American Indian Education Program

Monthly Newsletter - January 2021

Boozhoo District 196 Teachers!

This month's Indian Education Newsletter will focus on the Anishinaabeg.

Background Photo of Christi Belcourt's The Wisdom of the Universe - featured in MIA's Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artist Exhibit

Terminology: Anishinaabe / Ojibwe / Chippewa

In the Ojibwe language, the Anishinaabeg translates to "People From Whence Lowered" or "the Original People" or simply "Human Being."

Ojibwe translates to: "puckered up," which describes the types of moccasins the Ojibwe traditionally wore. Such moccasins have a puckered seam across the top (see photo to the right).

Though many may use the terms Anishinaabe and Ojibwe interchangeably, they can have different meanings.

Anishinaabe = (ah-nish-i-NAH-bay)

  • Anishinaabe can describe various Indigenous peoples in North America. It can also mean the language group shared by the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples.
  • Anishinaabeg is the plural form of Anishinaabe and consequently, refers to many Anishinaabe people.
  • Anishinaabemowin, the term often used to describe the language of the Ojibwe specifically, can also be used to describe a language spoken by other Indigenous peoples of North America.

Ojibwe - (O-jib-way)

  • Ojibwe, on the other hand, refers to a specific Anishinaabe nation (like Red Lake or White Earth).
  • Ojibwemowin, sometimes used interchangeably with Anishinaabemowin, refers specifically to the language spoken by the Ojibwe people.

Chippewa: Is a different pronunciation of the word OJIBWE.

In the United States, “Chippewa” was used in all treaties, and remains the official name of some Ojibwe nations.

Resource: Anishinaabemowin: Ojibwe Language By R. Horton (December 2017)

The Ojibwe Migration

Today, the Anishinaabe people reside along the Great Lakes region stretching from Michigan to North Dakota and Canada. The Ojibwe people migrated to their current homelands from the East Coast where their creation began along the St. Lawrence River.

Following the sacred miigis shell/seven prophecies, the Anishinaabeg traveled west along the Great Lakes Region. They were told to continue to travel until they found the food that grows on water - which they discovered was Manoonmin/The Good Berry (wild rice) which lead them to finding their homes along Gichigamiing/Lake Superior and the upper midwest.

Online Resources for Educators

The Ojibwe in Mni Sota / Wild Rice & Sugar Bush

Today, in Mni Sota, there are 7 Federally-recognized Ojibwe communities

Manoomin - The Good Berry

Translated from Ojibwemowin, manoomin means the “good berry,” and it is a food that has long provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to the Ojibwe people. Some teachings relate that the Ojibwe people migrated from the East having been told to settle when they find the food that grows upon the water, which they discovered in the waters of the Lake Superior region. Highly nutritious, manoomin remains important to the Ojibwe diet today and is also one of several feast foods, traditionally served during ceremonies or community feasts (from GLIFWC).

The Sugar Bush - Iskigamizigan

Making maple syrup is an ancient tradition of the Ojibwe people. It was the anishinaabe who showed the colonists how to make maple sugar and maple syrup; one of the many skills that enabled the settlers to survive.

Each spring, during Moon of the Boiling Sap, known as Iskigamizige-giizis in the Ojibwe languge, Ojibwe families would return to the same stand of maple trees where they had established sugar bush camps. Some sugar camps have been in the same family for many generations - these camps are know as THE SUGAR BUSH (from Native Harvest)

Additional Teacher Resources:

The Ojibwe Clan System

7 Ojibwe Clans

The Anishinaabe people believe that Creator gifted the clan system to maintain societal order on Earth. Each clan has roles, talents, and responsibilities to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the entire nation. Members belonging to the same clan considered themselves close relatives & could not marry within their own clan.

There are 7 primary clans of the Anishinaabe people;

  1. Loon - Maang
  2. Crane - Ajijaak
  3. Fish - Giigoonh
  4. Bird - Bineshiinh
  5. Bear - Makwa
  6. Marten - Waabizheshi
  7. Deer - Waawaashkeshi

from: MPS Indian Education's Clan System Lesson Plan

Other Resources:

Johnson Loud, a Red Lake Nation elder and artist, designed the Red Lake flag. He chose to highlight the Ojibwe clans in his design.

Ojibwe Treaty Rights

The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States (Article VI, Clause 2), establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the "supreme Law of the Land", and thus take priority over any conflicting state laws.

Even on ceded territory (off-reservation), Ojibwe tribal members retain certain property rights that allow them to “make a modest living from the land.” These use-rights are called usufructuary rights, and are guaranteed by the treaties between Ojibwe bands and the US government, protected by the US Constitution, and affirmed by the US Supreme Court. They include the rights to hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants, harvest and cultivate wild rice, and preserve sacred or culturally significant sites. (From Honor the Earth: Treaty Rights Fact Sheet).

* It is a common misconception that Indians have special rights because of their race. This is not the case. Indians as individuals do not enjoy any privileges or special rights. Certain rights, such as hunting and fishing, belong to various Indian tribes not because they are made up of Indians, but because they were sovereign nations who signed treaties reserving rights to self-government among other reservations and conditions. (Treaty: Promises Between Governments)

To learn more about the Ojibwe Treaties with the United States Government, please explore the Why Treaties Matter website and learn about the "fish-in" / spearfishing conflicts that occurred as Ojibwe people fought to exercise their treaty rights.

Why Treaties Matter:

Teacher Resources:

The Jingle Dress

"Throughout Indian Country, women and girls don their Jingle Dresses and mesmerize powwows as they move lightly, kicking out their heels and bouncing to the drumbeat. The dresses – also known as Prayer Dresses – are lined with rows and rows of metal cones, or ziibaaska’iganan, traditionally made from rolled up snuff can lids and hung from the dress. The cones create another melody as the dancers move, mimicking the sound of falling rain and bringing a sense of peace to the whole endeavor.

The dance itself began just over a century ago when the granddaughter of an Ojibwe medicine man fell sick. As the man slept he dreamt, over and over, of four women as his spirit guides wearing Jingle Dresses and dancing. The women taught the man how to make the dress, what songs to play, and how to perform the dance. The spirits told him that making the dress and performing the dance would make his granddaughter well.

When the man awoke he set out and made the dress, and once completed the tribe gathered to watch the ill girl dance. At first, she was too weak and had to be supported and carried by the tribe. Slowly she gained her strength and performed the dance on her own, cured of her sickness."

- National Congress of American Indians

- Google Doodle: Celebrating the Ojibwe Jingle Dress

- Healing Through Dance (U of M)

- Pure Love on the Dance Floor: Celebrating the Jingle Dress Tradition

Ojibwemowin - The Ojibwe Language

Ojibwe is not a single standardized language, but a chain of linked local varieties, grouped into nearly a dozen dialects. Speakers of Ojibwe consider their language to be precise, descriptive, and visual, and feel that it is among the greatest treasures of their cultural heritage.

Ojibwe is an endangered language. Indigenous languages throughout the world are in decline, and have been since Europeans first colonized the Americas. Beginning in 1879, the United States established off-reservation federal boarding schools to re-educate Indian children and youth in the English language and American life-ways. Boarding schools, urban life, popular culture, and even participation in public school education all demanded that the Anishinaabeg speak English. The Ojibwe language has historically been repressed by policymakers and educators in the US and Canada, though there are many, complex reasons why fewer people today speak Ojibwe (from Ojibwe People's Dictionary).

Online Ojibwe Language Resources for Teachers:

Quick Lesson

Boozhoo/Aaniin ........ Hi/Hello

Miigwetch ..................Thank You

Biindigen ................... Come In

Biimaadiziwin ........... The Good Life

Giga-waabamin Minawaa .... I'll see you again

mino .......................good
gichi .......................big, great, very

nibi ........................ water

noongom, now

gego ......................don't! don't do!
daga ......................please

giizis ......................sun
dibiki-giizis ............moon

The Creator's Game - Lacrosse

At its root, lacrosse is an Indigenous game. Historically, every tribe had their own form of the game. In Mni Sota (Dakota word for Minnesota), there were two versions of the game:

In the south, the Dakota referred to it as Takápsičapi, and in the north the Ojibwe called it Baaga’adowewin.

This game was played with great skill, agility and strength – and it was a social, competitive experience that was even tied to ceremony.

- The Creator's Game by Art Coulson

- Twin Cities Native Lacrosse Facebook

- The Creator's Game in the Twin Cities

- Minnesota's First Team Sport

The Battle of Sugar Point at Leech Lake

Often referred to as "the last Indian Uprising in the United States", the Battle of Sugar Point occurred in 1898 on the Leech Lake Band Reservation in northern Minnesota in Cass County. This was a battle between the Pillager Band of Chippewa Indians and the 3rd US Infantry. The cause centered on the Ojibwe's attempt to recover Bugonaygeshig ("Old Bug" or "Hole-In-The-Day") after many disputes with Indian Service officials and lumber companies in the area..

Online Resources:

Anishinaabeg Today


The following is a statement from Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Elder: Mary Lyons.

Ms. Lyons is an Ojibwe Elder, formally known as a world-renowned Wisdom Keeper, an Empowerment Coach, Activist and Author. She is an International Keynote speaker and seminar leader, from the Parliament of World Religions, NYC Climate March, Global Elder’s Gathering on Climate Change and a United Nations Indigenous Observer, just to mention a few.


It is an honor to share this space along with our ancestral teachings with you all.

The Historical/Ancestral Lessons Behind Our Introductions;

There is a protocol, a grace of honor to sing your ancestors journeys that got each of us here today. We were taught when being introduced or introducing ourselves, we would speak of our grandparents to our parents and the area we grew up around, then mention ourselves last. Please keep in mind, that there are many Tribal teachings in this area, so, our way is not necessarily a way that should be told as the only way.

Within these teachings of today, we have young people or people in general that are not enrolled members of a tribe but are descendants. We were taught to also acknowledge them as they share our bloodlines, our ancestor’s pathways.

Prior to colonization, we had no order of a quantum system, we only had a greatness of family. We encourage the individuals that are not enrolled, to still speak in these teachings; I am a descendant of; whereas, the enrolled individual would speak; I am an enrolled citizen of a certain Tribe. The introductions were to be spoken in an honor system, like a living library of our ancestors.

It is by the grace of memory and honor that our language is coming back, so we speak in our native tongue and then we speak in English for all to understand. Such as;

“My mother is Ruby White-Lyons, father is Charlie Lyons, my grandparents on my mother’s side are; John Jacob White and Lillian West-White and on my father’s side is; John and Josephine Lyons, all whom are enrolled members from the Leech Lake Reservation.”

Then we would speak of our clan system, what clan we were and sometimes the responsibilities our clan system is obligated to. Today, six general totems compose this framework. The crane and the loon are the chiefs, responsible for over-seeing and leading the people. The fish are the scholars and thinkers and are responsible for solving disputes between the crane and the loon. The bear is both warriors and medicine gatherers. The martens are hunters but also warriors as well. The moose are craftsman and artists. Clans are both a means of acquiring and retaining knowledge for the Anishinaabe.

Then we would acknowledge the audience by saying it is an honor to speak before you and we would ask for forgiveness if we were young to the older people in the audience. We do this because the young are to listen and learn from the elders and their journeys. So, we get their permission to speak freely of what and why we are there.

I know this might sound like a lengthy lesson, but by doing this, we as the individual embrace our passages of our ancestors and we keep their truths alive.

Then would continue onto myself and family;

My Anishaanabae name is Niizhi Nibi Equay, which means in English, Second Water Woman. I am a great-grandmother, mother of 9, 11 grandchildren and 1 great-grand daughter.

Then we would begin our topics of conversation.

When asked upon of our ancestors we would acknowledge the history and share forward;

My parents are full blooded and are registered enrollees of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, which are made up of Bands. We are located in northern Minnesota and our bands are comprised by; Bois Forte, Fond du lac, Grand Portage, Mille Lacs, White Earth and Leech Lake.

As of July 2003, the six bands have 40,677 enrolled members. The White Earth Band is the largest, which had more than 19,000 members. According to the 2010 US Census, the Leech Lake Band had 10,660 residents living on its reservation, the most of any single reservation in the state.

We would also mention our sibling Red Lake Nations and give their history of when they separated to their independence:

Notably, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa is not part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In 1934 it declined to participate, as its citizens did not want to give up the band's system of hereditary chiefs. The Red Lake Band developed its constitution in the 1950s, electing its first chairman in 1959. The Chippewa nation predates the European colonization of the Americas.

If asked, we would give a general description of a historical journey of passage:

My father is First Nations Ojibwe originating from the East coast through Canada and settling in the northern regions of Minnesota near the invisible line we know as Canada/USA. My mother’s family throughout time came the same route and planted their roots in the Leech Lake region.

A bit of information that I would like to share is that my ancestors were in the last Indian War: The Battle of Sugar Point or the Battle of Leech Lake, 10/05/1898

In conclusion:

The original people of this land has very little written history of truth in our history books. Today, we have Native Scholars beginning the research and truth, bringing the actual events of our history forward.

We as a people, we were taught to be a part of the circle as this is a balance of life and no one is better, smarter, stronger than another. We were taught to bring our history forward so our truths would ring throughout time as long as were remembered our ancestor’s footprints that got each of here to this day.

Suggested Project for all;

Do your research and make sure to sing all your relatives regardless if they are Indigenous or not.

Find out where they originated from:

What did their land where they came from grow and the make-up of the landscape.

What were their cultural foods?

Just adventure into the past so you will carry them forward and watch the happiness within you grow.

Miigwetch (Ojibwe word for Thank you), for sharing this time with you.

Great-grandmother (Kookum/Nookomis)

Mary Lyons (Niizhi Nibe Equay,which means in English, Second Water Woman)