The Midewiwin (also spelled Midewin and Medewiwin) or the Grand Medicine Society is a secretive religion of some of the indigenous peoples of the Maritimes, New England and Great Lakes regions in North America. Its practitioners are called Midew, and the practices of Midewiwin are referred to as Mide. Occasionally, male Midew are called Midewinini, which is sometimes translated into English as "medicine man".

Midew in a mide-wiigiwaam (medicine lodge).


The preverb mide can be translated as "mystery," "mysterious," "spiritual," "sanctified," "sacred," or "ceremonial", depending on the context of its use. The derived verb midewi, thus means "be in/of mide." The derived noun midewiwin then means "state of being in midewi." Often mide is translated into English as "medicine" (thus the term midewinini "medicine-man") though mide conveys the idea of a spiritual medicine, opposed to mashkiki that conveys the idea of a physical medicine. A practitioner of Midewiwin is called a midew, which can also be rendered as mide'o... both forms of the word derived from the verb midewi, or as a medewid, a gerund form of midewi. Specifically, a male practitioner is called a midewinini ("midew man") and a female practitioner a midewikwe ("midew woman").

Due to the body-part medial de' meaning "heart" in the Anishinaabe language, "Midewiwin" is sometimes translated as "The Way of the Heart."[1] Blessing shares a definition he received from Thomas Shingobe, a "Mida" (a Midewiwin person) of the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation in 1969, who told him that "the only thing that would be acceptable in any way as an interpretation of 'Mide' would be 'Spiritual Mystery'."[2] However, fluent speakers of Anishinaabemowin often caution that there are many words and concepts that have no direct translation to English.[1][3]


According to historian Michael Angel, the Midewiwin is a "flexible, tenacious tradition that provided an institutional setting for the teaching of the world view (religious beliefs) of the Ojibwa people".[4] Commonly among the Anishinaabeg, Midewiwin is ascribed to Wenaboozho (Onaniboozh) as its founder. However, among the Abenakis, Midewiwin is ascribed to Mateguas, who upon his death and needing to comfort his brother who is still alive, bestowed the Midewiwin to his grieving brother Gluskab. However, Hoffman records that according to the Mille Lacs Indians chief Bayezhig ("Lone One"), Midewiwin has its origin as:

"In the beginning, Midemanidoo (Gichimanidoo) made the midemanidoowag. He first created two men, and two women; but they had no power of thought or reason. Then Midemanidoo (Gichimanodoo) made them rational beings. He took them in his hands so that they should multiply; he paired them, and from this sprung the Anishinaabe. When there were people he placed them upon the earth, but he soon observed that they were subject to sickness, misery, and death, and that unless he provided them with the Sacred Medicine they would soon become extinct.
"Between the position occupied by Gichi Manidoo and the earth were four lesser manidoog with whom Gichi Manidoo decided to commune, and to impart to them the mysteries by which the Anishinaabeg could be benefited. So he first spoke to a manidoo and told him all he had to say, who in turn communicated the same information to the next, and he in turn to next, who also communed with the next. They all met in council, and determined to call in the four wind manidoog. After consulting as to what would be best for the comfort and welfare of the Anishinaabeg, these manidoog agreed to ask Gichi Manidoo to communicate the Mystery of the Sacred Medicine to the people.
"Gichi Manidoo then went to the Sun Spirit and asked him to go to the earth and instruct the people as had been decided upon by the council. The Sun Spirit, in the form of a little boy, went to the earth and lived with a woman who had a little boy of her own.
"This family went away in the autumn to hunt, and during the winter this woman’s son died. The parents were so much distressed that they decided to return to the village and bury the body there; so they made preparations to return, and as they traveled along, they would each evening erect several poles upon which the body was placed to prevent the wild beasts from devouring it. When the dead boy was thus hanging upon the poles, the adopted child—who was the Sun Spirit—would play about the camp and amuse himself, and finally told his adopted father he pitied him, and his mother, for their sorrow. The adopted son said he could bring his dead brother to life, whereupon the parents expressed great surprise and desired to know how that could be accomplished.
"The adopted boy then had the party hasten to the village, when he said, “Get the women to make a wiigiwaam of bark, put the dead boy in a covering of wiigwaas and place the body on the ground in the middle of the wiigiwaam.” On the next morning after this had been done, the family and friends went into this lodge and seated themselves around the corpse.
"When they had all been sitting quietly for some time, they saw through the doorway the approach of a bear, which gradually came towards the wiigiwaam, entered it, and placed itself before the dead body and said, “ho, ho, ho, ho,” when he passed around it towards the left side, with a trembling motion, and as he did so, the body began quivering, and the quivering increased as the bear continued until he had passed around four times, when the body came to life again and stood up. Then the bear called to the father, who was sitting in the distant right-hand corner of the wiigiwaam, and addressed to him the following words:
Noos gaawiin anishinaabewisii, ayaawiyaan manidoo ningwisis.
My father is not an Indian not, I am a spirit son.
Bi-mayaa minik niiji- manidoo mayaa zhigwa ji-gi-aawiyan.
Insomuch my fellow spirit clearly now as you are.
Noose, zhigwa asemaa ji-atooyeg. E-mikondem mii eta
My father, now tobacco you shall put. He mentions of that only
aabiding ji-gashkitood wenji- bimaadizid omaa agaawaa
once to be able to do it why he shall live here scarcely
bimaadizid mii omaa; niiji- manidoo mayaa zhigwa ji-giiweyaan.
he lives thus here; my fellow spirit clearly now I shall go home.
"The little bear boy was the one who did this. He then remained among the Anishinaabeg and taught them the mysteries of the Midewiwin; and, after he had finished, he told his adopted father that as his mission had been fulfilled he was to return to his kindred manidoog, for the Anishinaabeg would have no need to fear sickness as they now possessed the Midewiwin which would enable them to live. He also said that his spirit could bring a body to life but once, and he would now return to the sun from which they would feel his influence."

This event is called Gwiiwizens wedizhichigewinid—Deeds of a Little-boy.


Tribal groups who have such societies include the Abenaki, Quiripi, Nipmuc, Wampanoag, Anishinaabe (Algonquin, Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi), Miami, Meskwaki, Sauk, Sioux and the Ho-Chunk. These indigenous peoples of Turtle Island pass along wiigwaasabak (birch bark scrolls), teachings, and have degrees of initiations and ceremonies. They are often associated with the Seven Fires Society, and other aboriginal groups or organizations. The Miigis shell, or cowry shell, is used in some ceremonies, along with bundles, sacred items, etc. There are many oral teachings, symbols, stories, history, and wisdom passed along and preserved from one generation to the next by these groups.

Whiteshell Provincial Park (Manitoba) is named after the whiteshell (cowry) used in Midewiwin ceremonies. This park contains some petroforms that are over 1000 years old, or possibly older, and therefore may predate some aboriginal groups that came later to the area. The Midew society is commemorated in the name of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Illinois).


The Mide practitioners are initiated and ranked by "degrees." Much like the apprentice system or an academic degree program, a practitioner cannot advance to the next higher degree until completing the required tasks and gain the full knowledge of that degree's requirements. Only after successful completion may a candidate be considered for advancement into the next higher degree.

Extended Fourth

The accounts regarding the extended Fourth Degrees vary from region to region. All Midewiwin groups claim the extended Fourth Degrees are specialized forms of the Fourth Degree. Depending on the region, these extended Fourth Degree Midew can be called "Fifth Degree" up to "Ninth Degree." In parallel, if the Fourth Degree Midew is to a doctorate degree, the Extended Fourth Degree Midew is to a post-doctorate degree. The Jiisakiwinini is widely referred to by Elders as the "highest" degree of all the medicine practitioners in the Mide, as it is Spiritual medicine as opposed to physical/plant based medicine.[5]

Medicine lodge


The midewigaan ("mide lodge"), also known as mide-wiigiwaam ("mide wigwam") when small or midewigamig ("mide structure") when large, is known in English as the "Grand Medicine Lodge" and is usually built in an open grove or clearing. A midewigaan is a domed structure with the proportion of 1 unit in width by 4 units in length. Though Hoffman records these domed oval structures measuring about 20 feet in width by 80 feet in length, the structures are sized to accommodate the number of invited participants, thus many midewigaan for small mide communities in the early 21st century are as small as 6 feet in width and 24 feet in length and larger in those communities with more mide participants. The walls of the smaller mide-wiigiwaam consist of poles and saplings from 8 to 10 feet high, firmly planted in the ground, wattled with short branches and twigs with leaves. In communities with significantly large mide participants (usually of 100 people or more participants), the midewigamig becomes a formal and permanent ceremonial building that retains the dimensions of the smaller mide-wiigiwaam; a midewigamig might not necessarily be a domed structure, but typically may have vaulted ceilings.


Design of the jiisakiiwigaan ("'juggler' lodge" or "Shaking Tent" or traditionally "shaking wigwam") is similar in construction as that of the mide-wiigiwaam. Unlike a mide-wiigiwaam that is an oval domed structure, the jiisakiiwigaan is a round high-domed structure of typically 3 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height, and large enough to hold two to four people.


Annual and seasonal ceremonies

  • Aabita-biboon (Midwinter Ceremony)
  • Animoosh ([White] Dog Ceremony)
  • Jiibay-inaakewin or Jiibenaakewin (Feast of the Dead)
  • Gaagaagiinh or Gaagaagishiinh (Raven Festival)
  • Zaazaagiwichigan (Painted Pole Festival)
  • Mawineziwin ("War [Remembrance] Dance")
  • Wiikwandiwin ([Seasonal] Ceremonial Feast)—performed four times per year, once per season. The Wiikwandiwin is begun with a review of the past events, hope for a good future, a prayer and then the smoking of the pipe carried out by the heads of the doodem. These ceremonies are held in mid-winter and mid-summer in order to bring together peoples various medicines and combine their healing powers for revitalization. Each Wiikwandiwin is a celebration to give thanks, show happiness and respect to Gichi-manidoo. It is customary to share the first kill of the season during the Wiikwandiwin. This would show Gichi-manidoo thanks and also ask for a blessing for the coming hunt, harvest and season.

Rites of passage

  • Nitaawigiwin (Birth rites)—ceremony in which a newborn's umbilical cord is cut and retained
  • Waawiindaasowin (Naming rites)—ceremony in which a name-giver presents a name to a child
  • Oshki-nitaagewin (First-kill rites)—ceremony in which a child's first successful hunt is celebrated
  • Makadekewin (Puberty fast rites)
  • Wiidigendiwin (Marriage rites)—ceremony in which a couple is joined into a single household
  • Bagidinigewin (Death rites)—wake, funeral and funerary feast

Miscellaneous ceremonies

  • Jiisakiiwin (Shaking tent)—ceremony conducted by a Shaking-tent seer (jaasakiid; a male jaasakiid known as a jiisakiiwinini or a female jaasakiid known as a jiisakiiwikwe), often called a "Juggler" in English, who would enter the tent to conjure spirits and speak beyond this world.
  • Bagisewin (Present)—custom at the end of a wedding ceremony in which the bride presents wood at the groom's feet as a wedding present.
  • Ishkwaandem-wiikwandiwin (Entry-way Feast)—A ceremony performed by women who took a piece of wood out to the bushes to offer it to Gichi-manidoo, and brought something back as well. This ceremony represents the woman as mother earth whom asked for blessing from Gichi-manidoo so that the home would be safe and warm.

Teaching objects

Teaching scrolls

Called wiigwaasabakoon in the Ojibwe language, birch bark scrolls were used to pass on knowledge between generations. When used specifically for Midewiwin ceremonial use, these wiigwaasabakoon used as teaching scrolls were called Mide-wiigwaas ("Medicine birch [bark scroll]"). Early accounts of the Mide from books written in the 1800s describe a group of elders that protected the birch bark scrolls in hidden locations. They recopied the scrolls if any were badly damaged, and they preserved them underground. These scrolls were described as very sacred and the interpretations of the scrolls were not easily given away. The historical areas of the Ojibwe were recorded, and stretched from the east coast all the way to the prairies by way of lake and river routes. Some of the first maps of rivers and lakes were made by the Ojibwe and written on birch bark.

"The Teachings of the Midewiwin were scratched on birch bark scrolls and were shown to the young men upon entrance into the society. Although these were crude pictographs representing the ceremonies, they show us that the Ojibwa were advanced in the development of picture 'writing.' Some of them were painted on bark. One large birch bark roll was 'known to have been used in the Midewiwin at Mille Lacs for five generations and perhaps many generations before',[6] and two others, found in a seemingly deliberate hiding place in the Head-of-the-Lakes region of Ontario,[7] were carbon-dated to about 1560 CE +/-70.[8] The author of the original report on these hidden scrolls advised: "Indians of this region occasionally deposited such artifacts in out-of-the-way places in the woods, either by burying them or by secreting them in caves. The period or periods at which this was done is far from clear. But in any event, archaeologists should be aware of the custom and not overlook the possibility of their discovery."[7]

Teaching stones

Teaching stones known in Ojibwe as either Gikinoo'amaagewaabik or Gikinoo'amaage-asin can be either petroglyphs or petroform.

Seven prophetical ages

The seven fires prophecy was originally taught among the practitioners of Midewiwin. Each fire represents a prophetical age, marking phases or epochs of Turtle Island. It represents key spiritual teachings for North America, and suggests that the different colors and traditions of humans can come together on a basis of respect. The Algonquins are the keepers of the seven fires prophecy wampum.

See also


  1. ^ a b Benton Banai
  2. ^ Blessing
  3. ^ Battiste
  4. ^ Angel
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Coleman, Bernard "The Religion of the Ojibwa of Northern Minnesota", in Primitive Man, Vol. 10, No. 3/4. (Jul-Oct 1937) pp 33-57
  7. ^ a b Kidd, Kenneth E. "Birch-bark Scrolls in Archaeological Contexts", in American Antiquity, Vol. 30 No. 4 (1965) p480.
  8. ^ Rajnovich, Grace "Reading Rock Art: Interpreting the Indian Rock Paintings of the Canadian Shield". Dundurn Press Ltd. (1994) ISBN 0-920474-72-1


  • Angel, Michael. Preserving the Sacred: Historical Perspectives on the Ojibwa Midewiwin. (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002).
  • Bandow, James B. "White Dogs, Black Bears & Ghost Gamblers: Two Late Woodland Midewiwin Aspects from Ontario". IN Gathering Places in Algonquian Social Discourse. Proceedings of the 40th Algonquian Conference, Karle Hele & J. Randolf Valentine (Editors). (SUNY Press, 2008 - Released 2012)
  • Barnouw, Victor. "A Chippewa Mide Priest's Description of the Medicine Dance" in Wisconsin Archeologist, 41(1960), pp. 77–97.
  • Battiste, Marie, ed. Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision (Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2000).
  • Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book - The Voice of the Ojibway. (St. Paul: Red School House publishers, 1988).
  • Blessing, Fred K., Jr. The Ojibway Indians observed. (Minnesota Archaeological Society, 1977).
  • Deleary, Nicholas. "The Midewiwin, an aboriginal spiritual institution. Symbols of continuity: a native studies culture-based perspective." Carleton University MA Thesis, M.A. 1990.
  • Densmore, Frances. Chippewa Customs. (Reprint: Minnesota Historical Press, 1979).
  • Dewdney, Selwyn Hanington. The Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975).
  • Gross, Lawrence W. "Bimaadiziwin, or the 'Good Life,' as a Unifying Concept of Anishinaabe Religion" in American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 26(2002):1, pp. 15–32.
  • Hirschfelder, Arlene B. and Paulette Molin, eds. The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions. (New York: Facts of File, 1992) ISBN 0-8160-2017-5
  • Hoffman, Walter James. "The Midewiwin, or 'Grand Medicine Society', of the Ojibwa" in Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Bureau of Ethnology Report, v. 7, pp. 149-299. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891).
  • Johnston, Basil. "The Society of Medicine\Midewewin" in Ojibway Ceremonies, pp. 93–112. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990). ISBN 0-8032-7573-0
  • Landes, Ruth. Ojibwa Religion and the Midéwiwin. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968).
  • Roufs, Tim. When Everybody Called Me Gah-bay-bi-nayss: "Forever-Flying-Bird". An Ethnographic Biography of Paul Peter Buffalo. (Duluth: University of Minnesota, 2007).
  • Vecsey, Christopher. Traditional Ojibwa Religion and its Historical Changes. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1983).
  • Warren, William W. History of the Ojibway People. (1851)
Aetna Earthworks

The Aetna Earthworks, also known as the Missaukee Earthworks or Missaukee Mounds, is an archaeological site consisting of a pair of circular earthworks designated 20MA11 and 20MA12 located in Aetna Township, Missaukee County, Michigan. The layout of the site is thought to represent the Midewiwin origin tale of Bear's Journey. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Algonquin people

The Algonquins are indigenous inhabitants of North America who speak the Algonquin language, a divergent dialect of the Ojibwe language, which is part of the Algonquian language family. Culturally and linguistically, they are closely related to the Odawa and Ojibwe, with whom they form the larger Anicinàpe (Anishinaabe) grouping. The Algonquin people call themselves Omàmiwinini (plural: Omàmiwininiwak) or the more generalised name of Anicinàpe.

Though known by several names in the past, the most common term "Algonquin" has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik (IPA: [ɛlæˈɡomoɡwik]): "they are our relatives/allies". The much larger heterogeneous group of Algonquian-speaking peoples, who, according to Brian Conwell, stretch from Virginia to the Rocky Mountains and north to Hudson Bay, was named after the tribe.

Most Algonquins live in Quebec. The nine Algonquin bands in that province and one in Ontario have a combined population of about 11,000. The Algonquin are original natives of southern

Quebec and eastern Ontario in Canada. Today they live in nine communities in Quebec and one in Ontario. The Algonquin were a small tribe that also lives in northern Michigan and southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. (Popular usage reflects some confusion on the point. The term "Algonquin" is sometimes used, such as in the Catholic Encyclopedia, to refer to all Algonquian-speaking societies, although this is not correct.)

Many Algonquins still speak the Algonquin language, called generally Anicinàpemowin or specifically Omàmiwininìmowin. The language is considered one of several divergent dialects of the Anishinaabe languages. Among younger speakers, the Algonquin language has experienced strong word borrowings from the Cree language.

Traditionally, the Algonquins lived in either birch bark or wooden mìkiwàms. Today Algonquins live in housings like those of the general public.

Traditionally, the Algonquins were practitioners of Midewiwin (the right path). They believed they were surrounded by many manitòk or spirits in the natural world. French missionaries converted many Algonquins to Catholicism in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, many of the people practice traditional Midewiwin or a syncretic merging of Christianity and Midewiwin.

In the earliest oral history, the Algonquins say they migrated from the Atlantic coast. Together with other Anicinàpek, they arrived at the "First Stopping Place" near Montreal. While the other Anicinàpe peoples continued their journey up the St. Lawrence River, the Algonquins settled along the Kitcisìpi (Ottawa River), a long-important highway for commerce, cultural exchange and transportation. Algonquin identity, though, was not fully realized until after the dividing of the Anicinàpek at the "Third Stopping Place". Scholars have used the oral histories, archeology, and linguistics to estimate this took place about 2000 years ago, near present-day Detroit.

After contact with the Europeans, especially the French and Dutch, the Algonquin nations became active in the fur trade. This led them to fight against the powerful Iroquois, whose confederacy was based in present-day New York. In 1570, the Algonquins formed an alliance with the Montagnais to the east, whose territory extended to the ocean.


Anishinaabe is the autonym for a group of culturally related indigenous peoples in what are now Canada and the United States. These include the Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe (including Mississaugas), Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin peoples. The Anishinaabe speak Anishinaabemowin, or Anishinaabe languages that belong to the Algonquian language family. They historically lived in the Northeast Woodlands and Subarctic.

The word Anishinaabeg translates to "people from whence lowered". Another definition refers to "the good humans", meaning those who are on the right road or path given to them by the Creator Gitche Manitou, or Great Spirit. Basil Johnston, an Ojibwe historian, linguist, and author, wrote that the term's literal translation is "Beings Made Out of Nothing" or "Spontaneous Beings". Anishinaabe myths claim the people were created by divine breath.Anishinaabe is often mistakenly considered a synonym of Ojibwe; however, it refers to a much larger group of tribes.

Anishinaabe traditional beliefs

Anishinaabe traditional beliefs cover the traditional belief system of the Anishinaabeg peoples, consisting of the Algonquin/Nipissing, Ojibwa/Chippewa/Saulteaux/Mississaugas, Odawa, Potawatomi and Oji-Cree, located primarily in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.


Enmegahbowh (c. 1820 – June 12, 1902; from Enami'egaabaw, meaning "He that prays [for his people while] standing"; also known as John Johnson) was the first Native American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Born around 1820, Enmegahbowh (pronounced En-meh-GAH-boe), was the only child of the chief of an Ojibwe Band on Rice Lake near Peterborough, Canada. Because this group of Ojibwe "trade Indians" remained behind while the others pressed farther up the Great Lakes in search of furs, some consider Enmegahbowh an Ottawa. He was raised in a Christian Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) village near Petersburg which was affiliated with the Methodists. An Episcopal clergyman of the vicinity, Mr. Armour, persuaded Enmegahbowh's reluctant parents to send him to be educated with the clergyman's own sons. Enmegahbowh did learn to read and speak English, but after three months, the homesick boy ran away in the night and walked for two days to return to his own people. About 1831, Enmegahbowh's grandfather, a medicine man of high rank, inducted him into the tribal religious organization Midewiwin.On July 4, 1841 Enmegahbowh married Biwabikogeshigequay (a/k/a Iron Sky Woman and baptized Charlotte), niece of Hole-in-the-Day. He met the Rev. Ezekiel Gilbert Gear, chaplain at Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, and became an Episcopalian. Gear eventually introduced Enmegahbowh to the Rev. James Lloyd Breck, a missionary who had arrived in Minnesota in 1851, and who baptised Enmegahbowh.Bishop Jackson Kemper ordained the youth a deacon in 1859, and Enmegahbowh went to Crow Wing, Minnesota to assist in founding St. Columba Mission. Mille Lacs Chief Fine-Day was an early member of Enmegahbowh's church, and took over the mission in 1861.


Known in the Ojibwe mythology as Jiibayaabooz (also recorded as Chipiapoos or Cheeby-aub-oozoo, meaning "Spirit Rabbit" or "Ghost of Rabbit") or in the Abenaki mythology as Mateguas (Rabbit), this figure is a trickster spirit, and figures prominently in their storytelling, including the story of the world's creation. Depending on the tradition, he was either the second or third son of Wiininwaa ("Nourishment"), a human mother, and E-bangishimog ("In the West"), a spirit father.

Stories regarding Jiibayaabooz/Mateguas are filled with all things mystical and spiritual. While alive, Jiibayaabooz/Mateguas was obsessed with manidoog's and humans' interaction with each other. Through his regular communication with the manidoog through dreams, he taught the humans the importance of dreams and the methods of communication with the manidoog. As with any little brother, he was subjected to Majiikiwis' taunts, but during a dare from his eldest brother, Jiibayaabooz/Mateguas lost his life.

Even in death, his "jiibay" or ghost continued with obsession with the manidoog, and taught the humans the rites and ceremonies of vision quests and purification ceremonies. Basil Johnston, in his book The Manitous: the spiritual world of the Ojibway also adds Jiibayaabooz became the "Chief of the Underworld" and "... he bequeathed the spirit of music, chants, and poetry to the Anishinaubae peoples."

Among the Abenakis, Mateguas from the dead taught his living brother Gluskab the rites and ceremonies of vision quests and purification ceremonies to comfort his grieving brother. This became the core of the Midewiwin rituals that Gluskab then passed onto the humans.

Medicine bag

A medicine bag is usually a small pouch, worn by some Indigenous peoples of the Americas, that contains sacred items. A personal medicine bag may contain objects that symbolize personal well-being and tribal identity. Traditionally, medicine bags are worn under the clothing. Their contents are private, and often of a personal and religious nature.


Midewin may refer to:

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, a grassland preserve in Illinois, USA (name based on alternate spelling of Midewiwin).

Midewiwin, an aboriginal North American religion/society


The Mississauga are a subtribe of the Anishinaabe-speaking First Nations people located in southern Ontario, Canada. They are closely related to the Ojibwe. The name "Mississauga" comes from the Anishinaabe word Misi-zaagiing, meaning "[Those at the] Great River-mouth." It is closely related to the Ojibwe word Misswezahging, which means ‘a river with many outlets.’


The Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux are an Anishinaabe people of Canada and the United States. They are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande. In Canada, they are the second-largest First Nations population, surpassed only by the Cree. In the United States, they have the fifth-largest population among Native American peoples, surpassed in number only by the Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw and Sioux.

The Ojibwe people traditionally speak the Ojibwe language, a branch of the Algonquian language family. They are part of the Council of Three Fires and the Anishinaabeg, which include the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree, Odawa and the Potawatomi. Historically, through the Saulteaux branch, they were a part of the Iron Confederacy, joining the Cree, Assiniboine, and Metis.

The majority of the Ojibwe people live in Canada. There are 77,940 mainline Ojibwe; 76,760 Saulteaux; and 8,770 Mississauga, organized in 125 bands. They live from western Quebec to eastern British Columbia. As of 2010, Ojibwe in the US census population is 170,742.The Ojibwe are known for their birch bark canoes, birch bark scrolls, mining and trade in copper, as well as their cultivation of wild rice and Maple syrup. Their Midewiwin Society is well respected as the keeper of detailed and complex scrolls of events, oral history, songs, maps, memories, stories, geometry, and mathematics.The Ojibwe people underwent colonization by Settler-Canadians. They signed treaties with settler leaders, and many European settlers soon inhabited the Ojibwe ancestral lands.


Petroforms, also known as boulder outlines or boulder mosaics, are human-made shapes and patterns made by lining up large rocks on the open ground, often on quite level areas. Petroforms in North America were originally made by various Native American and First Nation tribes, who used various terms to describe them. Petroforms can also include a rock cairn or inukshuk, an upright monolith slab, a medicine wheel, a fire pit, a desert kite, sculpted boulders, or simply rocks lined up or stacked for various reasons. Old World petroforms include the Carnac stones and many other megalithic monuments.

Selwyn Dewdney

Selwyn Hanington Dewdney (October 9, 1909 – November 18, 1979) was a Canadian author, illustrator, artist, activist and pioneer in both art therapy and pictography.

Seven fires prophecy

Seven fires prophecy is an Anishinaabe prophecy that marks phases, or epochs, in the life of the people on Turtle Island, a Native American name for the North American continent. The seven fires of the prophecy represent key spiritual teachings for North America, and suggest that the different colors and traditions of the human beings can come together on a basis of respect. It predates the arrival of the Europeans, and contains information for the future lives of the Anishinaabe which are still in the process of being fulfilled.


Tepastenam was a respected leader of the Pimicikamak indigenous people in the 19th century. He was born about 1805. From oral history accounts he may have been a Midewiwin leader or Kiseman. The record of his baptism in 1875 describes him as "A noted conjurer for many years, who long resisted the teachings of Christianity."


The Wabunowin (also spelled Wabanowin, Wabenowin, and Wabunohwin; Waabanoowiwin in the "double-vowel" spelling) is the "Dawn Society", also sometime improperly called the "Magical Dawn Society", a distinct Anishinaabeg society of visionaries, practiced among the Anishinaabeg peoples, consisting of the Algonquin/Nipissing, Ojibwa/Chippewa/Saulteaux/Mississaugas, Odawa, Potawatomi and Oji-cree, located primarily in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. Like the Midewiwin, the Wabunowin is a secretive animistic religion, requiring an initiation, thus early non-indigenous writers lumped the information on the Wabunowin with the Midewiwin. But unlike the Mide, the Waabano have sometimes two levels, and sometimes four. This variation is dependent on the particular lodge.

This society was mentioned in The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who used informational materials made available from Henry Schoolcraft to compose the epic poem. The Dawn Society members were systematically imprisoned in mental hospitals by the United States government in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because of this persecution, the Wabunowin went underground and have just begun to reemerge in the last decade. While many of the ceremonies and traditions are closely guarded, one that is known is the Fire Dance.

The Waabanowin have been coming out from underground and re-establishing themselves for about 15 years now. There are active lodges in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Indiana and Michigan.


Whiteshells (also known as Cowrie shells or Sacred Miigis Shells) were used by aboriginal peoples around the world, but the words "whiteshell" and "Miigis Shell" specifically refers to shells used by Ojibway peoples in their Midewiwin ceremonies. Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada is named after the use of these shells.

Whiteshell River

The Whiteshell River is one of the major rivers in Whiteshell Provincial Park, in southeastern Manitoba, Canada, near the Ontario border. This river is close to some petroform sites that are about 2000 years old or older. The name "whiteshell" is in reference to the Meegis or cowry shells used by Ojibwa peoples in their ceremonies and teachings, especially the Midewiwin, and as recorded in their birch bark scrolls.

The river was used for thousands of years as a major canoe route by native peoples. The Winnipeg and Whiteshell Rivers are the only waterways to easily travel between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Superior. The copper culture period of about 4,000 years ago involved the trade of copper from the north shore of Lake Superior to the Whiteshell Provincial Park area and other areas now known as Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Manitoba also has prehistoric quartz mines to the far north, and evidence of ancient quartz mining also exists along the Winnipeg River area. Quartz, copper, and other minerals were used to make prehistoric arrow heads, tools, scrapers, spears, and artwork.

Whiteshell Provincial Park is still a popular area for wild rice harvesting, as it was for thousands of years. Today this river system area is popular for canoeing, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and many cottages are located along the lakes and rivers of the park.

The geography and geology of the area consists of Canadian Shield granite rock ridges, cliffs, boreal forest, bogs, and only one main road through the park. It is a very wild and pristine area with many deer, bear, wolves, coyotes, bald eagles, fox, cougars, lynx, and other wildlife.


Wiigwaasabak (Ojibwe language, plural: wiigwaasabakoon) are birch bark scrolls, on which the Ojibwa (Anishinaabe) people of North America wrote complex geometrical patterns and shapes. When used specifically for Midewiwin ceremonial use, these scrolls are called mide-wiigwaas. These enabled the memorization of complex ideas, and passing along history and stories to succeeding generations. Several such scrolls are in museums, including one on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC [1]. In addition to birchbark, copper and slate may have also been used, along with hides, pottery, and other artifacts. Some archaeologists are presently trying to determine the exact origins, dates, and locations of their use. Many scrolls were hidden away in caves and man-made pits.


A wiigwaasi-makak (plural: wiigwaasi-makakoon), meaning "birch-bark box" in the Anishinaabe language, is a box made of panels of birchbark sewn together with watap. The construction of makakoon from birchbark was an essential element in the culture of the Anishinaabe people and other members of the Native Americans and First Nations of the Upper Great Lakes, particularly in the regions surrounding Lake Superior. Birchbark makakoon continue to be crafted to this day as heritage heirlooms and for the tourist trade.

Lake Superior-area geology is short in supplies of clay, making pottery scarce for the people who lived there. However, the paper birch grows in profusion in this area, and sheets and panels of its strong, papery bark can be cut and carved from a tree for use. Birchbark boxes played a key role in creating durable packages and utensils for storage and everyday use. Skilled harvesting of the bark, done at the proper season of the year, does not fatally injure the tree.Well-made makakoon were close to waterproof, and could be used to store soluble goods such as maple sugar. This sugar was used not only for a sweetener but as a seasoning, since the North American natives of the time had no salt. Important documents written on birchbark (wiigwaasabak) were placed in makakoon for safekeeping. Anishinaabe initiates of the Midewiwin would often secure their numinous items in a wiigwaasi-makak.Exceptionally well-made makakoon could be used as cooking utensils, although this use declined after the arrival of Euro-American traders in the 1600s with metal pots and saucepans for sale. The makak would be filled with water and the foodstuff to be cooked, and then carefully hung over a campfire in such a way as to heat the water to the boiling point while falling short of combustion.


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