A small tree perched on the edge of a dune. Lake Michigan behind it, turquoise and blue.

Lake Michigan: an Animist Prayer Poem

Mishigami

Mishigami the Great Lake
Mishii’igan the Grand Lake
Ininwewi-gichigami the Illinios’ Sea

Ancestors of Place
This space where land meets water
echos of thousands of voices, what came before
calling on the waves
in rush of air.
I call to those who love, have loved this place.
I sing to the waves in honor.
I remember. I remember. I remember.

Why Territory Acknowledgements in Animist Prayer

Forming deep bonds with a place, and the spirits of place, includes getting to know them as you would a loved one, to learn about them in practical and concrete ways. I live in Michigan, in the United States. Part of learning about this land is recognizing the history and legacy of colonization.

One of the first steps is learning who else has called this land home. Native Land Digital is an Indigenous-led Canadian not-for-profit organization. This project was a helpful starting point when I began including territory acknowledgements in my work. Once you know who to look for, then you can start expanding on that knowledge. Are those tribal people still present? How can you be a good neighbor?

The place names used in the prayer are in the Ojibwe language of the the Anishinaabe people. The Decolonial Atlas challenges us to examine our relationship to maps, what they show us, what they center (and don’t), and challenge us to view them through a critical lens. The map The Great Lakes: An Ojibwe Perspective was part of my exploration of my home region.

Story Telling

Because humans love a good narrative and telling stories, learning the stories of place is another step towards building relations. The Ways website is a treasure trove of stories on language and culture from the native communities around the central Great Lakes region.

Master story teller and science communicator Robin Wall Kimmerer lovingly weaves together indigenous wisdom, science, and the stories of plants. Her work put into words something I had been trying to define for years, that place where science and spirit are trying to reach the same goal, and only when we combine the two can we find the meaning.

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