Our Culture

The Ojibwe (also Ojibwa), Anishinaabe, or Chippewa are one of the largest groups of Native American and First Nations Peoples on the North American continent. There are Ojibwe communities in both Canada and the United States. In Canada, they are the second-largest population among First Nations, surpassed only by the Cree.

Because many Ojibwe were formerly located around the outlet of Lake Superior, which the French colonists called Sault Ste. Marie, the early settlers referred to the Ojibwe as Saulteurs. Ojibwe who subsequently moved to the prairie provinces of Canada have retained the name Saulteaux. Ojibwe who were originally located along the Mississagi River and made their way to southern Ontario are known as the Mississaugas.

The Ojibwe Peoples are a major component group of the Anishinaabe-speaking peoples, a branch of the Algonquian language family, which includes the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree, Odawa and the Potawatomi. The majority of the Ojibwe peoples live in Canada. There are 77,940 mainline Ojibwe; 76,760 Saulteaux and 8,770 Mississaugas, in 125 bands, stretching from western Quebec to eastern British Columbia.

The Ojibwe Nation was the first to set the agenda with European-Canadian leaders by signing detailed treaties before they allowed many European settlers into their western areas.

Language

The Ojibwe language is known as Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwemowin, and is still widely spoken, but the number of fluent speakers has declined.  Today, most of the language's fluent speakers are elders.  A movement has picked up in recent years to revitalize the language, and restore its strength as an anchor of Ojibwe culture. Many decades of fur trading with the French established the language as one of the key trade languages of the Great Lakes and the northern Great Plains.

Spiritual Beliefs

The Ojibwe have a number of spiritual beliefs passed down by oral tradition under the Midewiwin teachings. These include a creation story and a recounting of the origins of ceremonies and rituals. Spiritual beliefs and rituals were very important to the Ojibwe because spirits guided them through life. Birch bark scrolls and petroforms were used to pass along knowledge and information, as well as for ceremonies. Pictographs were also used for ceremonies. 

The sweatlodge is still used during important ceremonies about the four directions, when oral history is recounted. Teaching lodges are common today to teach the next generations about the language and ancient ways of the past. The traditional ways, ideas, and teachings are preserved and practiced in such living ceremonies.

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The Ojibwe crafted the dreamcatcher. They believe that if one is hung above the head of a sleeper, it will catch and trap bad dreams, preventing them from reaching the dreamer. Traditional Ojibwe use dreamcatchers only for children, as they believe that adults should be able to interpret their dreams, good or bad, and use them in their lives.

The 7 Teachings

Among the Anishinaabe people, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, also known simply as either the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others.

Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabeg language, this word expresses not only "wisdom," but also means "prudence," or "intelligence." In some communities, Gikendaasowin is used; in addition to "wisdom," this word can also mean "intelligence" or "knowledge. 

Zaagi'idiwin—Love: To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gizhaawenidiwin is used, which in most context means "jealousy" but in this context is translated as either "love" or "zeal". Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.

Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ozhibwaadenindiwin or Manazoonidiwin.

Aakode'ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means "state of having a fearless heart." To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use either Zoongadikiwin ("state of having a strong casing") or Zoongide'ewin ("state of having a strong heart").

Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean "righteousness."

Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean "compassion." You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this with Bekaadiziwin, which in addition to "humility" can also be translated as "calmness," "meekness," "gentility" or "patience."

Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

The Medicine Wheel

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The Medicine Wheel is an intergal part of the Ojibwe culture. The Anishnaabek often referred to the medicine wheel as the CIRCLE OF LIFE symbolizing the natural cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. 

The Medicine Wheel is viewed in a clockwise direction. East will be to the viewer's right, south on the bottom and west on the left. In native culture we start in the east and rotate to the south and west, arriving at the north circle on top. 

4 Medicine Wheel COLORS
East - Zaawaa -Yellow
South - Miskwaa - Red
West - Mkade - Black
North - Waabishkaa - White 

4 Races of Man - The 4 Brothers
East - Niibiish aabooke ininwag - Yellow
South - Anishinaabek - Red
West - Mkade ininwag - Black
North - Zhaaganaashag - White 

4 Natures of Man
East - Physical
South - Emotional
West - Mental
North - Spiritual 

4 Hills (Stages) of Man
East - Binoojiinhsag - Childhood
South - Shki niigi - Adolescence
West - Gitziimak - Adult
North - Gchi epiitzjiik - Elder 

4 Phases of Health
East - Physical
South - Social
West - Intellectual
North - Spiritual 

4 Grandfathers / Grandmothers
East - Waabinong - Beginning
South - Zhaawinong - Going Along
West - Epngishmok - Getting Settled
North - Giiwednong - Going Home 

4 Seasons
East - Mnookmi - Spring
South - Niibin - Summer
West - Dgwaagi - Autumn
North - Biiboon - Winter  

4 Times of the Day
East - Sunrise
South - High Noon
West - Sunset
North - Night

4 Basic Elements
East - Nbiish - Water
South - Noodin - Wind
West - Aki - Earth
North - Ishkode - Fire 

4 Directions
East - Waboon
South - Shawan
West - Ningabianong
North - Kewadin 

4 Sacred Plants
East - Semaa - Tobacco - Prayer, renewal of life.
South - Giizhik - Cedar - Courage, cleansing, growth, express feelings.
West - Mmuskode-washk - Sage - Purifies, introspection, direction we go when we change worlds in death.
North - Wiingashk - Sweetgrass - Invites in good.

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