Bbon or “when everything stops” is understood to be a time of rest, reflection and rejuvenation. Life slows down and Segmekwé (Mother Earth) enters a deep sleep. Historically, small families moved into the forest seeking shelter from the snow and cold. As resources dwindled, they shared food that had been collected from the previous month’s hunts, harvests and gatherings. To supplement winter stores, Bodéwadmi ice fished, hunted and trapped small game.
During the first moon of winter, Kche-Mko-Gizes (Big Bear Moon), bears enter their dens for hibernation as humans enter their winter lodges for protection. Safe inside from the bitter cold, families gather and recount stories, passing on oral traditions, teachings and history. In Apte-Bbon-Gizes (Mid-Winter Moon), the constellation recognized as Bbonkéwnene (Wintermaker) is at its highest point in the sky. Stories of Nanabozho, his travels and winter adventures traditionally fill homes, as it is only permitted to recite these stories when snow is on the ground. In the past, the cold, lean season also inspired stories of the Windigo, a man-eating creature that hunted in blizzards, possessing and devouring the ill willed.
Winter ceremonies are held, celebrating survival and the renewal of an approaching new year. As bears come forth from their dens, Bodéwadmi emerge from their winter lodgings to welcome mnokme (spring) again. Completing the seasonal cycle, our elders show us our place upon Segmekwé and the balance among all living things.