Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Historical Overview

THE PEOPLE’S NAME
The Chippewa proudly referred to themselves as Anishinabe meaning “THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE.”  The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are primarily members of the Pembina Band of Chippewa.  Descendence may include intermarriage with other Chippewa bands, Cree, and other nations who make up the membership of the Turtle Mountain Band.

The name Chippewa, a mispronunciation of Ojibwa, Ojibway, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, and Anishinabe are all names that refer to the same group of people.  The word “Ojibwa” refers to “something puckered up.”  One theory is that it comes from the way in which the people made their moccasins.  For the purpose of this document, the term “Ojibway” is used in this guide when referring to the tribes’ early history.  The term “Chippewa” is used, after European contact.

 
The Ojibway are members of the Algonquin language group, which are located from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, and from Hudson Bay to North Carolina.   Other tribes in this language group are the Cree, Ottawa, Sauk, Fox, Menominee, Potawatomi, Miami, Shawnee, Delaware, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, and the Arapaho.  Scholars have established this classification by language, but this does not mean that the tribes were closely related or that they were allies.
 
INTRODUCTION
The Ojibway of this continent have their own creation story.  The following creation story has been recorded on birch bark scrolls and passed down orally through generations.  The Ojibway believe they have always lived in North America.  It was during the winter season that elders recounted tribal stories and events.  The Ojibway describe their beginning in the following creation story.
 
Ojibway Creation Story
When Ah-ki’ (the Earth) was young, it was said that the Earth had a family. Like in a family, they had responsibilities both spiritually and physically.  The Creator of this family is Kitchie Man-i-to’ (Great Mystery or Creator).  He is like the great grandfather who has all the knowledge, wisdom and is always there…in a spiritual sense.  Nee-ba-gee’-sis (the Moon) means heavenly being that watches over us while we are sleeping in the spiritual sense, and is referred to as Grandmother because she, like in all families, watches over us while we are sleeping in a physical sense.  Gee’-sis (the Sun) means heavenly being watching us during the day.  And is also referred to as Grandfather because he is the one who has the responsibility of watching over us during day.  The Earth is said to be a woman and is also referred to as our mother because she gives you life, protects, and nurtures you.  In this way it is understood that a woman preceded man on Earth. 
 
Long ago, Kitchi Manitou had a dream:  He saw the sky filled with the sun, earth, moon and stars.  He saw the earth covered with mountains and valleys, lakes and islands, prairies and forests.  He saw trees, flowers, grass and fruit.  He saw all manner of beings walking, flying, crawling and swimming.  He saw birth, growth, and death.  And he saw some things that lived forever.  Kitchi Manito heard songs and stories, he touched wind and rain, he experienced every emotion and he saw the beauty in each of these things.
After his dream, Kitchi Manitou made rock, water, fire and wind.  Into each he breathed life and to each he gave a different essence and nature.  From these four elements Kitchi Manitou created the stars, sun, moon and earth.  Kitchi Manitou gave special powers to enhance all of his creations.  To the sun he gave the power of light and heat. To the earth he gave growth and healing.  To the water he gave the power to purify and renew.  And to the wind he gave the power of direction, voice of music and the breath of life.
On the new earth, Kitchi Manitou made mountains, valleys, plains, lakes, islands and rivers.  Everything had its place on the new earth.  Next, Kitchi Manitou sent his singers in the form of birds to the Earth to carry the seeds of life to all of the sacred directions.  Four Directions: Wauban (east), Shawan (south), Ningabian (west) and Keewatin (north).  Two other sacred directions were the Sky above and the Earth Below.  In this way life was spread across the earth.  The Creator made the plants.  There were four kinds: flowers, grass, trees, and vegetables.  To each plant he gave the spirit of life, growth, healing and beauty.  And he placed each one where it would be most beneficial.  Kitchi Manitou then created the animals and gave each of them special powers.  All of these parts of life lived in harmony with each other.
 
Kitchi Manitou then took four parts of Mother Earth and blew into them using a Sacred Shell.  From this union of the Four Sacred Elements and his breath, man was created.
 
It is said that Kitchi Manitou then lowered man to the Earth.  Thus, man was the last form of life to be placed on the Earth.  From this Original Man came the A-nish-i-na’-be people. In the Ojibway language if you break down the word Anishinabe, this is what it means:
 
ANI NISHINA ABE
 From whence lowered the male of the species
                                     
                              
Kitchi Manitou created us in his image.  We are natural people.  We are a part of the Mother Earth.  We live in brotherhood with all that is around us.  Although last and weakest of his creations, we were given the greatest gift of all the power to dream.  Thus, Kitchi Manitou has brought his dream to life.
 
Man, as the last of Kitchi Manitou’s creation, regarded plants, animals, and all of creation as elders because those life forms were created first.
 
The Great Flood
Stories were always a way of teaching.  The following legend refers to the Ojibway’s oral legend of the great flood.
 
Sky Woman looked down upon the waters that covered the earth after the great melting of the ice.  She saw a Giant Turtle (who was called Mekinok) in the water and came down to stand upon his strong back.  Then, she summoned Muskrat to dive down in the water as far as he could – to find a part of the earth.  Three times he dived, but cam up empty.  The fourth time, Muskrat was gone a very long time.  Sky Woman grew weary, but she waited patiently and prayed.  Finally, she saw a gleam of bubbles far down in the depths.  Soon, Muskrat broke the surface of the water gasping for breath, but he had a piece of mud in his paws.  Sky Woman thanked Muskrat and told him that he would always have a home on the land and in the water as well.  She then took the wet dirt into the palm of her hand, dried it and blew gently, to the north, to the east, the south and the west.  Whenever the dust from the dirt went, land came up around the Giant Turtle.  Soon the land completely encircled Mekinok.  And Mekinok became Turtle Island, the center of the world and the birthplace of the Anishinabaug, the original people.  As the land grew, even Mekinok became covered with topsoil and the Anishinabug called him Mekinok Wajiw (the mound of earth that is a turtle).  Today, it is called Turtle Mountain. .
 
The Birth Of Nanabozho
Many tribes have stories, which include a “spirit or trickster” character.  This character’s role was to explain and teach lessons of value.  Nanabozho is a spirit character of Ojibway legends.
An elderly woman lived with her daughter in a small home in the woodland country.  The old woman warned her daughter not to sit facing the West.  One day when the sun was warm and shining bright, her daughter forgot her mother’s warning and went outside and sat facing West.  Suddenly she felt the cool west breeze chill her body.  She ran to tell her mother what had happened.  “You should have listened to me,” said her mother.  Soon, the daughter became ill.  Before she died, she dripped blood onto a piece of bard that was in the room.  The old lady put her daughter to rest and placed the bark aside.  One day she looked at the bark and found that the drop of blood on the bark had begun to grow.  She watched it grow until it grew into a baby.  “What is happening?” she asked.  “O Nokomis!  Do you know me?” asked the baby.  “I am your grandson, Nanabosho.”

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© 2012 Turtle Mountian Band of Chippewa Indians. Site created and maintained by KK BOLD