The Anishinaabe, Ojibwes, known to the European as the Chippewas, are the people of the Great Lakes region in both the United States and Canada. This is the tribe I (Ayasha) am from. We are just one of the many Native American tribes who live today in North America. There are well over five hundred Native American tribes in the United States and more than six hundred in Canada.
At least three million people in North America consider themselves to be Native Americans. My ancestral roots come from Ontario Canada and Michigan. Many of my family members still live throughout Ontario Canada to the Upper Penninsula and down through the entire Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
Almost seven years ago I had moved to California. It is there I began to learn the ways of living for other tribes. Tribes are different in many ways. Their clothing they wear to powwows and ceremonies, the food they eat, their traditional versus modern ways, and so much more. Although some Ojibwe has conformed to modern ways of living, the Ojibwe tribe is more of a primitive tribe. Coming from a primitive way of living within the heart of the woodlands in Michigan to a more modern way of living in California had been quite the transition for me. At times my spirit feels as if it had been ripped out deep from within the deep rich soils of the earth and fresh clean air and thrown into a new world of hard, crusted, poisoned soil with polluted airs throughout. I am one of the Ojibwe who strives and is chosen by my elders to keep traditional ways as much as possible no matter which location I may be. Responsible for teaching the youth how to do this in today's modern age that tugs at the hearts and minds through a world that is fast evolving can be very hard and seem so impossible at times.
When I feel my spirit saddened by the ways of the world I find peace through my traditional ways. This strengthens me to remember my teachings and learn more about my ancestors' ways of living so that I can respect my culture and teach others how to. All that we do in life is an interconnected system of teachings relating to the seasons, directions, elements, colors and the cycle of life.
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For centuries, individual Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) bands moved with the seasons. We still do in many ways. Over the winter, my family goes hunting so that they can supply meat all year long for the family. There are still several family members, like all my uncle and many cousins who trap furs for tanning, trading and use throughout the tribe. In the spring, "sugar bush" camps and ceremonies begin to gather the family and friends together for maple tapping and birch basket making. We tap maple trees to make maple syrup and some still collect the sap in the birch bark containers. At this time the birch bark is also harvested for making berry harvesting baskets and canoes. The birch bark peels off the trees like butter when harvested in the spring so it is best for us to gather it at this time.
Many women and men begin to plant their gardens in the late spring-early summer throughout the dark rich soiled areas. Many of us Ojibwe grow what is called the Three Sisters Garden. You may never have heard of the Three Sisters, but they are a part of most of our everyday lives, and as we enter the fall season you see them everywhere. The "sisters" consist of corn (mandaamin), beans (mashkodesimin) and squash (okosimaan). These three plants were staple crops of many of the Northeast Native American tribes in the late prehistoric and historic periods. Evidence for these crops dates back to Central and South America, with histories in the more recent North American Southwest, Plains, and Eastern North America. They were transported to Europe, and Africa, where they are eaten and grown together, much as Native Americans like my tribe still does in this country.
In the summer, women and men still weave basket nets that they fish with from basswood twine. Men and women enjoy fishing the great lakes and many rivers throughout the entire summer season. This helps to provide fish throughout the year.
In the autumn, we harvest wild foods such as nuts, berries, and rice. Wild rice is very important to our tribe. One of the food staples particularly enjoyed by the Ojibwa and Menominee is wild rice, which is not a true rice but rather a cereal grass-Zizania aquatica-which grows in shallow lakes and streams. It ripens in late summer, usually from the middle of August to early September. Many Ojibwe much like myself enjoy eating wild rice. Wild rice is important in our diet even in today's modern world. Our tribe, the Ojibwe uses the birch canoes to harvest the rice. Ojibwe people use their birch canoes to catch the rice grains that they knock from the rice plants with special knocking sticks. Wild rice is a staple food for Great Lakes Indian people. Today most ricing fields are protected by the federal government and shared by all Indians equally, but many families still return to the same fields that are allotted to them by their tribal chiefs. Blackbirds, waterfowl, storms, and periods of drought all combine to determine a good or bad rice harvest. Dams erected many miles away can also affect the harvest, for wild rice grows in the shallow parts of lakes and streams, maturing best if a fairly constant water level is maintained.
In the winter, on the cold bitter lakes encased by thick layers of ice, you can find much Ojibwe fishing. I never enjoyed freezing my butt off all day for the possibility of catching a very minimal amount of fish.
Very happy to have returned to my homelands in the great state of Michigan.
If you enjoy learning of my lifestyle as a Native American Anishinaabe continue to read in my lifestyle blog. There is much more to learn while I adventure through this life on earth in all four directions.