Preserving the Sacred

Historical Perspectives on the Ojibwa Midewiwin


Preserving the Sacred

The Midewiwin is the traditional religious belief system central to the world view of Ojibwa in Canada and the US. It is a highly complex and rich series of sacred teachings and narratives whose preservation enabled the Ojibwa to withstand severe challenges to their entire social fabric throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It remains an important living and spiritual tradition for many Aboriginal people today.The rituals of the Midewiwin were observed by many 19th century Euro-Americans, most of whom approached these ceremonies with hostility and suspicion. As a result, although there were many accounts of the Midewiwin published in the 19th century, they were often riddled with misinterpretations and inaccuracies.Historian Michael Angel compares the early texts written about the Midewiwin, and identifies major, common misconceptions in these accounts. In his explanation of the historical role played by the Midewiwin, he provides alternative viewpoints and explanations of the significance of the ceremonies, while respecting the sacred and symbolic nature of the Midewiwin rituals, songs, and scrolls.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Contents 6
List of Maps and Illustrations 7
Preface 8
Acknowledgements 14
1. In Search of the Midewiwin 18
2. Anishinaabe Religion and Society in the Pre- and Early Contact Period 32
3. Midewiwin Origins: Anishinaabe and Euro-American Perspectives 62
4. Midewiwin Ceremonies: Documentary Fragments from Euro-American Observers 92
5. Midewiwin Ceremonies: Ethnographic Records of a Society under Siege 134
6. Toward a New Understanding of the Midewiwin 192
Endnotes 202
Glossary 246
A 246
G 246
D 246
B 246
I 246
J 247
M 247
N 248
O 248
Z 248
W 248
Bibliography 250
B 278
Index 278
A 278
C 279
D 280
E 280
H 281
G 281
F 281
J 282
I 282
K 283
L 283
M 283
O 286
N 286
P 287
Q 287
R 287
S 288
T 288
U 289
V 289
W 289
Y 289
Z 289