Nazhike — Tough Decisions Shinaabs Make


Tough decisions made by the Anishinaabe have always been for the greater good of the whole. The decision to leave the lands of the East in search of the food that grows on water was huge. We were leaving the land we were currently occupying in search of something that we didn’t know existed, but we knew to the very center of our spirit that we would be saved if we found it. That decision wasn’t made in the moment; it lasted hundreds of years until the food that grows on water was found. It’s a decision that still impacts us yet today, a few hundred years later, and will continue for the foreseeable future. Instead of thinking of themselves in the present, they were thinking of saving the group’s existence in the future.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the decision was to leave or not leave. Several times our villages were burnt to the ground by the newly formed governmental authority known as Minnesota. Should we leave and face unknown hardship or stay and face known hardship? The reliance on the Manidoog is evident, knowing that someday the wrong will be made right, even though it was not within the lifetime of the Anishinaabeg that were making the decision. They were thinking of saving the group’s homeland for the future as opposed to saving themselves in the current present.

Commods, which I do LOVE, are another choice. Take the rations. Moldy. Bugs. Does not feed the spirit. Barely enough to feed the community. Or, risk being arrested for gathering the gifts from the manidoog. Countless stories I have heard of the arrests. I remember hearing a story about an Ikwezens that was playing in the yard. The clothesline was up and had sheets flapping in the breeze. She looks up at the sheets and sees, in-between, a muzzle of a rifle being aimed toward the lake. She looks at the lake. She sees her male relative, I can’t remember who, wading in the water pulling his boat to shore. He was out checking a net. In the boat is a state game warden with his gun aimed at the back of her relative pulling the boat. More rifles from between the sheets, the sunlight reflecting off of the barrels. A tough decision was made, a decision for the group to save the individual. The warden ended up leaving somehow, and the relative brought the catch to shore. No shots were fired.

Our People have demonstrated over and over again that tough decisions need to be made for the good of the group regardless of the threat to the individual. What decisions are we making today? Our interaction with the American government is never going to end. We are not a race but hold a political identity in relation to the U.S. Government. We also were given the right to vote on who our elected leaders are. Blessing or curse or both in one? With America, it is rare that things are ideal. The Americans like to make things tough for each other and especially tough for anyone that is different. The Anishinaabeg are a popular scapegoat. Never has it been more important to vote for a president than the times of Andrew Jackson; wait, we couldn’t vote anyway. Having to vote for the lesser of two evils is something that can happen only in America. Most times it’s nothing more than an inconvenience if a less than favorable president holds rank. It is different this time. Our ways of life as Americans and Native Americans are no longer threatened; they are being dismantled. Divided. The slow steps toward social justice taken over the decades have now been reset.

As individuals, it is ok to hold personal views. In times like this, it is important to have those views align with what will be good for our descendants. We have a choice, and our lives, our children’s lives, along with their children’s lives, will be affected. The two-party system is NOT ideal, but America wants it that way. Avoiding to vote or voting third party is a vote for the current destroyer of American Society and will negatively impact Our People for a hundred years.