Algonquin Culture, Philosophy and Traditions
Below Information Was Taken From A Book Written and Published by:
“The Circle of Turtle Lodge”
If the whole world knew and practiced this philosophy, it just might work a whole lot better!
“Only take what you need; give in order to receive; recognize that you are an equal part of all that is; be thankful for everything that you get…”
So often we hear Elders say:
” Listen to your heart.”
” What is my way may not be your way.”
” Listen to the teachings.”
” Take from them what you need and leave the rest.”
Certainly, there is much to learn about our culture and traditions, but you will not find only one way to do anything. Because our philosophy is unique to the individual, each person will interpret the Teachings in a different way. We are taught that Teachings come to us each and everyday. All we need do; is simply stop and notice them. By insisting that their interpretation of any Teaching is the ONLY way, that person denies you the right to interpret it for yourself and to develop your own relationship with the Creator.
We were raised in a very competitive world.
We were taught to strive for perfection.
“Rather than demanding perfection now a days, it might be better to strive for ” Being The Best That You Can Be.”
This Is The Way We Should Live
These statements are sometimes titled as ‘The Indian Ten Commandments’ and are common, universal knowledge among all native people.
- Treat the Earth, and all that dwell upon it with respect.
- Remain close to the Great Spirit.
- Show great respect for your fellow beings.
- Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
- Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
- Do what you know to be right.
- Look after the well-being of mind and body.
- Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
- Be truthful and honest at all times.
- Take full responsibility for your actions.
The Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers
When time began, there were Seven Grandfathers who led our people. Before they left us to cross over into the spirit world, each of them offered teachings by which the people should live. These teachings, some of which were mentioned in the Sacred Tree, are what western society would call values today.
Our path in daily life follows the that of the sun. It begins in the East, moves through the South to the West, and then travels through to the North. For this reason, all movement within any circle is always done clockwise by entering from the East, and all of our ceremonies and gatherings are set as a circle.
** Wabanaong is the Spirit Keeper of The East
** Shawanong is Spirit Keeper of The South
**Negabonong is Spirit Keeper of The West
** Keewatinong is Spirit Keeper of The North
In addition to the four directions that most people know, there are three more.
Above us is Father Sun – Keeper of the Sky Nation: the Cloud People, the Star People, the Aurora Borealis and all the others. This direction brings us the ability to discriminate between good and bad, and teaches us how to set our limits by learning to say “No”.
Below us is Mother Earth – the ground we walk on, whose water is our life-blood. From this direction we learn co-operation.
In the Centre is the Creator – It teaches us about our ability to create, and to develop to the full of our potential. It is the Spirit within each of us which teaches us about our own sacredness and about our faith.
Medicines From The Earth
The medicines most commonly used in ceremonies are Tobacco, Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar & Strawberries. Plant medicine can be harvested from the wild, but it should be done in a respectful manner, ensuring that it will continue for the future generations by taking only every fourth one.
Every animal has it’s medicine, usually their medicines comes from how they act and what they do. However their personal significance for us depends on how they have shown up in our lives.
For example, if were considering a career change while driving home from work, and suddenly you came upon a turtle in the middle of the road, then you might want to side with the job that offers you more stability, which is the turtle’s medicine. On the other hand, it may be a sign that your present job has become too rigid for your spirit. Some animals will be mentioned more often but these are a few favorites.
EAGLE is associated with the East direction. It can fly the highest of all birds, thus is a messenger from the Creator.
Coyote is associated with the South direction and is known as a Trickster. A coyote is always sneaking around trying to steal something and doesn’t take the world seriously. Part of his medicine is to get you to see the lighter side of life, have some fun, but his purpose can also be to move you along in growth and development through trickery, something that some of us need in order to grow at all.
Bear is associated with the West direction, the place of healing. The bear hibernates – it goes away from the rest of the world. In order for us to heal, we must go inside ourselves to contemplate our inner resources, so that we can emerge refreshed and ready to face the world once more.
Buffalo is associated with the North Direction, the place of wisdom. Buffalo gave it’s entire being to sustain the native people of the earth, that is it’s medicine for us – it teaches us to give.
Wolf shows us relationship to family and/or community. They have a very intricate structure, with each member of the community having his or her role. What it teaches us is loyalty – wolves usually mate for life.
Turtle shows us our relation to the Earth: it was she who offered her back to become the first land, which we call “Turtle Island”, or “The Americas.” Turtle teaches us stability and dependability which if taken too literally, can turn into rigidity and stubbornness.
Thunderbird was known as the biggest hawk that ever lived on Earth. It was good and kind with a voice powerful enough to gather councils or to bring rain clouds near. But it let it’s ego get out of control and he was turned into a Spirit by a lighting bolt. Still, the Creator let him be a messenger for the Thunder Beings, and in doing so he learned pleasure from serving others and finding his place in the universe. It teaches us to avoid arrogance and work instead to serve and heal people.
Stones and Rocks are referred to as Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the Stone People in our culture. The Medicines from the Stone People is ancient knowledge. Each stone or rock that you see today was created thousands of years ago, and amazing as it may sound, the message or image that you receive from a Stone Person was meant for you and only you at this point in your life. Don’t expect anyone else to get the same message from the same Grandfather.
Trees are known as Standing People. The Standing People carry the knowledge of the past into the present and the future. Some trees are held in more sacred reverence than others, usually there are seven, corresponding to the seven directions. In Eastern Canada, these trees are: Birch, Willow, Poplar, Cedar, White Pine, Maple and Oak.
Birch is used to light the fire.
Willow especially Red Willow has great healing powers.
Cedar offers us protection and healing.
Poplar is the oldest tree on Mother Earth; perhaps it has the oldest memories.
White Pine is sometimes referred to as the tree of life: it’s roots branch out to the four directions.
Maple offers us her sap in the springtime. This sap was food for our people which helped restore their strength after fasting and could be used to regulate blood sugar levels.
Oak is one of the hardest wood in the area. It’s fire can be the most enduring. It’s roots go deep into Mother Earth.
A Sacred Fire should include the wood of all these sacred trees. It should be created in a careful and respectful way, offering prayers and tobacco to all the Directions.
” It is said that to hear the message from a tree, you should rub your hands together then place them on each side of the tree about an inch away from the bark. Clear your mind and listen with all your senses.”
Native Astrology For Birth Animal
5 Sacred Animals
Because the eagle is the animal that flies the highest in the animal kingdom, many tribes have believed they are the most sacred, the deliverers of prayers to the Creator. Additionally, the eagle feather as a gift is considered the highest honor to be given.
Most commonly viewed as the trickster by many tribes, the coyote figure is also called Isily by the Cahuilla, Yelis by the Alsea, and Old Man Coyote by the Crow Tribe, which views the animal as both creator and trickster. Regarded by some tribes as a hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans, the coyote also demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors such as greed, recklessness, and arrogance in other tribes.
As one of the most important life sources for the Plains tribes, the American buffalo, or bison, is a sacred and strong giver of life. Their horns and hides were used as sacred regalia during the ceremony. They are also tied to creation, medicine, and bringers of sacred messages by the ancestors such as the White Buffalo Calf Woman, the bearer of the peace pipe to the Lakota people.
Known as the carrier of Turtle Island by the Great Spirit, the turtle plays a fundamental role in the creation stories of many East Coast tribes. The name Turtle Island is literal: Having placed a large amount of dirt on a great turtle’s back in order to create North America, the Creator designated the turtle as its eponymous caretaker.
While Plains tribes associate the turtle with long life and fertility, other tribes associate the turtle with healing, wisdom, spirituality, and patience. The Hopi know the turtle spirit as Kahaila, while it is Mikcheech to the Micmac and Tolba to the Abenaki.ker.
Another trickster, the raven is a big part of many tribes including the Tlingit of Alaska, who tell many stories about how the raven created the stars and the moon. The raven is the creator god of Gwich’ in mythology—mischievous and loud, and in many ways a sarcastic troublemaker, he is also known as a thief.
Brightly Colored Ribbon Skirts
Brightly-colored ribbon skirts are a traditional piece of clothing for many Native American women and girls, as it honors their heritage and is a way to represent themselves as well as causes, such as the missing and murdered Indigenous women and children.
Tala Tootoosis, a motivational speaker and ribbon skirt creator — says her goal is to empower girls and encourage people to understand and know the true stories of Native American women. Tala has gone through trauma in her past; she now finds healing through the written word and by using her ribbon skirt as a symbol to make a powerful point—to encourage Native women to be proud and not to be afraid, she wants them to fight. The ribbon skirt, to her, is like “battle gear”—she doesn’t want to be afraid of being a woman; she wants to be able to walk around with confidence, and she wants her little girl to feel safe in her community. To Tala, wearing a ribbon skirt isn’t about being a “pretty princess”—it’s about a lot more.
Tootoosis states the Ribbon Skirt is almost a declaration of being a survivor of attempted genocide. “They tried to murder my grandmother. They cut her hair. They tried to beat and rape the language out of her. But she still taught me that it’s okay to wear a skirt. She told me she was so proud of me.
She was able to say that from her own lips. That’s resilience. That’s power,” (Anishinabek News).
Tala shows viewers how to make a ribbon skirt and the steps are outlined below.
1. Typically, you want to start out with 2 meters of fabric.
2. Tala shows how to measure the fabric and where to cut it by wrapping it around your body and stepping forward.
3. You then fold the material you are left within half then cut the folded side to make two pieces.
4. Fold it in half again longways.
5. Next, take a measuring tape and measure the biggest part of your midsection.
6. You will now use the measuring tape—watching the video will give you a visual of what to do with the tape.
7. You will then cut a diagonal line from one side, starting at wear the measuring tape is, to the other side.
8. You then will have your skirt sans ribbons, of course.
9. Tala uses 505 fabric adhesive spray to adhere the ribbon to the fabric.
10. You will still need to sew the ribbons onto the fabric, but using adhesive first is the way to go.
11. Once you have sewn the ribbons on, you flip the fabric and do the same thing to the other side.
12. Next, turn the ribbon skirt inside out, take your pins, and line up the ribbon from each side.
13. Hem the sides using a zigzag stitch.
14. You’re almost done! Take the top part and fold over to make the waistband area; which you will need to hem as well so there is room for the elastic.
15. Lastly, turn it inside out the other way and hem the bottom—then your skirt is finished!
Show your individuality by making a beautifully-colored ribbon skirt; it doesn’t take too much time to make—you only need basic sewing skills to do so.
This ceremonial dance is performed by numerous agricultural peoples, especially in the southwest, where summers can be extremely dry. The ceremony was performed to ask the spirits or gods to send rain for the tribes ‘crops. The dance usually takes place during the spring planting season and before crops are harvested. However, it was also performed in times when rain was desperately needed.
One thing that makes rain dances unique from some other ceremonial dances is that both men and women participate in the ceremony. The dance varies from tribe to tribe, each having their own unique rituals and costumes. Some tribes wear large headdresses while others wear masks. Accessories often include paint on the body, beads, animal skins, horse and goat hair, feathers, embroidered aprons, and jewelry made of leather, silver, and turquoise. Feathers and the color blue are often found in dress and accessories, symbolizing the wind and rain, respectively. These special clothes and accessories which were worn during the rain dance were generally not worn at other times of the year, but rather, were stored for this specific ceremony. Dance steps usually involve moving in a zigzag pattern as opposed to other ceremonial dances that involve standing in a circle.
Stories of the origins of ceremonial dances have been passed from generation to generation orally. When the Native Americans were relocated in the 19th century, the United States government banned certain tribal ceremonial dances. In some regions, tribal members would tell federal authorities that they were performing a “rain dance” rather than disclosing the fact they were actually performing one of the banned ceremonies.
Though the rain dance was most often performed by tribes in the southwest such as the Puebloan, Hopi, Zuni, and Apache, other tribes also performed the ceremony, including the Cherokee in the Southeastern United States. Many tribes continue to perform this ceremony today.
Relationships with Animals
Indigenous peoples’ relationships with animals are the result of tens of thousands of years of connections to their environments. The non-Native concept of “spirit animals” has seen a recent rise in popularity, in and out of the classroom. Finding animals, they connect with can be a fun activity for many students. However, using the concept of a “spirit animal” while teaching Native American culture trivializes Native relationships to the animal world.
In Native American traditions, animals are sometimes used to communicate the values and spiritual beliefs of Native communities. Animals’ importance is also evident in the creation stories of many tribes. Animal imagery is often used to share family, clan, and personal stories. We ask that you do not copy such imagery from totem poles, pictographs, etc.
Clan and kinship systems within many American Indian tribal communities reflect relationships to animals. Each animal carries history and meaning. Clan and kinship systems are specific to each tribal community and may vary widely from one another. We ask that you do not adopt clans into your classroom.
The story of American Indians in the Western Hemisphere is intricately intertwined with places and environments. Indigenous Peoples strive to be respectful of their environments. Many believe in thoughtfully honoring the lives of animals by only taking what is needed. To respect Native Americans and animal life, we suggest that your classrooms work to support your local environments through advocating for animals and their natural habitats.
Native American Symbols, like the Raven symbol, can vary in meaning from one tribe to another and across the culture groups of North America.
Discover facts and information about the meanings of secret and mysterious symbols used by Native American Indians in our List of Symbols including the Raven symbol.
Meaning of the Raven Symbol
Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas, and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Raven symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena, and animal designs. Native American bird and animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide.
The meaning of the Raven symbol signifies that danger has passed and that good luck would follow. According to Native American legends and myths of some tribes, the Raven played a part in their Creation myth. The raven escaped from the darkness of the cosmos and became the bringer of light to the world. The raven is associated with the creation myth because it brought light where there was only darkness. The raven is also believed to be a messenger of the spirit world. It is believed that ravens who fly high toward the heavens take prayers from the people to the spirit world and, in turn, bring back messages from the spiritual realm. Other tribes looked upon the raven as a trickster, or shape-shifter, because of its ability to adapt to different situations – refer to Tricksters. For additional information refer to Power Animals.
There were so many tribes of Native American Indians it is only possible to generalize the most common meaning of the Raven symbol or pattern. Native Indian symbols are still used as Tattoos and were used for a variety of reasons and depicted on numerous objects such as tepees, totem poles, musical instruments, clothes, and War Paint. Indian Tribes also used their own Colors for Symbols and designs depending on the natural resources available to make Native American paint.
Native American Indians had a highly complex culture, especially those who lived on the Great Plains.
Their religion was dominated by rituals and belief in a spiritual connection with nature and these beliefs were reflected in the various symbols they used such as the Raven symbol.
The clothes, tepees, and all of his belongings were decorated with art and included symbols depicting his achievements, acts of heroism, his various spirit guides or the most important events in his life. Every symbol used by an American Native Indian had meaning which can be accessed from Symbols and Meanings.
The First Fire
In the beginning, there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders, who lived up in Galun’lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was a long, long time ago.
Every animal was anxious to go after the fire. Raven offered. He was large and strong, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water and lighted on the sycamore tree. There he perched, wondering what to do next. Then he looked at himself. The heat had scorched his feathers black. Raven was so frightened he flew back across the water without any fire.
Then, little Wa-hu-hu, the Screech Owl, offered to go. He flew high and far across the water and perched upon a hollow tree.
As he sat there looking into the hollow tree, wondering what to do, a blast of hot air came up and hurt his eyes. Screech Owl was frightened. He flew back as best he could because he could hardly see. That is why his eyes are red even to this day.
Then Hooting Owl and the Horned Owl went, but by the time they reached the hollow tree, the fire was blazing so fiercely that the smoke nearly blinded them. The ashes carried up by the breeze made white rings around their eyes.
So, they had to come home without fire. Therefore, they have white rings around their eyes.
None of the rest of the birds would go to the fire. Then Uk-su-hi, the racer snake, said he would go through the water and bring backfire. He swam to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree. Then he went into the tree by a small hole at the bottom. But the heat and smoke were dreadful. The ground at the bottom of the tree was covered with hot ashes. The racer darted back and forth trying to get off the ashes, and at last, managed to escape through the same hole by which he had entered. But his body had been burned black. Therefore, he is now the black racer. And that is why the black racer darts around and doubles on his track as if trying to escape.
Then great Blacksnake,” The Climber,” offered to go for fire. He was much larger than the black racer. Blacksnake swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump. Before he could climb out, he, too, was burned black.
So the birds, and the animals, and the snakes held another council. The world was still very cold. There was no fire. But all the birds, and the snakes, and all the four-footed animals refused to go for fire. They were all afraid of the burning sycamore.
Then Water Spider said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but the other one — the one with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of the water, or dive to the bottom.
The animals said,” How can you bring backfire?”
But Water Spider spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl which she fastened on her back. Then she swam over to the island and through the grass to the fire. Water Spider put one little coal of fire into her bowl and then swam back with it.
That is how the fire came to the world. And that is why Water Spider has a tusti bowl on her back.
Holistic All Natural Healing
Back in the day there were no such thing as doctors. So some people came up with the idea to use naturally grown wild berries, flowers, peat moss, plants, shrubs and trees as medicine.
Below is a 24 page pamphlet on home-made remedies and/or medicines used for healing.