Please keep in mind that these are my own personal reflections on the Anishnaabe way of life that I live and would like to share with you. Bear in mind that traditionally, ‘teachings’ are passed down orally through ceremonies, stories, songs and other traditional methods. Then you are responsible to honour those teachings, live that way of life and share the teachings with your family and others. This provides only a sampling of this way of life.
Spiritual Name and Clan
First and foremost, it is very important to introduce myself so that the Creator know who is talking. Memashkegaabowek ndizhinikaaz. Adik ndoodem. “Standing Strong” is my Spiritual name and my clan is Caribou. I received this second spiritual name and my clan at a ceremony with Harry Windigo. My spiritual role is a clan mother and lodge keeper.
There are specific times, places and methods to pick medicines. I learned how valuable medicines originally from Blackfeet Indians from South Dakota. My youngest son was deathly ill from asthma and he was taking an experimental drug for his illness as other treatments were not working. I was introduced to a mint tea (medicine) called Na-Da-Wah tea and taught how to make it for him. I was extremely amazed at how well he responded to this way of healing which was unfamiliar to my family as I was not raised as an Anishnaabe person. I was raised as a Roman Catholic.
Shortly after this positive experience my youngest daughter was a small baby and suffering from ear aches. Antibiotics were no longer working and she had been crying literally for days. I learned of the benefits of wild rose tea and without formal teachings, proceeded to harvest and make some tea for this young baby. I mixed the tea in her baby bottle and within 24 hours she gratefully felt relief and stopped screaming!
So as a result of these very valuable tools, I was now extremely interested in learning more about traditional medicines. I would be happy to take you with me to pick the next time.
The medicine wheel has been a huge component in my professional work (Cindy Crowe Consulting) as well as my cultural work through the teaching lodge.
When conducting strategic planning in communities, I have found that Asset Mapping is a practical strategic planning tool which is a more traditional way to evaluate balance and assess performance measurement within a community and develop holistic strategic planning and community reviews. The Asset Wheel is used to plot identified assets within the four quadrants namely: physical, emotional-social, mental-intellectual, and spiritual-cultural (based on the Medicine Wheel teachings) as well as within the five rings (or circles) of the asset wheel i.e. economic, physical, community, people and child and family (this portion of the wheel will likely need to be adapted specifically for this project).
Once a community is able to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of their community’s assets (through the exercise of plotting on the Asset Wheel), it makes it easier for the focus group (representatives from various sectors of the community) to identify firm objectives and associated activities which will promote ‘balance’ within the community and assist with their community’s strategic planning.
Of course, the medicine wheel is also a valuable tool within cultural work as well. While working with youth in the community, a visual is always beneficial to explain methodology. One example of this is at a closed detention youth incarceration unit, I worked with the young men to create and demonstrate the teachings of a medicine wheel onto a huge blanket which is now housed in the gym of this correctional facility.
I received formal training concerning the four sacred medicines during traditional ceremonies in Shoal Lake. These are very old, very sacred and very special ceremonies. It takes much dedication and much work and preparation to be ready for these ceremonies. I learned that tobacco was the ‘chief’ of the medicines: asemaa. The other three medicines are: cedar, sage and sweet grass. Each one has its own healing properties and teachings associated with it.
The first time I received an eagle feather was a reminder of receiving my spiritual name and clan. I was so excited and so proud of this sacred item that I decided to make a feather carrier. I had seen a few examples but I wanted to make something extra special. I went to a lumber store and found some ‘cedar’ boards that were thin enough to fold into two protecting the feather. I wanted to use cedar as it is one of the sacred four medicines.
I did not have a model or pattern but I had the intention to make a very special feather carrier. I used hide and material and had an artist friend of mine paint some patterns onto some hide. The finished product is very unique. Following this I was honoured by an Elder that has since passed on, Alfred Henderson requested that I make a feather carrier for their drums’ feathers. I have made others as gifts and I have taught young men in open detention centers how to make feather carriers.
The first time that I learned how to make a dreamcatcher was after I moved back to Thunder Bay in 1994. My brother taught me how to make the more modern version of a dreamcatcher. I then taught my children. They then made dreamcatchers for everyone for Christmas that year. I still have one of those original dreamcathers which is almost twenty years old now! The Dreamcatcher was helpful for my children when they were young because it helped them with bad dreams. It is understood by some that dreamcatchers are a symbol of unity. I have seen older versions of dreamcatchers which are quite different from the more modern version today.
Signed Cindy Crowe,