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W-File: gh_soldierscouncil.html

Type: Ghost

Location: Wisconsin

Source: The book Northern Frights by Dennis Boyer (published 1998) pages 47-50.

The Soldiers' Council

Dennis Boyer's Introduction

Soldier ghosts are widespread in American folklore. Reports on such ghosts start with the French and Indian War and continue up to today. Wisconsin is home to a number of military ghosts stemming from the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Civil War. We also know from the Sioux warriors of Strawberry Island that battles in Wisconsin left ghost casualties.

The warrior, the soldier, and the veteran all occupy an unusual niche in American Indian culture. There is a sense of dignity and honor that seems unconnected to nationalism and politics. Visitors to powwows soon discover that powwow grand entries are led by veterans, that there are special veteran songs and dances, and that only veterans can recover fallen eagle feathers.

In a way it is not surprising that an American Indian soldier's ghost story would be told at a powwow. It is even less surprising that it would be told at a Lac Courte Oreilles powwow. "LCO" is vlewed by many Ojibwe as the current center of Anishinabe culture.

The setting is the center drum arbor on the powwow grounds. It is morning and the air is laced with the smells of coffee and fry bread. A small group is gathered to listen to an Ojibwe World War Two veteran. He talks generally of the soldier's proper role in a community. Then Leman surprises them with a ghost story and a prophecy.

The Story From Leman

Our warriors of the past are still with us. Our passed away veterans seem drawn to this powwow ground. I've known that for years and heard the older veterans-the World War One fellows-talk about things like that. They recalled that the old warrior ghosts were right there with them in the trenches in France.

The old fellows called these ghost gatherings the soldiers' council. The ghost veterans would try to lend their expertise to their descendants. This council is made up of our best fighters. And I don't just mean from here at LCO. I mean from all Anishinabe. From the Canadian tribes, the Three Fires, and the Cree and the Cheyenne.

They are veterans of all the wars. The ancient ones and the modern ones. From the earliest warriors fighting the windigos, to the doorgunners on helicopters. The council even includes Mudjik'wiss, the first son of our people. Son of Winona and Grandson of Nokornis. Mudjik'wiss was our first warrior, the first of our people to make sure that the villages were kept safe.

You must seek direction from the old ones like Mudjik'wiss if you want to understand what it is to be an Ojibwe man. There is more to this than war and fighting. It is about respect. Respect for the earth, for your people, for your leaders, and for your comrades.

When I have been allowed to listen in the soldiers' council in a vision or a dream or when their ghosts have come here, I learn that the warrior's greatest task is to learn how to seek peace. These spirits tell me that there is much honor in protecting and serving our people. But their wisdom also tells us that much fighting comes from pride and vanity.

These spirits are powerful here in this place. But you can call on them anywhere. Call them in prayer. Offer tobacco. Or hold your eagle feather. You can seek their counsel to help with the questions you face as men. We Anishinabe and other native people have ways to help our veterans and our soldiers. To help them heal and make them whole. The Europeans and others don't.

The warrior spirits tell us that war is an imbalance in the creation. It is not what the Creator wants. So no matter how just the cause or how much honor is found in protecting the people, there is a need to bring the warrior back to harmony and balance. ~

When a war is done there are dead and disabled. There are widows and fatherless children. There are insane people and drunks and drug addicts. Sometimes even the earth itself is wounded.

I have learned from these warrior spirits in this soldiers' council that the Anishinabe people were given by the Creator the main things we need to help bring back harmony and balance. We have the medicine lodge, the pipe, and the drum. The stories of our people tell us how these gifts of the Creator were given to us. But the warrior spirits can tell you how to use these gifts for strength, healing, and wisdom-seeking.

When you go into the sweat lodge, go with a pure heart. Ask the lodge conductor to help you with your prayers. Let him know what questions you seek answers to or what kind of help you need. In this way you may come to see the warrior spirits yourself or someone else in the lodge may see them for you. You can use tobacco and the pipe to draw on the warrior spirits' knowledge. Many of the pipe carriers are veterans who are on the right path. Remember that the rising smoke carries the prayers up.

The drum is used sacredly to ask permission for things. You can ask the warrior spirits for things this way too. The drums also are used to honor veterans. They are used for the dances that show the continued strength of the Anishinabe.

When I see these warrior spirits in their soldiers' council it is not a scary thing. They sit in a circle as equals. They wear their best ceremonial clothes. Most of them have many eagle feathers. Many are from long ago. Some like Mudjik'wiss are from the beginning of our people. These spirits are here for us. To help us learn to protect the people and protect the earth. Draw on their strength. Draw on their wisdom.

Bad times are coming. Our people will need wise and strong leaders when they come. Families will need strong husbands and fathers. Strong, but wise and loving, too. In the bad times there will be a rising of evil spirits to help the evil living people. The evil spirits will come to push greed, disrespect for the Creator, and hatred of the people who love the Earth.

There will be a final battle of good and evil. The evil spirits and the living evil people will fight the good spirits and the good living people. It will be a very dangerous time and it will test us and all earthloving people like never before. It may not be exactly like a war. It may be something else, something worse.

But if we make it through, there'll be a good world to live in. A cleansed world like the Creator made in the first place. I know these things from the warrior spirits. A-ho. It is good that you listen to them. Meeg-witch. ("Meeg-witch" means "Thank You" in Ojibwe)

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