On this episode of Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa we have a conversation with Gordon Jourdain about his recollections of his family's activities in the late summer and fall seasons. Gordon Jourdain grew up in the Ojibwe community of Lac La Croix in Ontario.
Ojibwe Stories: Gaganoonididaa is produced by KUMD and the Department of American Indian Studies at UMD, with funding provided in part by the UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions, and by The Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Ojibwe language-related content in this episode:
Most of the times, in the summer, actually every day we swam in the water. But, we also used watercraft. Where most of the people that I know, my age and younger, at the village where I grew up, are expert canoeists, and swimmers. And I had people who can go through the forest and waterways at night and still find where they’re going. I know many of my cousins are like that, my brothers too. We spent a lot of time playing in the forest of, of course, we never had any store-bought toys to play with. We hardly had any western clothing to wear. When we went swimming we would just use a shirt like this and tie it over ourselves to go swimming. Or if we were alone, we’d just go skinny dipping with the boys. That’s what I remember most. And we used to always go practice our hunting prowess with slingshots and we made bows and arrows and we… I want to even say that some of my friends even subsisted on eating birds and fish and plants and berries, because we didn’t have any kind of store to go buy sweets from.
I remember, it may sound cruel, but eating all kinds of different birds. Chickadees, robins, woodpeckers. They were tasty, but we were practicing our hunting skills indirectly until our parents or our grandparents were comfortable enough to let us go off with… you know, firearms. We were properly, not through lessons, but through talking about safety with firearms. I didn’t have a firearm in my hand until I was probably fourteen years old, but I knew all about it prior to that, and how to safely walk with one of those. And how to handle it and everything because to an Ojibwe or to a traditional person, a firearm is a living spirit that you have to know how to handle. And canoes, we didn’t get on those until we were probably around that same—well, at least I didn’t. I didn’t get on them until I actually really knew how to handle one of those, because it’s serious, you could get into a lot of trouble
So, that’s how it was like, every day of our existence was indirectly related to a formal education on the things that we needed to learn to survive. They weren’t formal at all, like, “Today, your lesson will be how to handle a canoe!” It wasn’t like that. But everything that we did, we were trained, not just by our parents. Our brothers, our cousins, our aunts, everybody in the community took part or participated in ensuring that these children that are in the community are being educated properly with ethical and moral values and as you know, in the naming ceremony, you have wen’ens there, and they are the ones that are given the responsibility by using tobacco to ensure that our little children are going to be given the proper training or education, if you want to call it that. That is our responsibility as wen’ens to do that. It's important we do that, right.
Of course, yeah, and sometimes, you know, our parents do not have their eyes on us all the time, but we have older siblings, we have uncles or aunts that say, “Hey, hey, hold on here. Let me show you how to do that,” or “Let me help you with that.” It’s not a scolding, it could be if it’s something that’s really, really serious, that we’re not supposed to be doing, but it’s a healthy scolding. It’s not like, just a whack the child, but to teach them discipline.
Back then, is that the way people handled bad behavior? They handled it differently? Was there more scoldings? Was it different?
Yeah, it was extremely different, and that is what is permeating through our discussion is, we handle conflict in an extremely different way than do other ways of handling things. Right. Um, my mother was, we didn’t want to mess with her. She was a strict disciplinarian compared to my father. My father was really, really, gentle. My father never raised his voice, but my mother was the opposite. They were like two extremes! But they kept most of us on the straight and narrow, and so did everybody in the community. Everybody was involved the that. But now you can’t do that. In other spaces, you can’t do that, and that’s how it’s getting to be in the community where I grew up, is the parents will come and scold you if you say anything to their children.
But back then it was okay.
Yep, yeah, it was okay. If I did anything and I knew I did, my mother would say, “You know what? Your aunt came here today.” I’m like, I’d start crying.
As an educator now, do you think that approach is better, even in our more westernized society today? Having that group approach to it?
You know, personally, my philosophy is, as an adult, and I feel very privileged to be able to have a classroom full of children, and I’m honored to be able to be in that position, and I know it’s a tremendous responsibility for me to ensure that all the children that are in my classroom and how they deal with others in the school, is in a healthy way.
For me, that’s what I believe. Getting back to, kind of, your growing up, was there a lot of movement with this, you know? Having to go out and, you know, do these different things in order to survive? Like we had to pick up and say, you know, “We’re going here today to do, you know, whatever, berry-picking.”
We did everything by the seasons, so that would determine what the activity would be. All the 13 moons, of the cycle of our journey around the sun. That would determine what we did, but I remember, as a child, it was always active. Everybody was outside. Nobody was inside. Except the elders maybe, but most of them would be outside, you know, sharing their knowledge with everybody else, but now when I go to that community where I grew up, there’s no children anywhere.
Yep! No adults doing anything outside. Nobody out on the lake doing things, because they have a road and they all have vehicles now.
And what I said was, and I put myself in that situation, but I left the reservation when I was like eighteen years old. I struggled for a long time trying to understand how to be, like, in a society that I didn’t grow up in. But it’s because it’s relatively new for the people where I grew up at, it’s difficult for them to instantaneously understand what’s going on with these things until, maybe, it’s too late.
Getting back to kids and how they should behave, kind of, today, this time of year. Are there certain things that we should kind of keep an eye on our kids for? And I guess, for example, is that, you know, when your kids are out by the water, they shouldn’t throw rocks at the lake, things like that. Are there certain ways that we should be mindful as parents that kids show respect for the outdoors?
Having grown up in a tremendously strong traditional Ojibwe upbringing, of course I had these ideas that I’m talking about when I say one voice, I shared them with you because I went through a transformational stage where at one time, I only had one voice in my head that explained everything, but because of forcing myself to be in uncomfortable spaces where I can’t be myself or try to explain who I am to others. I have learned to understand and accept a lot of things. I’ll give you one example, there was this one idea that I had that the way that I was raised, traditionally, was the only way that you could be raised to be an Anishinaabe person. With the language, with the ceremonies, with adapting to the environment that you’re living in, being able to follow the seasons. I thought that was the only way to understand who you are as an Anishinaabe person.
Well, I think differently now. That is a part of that. I also understand now that there were ferocious, vicious policies, institutions, governments, schools, churches, that were mandated or given the responsibility to remove who we are as Anishinaabe people, and as a grandfather, a father, and a brother, and a son, of course, as a first language speaker I would, to save my children from the harassment of western society, I would not teach them the language. I understand what that is now, and I don’t want to say I know why they did that, but I think I would have, being in the same situation, I would have not spoken Ojibwe to my children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that what you are saying to them in English does not come from an understanding of who you are as a native American person. There are a lot of students that I talked to that I have also, in Ojibwe Immersion, that they are relearning the language that they should have learned and some of them have. And you and I have talked about this before in another show, they just can’t learn it as fast as somebody who’s not native American. And I think, at one time, we said, “maybe our methods are different in teaching it.” We went through all that in a previous show, but I want to encourage those people that, because their grandparents or their parents did not speak to them in Ojibwe does not necessarily mean that they do not know how to be Ojibwe or native American thinking people. So, I’ve been transformed that way because I went out and met some very wonderful people who were not like me and we need to be able to break away from the mold of living in communities that are controlled by the one voice that I keep talking about.
Nookomis gii-ayaa goda gii-kichi-aya’aawi aazha gii-on...gii-ondaadiziyaan maagizhaa ge awashime aa...ingodwasimidana gii-taso-biboon...gii-taso-biboone. Kakina dash aa... gaa-,gaa-kikenimaad aa Anishinaabeg gii-kichi-ayaawiwag. Minziwe...minziwe gii-papaa-izhaa. Gaa’n wiikaa ingoji-gii-ayaasii gii-pwaanawi’osii ingoji ji-izhaad, miigo maa gaa-onji-kashkitood ingoji ji-izhaad onzaam.. gii-nitaa...gii-mishkawaadiziwidog gii-anishinaabeyiwid. Gaa’n memooch gii-shaaganashiimosii miigo maa gaa-onji-kikendang aaniin ge-izhichiged, ge-inaadawi’od ingoji. Jiima’aaganing ingii-izhaamin, aa Namino-zaaga’iganing ingii-izhaamin, aa Zaabiikonezaaga’iganing ingii-izhaamin, minziwe ingii-pabaa-izhaamin.
Minziwe gaye ogii-kikenimaa’ aa’aa’ kichi-anishinaabe’. Mii dash igo weweni aapiji wiinge! Gii-kichi-minwendamoog aa…gii-waabandiwaad, gaawiin memooch he’ gii-madweyaako’igesii ishkwaandem, “Hey! Indaa-biindige na?” Haa! Miigo bizaan e baakaakwanang ishkwaandem biindiged, wa! Wiinge minwendamoog. “Howa! Naginiin dagoshin Bepakwewidamook!” Wewiib a.. weweni odizhi’aawaan, geniin sago weweni indizhi’igoog. Aa...nibi nimina’igonaanig, indashamigonaaning, am...gaganoonidiwag apane dadibaajimotaadiwag, aa...miinawaa dash he’ii odoozhi’ayaanaawaa ge-, aandi ge-izhi-nibaayaang, Nook-, Nookomis.
Mii apii gii-niibing biinash gii...gii-maajii-ziigong, biinash gii-ani-dagwaagig, gii-pabaa...gii-pabaa-mootshiwe, Nookomis. Gii-mootsidiwag Anishinaabeg apane, naanooj igo gii-, maagizhaa gii-mootsidiwag aa...ando-mawinzowaad, maagizhaa gii-nagishkodaadiwag aa...ando-a - manoomimikewaad, gakina gii-minowaanigoziwag, apane.
Gii-bimaadizid dash Nookomis odaabaan ingii-pimibizo’igoomin apane ha’aa booziwi-odaabaan, (Taxii) ogii-izhinikaanaan ako...mii a gaa-pimibizoyaang gii-izhaayaang ingoji. Ingoding ge ingii-, ingii-maajiinigonaan a niitawisiban, gii-kizhewaadizi aapiji, imaa gii-endaad he’iing Onaminozaaga’iganing. Ingii-pabaamiwinigonaanig bepakaan awiya Anishinaabeg. Mii eta go apii gaa-pabaa-ayaayaang gii-niibing. Gii a...gii...mmm...gii-oshpi-ziigong biinash a, gii-ani-osh, oshpi-, oshpi-dagwaagin. Gii-pabaa-mootshiwewag awiya, mii gaa-inaadizid a Nookomisiban, gii-pabaa-, gii-pabaamaadizi miziwe gii-izhaa, gaawiin wiikaa-onji-gii- a...gii-pwaanawi’osii ji-izhaa-ingoji, miigo bizaan, “Wa! Maajaadaa.”
I remember my grandmother only spoke Ojibwe, but that didn’t deter her from getting where she wanted to go, because everybody in her life and my life spoke Ojibwe. And, she would make arrangements and I don’t know how she did, because we didn’t have a phone, but we would fly out of the village where I grew up, go to Wishkojichaako-zaaga’iganing, Crane Lake, Minnesota, which was the closest community to ours that we could get to to have access to different forms of transportation. We would just get in the plane and fly out and go, and in the summertime, was later spring, little later fall, in between that time, that space of time, would be when we would travel to other communities. We would go live in Seine River for a month because we were… we still have relatives there. We’d go to Lake Vermillion for a month or so, we have relatives that way, then we’d go to Nett Lake, Minnesota, we have relatives there, too, and then we have relatives in Grand Portage, Minnesota.
So along that border country, all those people are interrelated, like we’re related to all of them. Especially my family, my mother’s family is from Minnesota, my dad’s is from Ontario, so we’re… I have a big family, and it’s through that network of family I believe we were able to get to where we wanted to go, despite my grandmother not speaking English. All my life I was her principle translator. So, I have an extremely high level of understanding of the original Ojibwe dialect where I come from. And traditionally, during that span, from late spring when the waterways would open, until later fall, when, of course, the animals would go to the deep forest, is socializing time.
And still, when I was growing up, was an extremely important time for us to leave the community where we were at to go and socialize with relatives. And of course, our main event for socializing these days are ceremonies. We go to powwows or we go to Mide or we go to big drum and we still have those, we still do that during that timeframe that I’m talking about. Or it could be just as family that goes to pick berries for the week, it’s miinan or one of the bigger events, and I don’t want to say that all the other ones are not as big or meaningful but the manoominike-giizis, where we go and gather wild rice. That’s another big time because people used to actually, go and live there. They didn’t have the cars to jump in. The canoe on the truck and go for the day and then come home. They actually, had to go live there for a week or two and that was a beautiful time for socializing and hunting, of course, there’d be ducks there. Ducks galore! In the rice fields. That’s what I was talking about in that little bit of Ojibwe that you heard. In the winter would be
Gii-ani-dagwaagig idash aa...mii apii aa gaa-ozhiitaawaad ha’aa niigi’igoog miinawaa nisayenyag he’ii gii-pagidaabiwag ogii-pagidaabiinaawaa he’ii biiminakwaan anaami- ...anaami a...anaami-mikomiing...anaamizigom ogii-atoonaawaa biiminakwaan. Miigo apii gii-ani-ayaag henh gii...gii-oshkaabaaneding, maagizhaa owe gii-apiitizid a mikom. Mikom gaawiin ayaasii goon. Mii apii zhiib-, zhii-, zhii-,zhiigo- a, anaamizigo-, anaamizigowebinamowaad he’ii, ingoding mitig odaabajitoonawaa ji-, ji-ayaawaad biiminakwaan. Gii-ishkwaa-giizhiitaawaad dash biiminakwaan mii sa iw gabe-biboon aa… giigoonh gidamwaa giigoonh. Mii imaa ezhi-bagida’waawaad aa...gii-, gii-oshkaabaaneding.
Miinawaa wanii’igewag aa, gii-onii’igewag indedeyiban miinawaa haa’aa nisayenyag gii-bibooninig ogii-nooji’awaa’ maanitaana’, amikon, zhaangweshiwan, nigig, gakina gegoo go. Wegodogwen igo ingoding ge a waawaashkeshiwan a obiinaawaan maajaawag aa geyabi gii-ayaag goda, jibwaa mashkawading maajaawag niisajiwan ako gii-izhaawag gii-ando-mishkwajiwag iwidi. Baamaa miinawaa gii-bimaadagaakbizowaad, gii-bimaadagaakowaad mii iw gii-pi-maajaawaad. Gabe’ii gii-inendiwag, ingoding a niizho-, niizho- anami’e-giizhik, maagizhaa ge ingo-, aa niiyo-anami’e-giizhik, ingo-giizis igo gii-inendiwag. Baamaa gii-miskawaakwadin mii iw dagoshinowaad. Wiinge ako ingii-kwiinawenimaa indedeyiban, ingii-kwenawenimaa, ingii-kwenawenimaag sago gakina.
Miigo miinawaa gaa-izhichigewaad gii-ani-, gii-ani-ziigong, gii-maajaawag, maajaawag...gabe’ii gii-inendiwag babaa-, babaa-onii’igewaad. Miigo miinawaa baamaa gii-nigidening, gii-ningizod goon, gii-baakibiigin ziibiin miinawaa zaaga’iganan mii iw bijiinag gii-pi-ayaawaad miinawaa gii-pi-giiwewaad. Mii gaa-izhichigewaad.
Gii-niibininig idash gii-ayaawag henh gii-pima’oozhiwewag imaa he’iing aa beshiw imaa ayaa he’ii aa endazhi-, gaa-tazhi-anokiiwaad gakina Anishinaabeg iwidi gaagii-tazhi-nitaawigiyaan.
In the fall, my father and my older brothers would prepare for trapping for the winter, and, for trapping season, because that would be the end of the fishing season for them, so later in the fall when the snow started… when it got colder and colder, they’d go down river and the sat in the canoes, and they’d go and freeze over there! I mean, I translate that, again, [OJIBWE], they went over there until everything froze over so they could walk back home across the ice. Sometimes that would be like two weeks or four weeks, but they would bring all their dried hides with them. Your beaver, your otters, and all those different kinds of hides that they would sell at a resort that was like three miles down from the village we were at. That’s where they would sell all their furs to. So, they’d trap for bear and animals all winter, and in the spring again, before the waterways would open, they’d go across the lakes and the rivers to get to where the trapping ground were and then they stayed there again for two to four weeks. Until the waterways open so they could bring their canoe back again. So that’s how they subsisted over the course of the year, and then in the spring, when everything opened up.
They’d be fishing guides from early spring to late fall, and then that’s when they would pay off their bills at the local general store or whatever that place was, so they’d work all summer and pay off their bills to get enough credit so they could go and trap for the winter, so it was cyclical like that. And I’m not sure how many people are still doing that at the village where I grew up. I think some of my cousins are still doing that, kind of subsistence.
So, the duck thing, how did that work? Because I’ve always wondered this, when you read different things and say, you know, the women knocked the rice… Well, first of all, was it just women knocking rice when you were growing up? Or was it both men and women?
I didn’t spend a lot of time in the rice fields with my parents because by the time that I was growing up, they had dammed the waterways to a level where they destroyed all the traditional ricing that, apparently, they used to do. But, there were some places that Nikensii-ziibing, this one place, it’s called Wild Goose River or whatever that is, nikens - “little goose.” That’s where my mother and I would go and I, this is what I related in one story, where I was, that’s where we would go and pick some rice.
After school, we’d drive over there and put in at least an hour of ricing. We wouldn’t get very much, but we’d go multiple times, and the other party I remember, going ricing with my friend Justin. And the rice was, like, really, really, high. How do we get it out? I remember we were trying to push him through the rice bed, he was trying to get at the rice. There were a few years when it was good that I was younger, like, in my teens, when I was able to go out there, like, I don’t know, sixteen, seventeen years old I guess, or younger. But now when I was a kid, I hardly ever went out with them. But I did a lot of hunting with my brothers and my cousins, and that’s where I know about ducks and I know how to prepare them, I know how to get the feathers off and cut up the ducks. Those are the things I learned from my mother.
So, would they do it at the same time, if they were out ricing, they might… would they have a gun with? Because I always wondered, because you pick up so many ducks when you’re out there.
Oh yeah, oh yeah, they’d have a shotgun with them, yep.
So, you’d just stop and, “hold on!”
Yep, “hold on! Here’s supper coming!” And, you know, they’d get deer, too, that way. They always carried a shotgun or at least a .22, because you always had to be prepared to survive and eat whatever was available or happened to be walking by. You always had to be prepared for that. And that’s what I remember is, the resort that I’m talking about is like, about, maybe three miles from the village I grew up, and the times when I talked about my father and my brothers would leave, that would be a hard time to move around. Because it would be too dangerous to walk on the water, and you had to go get things, so I would travel with my mom and my mom would show me how to trap beaver, and my mom also showed me how to hunt.
So, did you eat them?
Yeah. Yeah, we ate the beaver. My mom ate the muskrats, I didn’t. They would… she would put them in the oven and roast them. It was a delicacy for them, but…
Would it smell? The muskrat? When you cook them in the oven inside?
I can’t recall. Maybe that’s because I never ate them, because when I was a child, I was a really finnicky eater. And if something smelled, I didn’t eat it. My dad used to eat… he loved onions, and dang they stunk when I was a kid, but you know what? The funny thing is, I just love onions now. I accidentally tried them once and I just like how they taste, but as a kid, you’re finnicky.
Yeah, I mean, that’s pretty common though. Cause yeah, I didn’t like onions or peppers or anything until I was in my twenties, so… huh. Muskrat?
No, I never ate muskrat. I tried to, but all that stuff is real gamey. Beaver is real gamey too, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. If things are, like, smoked, it kind of gets rid of that gaminess stuff and it’s really, really, good. I like beaver when it’s smoked. I like Name too. Sturgeon, when it’s smoked. You can eat like carp or suckerfish when it’s smoked. It’s good, yeah. Smoked
wiiyaas, nooka’iiwagwaan, wow, that stuff is good.