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Living with Animals

Living with Animals: Ojibwe Spirit Powers

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Living with Animals
    Book Description:

    Living with Animalspresents over 100 images from oral and written sources - including birch bark scrolls, rock art, stories, games, and dreams - in which animals appear as kindred beings, spirit powers, healers, and protectors.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6704-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-2)

    This book is about the Ojibwe peoples of the Great Lakes region (Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario) and parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In the examination of the Ojibwe/Chippewa Medicine Society, the Midewiwin, and of Ojibwe societies in general, we focus on the animals that “inhabit” the ascending rungs on that society’s ladder. We conclude that the animals used as symbols in the medicine rituals express the cultural principles of the various Ojibwe nations. In this sense, Ojibwe songs, words, and drawings on birch bark scrolls embody cultural ideals.

    While the nineteenth-century Medicine Society had a formative influence on Ojibwe...

  5. 1 The Grand Medicine Society, the Midewiwin
    (pp. 3-47)

    There was one society or gathering at the heart of Ojibwe life: the Midewiwin, whose members were called Mide. It was also referred to as the Grand Medicine Society, and it had been given to the Ojibwe by the Great Spirit. Central to the Midewiwin were ceremonial and song scrolls and performances.

    There are other names that describe the Midewiwin: mystic rite, mystic rite of the sacred paint, mystic rite of the ghost, mystic rite of the serpent, mystic rite of the attendants. Fred K. Blessing writes that “the correct Ojibwa name for the Mide Lodge was Mah nee doo...

  6. 2 “Paths of the Spirit”: Moral Values in the Writings of Four Nineteenth-Century Ojibwe in the Spirit of the Midewiwin
    (pp. 48-79)

    From an examination of the Ojibwe Medicine Society, we learn about the meaning and value of life both for individuals and for communities. The society’s lodge was open to the sky, to specific seasons of the year, and to the winds; songs, words, and events revealed the proper ways to think and act. In the lodge performances, the world was a kindred being to humans; the world gave to and beckoned humans. In the Medicine Lodge ceremonies, however, humans were not alone; there was a symbiosis of humans and animals, who shared the same space; at many times and in...

  7. 3 Otter, the Playful Slider
    (pp. 80-93)

    We have noted the reciprocal and quasi-identical nature of human–animal relationships in Ojibwe cultures: humans are like animals and can be transformed into animals; animals are like humans and can be transformed into humans. Because of this kinship and near identity, animals have played a significant role in the consciousness of the Ojibwe in general and in that of their leaders. This close relationship with animals has often regulated their experiences. As noted earlier, otter was one of the animals involved in stories of origins and in bringing the Midewiwin to the Ojibwe. In that Medicine Society, otter was...

  8. 4 Owls: Images and Voices in the Ojibwe and Midewiwin Worlds
    (pp. 94-114)

    In the previous chapter we focused on otter, the animal on the first level of the Midewiwin healing society. For the Great Lakes Ojibwe, otter was present in many ways: as an experienced corporeal reality in nature; as represented in stories and on scrolls and medicine bags; and in non-figurative patterns. We contended that otter had a vivid and expansive presence and was a powerful force not only in Ojibwe life generally but also in the ritual and life of Mide practitioners. Since otter informed the spiritual practices of the Midewiwin so thoroughly, Mide leaders brought with them the values...

  9. 5 Omnipresent and Ambivalent Bears
    (pp. 115-167)

    There are two ways of perceiving and describing bears. One way is to use a Western scientific lens to classify them and recount their actions and characteristics. The second way is to use an Aboriginal lens to narrate episodes of encountering them. We will use both of these lens to describe bears physically. Representational, ceremonial, patterned, and storied approaches to bears will be considered later. Bears are present everywhere in nineteenth-century Ojibwe cultures and have many, often paradoxical characteristics.

    In the scientific and Western way, the bear is perceived in its relatedness to humans and their enterprises. Thus, the bear...

  10. 6 Water Creatures
    (pp. 168-192)

    According to nineteenth-century Ojibwe testimonies, there are several dialectical processes in their animal life world. One general dialectic, and quite an obvious tension-laden movement, is between sky birds and sea creatures; another is among the sea creatures themselves; another is between the Great Lakes Ojibwe people and the combined sky world/water world. Each of these dialectics has an oppositional force, and it might be tempting to construe them as dualistic; evidence, however, points to a necessary convergence of these forces – most often a beneficial one for the Anishinaabe. We will begin by examining the water creatures themselves.

    From the perspective...

  11. 7 Thunderbirds
    (pp. 193-218)

    In this chapter we depart from our general schema, focusing on the actions and symbolism of avian creatures rather than on their physical appearance.

    One approach to the existence of creatures of the upper world and those of the waters is to pose them in opposition to each other. Many images and sounds indicate that this is appropriate. According to Richard Dorson, the creatures of the upper world – the thunders – engage in an ongoing battle with the creatures of the under world, the serpents. As a logical continuation of this, Ojibwe regard the creatures of the sky as friendly toward...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-224)

    Nineteenth-century Ojibwe had a somewhat similar and reciprocal relationship with animals, as contemporary technological-industrial human beings do. Some animals provide companionship and can be enjoyed for their playful natures; some are prized for the protection they provide and for their food value. Some, like dogs in hunter-gatherer societies, can be trained for tasks and can work in coordination with their owners.

    Generally, pets can offer loyalty and can be prized for their attractiveness, their songs, their guardianship, and the mental and physical health benefits they provide. Humans who domesticate animals for subsistence or profit, those who use animals for experimentation,...

  13. Appendix A: Leadership among the Ojibwe
    (pp. 227-229)
  14. Appendix B: The Sweat Lodge
    (pp. 230-231)
  15. Appendix C: Bear as Celestial
    (pp. 232-234)
  16. Appendix D: Ojibwe Historical Relationship with Copper
    (pp. 235-238)
  17. Appendix E: Lacrosse and War
    (pp. 239-240)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 241-284)
  19. Archives and Collections
    (pp. 285-288)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 289-328)
  21. Index
    (pp. 329-335)