New Beginnings Women's Gathering


by Baabiitaw Boyd Mille Lacs Band member

On Sunday, Sept. 16, nearly 40 Ikwewag (women) met in District I at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum to participate in the third annual New Beginnings Women’s Gathering. Women of all ages, from preschool to grandmother, participated in the occasion. T-shirts were provided and a beautiful brunch buffet was served.

We heard from Kim Sam, a chemical dependency counselor and a leader in women’s wellness from our area. She shared a powerful video about her life and the battle she had with alcohol. Her video focused on the importance of understanding addiction and how it affects our loved ones. She told about the healing that can come from addressing our wrongdoings and how we can be supported in our life path when we use our tobacco and begin to relearn what it means to be an Anishinaabe women.

The importance of this video is immeasurable because we as Anishinaabe people have all been affected by drugs, alcohol and addiction for so long and by many around us. The open and honest conversations we have can bring us to a place of clarity, empowering one another to adjust our behavior so that our children and grandchildren can experience less trauma and hopefully have a higher quality of life. Miigwech to Kim for sharing her story with us.

After the video presentation, we had a crash course in “bagese” (The Dish Game, pronounced “bug-gay-say”). There are 100 thin cedar sticks that are the points that can be won, several shapes carved out of bone that resemble Wayaawiyeminagakin (4 points), mookomaanan (15 points), giigoonh (30 points) and the game winner, the almighty ikwe (50 points). One side of each flat bone shape is marked red. As the dish goes around from player to player, each has a turn to shake the dish and see how the bones land. Depending on how they fall, players accrue the cedar sticks. This would force a winner!

At the gathering, several tables were playing at once, and before long the tables roared with laughter at everyone receiving points and even getting skunked and knocked out of the game. I look forward to playing more of the ancient “bagese.”

Later that afternoon, the women enjoyed Ojibwe language bingo and drawings of all kinds. The afternoon concluded with dinner prepared by Chef Tony Buckanaga. Everyone left pleased.

As a special treat, Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Beaulieu provided attendees movie passes to see Wind River, a movie playing at the Grand Makwa Cinema telling a sad tale of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic (#MMIW).

The day left us feeling empowered, informed, refreshed and most importantly, connected to one another. This special event gave many women an opportunity to get to know one another beyond our work and school and a much needed day of visiting, laughing and eating delicious meals — without washing dishes!

Miigwech to Dawn and Stephanie Day, who made the Brunch, and Chef Anthony Buckanaga, who made the dinner. Miigwech to the Legislative staff for putting on this event and giving women a chance to spend time together.