Nation-Based Sovereign-Based Government

LLL Looks at the Stories of Basil Johnston (Anishinaabe)…

December 11, 2019

Treaty 2 Territory – LLL has been very focused on research and knowledge. In blogs, we’ve discussed First Nations (Indigenous) education, language learning, and history. Most recently, we briefly thought about what an Anishinaabe school could like. When visiting Keeseekoowenin First Nation to discuss their Education Act, participants stated that they felt education should go back to focusing on student gifts in a way that educators observe students and their gifts; from there, students are mentored according to that gift.

Basil Johnston was an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) educator, writer, storyteller, philosopher, and so much more. It was important to him to retain the Ojibwe stories and legends told to him as a young boy and man. Language retention was also very important to Basil.

In his book titled The Manitous Johnston wrote about the four sons who were born to Winonah (a human woman) and Ae-pungishimook (the west): Nanaboozoo, Maudjee-Kawiss, Pukawiss, and Cheeby-Aub-Oozoo. Each of the four sons had a gift.

Maudjee-Kawiss was strong. He was a hunter, fisherman, trapper, and defender. Pukawiss had a gift for drama and dance; he was an entertainer. Cheeby-Aub-Oozoo was a good listener who was very curious about everything. And I think most are familiar with the gift(s) of Nanaboozoo.

Each brother had a unique gift, just as people do, just as children do. It seems that one brother enjoyed the Arts, one enjoyed learning and research, one enjoyed the land and animals, and the last had spiritual gifts. In Johnston’s book, he also writes s that Nanaboozoo’s grandmother, N’okomiss, was like a mentor to Nanaboozoo. She helped him to overcome fears so that he could develop his gift(s).

Was (is) this a story about a gift-based Anishinaabe education system? Quite possibly. Definitely something to think about.

Basil Johnston writes: “Every [Anishinaabe] man and woman had to master the practical skills: archery; spearing; setting nets and traps; making canoes, tools, shelters, and medicines; curing meat and vegetables; tanning hides and making clothing; understanding animals; and knowing the properties of plants and their parts.  There was so much to master, so much beyond human knowledge and understanding” (xviii).

Source: The Manitous (1995) by Basil Johnston, HarperCollins Publishers.

*Note: The spelling of names & Ojibwe words above are as spelled by author, Basil Johnston.

Last modified: December 11, 2019

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