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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nindoodemag Bagijiganan : a history of Anishinaabeg narrative Sinclair, Niigonwedom James


Nindoodemag Bagijiganan: A History of Anishinaabeg Narrative is a project interested in how Anishinaabe narratives define Anishinaabeg culture and community. It argues that Anishinaabeg expressions are bagijiganan, offerings where unique relationships Anishinaabeg carry enact a dynamic sense of art, identity, and nationhood. Embodying an intellectual praxis called mino-bimaadiziwin (“the good life”) from the past to the present, Anishinaabeg narrative artists are defining the processes of Anishinaabeg culture. I argue that Anishinaabeg narrative bagijiganan are embedded in principles found in the Anishinaabeg Nindoodemag, the totemic system. Articulating the specific and interconnected ways circles of Anishinaabeg relationality operate, Anishinaabeg Nindoodemag is formed through two concepts, enawendiwin (strands connecting all parts of creation) and waawiyeyaag (interwoven systems of circularity). These come together to construct nindinawemaganidog (all of my relations), a law found in traditional expressions like treaties, birchbark, and beadwork and contemporary forms like poetry, paintings, and novels. Anishinaabeg narrative bagijiganan exemplify how Anishinaabeg relationships grow while continuing an inclusive sense of nationhood through the Nindoodemag. In two opening sections, “First Thought” and “First Word,” I overview Anishinaabeg Creation narratives, tracing how Anishinaabeg conceive of the universe as constituted by language and how narrative bagijiganan gesture towards mino-bimaadiziwin. In “Bezhig,” I argue that Anishinaabeg Nindoodemag is the manifestation of this process and Anishinaabeg narratives adopt one (and often more) parts of the totemic system to enact and embody this praxis of relationship making. In “Niizh,” I investigate Mikiniik (Turtle) Bagijiganan, demonstrating how narratives provoke and produce relationships forged through the mind and the imagination. In “Niswi,” I examine Maang (Loon) Bagijiganan, demonstrating how narratives produce and fortify relational strands within Anishinaabeg community. In “Niiwin,” I study Ajijaak (Sandhill Crane) and Waabajijaak (Whooping Crane) Bagijiganan to show how narratives provide opportunities for affiliation with other communities. And, in “Naanan,” I look at Makwag Bagijiganan to show how narratives demonstrate the complex ways bodies forge relationships of biology and sustainability within a material world. In the concluding section, “Oshki Nasanaamo, New Breath,” I suggest that Anishinaabeg narratives suggest a radical sense of Anishinaabeg nationhood by offering reciprocal methods invested in responsibility – a path of mino-bimaadiziwin.

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