Friday, September 11, 2015

Anishinaabe Akiing

“the land to which the people belong”

(As the dominant culture I am trapped in hurtles toward extinction, I seek comfort by searching for signs of the Pre-Contact Sacred Cultural Landscape just below the surface of the modern coat of whitewash and feel the sense of loss entwined in a sense of wonder, wandering along rows of stones that just might be representations of Great Serpents, that just might be Indigenous Peoples prayers to the Beings that bring rain, protect the things that grow, renew the world with cleansing fires and ensure the survival of all the Beings on the land to which those People also once belonged, once all interconnected, now chopped up, sub-dived and mortgaged, little boxes like little prisons, linked together by roads and wires delivering electricity and coded information, yet still separated and starving for the Great Spirit Mystery, made of star stuff that asks for nothing and everything at the same time. Stone Turtles here and there, Bears and spirit faces, Birds and diamonds, shining white stones, red ones, black ones, yellow ones …)

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe)“We have a lot of teachings and language about how a people can live a thousand years in the same place and not destroy things. The phrase anishinaabe akiing, for example, means the land to which the people belong. It’s not the same thing as private property or even common property. It has to do with a relationship that a people has to a place—a relationship that reaffirms the sacredness of that place.


All our places are named. Near Thunder Bay, Ontario, is “The Place Where the Thunder Beings Rested on their Way from West to East.” We go there to do vision quests, to reaffirm our relationship with that power, and to offer our gifts to the thunder beings and the part they played in our creation. That place, and the places where our people stopped on their migration—all these places are named—and they have a resonance with us.

In all our teachings we understand that all the creatures are our relatives, whether they are muskrats or cranes—whether they have fins or wings or paws or feet. And in our covenant with the Creator, we understand that it is not about managing their behavior—it’s about managing ours, because we’re the ones who cause extinction of species. We’re the youngest species, and we don’t necessarily have the most smarts. We’ve bungled up along the way, and we acknowledge these mistakes in our stories and in our history as Indian people. The question is whether you have the humility and the commitment to get some learning out of these experiences…


That place known as The Place Where the Thunder Beings Rest isn’t called that now. It’s now called Mt. McKay. I don’t have a problem with Mr. McKay, but I do have a problem with this practice of naming large mountains after small men. How could we name something as immortal as a mountain after something as mortal as a human?



This could be fixed. Just look at Ayers Rock in Australia. It’s called Uluru now, because that’s its traditional name. Mt. McKinley in Alaska is now called Denali. The country of Rhodesia is now called Zimbabwe. It’s not disastrous to rename.



The anthropologists used to come out and watch us manoominike—harvest the rice. After we rice in the morning, we bring our rice in and let it dry. We parch it over a fire, and we dance on it to get the hulls off, and then winnow it in a basket. We pretty much do the same thing today using wood fires as we’ve always done—we’re an intermediate technology people…

This dam of rocks was created to increase water levels in the lake in order to more easily harvest wild rice.


Ojibwe is a language of 8,000 verbs. The word for “work” is a strange construct for us. It doesn’t mean we aren’t a hard-working people, but in our language, the word is anokii, which means that whether you are fishing or weaving a basket, what you are doing is living—which is not the same thing as being paid a wage to do something.


After the harvest, we have a big feast, and we dance and tell stories. The anthropologists watched us, and they didn’t like that. They said we would never become civilized because we enjoyed our harvest too much. We did too much dancing, too much singing…”



From: “An Interview with Winona LaDuke; On Wild Rice, Wind Power, Thunder Beings, Self-reliance, and our Covenant with the Creator” Sarah van Gelder posted Jun 17, 2008

1 comment:

  1. These are good words. Good reminders... completely relevant wherever one dwells. Right here, at home -n'dakinna.

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