They come in the spring and bring the birds home
The Thunder Birds (Animikii) are the creatures that cause the sound of thunder when they flap their wings; lightning is caused when they blink their eyes. The slow, rolling thunder we hear during the coming of a storm is that of the old Thunder Birds flying very high in the sky. The sharper thunderclaps are made by the wings of the young Thunder Birds who flap fast and violently.
It is said that Thunder Birds are like a great Eagle or Hawk, with a curved beak and clawed feet. Like birds of prey, they kill snakes and were the creatures that fought the underwater panther (Mishipeshu) and other great snakes that used to plague the earth. The Thunder Bird motif figured prominently in almost all ceremonies and was the symbol that unified the Anishinaabe. The sweat lodge represented the overturned nest of the thunderbird, with the hot rocks symbolizing the eggs of the Thunder Bird. As well, the teaching in the lodge revolved around the purifying and strengthening power of the Thunder Bird. Both the Midéwiwin and Wabanowin paid homage to the Thunder Bird. Even the Sun Dance, learned after moving to the Great Plains, was linked to a person’s dream or vision of the Thunder Bird, and one the chief purposes of the ceremony was to communicate with the Thunder Birds to bring rain to cleanse the world
It is an old tradition to give Thunder Birds an offering of tobacco when they come, offering words and asking that the Thunder Birds go easy on the Anishinaabe when the storm comes.
The Thunder Birds are migratory and are only heard from late spring until early fall. It is they who lead the other birds during the spring and fall migrations, and the constellation Cygnus – viewed as a long-necked swan by the Greeks – signifies a giant Thunderbird when viewed the opposite direction as the Anishinaabe do. This constellation is visible in the northern hemisphere from early May until late October, peaking in the summer sky during June and July. It is visible in the north-eastern sky from around 9 pm each evening during this time and by 2 am is directly overhead, staying high in the sky until daybreak comes in spring and leaves in fall, just as the birds migrate to the north and leave to the south before winter sets in.
An Ojibwe Legend about Corn
After man was created, he was lonely, so the Creator gave him a sister to keep him company.
The man dreamed that five manidoo would visit his sister and want to marry her. The dream told him that she should reject the first four and marry the fifth suitor.
The first four suitors to arrive were Tobacco, Squash, Melon, and Bean. On being rejected by the girl, they each fell dead. The fifth and last suitor was Mandaamin, or Corn.
The girl took Mandaamin for her husband and he buried the other four suitors. From their bodies grew tobacco, squashes, melons and beans.
All Anishinaabe people are descended from the marriage of the Ojibwe girl and Corn.
Reasons for the name vary
Legends says that when viewed from the south, the landform known as the ‘Turtle Mountains’ appeared to the Anishinaabe as a turtle on the horizon with the head pointing westward and the tail to the east.
Another legend says that the Turtle Mountains were named for a man named “Mickinock” (turtle) who walked (or ran) its entire length in one day.
Other names given to the Turtle Mountains include Makinak Wudjiw (Turtle Mountain in Ojibwemowin), LaMontagne Tortue (Michif for ‘Turtle Mountain’), Turtle Hill, Beckoning Hills, and the Blue Jewel of the Plains.
Patrick Gourneau, in his book History of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa explained why “Turtle Mountain” is not “Turtle Mountains.” He states the following:
“The naming of Turtle Mountain goes back a long time, versions from white men and Indians. To mention only three Chippeway versions, it indicates that it was the early Chippeway migrants from the woodlands of the east who named it Turtle Mountain. None of the three versions carry the name Turtle Mountains. As far back as my memory goes, I have not ever heard a full-blood term the hills as Turtle Mountains, and same applies to the “Mechifs.” The Chippeway name is “Mekinauk Wudjiw” (Turtle Mountain). If it was Turtle Mountains it would be “Mekinauk Wudjiw wum” (plural).
History of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Paperback – 1989 by Patrick Gourneau
Traditional Ojibwe CHildren's Game
The Windigo Game or “cannibal game” was the most exciting game played by Ojibwe children.
This name implies all that is fear compelling, as the windigo were said to be terrible beings who were cannibals. If a stranger came to a lonely wigwam he was closely watched as he “might be a windigo,” and if he stayed all night someone sat up and watched him constantly. The children absorbed the idea and made it into a game.
Here’s how it was played: One child was chosen by drawing lots (or guessing numbers) to play the part of the windigo. Four sticks were prepared, one longer than the others. These were held in the hand with the tops even and offered for choice among the older children, the one who drew the longest stick acting the part of the windigo. If the child could, they would wear a mask, or would otherwise alter themselves (make faces, etc.) to give themselves a monstrous appearance.
The windigo would hide in a clump of bushes or somewhere else. The other children then formed in a long line, each holding the belt of the child in front of them. A large child was chosen to lead the others and he carried a club.
When they came near the windigo's hiding place the child playing windigo would rush out with fearful yells and wave their arms. The leader would have to play fight with them, and the younger children would be scared and scream to each other. Sometimes the windigo child would seize a child and pretended to eat it.
This game was a favorite among the children.
Cultural sharing between the Ojibwe and Cree
Although there was much sharing of culture between the Ojibwe and Cree, the most extraordinary sharing that occurred during the early to middle 1800s was not just of natural resources and subsistence practices, but of religious beliefs and ceremonies.
At this time, some Ojibwe started to adopt the Sun Dance as a central ceremony, although the Midewiwin continued to be practiced and even spread to the Cree. Cree oral tradition includes a story about the adoption of the Midewiwin by the Cree. A Cree man is said to have gone to the Ojibwe to obtain medicines and had taken with him two horses loaded with fine clothes. The Ojibwe were especially glad to get the horses, for they had very few. They took the Cree man into their Midewiwin lodge where they taught him the use of many plants as medicines.
Adapted from Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn). 1994. “Ojibwa Of Western Canada, 1780 To 1870.” Manitoba Studies In Native History. St. Paul: MNHS.