School of Arts & Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Hallowell: Two Views of an Ojibwe Drum

World View

Fairwind’s Worldview


Fairwind’s personal worldview can be examined through the lens of Ojibwe belief. The Ojibwe worldview in short can be characterized by an “absence of a super-natural dichotomy” (Hallowell 63).  There is no clear distinction between the secular and the religious, and this fluidity extends to all aspects of Ojibwe culture.  One intriguing example of this convergence is the inclusive category of animate beings.  Physical objects such as rocks and drums are oftentimes considered to be living beings with souls.  The Ojibwe also have a second category of human, deemed “other than human beings” (64).  These important figures, including powerful Thunderbirds and The Great Frog, are called “our grandfathers” (65).  Through communication with individuals, these figures lend power, invention, and creativity to mankind. These examples highlight the instability of human form in Ojibwe belief.  Only the soul, which can detach from the body, is needed for human experience, allowing phenomena such as bodily metamorphosis and reincarnation to be possible.


The Ojibwe highlight their worldview through myths, which are considered to be factual.  One such tale chronicles Fairwind’s encounter with the most powerful type of other than human being, a Thunderbird.  During a storm, Fairwind heard a loud thunderclap, thought by the Ojibwe to be the flap of a Thunderbird’s wings.  Fairwind turned to his wife and asked, “’Did you understand what he said to me?... He’s asking me whether I have a pipe and why I don’t light it’” (Hallowell 70).  So Fairwind fetched his pipe and ceremonially turned it clockwise in each of the four directions.  This circular extension of the pipe invites other than human beings to take part in the sacred smoke offering.  This gesture articulates the belief that the knowledge and wisdom of other than human beings is needed for pimidaziwin, The Good Life.  


Work Cited


Hallowell, A. Irving.  The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History.  Ed. Jennifer S.H. Brown.  Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1992