Growing up on the Range (1980’s, early 1990’s for context) our Ojibwe people were virtually unknown to me. The boys I played with down the street were 1/2 Ojibwe, but I took for granted that I didn’t know anything about the history, culture, and practices of the people. At that time we didn’t cover this history in a meaningful way in school, and it wasn’t until adulthood that I began to learn about the generations of folks living on the Range predating my own ethnic history.
The influence of Indigenous people are everywhere on the Range: in our place names (“Mesaba”), our eating (i.e. wild rice and wild rice soup!), and our culture. Dream-catchers, for instance, are sold at local arts festivals and shops. According to the Bineshii Wild Rice Store, located on Leech Lake, a dream-catcher is patterned after a spider’s web and is intended to catch bad dreams and keep them from entering the dreamer’s head.
The single bead or stone represents the spider, the rounded bottom of the willow hoop symbolizes the form of the sun and the moon, and the top of the willow hoop where the willow branch crosses and it is tied represents the transition of each day’s circle of life. They aren’t just for children. They are for everyone.
Today is the first day we officially celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in Minnesota. I am thrilled that we can recognize and learn more about our regional ancestors.
In that vein, here is the dream-catcher legend as shared by Bineshii:
A grandmother watched patiently each day as a spider spun his web above her sleeping place until one day her grandson noticed the spider and tried to kill it.
“Don’t hurt him,” she told the boy in a soft tone, surprising him.
“But grandmother, you should not protect this spider.”
When the grandson left, the spider thanked the woman for her protection and offered her a gift. “I will spin you a web that hangs between you and the moon so that when you dream, it will snare the bad thoughts and keep them from you.”
At this, grandmother smiled and continued to watch the spider spin his web.