Mnemonic-body-6-17 - Page 1



Mnemonic (Re)Manifestations
Alan Corbiere
Anishinaabe artist Barry
Ace traces his lineage to Chief
Assance1 (Little Shell) of the
Nigig (Otter) clan. In this exhibit
called Mnemonic (Re) Manifestations, Ace contemplates cultural
metaphors, visual symbols, media, story and history. Throughout these collected works, Ace
summons the mnemonic locked
in tradition and releases it in new
media re-creating manifestations
anew. These symbols are all tied
to story and (his)tory.
Long ago, the vengeful
actions of Nenbozhoo compelled the underwater beings
to flood the world. Nenbozhoo
re-created the world by using
some of the old world. This
newly, re-created earth was
re-populated by plants, insects,
fish, birds, animals, and Anishinaabeg (humans). The Anishinaabeg population increased
but soon they started to get sick
and die. It is said that, the creator
saw that the people on earth
could not protect themselves
against disease and death. In the
spirit world, across the ocean, a
council was held to determine
how best to teach the people
to protect themselves. A medicine bundle was prepared and
the makwa (bear) was the first
one charged with carrying this
sacred bundle of everlasting life
to the Anishinaabeg. The bear
carried the bundle as far as the
great salt water. The miigis (little
cowrie shell) then relieved the
bear of his burden and carried
the bundle along the bottom of
the ocean to this continent. The
miigis met a waterfall and could
not climb any further. Oshkaabewis (ceremonial attendant)
met the miigis and grabbed the
bundle. However, the load was
too great and he required assistance. Oshkaabewis looked
for a suitable candidate to help
deliver this medicine bundle to
the Anishinaabeg. He journeyed
around the world four times but
could not find anybody suitable
to help him. Oshkaabewis then
met Nigig playing on the bank
of a river. He asked Nigig to help
but Nigig just kept on playing,
sliding down the riverbank.
Oshkaabewis asked Nigig again
and again, finally on the seventh
attempt Nigig agreed to be messenger and he placed the bundle
1
Assance has been spelt
a number of ways including
Aisance, Aissance, and Essens.
Utilizing the modern orthography, the Ojibwe word for clam
is es, a small clam is esiins or
esens (depends on dialect).
6
on his back. Nigig and Oshkaabewis took turns carrying the
bundle. They shared the burden
but also took time to share the
teachings that accompanied the
bundle. They sought out the
Anishinaabeg. The journey of
the Oshkaabewis and Nigig
was mnemonically manifested
in a Mide-wiigwaas (a birchbark
scroll). According to one record,
the otter, Oshkaabewis, and
thus the Midewiwin (called the
Grand Medicine Society) travelled to La Crosse. To memorialize their stop, a man standing
was etched onto the Mide-wiigwaas (birchbark scroll). The
next place depicted on the scroll
was Waawiiye’adinong “The
round shaped lake (often listed
as Lake St. Clair by Detroit)”; then
Mashkiigo-ziibi (Swampy River);
Mooningwanekaaning (Place of
the Northern Flicker aka Mad-
elaine Island); and then Shagwamikaang (Shallows where
the waves break); Nemitigmishkaang (Oak point), followed
by a shallow river called Naongowo-ziibi, then “Ka-ke-no-ne,”
then Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag
(Leech Lake) and Obaashing and
finally to Little Ottertail Lake.2
Nigig went ashore and shook
himself off. He shook himself
again and there were many
miigis (little cowry shell) dripping from his hair. Nigig told
Oshkaabewis to keep the shells
because they would serve as a
reminder, a mnemonic for creation and the Midewiwin. The
otter, Ace’s doodem (clan) was
an important messenger for the
2
Redsky 1972, p. 105 –
106. Spelling of Ojibwe place
names have been modified to
adhere to modern orthography.
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