Midé Kikind-inin - Spirit Testament

Category: Native

Here I present a short work written by my father called Midé Kikind-inin, or Spirit Testament. It was written back in 1986.

Spirit Testament
Author: Shupshewana
Date: 33,102 - 1986

Midé Kikind-inin is my gift to today's generation of my people. My wish is to share the way of life shared with me by my teachers, long ago. I have no wish to add nor take away any part. My only addition, is to say now I have found living by these words, my life has been richly blessed.

It has been said, "you must stand for something, or you will fall for anything!" Unhappily our people forgot this and many of the ways of GaytayAhnishenabig. So in time they fell for every “ism” that outsiders put before them.

1 Midé Manido

"All 'Nishenabig believe in many manido, or spirits. The highest of them all is Kijie manido, "Uncreated Spirit," his helpers are, the four manido, one who protects each point of the compass. They are Wabununkdaci, East or Red Manido; Cawanunkdaci, South or Yellow Manido; Ningabianunkdaci, West or Blue-black Manido; and Kiwedinunkdaci, the North or White Manido. We are taught there were three layers or worlds before this one, now below us, and twelve layers or heavens above, in the upper-most resides Kijie Manido. Of the four Midémanido Wabununkdaci was first selected to go among our people and teach them. It was planned that East manido, should not approach our people in his spirit form lest His Power hurt or scare them, so he was born of an old woman who had lived with her husband all her life but had had no children.

The people were astonished and said, "He must be a wonderful child to be born in this way," so both mother and child were treated with great respect.

When he grew up he began to consider, "I must begin to instruct these people in the Midé. That is the purpose for which I came."

After thinking this over he said to the old man his supposed father, "We must go on a journey to the end of the lake;" his mother went with them. They reached the place and stayed four days. On the fourth day a terrible storm came from the northeast, sweeping across the lake. During the storm the East Manido said to his parents, "My cousin is very ill; we must go back."

His father said, "it is impossible to even put the canoe on the water in such a storm."

Then the East Manido cast tobacco on the waves, and prayed, at once the wave subsided.

It was about 80 miles, but they paddled so fast they reached the village before sundown. When they arrived they found that the cousin had been dead four days, but the body had been kept so that they could see him. The dead had been given a bark coffin, and a grave site prepared.

The East manido told his father and mother and their relations not to now continue to weep for the young dead man. Then the next morning he told our people to make a long lodge extending from the east to the west, such is now used for the Midé. He showed them how to make it with the top open and the sides of woven cedar branches, and he said they must bring tobacco and cooked food. In the center of the lodge he placed a Midé pole, and told our people to sit in rows around the inside of the lodge; he also placed an altar stone east of the pole, and made Midé drum and rattles, such as are still used. He said no metal could come inside of the lodges save it be only copper. West of the pole, between the pole and the west fire he had them place the coffin with the dead young man; on the south side of the lodge he seated the relatives.

He told his father to take the Midé drum and sing. The old man said, "I do not know how to sing." His son said, "just try; make an effort and you will be able."

Then the East Manido said to the assembled people, "I am about to leave you, I will be absent for four days. You must stay here continuously and do every day as I have told you today."

Then the East Manido took vermilion paint and blue paint and made marks on the faces of the dead man's parents and relatives, streaks across their foreheads, the lowest red, then blue above, just as our Midé poles are yet so marked. He then went through the sky eastward. They could see him go.

During the four days the East Manido was absent the sun shone constantly, there was not a cloud and the wind did not blow. His father sang and songs came to him one after another, as his son East Manido assisted him spiritually, just as songs may come to sincere persons praying in a sweat lodge.

On the morning of the fourth day, our people looked toward the east and saw the sky streaked with the colors like those he had painted on their foreheads. Our people all looked in that direction with expectation. All this time the old man and his relations had been drumming and singing. Passing the drum from the east side of the lodge, westward, around northward, and back eastward once more.

A little before noon they heard a peculiar sound in the sky. It came from the east. Someone was calling "Wa, hi hi hi," as we still call the Midé ceremony. They watched the sky and saw four Manidos walking toward them in the sky, giving this call. Each, who looked like beautiful 'Nishenabe had a living otter in his hand, and a beautiful pipe in the other.

The East manido came down to the Midé enclosure, lifted the door drapery, and allowed the others to pass in, after they had given gifts of tobacco. The four came in and took their stand at the east end of the lodge (Midéwigamigon.) A little beyond the center pole was the coffin of bark, in which lay the body of the young man, who had now been dead eight days, and this smelled bad.

The East manido stood first in line, holding his Otter, with the right hand near the head and the left hand below its body. He began to sing, and advanced to the coffin, blew on his medicine bag (the live Otter) and shot from it toward the coffin. Then the top of the coffin burst open, and East Manido danced, clockwise around the lodge, back to the northeast and east end of the lodge, north of the eastern doorway. Then next came the South manido, who did exactly as East Manido, and when he shot, the young man opened his eyes and took a breath. Next came West manido. When he shot, the young man raised up and looked at the manido. Last came the North manido, and when he had shot the young man rose up entirely well in every respect, and the bad smell was gone.

Then the four manido began to talk to our ancestors, and to tell them to do as many things as they had seen, how to treat the sick and dead. Being four each was able to confirm the four sacred degrees and rites of our Midé more than what they taught, can not be respected. Moreover they taught by becoming sick themselves, what herbs and powders, should be gathered to treat sickness. On getting well of one sickness, they once again became sick again and doing this time after time imparted the knowledge to our people, which plants should be used in treating the sick. Wabununkdaci, gave the first rites for the degree he governs, and the sickness his medicines will cure. He also gave this song: Beba mamoyan, Wananana dawioyan, Wawiya tamung, Geundina man, Ho hi hi hi hi. I am gathering that with which I will treat myself in the lake of eddying waters, I will send (obtain) it.

In turn each Manido taught, to this end that our people now will have four sacred degrees for this earth and life. In the event one of our people should seek to enter the lodge on this island, but should be carried away in death, before he/she could take the rites, a relation may take the rites in the dead persons behalf. This is called the "O'djitcag" or the spirit lodge, the Midéwigamigon O'djitcag, this lodge runs south to north. And rites conferred in it are in behalf of the dead, doing no good and in no way conferring degrees on the living, who if they wish to may also enter the Midé Eldership, must re-take the rites for each of the four degrees in the regular Earthbound Midéwigamigon. And persons during healing rites, conferring rites etc. may be shot many times, this aids one spiritually, but in no way confers additional degrees. There were four Midé manido, each gave a degree, no more and no less.

It was told to our people that about halfway to the Spirit Land, there is a fire odjitcag gissis, that burns out all that is evil in them. For those in which so little is left of the persons spirit it becomes a frog, the doctors of Misshipeshu, who needs help continually, he is the Underwater Great Cat. There are many little frogs in that place, the good pass through in unharmed. Moreover they told our people, not to put these good teaching behind ourselves lest we lose our seats on this beautiful island and be scattered like dead leaves before the fall winds." (Narrated by Nawajibigokwe, "Woman Dwelling Among the Rocks.")

2 Ceremony for the dying, observed at Leech Lake

Niganibines "Leading Bird of Prey," hereditary ogima of the Pillager band. Niganibines, knew he was dying, and asked for the Midé ceremony to make his last hours easier, and more comfortable. Accordingly preparations started by Najoise ("persons walking") selected as ockabewis, or herald. And Gemiwunac ("Bird flying through the Rain") the oldest Midéwinini, a most powerful man. Invitations were sent to eight members, these invitations were in the form of wooden sticks, five inches in length, 5/8ths inch in diameter. Each returned his invitation stick on reaching the lodge, they were tied into a bundle and deposited at the foot of the medicine pole. This rite was of the fourth degree. After the ceremony Niganibines was carried back home gently, it could be seen that he was failing fast. They continued to sing in his home lodge using the doctor's drum and rattles. In about two hours Niganibines slipped away in death. His death was announced by twenty rifle shots, this to replace the Ockabewis walking through the village calling out the death notice.

The body was immediately arrayed in his best apparel and ornaments of the deceased; beside it were laid his pipe, fan and rifle, also a cushion with a woven cover. As darkness settled in the Midé drum was carried and songs continued all night long.

The next morning, the Midé Elders came out of the lodge (Midéwigamigon) and Gemiwunac led the party, in bad weather this part is done in the Patamoewigawan, in good weather at the grave site. The Midé leadership rehears the beliefs of the Midé and assure the family and relatives and friends of their reality. They addressed the spirit of Niganibines, about the trail he was now on.[1] One after another they sat beside him, telling him to be careful to avoid certain turns in the trail, or to trust certain spirits who would aid him. These speeches were punctuated by sharp beats on the drum. Next a feast is eaten near and with Niganibines, after which the coffin was carried to the cemetery (if the feast etc. were held away from the cemetery.)

There was no ceremony of any kind at the cemetery, except, each of the relatives and friends each passed by the coffin, scattering cedar leaves and tobacco over the coffin, and each saying a short prayer, or their personal goodbye in a low whisper, the Midé Elders now standing silent at each of the four compass points. Later as the coffin was lowered into the grave, these Elders gathered at the East Side of the grave and sang in a firm voice keeping the Midé drum beat; Aodanawine ha ha animadja e he he hindinose ha ha ha ha. (To the spirit land I am going, I am walking.) Later a pointed wooden house (djibegumig) was erected over the grave. Here relatives and friends often left offerings. And over the grave and in the Patamoewigawan at the West Fire pit, fires were kept four days and nights in behalf of Niganibines. And the djibenak (wooden grave marker) with his clan ototem carved upon it, upside down, was set on the grave, at the east side facing west. (Authority: Debwawendunk, Chippewa.)

3 Madodoigan, sweat lodge

One of the most important ceremonies of our people is the use of the sweat lodge. Today it is subject to more abuse than any other of our ceremonies. Let us look at some terms; Niwin madodo wasinun, the four asin (stones) used in the sweat lodge, not a dozen etc., simply four Niwin. Sigasinan, a bunch of sweetgrass used to put water on the stones in the sweat. Agwasinan, the stick used in lifting the principal or grandfather stone, in the Midé lodge ceremonies, when a patient was sick, or when one was going on a vision quest, ninbawadjige, it is ritually correct to hold sweats, for the lodge to be pure, a sweat lodge is set up east of the Midéwigamigon, the Elders and others to take part consider this an important part of the ceremonies.

The implements are four stones selected for their non-shattering properties[2], a wigwassi makak, water-tight birch bark pail, a bunch of grass tied off to put water on the four hot rocks, a stick used in placement of the stones, two additional sticks, called the "arms of the stone," also used in drumming on the stones during the songs. The three smaller stones should be semi-flat on one surface so as to support the principal or "Grandfather" stone, being larger and as near spherical as possible. It was heated very hot, being red in color, and was regarded as our messenger to Kijie Manido.

Four men usually went into the sweat lodge at a time, and the lodge was of the smallest dimensions possible for their use. Women also did sweat, but never in mixed company of the sexes. The stones are heated outside the lodge. The first three, are first heated and placed inside the lodge in a slight depression often called the navel. The sweaters then entered the lodge. The larger stone, heated as near red hot as possible, is handed in by a fire keeper. As it was brought in all inside said, "They are bringing in our Messenger." The leader smoked his pipe and thought a while. When ready he dipped the bunch of grass into the makak of water, and sprinkled the upper stone saying, "Weeee, hohoho." He shall do this three times, the others responding, "Ho-ho-ho." As the steam ascends, the leader says, "this messenger is about to depart to deliver our message to Kijie Manido." While the stone was steaming, he "talked and sang," sometimes extending his hand over the stone, moving it slowly in a circle. While one is singing drumming is done on the lower stones with one of the "arms of the Stone" sticks. These arms are split half way of their length, and tied off. This clapper effect is the only drumming done in the Madodoigan. When each is finished in praying or singing, he passes the water container, grass etc. to the next person, who in turn smoke, makes a prayer, sprinkles the stones three times and the rest respond as before with, "ho-ho-ho." When this has been done by all, the cover is removed. There is no rubbing as is done if the sweat was for medicinal purposes. They simply ask for water to drink, pouring a bit first one the stones before drinking. The stones are placed at the side of the lodge for safe keeping.

For healing to sweat out illness, the sick person is given tea to drink made of herbs to aid in removing filth from the body. But here again, no drum other than the stones is used. Any hide-headed drum will stretch out in the moist heat and be of little value in a sweat. The madodoigan is not an endurance contest, nor a place for sexual encounters. Whatever other groups do is their responsibility, but 'Nishenabig were not given this other work. We have our way given to us by Kijie Manido. If we wish his blessing, we simply have to first use the way He gives us. If we observe extended ceremonies, we ask ourselves: why? Fakes often drag out many ceremonies, to make themselves appear important, they add things etc. They all change and add things, because their ceremonies are to lure and shock the foolish into seeing ritual not substance. If you cannot trust the individual in trade or business, how can the intelligent trust their spiritual growth to such? (Words of Pinase, Little Turkey, Pottawatomie.)

4 Marriage & Courtship

First an old song: Gego inotawaken nikan ningotci ikewan nikan. Do not speak ill of the Midé my brethren wherever you may be. My brethren do not speak ill of a woman my Midé brethren. Anciently maidens were modest, and held in high honor, for they alone could give birth to the children of our future. When a young man wished to call upon a young woman he first spoke to her elders who sat next to the door of her lodge. With their permission he then advanced to the center near the fire. Here he might converse with the maiden, but she was not allowed to leave the lodge with him. He might later play the courting flute, in the evenings outside here lodge, but again she might not go outside the lodge.

If his intentions were serious, he killed a deer or some game food and brought it to the girl's parents. This was to indicate his ability and intention to provide well for a family. If her parents approved of the young man he was invited to share in the feast. After this, he was permitted to come and go on more freedom than formerly. Her parents and his used the next few months making things for a lodge and its furnishings. If they were to live apart (not in her parents' lodge) her family set up a new lodge as their gift. The wedding robe (blanket) was furnished by his parents, and understood to be a garment, a bed cover, or even a lodge. The coming together and agreeing to support each other, and to love and protect any children, before the altar, with the robe around both, said publicly the parents know the couple are not "Nik totem" clan mates, thus are not involved in incest. A feast was held, and the parents exchanged gifts, as clan gifts, as well as friends and relatives giving gifts to the new wedded couple for their new lodge.

5 The Midéwigan

The Midéwigan, or Patamoewigawan, the first is the "Place of Spirit Doings," in it only members of the Midé carry out their rites. There new members are initiated, in all the four degrees, and healings undertaken. If there is no Patamoewigawan close then funerals, naming ceremonies etc. may be performed in the Midéwigan, because it can be built in less than one day, and is not intended to be a permanent structure.

The Patamoewigawan (Mowah-Wikon) is a structure built of logs, built on a natural or man-made hill or mound. This roofed and heated building would last for many years. This was quite evident in the Hopewellian times. Since it is best known from Lenni Lenape's Walam Olum, I will use the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) version.

To start the ceremony, first a drum beat called the people, men women and children to the Temple. Once all were seated around the inside walls, the Speaker (Kiktowenene) stepped forth holding the ceremonial pipe filled with tobacco and sumac leaves. The Fire Keeper arose and placed a burning ember on the mixture to light the Holy Pipe. The Kiktowenene, after smoking and praying, offered the pipe in turn to all the headmen of the tribal divisions. It should be added the Temple had been purified by burning cedar leaves and tobacco mixed with Bear's fat prior to the people entering the Temple. These materials were placed in both the east and west fires. Next, a tradition was to pass around a vessel containing a sacred drink made of berries of maple sugar. From this each person able to do so took a sip, men women and children. This is in remembrance of the fact Kijie Manido had provided berries for our first food, without any effort on our part.[3]

When this was finished, the Kiktowenene called upon the Manit-weal-nuh Prophet and Seer, and Fourth Degree Midé. He then continued the ceremonies, a marriage, naming, adoption, funeral or thanksgiving. In every case, the preceding rites were always conducted, then the balance as needed. If a Thanksgiving (held each Full Moon), after the Manit-weal-nuh had finished praying, and chanting his visions in song, holding a Turtle shell rattle. Finished, the Manit-weal-nuh now passed the rattle around the congregation. It started in the southeast section, everyone handling the rattle, passing on west thence north and eastward along the north wall, back to the Manit-weal-nuh. In each and every persons hand, the rattle gave them the right to speak, pray, sing, and/or recount their visions or spiritual blessings. Funerals, healings, weddings, Thanksgiving feasts, etc. were all held in the Patamoewigawan. So in both the Midéwigan and Patamoewigawan the Midé Elders acted as priests. However, in the Patamoewigawan every person in the nation, could take part as equals in every sense. Here the Walam Olum boards were brought out by any person in the nation's request, and read, by the Midé Elders, that the nation's history and traditions might be understood and explained. (Authority: Aug. 1958, The Native Voice, Big White Owl, Lenni Lenape.)[4]

(Editor's note; the illustrations have not yet been added for this work.)