The idea of dying and coming back from the dead is not just a European phenomenon. Here are three near-death, or resurrection stories, that come from first-hand accounts of Anishinaabek who died and came back.
In one account, a man named Nαbagábek (Flat-Stone) died and lay dead for two days. He came back from the dead and described what had happened to him.
“All of a sudden, I found myself walking on a good road. I followed this road (djlbai ikαna, spirit [ghost] road). On it I came to a wigwam. I saw an old man there. He spoke to me. ‘Where are you going?’ he asked me, I told him, ‘I'm going this way.’ ‘You better stop and have something to eat.’ he said. I told him I was not hungry, and started off again. He came along with me. ‘I'll show you where your parents are staying,’ he said. While we were walking we came in sight of lots of wigwams, As far as I could see, there were wigwams. The old man pointed one of them out to me. ‘You go there,’ he said, ‘that's where your mother and father live.’"
“So I went there, I found my father in the wigwam. He shook hands with me and kissed me. My mother was not there. Soon she came in, and greeted me in the same way. My father called out, ‘Our son is here!’ After that a lot of people came in to see me. They asked about people on this earth. They wanted to know whether their friends were well. I told them that they were not sick. Then I was offered something to eat. But I could not eat. Some of these people that came to visit me had moss growing on their foreheads, they died so long ago."
“While I was talking, I heard three or four beats of a drumstick. They were very faint, I just barely heard them, they were so far away. All of a sudden I thought about coming back. I thought of my children I had left behind. I went outside the wigwam without telling my parents. I started back along the same road I had followed before. When I came to the old man's wigwam he was not there. I kept on walking along the road. Then I thought I heard someone calling me. I could hardly hear the voice and I could not recognize who it was. Finally the voice became plainer. I knew that I was getting nearer then. When I got still closer, I could hear my wife and children crying. Then I lost my senses. I could not hear anything more."
“When I opened my eyes and came to my senses it was daylight. But even daylight here is not so bright as it is in the country I had visited. I had been lying for two days. But I had traveled a long distance in that length of time. It is not right to cry too much for our friends, because they are in a good place. They are well off there. So I'm going to tell everybody not to be scared about dying.”
Another man, Caúwαnäs (One Who Travels with the South Wind), was once very ill, and was expected to die. But he recovered. Later he said to his brother's son: “I got pretty close to djibaiàking. I was on the road there.” He said there were lots of strawberries on the way, and one enormous strawberry. He said he could see the chunks that had been scooped out of it by passers-by. As he approached a village he could hear the voices of people shouting and laughing. But someone met him on the road and ordered him back. “You're not wanted yet,” he was told.
In another account, there was a man called Miskwádesīwískijik (Mud-Turtle's Eye). After being buried, he came back to life again.
His wife had visited his grave one day, and hearing a noise, had the grave dug up. She found her husband was alive. But he often acted strangely after this, as if he had not entirely detached himself from the spirit world. Sometimes in the summer, when it was getting dark, Mud-Turtle's Eye would say: “It's just coming daylight. There is going to be a game of lacrosse.” Then, instead of preparing for bed, he would dress himself and make ready to play the ball-game. As the night wore on and it got still darker he would make the motions of playing lacrosse, although he still remained in his wigwam. And he fell backwards all of a sudden and shouted, “the ball struck my forehead.” He would grab and, sure enough, there in his hands was a rock, shaped like a ball.
Reference: Hallowell, A. Irving (Alfred Irving). 1955. “Culture And Experience.” Publications. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities