We, the Ahnishinahbæótjibway are among the Aboriginal Indigenous peoples of this Continent. Our written history includes stone inscriptions[i] and birchbark scrolls which are part of our Midé religion, and describe our origins on this Continent early in the Pleistocene geological age. Before the European invasions, the Ahnishinahbæótjibway Nation was composed of inter-related communities which centered around the Great Lakes, and along the network of water routes of the Great Lakes watershed,[ii] the upper Mississippi watershed, and the upper Hudson's Bay watershed. Since the beginning of Aboriginal time, we lived in harmony with our neighbors. The Ahnishinahbæótjibway are a non-violent people who lived by gardening in conjunction with a permacultural subsistence base so closely in harmony with nature that the Europeans thought that our grain fields and orchards, and most of our other crops were wild. In the midst of carefully maintained abundance, we tended our homes, our gardens and our forests, fished and hunted, developed a profound oral literature, and traveled to trade or just to visit.
The Ahnishinahbæótjibway have always been here. The Western Europeans have written many mythologies explaining their Indians: that they came over the Bering Strait, that they came from outer space, that they came from the East Coast, that they ate up all the Hairy Mastodons (and then presumably went back to Europe to eat up the Hairy Mastodons there). The underlying assumption in even the most culturally sensitive history textbooks that children are forced to read in compulsory-education schools is that Columbus, the Vikings, and possibly Hwui Shan the Chinese discovered America[iii], although some books try to mollify their ethonocentricism with disclaimers such as, "many scholars believe that it was the Indians who discovered the New World."
Some textbooks portray their mythological pre-Columbian Indians as living in extremely scattered settlements. A map in one such book shows 127 small Indian villages in the entire U.S., then the same books adds, "warfare had an important place ... there were great battles involving many men[iv]." College science textbooks[v] uncritically accept the unfounded assumption that "American Indian populations migrated from Asia," discounting any evidence to the contrary with explanations like "we could interpret this to mean that the [type B blood] mutation arose after the ancestors of the American Indians had left the Asian mainland. Through these kinds of analysis patterns of human migration and other anthropological interpretations have been made."[vi] Even acclaimed defender of Indians Jack Weatherford has to have "... human flesh in many of the tacos, tamales, and enchiladas,"[vii] although in a 1992 telephone conversation with us, he denied having written this.
The Western Europeans created the allegory of Indians, and whatever tall tales they want to tell in their fictions are their business. But--concealed behind the illusion of Indians is the archetype of modern ethnic cleansing: the near extinction of more than forty percent of the world's[viii] peoples; and these heinous crimes obscured by the nearly complete extirpation of the Aboriginal Indigenous peoples from the annals of Western civilization. We are consigned to the terra incognita of their linguistic maps: there is not a single word in the English language which means "the Aboriginal Indigenous peoples of this Continent." Neither the Euro-Americans nor their Indians know who the Aboriginal Indigenous people really are, and they will not say our real names. The Indians know that they have a dishonest identity, and that they are trying to steal what belongs to the Aboriginal Indigenous people. Inescapable evidence of our very real past and present existence is masked by the Indian mythology, reinterpreted to fit the Indian stereotype, distorted, destroyed,[ix] and denied. The Indians serve the convenience of Western Civilization: by deliberately confusing the Ahnishinahbæótjibway and other Aboriginal Indigenous people with their figment of Indians, the Euro-Americans hope to fill the void of exterminated peoples, deny the genocide of many millions of Aboriginal Indigenous peoples, evade the responsibility for the rape and plunder of our Continents, and justify their theft of this land.
The Ahnishinahbæótjibway are among the peoples speaking an Aboriginal Indigenous language which European linguists have defined in their abstract taxonomy as Algonquin, which is not who we are. Anthropologists categorized us and our relatives as Woodland or Algonquin people. The Euro-Americans invented artificial Indian tribes, and gave these tribes names: Potawatami, Menominee, Secotan, Salteur, Sauk and Fox, Cree, Blackfoot, Chippewa, Pillager, Pembina ... . Then, they tried to force the Ahnishinahbæótjibway into their abstract and artificial tribal structure.
Since time immemorial, the land of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway and our close relatives stretched from the land now called North and South Dakota, to the Atlantic Ocean; from the sub-Arctic, south to where St. Louis is. There were no sharp borders between one group of people and the next. If a person's native language is one of the languages misnamed Algonquin, they can understand their relatives who speak other such languages.
Ahnishinahbæótjibway understanding of space, place, and land is different from that of the Euro-Americans. We have a permanent relationship with specific places, defined partly in terms of our permaculture. My people of the Bear Dodem had a certain sugarbush, where we tapped our trees, made our sugar, and then stored everything we needed to make maple sugar from one year to the next. We harvested and processed our mahnomen in the same place, century after century. Our permanent residences--our community of longhouses--had been in the same place for millennia. There were specific places where we fished, where our gardens were, where we hunted, where our fruits and nuts and medicines and everything else that we needed were maintained by our people. We did not go roaming around stealing from others, and what we took from our land was replaced. The Ahnishinahbæótjibway have a very long-term, harmonious and balanced relationship with the places and being of this land. This land, right here, is where my many-times-great-grandfather of the Bear Dodem was born about 27,000 B.C., where he lived and died, and where he was buried and went back to Grandmother Earth. This land is the land of his great-grandfathers back more than 40,000 more generations, and it is the land of his great-grandsons through about 900 more generations to myself. This land is the open, living textbook of Ahnishinahbæótjibway history, values, philosophy and religion, and my identity and my existence as Ahnishinahbæótjibway is a part of it. The Ahnishinahbæótjibway have a relationship to this land that the Euro-Americans do not understand.
The Euro-Americans define land as abstract, boxed into compartments of quarter-sections and town lots; eminent domain with militarily defended borders, survey grids, and property taxes. Their cultural definition of land is hierarchical: those at the top of their artificial structure claim ownership of city blocks with skyscrapers, exurban estates, country homes, and rental properties; and those at the bottom are urban nomads renting tenements or going homeless. The Euro-Americans' culture defines land by the abstract edges, as exploitable resources, space and chattel circumscribed by violently enforced lines. The Ahnishinahbæótjibway see land as life.
Rather than borders, we have always had links connecting peoples. Ahnishinahbæótjibway are born into the Dodem of their fathers. People of a particular Dodem are close relatives, related to all the other human beings of their Dodem and also related to their Dodem being. I am of the Bear Dodem, related to every other Aboriginal Indigenous person of the Bear Dodem (whether they are Ahnishinahbæótjibway or not), and also related to the Bears. The word Dodemian or Dodem means "my relations." According to Ahnishinahbæótjibway values, a person cannot marry anybody to whom they are even remotely related: anyone of the same Dodem, or anyone who is even distantly "somehow related." The elders knew, and some still know, back for quite a few generations, who is related. Ahnishinahbæótjibway men have always married women from outside their birth communities. The Red Lake Ahnishinahbæótjibway genealogies include women who married into this community from the so-called Blackfoot, Cree, Inuit, Lakota, and other Aboriginal Indigenous Nations, as well as European and other immigrant women. Aboriginal Indigenous exogamy is very different from the in-breeding encouraged by the U.S. Government's Indian blood quantum.[x]
A woman who marries an Ahnishinahbæótjibway man comes into the Dodem of her husband (somewhat analogous to an European woman taking her husband's surname), and lives with him on the land of which he is a part. This creates a network of relatives through each person's mother's side of the family and through the Dodems, which extended across the Continent in all directions. (Inheritance of the Dodems through the male line is very different from patriarchy, which along with patrilineal heirship, is defined in the glossary.)
As a part of the process of colonization, the United States turned the Ahnishinahbæótjibway traditional social structure backwards for their Chippewa Indians, and enforced this reversal with U.S. Statutes. Forcing occupied peoples into matrilineal definitions of themselves is a Lislakh colonizing strategy, expressed in Judeo-Christian Biblical admonitions such as, "And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east; and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."[xi] Judeo-Christianity prescribes the elimination of all patrilines except that of Adam of Eden.
The technical anthropological terms for Ahnishinahbæótjibway social organization are patrilineal and patrilocal. The geographic power of the men was balanced by the political and social power of the Clan Mothers, the women elders. Everyone in the family respected and listened to the wisdom of these Gi-ma-mâ-nan. We remain a matriarchal society. This kind of balance and linking of related groups of people generated a very harmonious foundation for Aboriginal Indigenous society as a whole. Because of the continual movement of women in marriage, all of the Aboriginal Indigenous people of this Continent are related.
Red Lake is at a crossroads, as can be seen clearly from any topographic map. The Continental Divide between the Hudson Bay watershed (Red Lake is the headwaters) and the Mississippi watershed is about twenty miles to the south of Red Lake: there is a lake on each side of the Divide, and a short portage between them. It is also easy to travel by water into the Great Lakes watershed from here. Red Lake is the junction of Aboriginal Indigenous trade routes that went from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains and beyond.
The ecological base of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway was permaculture: agriculture based on perennial crops, so closely in harmony with natural systems that the European upper class was terrified of it. Such permacultural subsistence bases are remarkably efficient. Very little labor was required for subsistence in our intact ecology.[xii] Traditional Ahnishinahbæótjibway crops include mahnomen, maple trees, fruits, nuts and berries, fish and game, along with annual garden crops. We traded for salt, tropical shells (including migis cowries), and certain dye plants, among other things. We made jewelry and some tools from copper; as well as stone tools sharper and more durable than the finest steel. We had writing.
Our forests were pine and mixed hardwoods, some of the trees thousands of years old, stretching as far as a person could travel in a month or more. The ground soft like a carpet; the water so clean you could drink it anywhere. There was plenty of everything a person might need right here in the lakes, forests and meadows. Friends and relatives would welcome a visitor with hospitality everywhere--this is what the land of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway and our relations was like. There were deer and moose and wood-buffalo and caribou; there were passenger pigeons and turkeys and geese and so many ducks a person could hear the air rustle through their wings for miles, a whooshing sound that lasted long into the night as millions and millions of birds settled onto the lakes. Early European explorers remarked on the "abundance of game," which was an understatement considering the impoverishment of their own plundered homeland. There are a very few places on Red Lake Reservation and elsewhere in Northern Minnesota where a person can still see the ancient trails of the deer: some are worn nearly two feet deep into the ground. We were all part of a larger, inter-connected whole. Our land was a paradise.
Our elders, both male and female, have always been deeply respected in the Ahnishinahbæótjibway community. This is very different from European culture, in which age and gender polarization makes families more amenable to state control, and creates discontinuity in oral history. Our family relationships are harmoniously balanced, there is no authoritarian head of the family, and so there is no need for role reversal. The foundation of our egalitarian family inter-relationships includes mutual respect and a language which is both male and female. Because we have no hierarchy, there is no competition for authority in the family. We acknowledge each person's interests, abilities, and knowledge; and as a person ages, their experience and broader perspective becomes increasingly valuable to the community. Our elders were wise and loving teachers who knew our history and genealogy, and who knew about medicines and other herbs. They had clear and useful understanding of community dynamics and practical psychology. We did not warehouse our old people, nor segregate them away from the rest of their Dodemian.
The relationship between men and women was complementary and based on respect for one another. The women have their own areas of expertise, and it is not my place to write about them. There are Aboriginal Indigenous women writers who will explain.
An Ahnishinahbæótjibway is born into their father's Dodem, and a woman marries into her husband's Dodem. The Dodems, the Midé and Grandmother Earth are all part of a totality which includes religious philosophy, identity, values, life and death, and our inter-relationship with the land. The Midé goes beyond Western Civilization's definitions of religion and philosophy. It deals with harmony and reality, rather than with abstractions. There are parts of the Midé which are so profound that they are beyond human comprehension, and will always remain a Great Mystery. The Midé also goes beyond Western Civilization's Science. It cannot be explained in English. The Midé is so vast, it's impossible to describe how it makes me feel, but one of the words which comes to mind is humility. The Midé is a compilation of the wisdom of my people over the course of about a million years, as well as the tools for understanding reality. I see nothing that I would want to change, even if I could. I am just a translator for my people.
In the years when I was growing up, anthropologists and other social scientists were studying the Indians. When they asked about Aboriginal Indigenous religion, the Indians would say that "outsiders are not allowed" to know about the Midé, because they would exploit and commercialize it. The Indians used this strategy to hide their own ignorance of the Midé. This was before Indian Religion was enacted by Congress. The so-called Indian religions established under the Indian Freedom of Religion Act have nothing to do with the Aboriginal Indigenous religions, although policy-makers are pretending they are the same thing. The Midé is not secret--but enculturation into Western European civilization usually prevents people from seeing or understanding it. I have been present when Midé elders told interested and open-minded White people things about the Midé, in English, and the person to whom the elder was talking did not realize they were being told anything.Grandfather Midé encompasses a Sovereign Ahnishinahbæótjibway's personal relationships with the both the male and female aspects of the universe, in concert with Grandmother Earth. Ahnishinahbæótjibway are named through the Midé, which is inseparably all of life. Ahnishinahbæótjibway patrilineal Dodems are one of the religious mysteries I cannot change--and the United States Government cannot change or destroy them either, although they have tried.
[i].These have been referred to by an occasional White writer as petroglyphs. For example, The Minnesota Explorer, Spring, 1989, page 2, refers to the "Jeffers Petroglyphs" on County Road 45, three miles east of Highway 71, northeast of Windom; where interpretative perspective is provided by the Minnesota Historical Society.
[ii].A watershed was defined by W.M. Davis in 1899:
Although the river and the
hill-side do not resemble each other at first sight, they are only
members of a continuous series, and when this is appreciated,
one may fairly extend the "river" all over the basin and up to its very divides. Ordinarily treated, the river is like the veins of a leaf; broadly viewed, it is like the entire leaf.
(Quoted in The Essential Whole Earth Catalog, The Point Foundation, Doubleday, 1986.) The shallow draft of Ahnishinahbæótjibway canoes, and the deeper water in many waterways before the decimation of beaver populations, meant that even small streams were navigable for us. Maps of what remains of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway highways are available from the Map Department of the U.S. Geological Survey, which calls them topographic maps.
[iii].Of many possible examples, Holt, Rinehart & Winston's Inquiring About American History.
[iv].Ibid, page 61.
[v].For one example, Charlotte J. Avers' Genetics, 1984.
[vi].Ibid, page 536.
[vii].Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers, How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, Fawcett Columbine, 1988, page 107.
[viii].From about 30° W. longitude to 180°.
[ix].For example, Theodore C. Blegen, in Minnesota, a History of the State, Minnesota Historical Society, 1963 reprint, cites (pages 18-19) the destruction of about 10,000 known burial mounds and "effigy [sic] mounds, shaped in the form of birds, buffaloes, bears or snakes, with ... religious meanings, but these unhappily have since  been plowed under by farmers who cared more about crops than about archaeology."
[x].The French Métis' genealogies show patterns of endogamy and marriage of close relatives back into the 1600's. This is exacerbated by the way the U.S. Government has structured definition of Indians by blood quantum. The inbreeding of Lislakh people who are defined as Indians and want to maintain their blood quantum identity, has become so pronounced that forensic scientist Terry Laber of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension mentioned in another context:
Greater genetic similarity
among ethnic subpopulations, such as American Indians living on the
Reservation, would bring [previously cited 1 in 100 quadrillion odds
of DNA fingerprints matching] down, ...
(reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 10, 1994, p. 8A.) Laber's colleague Dr. Jim Iverson explained in a subsequent telephone conversation that the B.C.A.'s gene frequency database was compiled largely from a commercial blood center in south Minneapolis. The socio-economic conditions are such that there is a significantly higher ratio of Aboriginal Indigenous people to Indians among the population who frequently sells their blood, than in the Indian Reservation population in Minnesota, i.e. the inbreeding among Métis and Euro-Indians is even more pronounced than Dr. Laber observed.
[xi].The Holy Bible, King James Version, Genesis 29:14.
general, the farther the ecology has degenerated from natural harmony,
labor is required per calorie of food produced. The
inefficiency of "modern" agriculture is masked by
the use of fossil fuels, but in fact much mechanized agriculture
substantially more energy input than is produced by the crops
the corn used for gasohol). Dr. John
Martin, of Arizona State University in Tempe, studied Indigenous
bases extensively during the 1970's, and the reader is referred to his
detailed information, and to Esther Boserup's meticulous measurements
energy required for subsistence in a range of human inter-relationships
variously altered ecosystems.