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Wiigwaasi-Zhiishiigwanag: Birch Bark Rattle

Zhiishiigwanag, They are alive and have a spirit. We feast the rattle and use it in the Mide ceremony, also in Funeral ceremonies, and doctoring/ healing ceremonies. There is a specific story that goes with the birch bark rattle in this area, Obaashing (although other communities may have their own story). This teaching was shared to me by Waasabiikoban deceased Anna C.Gibbs. I have decided to share this because it seems this teaching is being lost or forgotten. I remember how serious the rattle was to Waasabiik and other elders, Like Greg Kingbird. I remember one time Greg telling someone that they don't have permission to make a certain type of rattle unless they belonged to the Midewiwin. Also I remember Waasabiik telling me not to sound the rattle unless There was a ceremony, because it calls the spirits. They hear the rattle and look this way. These Elders, who are gone now, had a strict way about them; yet it was out of respect for our spiritual ways. Also when we make a certain type of rattle, which is made from a soup can, this represents the birch rattle which preceded it. We make these types of rattles only for funerals and Mide ceremony. These are the teachings that I remember. I share this in a good way out of respect for their teachings and memory to honor them. Last year we were going to have a birch bark rattle making workshop, but then we were reminded by a Ponemah elder of the significance of the birch rattles and soup can rattles. We were reminded how careful we must be with these. We don't just make them as if they are musical instruments. We make them for specific reasons. In Ojibwe culture the rattle is sacred and not a toy or musical instrument. We consider them a living entity. Especially the Birch bark rattle which originates in the Midewiwin lodge and is usually not mass produced in a classroom or in an online class. I wish to share this teaching because we have to be careful when we make these. One of the things is that if there was an extra rattle made during a funeral, it would get burnt because this signified another person leaving. These rattles are powerful in our Anishinaabe way of life. I share this teaching with our people who do not know these teachings or may not have access to them. Miigwech gii-agindameg o’owe gaa-ozhibii’amaan.

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