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Home > Magazine > History > The Migration Scrolls of the Ojibwa...and More

The Migration Scrolls of the Ojibwa...and More
January 27, 2010

A Wiigwaasabak is a birch scroll that the Ojibwa medicine men, the Midewiwin, use in ceremonies. They use geometric diagrams to explain many complex things and have been handed down for generations. A couple are in the Smithsonian. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiigwaasabak)

The Anishinaabe people are involved in this, too -- they're the three-tribe, "three fires," group of which the Ojibwa are one part. (There are many spelling of these names.)

I saw a repro of one up in St. Ignace and it blew me away with its cosmic beauty. It depicted the 7 Migrations of the Ojibwa people, as I recall, from pre-history to today. It might have also contained some ancient prophecy, which today's Midewiwin are especially keen on. Apparently, way back when, the wise men warned against trusting the white skinned people that they predicted the Indians would meet in the future...something like that.

OK, I found the Migration route drawing that I saw up north. This is cool stuff. I found two online sources of amazing Ojibwa info and art.

These are simply beautiful, I think. And rich. Dig as far as you like...you'll never get to the bottom.

And, sure enough, my path, just in compiling this mere post, ended up running into another Indian art discovery I'd made earlier. I had no idea of the connections...

Let's start with some Migration Scroll art...

*From a web presentation called "The Indigenous Maps and Mapping of North American Indians." Images and geographical explanation of a *103-feet* long scroll! www.kunstpedia.com/articles/452/2/The-Indigenous-Maps-and-Mapping-of-North-American-Indians/Page2.html

*The text and images of the book "The Mide'wiwin of the Ojibwa":
www.gutenberg.org/files/19368/19368-h/19368-h.htm#fig15

If you really want to get into the speculation side of migration, here's a site that looks into the global connections: www.paabo.ca/uirala/uini-altaskinboats.html

So I noticed a scroll image annotation that said "after Dewdney." That name seemed familiar, but I didn't know why. I googled it and found that he had written the only book about the scrolls: "The Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway," 1975 (rare, $300 approx, but in libraries). His Wikipedia entry then mentions an important connection for him, his friend the Woodland Indian artist Norval Morrisseau. ...Friends of ours recently mentioned that they had a couple big cosmic pieces of his and that they really love his work. So the connections roll on...


An example of Norval Morrisseau's art. I think he started the "cosmic innards" type of art, based, he said, on visions.


Red Sky's vision map with geologic comparisons...


Image of a huge, 103-foot long birchbark scroll made, I think, by Red Sky, depicting the ancient Ojibway Migrations.

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