Reinforcing grandfather teachings

Jeff Stork

Boozhoo. Snow now covers the ground, meaning that winter is upon us. Traditionally, winter has been a time for families to gather and tell Nanaboujou stories. Nanaboujou is the cultural hero of the Ojibwe people. Nanaboujou stories help to teach and reinforce the grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe people. The story of Aseban, or Raccoon, teaches us to respect our elders.

The story goes that Nanaboujou once built two wigwams, one for himself and the other for two blind elders. The two elders had once been great hunters and provided food for the village. Nanaboujou now helped the elders by providing a rope that lead to the lake for water.

One day, Raccoon saw the rope and watched the first elder walk to the lake for water. After the first elder returned to the wigwam, Raccoon moved the rope. The second elder later came out of the wigwam for water. He followed the rope and came upon a grassy and sandy spot. Upon returning to the wigwam he shared that the lake had dried up. While the men were in the wigwam Raccoon moved the rope again.

The second elder argued about the water and the first elder left the wigwam to prove there was water in the lake. He returned with water from the lake and made stew for dinner with two pieces of deer meat and wild rice. When the stew was finished, Raccoon took the two pieces of deer meat. Thefirst elder asked where the meat had gone and the second elder did not know since both of them were blind. The first elder accused the other of being greedy and they began to wrestle.

Raccoon began to walk away from the wigwam and the wrestling elders when he came upon Nanaboujou. Nanaboujou asked the raccoon why the elder men were arguing and wrestling. Raccoon became nervous and tried to run away. Nanaboujou grabbed him by the back and brought him into the elder’s wigwam. The elders began to tell the happenings of the day and Nanaboujou knew that Raccoon had been the cause of the trouble.

Nanaboujou said that Raccoon was the fault for the elders fighting. For making fun of old people. Nanaboujou told Raccoon that from here on out he will always look for food at night when it is hard to see and will always look for water to wash his food. Lastly, Nanaboujou used charcoal to make rings around Raccoon’s eyes and tail so that Ojibwa people will know when he is playing tricks on them.

Winter, and especially Christmas, are special times in Grand Portage. This is a time of the year that families gather to celebrate with food and gifts before the New Year begins. This is also a special time of the year for the staff and students at Oshki Ogimaag. With the snow on the ground, students begin to read and learn the Nanaboujou stories.

In December, Oshki Ogimaag students spent a half day learning about trees and brought back the school’s Christmas tree. Also during December the students participated in the Grand Portage community Christmas celebration. Students sang, danced, and played instruments for the community.

As December passes, slowly the days get longer and soon the students will be harvesting maple syrup and planting three sisters’ gardens. Before the snowmelts though, let us remember those who have provided for us. As we gather with family and friends, let us not forget the grandfather teachings and the Nanaboujou story about Raccoon. Our elders provide us wisdom, strength and guidance. Be sure to remember and reach out to those elders who may not have a family this Christmas. Remember to help provide for those who have provided for us.

Each month a representative of our local schools will offer thoughts in Issues in Education. This month’s contributor is Jeff Stork, SPED Teacher, Oshki Ogimaag Charter School.


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