Anishnabe Culture

The Seven Teachings

These teachings were given to us by the Seven Grandfathers. They are words to live by. To live in harmony with each other and all of Mother Earth. As you follow your path in life, may these teachings give you guidance and happiness!

HONESTY – Gwayakwaadiziwin

To achieve honesty within yourself, to recognize who and what you are. Do this you can be honest with all others.

HUMILITY – Dabaadendiziwin

Humble yourself and recognize that no matter how much you think you know , you know very little of the universe.

TRUTH – Debwewin

To learn truth, to live with truth and to walk with truth,to seek truth.

WISDOM – Nibwaakaawin

To have wisdom is to know the difference between good and bad and to know the result of your actions.

LOVE – Zaagi’idiwin

Unconditional love to know that when people are weak they need your love the most. When your love is given freely you cannot put conditions on it or your love is not true.

RESPECT – Minaadendamowin

Respect others beliefs and yourself. If you cannot show respect you cannot expect respect to be given.

BRAVERY – Aakode’ewin

To understand what is right even if you have to stand alone.

Prophecy of the Seven Fires

The Prophecy of the Seven Fires is an account of the seven prophets who told of what the future would bring during seven different eras of time. These prophecies have been passed down in the oral tradition by the Elders through the generations.

According to these stories as told by the Elders, seven prophets came to the Anishnabe people during a time when the Anishnabe were living a peaceful life in the northeastern coast of North America. These prophets gave the people seven predictions of what the future would bring. Each prophecy was called a fire and now called “The Seven Fires”.

Anishnabe 101 includes further details of these prophecies.

The Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheels made of stones arranged on the Earth have been found in various places throughout North America, marking places of special significance, such as places of energy, ceremony, meeting, meditation, teaching, and celebration. Some estimate that there were about 20,000 Medicine Wheels in North America before European contact occurred. Some Medicine Wheels on the prairies have been found to be 5,000 years old or more. The Medicine Wheel is, in essence, a circle divided into four parts, representing the Four Directions, which relate to and counterbalance one another to form a whole. This symbol is used to represent the Aboriginal philosophy and the meaning of life.Medicine Wheels are not necessarily a tradition belonging to all North American Aboriginal peoples, however, many Aboriginal groups have some variation of the Wheel. Nevertheless the traditional knowledge and views of the various first peoples of North America typically share a circular model of thinking.

medicine wheel

As a whole, the Medicine Wheel represents the relationships between various elements of the world, both seen and unseen and emphasizes how all parts of the world and all levels of being are interrelated and connected through a life force originating in the creation of the universe. According to the Ojibwe, there are seven teachings within each quadrant of the wheel and each has sub-teachings as well. All parts of the wheel are important and depend on each other in the cycle of life; what affects one affects all. For this reason, the Medicine Wheel teaches that harmony, balance and respect for all parts are needed to sustain life.


Tradition is knowledge or ways of doing things that are taught by older people – or Elders – who have worked and studied many years with Elders that came before them to understand the traditions.

The Four Directions

Each quadrant of the Medicine Wheel represents one of four cardinal directions. The Ojibwe believe that the East represents the springtime and the beginning of all life, changing from spirit to human; the journey starts there. The journey continues to the South, the summer stage, to the West, the death stage, and then to the North, the rebirth stage. This cycle continues in a clockwise motion around the Medicine Wheel following the rising and setting of the sun with the Four Directions serving as primary directional or guiding forces.

The Centre of the Medicine Wheel

From the perspective of traditional Aboriginal philosophy, the centre of the Medicine wheel symbolizes the self in balance on its life journey. The central place of the Medicine Wheel is where one seeks to develop a holistic vision and understanding of creation and connection to all things. The Ojibwe believe that the Centre of the Wheel is represented by a flame and it is our responsibility to nurture this fire by reconciling conflicts with others and making peace within ourselves. Through reflection, meditation, awareness, acceptance and surrender, we are able to live balanced and whole lives.

About the Pow Wow

Pow Wows are a popular event in the native communities and a great learning experience for Aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. Many people wonder what the Pow Wow is really all about. They are mostly held in the summer months outdoors or indoors in the winter months. This article will give you a basic introduction to the Pow Wow and Pow Wow ediquette which is very important, especially for someone who is attending a Pow Wow for the first time.

What Is A Pow Wow?

This excerpt taken from The Canadian Encyclopedia explains in general terms what a Powwow is:

“Pow Wows are celebrations that showcase Aboriginal music, dances, dance apparel, food and crafts. They typically take place on reserves and in urban centres across Canada during summer weekends. Modern Pow Wows originated in the Great Plains during the late 19th century and now take place in Aboriginal communities across North America. Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals attend powwows, and many opportunities exist for visitors to learn about Aboriginal life and increase their awareness of Aboriginal culture.”

Powwow Dancers

Below is a list of rules of Pow Wow etiquette taken from which is an Amercian site but these rules are much the same as the Canadian Pow Wow.

Pow Wow Etiquette


  1. Be on time. The committee is doing everything possible to ensure that activities begin and run smoothly. Please cooperate in this regard.
  2. Appropriate dress and behavior is required in the arena. Anyone unwilling to abide by this rule will be asked to leave by the Arena Director. (If you are going to dance, try to wear dance clothes.)
  3. Arena benches are reserved for dancers. Dancers wishing to reserve a space on the bench should place a blanket in that space before the dance begins. Please do not sit on someone else’s blanket unless invited. Uncovered benches are considered unreserved.
  4. Listen to the Master of Ceremonies. He will announce who is to dance, and when.
  5. Respect the position of the Head Man and Head Woman Dancers. Their role entitles them to start each song or set of songs. Please wait until they have started to dance before you join in.
  6. Dance as long and as hard as you can. When not dancing, be quiet and respect the arena
  7. Be aware that someone standing behind you may not be able to see over you. Make room, step aside, sit, or kneel if someone is behind you.
  8. Show respect to the flags and Honor Songs by standing during “special” songs.” Stand in place until the sponsors of the song have danced a complete circle and have come around you, and then join in. If you are not dancing, continue to stand quietly until the song is completed.
  9. While dancing at any paw wow, honor the protocol of the sponsoring group.
  10. Some songs require that you dance only if you are familiar with the routine or are eligible to participate. Trot dances, Snake, Buffalo, etc. require particular steps or routines. If you are not familiar with these dances, observe and learn. Watch the head dancers to learn the procedures. Only veterans are permitted to dance some veteran’s songs, unless otherwise stated; listen to the MC for instructions.
  11. The Flag Song, or Indian National Anthem, is sung when the American Flag is raised or lowered. Please stand and remove hats during the singing of this song. It is not a song for dancing.
  12. Powwows are usually non-profit. It depends upon donations, raffles, blanket dances, etc. for support. Donations are encouraged as a way to honor someone. Any participant can drop money onto the blanket to aid in the powwow expenses. Support the committee and buy raffle tickets.
  13. Certain items of religious significance should be worn only by those qualified to do so. Respect the traditions of Native American culture.
  14. Giveaways, attributes of Indian generosity, are held at many dances. They are acknowledgments of appreciation to recipients for honor given. When receiving a gift, the recipient thanks everyone involved in the giving. Note: all specials and giveaways must be coordinated with the Master of Ceremonies. Please remember that it is traditional to make a monetary contribution to the drum for this request – clear this through the MC.
  15. The Drums are sometimes closed, check with the head singer for permission to sing.
  16. If at any time you are uncertain of procedure or etiquette, please check with the MC, Arena Director, or head singer. They will be glad to help you with your questions.
  17. Take a chair. Most powwows will not have seating for the public or enough seating for everyone. Also remember that the benches in the arena are for dancers only.
  18. No alcohol or drugs are allowed at powwows.
  19. If taking pictures, asked the dancer first. Remember common courtesy and ask permission. Group photographs are usually alright to take, but you might want to ask the committee first.

Remember that in each area you travel to and visit, things can and will be slightly different than your area. Different groups and have different customs and methods of doing things. Different is not wrong, just different. Be respectful of the uniqueness of each pow wow and always be aware of proper pow wow etiquette.

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