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  • Writer's picturezhaawano

What’s Your Doodem, Part 6: Shells, Cranes & Clans - A story of the origin of our clans

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

Miin-giizis (Berry Moon) / Abitaa-niibini-giizis (Halfway Summer Moon) (July 23, 2022)



Boozhoo, aaniin, biindigen! Hello and welcome!

Welcome to part 6 in the "What's Your Doodem" series.

Today's story follows the legendary westward migration route of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg Peoples, called Path of the Seven Fires, to the land that nowadays comprises Michigan State and part of southern Ontario – and farther west. The historical migration was depicted by the Midewiwin through pictographs on birchbark scrolls, but also recorded in a myriad of place names, and also in song. It is a story that lives deep in our collective heart…

Many strings of lives ago, after leaving the Dawn Land on the seaboards of Zhiiwitaagani Gichigami (the Atlantic Ocean), our ancestors followed the path of a shining seashell in the sky and the flight of a Sandhill Crane, all the way to the land that is nowadays called Michigan, and beyond. Central in the story is the emergence of five Grandfathers who, in the era of the Third Fire, came out of the waves of Lake Michigan to bring my ancestors who colonized that land five clan groups - a system of kinship that exist even today - and teach them how to survive in their new home.

But what only few people know is that prior to the westward migration to the Great Lakes, our very remote ancestors undertook a similar migration journey – yet in reverse direction…

According to an old Midewiwin allegory, a long time – possibly two to three millennia – ago a large group of Anishinaabeg left their homeland in the Great Lakes area in search for a land of Abundance, which they presumed was in the east. After many years of traveling the migrants came to the northern shores of Zhiiwitaagani-gichigami (the Atlantic Ocean), and so long did they remain that most forgot their origin, and they began to refer to themselves as WAABANAKIIG, People of The Dawn Land.

One day, six Mystery Beings emerged from the Ocean who had taken the form of miigisag (cowrie shells). These Grandfathers from the Ocean established a new system of kinship based on odoodemag (clans or totems) - very similar to the clan groups that, many thousand summers later and vast stretches of land and water to the west, would emerge from the waves of Lake Michigan.

Along with this new form of kinship and a set of moral values called mino-bimaadiziwin which meant the Seven Grandfathers Teachings of wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth were revealed to the People to help them live long and healthy lives the six Miigis Beings from the Ocean left the Waabanakiig People with seven predictions of what the future would bring, warning them of a time when a light-skinned race would arrive at the shores and bring death and destruction. If the People would not leave the Atlantic seaboard, "the shadow of illness would befall on them, their once happy world befouled, and the waters would forever turn bitter by disrespect."

Despite the warnings many Waabanakiig decided to stay behind to protect the Eastern doorway of their Waabanaki Nation from the light-skinned race that had been prophesized to soon arrive at the shores of the Dawn Land. As the westward journey was marked by the niizhwaaso-ishkoden (seven fires), the migrants were told that a miigis (a radiant cowry shell appearing in the western sky) and an ajijaak (sandhill crane) would show them the way. Two to three thousand summers ago, after receiving permission from the greater Waabanaki Nation of their safety in crossing other Nations' territories, a large group of migrants began to move inland, away from the coast of the Salt Sea. This decision would initiate the biggest mass migration in the history of Turtle Island...


Illustration: The Miigis Grandfathers from the Dawn Land. Visit the webshop for details.

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