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Ojibwe Biboon

4 December 2009

By Dave Wilsey,

UMN Extension

Biboon. Winter. Anishinaabe probably know winter better than any other of Minnesota’s communities. In earlier times, winter was survived in lodges framed with saplings and covered with wiigwaas, birch bark. Cedar strips were used to attach the wiigwaas to the frame .Winter lodges were larger and differently shaped than the peaked lodges of spring and fall due to the need to conserve heat and shelter entire families.The winter landscape is the rightful domain of the Anishinaabe. Winter months were dedicated to hunting and trapping. Aagimag, snowshoes, were fashioned from bent aagimaak or baa-paagimaak (black or white ash wood) and rawhide lacing; nabagidaabaan, toboggans, were fashioned from wiigwaais-mitig (birch).  The English term “toboggan” is actually a corruption of the Ojibwe word! Snowshoes and toboggans were key survival tools and remain essential winter technologies to this day. The Ojibwe are recognized for use of the “bear paw” style of snowshoe and the pointed snowshow, which is often referred to as the “Ojibway style.”

Winter was and remains the season of storytelling – aadizookaanag (legends) of the people, the seven fires, and the gifts of the people are passed from elders to the children.

Prepared with support from the National Park Service’s “Winter Lifeways of the Ojibwe,” Grand Portage National Monument.

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