa gegoo go gii-zhiwebiziwinendam inow odoodaabaan gii-wiindamawind.
Ishke dash geniin a’aw akiwenziiyiban gaa-nitaawigi’id megwaa gii-minikweyaan mii imaa aabiding imaa ziiginigewigamigong ingii-ni-noogitaamin mii dash imaa Zhingobaaboo niin ingii-minikwe indoodamaage. Ingikenimaa dash a’aw akiwenziiyiban ow wenda-minwendang ow waashkobang mii go gaa-izhi-inendamaan, “daga, adaawetamaw i’iw waashkobaagamig iw ishkodewaaboo minikwewin.” Mii dash i’iw gaa-pi-miinind imaa. Mikwaming imaa siiginigaadeg iw ishkodewaaboo naage i’iw menwaagamig waashkobaagamig. Ishke dash imaa nanaamadabiyaang mii iw niin aazha gaa-kiizhikamaan i’iw zhingobaaboo imaa minikweyaan gii-ni-naamadabi akiwenzii. Owaabandaan ge gii-kiizhiikang ominikwewin gaa-miinind.
Gomaapii imaa gaa-izhi-gagwejimag, “Aaniin danaa ebaabiitooyan aaniin maa? Gaawiin nigwiina-maajaasiimin.” Mii dash iw akiwenziiban gaa-ikidod, “Akawe inbaabiitoon i’iw imbaabii’aa a’aw nimikwam da-ningizod da-minikweyaan.” Mii iw gaa-ikidod akiwenziiban mii imaa gii-moonenimag ezhi-wenda-wawiinge-anishinaabewid mii inow gaa-inaadiziwaad inow nigitiziiminaanig. Gaawiin igo aapiji ogii-kikendaziinaawaa i’iw Waabishkiiwed anooj iw endazhi-bimaadizid eni-izhichiged. Mii iw gii-mino-ayaad begish i’iw giinawind gii-inendaadoziyang omaa keyaa da-ni-izhi-bimaadiziyang iw giwenda-wanishkwe’igonaan a’aw Waabishkiiwed noongom. Ishke dash a’aw mii imaa gaye akawe imaa indaa-noogitaa miinawaa.
So Obizaan was talking a little bit more about Amik and those old people who raised them. They were raised back and they were secluded back in the bush people say. They were secluded from society at the time you know because they didn’t have much to do with society and they had different things going on with them all the time. He was talking about one time he remembers Amik’s dad took his car to go get fixed. When Amik came home from school or wherever he was at, and asking his dad, “dad, why did you take that car into the shop?” He told him, So, it would be in A-1 condition.”
He thought something was wrong with his car. He said A-1 condition odayaan odaabaan. He thought there was something a matter with it when they told him, it was in A-l condition. He didn’t know. Then he was talking about his dad, similar situation didn’t know what was going on. One day he must have been out and about and he was going to stop at the bar and get something to drink. So, they went to the bar and he ordered up his dad a mixed drink. They gave him a mixed drink on ice. They sat there for a while and they drank their drinks. They were sitting there for a while and Obizaan was thinking why are we still sitting here our drinks are gone. So, he finally asked his dad, “Dad, why are we still sitting here, why are we still waiting here?” “I’m waiting for my ice to melt so I can finish my drink.” He was just kind of reflecting on those old people who raised him. And it just shows how different thinking we were back then, and how they were raised, and how those teachings in that thought process was passed down to Obizaan and Amik. They didn’t have a lot of the world interferences that we have today.
Ishke dash imaa waa-ni-dazhindamaan a’aw Amik geget gii-aanoodizi wii-kinoo’amawaad owiijanishinaabeman gidinwewinaan. Mii go pane gii-piminizha’ang gii-kikinoo’amaaged . Ishke dash gomaa bangii niwii-ni-dazhindaan wenji-apiitendaagwak a’aw Anishinaabe da-ni-biminizha’ang da-ni-gikendang odinwewin naago nooj akeyaa a’aw Anishinaabe gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowizid da-asemaaked. Ishke a’aw akiwenziiban a’aw Niibaa-giizhig ingii-waabandaan imaa gii-izhibii’igaadenig waa-ni-dazhindang i’iw opii ondaadizid a’aw abinoojiinh inow ojichaagwan imaa dibishkoo imaa baa-ayaawan mii dash imaa gii-inendang Ojichaag imaa da-biindigeshkaad owiiyawing a’aw abinoojiinh imaa megwaa imaa gii-kigishkawind bimiwinind omaamaayan, mii dash imaa eni-aabiji-ayaanid imaa biinjina owiiyawing. Mii a’aw zhigwa ani-ishkwaa-ayaad mii a’aw eni-aanjikiid eni-maajaad aw ojichaag. Ishke dash a’aw ojichaawan Anishinaabe Anishinaabewan ishke dash imaa eni-bimiwidoosig i’iw keyaa gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowiziyang da-bimiwidooyang ow bimaadiziyang gizhitwaawininaan nooj ani-asemaakeyaang naago go gaye gidinwewininaan. Mii imaa a’aw Anishinaabe enigaa’aad inow ojichaagwan geget a’aw gagwaadagizi imaa biinjina Anishinaabe ojichaag mesawendang i’iw sa da-ni-Anishinaabetwaang dibishkoo endazhi-bimaadizid bimiwinaad mii imaa gagwaagadizid gaawiin imaa zakab biinjina ayaasiin mii go enaadizid dibishkoo.
Ishke dash a’aw bemaadizid a’aw Anishinaabe eni-biminizha’aang odinwewin geget omino-doodawaan inow ojichaagwan biinjina. Aaniish naa weweni dibishkoo doodawaad ashamaad ow miinaad wenjida ge-minokaagod inow ojichaagowan mii i’iw. Mii dash imaa wendiniged ow Anishinaabe zakab ezhi-ayaad imaa biinjina eni-biminizha’ang gaye anooj iw gaa-izhi-gikinoo’amaagoowiziyang da-ni-bimiwidooyang da-ni-bimaadiziyang Anishinaabewiyang. Ishke mii a’aw Anishinaabe nebowa wenji-goopawaadagizid imaa biinjina ow weweni eni-bimiwidoosig obimaadiziwin mii imaa dibishkoo inigaa’aad inow Anishinaabe-jichaagowan imaa bemiwinaad imaa biinjina mii imaa dibishkoo go gegoo meneziyang enendaagozid o’ow Anishinaabe okeyaa eni-izhichiged.
Ishke dash mii iw wenji-aangwaamimag a’aw Anishinaabe da-ni-aanjitood i’iw eyaa ezhi-bimaadizid da-ni-aangwaamizid da-ni-gikendang gidinwewininaan. Geget imaa da-naadamaagwan imaa biiinjina weweni da-izhi-ayaad naago gaye eni-gikendang iw gidinwewininaan mii go gaye biinish imaa da-biminizha’aang anooj ow keyaa gaa-izhi-miinigoowiziyaang Anishinaabewiyaang da-ni-izhi-bimaadiziyang. Mii a’aw booch Amik gaa-onji-biminizha’ang wii-kikinoo’amawaad owiijanishinaaben gidinwewininaan gaa-miinigoowiziyaang. Ishke ingiw Manidoog ingii-miinigoonaanig ingiw gidaa-apiitendaamin i’iw keyaa gaa-izhi-onwewiziiyang Anishinaabewiyang. Mii go i’iw .
I was talking about when a child, a baby is conceived, he talked about their spirit ojichaagwag they go around and they select that baby and they enter that baby’s physical body and they exist within us throughout our lifetimes. It’s in the Anishinaabe spirit and when it’s time for us to pass on. That is when they travel on. I can say that we all have that Anishinaabe spirit within us and it was put within us as Anishinaabe. You know and we go on to learn the language and learn our ways also, the different teachings. What we are doing, we’re nurturing that Anishinaabe spirit within us and that brings peace and we are much more settled within. If we don’t what we are doing, we are making it tough and miserable for that Anishinaabe spirit within us. It becomes frustrated. It’s not at peace, it’s not settled and that’s why it’s so important that we learn the language and learn their ways.
Our people don’t understand the importance of that spiritual teaching. Those Manidoog put us on this earth as Anishinaabe. Our spirit is Anishinaabe. We need to embrace that and not wander from it. When we wander from our Anishinaabe ways is what we put our Anishinaabe spirit in turmoil. And that’s where people have all these problems. There’s dysfunctional things happening in their lives because they are not at peace within and learning the language is the major step in nurturing that Anishinaabe spirit within us. From there I always think people will go on to learn more about our teachings, our ceremonies and how we were told to lead a better life. It’s a way to understand why the language is so important to us as Anishinaabe.