Duncan Pegahmagabow told this story after being asked to comment on a quote he once made in a military publication citing his father’s respect for the natural world and how we should work hard to live in harmony with all living things. Duncan thought, if you did not know his father’s astonishing sniper record of 378 kills, you might not believe it was the same person. Francis Pegahmagabow had great reverence for living things. He was true to the teachings of the Nishnaabe about honouring all life, particularly when it must be taken for food or medicine. War, however, was a different situation altogether. His children remember Francis to have been entirely at peace when travelling throughout the forests or waters of Georgian Bay. When it was necessary to take life, he dutifully offered sacred tobacco and words of prayer. Gaawiin nishaa gii-zhichgesii (“He didn’t do any of this for nothing”) was how his children described their father’s practices respecting life. Francis truly believed that all beings in the natural world shared a relationship to the Creator and therefore deserved respect in both life and death
Listen to a recording of the story in Anishinaabemowin.
Mii-sh go naa maaba Nishnaabe miinwaa iihow ezhindawendaagwak iihow kina gegoo ji-gchi-piitendang kina gegoo bmaadziwin.
The Nishnaabe was taught about the importance of everything, so that he would have respect for all life.
Maabam Nishnaabe kaa go wiin go eta bmaadzisii giw mtigoog, miishkoonsan ge gwa waawaaskonensan.
A human being needed to understand that he was not the only one to have life, for there are the trees, grasses, and flowers as well.
Mii gegoo gewiin waya en’goons ezhi-gaashiinyid gegoo go gewii maa gii-nji-nijigaazo nshke go giw aanind giw yahaag wesiinyag.
And also the ant who is so small, there is a reason why he too was placed here as it is for all of those other animals.
Aapji gwa gchi-piitendaan iw bmaadziwin mii maaba ezhi-ndawendaagzid maaba Nishnaabe nake gewiin ji-naadzid iihow.
To value and respect life, that is what is expected of a human being in the way that he moves through the world.
Kina go gegoo bemaadziimgak.
For everything has life.
Kina go niw wesiinyan—niijkiiwenyan go niw wesiinyan.
All of those animals—those animals are like his brothers.
Miinwaa go waya mtigoon ge gwa mii go wiijkiiwenyan.
And those trees, they too are his brothers.
Mii bezhig gaa-noondwag ekaad kidad iihow.
I once heard my father say this when he was a little older.
“Dbiyiidog odi ge-baa-inaakoomwanen waasekmig.”
“Sometime when you are travelling in an unfamiliar place deep in the woods.”
“Kaa go nshike gdayaasii.”
“You are not alone.”
“Yenaabin, mii ji-waabmadwaa gow gwiijkiiwenyag enawemjig.”
“Look around, and you will see your brothers, your relatives.”
“Mii kina gdinawendaaganag gow mtigoog miinwaa ge gow wesiinyag.”
“They are all your relatives, those trees and those animals.”
“Kina go giin gow gdinawendaaganag gow.”
“They are all relatives of yours.”
“Kaa go ngoji gdaa-n’saan’zisii nshike ngoji baayaayin.”
“So there is no place that you will ever be lonely when you travel.”
This is what I heard him say.
Mii-sh go geget ezhi-debwed iihow.
He was most certainly speaking the truth.