OJIBWE Waas Inaabidaa, We Look In All Directions

Feb 15th, 2003 | By | Category: 14-3: Your Heroes Are Not Our Heroes, Media Reviews

OJIBWE COVERby Thomas Peacock and illustrated by Marlene Wisuri
Afton Historical Society Press, 2002
160 pages

Review by Anne M. Dunn

Thomas Peacock begins the illustrated history by writing of the Wallum Olum record that ended abruptly in 1638 with the words, “Who are they?” These three ominous words refer, of course, to the European newcomers.    Eventually Peacock leads his readers to the sacred hoop, opens our eyes, and says, “Look, it has been shattered!”

Then word by word and line by line, he restores our vision of a good tomorrow. “Share yourself,” he seems to say. “Young people are hungry for heroes and mentors. Open the gift of Self and give of your personal strength, your traditional knowledge, and your unique wisdom.”

A member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Peacock has both his master’s and doctoral degrees form Harvard University. He is an associate professor of education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he teaches educational leadership. This book is the companion volume to a six-part public television documentary narrated by Winona LaDuke and produced by WDSE in Duluth. Peacock and Wisuri have also collaborated with Afton to produce an illustrated history of the Ojibwe culture for young people called The Good Path.

Peacock recognizes that traditional indigenous people view many leaders as unworthy of their trust or their respect. Outsiders moved us from moral to political leadership, but the traditional Indian community has not always accepted such leaders.

He recalls our poverty and our oppression. He speaks of racism, exploitation, and casinos. Skillfully he guides us through the dark chapters of our past with the sure step of a man who knows the terrain under his feet. “Come this way,” he urges. “I want to show you how our people lived. Walk in balance. Live in harmony. Learn from your elders. We are healing together. Ho-wah!”

There is no arrogance in Peacock’s tone, no effort to negate the reader. Those who open this book are invited to discover more than a people’s history; on these few pages they will see our living culture. College students and instructors will find that this book has been written with a particularly sensitive touch, brimming with reliable information about the Anishinabeg. Sometimes it seems more a diary than a history; we learn a lot about Peacock from these pages, and we know ourselves better, too.

Anne M. Dunn is an Anishinabe/Ojibwe grandmother, storyteller, and writer. She makes her home on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota where she lives with her husband, John, and their dog, Sam. For information about the television series, see <www.ojibwe.org>.

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