Band member voices — An Anishinaabe 20/20 on 2020


By Nazhike Mille Lacs Band Member

It is commonly said that hindsight is 20/20, referring to the ability to assess a situation and figure all the other things that one could have done or should have done. This is an important concept to Anishinaabe. We relied on stories to not only set a perspective for how to view the world but also demonstrate the hindsight. The Aadizookaanag are a method of instruction where deep lessons are learned over a variety topics.

What is there to say about the year 2020? What have we learned about ourselves in relation to our fellow Anishinaabe? The Chimookomaan? As we move forward to tell our stories over the rest of our lives, what can we look back on and learn from? The demonstrations of community building were a common event. Looking out and helping each other whether with physical goods or words of support/encouragement. Also, the tales of stress management, where a lack of expression led to discomfort/pain for our relatives. We must learn from both of these aspects in order for the younger generation that has seen us deal with this pandemic to be better prepared for when it happens again.

Pandemics are nothing new to Tribal Nations. The U.S. Government has used pandemics as a form of genocidal warfare. We hear of measles and pox blankets that were given to our communities already in critical situations. It is no wonder our grandparents were so worried about disease and viruses. To our DNA, sickness is equivalent to rockets, missiles, and bombs.

From our historical teachings from great Anishinaabe such as Brenda Child, we have learned about the jingle dress origins. She has taught us how times of great sickness from a century ago manifested a cultural tool of healing — not of just the physical but also of the emotional, mental, and spiritual components of the Anishinaabe. It is a form of a cultural response to devastating trauma that when healing was sought, the Manidoog answered.

What is our cultural response to coronavirus? The returning to all that was given to the Anishinaabe for living a good life. Our teachings, our customs, and — the bond that holds it all together — our language. More people have been seeking traditional medicines and teachings in regards to how we need to keep each other safe. As we seek our healing, we must keep in mind that it is more than physical. If our bodies are sick, so are our minds, our emotions, and our spirits. Realizing that the medicines are Beings that have agreed to give spiritual energy to better the human capacity of our being, there is nothing that those Manidoog can’t do. We must accept with clear intention to be Anishinaabe.

This goes further than COVID-19. Anishinaabe have been in a cultural pandemic for centuries. The spiritual embodiment of our collective energy has been on life support. In order to return to any sense of normalcy, we need to get back to the intended norms that the Manidoog provide for our holistic being. Learn our language, learn our teachings, and take part in our ceremonies. Miigwech.