Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 30: Vision of the Bald Eagle
Updated: Apr 20
Baashkaakodin-Giizis/Takiyuḣa-wi (Freezing Moon/ Deer Rutting Moon) (November 18, 2021)
How a Two-Spirit Dakota woman had a vision that helped restoring peace with the Ojibwe People of the Rapids
"People have tried to write American Indian history as the history of relations between tribes and non-Indians. What is important is to have the history of the Ojibwe and Dakota relationships conveyed with their own thoughts. This is important because it shows the vitality of Ojibwe oral history conveyed in their language and expressing their own views. The stories and recollections offer a different lens to view the world of the Ojibwe. A place few people have looked at in order to understand the complicated web of relationships that Ojibwe and Dakota have with one another."¹ Niibowa bwaanag omaa gii-taawag. Miish igo gii-maajinizhikawaawaad iwidi mashkodeng. Mashkodeng gii-izhinaazhikawaad iniw bwaanan, akina. Miish akina gii-nagadamowaad mitigokaag, aanjigoziwaad. Mii sa naagaj, mii i’iw gaaizhi-zagaswe’idiwaad ingiw bwaanag, ingiw anishinaabeg igaye. Gaawiin geyaabi wiimiigaadisiiwag, wiijikiwendiwaad. "A lot of Dakota lived here. Then they chased them out to the prairies, all of them. They were forced to move and abandon the forests. But later on, they had a pipe ceremony, the Dakota and Anishinaabeg too. They didn’t fight anymore, and made friends."²
MIGIZI'S FIRST VISION
Many moons ago, Migizi, the Bald Eagle, beheld an izhinamowin (vision).
In this izhinamowin, she saw that the Anishinaabeg (Ojibweg) and Dakhóta Oyáte (Dakota) Peoples were living all over the beautiful land of lakes, rapids, and waterfalls. They were neighbors who lived peacefully beside each other. Then one bad day, Anishinaabe miinawaa Bwaanag wiijigaabawitaadiwinan — Ojibwe and Dakhóta relations — changed. They became each others' enemies, for reasons long forgotten. Ogichidaawiwinan (warrior societies) on both sides started to flourish and around the village camp fires the talk was only of war. The villages became empty of men; the women mourned and buried their husbands and sons. Soon, there were only women and small children left in the camps since the men and available youth were on the war path. War became such an inseparable part of their lives that most people forgot how the fighting had started and what it was they were fighting about. Their lives had become lost in a vicious circle of ego and revenge; their behavior, weakening their vitality and draining away heir power, undermined their respective communities and their nations as a whole. Both Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta had completely lost track of mino-misko-manidoo miikana, the good red spirit road!
As she was circling high in the sky, it became clear to Migizi that the near-destruction of both People's ancient ways of life seemed inevitable!
Sadly, Migizi saw that the men were taken away from the teachings of the Elders because they were day and night engaged in raiding the other tribe's villages, always caught up in a vicious circle of being attacked and retaliation. The women tried to talk sense into the leaders, but since they were all men they turned a deaf ear to their pleas. The virtues of neighborship and common sense became completely drowned in the swamp of the men's grudges and hatred.
Still circling high, Migizi saw that the manidoog (Spirits) that inhabit all four corners of the Earth became alarmed and as they moved about the Earth they called the Anishinaabe and Dakhóta Oyáte warriors and chiefs, but no one answered. The sacred waterdrum had stopped sounding its mighty voice across the lakes and hills and river valleys and even the echo of its pulse had ceased from the Spirits’ ears. Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta Oyáte had turned their back on the ways of their Medicine Lodges and they had forgotten the lessons about bimaadiziwin (how to live a good life).
The only sound that lived in the ears of the Anishinaabewininiwag and Ikčé Wičhášta (Ojibwe and Dakota men) was that of cries of war and agony. They had gradually become deaf. They had even become deaf to the voices of the manidoog! In her vision, now being very worried because of what she saw beneath her, Migizi noticed that the manidoog decided to hold a meeting. They talked for four days and while they were talking, everything in Creation stopped working. Every living Being, even those that lived beneath the Earth and the lakes and the rivers — enh, even the jiibayag, the Spirits of the Ancestors who lived among the stars — wondered what was going on. Everyone asked Nookomis Migizi, the Grandmother eagle, to ask the manidoog about what was happening.
Hereupon the manidoog reached a decision: they gave Grandmother Migizi four days to look for Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta Oyáte who remembered the most important Grandfather Teaching of all: the virtue of zaagi'idiwin, or çaåtekiya (mutual love).
Still dreaming, Migizi started her journey from her abode in the east to look for someone who remembered their responsibilities in life and how to listen to their heart. On the first day, Migizi flew to the south, but she could not find anyone who still listened to their heart and remembered their responsibilities. On the second day, Migizi flew to the west, but she could not find anyone who still listened to their heart and remembered their responsibilities. On the third day Migizi flew to the north, but she could not find anyone who still listened to their heart and remembered their responsibilities. At the dawn of the fourth day, Migizi flew east again. The vision had made her very tired but she knew she couldn´t rest now. Suddenly, she saw smoke rise up from a high river bluff. Migizi flew toward the smoke. As she got closer, she could hear a young woman sing and shake her turtle-shell rattle. She stood beside an ishkode (fire) and sang in the language of the Dakhóta Oyáte. Her face glowing with a radiance that spoke of the sparkling energy of fire and the gentle spirit of sweetgrass, she offered asemaa (tobacco) to the ishkode as she chanted her song, and Migizi understood she was waiting for a vision...
EAGLE WOMAN'S VISION
One day there lived a wiŋkte wiŋyaŋ (two-spirit woman) in a Dakhóta Oyáte village near the rapids of Skesketatanka — a place nowadays called Sault Ste. Marie. Her People knew this young woman, who belonged to the Matoḣota Tioßpaye (Grizzly Bear Clan), by the name of Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ ("Eagle Woman"). They were at war with a neighboring tribe which they called Iyo-ḣaḣatoŋwaŋ, or Villagers of the Happy Water (the Baawitigowininiwag).³ The fighting prevented Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ from seeing a woman whom she loved and who lived in the village of her People's enemies. She knew that now they could never live together because of the number of her and her enemies' People that had been killed. She wanted to break the chain of bloodshed and retribution, but she didn't know how. She therefore decided to walk to a remote spot along the Great Sea River (present-day St. Mary's River) to fast and receive a vision that would perhaps help her to see more clearly how the fighting could be stopped.
As soon as Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ had reached a suitable place on a high cliff to have her vision, she made a peta (fire). Next she took out her turtle shell rattle and a handful of çaŋshasha (tobacco) out of her bundle and tossed it in the flames, and as she shook her rattle she softly sang a petition to the spirits for guidance.
" To you who reside and dwell to the east, the south, the west, and the north
I direct to you the voice of my heart.
Oh, benevolent spirit of Wóhpe⁴ who appears among the falling stars
Give me the will and the strength to fulfill my dream to end the fighting Show me a way to help achieve peace between my People and the Happy Water Villagers
Have pity on my People
Have pity on me
Please give me a sign."
As she stood there singing, the purple light of sunrise behind the great sea river reflecting on her face, she suddenly heard the sound of flapping wings. A shadow appeared from above and a strange light enveloped her that almost blinded her! When she looked up, her eyes squinting against the bright purple light, she noticed from the corner of her eye that a wakaŋka (elder woman) sat beside her, smiling. Her tanned face, round and friendly, was highlighted by a hawklike nose and sharp eyes that seemed to look straight through Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ — and beyond.
The grandmother, her clear voice mingling with the song of the water singing upon the rocks below the steep cliff the girl sat on, spoke to Waŋmdi Winyan in Dakhótiyapi (Dakota), asking her who she was and what she was doing there all alone in seclusion, only surrounded by wakanpi, the spirits of the wind, the waters, and the rocks. Hereupon the girl answered that she was tired of the war between her tribe and the Happy Water People and also that because of the constant fighting she could no longer see the woman she loved. She had therefore gone into the warrior lodges of her People and told the men she was weary of the sound of the war drums reverberating across the land, of burying her male relatives and friends, of no longer being able to make visits to the village of their former friends at the waterfalls. She said to them: "There must something that our Oyáte (People) could do to stop the fighting?”
But the men had sneered, “You! What do you know? You’re just wiŋyaŋ (a woman)! What do you know of war?” After such rude behavior from the warrior chiefs Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ decided she would go on a fast, determined not to return to her village until she received an answer.
When Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ had finished her report the friendly grandmother gave her two black-tipped wing feathers of a bald eagle. Then the old woman explained to her that she had appeared before her at sunrise because the purple color of sunrise stands for a Peaceful Heart. Next, she relayed a prophecy story to her. "Many winters later and many moons of traveling to the west, in Mnishota Makoče, the Land Where the Waters Reflect the Clouds,⁵ a spirit woman dressed in white buckskin will visit your descendants twice, each time singing a sacred song:
I come to you in a Sacred Way
With Visible Breath I am walking
With the Sacred Pipe I am walking.
This woman is Wóȟpe, the female spirit of Peace! The first time she will bring the People the seed of wamnaheza (maize) in order for them to survive a starving winter and the second time she will bring to them the čhaŋduhúpa (red stone pipe)⁶ and teach them its symbolic uses and ceremonies. She will instruct the People about the čhaŋduhúpa, and show them that each part of the sacred pipe (stem, bowl, tobacco, breath, and smoke) is symbolic of the relationships between the natural world, the elements, the human beings, and the spirit beings. With the čhaŋduhúpa, seven sacred ceremonies will be given for the people to abide in order to ensure a future with harmony, peace, and balance. Then, after she will deliver the pipe and the teachings that go with it, she will disappear into the clouds. Her last words will be: "There will be four ages, and I will look in on you once each age. At the end of the four ages, I will return."
After a brief pause the grandmother explained to Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ the seven ceremonies, and that if she were to restore peace and friendship between the two warring Nations, she must seek it through the teaching of the čhaŋduhúpa she had just prophesied to her, and pass on the seven original instructions that go with it. Through the Prophecy of the Spirit Woman in White she must teach her People how to imbue the offering of the sacred pipe with the proper ritual again. To sit down with the People of the Happy Water and smoke the čhaŋduhúpa in the spirit intended by the Woman in White is to give and gain goodwill, she said, and re-establish an everlasting peace between the Nations.
"You shall return to your village and announce a meeting with all the Elders and chiefs and warriors of the Dakhóta Nation and show them these two feathers as proof of the vision of peace that you and I are sharing today. This important task is appointed to you because you are Wiŋkte wiŋyaŋ, a Two-Spirit woman. Wiŋkte wiŋyaŋ have always been the prophets, pipe bearers, fire keepers, healers, knowledge keepers, and caretakers of your People! The akiçita (warriors) of your tribe may have turned a deaf ear to you in the past but when you return from the bluff with this important wokćaŋpi (prophecy teaching) they will certainly listen to you!"
So Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ did as she was told. After the wakaŋka had ascended back into the sky she walked back to her village and she gathered all the Elders and all the leaders and all the people from the other Dakota village in a circle. As she entered into the circle of the Nation, she sang a sacred song and took from her bundle the two long wing feathers of the eagle the wakaŋka on the bluff had gifted her. Holding the feathers high, she told them what she had been instructed to do.
Izhi-migiziwaabitaa ("Vision of the Bald eagle"), 14K yellow gold ring set mounted with marquise-cut amethyst stones, designed and handcrafted by Zhaawano Giizhik. Click on image to view details.
"My Elders!" she spoke. "My brothers and sisters! The Sacred Hoop of Peace has been broken for too long now! Too long now have our Oyáte been at war with our neighbors, the Villagers of the Happy Water. We are all people of the same land, we are all heirs of Keya Makočetoŋka (The Great Turtle Island)! We should all live in peace instead of war! Our women are weary of bloodshed, having to see the men wasted in numbers and worn in spirit. Only a few women of our Oyáte have kept the fire of peace burning within their hearts, in a time when the light has grown dim and become, even in the hearts of those few left, but a tiny ember. I therefore went to a cliff by the great sea river to seek wowanyake (a vision). A kuŋshi (grandmother) shrouded in a purple light came from the sky. She explained to me that the purple color of sunrise stands for a Peaceful Heart. She told me that the color purple symbolizes Introspection, the Inner Self. It shows us where Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka, the Great Mystery, lives within us all. Purple reminds us that we as human beings are also Wakaŋ ; this means we are spritual beings in all aspects of life. As a consequence, kuåßi explained to me, purple symbolizes first and foremost Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka itself, and at the same time it is the ultimate token of the love that we as human beings harbor for Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka. Next, kuŋshi relayed to me a prophecy, of a Wóȟpe, the Spirit Woman dressed in white deerskin, who will many winters from now appear to our People and give them seven Teachings. She ordered me to tell my Oyáte about these sacred instructions and that they must bring these into practice to restore peace with the Iyo-ḣaḣatoŋwaŋ. She explained to me that these Teachings hold an important instruction regarding the čhaŋduhúpa, our sacred pipe. She told me that the hearts and minds of the men of our Warrior Lodges have turned as black as the night. They have fallen into the custom of smoking the pipe only in the context of battle, as a symbol of defiance, glory-seeking, and personal bravery. However, the smoking of the pipe to peaceful ends, to seal peace with enemies and lasting bonds with neighbours, seems to have been forgotten. It is time to restore this practice! It is time to mend the Sacred Hoop. It is time to go into ceremony with our former friends of the village of the Happy Water, meant to forever close the wound of our mutual bloodletting! It is time we start using the pipe as a healing tool, in the spirit of the message of Wóȟpe, the Spirit Dressed in White. My Elders! My relatives! It is time we learn to see the beauty of the purple sunrise again!
My Elders! My brothers and sisters! Listen! With a positive heart and intention, the čhaŋduhúpa iyahpekiya (smoke from the pipe) will from this day connect us to the spirit world and carry upward our wish for peace and stability across the land. When one sits down illuminated by the purple light of sunrise and prays with the čhaŋduhúpa, he is obliged to do it in a good way, not for evil purposes. The čhaŋduhúpa brings harmony between men and between Nations when they smoke it. With each pipe ceremony one prays not only for themselves and their well being, but for all human beings and the whole of creation. You can’t lie through the čhaŋduhúpa. Anuŋkasaŋ kuŋshi (the Eagle Grandmother) has told me this when I was on the bluff. These two eagle feathers are living proof of the prophecy vision I received from her."
Again, she chanted a sacred song:
“In a sacred way I hold these feathers.
Because of all the creatures
the Bald Eagle reaches the highest out in bringing pure vision to those who seek it. Her feathers will not only be a living prayer,
they symbolize human life itself.
The quills symbolizes the life path. Each strand stands for a lesson. Now that I am holding these feathers I will speak honestly from my heart. Like the Great Mystery itself, these feathers are Sacred.
Like the Great Mystery itself, these feathers symbolize Love."
After a brief pause, which she used to look around the circle, her gaze fixed on the solemn faces of the leaders of the Warrior Lodges present that day, she continued, "My Elders! My relatives! These anuŋkasaŋ wiyaka (bald eagle feathers) represent two spirits. However, when tied together, the feathers are one. These wiyaka tied together embody the blessing of two spirits that since I was born a winkte winyan live in my breast, that dwell in my soul, and that stir my heart. But in extent, they represent peace and friendship between the Nations of the Dakhóta and the Iyo-ḣaḣatoŋwaŋ. Through these feathers Grandmother Eagle instructs us that we must honor and respect the original teaching of the sacred pipe as it reflects our beautiful values, traditions, and teachings that say that all life is sacred. By way of these feathers of the mighty anuŋkasaŋ we are reminded that our first responsibility is to seek for peace and prosperity for our Oyáte and all of our relatives and, above all, must have concern for the safety and well-being of our children and the future generations. When we do this, all that has been broken will be made whole again. When we do this, the Sacred Hoop of Peace will be mended!"
Once more Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ looked around the circle of warriors, chiefs, and men and women from alll the Dakota villages that were present that day. "My Elders! My brothers and sisters!" she said in a clear voice. "Let me once more remind me of Wóȟpe who will come to us dressed in white and gift us with the teachings of čhaŋduhúpa, the sacred pipe! As long as we will perform these ceremonies we will always remain caretakers and guardians of sacred land. As long as we take care of it and respect it our Oyáte will never die and will always live."
Then Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ took a deep breath and concluded her Prophecy by saying:
“ Iho, wanna wičaste se owaŋzina pi iŋiciyap, ka nakuŋ wamankaskaŋ obe owas, hu nuŋpap, ka hu topap, hu nina ote yuhap henaŋ, ka nakuŋ taku owas kinyaŋ um, ka oge ish hu waŋičap ka stohaŋhan piičiyap, ka nakun wato obe owas maka akan ded ičagapi, henaŋ owas ataya wookini ehna kči wičoni waśte duhap oyakihipi kiŋhan, k'a Iyo-ḣaḣatoŋwaŋ hehan taku owas waśte kte do. Toked yacinpte kiŋhaŋ, he niyepi. Čhaŋduhúpa de wakaŋ, he ohŋa yati kte."
(“Now if you have learned how to behave like human beings and how to live in peace with each other and with the other living things — the two-legged, the four-legged, the many-legged, the fliers, the no-legs, the green plants of this universe, and our neighbors, the villagers of the Happy Water — then all will be well. It’s up to you. The pipe is sacred. Live by it.” )
Barely had Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ delivered her prophecy when a murmur went through the crowd as the screeching of a bald eagle was heard overhead. "Look!" a woman yelled as she pointed into the sky, "a bald eagle!" The people gathered that day gazed in awe at the anuŋkasaŋ that, bathing in a purple light, hovered above the meeting place with impressive confidence and majesty. The sky had turned the color of çaŋtekiya! It was the color of Love that Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ had spoken about! Then, suddenly, before hundreds of surprised eyes, a feather fluttered gently to the ground, right in front of Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ's feet! The people immediately understood it was a sign. The girl had spoken the truth!
Once the eagle had flown out of sight a deep and long silence filled the open space where all the men and women of the Dakhóta Oyáte had gathered. Everyone present that day was humbled by the simple power and truth of the prophecy vision of this Bear Clan woman who stood before them, and the Eagle Feather teaching that had just been related to them. The brave two-spirited woman, by sharing her dream about the eagle grandmother and the sacred pipe, had taught everyone present a powerful lesson in the most modest of ways. Tokshta, indeed, the teaching would prove to hold a valuable lesson, not only to the warriors present that day but to all Dakhóta, men and women, enh, even to the yet unborn...
MIGIZI'S SECOND VISION
Once Grandmother Eagle had flown away from the river bluff where she had met the Bwaan girl,⁷ she returned knowing that her teaching of Love was in capable hands. Four times she flew around the Sun before she headed back to the village of the Bwaanag. Flying high, she saw with satisfaction that the Dakhóta girl stood in front of a large crowd, telling them of her dream and showing them the feathers she had given her. Grandmother Migizi, screeching, circled above the crowd of Dakhóta and dropped one of her tail feathers. Then she flew away, reassured that soon peace would return to the beautiful land of lakes, rapids, and cascades. In her vision, she saw that messengers were sent to the Ojibwe village. The leaders of the warrior lodges on both sides met, and the sacred pipe was smoked. But this time it was done in the spirit of peace!
It was not before long that Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta Peoples started to celebrate their renewed friendship through dancing and drumming, determined to keep at bay the destructive spirit of ego and warfare.The men laid down their weapons and they started to connect with their hearts again. Songs were brought back home after visits to the former enemy's camp. Peace returned into the people's hearts... soon the people of both Nations hunted together, celebrated festivals together, derived their warmth from the same fire, and, in some cases, ate from the same bowl, yes even hung their garments together! Gegaa-api! Finally, in the reassuring shadow of the Spirit of Nookomis Migizi who was often seen flying above the villages of both Nations, the drums sounded their healing voice again in the hearts of the Peoples that lived in the area…
Geget sago, like Nookomis Giizis had foreseen in her vision, as soon as the pipe was smoked and the drumming of the Dakhóta and Ojibwe drums started to echo across te waters of the lake and rivers. Their pulsing sound reminded the warriors on both sides to return to the old guidelines of the Seven Grandfathers.
Thanks to the powerful vision of the Dakhóta girl and the guidance of the Eagle Grandmother, the sacred pipe, which lately had not been treated according the respect it deserved and therefore had lost its vital spiritual essence, was now treated with the proper respect and protocol again.
Haw sa, there was true spiritual communication again… for the first time in a long time, the Nations of Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta gathered and danced again celebrating life and being together. Both Nations shared many things with each other. There were the songs, ceremonies, and the sharing of sacred ceremonial items like the pipes, and eagle feathers. Peace and dignity were restored in the beautiful land of lakes an rapids and waterfalls and the ancient principle of mino-bimaadiziwin, Living the Way of the Good Life, was finally back in te center of the Sacred Circle. It was all good…
Grandmother Migizi, happily, still dreaming, quickly returned to the manidoog who were waiting in the four corners of the Universe. As soon as she related to them what she had seen in her visions, the manidoog understood that there was still hope for the nations of the Anishinaabeg and Dakhóta. They saw that a New People would emerge who would retrace their steps to find the wisdom that was left long ago by the side of the good red road. They also saw that, through the shared smoking of the sacred pipe, the continuation of peace, and thus life, was ensured.
The world could begin again.
And even now, in the present time, the Dakhóta Oyáte and Ojibwe Anishinaabeg remember Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ, the brave wiŋkte wiŋyaŋ (two-spirit woman) who long ago had a vision that helped restoring peace between the two warring Nations. Even today she is still a guardian spirit and a role model to the countless Two-spirit people who eversince have excelled as visionaries, pipe bearers, fire keepers, spokespersons/leaders, warriors/defenders, healers, knowledge keepers, caretakers, and craftspersons/artists.
Haw sa, from the day that Waŋmdi Wiŋyaŋ shared her vision with her People , the Dakhóta Oyáte and Ojibwe Anishinaabeg acknowledge certain important ceremonial and communal roles for every person born in the body of a woman or a man but who do not constrict themselves to what is considered typical of a wiŋyaŋ/ikwe or an wiçaßta/inini...
> To read more about the topic of Two-spiritedness, read: Two-Spirits, Sacred Beings.
¹ From: A Modern Ojibwe Perspective Through Oral History, Jason T. Schendler ^
² Source: Anton Treuer, Ph.D., ed. Living Our Language: Ojibwe Tales & Oral Histories, 234 ^
³ Baawitigowininiwag: People of the Rapids, a division of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg who lived on Michigan's Northern Peninsula and in southern Ontarion in what is now the are around Sault Ste. Marie. The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians are descendants of these People. ^
⁴ Wóȟpe is a spirit of peace, the daughter of Wi and the Moon, Haŋhépi-Wi. She is the wife of the south wind. When she visited the Earth, she gave the People a pipe as a symbol of peace. An alternative name for Wóȟpe is Pte Saŋ Wiŋyaŋ (White Buffalo Calf Woman: called "Spirit Woman in White" in the above story). ^
⁵ Mini Sota Makoce: Present-day Minnesota. ^
⁷ Bwaanag ("Roasters") is how the Ojibweg called the Dakhóta after their habit to roast dogs for food. Bwaan is the singular form of Bwaanag. ^