This story by the late Naawigiizis, Jim Clark, is reprinted from Living Our Language: Ojibwe Tales & Oral Histories: A Bilingual Anthology. Edited by Anton Treuer. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.
Miish i’iw gii-tibaajimod indedeyiban i’iw. Mii go omaa wi- igwaasing gaa-tazhi-onzamowaad iko gaye gegoo gii-chiibaak- waadamowaad, inaajimo. Maagizhaa gaawiin gaye aapiji, gaye aapiji indebwetanziimin. Inashke sa wiin, inashke jaagide wiigwaas ingoji ishkodeng. Miish iwidi, nimoonenimaazawaa- naan onow. Akiwenzii, indedeyiban gii-ani-zaaga’amogwen. Namanj igo madwe-ganoozhiyangid iwidi.
Agwajiing imaa gii-poodawegwen. Miish agwajiing iko gii-poodawewaad, mii igo anishinaabeg. Mii i’iw gii-poo- dawegwen imaa agaasishkodeyaa ishkode. Owii-takonaan i’iw makakoons. Biskitenaanganing igo izhinaagwad i’iw wiigwaasimakakoons. Mii i’iw nibi atenig. Gegaa go imaa gaye ingodoninj eko-biigwen i’iw makakoons. Gaawiin igo gii-michaasinoon. Gemaa gaye niiyoninj, niiyoninjiiskaayaa. Inigokwadeyaagwen. Ingodwaasoninj gii-akwaa. Miinawaa gemaa gaye nishwaasoninj gaa-apiitadogwen, apiitoonigod. Miish igo nibi atemagak. Miish imaa ishkode. Gaawiin gaye gichi-zakwanesinoon. Gaawiin gaye gichi-michaamagasinoon ishkode. Mii imaa ayagwanang i’iw wiigwaasimakakoons nibi atenig. Ingoding gegoo imaa ji-ganawaabandamaang, geget imaa gii-tazhi-ondemagad i’iw nibi.
Miish waabanda’iyangid i’iw wiigwaasing iko gegoo gii-tazi-giizizamowaad mewinzha ingiw anishinaabeg. Gaawi- in gii-chaagidesinoon i’iw wiigwaas megwaa nibi ateg biinjayi’ii. Gaye, mii gaye wiinawaa gii-kikinoo’amawiyangid gegoo gaa-ani-izhichigewaad ingiw anishinaabeg gaa-ani-izhi- bimaadiziwaad.
The use of fire
Today I still search for ways to tell about these things which people find unbelievable. This is how the Indian lived long ago, because a very long time ago they had knowledge of the many things that they wanted to use. My father and I visited some of them, the elders over there at their houses. It was fall here. We lived in Minneapolis. But they were over there at the Mille Lacs reservation, over there where my father and the [others] lived. Then as we went over [there] visiting one time, they were talking about something. This is what my partner came to ask about.
Then my father told a story about it. They used to boil [wa- ter] in birch bark here and cook things with it, he says. Maybe we didn’t really believe it, not entirely. You see birch bark just burns up anywhere in a re. We were unable to sense what he was doing. The old man, my father must have gone outside. He was heard talking to us out there.
Outside there he must have built a re. The Indians customarily built res outside then. The re was a small re where he must have kindled it there. He grasped that basket. It looked like a birch bark sap-collecting bucket inside. Water had been put in there. There must have been about an inch of liquid in that basket. It wasn’t big. It was four inches across, approximately four inches. It was that wide. It was six inches long.
And it must have been about eight inches in height, made to that size. Then there was water inside. It was there on the re. And it did not burst into ames. The re wasn’t especially large. But that birch bark basket was resting level there with water inside. We looked inside there then, and that water in there was really boiling.
That’s when he showed us how birch bark was customarily used by those Indians long ago when they cooked things. That birch bark did not burn while water was put inside. And that’s how they taught us something about what those Indian people did and the way they lived their lives.
Match the Ojibwemowin term on the left with the English translations on the right. Use the text or an Ojibwe dictionary to find the definitions.
Wiigwaas A long time ago
Indedeyiban S/he tells a certain way
Noongom Outisde, outdoors
Niinawind My father
Inaajimo Birch bark
Gaakaabikaang We, us
Akiwenzii Small box or basket
Gichi-mewinzha An old man
‘Gaawiin’ together with ‘sinoon’ makes a sentence negative. Gaawiin igo gii-michaasinoon. It was not big.
Gaawiin gaye gichi-zakwanesinoon. It did not burst into flames.
Gaawiin gii-chaagidesinoon i’iw wiigwaas. That birch bark did not burn.