Little Spirits and Pandemic


A message from Secretary/Treasurer Sheldon Boyd

I remember an older guy once referred to germs and medicine, the things you can’t really see, as “Manidoosug,“ or “Little Spirits.“ I never forgot that.

Throughout life, my parents would say things that made so much sense after time.

My mom used the term “Manidoo“ in different ways too. Watching a nature show and seeing a black panther, she once said, “Yii, a Manidoo.“

My dad once said, “Look around. Somebody made all this. There are spirits everywhere.“

At the Ne-Ia-Shing Clinic, where I worked, in the morning I would sometimes put out tobacco and ask for help for the people inside. I asked that they prescribe the best medicines, mashkiki, and that the medicines do their job and help people get better, those Little Spirits.

So when I heard about the coming pandemic around the world, my way of understanding and coping was to think of that as Manidoosug, Little Spirits.

Manidoosug or Sickness is coming.

Now there are many other people around who have a deep understanding of the Anishinaabe way and traditions. Those people have way more knowledge than I do, and it’s always a good idea to listen to them and take what you can that might help you in the future with your mental health during times of hardship.

You hear stories and see today that there are people with skills that people will turn to and listen to when a certain time comes. We all seem to know those people in each community.

Skilled ricers, people who always make sugar, hunters, and people who will net and smoke fish. There are bad years for rice, and sometimes the sap doesn’t flow. Those skilled people continue to go out and don’t get as many fish as the years before. There is a reliance on those people that keep the rhythm of a community going year after year.

Times of pandemic are kind of the same. We look to people with skills and knowledge learned to get us through these times.

The Tribal Emergency Management Committee is an example. In times of emergency, we turn to those learned people who get together to help us make it through.

Doesn’t mean it’s always easy. People lose patience, and that’s OK too.

Additionally, there are so many other people who do wonderful things during this time — things like continuing to go to work when children are at home, staying home with children, checking on relatives and Elders, or staying around home even though it gets hard.

Making masks for people to wear and keeping the humor up can have such a huge impact on our community’s mental health — doing things differently and for the first time in many instances.

So when people tell me to watch out and be careful, I listen.

I have a healthy respect for the sickness that’s around us and know it will pass.

I ask everyone to continue to watch the skilled and learned people of our communities step up, do things they never have, give their time, parents having strength at home, and young people experiencing a time they will remember the rest of their lives and learning from how the rest of us behave.

Everyone, be safe and take care of yourselves. Miigwech.