This story by the late Melvin Eagle is reprinted from Living Our Language: Ojibwe Tales & Oral Histories: A Bilingual Anthology. Edited by Anton Treuer. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.
Mii gaye akiwenzii gaa-wiindamawid: “Mii ingoding, mii ezhi-gikendaman igo gegoo, maagizhaa gaye ji-giiwaadisey- an,” gii-ikido a’aw akiwenzii. Mii sa gaye, mii sa apane wii-inendamaan i’iw gegoo. Gegoo niwii-izhaanendaan sa go gegoo. Wii-wanichigeyaan ji-wanigiizhweyaan gaye ayaapii, gaawiin igo ingotaayisiin, eta go bangii niizhaan eta, gaawi- ish gegoo. Gegoo gaa-izhid a’aw akiwenzii. “Gego, gego gaye. Gaawiin gaye gidaa-giiwanimosiin gegoo,” ikido. In- gii-wiindamaagoz i’iw gaagiigidod i’iw, “Gego agajiken gaye da-gaagiigidoyan.” Mii gaa-izhid a’aw akiwenzii. Moozhag go ingii-paa-wiindamaagoog ingiw akiwenziiyag i’iw. “Gego babaamendangen gegoo ji-wanigiizhweyan gaye,” gii-ikido.
Gegoo ingoding, ingoding igo gaye gaa-ani-bimiwinag- waa dewe’iganag, ingii-igoog ingiw akiwenziiyag. Gayesh igo geget, gayesh bimiwinagwaa ingiw dewe’iganag, wii- dookaazoyaan ji-bimiwinag wa’aw dewe’igan. “Onjida go noondaagozi ji-bimiwinaad ji-gikendang iniw dewe’iganan.”
“Da-zhawinendaagoziyan sa go, giiyaw da-zhawendaagwad. Miinawaa giniijaanisag, goozhishenyag, gidaanikobijiga- nag, gegoo akina giijikiwenyag, miinawaa go gidinawe- maaganag sa go akina — mii akina ingiw ge-zhawendaa-gozijig gagwejimaadwaa ongow manidoog miziwe eyaajig genawendangig o’ow aki. Mii sag aye, gaawiin giinawind gidibendanziimin o’ow aki. Gaawiin sa go gidaa-deben- danziin. Giganawendaamin eta go. Gayesh wiinawaa chi- mookomaanag, ‘Hey indibendaan o’ow aki.’ ‘Hey, gaawiin gidibendanziinaawaa. Maagizhaa gaye, maagizhaa gaye niisininig da-dibendamowaad. Gaawiish odaa-debendanziin. Gaa odaa-ikidosiin owidi da-dibendang. Anishaa gidabiitaan mino-aki. Gizhe-manidoo gigii-izhi-igoonaan ji-ganawenda- mang o’ow, ji-ganawendamang o’ow aki ji-ganawenimang- waa ongow, weweni ji-ganawaabamangwaa ongow awe- siinyag, miinawaa ingiw binesiwag, miinawaa giigoonyag, miinawaa zaaga’igan, mitigoog, akina sa ingiw.” Mii gaa- izhid a’aw ani-igooyang ji-ganawendamang.
Why we take care of our Earth
That old man told me this too: “One time as you come to know about things, maybe you will have that kind of fortune, too,” that old man said. That too, I think about all the time. I want to let my thoughts go to a certain place. If I’m going to make a mistake or misspeak at times, I’m not scared, only a little bit, but not really. That old man told me other things, too. “Dos and don’ts. You shouldn’t lie about things,” he said. I was told that when he gave a speech, “Don’t be bashful to speak.” That’s what the old man said. Those old men always used to come around telling me that. “And don’t worry about things like making a mistake while speaking,” he said.
One time, one time when I was starting to [help] carry these Drums, I was talked to by those old men. That’s for sure, it’s when I was just starting to [help] carry those Drums, help- ing out and then carrying that one Drum myself. “He is being heard on purpose so that he’ll carry these Drums and know about them.” “You will be blessed, your body will be blessed. And your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, all your friends and all your relatives — they will all be blessed when you ask the every-present Spirits that take care of this earth. And also, we don’t own this land. You can never own it. We only take care of it. But those white people, “Hey I own this land.” Hey, you guys can’t own it. Maybe, maybe the ones who lowered it here shall own it. But he can’t own it. He can’t say that he will own it. You live on this good Earth but for the grace of God. And that Kindly Spirit told us to look after this here, to take care of this Earth and look after these creatures, so that we can take good care of these animals, and these birds, and the fish, and the lake, the trees, all of these things.” He said that we’ve been told to be caretakers.