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How the Pipe came to the Anishinabe

Updated: 6-27-2011 11:17 AM

Wegonen ki Pawaugun Sagigin Anishinabe

(How the pipe came to the Anishinabe)

It all started a long time ago with the fourth son of Winonah. The father being Ae’pungishimook, a Manitou from the west, who represents old age and death-the destiny and end of everything.  A thunder being. This fourth son was named Nanaboozhoo Now Nanaboozhoo, being fathered by a Manitou, made him half human and half Manitou (spirit).

Shortly after the birth of Nanaboozhoo, Wenonah walked on into the spirit world and this left the responsibility of raising Nanaboozhoo to his N’okomiss (grandmother).  How extraordinary was this newborn son that just moments after his birth he was able to talk. Aside from this Nanaboozhoo was like any other child, he was timid and everything frightened him, shadows, thunder, sudden movements and of course spiders, snakes and owls. At first, Nanaboozhoo was unaware that he was without a father or mother. It wasn’t until later, when other youngsters his age asked him about his parents, that Nanaboozhoo awakened to his parentless state and yearned to know about his parents. Often Nanaboozhoo asked of his Nokomis why he didn’t have a mother and father like other children and would she tell him about them, but just as often as he asked his Nokomis would put him off, and tell him that “their gone”, which Nanaboozhoo took to mean that they were dead. This didn’t stop the need to know more about his parents and how they meet their end. Still each time Nanaboozhoo asked, his N’okomiss postponed him with, “not now” “later or wait till your older”.

As he grew up Nanaboozhoo had to be reminded of things, as if he couldn’t retain anything in his mind, but one thing he did remember was his Nokomis’s promise, that when he was older she would tell him of his parents. The older he got the more insistent he became and the more difficult his Nokomis found it to put him off, and he would no longer except her reasons for with holding this information from him, as a son he had the right to know. The old woman put off telling her grandson what she knew of his parents as long as she could.

Finally when Nanaboozhoo was twenty, she told him what his mother was like and how she died not long after his birth. She also told him of his brothers Maudjee-kawiss, Pukawiss, and Cheeby-aub-oozoo whom he didn’t know and who had long gone from home.  Last, she told him of his father, a Manitou, who was believed to live out west somewhere. All of what she told him was new and exciting and prompted question after question about his brothers. But Nanaboozhoo’s mood changed from excitement to sadness during the discussion, as he thought about his father who had not cared enough to come see him even once since his childhood.

 The neglect of his father disturbed him more than the fact that he had never known his mother’s love. As he thought about the loss of his mother, he began to suspect that his father might have caused her death. Before long he began to cry and left the lodge.  Half blinded by tears and grief, Nanaboozhoo walked with no particular place in mind. He walked until his moccasin soles were worn and his feet were blistered. When he finally stopped walking, Nanaboozhoo sat down despondent at the fact that his father was a Manitou, dwelling in the west somewhere, was utterly indifferent to his son’s existence, and that Ae-pungishimook used his mother, Winonah as a piece of flesh with which to release his lust, rather then a wife. Because of his fathers’ neglect and maltreatment of Wenonah, Nanaboozhoo had been deprived of love and never learned how to love anyone. Nanaboozhoo was not an orphan, as he had long believed, but was a Waebinigun (a unwanted castoff). There was no dought that his father was the cause of his misery. His own father had done him a greater injustice than had any other person.

 That his father should still be alive, unpunished for what he had done, and not done, infuriated Nanaboozhoo. To Nanaboozhoo it just didn’t seem fair that anyone, be it human or Manitou, be able to perpetrate such an injustice, without paying a penalty. In Nanaboozhoo’s opinion evildoers ought to be made to undo the harm and injuries that they had done to make amends.  So Nanaboozhoo decided it was up to him to make his father regret the day he was born, out of love and respect for his mother. If he could, he would make Ae’pungishimook cry and then beg for mercy. Though all his rage Nanaboozhoo had forgotten that the object of his resentment was a Manitou. With his mind made up to hunt down his father and punish him, Nanaboozhoo commissioned the arrow maker to make the finest arrows and the finest bow and took to carrying a war club at all times, striking stumps and trees in practice. This behavior was entirely out of character for him. His kin and neighbors were both confused and startled by his strange conduct and explanations for practicing war cries and striking posts. Now Nanaboozhoo’s grandmother warned him of the difficulties and dangers to be faced.

The first challenge, to find his father without knowing where the Manitou dwelt, would be nearly impossible. If by some wild chance, he were to find or encounter his father, he would meet an end as horrible as one could imagine. A Manitou could destroy him with one blow, blast him into nothingness with a bolt of lightning, or by a mere wish change him into insect to be tormented by birds and other creatures. Worse still was the fate he would suffer after his death: to spend eternity in void as an outcast, condemned never to join his ancestors in the land of souls. Nothing anyone said would change the mind of Nanaboozhoo, how dare they question my intelligence and judgment. It was not they who were abandoned. No! No one was going to talk or scare him out of his mission to avenge his mother. Being that no one could change his mind, they urged him to undertake a purification ceremony in the sweat lodge and to seek the patronage of the Manitou’s through dreams, which was the least he could do for his own sake. Being a skeptic of the spiritual practices, Nanaboozhoo reluctantly agreed to go through the purification rites and to go on a fast to solicit a dream, but these things he did were not for the proper reasons, but only to patronize his grandmother and for no other reason. Alone in a dreamers place deep in the forest Nanaboozhoo made up his mind to fast for 4 days.

He prayed and chanted for a dream. For 2 whole days he tasted no food while his thoughts were fixed on the Manitou’s and sacred objects. During those 2 days, though deer, moose and rabbits passed and paused well within range, Nanaboozhoo paid little attention. Despite his single minded fixation of the sacred and spiritual objects, he neither saw nor herd anything resembling the supernatural during his sleep or waking hours.

On the third morning Nanaboozhoo awoke weak and aching with hunger. He tried to forget his discomforts, especially his craving for food by dwelling on the spiritual things and his departed ancestors. But Nanaboozhoo found it difficult to hold his focus for long, because up to this time, he had never felt the pain of starvation. In his mind this was the worst kind of torture a person could be made to suffer. Hunger was to much for Nanaboozhoo, and with the immediate presence of food and meat in abundance, the torture just increased. He wouldn’t have any difficult killing one of the deer that were grazing nearby. With one arrow he felled the nearest buck. For the next 2 days Nanaboozhoo did nothing else but eat and sleep. And he dreamed like he had never dreamed before, of vultures, crows, ravens, bats and snakes.

 On his return home Nanaboozhoo recounted all the extraordinary dreams that he’d had, the ones in which eagles soared and called, bears walked by his side and cougars brought him food. Now these were the kind of dreams that he was used to telling people of. Made up of course, for he Nanaboozhoo was the only one capable of having all the dreams that were filled with powerful medicine totems and objects. Mortals had to go often and for years before they had a dream or vision, but of course to Nanaboozhoo it was common. On the night before he set out, Nanaboozhoo performed the war ceremony in front of the entire village. His performance lacked the realism that warriors lent to such a dance, because he had never been on a raid. Therefore he could not refer to past experiences in order to demonstrate what he could do. His war dance was a charade. In the morning, with a quiver fitted with special arrows made by the arrow maker and a bow, with his pack filled with previsions and medicine, Nanaboozhoo bade his farewell to his N’okomiss.  Soon, with his quick pace Nanaboozhoo was out of site and earshot of the village. But as he walked further, misgivings began to set in. At first these misgivings were insignificant, not worthy of attention, but they mounted in size and in number and with every step were transformed into real fear. As his fear increased, his pace began to slow until he came to a complete stop. For the first time since he had made up his mind to hunt down his father and punish him, Nanaboozhoo began to consider the consequences for his intended act.

His father, whether human or Manitou must be very old, this being the case killing or even injuring him would be an act cowardice. Suppose, as his grandmother had told Nanaboozhoo, that his father was indeed a Manitou, and then surely he didn’t stand a chance in defeating him. On the contrary it would be he who would be done in. His objective was presumptuous, blasphemous and sacrilegious. If the Manitou found out, that it was Nanaboozhoo who would be hunted down and destroyed. As he thought about the possible consequences, he became almost paralyzed. He did not know what the Manitou’s could or could not do. If the Manitou’s could know hidden things, they would not long be in the dark about his venture, after his bragging, performing the war dance ceremony and his warlike preparations. And, being the object of Nanaboozhoo’s crusade, they would surely be angry. Under these circumstances, it would be better for him to make offerings to the Manitou’s in atonement for his profanity and return home, except that he could not do so after his display of cause and courage.

 Nanaboozhoo could not return home and announce that his decision to take up against the Manitou’s was rash and unwise. The people of the village would laugh behind his back and think that he was a blowhard. Nanaboozhoo knew that people were expected to do what they publicly announced or be subject to shame. Before he did anything else and the Manitou’s struck him dead, Nanaboozhoo made offerings to appease them in hopes that they would withhold their warful vengeances. How he could save face, he had no idea. But if a person, regardless of their mental ability, dwells long enough on a predicament, he or she will come to some kind of solution, as Nanaboozhoo did in this instance. The solution was simple: provided the Manitou’s didn’t destroy him first. He would have to be absent from the village for an extended period to make it appear that he was doing that, which he had boasted. During his absence he would visit distant lands, meet different peoples and maybe even discover where butterflies and bluebirds went to escape the winters. Why he would follow the sun to the rims of the earth to see for himself where it fell or discover why it went out every night. There was no shortage to the ventures that he could pursue in the coming months to while away his time instead of scouring the land for a Manitou who’s where abouts was any ones guess.

More than anything Nanaboozhoo wanted to know where the sun spent the nights, and with this thought in mind, he resumed his journey. Nanaboozhoo traveled all the way across the plains, near the great mountains. At the base of the mountains he stumbled upon the camp of an old man, who spoke the same language as he did. The old man was curious to know why Nanaboozhoo was so far from his home. Nanaboozhoo readily obliged by explaining his abandonment by his father and his mission to whip the old man and make him beg for mercy and cry like a beaten dog. When Nanaboozhoo had finished the old man identified himself as Ae’pungishimook and, in proof of his identity told Nanaboozhoo things that only someone close to the family would know. At the end of his explanation, the old man assured Nanaboozhoo that he was ready to be whipped anytime his son was set to try. He wanted to see how his son had turned out and if he was as bold as his words were brave.

Nanaboozhoo coughed and sputtered before laughing nervously. He stammered as he looked for the words to say that his words were spoken in jest, and he laughed some more. As he tried to talk his way out of his embarrassment, he finally stumbled upon a reason for not to going through with his boast. He did not strike old people, and he would not lay a hand on the old man despite what the old man had done to him. Ae’pungishimook commended Nanaboozhoo for his principles. But if Nanaboozhoo was unwilling to raise a hand to strike an old man, would he stand up and trade blows with someone of his own generation, if so, then Ae’pungishimook would gladly oblige him. At that moment the old man was transformed into a youth, taller, bigger and much more muscular than Nanaboozhoo. ”NOW!” the young man thundered.” Am I young enough? ”

For a few moments Nanaboozhoo was thunderstruck and too dumbfounded to speak. He looked at the giant warrior standing before him and felt like bolting, but his knees were to weak to even move. Nanaboozhoo had backed himself into a corner from which there was no escape, he would have to fight his way out. Feebly, Nanaboozhoo looked about and asked, secretly afraid, and in as even a tone as he could manage, whether they would battle at a close or distant quarter, with what weapons they would fight, and whether they would fight to the bitter end. His opponent casually replied that he would let Nanaboozhoo decided the manner, means and terms of the battle. With so many weapons to choose from, it was difficult at first to decide which one would give him some kind of a chance against the giant. After some deliberation, Nanaboozhoo granted his father the use of bow and arrows, while he would use fist size stones, his father agreed. Nanaboozhoo then paced off the distance and drew the battle lines some 120 paces well out of the reach of arrows but well within the reach of pitched stones. With that done he gathered flint rock until he had assembled a large stockpile for his arsenal. When he guessed he had enough he hailed his father with “alls ready”. Without waiting for his father to get set Nanaboozhoo launched many rocks in the direction of his opponent as hard and as fast as he could pick them up. Despite his accuracy they veered off to one side just in front his father, as if there were an invisible shield standing upright in front of him.

Meanwhile Ae’pungishimook looked on for a while before drawing his weapon and aiming it at Nanaboozhoo. The arrow whined as it streaked towards its target, leaving behind a blue white tail of smoke. The flaming arrow kicked up gravel as it bore into the ground at Nanaboozhoo’s feet. Nanaboozhoo leaped but before he landed on his feet another arrow streaked towards him sizzling as it tore into the ground where it disappeared. The arrows came at him steadily one after another.

Soon Nanaboozhoo was leaping up and down and from side to side in a frantic effort

to save his life. In a short while, Nanaboozhoo lost the spring in his legs he didn’t

leap as high or so quickly. Now Nanaboozhoo cried and prayed as he slumped to the

ground in front of his arsenal .As he lay on the ground he instinctively covered his

head with his arms as if bare arms could ward off the arrows. His whole body stiffened in

anticipation of a arrow driving into his back burning and drilling ever

deeper. The hiss and spit of arrows broke off, but Nanaboozhoo was not

even aware of the fact that they had stopped. So caught up in the

anticipation of the end he didn’t even hear the footsteps ”eeeeeeyoooooh”

Nanaboozhoo let out a scream as he felt something press against his

shoulder. ”Oh get up!” a voice said. ”You look silly lying there like a

she dog. Feeling no burning pain of fire in his soulder, Nanaboozhoo put

his hand to his shoulder, but kept his eyes closed. At last, feeling no

pain or blood he opened his eyes and looked up into the face of his

father. He tried to rise to his feet but was to weak to do so. He lay

there until he regained his strength. Back at the old mans camp

Ae’pungishimook unwrapped an object from a buckskin casing such as

Nanaboozhoo had ever seen before. The old man explained that the object

was a Pawaugun(pipe),that came from the Manitou’s and as such was a sacred object. Among the Manitou’s it was smoked to foster goodwill, peace

and brotherhood. The old man explained that he meant to give it to Nanaboozhoo as a symbol of their reconciliation if Nanaboozhoo so wished, so Nanaboozhoo could promote its use among the Anishinabe people. The pipe was to be smoked in ceremonies, before meetings, to compose passions carried as a sign of peace, and to seal pacts of peace after war. Then Ae’pungishimook invited his son to smoke the pipe as a gesture and token of their reconciliation. Nanaboozhoo accepted the offer and smoked the pipe. He also excepted the pipe as a parting gift from his father, on his behalf as well as that of the people, promising to encourage it’s use.

And that is how the Pawaugun came to the Anishinabe people. 

 

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