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Education: Cultural Hegemony and Critical Consciousness The Lac du Flambeau Curriculum

Religion & Ideology

Not everyone agrees as to what the right definition of a religion is.

Some would argue that a religion is a socio-cultural system that permits certain beliefs, morals, ethics, worldviews, narratives and texts, sacred places, prophecies, behaviors, practices, and organizations that relate human beings to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual world.

An ideology would be a socio-cultural system that permits certain beliefs, morals, ethics, worldviews, narratives and texts, places, prophecies, behaviors, practices, and organizations that relate human beings to a meaningful but secular reality. 

Traditional Ojibwe Beliefs

For Ojibwe people, the supernatural world held a multitude of spiritual beings and forces. Some of these beings and forces—Sun, Moon, Four Winds, Thunder, and Lightning—were benign, but others—ghosts, witches, and Windigo—were not.

Native people believe that spirits represents different characteristics and traits. 

  • The Bear is related to medicine
  • The Deer is gentle and kind
  • The Warrior protects and fights
  • The Fish is literary and represent leaders
  • The Eagle is spiritual

These Spirits also represent clans, and every tribe member has a clan. 

Presiding over all other spirits is the Great Spirit, although this belief may have been a product of European influence.

Ojibwa religion is centered on the belief in power received from spirits during dreams and visions. Dreams and visions are accorded great significance and much effort was given to their interpretation.

The power obtained through them could be used to manipulate the natural and supernatural environments and employed for either good or evil purposes. 

Lac du Flambeau Religion & Spiritual Beliefs 

The Lac du Flambeau Band consider Strawberry Island sacred, and call it “the place of the little people” or spirits according to tribal tradition. They consider it the heart of their reservation.

In 1745, the island was the last battle site between these Ojibwe and the Lakota Sioux. The Band believes that warriors were buried there.

In 1966, an archaeological survey by a professor at Beloit College revealed that the island has human remains, and layers of artifacts dating to 200 BC.

As the island was used by indigenous cultures for more than 2,000 years, the Tribe want to keep it undeveloped for its historical, cultural and spiritual significance. 

In the Lac du Flambeau public school: 

  • On the floor of their cultural connections room are their main teachings of their culture: Wisdom, Courage, Truth, Honesty, Love, Respect, and Humility;
  • The elementary school encourages the students to talk about their faith and well-being in their religious identity;
  • They tend to discuss their religious practice more at pow-wow events, in their Ojibwe language class, and in the cultural connections classroom

Anishinaabe Beliefs

There is a belief among the Anishinaabe that after the appearance of Europeans, an historical phase consisting of seven “fires,” or eras began, each with its own characteristics.

The “sixth fire” is a time of great loss and struggle. The “seventh fire” is a time of recovery of lost traditions.

Many Anishinaabe believe that the “seventh fire” has been lit. And, indeed, there is a resurgence of Anishinaabe culture underway. Of course, it must be acknowledged that expressions of religion among the Anishinaabe today are quite varied.

Some Anishinaabe are fully assimilated into mainstream culture, while others are deeply rooted in Anishinaabe language and tradition. Many Anishinaabe fall in between these two extremes.

The cultural movement, though, is toward a return to traditions.

Thus, while Anishinaabe religion, culture, and worldview are certain to continue to undergo changes, it appears the “seventh fire” will continue to burn.

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