By Dedre Medeiros
Midewiwin means Grand Medicine Society and it is concerned with the harmony of life on Mother Earth and the respect and love for all things that live (Rice, N.D.). The Midewiwin is an organization that was created among the Ojibway communities to protect tribal traditions, spread these traditions to other tribes and to share and protect medicinal knowledge between different tribes (Gudzune, 2008). To live as a Midewiwin is to be a “Mide”, or it is also known as being a part of the “the Lodge.” Initiation ceremonies, fasts, sweat lodges, cleansing smudge ceremonies, tobacco offering in prayer and thanks were all a part of common practices associated with being a Mide (Rice, N.D.). Membership is determined by a vote that is held by the elder practioners and a year long series of commitments and sacrifices have to be done in order to be considered for initiation. Membership in the Midewiwin is evident by facial marking and medicine bundle pouches that contain healing herbs and charms. Although the Midewiwin were often associated as bring a religious society this was not at all the case. Rather it was about people coming together to share their gift of healing and to also protect the traditions of the Great Lake Region (Gudzune, 2008).
The process of sharing their gift of healing was an act of giving that is probably considered to be very different then a typical Western idea of what it means to give. For the Midewiwin they not only give their gift of healing but they also give their stories. A Mide Shaman will be learn about the roots of the plants they use for medicine, and as part of this process they also learn about the creation story. The greater the healers abilities the more of the creation story they know and will therefore be able to share with others. The stories are considered extremely sacred. In fact they are so sacred that the Midewiwin consider them to be like people and believe that they can house spirits (Burgess, 2006). Once again the Midewiwin and their ability to share their healing to others without the expectation of anything in return is very different then Western culture which is often very individualistic. Sharing in this society is not determined by ones wealth but rather by an individual’s abilities and commitment to living life as a Mide.
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