Meaning of Anishinaabeg

“The meaning of Anishnaabeg is ‘First’ or ‘Original Peoples’. Another definition – possibly reflecting a traditionalist’s viewpoint with a certain moral dimension – refers to “the good humans”, or good people, meaning those who are on the right road/path given to them by the Creator or Gichi-Manidoo (Great Spirit). The Ojibwe scholar, linguist and author Basil Johnston, who explains the name in a creationist context, states that its literal translation is “Beings Made Out of Nothing”, or “Spontaneous Beings”, since they had been created by divine breath and were made up of flesh and blood and a soul or spirit – instead of rock, or fire, or water, or wind.”-

The Sacred Four Direction Teachings – OJIBWE/ POWAWATOMI (ANISHINABE) TEACHING

Boozhoo. Welcome to this sacred knowledge that’s been gifted to us, to all the two-legged that walk on Mother Earth.

These teachings that are being shared are sacred teachings. From tribe to tribe, the details may differ but the basic teachings are the same. They have been followed and shared for many, many years. So we honour the ancestors, the ones that have walked before us, because they’re the ones that sat in circles many times before, and prayed that their children and their grandchildren would follow in their path. When we honour the ancestors, we honour ourselves.

There are Seven Sacred Directions.

The Four Cardinal points on the Medicine Wheel are the Four Sacred Directions, represented among the Ojibwe by the colours yellow, red, black and white. Blue represents Father Sky in the upper realm, Green represents Mother Earth below, and purple represents the self, that spirit that journeys in this physical world, at the centre of the wheel.

The Seven Stages of Life are also found on this Medicine Wheel. They begin in the east and move across the Wheel to the West. The Seven Stages of Life are: The Good Life, The Fast Life, The Wandering Life, the stages of Truth, Planning, and Doing, and The Elder Life.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are also located on this Medicine Wheel. They begin in the Northern direction and move down to the centre of the Wheel. These gifts are the teachings of Honesty, Humility, Courage, Wisdom, Respect, Generosity and Love.

The Teachings of the Medicine Wheel are vast. There are seven teachings within each direction on the Ojibwe wheel, and all these have sub-teachings to them, such as where all the medicines like sweetgrass came from, and what they mean.

The four directions of the Medicine Wheel remind us of many things, such as the need for balance in the world, and the balance we must strive for everyday within ourselves. Here you will begin to get an idea of a few of those many teachings and connections that are in the circle. Everything comes in fours, so it’s easier to digest, easier to learn. The four direction teachings go clockwise, beginning in the east. But before we travel around the wheel, let’s look at the Centre.

Ojibwe – Medicine Wheel in the Universe, white, blue, red, and yellow.
Ojibwe – Medicine Wheel 7 sacred teachings located along the axis of the Medicine Wheel


Each of us carries a fire within. Whether it’s through the knowledge we have, or through our experiences and associations, we are responsible for maintaining that fire. And so as a child, when my mother and father would say, at the end of the day – My daughter, how is your fire burning?” It would make me think of what I’ve gone through that day — If I’d been offensive to anyone, or if they have offended me. I would reflect on that because it has a lot to do with nurturing the fire within. And so we were taught at a very early age to let go of any distractions of the day by making peace within ourselves, so that we can nurture and maintain our fire.

We have many teachings on the value of nurturance. When I was a child my father told us about the Rose Story. He said the Creator asked the flower people, “Who among you will bring a reminder to the two-legged about the essence of life?” The buttercup answered, “I will, Creator, I will.” And the Creator said, “No, you can’t, because you’re too bright.” All of the flowers offered their help. At the very end the rose said, “Let me remind them with my essence, so that in times of sadness, and in times of joy, they will remember how to be kind to themselves.”

So the Creator, the Master Gardener, took a seed of the rose and planted it in Mother Earth. The winds tilled the soil and the warm rains gave it water until a very small sprout came through the ground. Day after day it grew. The stem sprouted little thorns that were very, very sharp. After the thorns came the little leaves. As time went on, a little bud formed. After much care this little bud bloomed into a full rose.

And so life is like a rose. The thorns are our life’s journey; without them we would lack the hard won teachings that we need to in order to grow. Life’s experiences make us who we are. And like the rose, we too decay and die many times in a life time only to come back to fruition again and again, after reflection, meditation, awareness, acceptance and surrender.

My father told us the rose is both life and it’s gifts. So when I am making my own Medicine Wheel, I put the rose here in the centre as a reminder of my own life’s journey and it’s gifts.

For this, I say “migwetch.”

Ojibwe – Fire Shown Each of us carries a fire within
Ojibwe – The Rose Story: Let me remind them with my essence, so that in times of sadness, and in times of joy, they will remember how to be kind to themselves.


The east is where we come from. It represents the springtime, and the spring of life. It is where we begin our journey as human beings coming from the spirit world into the physical world. This is Mother in here, the one that brings life.

We are born when, as a spirit, we ask the Creator to go on this physical journey. The Creator grants us this request with four gifts: the gifts of picking our mother and father, so that they will help us come to an agreement, a balance, within ourselves, and the gift of picking and choosing how we are going to be born and how we are going to die.

And so in the spirit world, we find our spirit mother and our spirit father, and we ask them, “will you be my vehicle to go to this physical world?” When they agree, Creator brings them together. A spirit is then born at the physical level, and is carried by the woman for nine months until the water breaks. We then enter into the physical world.

Our journey begins here, when Creator breathes the spirit of life into us. And the spirit is the one that motivates all that life in this great circle. We are a spirit on a physical journey, until our last breath.

Life is a gift. To honour that gift we have been given tobacco.

All life is spirit. It is the wind, the earth, the fire, the water, all of those things that are alive with energy and movement. When we talk about life we are talking about spirit, and so we give thanks every day to those things that we cannot exist without, because we need them on our journey.

That is why we begin our day with the act of thanksgiving, by taking a little bit of tobacco and gently placing it in a clean place outside: in a garden, at the base of a tree, or on the shore of a lake; a place where Mother Nature is unencumbered. When we do this we are giving thanks. We are humbling ourselves to creation and being grateful for the breath of life once more.

Boozhoo Creator, Thank you. Thank you for giving me the breath of life. Thank you for the world, for the life-giving Earth and for Grandfather Fire that warms me when I am cold. Thank you for the birds, and the crawlers, the swimmers, and the trees. Thank you for the cycles of time: the fall, the winter, the spring and summer. For all these things affect my being with their gift of Creation.

And so, we correlate Spirit with all that is called Nature, because it is life itself. When we follow natural law, it never lets us down, because natural law was the only law that existed before man put himself on the road to progress.

We have the gift of tobacco here in the eastern direction because it reminds us to be grateful for all life – grateful in the way of being humble in knowing that we will always require guidance and protection, and cannot exist without the gifts of the natural world around us.

There are many teachings that come from this eastern direction. I have shared a small part of these with you, but in doing so I have accepted tobacco to honor the request to share these teachings.

I’ve been told ever since I was a young girl by my parents that when we hold our tobacco in hand, when we ask the Creator for what we need, all our intentions are answered. Not the way that we want them sometimes, but the way the Creator wants them.

And so I honor this tobacco as I prepare myself to go on this journey with you.

Ojibwe – The baby in the womb, the new life.
Ojibwe – Our tobacco growing from the Soil of the Earth!


Here in the southern direction of the Medicine Wheel, everything is thriving. The trees have come awake, producing their leaves. Life itself is awake and dancing, because the summer stage is here, a time of continued nurturance for all of Creation, when everything is new and growing fast.

Youth resides here in this direction. Youth are in the quandary stage – not old enough to be an adult but no longer a child, when they are either searching for what they have left behind in their child stage, or losing that essence that is present within them, because of a lack of nurturance.

The youth is searching for something and never finding it: searching for something that they used to have. “Who am I? Where do I come from?” As a youth, we look to remember our humble beginnings as the child; we search for that.

The southern direction reminds us to look after our spirits. When you are in balance within yourself, spirit will warn you of danger, will tell you, “No, don’t go there. Go this way instead.” So no matter what happens, when you listen to that spirit, to that intuition, it never deceives you. It’s always right, because that’s your guide. When that is disrupted, kids grow up without any direction, without any spirit nurturance. And they grow up to be teenagers, and they’re into all kinds of dangers and distractions. Why? It’s because there’s no spirit foundation. Their spirits have not been nurtured. And their youth, their wandering stage, becomes very distant.

They have a long way to go before they catch up with themselves again, and the truth about who they are. As a youth, I have to find people to help me in that time of continued growth, so I hook up with like-minded people to give me that nurturance that I think I need. And when our elders come in and say: “We have something for you; this is a gift I have for you; take a look at it; see what you think of it” – they’re not saying, “I want you to follow these teachings.” No. The elders are inviting them; as an elder, I invite the youth to be a part of my journey. And with that invitation, most of the time, they join me, just to hear out what has life, what has meaning, what has purpose. And their lives begin to change. They begin to take accountability, to form a life style. They’re planning now to be a better parent, to have a career, all of that. That becomes their truth.

And so, looking at this life’s journey, how it used to be, and how it is today, where do we find the balance? We need to go back to our humble beginnings. We need to make contact with our ancestors, and say, “Please, have pity on me; pray that I will find my journey.”

And so the youth reminds us to be mindful in our struggles, to remember our humble beginnings as the child, and to nurture the youth themselves, who are searching, because they are still growing and in need of our guidance and protection.

That is why summer is the time of continued nurturance, where we learn to cultivate our spirits.

The gift of cedar was given to help us in this direction.

The Cedar Grandmother was asked by Creator, “Will you walk with these two-leggeds? Will you provide them with your medicine when they are hurting and when they are ill?”

Our Grandmother agreed, and so to this day we honour that cedar tree, because she is the Grandmother who comes to us free of charge to administer that medicine when we ingest her and drink of her sacred teas.

And so we are reminded that spirit lives inside of us, and that to nurture spirit means we must be mindful of it, lest it should run away.

Grandmother Cedar helps us; with her medicine she takes from us all those things that we don’t need on our journey. Once we’re ready to give them up, she takes them from us and makes us anew. That is why cedar is considered a cleansing medicine for body and soul.

Ojibwe – our Youth are fragile and being an adolescent is hard
Ojibwe- Masks are adorned in this stage of life, but eventually discarded


The western direction is the adult stage, the berry stage. It is here that the growth from summer has come to ripen. It is the time of harvest, and so for much of creation the physical journey is over, and that life crosses back into the spirit world.

The sun setting in the west signifies the death of a day. And so we die many deaths in a lifetime. And just as an old thought or feeling dies, and a new one emerges, we die many deaths in a single day. So there is constant change within us. We dance around that western doorway many times in a day to honour the death spirit.

As we move through adulthood, death and loss become more and more visible. In the light of death, it is important that we accept that constant change is here with us.

The west also represents the heart, the evaluator of what’s going on in my life. As adults, we need to be in touch with this evaluator, because it helps us to see the cycle of life, to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of life, and to accept aging and change, making peace with our lives and deaths. We are given the responsibility to nurture our hearts, so that we may be in balance, and see the Medicine Wheel for what it is.

And so to help us we have been gifted the medicine of sage. When we smudge ourselves, burn the sage and bring the smoke over our bodies, we are given the gift of clearing our minds and hearts, so that we may prepare well for the rest of our journey.

The Strawberry Teaching comes to mind here in the west, because it teaches forgiveness and peace. The Strawberry is shaped like a heart, and strawberries are known to our people as heart berries. We were taught stories like these from a very early age.

A long time ago, there was a family that chose to no longer live in their village because of community feuding and ill will. This young family took their two little boys and said, “Let us go back into the forest, and we’ll let the trees nurture our children; we’ll let the birds sing songs to remind them of their own songs. And we’ll let the animals become their friends.” And so they packed up their little boys and went deep into the forest.

The father offered his tobacco, and asked the tree nation to give him a home. He was granted that gift and so he cut down the trees. He made a home for his family and they moved in. The boys grew tall and strong, and yet year after year they continued to play fight and wrestle. Finally when they were in their teens, their mother said to them, “It’s time for you to give up your childish ways.” And they said, “Okay mom, we won’t wrestle anymore.” But as soon as they were out of earshot from their mother, they said, “Let’s go deeper into the forest and we’ll build a wrestling ring for ourselves, so we can go out there any time we feel like it.” And so they did. They cleared some land and went there secretly, without their mother’s knowledge.

And then one fateful day the time came when the boys were wrestling and the older brother knocked his younger brother to the ground, where he hit his head on a rock and died instantly. The oldest brother was beside himself. He said, “Please, please wake up… Mom and Dad are going to kill me. Please, please answer me.” The only answer was silence. He cried and begged his brother: “Please, please.” Finally after a couple of hours, a voice told him: “Bury your brother.” And so he dug into the ground and put his brother there. He covered him up and ran home.

Out of breath, he ran to his parents: “Mom, Dad, I’ve lost my brother in the forest – I can’t find him.” And so the parents went out with him and they looked. They couldn’t find him anywhere. The father said, “I will go into the community, and seek out our relatives to come and help us form a search party so we can find him.” So they searched for ten days, and ten nights, and then they went into mourning after they couldn’t find their son.

But every day the brother would go to his little brother’s grave, and he would say, “Please, please tell me that you’re okay! Please!” And he would cry as he walked away, because he had no answer. And years went by. He carried this sadness into his manhood because only he knew where his brother’s body lay.

After many years and visits to his grave, the elder brother saw a tiny plant. He watched it grow into a little strawberry vine on top of his brother’s grave. Each day he watched the leaves grow and the berries come into fruition.

White heart-shaped berries appeared first. Then, over days, they transformed into big red delicious berries, luscious and sweet. As he contemplated them, a voice from inside him said, “Take a berry and eat it.” So he picked a berry and he put it in his mouth.

As he ate it, he became aware, for the first time in his life, that he could taste the sweetness of life again. No more did he blame himself for his brother’s death, and no more did he blame his brother for not answering him. He no more blamed his parents for their strict upbringing. And most of all, he no more blamed the Creator for taking his brother’s life. He was free. After all of these long years, he was finally free.

And so here in the western direction we have learned something about death and about the power of change and healing, and that finding peace doesn’t necessarily come from the head – it comes from the heart. Death can be a place of freedom: freedom to go on, freedom to be. It’s very important to remember that, because only then can we go on to enjoy the northern direction after we have given careful consideration to these teachings in the west.

Ojibwe – The Strawberry Teaching
Ojibwe – a Giant Strawberry located in the soil of the earh


Now it’s time to slow down from the business of birth and death, the continuum of death and rebirth. Here in the Northern direction is the rest period. Some call it the remembrance period, because after death, you rest, and you contemplate what has happened. But rest is also used here to be mindful of the physical body, to remember to care for and nurture our physical bodies: when they are tired, rest them, just as in the winter the Earth rests from her labours. When they are hungry, feed them. And know what you are ingesting, what is good food for the body.

This is a time of reflection on being a child, a youth and an adult. And so it is here that we honor our Elders. This is where they reside, along with the pipe carriers and the lodge keepers, because their ceremonies provide us with teachings of the whole Medicine Wheel, in all the directions. They also help us make peace through embracing all those aspects of ourselves – the child, the youth, and the adult – so that we may be able to feel and experience the fullness of self.

This is a place of wisdom.

And so it is here during the winter months that the elders share their stories and teachings. In honour of this storytelling time, I too will share a story.

Years ago we were prohibited from visiting Dreamer’s Rock. It is a sacred place in our territory where our people would go for vision quests. In 1968, that ban was lifted and we were able to go back and do our ceremonies. At this time I became involved with the community because I believed in the value of our teachings and ceremonies. But I had to first regain that fire.

I will never forget it. In the first sweat lodge ceremony, the elder told us that the spirits that came into the lodge were hungry. He said, “I asked them what they needed and they said, “Bakademe – zhamzhenung.” This Elder was not of the same dialect as me, but he brought those words from the sweat lodge. He said it means, “We are hungry; feed us.”

Something inside of me stirred. I remembered as a child, my grandmother used to say, “We will feed them, those that went ahead, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, all our relations.”

She would then prepare food and burn it on the stove, until the smoke from it permeated the whole house. It was like the essence of their lives filled our home and reminded us of how they contributed to our life’s journey. And that was a good feeling.

I knew then, deep inside – Spirit spoke to me – I knew what I had to do.

And so I went back home and called every household I knew. I said, “We’re having a celebration. Can you donate some food?” “Yes – yes, yes,” – everyone agreed. People were awakening to something that they knew existed before.

So we prepared the spirit plate. Every spoonful of food that was donated was put on that plate. And it was a heaping plate because there was so much food. We took that plate along with our tobacco to the fire and prayed: “Please hear us,” we said.

“Grandfathers, grandmothers, ancestors, all our relations: please hear us. We are here now, have pity on us. We had forgotten to feed you. You have lived a long time without food, and now we are here to honour you. Please come and feast with us.”

As we put the food down, I could actually see those spirit hands grasping for that food because they were starving. It was at that moment that I began to cry because I could feel my reconnection to this circle.

And so as I share this story with you, I am sharing how I became reconnected with my ancestors. It is through them that we learn the sacred teachings that they carried. I cherish this story because it is not only about an awakening inside of me, but an awakening of a community that came together to celebrate a way of being and spiritual nourishment. We still go back to our original teachings, because that’s where our food for life comes from, to nurture that spirit that is forever searching in life’s journey.

And so I am grateful to all of my teachers and all of life’s teachings.

This is what we learn from the four stages of the Medicine Wheel: that all of life’s cycle is beautiful – the sadness and the joy, life and death; and that they are all one, and there is life in death, death in life – and that beauty itself resides within the balance of the whole circle.

And so now we have come full circle, and I give thanks. To the Eastern Doorway I say Meegwetch, to the Southern doorway, I say Meegwetch, to the Western Doorway, Meegwetch, and to the Northern doorway, Meegwetch.

Ojibwe – Groups of figures standing on the lines of our lifes. Youth is shown as Floating Flowers
Ojibwe – the Family shown over a bed of Roses on the winter background


The Good Life

After birth, the first seven years of our lives is the good life. I’m going to present the ideal first, the way it used to be. And so the first seven years of a child’s life, there were elders, grandmothers, grandfathers that provide for all the needs of that child, unconditional love for that child, and discipline, and the child came to know what life was all about, confident in who they were. And so the teachings began very early in life. The support family was there – the mothers, the fathers, being supported by their mothers, their fathers, and the child became strong.

And by the time they were seven years old, they were put out on their first day fast to make them realize that these are all their relations that we walk with. So the child goes out to fast for a day, for a night, with all the support people.

The Fast Life

After that, the child was prepared for the next leg of the journey, and that was called the fast life. This was when the child was being prepared for their four-day vision quest at the time of puberty. And men were designated to look after the boys, women designated to look after the girls, to train them. So that after their fasts they would be inducted into the men’s circle for the boys, and the women’s circle for the girls, so that there was always space for every individual. No outcasts in the circle. Everybody was included.

The Wandering Life

The next part was the wandering stage, where I go and wander about from place to place to find my teachers, to find other experiences. The wandering phase. It’s also to wonder about life: “I wonder, if I did this, what would happen?” So there’s two wanders in there: w. a. n., and w. o.n. – the two wonders of life.


And so when we finish going through the wandering life, our elders, or our teachers, our mentors that we picked out, are the ones that guided us to the next phase, which was the Truth Stage – the truth being, taking a look at myself, that I can see my mirror. These are my gifts. This is what I’ve learned from, and being able to speak out of that truth of self.


And then comes the planning stage. “What am I going to do with all of this information that I have? How will I accomplish it?”


And then after the planning stage comes the actual living out of it; practicing all those things that I have learned on this life’s journey, to exactly where I’m at, there.


And then to be inducted into the elder’s circle. And all of those intervals, every seven years, they would fast for direction and guidance. So then when they become elders, they come back and they teach the young ones. So there was always that circle of teaching. There were always professors there. Always teaching, always sharing.

And for every one of the Seven Stages of Life, it took about seven years – seven years to accomplish all of that.

Semau atsokan


Ngotek ga zhe wébek iw pi ga bmadsewat gi neshnabék.  O ngot kcheni ga apwét wa je zhechkét o mnedo.  Ibe étoyen i gtegankiwen wgi denat o nene omnedo, i yé wpi wa je byat o gteganéwen éminayen o mnedo, gi dena’at.  Iw pi wa je kewabdemyen i gteganéwen émingoyen anjekét o mnedo.

Gégpi ga je byat o gteganéwen éwabdet o kcheni épich mamkazet, wégwén she éyowyan ode égi shedé’at.

Gi to i nikan abnaki[N1]  gi yawe, iw se égi widmot ga je minangét o mnedo…Hau, i yé étoyak nasab i gteganéwen gé ninan éktot o wnikanéyen.

Ga je byat o wa je wabdet i gteganéwen, égi mamkazet gésena.  I yé i étoyak éktot, semau éshnekadék i wgi dena o kcheni…

Wégni je ézhechkéyék ode gteganéwen énajdot o kcheni.  Hau, wi dema’ayak se i pwagenen, mine ébgednoyak se i shkwedé wgi dena mine o kcheni.  

Iw pi gézhanzet[YUN2]  o semau, anaké éneshkat[YUN3]  o, nwi bya mine ékenomagéyan mégwa wa zhechkéyen i semau wgi dena o kchniyen…

Iw pi ga je gézhanzet i semau manék gi neshnabék gi byéwat ibe énedwéndawat wa je wabdemwat i semau, mine ékéndemwat ézhewébek se ibe édat o kcheni.

Hau, bama shkejiméyek nda wikw’kémen[YUN4]  ga ktot o kcheni.  Iw pi nda yajmo jayék ga zhewébziyan ode napwéwen mine ga mingoyan ode semau éktot.  Haw, wenet ga je kto o wgema égi naganit iw pi she. 

Gégpi ga je byat i gishek iw pi o kcheni ga nibwet égi yajdot jayék zhewébzet i mine ga widmot jayék nijneshnabék wa je yowat i nensemau. 

Gi mno zhe wébzewat wéji wpi jayék gé winwa neshnabék.  Gi yowat i nensemau babkan she égiwséwat, mine émadmowat, mine énajdowat gi mnedok wégwéndek éndodaskéwat, mine éwnakwnegéwat[YUN5]  wégwén she ézhechkéwat éneshnabémwat.


Cultural concepts

Cultural Concepts – notes from a culture teaching session. 

Épich chiwénmoyak (very happy) – Happy with self, appreciates self, appreciates others, realizes each other’s worth, has to do with respect and humility, recognizes Spirit of all life and we are nothing without each other.

Inéndagwet (it is permitted) – Respect for ways and ideas that are different from our own.

Égwamzewen (peace) – Deep abiding respect

Ékwabdemyak (we watch) – Being vigilant and strong against those who would destroy creation.  Many warriors fought before 1924 because of this.  Strong against forces, defend the people and the earth.  Take care of body and keep it ready with power, health, and peace. 

Ébmadziyak (we live) – Respect our kékyajek, provide for them as they provided for us.  Value them.  Elders strengthen our nation.  Neshnabék are supposed to keep them strong.  Often we worry about our survival and forget to provide for others.  

Émbwachewéyak (we visit) – Tell visitors migwech for coming.  We prove our hospitality, kindness and generosity.  Provide for visitors and those who need help.

Ézhewébek (as it is) – Practice equality! We are all the same height.

Widoktadwiyak (we interact) – We must live within the circle of life to be in harmony with the earth.  Seek harmony and beauty in our lives.

Mkedekéyak (we blacken our faces) – Who we are and why we are here.  Turn to the Spirit for guidance.  Seek and value fresh vision.

Gdenwémagnenanek (all our relatives) – Remember our relatives

Nmezodanen (my family) – Recite family lineage, know your family tree.  19 generations back. 

Mingaswenen (gifts) – Gshemnedo shares with all creation, thus we have the privilege of sharing with others. 

Jitmowen (help) – We are placed here to help others. Neshnabék are strong when of one mind, heart, and body. 

Mnobmadzewen (good life) – health and well being living in harmony, learning from all of creation.  Animals and plants have wisdom.  Learn from them.  Maintain health by using plants and animals. 

Mshkekiwen (medicine) – Stay health and strong.  Strength of the Earth.

Mnomajishkawen (good growth) – Control excessive behaviors.  Over indulgence in anything interrupts quality of life.  Addictions prevent us from living.  Moderation in everything. 

Mbwakawen (wisdom) – seek knowledge.  Do not measure a person by how much he or she knows, rather by how they use what they know.  Guard your tongue in your youth.  As you age, you may learn something. 

Mendowen (spirit doings) – Spiritual activity, spiritual power.  Cosmology.  We cannot separate ourselves from all of creation.  The rocks and waters have teachings.  Harmony brings a long life that will make a difference.  Have cultural role models.  Maintain identity.  Tradition, honor codes, gi yaw, respect, cooperation, bravery, caring for creation, mBwakawen, myelin mshkekiwen, emotions.  Accept self, Turn self over to o Mnedo, accept it when he points out strengths and weaknesses.  Deep hidden mysteries within ourselves can show us what we need and allow the Spirit in.  It doesn’t make us Medicine people, it makes us People. 

Enswé naskwenejek kche bmoséwat

Megwa ode Neshnabe ektot

A glossary of some more words.

Neshnabe kendaswen      traditional neshnabe knowledge.

Neshnabe                the good being (male) created from nothing and                          lowered down to this earth. Name of all people                          who are descendants of the people who speak the                       various dialects of neshnabemwen

Mjina neshnabek         there are those who think they are neshnabek and                        by all they try to do and act, they will become                         more neshnabe-like and/or spiritual. These tend                        to act as though they are more spiritual than                               others of their kind. Proud and haughty are                               they!

Neshnabemwen            The Neshnabe language/The Three Fires language

Sema                    tobacco

Sen                     rock/stone

Atsokan                 traditional cultural story

Ezhikenimnonadzed bemadzet     The study of the behavior of life

Bemadzet                a human being

Bsendagmowen            acquired knowledge, learning from listening

Bgosenjegewen           things hoped for

Zhewenmeshen            pity me/have mercy on me

Zhewenmeshnak           have pity on us/also mercy

Zhawenmengomen          they are jealous of us

Kcheneshnabe/kcheneshnabek     The Ancient Ones

Epitsewat neshnabek           The Ancient Ones

Gete Neshnabek          The real ones

Wakendemwajek           the wise ones

Debwewen                truth

Gwekwadzewen            honesty

Dewegen                 drum

Edneswen                Natural Law, natural way of behavior

Segmekwe                Mother Earth

Eyawyan                 identity, the way all is in me or every way I am

                        of my being

Kche mkede mko          large black bear

Gichidakwe              female ceremonial helper

Getesewen               intuition, the navel way, mother connection to                                              you

Gwabminjegewen          knowledge from observation

Kshemenedo              Great Spirit

Mamogosnan              The Creator

Kendaswen               knowledge

Kenjegadewen            reality, a known truth

Kimingoa anwe kendaswen        The original instructions given to the

                               Neshnabek by Kshemenedo

Mkedeke                 the act of fasting

Mkedeke’w’egan          a fasting lodge

Mkedekewen              fasting or vision quest, the way of the quest.

                        We say this because the spiritual people who put                        us in the ways of “extreme danger”, or “path of                         the fire”, literally place us in harms’ way when                      we go out to fast. That is why we place the                              smudges of black charcoal on each cheek and                           forhead of the “quester.

                        To go before the SPIRIT in such a manner with                           the imploring we do when we cry out for a                               vision, or a gift, in those lonely places is to                         be willing to die for the sake of the people.                          i.e., so the common people may live. So the                          “vision quest” has nothing to do with individual                    effort or EGO. In fact, the EGO of the quester                          must die out. It is the way of death to man’s                           spirit or control over his pitiful life, so the                         real spirit inside him can live and do the will                        of the SPIRIT for the common people. It is a way                      of self sacrifice to bring back the power of the                        SPIRIT for one’s people, so they can all live!

Mnedo wabewen           Revealed Knowledge

Mnedo                   a spirit

Mnedoke                 conduct a ceremony

Mendokaswenen           a ceremony

Mnedoskwim’mendamowen   Spirit memory/blood memory

                        Stitched into your spirit

                        The knowledge that enters this world when one’s

                        spirit fuses with the physical body, spirit                             idenity    

Menjemendamowen         memory, hold and stitch together

Mnobmadzewen            The Way of the Good Life, In order to have a                            good life one must have a goal. This goal is to                         be free from illness, to live to the fullest.

                        Bemadzewen is based on a concept of health and                          good living. One must work on prevention and not                        only healing. It is a Holy Life. One must eat                          well, act well, and live physically, mentally,                           emotionally well. Emotional well being is a key                      to Bemadzewen.

Mshekeke                medicine that comes from the roots of Earth

Mshkekiwen              the way of medicine

Meshomes                Grandfather

Debwetawen              belief, the truth that is evident in the way of                         action. One cannot know the truth unless one has                        seen or experienced it in a direct way                                (physically or spiritually).

Debwewen                Faith, the heart that all relates to,                                   truthfulness.

Nedendowen              responsibility.

Nagdewendemwen          A spiritual vision/or deeper level thoughts

Apwewen/nademowen       Vivid dream/lucid

Nbwakawen               wisdom, from the root-nebwa-in the kindness of                          putting yourself backwards but at the same time                         of bringing forward the wisdom one carries.

                        Thinking back, bringing forward and stitching                           all together; i.e., life knowledge (Elders).

Nendamowen              forget, unstitched.

Nenmowen                thought.

Nisawai’igwan           at the center, Nawai: center.

Nswe shkode Midewigan   The Three Fires Medicine Society

Noden                   wind, also the old term to describe the workings                        of the mind.

Nokmes                  My Grandmother

Nwendeman               choice, browsing in one’s thoughts

Nwennamdanwen           making a choice

De’h                    heart

Odewegen                the way of the drum

Shkabewes               the new one, male ceremonial helper

Gichidakwe              female ceremonial helper

Wenizhejegeyan          free will, the way I am going to do things

Wanen’enema             will, has to do with the ability to think                               independently.

Wigiwamatek             lodge pole

Zagidewen               love/caring, all of something emanating out of                          you. Not the same as the English “make love”,                           sexual, but rather of caring. It is something                           based on mutual respect. You can feel it but you                     cannot touch it. It is all of you filling the                              heart of another, mnadenemwenen, feeding that                          heart with the thought of something. Out of

                        Zagidewen a human being is able to heal him/her                         self.

Zhishigwen              shaker, rattle.

Shkebdagen              shooter, as in medicine dance ceremony.

Some words to consider:

Inendeman               what I think

Inendagwet              what I permit

Inendagzewen            what is permitted

Nagdewendemwen          deeper level thoughts, often what one does not

                        share with others easily for whatever reason,

                        or reasons. These deeper level thoughts are

                        sometimes somewhat embarrassing to reveal for

                        the individual, but are known by the SPIRIT and

                        the Interpreters/Translators.

                        The stuff we keep inside is what makes up who we                                                  really are and what our true identity is.                               (Eyawyan)

Kchenendezwen           proud, haughty thoughts of oneself!

Shiwnendezwen           mean, ugly, vicious thoughts culminating in                             that type of actions toward another or                                  others. Generally a mean spirited and dishonest                         action.

Shiwnadzewen            verb describing the above actions of a person                           like that. (Shiwze: mean, cruel, without mercy)

Gishkteg’gazwen         Judgment! Any action(s) the Spirit/spirits take                         against a person who is bad or acting contrary                          to what is believed and embraced by a like-                          minded group. This is thought to include                                    witchcraft of any kind and any mean actions that                         are thought out and carried out against another.

                        The old people used to tell us when a person

                        knowingly starts out on the wrong path and keeps

                        going down that way, it is like a person who                            grabs the top of a small sapling and bends it                           all the way to the ground, then lets it go,

                        whereupon it springs back at him/her slapping

                        with full fury at that person again and again.

                        From this story, they would tell us the Spirit’s

                        word or judgment is “springy”.

Gemazhechkewen          Sovereignty! Usually refers to the sovereignty                          of the Spirit!

Yanshitmawat            they became discouraged

Shiwze                  he/she is fierce/mean/cruel

Shiwzik                 they are fierce/mean/cruel

Gzhiptem                you are hard headed

Gzhiptemwik             they are hard headed

Gzhiptemwenen           hard headedness/stubborn-ness,           

                        usually referring to a state of being;

                        that of being stiff necked, beyond reasoning and                        usually of an impassable nature; very stubborn.

Gdemages                you are poor

Gdemagzewen             a state of being poor and not realizing how poor                        one can be. Said to be without mercy, thus                              without love, humility, truth, honesty, wisdom,                         bravery and respect; even self respect.

Widoktadwen             that sense of community, togetherness, that                             innate sense of tribalism that permeates a group                        that one can sense long before they can                                verbalize on it. It has a sense of love and                               belonging that others who do not have it can                               feel with their spiritual centers; the soul,                               spirit, and body each have the (5) senses active                        within them;

                        touch, taste, smell, feel, hear and more.

Widoko                  to interact, commune with; usually on all                               levels when used in a spiritual context.

Gambojek                those that passed away, that walked on, those                           that died.

Gambot                  he/she who died or walked on.

Nbowen                  to pass from the scene, to walk on, but in                              spiritual application, it has to do with dying                          out to the self, so the gete neyaw can live.                          i.e., the real man/woman self in all of us. It                             is said in the old days, this concept was taught                         to all young boys and girls who were going out                           to vision quest. (mkedekewen).

                        Young people were taught to allow old habits to                         die out so the real self could live and be                              invigorated with a new heart, soul, spirit so as                        to acquire new habits pursuant to the teachings                        of the early neshnabek.

Ode Pwagen

Being Carried by A Pipe

In these days, we often hear the term, Pipe Carrier, and assume some religious or mysterious quality about such people. There is none though, and all the mystery lies within the Pipe, and the Powers surrounding it. If the individual who is carrying or holding the pipe does nothing to effectuate a relationship with those Surround Powers, then it is all a moot point. One must have established a personal contact with the Other Side, the Surround Powers, so one can be a spiritual conduit or interpreter/translator of anything spiritually peculiar or incomprehensible. This is done through many seekings/fastings, i.e., vision quests where the person seeks to establish a relationship with the spiritual powers of the Other Side. Fasting is not a one time deal, it is a life time pursuit to keep abreast of the Spiritual Powers and the Spiritual News they hold. So the term Pipe Carrier is somewhat misleading, for it is the person who holds the Pipe who is carried by the Surround Powers.

I am going on 80 years and I am still fasting, perhaps not every year, as I used to, but often enough to maintain a fresh insight and gain new perspectives from the Other Side. That relationship is important to me and keeps me going, as I never know when I shall be called home. That contact through fasting, is important when one is working with the People also. The People whom one serves, deserve the truth and the very best the Interpreter/translator can give them, including when one doctors. One must have a close contact with the God when he/she doctors to assure the patient will have health/help. One does that through a consistent pattern of fasting and deep meditative introspection.

Iw enajmoyan

Nin se Neaseno.

All about faith

A Story On Faith

There came a time when three men of the cloth decided they would all go fishing together and become better friends to aid in their individual ministries. A Lutheran minister, A Presbyterian minister and a Baptist minister had all concluded they needed to demonstrate Christian Bother Hood for their congregations.

They struck out to a lake they all knew about and commenced fishing and visiting. After some time had passed and not much action on their lines, the Baptist minister suddenly arose, stepped out of the boat and walked across the water, to end up sitting on the bank of the lake.

The other two sat there for a short time, and then the Presbyterian fellow decided he would join the Baptist on the bank of the lake, whereupon he stepped out of the boat and strode across the water. They sat alongside each other visiting, watching the Lutheran fellow as he continued to fish.

The Lutheran man sat there thinking to himself all the while that if they had that kind of faith, then he should exercise his own and join them. He stood up in the boat, stepped out on the water and promptly sank. The other two looked at the scene and both said almost simultaneously, “Reckon we should have told him where the rocks were?”

I guess there should be a moral to such a tale.

Think before you step out on faith.

Eyawyan–what I am, who I am


Your Mighty Hand is in the storm

But your eye is on the smallest of those whom you’ve created

The Splendor of Your Breath

Is upon the tree tops

While the hindmost parts of Your Glory

Rests upon the flowers and other little ones

The strength of Your Breath

Prevails upon me

While the softness of Your Touch caresses my cheek

I am reminded of how much I need you

And all you symbolize in this Earth Walk

To find my way back when this sojourn is over

Is the truest form of love you have extended

Thus the fierceness of the Storm

Reminds me of the frailty of Life

And where I need to focus my attention

For this is not my home

But there amidst the clouds and thunder

Hides the Mighty One I need to return to

When all is said and done

Oh Mamogosnan, may I always find you

Hidden in every walk of Life

I have been given

Nin se Neaseno…….

Walking backwards into the future

Our story starts with several young people walking late at night in a forlorn spot, covered with tall marsh grasses just a few hundred yards from a lake, where some digging had taken place over the past few months. The year is 2234, it is early summer in the month of June with the blossoms of many flowers and trees wafting through the warm sultry air. The youth are decidely Native American, which they are called now. At one time, they were also known as Neshnabek but that was before the Great Cleansing which only some of the Older People knew anything about. They even spoke some different language dialects during that time which now seemed so far off.  All of the youth seemed engrossed in observing the area

where anthropologists and archaelogists had been digging for something only days before. They had apparently been forced to give up when some old man had protested what they were doing.

It all started when one of the young men among them had overheard talk of bones that were discovered along with some artifacts which attracted the attention of the scientists. Several of the local Elders had talked of this being a sacrilege and had decided to protest with one old man who appeared to be a leader among those Elders who sat around the Seniors’

Housing area. The young people had readily agreed among themselves to go

and examine whatever the whites had been digging into. Now they looked around carefully for anything that might be visible and wondered among

themselves why the whites had left everything unearthed, concluding they must have been driven off rather hurriedly to do so.

“The Old Ones said it is wrong to walk among the dead and disturb their sleep,” said one of the young women. There were seven youth in all; three young men and four women. “Do you think it was right of the whites to do what they did,” asked one of the young men? “I think we have more right to be here than they do,” said one of the more outspoken young women.

“I think as long as we have good thoughts while we are here nothing bad shall happen to us, ” she said. “I also think the Old Ones tell us those things about the dead to discourage us from doing what the whites did here,” she further stated.

As they spoke thusly, one of the braver young men leaned down to peer at something in the dark which appeared to be eerily lit up in the half-

dark of the starlight and the still summer night sky. It appeared to be part of a human hand clutching at something. When he cautioned his peers to be quiet, that he had spotted something, they all turned their attention to what he was pointing at. “Look at what I’ve found here,” he said.

“Look at that,” they all said in unision.

It was a human hand holding what appeared to be a stone pipe bowl and remnants of a wooden stem piece, though none of them knew anything about these things then. “What is it,” asked one of the other young men? “I’m not sure,” answered the one who had discovered the find. “It looks like a hand,” he said.

As they all started digging carefully around the hand they slowly unearthed what was a human skeleton in a partially sitting position. “So this is what attracted those white people here,” said the outspoken girl. “What do you guys think this means,” asked another?  “The only way we will be able to find anything out about this stuff is to go ask old Peter, the defiant one,” said the one who had found the bones. “This stuff could have greater meaning than any of us know about,” he said. “Old Peter says, when

one looks at any of these old things it is kind of like walking backwards into the future,” he said.


“We must be careful not to disturb any of this stuff for the Old Ones will all want to look at these things to see what these whites were after,” said another youth. “If old Peter is right, this stuff could mean our entire future and perhaps a return to the old ways some of the Elders are always talking about,” he further stated. “In a way, that is kind of like walking backwards into the future,” they all said.



To give respect to another, one must first have respect, for oneself, for Spirit/spirits and Man, and above all a firm understanding that all things are interconnected throughout this vast universe, of which we are a miniscule part. If one does not have respect for any of those basic things, then one must needs go to the Spirit of all Life and ask to be given that staple of all gifts, respect. Sometimes it takes a search of one’s soul and spirit, an examination of one’s soul, so to speak, and upon discerning that something is amiss, then an acknowledgement of that, and a simple asking for forgiveness, thus a restoration of what one needs to see clearly. It is easy in this busy world to lose that element of respect one needs in their daily lives.

To understand that we are all connected, the two legged, four legged, creeping crawling kind, and the winged, and that we share this space, thus these elements, of fire, rock, water and the green, is to gain wisdom. Wisdom is one of the gifts the Spirit gave to mankind, along with love, bravery, truth, honesty, and humility. All of these gifts are interconnected as well, thus when seeking forgiveness when losing any one of them, they all are restored, which is the true fellowship of the Spirit.

It is the responsibility of Man to maintain what he has been given since he was also blessed with a free moral will, of which he utilizes in making the choices he needs to make. All other Life is given a set of original instructions along with the Life Principle, but Man was also given the additional responsibility of free will, thus putting the onus of making the right and moral choices in this life squarely upon his shoulders. All other life merely performs according to the set of instructions they were given upon creative inclusion.

Jayek ga shetot o Mnedo

Ga she webek ngodek—-an outline.

Eshe de’awat gi Neshnabek

Chronological History… gode netum Neshnabék.

Only the Spirit                                  Mteno o Mnedo

Before Time Began                           Bwamshe éshetot weye o Mnedo

Creation of the Universe                   Éshetot jayék shpemek

Creation of the lesser spirits             Éshetot éshkam mnedok

*Creation of the present heaven        Éshetot shpemek

*Creation of the Earth                       Éshetot Aki

Creation of First Life                        Éshetot netem bmadezewen




                                                          Skebgyawen (creation of air to naturally follow)

The Creation of Oxygen (air)          Bgednenamowen (anemo’wat jayek ni bmadsewnen wa je nagdot o bemadset)

Creation of all Plant Life                  Éshetot jayék gteganéwen (skebgyawen)

Creation of lesser Life                      Éshetot éshkam Méjbyéyek




Original Man                                     Wiské (Wenebozho, Nanabush, Nenebozho, Manabush, etc.)

Creation of Man                                 O Neshnabé

Creation of other beings                     Éshetot jak gode bkan neshnabék

Appearance of other people                Babkan gode bémadsejek

Manek ni atsokanen egi wtowat gode neshnabek

Netum atsokanen ga zhechkewat gi gete nenwek

Anet node gwi yajdoyak ngom se ode shkwaj nemegishek

Mine ngom eyawik gode neshnabek

Enetowat epa ndewebnowat i neshnabe zhechkewnen