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4th Book Excerpt: Ojibwe Clans

The following is the fourth installment of book excerpts the LCO News will feature from local author, John Dettloff. The excerpts will be from his  new book.


Detloff has lived on the Chippewa Flowage, near New Post, for over 50 years.  His family has had a small resort just east of New Post for 56 seasons and for 40 years he has been writing historical articles about the flowage, tribal history (especially Old Post), old guides, old resorts, and fishing.


His new book called Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage, released on November 1st, gives a comprehensive history of the flowage going back to the fur trade era. 

According to Detloff, the book profiles in great detail the people of the "Chippewa Basin" (the area that became flooded by the flowage) and talks about the 300 plus people who were affected by and displaced by the flowage.  There were probably 250 plus tribal members and nearly 100 non-tribal members that were affected. 


From the Book:


Ojibwe Tribal elder, Ernie St. Germaine

     To Algonquian tribes like the Ojibwe, a large part of their identity was based on what clan they belonged to.  To best understand the importance of the clan system to the Ojibwe, let’s hear the story that Ernie St. Germaine, a respected Ojibwe elder, has told many times:

     “When you hear me talking about the clans and the different animals, you have to understand how important the clans are to our identity and who we are.  Long ago, way, way back, the people were losing who they are, were losing the importance of family.  Family was disintegrating, and Creator knew that. And so, Creator sent a messenger among the people, and that messenger was Nigig, the Otter.

     “And he sent the Otter to come to the people and tell them that there’s going to come these teachers to the people.  And the people really didn’t believe it too much. But Nigig convinced the people, and so they all gathered there, together, and waited, and then the first teacher came out of the waters.  And the people were just amazed. And the teacher started teaching.  And it was incredible the stuff that this teacher was telling them.  The stories and the instructions and how to be Anishinaabe, again.

     “But you know, no matter who you are and how good your story, and what you had to say, to some people, every word of that teaching just inspired them and they couldn’t stop listening.  While others, their mind wanders off.  And so in the end, when the teacher is done and returns back to the water, there are some people that have listened to every word and remember every word.

     “And so, the second teacher came, and the same thing happened, only different people listened to every word this time.  And the third teacher, and the fourth, and the fifth, and the sixth.  And those that listened to the first teacher took on the instructions and took on the responsibility of that teaching, and they took on the identity of that teaching, and eventually they took an animal identity of that teacher.

     “And that first teacher that came out is Ajiijaak, the Crane. It became the Crane Clan. And those are the orators, the teachers, the stargazers.  They watch the stars. They’re the philosophers, speakers.

     “Then the second teacher was Maang, the Loon.  And the responsibilities of Loon – there are many, but the most important one is to listen to what’s happening, and to listen to Ajiijaak and make sure that what Ajiijaak is saying, is done the right way.  If they start to go haywire, the Loon straightens them out.

     “Then, the third teacher became the Bear Clan.  That one, the males are the guardians.  They guard the door.  They’re like the police force.  You never cross them.  They have great courage.  And the women are just the opposite of them but the same, at the same time.  They’re the nurturers.

     “And then the fourth one, is the Fish Clan.  In your Fish Clan, the king of the Fish Clan is the sturgeon.  And we have a very close relationship with sturgeon. They are the doctors.  They will doctor your physical being and they’ll doctor your heart also.

     “And then we have Marten.  Marten Clan are the Ogichidaa and Ogichidaakwe.  Those are the warriors.  And, of course, we all have Ogichidaa in us, but not like the Marten Clan.  You go to Bear Clan to settle disputes, but when nothing is left and where there’s nothing left to be done, you go to Marten Clan and, they’ll take care of it and it’ll be over with.

     “So then the sixth clan is Waawaashkeshii, the Deer. And the Deer are the balance of Marten.  They are the peacemakers.  And the Deer Clan over time began to feel like they were better than the others.  They were above.  They became aloof. Kind of – they became so good, they became so self-centered, conceited, that eventually they began to think that the other clans were beneath them.  And so they began to intermarry.  You have to marry outside your clan.  That’s one of the major rules. So, the clans all got together and Deer Clan was cast out.  There is no more Deer Clan.  It’s gone.  It doesn’t exist.  And so our pacemakers, our true peacemakers, are gone.  We can only hope for a little bit of peace.”

(To order a copy of John Dettloff's new book, send a check or money order for $29.95, plus $6 shipping and 5 1/2% sales tax, made out to Trails End Publishing and send it to: Trails End Publishing, 7431 N Flowage Rd., Couderay, Wi 54828.)

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