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Anishinaabe traditional beliefs cover the traditional belief system of the Anishinaabeg peoples, consisting of the Algonquin/Nipissing, Ojibwa/Chippewa/Saulteaux/Mississaugas, Odawa, Potawatomi and Oji-Cree, located primarily in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.
The Anishinaabe have three different Medicine Societies.
The Midewiwin (also spelled Midewin and Medewiwin) is the Grand Medicine Society of the indigenous groups of the Maritimes, New England and Great Lakes regions in North America. Its practitioners are called Midew and the practices of Midewiwin referred to as the Mide. The Midewiwin society is a secretive animistic religion, requiring an initiation, and then progressing to four levels of practitioners, called "degrees". Occasionally, male Midew are called Midewinini, which sometimes is very loosely translated into English as "medicine man".
The Waabanowin (also spelled Wabuowin, Wabunohwin and Wabunohiwin) is the Dawn Society, also sometime improperly called the "Magical Dawn Society". Its practitioners are called Waabanow and the practices of Waabanowin referred to as the Waabano. The Wabanowin are distinct society of visionaries. Like the Midewiwin, the Waabanowin is a secretive animistic religion, requiring an initiation. But unlike the Mide, the Waabano have sometimes two levels and sometimes four. This variation being dependent on the particular lodge. They were systematically imprisoned in mental hospitals by the United States government in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Because of this persecution the Waabanowin went underground and have just begun to reemerge since the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The ceremonies and traditions are closely guarded.
The Jiisakiiwin are also known as the Shaking Tent or the Juggler's Tent. Among the Anishinaabeg, a particularly powerful and well-respected spiritual leader who had trained from childhood is called a Jaasakiid or Jiisakiiwinini, also known as a "Juggler" or "Shaking-tent Seer." In the past they were hunted down and murdered by both Canadian and United States officials.
According to the oral history of the Anishinaabeg, they originally lived on the shores of the "Great Salt Water" (presumably the Atlantic Ocean near the Gulf of St. Lawrence). They were instructed by seven prophets to follow a sacred miigis shell (whiteshell) toward the west, until they reached a place where food grew upon the water. They began their migration some time around 950, stopping at various points several times along the way, most significantly at Baawitigong, Sault Ste. Marie, where they stayed for a long time, and where two subgroups decided to stay (these became the Potawatomi and Ottawa). Eventually, after a trick by two of the clans, the other clans travelled West (see William Warren's account of this incident) and arrived at the wild ricing lands of Minnesota and Wisconsin (wild rice being the food that grew upon the water) and made Mooningwanekaaning minis (Madeline Island: "Island of the yellow-shafted flicker") their new capital. In total, the migration took around five centuries.
Following the migration there was a cultural divergence separating the Potawatomi from the Ojibway and Ottawa. Particularly, the Potawatomi did not adopt the agricultural innovations discovered or adopted by the Ojibway, such as the Three Sisters crop complex, copper tools, conjugal collaborative farming, and the use of canoes in rice harvest.
Nanabozho (also known by a variety of other names and spellings, including Wenabozho, Menabozho, and Nanabush) is a trickster figure and culture hero who features as the protagonist of a cycle of stories that serve as the Anishinaabe origin belief. The cycle, which varies somewhat from community to community, tells the story of Nanabozho's conception, birth, and his ensuing adventures, which involve interactions with spirit and animal beings, the creation of the Earth, and the establishment of the Midewiwin. The myth cycle explains the origin of several traditions, including mourning customs, beliefs about the afterlife, and the creation of the sacred plant asemaa (tobacco).