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  • Writer's picturezhaawano

Reawakening of the Medicine People, part 4: Wenabozho's Dance

Updated: Feb 4

Gichimanidoo-giizis (Great-Spirit Moon), January 24, 2023



Mooka'am: mooka'+am: /mook-/ emerge, appear; /-a'/ act on it using a tool or medium; sing it. "The Sun rises through song/ceremony."
Waaban: waaban-/: /waab-/ bright, white, gray, pale; /-an/ it is in a state or condition. "It is dawn/It is tomorrow; an awakening of life when everything responds to the rising of the sun."



Many strings of lives ago, when the world as we know it was still young, the aadizookaanag (spirits) took pity on ozaagakiig (the plants), awesi'ag (the animals), and anishinaabeg (the humans). The land, rivers, and lakes were permanently frozen, covered by snow and ice. After a council that lasted four days, they decided to send First Man Wenabozho, who lived on the Morning Star, to Aki (Earth) to bring light and warmth to all her poor creatures.

Wenabozho did as he was told, and after landing on an island in a vast body of water that is nowadays called Lake Superior, he climbed to the top of a hill and started to dance. As his grandmother the Moon smiled on him, he danced and he danced, oh how he danced! He danced without pausing once, to the beat of a drum that sounded from all four directions as a voice reverberated across the lake: “Ambe, niimin Nanabozh, come on, dance Wenabozho!”

As he danced, Wenabozho sang a sacred song:






Nookiin nimishoo

Nookiin nimishoo

Waasezin nimishoo

Waasezin nimishoo


Niwiinagam gabe-dibik



I come dancing

I come singing

I dance until daylight

I sing until daylight

Rise Grandfather

Rise Grandfather

Shine Grandfather

Shine Grandfather

I will dance until daylight

I will sing all night long


Finally, after dancing four days in a row, Wenabozho’s Grandmother, still smiling, sank behind the western horizon. Wenabozho’s father, the Morning Star, glimmering in the eastern sky, emerged brighter and more powerful than ever; Thunder Woman, who lived on Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki (Jupiter), flew alongside him, and her distant thunder rumbled throughout the Universe. Darkness shifted to a lighter haze, and then, finally, atayaa! Grandfather Sun woke up from his long slumber in the east. Slowly rising, charging his tremendous, awe-inspiring power, Grandfather shed a multitude of warm rays on the ice-covered lake. “Hoowah,” Wenabozho said to himself, “Nimishoomis Giizis mooka’am! Grandfather Sun awakens, giving his mashkiki (medicine) to the world. Noongo oji wiiwaaseyaaban, from now on there will be dawnlight!”

Soon, Grandfather Giizis’s medicine made the snow disappear, and the ice on the lake gave way for waves the color of a midday summer sky. Tree branches started to bud, and flowers bloomed everywhere around Wenabozho, who sat on the island, marveling about what he just had brought about. “Ziigon!” he said to himself. “Nature awakens!” Haw sa, it was as Wenabozho said: This event, which happened a long time ago, marked the beginning of Ziigwan, the spring.


Sterling silver bolo tie designed & handcrafted by the author: A willow leaf as symbol of new life in spring

The light of Gimishoomisinaan Giizis ("Our Grandfather sun") gives new life to the tree leaves in ziigwan, or springtime. A stylized leaf of the oziisigobiminzh (black willow tree) was chosen to span the stone inside the bolo tie slide because as deciduous plants, oziisigobiminzhiig (willows) in winter lose their leaves, but they're among the first tree relatives to leaf out again the following spring. New growth appears in the Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon; the month of March) and Iskigamizige-giizis (Sugarbushing Moon; the month of April) in most areas, giving the bare branches a green hue and the foliage a shiny green color on the tip and softer green below. The bright blue of the oval turquoise cabochon stone in the bolo slide stands for the warm south, the residence of the Animikii Binesiwag, or Thunderbirds who cause rain, and the leaves of trees and plants to grow. The blue color of the turquoise is also a reference to Gichigami, the great freshwater sea nowadays called Lake Superior, the matrix and pyrite inlays in the stone referring to its many minisan (islands). The silver leaf spanning the stone is for aniibiishan aanji-niigiwin, or rejuvenation of the leaves. My ancestors called these green spring leaves "ashkibag," plural: "ashkibagoon." The deeper, oxidized (blackened) area around the stone refers to the night, under whose cover the members of the Waabanoowiwin (Society of the dawn) conduct their healing ceremonies and conclude them at dawn. The inlaid geometric designs relate to the physical world of moon, stars, thunders and lightning, fires, winds, rains, rivers, and mountains.

In conclusion, the twisted wire placed on the outer edge of the bolo slide refers to Wenabozho's legendary dance on top of a hill on an island in Gichigami (Lake Superior) and, at the same time, to the endless cycle of the seasons. It represents what my ancestors called bimaadiziwin: Life in the fullest sense.



The plants, animals, and humans were very happy. To express their gratitude to their friend and benefactor Wenabozho, the latter erected a Lodge on the very hill Wenabozho had danced on. It was a Healing Lodge, and its members, called themselves Waabanoowag. This means "Those Who Have Visions at Dawn" -- stemming from their practice to conduct their healing rituals under the cover of night and conclude them at dawn. These rituals include singing sacred songs and emulating Wenabozho's dance steps of long ago!

At night, these Waabanoowag studied the stars and star formations, and much of their knowledge of the Sky Beings, which was sacred in nature and used only under special circumstances associated with certain spiritual matters, is still alive today. They are the scientists, the astronomers, and the spiritual teachers of the People -- intent on a spiritual way for living and conserving Wenabozho’s ancient lessons and teachings on human conduct. But their first and foremost role is to utilize the power of the rising sun and heal the sick!

From the first founding days of the Lodge, Waabanowag made a habit of capturing in the early morning the energy of the Sun and transferring it into various of their ceremonial items. Utilizing these items, which were charged each morning at dawn, by shooting the Sun’s energy into the sick became their way of applying medicine. This was always done through meditation, song, and dance. To this day, right before each sunrise and sunset, a pipe is lit and smoked; thus, the energy from the sun is being captured and returned in a continuous cycle of ceremony and healing. These are the times of day when Wenabozho’s grandfather and grandmother awaken in the east and come to rest in the west; geget sa go, each sunrise and each sundown, they smoke their pipes together… And still to this day some oshkaabewisag or pipe bearers, both inside and outside the Lodge, understand this. These men and women remember how a long time ago Spring and Summer were returned to the land. Not a day goes by that they don't reminisce about how, many strings of lives ago, First Man Wenabozho danced a sacred dance and brought the People the healing medicine of Grandfather Sun…




And Wenabozho, the First Man himself? What has come to him? Some say that he rests somewhere on an island in the far west where a giant giizhik (cedar tree) grows on his head. Others say that he turned into stone and rests in the waters of Animikii-wiikwedong (Thunder Bay), awaiting a time when a new generation of People will rise up that will walk the Good Red Road of the ancestors again. Wherever he may be or in whatever form he presently may exist, could it be that one day, once the Anishinaabeg, the human beings of Turtle Island, return to mino-bimaadiziwin, the way of a good life, and start living according to a more respectful (and intelligent!) worldview than we experience now, he will wake up from his slumber?

Will he dance again?

Who knows? I guess it is up to us...



From top to bottom:

A photo print of the painting Wenabozho Niimiwin ("Wenabozho's Dance"). ©2023 Zhaawano Giizhik. Visit the webshop to order.

A photo print of the painting Wenabozho Zagaswem ("Wenabozho's Prayer"). ©2022 Zhaawano Giizhik. Visit the website to order.

A photo print of the painting Wenabozho Onishkaa ("Wenabozho Awakens"). ©2023 Zhaawano Giizhik. Visit the webshop to order.

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