02 March 2009

Birdly Aspect of Names for Ojibways in the Pembina Band

People of the Pembina Band had a number of names derived from a birdly aspect. These natives lived among the prairie lands in the northeast corner of North Dakota, and were recognized as the most westerly dwelling tribe of the Ojibway nation.

"The following are some of the names, with their meanings, of that part of the band located on White Earth reservation who were living there in 1878," as reported by J.A. Gilfillan. This roster is based on a sample of the 194 names given for the 543 Indians and half-breeds which received annuities at this reserve. The list, given by this particular scribe, started with the chief, but it was his wife that was the first person given with a name related to some aspect of birds. This following material is directly from the article published in 1908.

Caa-tou-see, an Ojibwa. Originally painted by Charles Bird King. Lithographed, colored and published ca. 1836-44 by J.T. Bowen.

There is so much unsaid for this list, where nothing is given to denote how the name was attributed, or to, perhaps, graphically show the name. None-the-less, the information is part of the expansive record of historic ornithology known for another band of the first people that had once been resident on their expansive lands and territories.

¶ Se-se-gush-ik, She-who-is-afraid-as-she-flies.
¶ Kek-kek-wash, Flies-like-a-hawk.
¶ Gin-u-wash-ik, She-flies-as-a-war-eagle (N.B. The war eagle is considered by the Ojibways the noblest of all birds. So she flies very nobly).
¶ Wa-bi-ke-kek, White-hawk.
¶ A-bi-ta-ke-kek, Middle-hawk.
¶ Ka-bon-e, He-alights, (as a bird does, ceasing flying).
¶ Ke-be-givim-e-ash, He-who-with-his-feathers-sails-the-whole-course-to-the-end, (as a bird does).
¶ Nud-we-ash-ik, She-makes-a-sound-in-flying, (as a bird does.)
¶ Go-dji-ash-ik, She-tries-to-fly, (as a young bird does.)
¶ Man-i-do-bin-es, Spirit-bird, (not an ordinary bird, but supernatural).
¶ O-nub-i-win-i-ni, The-man-who-is-going-to-settle-on-a thing, (As a bird would hover over its nest about to sit or as a man would be about to settle on a piece of land.)
¶ Te-bus-ash-ik, She-flies-low, (as a bird does.)
¶ Azh-i-de-as-um-ok, The-woman-who-emits-lightnings-crosswise, (the thunder-bird, who according to their belief, causes thunder and lightning - the former his voice, the latter the flashes from his opening eyes - sometimes emits one flash and then another crosswise to it.)
¶ Gi-zhi-go-bin-es-ik, The-heavenly-bird-woman, (That is one conception of a woman, she is a bird, but this one is not an earthly bird, but a heavenly one.)
¶ Mesh-a-ki-wim-i-bin-es-ik, The-woman-bird-who-comes-down-out-of-the-sky-over-head-to-the-earth-and-remains, (we often see a bird do this. This is another conception of a woman as a being who has come down from Heaven to this earth.)
¶ Me-cud-e-wi-gum-eb, He-who-is-black-feather-sitting, (this man wears a black feather and is known by it.)
¶ O-zha-wush-ko-gin-u, The-blue-war-eagle.
¶ Bin-es-i-wi-gi-zhig, Sky-full-of-birds, (We often see such a sky.)
¶ Ga-ga-gi-wi-gwun, Raven-feather.
¶ Wa-bi-gin-u, White-war-eagle, (as has been said above the Indians consider the war eagle the noblest of all birds and consequently wear its feathers in their hair.)
¶ Ga-ki-zhi-ash-ik, The-woman-who-keeps-flying-fast-from-time-to-time, (she always keeps flying fast.)
¶ Sa-gi-qua-um-ok, The-woman-of-the-thunder-birds-that-come-out-in-the-open, (We often see a thunder cloud - in which are the thunder birds according to the Indians' ideas - rising just above the horizon mounting higher in plain sight. This woman is one of those thunder birds in that cloud.)
¶ Bin-es-i-wun-ga-wid-dji-wad. He-who-went-with-the-birds, (the birds of thunder or some other distinguished birds were flying over; he rose in the air and went with them.)
¶ Mes-co-gwun, Red Feather, (he wears that kind in his hair.)
¶ Ge-wuz-is-wun-e-bik, Woman-sitting-upon-and-hiding-her-nest, (As a bird does. She is such a one.)
¶ Ga-gin-u-ash, War-eagle-flying.
¶ Min-o-gwun-e-ash, Pleasant-feather-sailing (or flying.)
¶ Gin-u-ga-min-o-ta-go-zit, War-eagle-that-makes-a-pleasant-sound, (The war eagle, as before explained, is considered by the Indians the noblest of all birds; this man is such a one, and in addition makes a pleasant sound when he sings.)
¶ Ke-be-gwin-e, He-has-feathers-(or is feathered) all-the-way-to-the-end, (he lives to be extremely old but his feathers never drop off. He never becomes bald.)
¶ Ne-na-ash, Adjusts-his-feathers-as-he-flies, (a bird does thus.)
¶ O-zha-wush-ko-bin-es, Green-bird, (has green plumage.)
¶ O-djan-i-mi-bin-es, Hurry-flying-bird, (Sometimes we see a bird darting hither and thither in great agitation. He is such.)
¶ Na-na-i-gwun-e-ash, Keeps-adjusting-his-feathers-as-he-flies.
¶ Gi-zhi-ba-no-din-ong-e-bid, A-bird-that-is-going-to-fly-round-and-round-in-a-whirlwind.
¶ Mes-co-givun-eb, Red-feather-sitting, (he has a red feather in his hair.)
¶ Bi-wa-bik-co-gwun-eb-ik, Iron-feather-sitting-female, (The feather she wears is iron.)
¶ Od-ay-and-dji-gwun-eb-ik, She-who-changes-her-feathers-as-she-sits, (A woman can change her clothes sitting, take off one dress and put on another, changing, as it were, her feathers. This woman is such a changing feather bird.)
¶ Ni-ta-wi-gwun,eb-ik, She-know-how-to-sit-with-her-feathers, (as a bird does.)
¶ Mem-we-we-ash, He-who-sounds-lovely-when-flying, (the motions of his pinions through the air, or his voice as he calls.)
¶ Ga-bid-we-ash-ik, She-whose-sound-comes-towards-us-as-she-flies-approaching-us, (a bird's sound comes toward us as it approaches flying, so she.)
¶ Ge-now-i-gwun-eb, He-sitting-with-long-feathers.
¶ Ko-ko-ko-ons, Little-owl.
¶ Kek-kek-onsh-ish, Bad-little-hawk.

These names are another perspective which so vividly conveys — in a distinctly unique manner — what role birds and their lore and habits meant to the first people, and how the local species were honored by evocative names. Many of the names allude to bird behavior, with only a few seemingly derived from a particular species.

Jack-o-pa the Six, a Chippewa chief. Originally painted by Charles Bird King. Lithographed, colored and published ca. 1836-44 by J.T. Bowen.

The proper names are much more than a simple attribution like a plain Jane or simple Joe. They convey action and behavior and motions and other notable attributes deriving power from nature. When tribal members talked with each other using their given name of this time in history, meaning and characteristics were an essential consideration and understanding.

Subtle, yet profound, tribal lore and mythology is inherent in some of the proper names, evoking a profound intimacy which the people had with the land and its natural residents. Different species were significant in the earthly realm through the mythical knowledge of tribal elders.

The following were from a subsequent list of names that received tribal annuities at Wild Rice River, in 1895. This locality is now within Norman County, Minnesota.

¶ O-za-wi-ke-kek, Yellow-hawk.
¶ Shi-shi-bens, Little-duck.
¶ Me-shuk-ki-a-bun-dunk, He-who-descending-from-the-sky-overhead (as a bird does) looks-down-to-the-bottom-of-the-water-and-sees-the-thing.
¶ O-me-zhuk,ki-wi-bi-es, Bird-that-flies-downward-to-the-earth-from-the-sky-overhead-and-remains, (That is one conception of a man, namely, that he is a bird that has come down from the sky.)
¶ Kish-ki-mun-i-se, The-kingfisher.
¶ Ke-ke-kon-shish, The-bad-little-hawk.
¶ Se-se-gash-ik, She-who-is-afraid-as-she-flies.

This set of names has at least one particular reference to a particular species. Raptors and ducks, two common species of the tribal territory, continued to be a basis for naming.Another continues the mythical consideration of women and men having descended to an earthly existence, from the great skies above.

This tribal crest for the Anishinaabe People, of the Ojibway, mimics the great thunder bird, so the winged ones were obviously of some importance.

[Crest of the Anishinaabe People]

No comments:

Post a Comment