Origin of the Ojibwe

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According to the Ojibwe oral history, seven great miigis (radiant/iridescent) beings appeared to the peoples in the Waabanakiing (Land of the Dawn, i.e., Eastern Land) to teach them the mide way of life.

One of the seven great miigis beings was too spiritually powerful and killed the peoples in the Waabanakiing when they were in its presence. The six great miigis beings remained to teach, while the one returned into the ocean.

The six great miigis beings established doodem (clans) for the peoples in the east, symbolized by animal, fish or bird species. The five original Anishinaabe doodem were the Wawaazisii (Bullhead), Baswenaazhi (Echo-maker, i.e., Crane), Aan’aawenh (Pintail Duck), Nooke (Tender, i.e., Bear) and Moozoonsii (Little Moose), then these six miigis beings returned into the ocean as well. If the seventh miigis being stayed, it would have established the Thunderbird doodem.

At a later time, one of these miigis appeared in a vision to relate a prophecy. It said that if the Anishinaabeg did not move further west, they would not be able to keep their traditional ways alive because of the many new settlements and pale-skinned peoples who would arrive soon in the east. Their migration path would be symbolized by a series of smaller Turtle Islands, which was confirmed with miigis shells (i.e., cowry shells). After receiving assurance from their “Allied Brothers” (i.e., Mi’kmaq) and “Father” (i.e., Abenaki) of their safety to move inland, the Anishinaabeg gradually migrated west along the Saint Lawrence River to the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing, and then to the Great Lakes.

The first of the smaller Turtle Islands was Mooniyaa, where Mooniyaang (present-day Montreal) developed. The “second stopping place” was in the vicinity of the Wayaanag-gakaabikaa (Concave Waterfalls, i.e., Niagara Falls). At their “third stopping place”, near the present-day city of Detroit, Michigan, the Anishinaabeg divided into six groups, of which the Ojibwe was one.

The first significant new Ojibwe culture-centre was their “fourth stopping place” on Manidoo Minising (Manitoulin Island). Their first new political-centre was referred to as their “fifth stopping place”, in their present country at Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie).

Continuing their westward expansion, the Ojibwe divided into the “northern branch”, following the north shore of Lake Superior, and the “southern branch”, along its south shore.

As the peoples continued to migrate westward, the “northern branch” divided into a “westerly group” and a “southerly group”. The “southern branch” and the “southerly group” of the “northern branch” came together at their “sixth stopping place” on Spirit Island (46°41′15″N 092°11′21″W / 46.68750°N 92.18917°W / 46.68750; -92.18917) located in the Saint Louis River estuary at the western end of Lake Superior. (This has since been developed as the present-day Duluth/Superior cities.) The people were directed in a vision by the miigis being to go to the “place where there is food (i.e., wild rice) upon the waters.” Their second major settlement, referred as their “seventh stopping place”, was at Shaugawaumikong (or Zhaagawaamikong, French, Chequamegon) on the southern shore of Lake Superior, near the present La Pointe, Wisconsin.

The “westerly group” of the “northern branch” migrated along the Rainy River, Red River of the North, and across the northern Great Plains until reaching the Pacific Northwest. Along their migration to the west, they came across many miigis, or cowry shells, as told in the prophecy.