“Everyone has the right to feel good about who they are, and for us, with all that we have been through since the coming of the visitors to our island, this place given to us by the creator – it’s been a long time that we have not felt that way, but everyone, and there is no exception to this, everyone has the right to feel good about who they are” – Onaubinisay
This statement, while seemingly uncomplicated, is a profound expression of an important aspect of the Anishinaabe worldview and serves as a guide for how we as Anishinaabe peoples can heal the wounds in our communities. As a result of the legacy of the Residential School system, the loss of land, language and culture, and other unresolved trauma – Indigenous peoples collectively and individually – have existed for a long time without the ability to feel good about who we are.
For Anishinaabe peoples, material culture carries so much meaning. Moccasins don’t just cover our feet, they connect us to our mother the earth – they are how we leave spiritual tracks for our descendants to follow. Our floral beaded vests aren’t just for warmth, they express our appreciation for life. Our medallions are not just jewelry, they express our spiritual identities and let creation know something about us before we even say “Boozhoo.” Items and objects which in other cultures would just be tools or accessories, are for us living beings, they are our relatives, we dress them up, to protect them and to show our appreciation for the work they do for us.
Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig is a unique and beautiful Anishinaabe educational institution, located in Bawaating (Sault Ste Marie). Shingwauk is the embodiment of the vision of Chief Shingwaukonse (1773-1854) who spoke of a “teaching wigwam” where the children of his community could learn the skills and tools of the new society that has come to our lands. His vision was taken over and corrupted by church and government officials and it became a sad period in our history. Located on the site of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School, and in partnership with Algoma University, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig offers two, one-of-a-kind undergraduate degree programs, Anishinaabe Studies and Anishinaabemowin. Continue reading