I lived in the bush just a few miles from the Garden River Indian Reserve near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. For several years, I had heard of an elder named Fred Pine, a direct descendant of the 19th century warrior shaman Shingwaukonce. Fred Pine was born in 1897 to a long line of shamans and medicine people in the crane clan. He worked as a logger, fought in the First World War, and carried in his memory the rich cultural traditions of the Lake Superior Ojibwa.
Fred Pine became a close friend who eventually shared his knowledge of Ojibwa star lore, oral history, mythology, customs, and traditions so that this northern heritage would be preserved. He learned the complex lore of the Wabeno shamanic tradition, as well as the Djiski-Innini (Spirit Seeker) shamans, by vision questing and by becoming an apprentice to “cultured Ojibwa people” as he liked to call them.
Fred Pine learned the herbalist’s skills as well as the mythology and rituals used to honor sacred sites. He traveled widely in the world of the Ojibwa seeking instruction and he succeeded. His family heritage included unbroken traditions easily traced to the 1700s.
Fred Pine’s story, Wisdom from an Ancient Pine, preserved the teachings of a unique aboriginal Canadian. Through his voice, we follow his journey from the trenches of World War I, and the logging camps of the 1920s, to his training in rich Ojibwa traditions.
Wisdom from an Ancient Pine is a personal book because all living in aboriginal society follows a personal relationship to family, clan, and the land. For me, Fred Pine became a second father and certainly a voice from the past. Together, we visited sacred sites and spoke extensively about Ojibwa star lore, folktales, and legends. Fred Pine carefully taught the oral history of the Lake Superior Ojibwa so that future generations — regardless of their cultural background — could benefit from wisdom that enriches the landscape.
“For nearly nine thousand years, the Ojibwa carefully taught ensuing generations the accumulated, intricate wisdom relating to the land and its inhabitants. Fred Pine educated me as once he had been instructed — by long hours of careful explanation mixed with travel to various traditional sites.”
“Fred would mix excitement with frustration upon discussing certain stories. ‘That’s what I’ve been telling you all along,’ he would emphasize. ‘Every story is connected. Connected.’ With this he glared his hard, shaman’s stare to emphasize the statement. His frustration came with the knowledge that he and I only had about ten years together to complete the transmission of his vast knowledge.”