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'Twas the Night Before Ojibwe Christmas


Tara Prindle

'Twas the night before Niibaa-anama’egiizhigad, when all through the wiigiwaam

Not an awakaan was stirring, not even a waawaabiganoojiinh;

The moccasins were hung by the smoke hole with care,

In hopes that Miigiwe Miskwaa Gichi Inini soon would be there;

The abinoojiinhyag were nestled all snug in their nibaaganan,

While visions of ziinzibaakwad danced in their nishttigwaan;

And nimaama in her moshwens, and I in my makadewindibe,

Had just settled down for a long biiboon zhiibaangwashi,


When outside the wiigiwaam there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the nibaagan to see what was the matter.

Away to the waasechigan I flew like inaabiwin,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the gibiiga’iganiigin. The dibik-giizis on the breast of onaaband

Gave a shine like duct tape to objects zazagaamagad,

When, what to my wondering nishkiizhigoon should appear,


But a miniature toboggan, and eight tiny waawaaskeshi,

With a little old driver, so lively and wajepii,

I knew in a moment it must be Miigiwe Miskwaa Gichi Inini.

More rapid than migiziwag his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and biibaagi, and izhi-wiinde by name;

"Now, Bimibatoo! now, Niimi! now, Babaamishimo and Moozhikwe!

On, Anang! on Zaagi! on, Animikii and Wawaasese!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wiigiwaam!

Now Bimibide! Ipide! Ombibidemagad!"


As dry leaves that before the wiindigoo fly,

When they meet with BIA, mount to the sky,

So up to the apakwaan the coursers they flew,

With the tobaggon full of toys, and Miigiwe Miskwaa Gichi Inini too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the apakwaan

The prancing and pawing of each little inzid.

As I drew in my iniji, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Miigiwe Miskwaa Gichi Inini came with a bound.


He was dressed all in gipagawe, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with bingwiand and soot;

A bundle of toys he mangiwane on his back,

And he looked like a adaawewinini just opening his pack.

His ishkiinzigoon -- how they twinkled! his inowan how merry!

His miskwanowan were like roses, his nose like a choke-cherry!

His droll little indoon was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as gichimookamaan;


The stump of a opwaagan he held tight in his wiibidaakaajiganan ,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a miskwaanzigan;

He was full up on frybread with little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a wiigwaasinaagan of jelly.

He was chubby and wiinin, a right jolly old elf,

And I giimoodaapi when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his ishkiinzigoon and a twist of his mangindibe,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to gotaaji;


He ojibwemo not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the moccasins; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his ibinaakwaanininj aside of his nose,

And wewebikweni, up the smoke hole he rose;

He sprang to his toboggan, to his waawaaskeshi gave a whistle,

And away they all onjinizhimo like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him biibaagi, ere he drove out of sight,


"Happy Niibaa-anama’egiizhigad to all,

And to all baamaapii."

Translation in English of
'Twas the Night Before Ojibwe Christmas

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Image credit: Photo close up of Ojibwe woman's leggings.
(from "Beads: Their Use By Upper Great Lakes Indians" exhibition produced by the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Cranbrook Academy of Art (1977/1981).

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