A healing dance that is at the heart of the Ojibwe Nation
The Jingle Dress (ziibaaska'iganagooday) originated among the Ojibwe people long ago.
According to one legend, there was a powerful medicine man who had a beautiful and cherished granddaughter. One day she became sick. The grandfather was very concerned and he prayed to his manitou to help him heal his granddaughter. That night the manitou appeared to him in a dream. They showed him several women wearing beautiful dresses which made a powerful sound when they danced. The manitou taught him how to make the dress and what dance steps were to be performed. The manitou also played and sang to him the sort of songs that would make the dance work for healing his granddaughter and for healing the hearts of the Ojibwe people.
In the morning, the grandfather and his wife started to make the dress together according to the directions given to him by the manitou. When the dress was finished, the grandfather and his wife took the dress to their granddaughter. She wore it into the center of the camp. A man took the drum and proceeded to sing a song as directed by the grandfather. Then, because the granddaughter was so weak, the grandfather and grandmother helped support the girl as she tried to dance around in a circle. On the second time around, she could walk a little more with their help, and on the third time she was dancing slowly on her own. During her fourth time around, she was dancing the Jingle Dress Dance and was healed of her sickness.
Ever since, the Jingle Dress Dance has been regarded as powerful medicine and is considered by the Ojibwe to be the most beautiful of all dances at the pow wow.
Here are some essential terms to learn this year, and to teach your family, when planting your garden.
A sacred power that must be renewed each month
The Ojibwe believed that every woman possessed a power that was unknown and unavailable to men. This power was always within them and was so powerful that no man could endure it: the power to create life. This special power is so formidable that it needs to be renewed each month, and because of this women are aligned to the power of the grandmother moon. Just as she renews her power at the end of each month, women (her granddaughters) must renew theirs as well. This power starts when a girl is young and lasts until she becomes a grandmother and an elder herself.
When a girl first reaches adolescence, Grandmother Moon looks down at her while she sleeps and says to her “Follow me, for you are now a woman”. This starts the power. When this happens, her mother, grandmother, and aunts instruct her that for some days each month, she has to take time to remain (as much as possible) by herself; to redden her cheeks; and to protect others from her power so that she does not harm them by handling food or important sacred items that could be harmed by her gift.
At these times, some girls might separate themselves from the rest of the people. They can spend time doing work or praying. At these times, some women will receive gifts of wisdom, the ability to heal, or other sacred knowledge that can greatly benefit the entire tribe.
This is why we men must respect women, for their power is something that comes from the manitous and which only they can ever know.
A woman becomes a warrior
Oral tradition and primary sources provide evidence that some women became honored warriors in Ojibwa society.
Accounts speak of Aanakwad Agoodekwe (Hanging Cloud Woman), of the Lac Courte Oreilles band in Wisconsin, who became a warrior and something of a legend among her people.
Hanging Cloud Woman was apparently a favorite daughter of her father. As a young woman, she accompanied him and her brother on a hunting expedition where they were attacked by a war party of Dakota. Contemporary accounts suggests that after her father was killed she pretended to be dead long enough to satisfy enemy suspicions. Then she grasped her father's gun and pursued the fleeing Dakota to exact revenge on them.
In the months that followed her successful warrior exploits, she was honored in many Ojibwa lodges throughout the surrounding territory.
Hanging Cloud Woman eventually married, and at one point in her life found herself with two husbands. Apparently she assumed that a first husband had been killed in war and married another man, only to find out later that her first husband was alive. Hanging Cloud Woman ended her very long career as a housekeeper for a local lumber baron and died in 1919.
Reference: Buffalohead, Priscilla K. 1983. “Farmers, Warriors, Traders: A Fresh Look At Ojibway Women.” Minnesota History 48 (6). Saint Paul: 236–44.
A remembrance by Sandra Houle
Our people ate mostly wild game and berries that grow in the local area. They grew gardens; they ate ducks, geese, grouse, partridge, muskrats, beaver, gray squirrels, porcupines, raccoon, deer, rabbits, and etcetera.
In the summer ducks were the main meat that was served, because they were eaten fresh. There were ducks in the lakes and sloughs, people would go and shoot ducks cook them up. They were either boiled with salt pork, or you could make soup with them. The soup was usually “rababoo”, which is an oatmeal soup, but sometimes they used rice or macaroni. The ducks were also roasted and sometimes stuffed. They also fried, the duck after it was boiled.
Partridge, goose, grouse, muskrats, beaver, raccoon, porcupine, squirrels were usually roasted. Deer was roasted or fried in bacon grease. Deer meat was also canned in quart jars and saved for hard-times, or for summer time when fresh meat was not available. It the winter there were ice boxes to keep meat. Also in the winter, rabbits could be snared and deer could also be hunted.
Summer was kind of a bad time for fresh meat because it spoiled without electricity and a fridge. Also, you really couldn’t hunt in the summertime except for ducks. In the spring, fish were caught when they were spawning and the fish was smoked. In the summer people also caught fish to eat. The heads of the northern were boiled and used to make rice soup. Also in the spring, “poul do” (mud hen) eggs were gathered and eaten.
Morel mushrooms were gathered in the spring of the year. They were dried for later use if they were plentiful. People made gardens and canned the vegetables, and they picked berries and made sauce with them. The berries were also dried to cook later. Juneberry pie is one of our traditional foods.
Berry sauces were sometimes eaten with cream, and you dipped your bread in the sauce. Some of the sauces, such as Juneberry sauce were used for pies. The berries were boiled and canned in quart jars so when it was time for pie you just opened a jar of berries, put them in a dipper on the stove, and heated them to a boil. You could thicken the berries with either corn starch or flour, then make the pie.
Meat pies were also made. If there was left over meat from a meal, which wasn’t that often, you could always stretch it and use what was leftover for a pie. Store bread was a treat for our people if you had money. Since we didn’t usually, everyone had homemade bread, gullet, biscuits, loaf bread, bangs, “gullet di vaen”—which was gullet made from yeast bread—and buns. Canned meats such as hams, potted meat, corned beef, corned beef hash, and canned chicken were sometimes eaten if you could buy it. Since we didn’t have electricity, we couldn’t store meat, so canned was easier if fresh wasn’t available.
Buying fresh meat from town didn’t happen often except in the summertime. Hamburger we probably got once a month. Ham wasn’t so for the summer if you could afford it, because a person could buy a ham and keep it a couple of days if it was kept cool.
A lot of our foods were boiled. My grandpa use to make boiling beef and potatoes. They would also boil ham and potatoes. Some people also raised chickens and butchered them when they needed to.
Another source of meat was tripe—great for soup. There was a slaughter house about 1½ to 2 miles south of Rolla and our people use to get tripe from there. They also got ox tails and made ox tail soup. If a pig was butchered, they would hang the pig and take all the blood to make blood sausage.
Boullets, bangs, and pie—mostly juneberry pie—and “la puchin” (boiled pudding) were the traditional New Years foods.
When you went to visit somewhere, you were always fed. It didn’t matter where you went to visit, you were given hot coffee or tea, and a lunch. Sometimes lunch was just sauce and cream with bread, bread and jelly, or pie.
People sometimes went out to the prairie to look for “le na voo” which was wild turnips, which are great in soup.
Another thing that was (and still is) a snack with our people is what some called “round-and-round” which is peanut butter and syrup mixed. Most people used Karo syrup. It was bought in gallon pails.
Armour lard was used to fry bangs. Sometimes, if we couldn’t afford to buy it, we used rendered lard made from pork fat that was melted. The fat that wouldn’t melt was used to make gwar-toons (cracklings). Almost everyone made jams and jellies from fruit and berries that were picked locally. You could also make syrup from the berries.
Homemade michif ice cream was made from snow during the winter—a real treat. A person used snow, evaporated milk, sugar, and vanilla to make the ice cream. It was not really ice cream, but was rather a nice mix that kind of had the texture of ice cream. The good thing was that if you put too much liquid in the snow, or if the snow got too runny, you could add more snow to thicken it up.
The efforts of women were vital to life
Early fur trade journals often fail to mention Native women, except as side notes or as they pertain to the men that they dealt with. However, given the general division of labor in aboriginal society, it is clear that women made crucial contributions to their families' comfort and to the overall economy.
Wild rice and maple sugar were both largely the products of female labor and were highly valued as both subsistence items and trade goods. Rolls of birchbark and other plant materials were also important trade items and necessary items to the conduct of life. These were also the product of the efforts of women. Women were also vital to hunting as they processed buffalo and beaver hides for sale to traders, made pemmican and dried meat, and other by-products. During fishing season they turned the catch into fish pemmican, sturgeon oil, and smoked the fish to ensure that there would be ample stores prior to summer hunting season. Any surplus quantities created by the efforts of women were in constant demand by traders. Yet despite this, the efforts of women were often assigned a lower social value than big game brought in by men.
In practical terms, however, the wide range of subsistence resources that women produced were vital in compensating for the effects of environmental fluctuations. “Women's foods” — rice, maple sugar, salt, roots and berries, and the small game that they snared — were essential to a balanced and productive seasonal round, and often were the only things keeping the people from starving to death. In some cases, women might reject a husband entirely — living alone and supporting themselves. In such cases they would necessarily undertake all activities, such as trapping, canoe-making, even hunting.
A time for Dibaajimowin (storytelling)
When living in a wiigiwaam or tipi the mother’s place was usually to the immediate left or right of the entrance, with the daughters next her. The father would usually be on the opposite side of the door from the mother. The elders of the family (grandpa/grandma) would be positioned at the rear of the lodge where it would be most warm. The sons would be located near the father.
The bedding consisted of blankets and hides tanned with the hair on them. Some people might have pillows and thin feather beds made of hide or cloth and filled with feathers if they were able to make them. If not, cedar boughs were spread on the ground and covered with rush mats, the bedding being placed on these mats at night. During the day bedding was rolled up and used as seats or placed along the walls of the lodge.
During the summer little time was spent inside of the wiigiwaam/tipi. But during the winter, evenings were a time for socialization. With the fire burning brightly, food would be cooked and talking would be intensely animated. A favorite pastime was the making of artistic pieces of birch-bark, or the making of fishing nets that could be used in the springtime. The young men often spent their time reclined with a drum conveniently near them for spontaneous songs when the mood hit them.
The winter was also the time for story-telling (dibaajimowin) and the time for stories about Nanabozho. Elder women were often the best storytellers, acting out the stories and walking around the fire while telling them.
Adapted from Densmore, Frances. 1929. “Chippewa Customs.” Bulletin. Washington: U.S. Govt. print. off.
Hillary (Davis) Kempenich: Turtle MOuntain Ojibwe
Award winning artist Hillary Kempenich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is an established studio artist and advocate for the arts, education, social justice, and Native issues. She has immersed herself working with youth as an Artist in the Classroom in the Grand Forks Public Schools, as well as volunteering throughout her community. Raised on the Turtle Mountain reservation, Hillary continues to advocate for better educational and cultural standards for our Native Indigenous people, and for all people, through her artwork in urban communities.
Hillary is fluent in many mediums with a collaborative style influenced by her independent spirit as a creative woman and her deep connection to her heritage of Ojibwe, Cree, Assiniboine and French Canadian ancestral roots. She comes from a family of strong artist abilities, of which are strong influences within her work. While holding on to the ties to the Turtle Mountains, She works on developing her trades & exploring new mediums with her own personal style.
She has been part of the 2011 IPPY Outstanding Books of the Year, Storytelling Time: Native North American Art, with a growing list of group and solo shows as well as receiving recognition throughout the Midwest. The year of 2015 proved to be successful for her career, marked by awards from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Native Arts Gathering and the First Peoples Fund. Recently, she received the First Peoples Fund 2016 Artist in Business Grant and Fellowship Award. Her work continues to be featured in galleries throughout the Midwest.
Find out more at http://www.hillarykempenich.com
To All My Women Friends of Age...
Most of us are going through it...We are at that age where we see the wrinkles, grey hair and extra pounds...We see the pretty 25 year olds and sigh...But we were once 25 too, just like they will one day be our age. What they bring to the table with their youth and zest for life, we come to the table with our wisdom, experience and good hearts. For all we've been through earning each grey hair...be it raising kids, paying bills, illness and whatever else life brought us over our 30's, 40+ years...We are survivors...we are warriors.....we are Women...Like a classic car...or fine wine...while our exterior may not be what it once was...it is traded for our spirit...our courage...and our survival to enter this chapter of our lives with grace and pride for all we've been through and accomplished.
Never feel bad about aging. It is a privilege denied to many.
JT Shining One Side, Mikinak Wadju Anishinaabekwe
Before the introduction of modern medicine, the Kookums (Grandmothers) were the traditional keepers of knowledge of herbal plant medicines, including medicines for birth control. They were midwives for the community and had an understanding of a whole range of medicines that could cure illness that might strike their families. This knowledge was not exclusive, but was something that was shared between First Nations women and their children, including the Métis.
This is why we must honor our grandmothers and our mothers, for they hold the wisdom and knowledge of generations of mothers and grandmothers before them.