The Anishinabe of Central North America

""Anishinabe" means "the people" in the Algonquin language. The Ojibway people of Canada who live in northwestern Ontario, Manitoba (east of Lake Winnipeg, the interlake area, and parts of the northern prairie region), and Saskatchewan use the word to refer to themselves.

Sky stories of the Anishinabe are part of a complex system of spiritual beliefs. Knowledge of the stars is found in many aspects of culture including storytelling, symbolism and religious traditions.

Some spiritual leaders have special knowledge of the stars and the planets. In ancient times, these indigenous astronomers used this knowledge to help guide the day-to-day affairs of their communities.

The Anishinabe have been given ways of communicating with the powerful heavenly forces. The oral teachings and stories which flow out of this communication between mortals and the spiritual world have been passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time. For example, one of the most powerful symbols for the life force is the Sun. The need for its presence for survival is stressed in the ancient story called "Snaring the Sun."

To this day, the stories of the Anishinabe of Central North America featured in this project are remembered and told by respected storytellers. With the coming of the first snow, families gather around their elders during the long winter evenings, and the time for storytelling begins. In the summertime, when the plants are awakened and the animals are roaming about, these stories are not told, as the plant and animal "beings" might hear and be offended. The storytellers speak of these things only in the winter when the spirits are resting.

In our Anishinabe culture, only our "stargazers", some of whom are known as the Wabeno-innin, the "Morning star Men" or "The Men of the Dawn", are privileged to have a full knowledge of the Sky world. Much of their knowledge is sacred in nature and is used only under special circumstances associated with religious matters.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Australian Museums & Galleries Online, Australia; Centre of the Universe; Gemini Observatory, Hawaii; Glenbow Museum; The Manitoba Museum; National Research Council Canada; Planétarium de Montréal

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003

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