Keeping Tobacco Sacred is Theme of Digital Storytelling Interviews


Story and photos by Mikayla Schaaf, Makadegwanebiikwe Health and Human Services Employee

Mille Lacs Band members are giving back to the community by sharing their stories about the use of traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco through digital storytelling interviews.

Storytelling has been used to share values, wisdom, and knowledge to countless generations. Throughout history, Ojibwe people have passed down these teachings through oral tradition. Digital storytelling is a contemporary way to share stories through innovative technology and adapted media. Through this method, Band members are able to share person- al stories, teachings, and history which will be documented and archived.

These interviews took place at the Mille Lacs Indian Mu- seum in collaboration with the Clearway grant and the Tobacco Free Community grant through Mille Lacs Band Public Health. Several Band members participated in the interviews, and a common theme developed when participants shared their stories.

Commissioner Brad Harrington spoke about a teaching he received about offering tobacco or Asemaake: “The tobacco being the physical representation of spiritual energy can hold anything and everything you put into it, so it gathers inside there, and then, how it was explained to me, when you go offer it, you put it in a lake, put it on a rock, put it by a tree or a clean place usually where no one would walk, and then as soon as you put it down it goes, like, ‘poof’ in all directions, and then it goes to where all the manidoo are.”

There are several meaningful and powerful teachings that come about from recording the knowledge of our community. Another word for traditional tobacco is "apaakozigan" (uh-pah- ko-zigun), a chemical-free tobacco and bark smoking mixture from the red willow, also commonly referred to as asemaa in the Ojibwe language.

Eventually, interviews gathered from participants will be used to create a short documentary. This documentary will be screened at the Grand Makwa theater film festival in the fall of 2018.

Photos: Shelly Diaz (above), Lee Obizaan Staples, Bradley Harrington, and Bobby Eagle are among those who have shared their stories about the use of traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco.