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As Anishinaabe, we have developed ways fo

r safety and preservation. Imagine all of the adaptation our people had to go through after living life a certain way for eons to all of a sudden having to migrate, settle in the area of the Dakota People and endure the Federal Indian Policies of the United States. Then, to endure the oppression as Minnesota became a state up until to this very date. In order to do so, we relied on messengers. Dreams, prophecies, visions, guidance and direction based on a spiritual belief system. There are all the beings of the forests, rivers, lakes and swamps that were placed their to help us. Some of them have been maintained in our everyday belief system. Some have been long forgotten, lost in an Abyss attributed to Trauma. Also, there were some that have taken on an identity that is outside the original intention.

One being that has taken on this alter-identity is Gookook’oo, the owl. Today, the owl is feared. From hearing or seeing an owl automatically leads anishinaabe, along with members of different tribes, to believe that death is on the way. Also, if you see an owl, there is bad news coming. In what form? You’ll only know when it happens. The Owl gains the reputation of the bringer of bad news, misfortune, bad deeds and death. What stigma to have tied to your name. Much like the anishinaabe having the stigma of beggars, thieves, primitive and such. We see daily that is not so. Although some shinaabe may have adopted the stigma as a reality, we are learning that our people are some of the most blessed. The Owl is the same, we hold the Owl to a stigma in which we have applied.

So, with the duty of bringing news, ALL news, the owl is more like a messenger. It is just that sometimes we don’t like the message. We developed a fear based perspective of the owl due to the messages we receive not always being good. There are bad messages we must receive and accept as anishinaabe receiving a gift. We became afraid of all messages because there are bad messages, sometimes. The more news the owl brings, some may be bad, but some are also good. Great news in fact. The Owl is out doing what was agreed upon, to deliver messages, good or bad.

They also act as helpers. Imagine having an Owl as your helper. Wisdom, Tracking, ability to see in the dark. When an anishinaabe is guided by an owl, there is great responsibility. Maybe to carry the same or similar messages. Maybe we can better use our ways to deliver the message as related to each other as anishinaabe. The helper agrees to help the anishinaabe in different ways, usually it is in a way that we need the most.

The Owl does bring bad messages. But the manidoog must believe that we need to hear the messages. For whatever message the Owl is trying to deliver, may happen regardless if we get the message or not. Being unaware of messages doesn’t usually save us from when the message comes into fruition. Relying on the Owl as our source of messages must be like when we are having a dilemma in our personal lives and your cellphone buzzes. You anticipate the message as negative, it may be, but turns out it is good. Now, do you throw away your phone because it delivers bad news? Sometimes, even the worst of all news? I think we can rely on the owl as the messenger much like we rely on our phones as a portal to messages. Miigwech

Image: Great grey owl, 1830 - 1870, Wilhelm von Wright

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