In analogous western words. Atiso’kanak, directly translated

In the Native world, everything is related, everything is interrelated, nothing exists in isolation.

Leroy Little Bear, University of Lethbridge?What he the Indian seems to be interested in is the question of existence, of reality; and everything that is perceived by the sense, thought of, felt and dreamt of, exists.Paul Radin?In the Ojibwa’s worldview, the idea of “persons” extends its categorization greater than the confines of human beings, transcending to non-human or other-than-human “persons”. These “persons” can consist and reach the realms of the supernatural, mythical, and inanimate. There is no distinction between these “persons”, whether of the natural or animate form or whether not. This identity often holds that they have anthropomorphic qualities, which gives insight into the social organization of the Ojibwa peoples.

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Such is the concept of the wiindigoo, a monstrous creature that feeds on human flesh. To the Ojibwa, the wiindigoo is both an entity, with a “persons” identity and a metaphorical concept. The Ojibwa would perform satirical ceremonies, wiindigookaanzhimowin, during famines to reinforce the forbidden wiindigoo. To them, it also describes persons or ideas that have been inflicted with greed, corruption and darkness. Those afflicted by the wiindigoo sickness will destroy the human and spiritual beings surrounding them. The more I had looked into the world of the Ojibwa, the more I uncovered the utmost importance and significance of the “social relation” between human “persons” and other-than-human “persons”.?Myths are thought of as conscious beings, with powers of thought and action.

William Jones?Georgian Bay, OntarioOne of the insights I’ve noticed on my journey across the Eastern Woodlands, with the Ojibway peoples, is their linguistic attitudes towards analogous western words. Atiso’kanak, directly translated to myths or sacred stories to me, for them emphasized the characters, rather in the narratives, being the significant other-than-human “persons” which they classified as “our grandfathers”.On a bright early summer morning, I met a young Ojibway girl, Wenonah, from the nearby land reserve. She pulled me aside and dragged me to the shore, where the immense lake began to engulf the bedrock and white beaches.

She began to recount to me the myth of gizis, or the story of the sun. What intrigued me was not the myth itself but the way in which she accepted the sun as not a natural object but rather as another other-than-human “person”. In fact, she describes the sun less as a fictitious character in her myth but more so a recount of the past life of a living “person”. I began to understand that my own scientific mind, with its critical and skeptical insights, had impeded the belief in myths.

Yet, to this young, assuredly-convinced girl, her tales are precisely true because she does not consider them as “myths” and made no distinction between myth and historical event. I then asked her to explain the nature of the sun’s cyclic movements everyday, “Why is it that the sun seems to rise and fall everyday at a certain time and place?””What makes you say that? I’m not certain that we can say the sun will rise day after day, it just so happens that’s what she’s doing at the moment. The sun’s movements are just like my daily activities, I wake up, go to school and then go to sleep, but then on some days I wake up too late or I get too sick for school, in the same way the sun doesn’t rise as high some days.” I became aware she was a very inquisitive girl, and even more aware that the distinguishing between the natural and supernatural antithesis acts merely just as a means for us to conceive the worldview of those with differing cultures of our own.

Even more so, to the Ojibway peoples, the idea that objects or events were caused by impersonal, natural forces is a completely foreign thought.


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