Ojibwe: Waasa-Inaabidaa

This six-part series from 2002 explores the history and culture of the Ojibwe people, from before European contact to modern times, and how this history has impacted the Ojibwe people through to today. Ojibwe history and culture is explored through six different lenses: Gakina-awiiya ("We Are All Related"), Gwayakochigewin (Making Decisions the Right Way), Gaamiinigooyang (That Which Is Given To Us), Bimaadiziwin (A Healthy Way of Life), Gikinoo’amaadiwin (We Gain Knowledge) and Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe Oral Tradition).

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode One - We Are All Related

Episode One: Gakina-awiiya - "We Are All Related" explores the Ojibwe relationship with the natural environment before European contact, and how the land and lives of Ojibwe people were dramatically altered when this delicate balance clashed with the Euro-American philosophies of resource exploitation, treaties, land ownership, and reservations.

Finally, witness Ojibwe self-determination in the late 20th century, which firmly reconnects the traditional Ojibwe relationship with all living things. Contemporary times have seen the re-affirmation of off-reservation treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering. The thrust of contemporary Ojibwe tribal governments has been positive natural resource management and a return to the understanding that we are all related to this earth.

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode Two - Making Decisions the Right Way

Episode Two: Gwayakochigewin – “Making Decisions the Right Way” journeys from pre-European contact to contemporary times, portraying the essence of traditional Ojibwe decision-making. Historical Ojibwe chiefs are profiled alongside contemporary Ojibwe leaders. This program traces Ojibwe beginnings as sovereign, independent bands led by councils of headmen, elders, and spiritual leaders; through the United States’ paternalistic era of government guardianship; to today’s reestablishment of self-determination. Historical hereditary chiefs and today’s tribal government leaders have successfully maintained the unique status of Ojibwe tribes as sovereign nations within a nation.

Today’s leaders and tribal governments come in many forms, but all share in common the responsibilities of decision-making and of doing things the right way for the good of all Ojibwe people.

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode Three - That Which Is Given To Us

Episode Three: Gaamiinigooyang – “That Which Is Given To Us” describes the traditional Ojibwe survival system through numerous interviews with historians, tribal leaders, and elders; combined with visually stunning dramatic sequences of the four seasons’ traditional economic cycle. Key interviews are powerfully illustrated with archival photographs, documents, maps, and historical film footage.

Travel from the times before contact, through the Fur Trade period, which introduced European concepts of personal profit, land ownership, and debt. This episode traces the damaging effects of treaties and land loss on the very survival of the Ojibwe; the economic reforms of the 1960s and 70’s self-determination; and contemporary court decisions that have re-affirmed reserved rights to practice traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering. Many of today’s Ojibwe people are experiencing a renewed economic sovereignty through new sources of financial stability including gaming, tribal businesses, and individual entrepreneurship.

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode Four - A Healthy Way of Life

Episode Four: Bimaadiziwin – “A Healthy Way of Life” examines the Ojibwe’s holistic approach to good health and the role of traditional medicine and spiritual healers. Also chronicled is the devastating impact on Ojibwe health brought by European-born epidemics, a shrinking land-base, and government policies of assimilation and acculturation. This program looks at the effects of boarding schools, adoptions, and other traumatic events that caused generations of grief, anger, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Learn also how the Ojibwe people maintained their health through improvements in health delivery systems beginning in 1955 with the creation of the Indian Health Service, and continuing with the training of their own people in western medicine and treatment.

This episode concludes with the reaffirmation of traditional healing based on living a good way of life with a renewed emphasis on spiritual healing. It examines important milestones such as the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the growth and success of culturally appropriate models of treatment for substance abuse, and other social ills, as well as the resurgence of traditional medicine combined with their own modern health clinics.

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode Five - We Gain Knowledge

Episode Five: Gikinoo’amaadiwin – “We Gain Knowledge”examines the connection between traditional family structures and knowledge--from the clan system through the four phases of life: child, adult, middle age, and elder. For the Ojibwe, learning is a life-long activity of careful observation and respectful listening. What must be fostered is not merely skill, but understanding, not merely knowledge, but wisdom. There is a duty on the part of elders to impart their wisdom and a concomitant obligation on the part of the youth to learn. This cyclical nature of education insured the survival of the Ojibwe people from generation to generation.

This episode chronicles the painful consequences of boarding schools and assimilation policies on the intricate Ojibwe family and education systems. Firsthand accounts from elders and others expose the harmful legacy of missionary and government boarding schools. The program goes on to describe the survival and renewal of traditional educational components of Ojibwe culture. From language preservation to dynamic, tribally run schools and colleges, traditional forms of Ojibwe education thrive once again in an atmosphere of self- determination, empowerment, and Native pride.

Waasa-Inaabidaa Episode Six - Ojibwe Oral Tradition

Episode Six: Ojibwemowin – “Ojibwe Oral Tradition” begins with Ojibwe origin narratives and chronicles the decline and near disappearance of Ojibwe language and culture, continues through rebirth and renewal, and comes full circle to today’s cultural renaissance and revival of language and tradition. A mixture of Ojibwe language (with English sub-titles), animation, drama, artwork, archival photos, interviews, and storytelling presents a rich tapestry and narrative of Ojibwe creation and tradition. This episode features survival narratives, the migration story, and contemporary language and cultural preservation programs emphasizing today’s Ojibwe children and future generations.

The Ojibwe people have adapted and survived generations of assaults on Ojibwe culture, language, and identity. Today, Ojibwe language and traditions thrive in all aspects of Anishinaabe-Ojibwe's life.