Midewiwin

Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society, a closed ritual society generally limited to men, is found historically among the Upper Great Lakes Algonquian (OJIBWA and Lk Winnipeg Salteaux), the northern prairies and among some groups in the eastern subarctic. In some Chippewa (Ojibwa) communities members still meet. In the past the society recognized 4 grades of membership (sometimes as many as 8), each with their own initiation rites and initiation fees, periods of instruction and myths, songs, herbal remedies and Midewiwin bags or MEDICINE BUNDLES. An individual's rank in the society was marked by facial painting and by the use of certain animal or bird skins of which the Midewiwin bag was made. Skins denoting specific grades included that of the weasel, mink, the paw of the bear or wildcat, the rattlesnake, the owl and the hawk. The events of initiation ceremonies were recorded in line drawings on bark scrolls, which served as mnemonic devices to those, including the initiates, who were taught to decipher them. The Midewiwin developed in the early 18th century in response to the prosperity brought by the fur trade, and served as a focal point within the multiple clan villages that formed during this period. See also NATIVE PEOPLE, RELIGION.