By Nazhike Mille Lacs Band Member
Over the years, we learn some Ojibwe words to use — bakade, wiisinin, maajaan, tayahih... What we miss is the perspective or teachings behind them.
Take "Aaniin," for example. Is it short for "Aaniin ezhi-ayaayan?" (How are you?) Does it mean "Sup?"?
Or "Boozhoo." Do we give this one to the early-Chimookomaan as an adaptation of "Bonjour"?
I prefer the story I have heard. "Boozhoo" comes from the term "Wenabozho na gidayaa?" "Are you Wenabozho?" There is a prophecy which states that someday Wenabozho will return. He, or she in some stories, will come back to help the Anishinaabe People. How is this prophecy recognized? Is it in the way that we make mistakes everyday? Is it in the way we know how to tap maple trees? Can it be Wenabozho returning with the rise of aadizookewin (winter storytelling)?
Do his teachings come back to us through cultural revitalization? Is Wenabozho everywhere already with manifestations of everyday living?
The Chimookomaan. "Wenabozho na gidayaa?" The mistakes they make, the completely human acts they take on. The temperament of greed, selfishness, narrow focus are all attributes displayed by Wenabozho for us to learn from — ways of not-to-being.
When talking about spiritual beings, the spiritual energy must be fairly understood. This energy is always around, and with Wenabozho being a spiritual being, he is everywhere and nowhere, everything and nothing, teacher and student. What can we learn from the Chimookomaan? When we think that the Manidoo always do things for a reason, there’s always a purpose. What can their purpose be?
Exploring historical trauma and Indigenous Peoples’ Day (the day I wrote this), the Chimookomaan is to blame for all of it. It is our human/Wenabozho nature to cast blame. But what are we to learn? Are they really here to destroy our land/environment/society/culture? Maybe. I wonder if they weren’t so brutal, would we have really held on to our ways as Anishinaabe? If it was so easy-going, how enveloped would we have been in American society?
I am not saying ALL Chimookomaan were bad. I am referring to the collective energy derived through generations by some of their actions, which hold long-lasting consequences to our collective energy. As I reflect on purpose, it is easy for me to feel sad for our ancestors. They endured so much just so I can watch football, listen to hip-hop, read the New York Times bestseller.
In our language, I have been able to understand a little bit more every time I learn something new. I think that when we honor our ancestors through teachings, practices, and lifestyle, we connect to the spiritual energy that they connect to. We become one for a moment; we become one forever. Imagine that your computer/phone/tablet is the physical world and the internet is the spirit world. The Ojibwe language is the ethernet cord, the wifi, the cellular data needed to access the Web. Your Ojibwe name is the login info needed to access it. Wouldn’t it be cool if we were like in the movie Avatar and we would only need to plug in our braids to a tree to access data, our ancestors? Wouldn’t it be cool if we only needed to speak our language, tap a maple tree, gather rice, visit with Elders, put out tobacco to have access to our data, our ancestors?
To further Chimookomaan-ize it and end this article, What would Wenabozho do? When feeling down, anxious, depressed, excited, accomplished, nonchalant... What do we learn from? Where do we learn from?
Wenabozho na gidayaa?