Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

"Gabeshiwin" (The Camp) - P2


Nate Taylor hands out fishing rod prizes for race winners

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians hosted an Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp for youth on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, July 19 to 21, 2016 from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. for the fourth consecutive year on three hot but thankfully breezy days. The camp's location was at the Round House in the backwoods of Ponemah. Admission was free with transportation and meals provided.

The three-day Gabeshiwin (camp), hosted by Red Lake Immersion School, Red Lake Chemical Health and Red Lake Economic Development and Planning, featured eating traditional foods, lacrosse, moccasin game, plant gathering practices and identification, leatherwork crafts, dress making, traditional Anishinaabe teachings and more. Gabeshiwin is a part of Red Lake Nation's Ojibwemowin Revitalization efforts.

Concerned that language and tradition will disappear as elders move on, natives of Red Lake Nation - and across the country - are focused on language revitalization and related efforts to retain tribal culture. Much of indigenous culture depends on native language as many concepts just cannot be translated to English.

The camp was held appropriately at the Round House in Ponemah, near the Point, home to more than half of the remaining fluent Ojibwemowin speakers in the United States.

At camp, kids participated in native Ojibwe sports and crafts, ate traditional foods, and learned of traditional spiritual ceremonies and plant-gathering practices at Obaashiing, a village known for practicing many of the old ways.

By far this was the most well attended camp yet with 169 youth and elders attending on Day 2. The first year in 2013 only about thirty kids, 10 to 14 years-old attended, but has quickly grown to nearly five times that number in 2016. Kids came from not only Red Lake, but also Leech Lake, White Earth and Bemijigamaag. Organizers did not want to turn anyone away. Each day started off with a hearty breakfast of traditional foods which was served throughout the campout as part of the curriculum.

Nate Taylor, Immersion School Coordinator, and a major organizer of Gabeshiwin (the camp) provided some background. "Our language was basically stripped from us a generation or two ago. The children were forbidden to talk their native language," he said.

Taylor was recalling how US government authorities swept onto reservations and carried Ojibwe children off to boarding schools to assimilate to the white culture. The ripple effects of that action are still being felt by American Indians today.

"We feel if we can raise kids's self esteem their chance of using chemicals will be less,'' said elder and first speaker Murphy Thomas. "Self esteem is all tied up with knowing who you are and having a sense of pride in your heritage, language and culture."

"The overall philosophy is to re-connect all people to nature and inevitably to themselves,'' explained Rose Cloud, an elder and first speaker. "We know that history is a living part of the present.''

The several activities the kids would participate in they learned in to say in Ojibwemowin; Noopiming (Nature Walk), Makizintaagewin (Moccasin Game), Dewe'igan Naagamowining (Drum Teachings), Bagizong (Swimming), Baaga'adoowe (Lacrosse), Gigaanzomaawin (Commands), and Mino-Mashkiki (Good Medicine).

The youth also learned lessons in good living, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers; Nibwaakaawin (Wisdom), Zaagi'idiwin (Love), Minaadendamowin (Respect), Aakode'ewin (Courage), Gwayakwaadiziwin (Honesty), Dabaadendiziwin (Humility), and Debwewin (Truth).

Special Teaching Events

Off to the left, just as one entered the clearing near the Round House, a small campfire seemed curious. Greeting "Ole" Spears III was baking "Outside Bread," while visiting with his father, Spiritual Advisor and Hereditary Chief Greeting "Gus" Spears under a small canopy. First, in a cast iron pan, bread dough is placed. After some time browning, to finish the bake, Spears tilts the pan on its side, leaning it against a rock near the fire, and employs its reflective heat. Spears said the recipe is similar to fry bread, but more nutritious as it is not deep fried.

Daily Schedule

Things started off each day at 10:00 AM with a prayer and breakfast of traditional foods which was served throughout the camp-days as part of the curriculum. John and Carol Barrett were the cooks who parked their "chuck-wagon" (RV) close to the roundhouse and kept everyone well fed. After breakfast an Ojibwe cultural activity would take place. Lunch followed around noon.

Working on Ojibwe crafts such as, bead work, dress making and leather work, went on pretty much all the time, while being interspersed with natural foods lessons, plant identification, lacrosse, cultural lessons, and Ojibwemowin. Day 3 included swimming at the cut-off. At each day's end, Miigwechiwendam (Circle Time) was held. During this while, youth would hear words from elders and review the day's activities.

Staff from the Red Lake Language Revitalization group, Red Lake Chemical Health Programs, Economic Development & Planning, along with several fluent Ojibwemowin speakers of all ages, staffed the camp.

Day One: Tuesday, July 19

After a prayer and breakfast, the kids were given an introduction and orientation. An icebreaker of sorts was conducted by First Speaker Anna Gibbs, who directed a short story, complete with animal costumed kids, about how the bear lost his tail. The story was enjoyed by all.

Baaga'adowe and Noopiming

In the afternoon a mixed-aged groups went on field trips of plant identification for eating and medicine. Kids were reminded before they went off into the woods that there are many natural medicine all around us. The kids were told that sweet grass, sage, cedar, and tobacco are the sacred medicines used in our ceremonies.

Camp staff led groups on a Noopiming (nature walk). Along the path the group identified and discussed the uses of various, trees, shrubs and other plants. Staff showed different kinds of berries, some good to eat, some for medicine, and some not good to eat.

When coming across joomanan (grapes), guides instructed "if you take, put tobacco down and give thanks." The walk continuing the kids learned about ininaatig [sugar maple), provides sugar and syrup; all the several types of mitigomizh (oak) have acorns which are good for eating. From the ash is made lye for soap or for tanning hides. Rose hips are good for Vitamin C.

Meanwhile several boys and girls played Baaga'adowe (Lacrosse) with Dan Ninham tutoring. Ninham's first order of business was explaining, and demonstrating the use of the baaga'adowaan (lacrosse stick). The young people picked up the basics of the game quickly.

Beading, medicine pouch making, moccasin game and a lesson on drum and dance filled out the afternoon. This was followed by Circle Time, a review of the day and what they hope to learn tomorrow, and a traditional food dinner.

Day 2: Wednesday, July 20

In one corner of what was now the Baga'adowe field, and in the shade of a mitig (tree), Makizinitaagewin (the Moccasin Game) was played. Competing in the game of their grandfathers, two teams of boys (only males play) sit cross-legged on either side of a colorful blanket, while another boy taps a drum rhythmically - boom, boom, boom - throughout the play.

At mid morning, staff from the Red Lake DNR talked about jobs they did for the tribe. Jay Huseby talked about wildlife, Pat Brown talked about fishing, and Jeff Fossen talked about forestry. The kids had a lot of questions and some said that they hoped to one day do that kind of work for the tribe. 75 fishing rods were donated by the DNR for prizes at the camp.

Anokaajigan (Crafts)

After lunch, more breakout groups were held. Many children with leather making midewayaan (medicine bags) or asemaa (tobacco) pouches, beadwork, and other arts and crafts, still others played Lacrosse or went for nature walks. The moccasin game was played again, along with drum and dance teachings, and the continued play of Lacrosse.


Somewhat to everyone's surprise, at mid-afternoon, about 50 Chi-Mookomaanan come walking into the clearing having walked the path to the Round House from a bus parked at the highway, being to large to traverse the one car miikana to the Camp area. They were members of a Christian church in Ohio that comes to Red Lake on a "mission" every summer. They wanted to learn a little bit about Ojibwe culture and they had come to the right place. Fannie Miller made a short presentation, then took questions before camp staff shuttled the group back to their bus about an hour later.

Nearing the end of the day, Taylor organized some foot racing with the winners receiving fishing poles donated DNR for prizes. This was followed by Circle Time, with Sam Strong from Economic Development teaching the kids how to introduce themselves in Ojibwemowin. Those who did the best received prizes for the words and phrases. A review of the next day's activities was followed again by a traditional food dinner before the kids headed back home.

Day 3: Thursday, July 21

An overnight storm with strong winds threatened third day activities, but Ponemah was not as hard hit as some of the off-reservation communities, and the Camp would continue. After a prayer and hearty breakfast, time was used to go over the activities of the first and second day. Much conversation ensued between new or better friends following the morning circle review, while nearby...a few played what seemed to be a never-ending game of baaga'adowe. (Lacrosse)

In the afternoon the youth boarded vans traveling to the "cut-off" to swim. Elders stayed back telling stories to each other in Ojibwemowin, a language lesson in itself for those still learning.

Upon the return from the swim, Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, Frances "Frannie" Miller, and Carol Barrett, all first speakers, taught the kids about receiving a Spirit or Indian name.

The hot summer sun encouraged smiles and energy as Gaabeshiwin (The Camp) was coming to an end. All participants received t-shirts, and other gifts before closing words from staff and elders, and a traveling song. A last traditional dinner was consumed before the Round House was bid farewell.

Closing Words from Gichi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday) at the First Gaabeshiwin, 2013

"I've seen a lot of wisdom here. The kids picked up on what was going on right away and took a chance to express themselves. I taught no one, they taught me, they taught me what I don't know.

"Nothing is lost. Let the little ones live. No one is coming from across the sea to hurt them, they are going to sing the words of the old people."

This has been a powerful healing. Wisdom is here. Each child has a gift, we provided an opportunity. I don't want these kids to believe they have lost something. Yes, they are speaking our language, it is like singing, singing a song that the old ones want to hear. The young ones will never know there was a loss. We provided a place for them, this is where they are from. Quit teaching that they lost something. Our youth will pick it up, we just have to give them the opportunity. This has been nothing but learning, all will go away with something, all will go away as better people."

Post Script

If one spent time at the Ponemah Round House during this time, one could not help but learn. Words are inadequate to describe the happiness, excitement, and peace generated at this sacred place. Ojibwemowin was heard and spoken throughout the three day Gaabeshiwin by elders, teachers, and even some youth. Fluent speaking elders told important things for the youth to remember, the Ojibwe creation story and the importance of gratitude.

Among other revered practices, youth learned the practice of making tobacco offerings to the Creator, as a symbol for gratefulness, for providing waawaashkeshina (deer) and to the deer for giving up its life. "This is practiced with all living things taken from Mother Earth," Frances Miller reminded all.

The elders formed relationships with the young people as they taught them Ojibwemowin everyday phrases such as the often heard ambe (let's go), and gego (don't), along with being taught native names for plants and animals.

The visitors from Ohio pose with natives of a land never ceded

"The camp turned shy young men and women campers into more self-confident youth, and with that self-assurance comes better behavior in school and at home," Taylor concluded.

The Ojibwemowin Revitalization Elders Advisory Committee consists of; Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, Frances Miller, Anna Gibbs, Susan Johnson, Mary Lou Stillday, Eliza Johnson, Murphy Thomas, Donald Iceman Sr., Carol Barrett and John Barrett with more and more getting involved.

The language and culture Gaabeshiwin was sponsored by the Red Lake Chemical Health Programs, and Economic Development & Planning. Other gifts for the Gabeshiwin were water, gifts for door prizes, crock pot, three canopies, and many other items were donated by the Red Lake Nation Newspaper, Red Lake Nation College, Constitutional Reform Initiative, Children and Family Services, the Red Lake Donation Committee, and Seven Clans Casino.


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