Francis Pegahmagabow, Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldier for bravery, did not exactly receive the kind of send-off that might be afforded to military veteran’s today. While people came from far and wide to pay their respects, Francis’s death and funeral received relatively little attention. Most important to his family, however, was the peace he found and maintained towards the end of his life. Duncan’s story here, in the true spirit of Ojibwe life and storytelling, has a strong connection to both community life and the spirit world. It is a beautiful affirmation of the continuity of the journey after one’s physical life has ended and that the spirit walk home was unimpeded by the challenges Francis had faced during his life.
Listen to a recording of the story in Anishinaabemowin.
Ga-dbaajmotoon gegoo ndedem miinwaa gaa-zhiwebziyaan.
I will tell you about my father and what happened to me.
Maaba ndedem gii-bmi-wiijiiyaawag ngii-gchi-piitenimaa maaba Nishnaabe.
During the time I lived with my father, I so admired this man.
N-dedem gchi-zhimaaganish ge gii-aawi.
My father was a great soldier.
Aapji go geget go ngii-zaaghaa ngii-gchi-piitenimaa.
I so truly loved and respected him.
Mii go geget gii-bi-gwiiwzenswiyaan gwa naa mii ow geget gaa-nenmaan iihow gaa wiikaa ji-ni-nbosig.
When I was a young boy, I was certain he would never die.
Mii gaa-piitenmag iihow gwnimaa go naa gegaa mnidoong ngii-nenmaadag gaa-gchi-piitenmag maaba ndedem.
I admired him to the point that I almost thought of him as some kind of god, that is how much I admired and respected my father.
Mii go maa naaniibwid naaniibwiyaan genii aapji go ngii-mshkozii.
When he stood there, and I stood beside him, I was so strong.
Weweni ngii-zhiyaa wewiijiiwag weweni ngii-nendam bmi-wiijiiwag.
I was very good when I was with him—this was how much I thought of being with him.
Mii-sh go nendmaan iihow kaa wiikaa daa-nbosii ndedem ngii-nendam.
I was certain that my father would never die, this is what I thought then.
Pii dash gegoo ezhiwebzid kaa ngii-daapnaziin maanda.
And then when something happened to him, I couldn’t accept this.
“Gaawiin,” ngii-kid. “Gaawiin maaba gii-nbosii.”
“No,” I said. “He did not die.”
Gaa-gchi-gwaansigendmaan mii go gaa-zhiyaayaan gaa-zhi-giikmanziiyaan.
I felt so terrible about this that I was almost numb.
Gaa gegoo ngii-moozhtoosiin gaa-piichi-gwaansigendmaan.
I wasn’t able to feel anything, that was the extent of my sorrow.
Gaa go gegoo ngii-moozhtoosiin.
I didn’t feel anything.
Kaa maanda ngii-daapnazii maaba iihow ganawaabmag odi bmaakshing mkakoong.
I couldn’t accept this even when I went to see him lying in the casket.
“Gaawiin,” ndikid. “Gaawiin.”
“No,” I said. “No.”
Mii dash ngoding enaagshig gii-niibebiwag maa naa gbe-dbik gii-temgad wodi namhew-gamgoong.
And then one evening the people held an all-night wake over there at the church.
Aapji go naa gii-gchi-nendaan iihow namhew-gamig iihow niisaaki noongo etemgak.
He thought so highly of the church, which is now over there down the hill.
Mii dash wodi gii-bid gii-bi-giigdowag gegoo waasa wenjibaajig wii-bizhaawaad.
That was where he was, and people came from many faraway places to speak at his funeral.
Mii dash gbeyiing gaa-nji-ganawenjgaazod wii-bi-waabmaawaan maa naa go gaa-kenmaajig gwa naa.
He was kept there a long time so that all of those he had known would be able to see him.
Mii dash ngoding enaagwshig go baatiinwag eyaajig gwajiing naaniibwiwag.
At one point in the evening, most people had to stand outside.
Kaa maa kina debshkinesiiwag biindig gaasin maa naa namhew-gamgoons.
They couldn’t all fit inside—that little church was just too small.
Naaniibwiwag wodi gwajiing aanind.
So some of them had to stand outside.
Mii-sh ezhid maaba nmamaa, “Aazhgo giiwen,” ndig.
And then my mother said to me, “Now go home,” she said.
“Naajbatwaadin iihow ayhii ziisbaakwad ngii-jaagsemin kaa geyaabi gegoo ziisbaakwad.”
“Run home and fetch some sugar, we have run out, and there is no more sugar here.”
Mii-sh gii-maajiiptooyaan shkode-daabaan miiknaang maa ngii-ni-batoo.
So then I started out running on the train tracks, I ran straight away from there.
Mii dash noongo wodi iihiing wodi GK endaad chi-ktigaan go maa gii-yaamgad gii-gtige maa Nishnaabe.
And where GK’s house is now, there was a big garden there where this one Nishnaabe man farmed.
Mii-sh maa gaa-ni-zhaayaan nakeying gtigaaning tkambatooyaan maa gtigaaning mii-sh gii-ni-zhaayaan odi gaa-daayaang.
I went over toward where that garden was and ran right through it as I made my way over there to where we lived.
Kaa maa naa kwa gchi-miikan maa gii-namsinoon wodi gaa-daayaang.
There was no big road then that led to where we lived.
Mii go naa eta miikaans wodi gaa-ni-namog mii-sh nibgambatooyaan wodi—jibwaa ni-bgambatooyaan wodi endaayaang mii gii-waabmag ow gchi-dbik-giizis.
There was only a path that led toward there, and just as I was running up to it, before I ran up to our house, I saw this huge moon.
Gtaamgwaadkamig sa naa enginad orange-naaza.
Of such magnitude was its size, and it was an orange colour.
Bijiinag go gii-bi-mookam gaa-zhi-noogbatooyaan gii-waabmag ow.
It had just started to rise, and I stopped running when I saw it.
Miinwaa nganawaabndaan iw endaayaang kaa go gegoo waaskonesinoon.
And then I looked at our home, and there was no light on there.
Megwaa gii-bmaadzid ow noos mii go pane gaa-zhi-waaskoneg wiigwaam.
When my father was living, there was always light in that house.
Pane maa naa gii-yaa.
It was always there.
Bboong gbe-dbik gii-boodwe wii-gzhizyaang miinwaa naa niibiing mii go pane waa-zhi-waaskoneg endaayaang.
Throughout the winter nights, he would make a fire so that we were warm, and then in the summer he kept our home well lit.
Pii waabndamaan iihow kaa gegoo waaskonesinoon.
But when I saw it that night, there was no light.
Mii sa bijiinag gii-daapnamaan.
It was at that moment I accepted it.
Geget gii-maajaad maabam noos.
My father was truly gone.
Gtaamgwaadkamig gaa-piichi-gwaansigendmaan mii sa bijiinag gii-daapnamaan.
The extent of my sorrow in that moment of acceptance was something terrible.
Kaa maa naa waaskonesinoon maanda wiigwaam.
There was no more light in this house.
Mii sa bijiinag geget gii-daapnamaan aapji go geget ngii-gwaansigendam.
So right then I had to accept it, and I was so very sad.
Mii go dbishkoo go naa gaa-zhiyaayaan gii-bngishnaan maa gaa-piichi-gwaansigendmaan.
It was just like I had collapsed there, that is how sad I was about losing him.
Mii dash gaa-waabmag maabam gchi-giizis, dbik-giizis, bijiinag gii-bi-mookam.
And then I saw this great moon, this night moon, that had just emerged.
Mii go gaa-bi-zhi-niisaakiyaaskoned ow yahaa dbik-giizis.
A ray of light came down from that moon.
Mii maa gii-waabmag ow nimsed.
And then I saw him walking away.
Mii ge gwa gii-nsidwinawag.
I recognized him then.
It was my father walking away.
Mii odi ezhaad dbik-giiz’soong.
He was going toward that moon.
Ngii-waabmaa nimsed gaa go waya nake gii-zhi-bmosesii mii go eta go Francis Pegahmagahbow gaa-nosed iihow.
I saw him walking away, for there was no one else who walked that way, it could only be Francis Pegahmagabow walking away there.
Mii sa gii-nsidwinawag.
I recognized him then.
Mii sa gii-kenmaan bijiinag gii-giiwe.
And just then I knew that he had gone home.
He had gone home—he did not die.
Gii-giiwe—wewiip gii-maajiiptooyaan gii-biingeptooyaan wodi endaayaang.
He had gone home—so I hurried up and started running and ran right inside the house.
Ngii-kendaan ge kaa memkaaj ngii-waaskonechigesii.
I knew that it was not necessary for me to turn on the lamp.
Kaa maa go naa gegoo electric yaasinoon mii eta go waaskonenjigaansan.
There was no electricity there then, only the lamps.
Kaa-sh memkaaj gegoo waaskonenjigan ngii-kendaan maa naa odi temgak ziisbaakwad.
But I didn’t need the lamp as I knew where the sugar was.
Gii-naadiyaan iihow gii-maajiiptooyaan yaapiichi-batooyaan neyaap odi shkode-daabaan-miiknaang bgambatooyaan namhew-gamgoong.
I went and got it, and I started running—I ran back down the railway tracks all the way until I made it back to the church.
Gaa-ni-biindgeyaan namhew-gamgoong wodi gii-nitooyaan iihow iihii ziisbaakwad wodi jiibaakwewaad giw jaabaakwejig gii-ni-zhaayaan wodi niigaan temgak iw ayhii mkak.
I entered the church and put that sugar down where those cooks were preparing the food, then went over to the front of the church where the casket was.
Mii sa bijiinag gii-daapnamaan iihow gaa-zhiwebzid maabam ndedem.
For in that moment I accepted what had happened to my father.
Gaawiin gii-nbosii iihow gaa-waabndahigowaan Mnidoo maa ngii-waabndahig.
He did not die, this was what was shown to me by the Spirit.
Ngii-waabmaa gii-ni-giiwed Francis ndedem.
I was shown that I could see my father Francis going home.
Mii dash maa gii-ganawaabmag maa bmaakshing.
And then I looked at him lying there.
I had a smile on my face, and I laughed a little.
Mii sa gii-gchi-nendmaan gii-ni-giiwed.
I was so happy that he had gone home.
Mii gaa-naadzid maaba Nishnaabe iw aapji gii-nishnaabewaadzi.
This was how he had lived his life as a Nishnaabe man, he was Nishnaabe right to the core of his being.
Ngii-waabmaa dash gii-ni-giiwed.
I saw him go home.
Mii sa iw weweni gii-nendmaan.
And I could again think in a good way.
Mashkowendaagwad sa nii iihow mii go eta nendawendaagwak ji-debwewendmang.
This was a very powerful occurrence, and all that is needed is for us to believe.
Mii sa genii gaa-zhiwebziyaambaan.
This is what happened to me.
Gdakowaabmigonaan sha go ow Mnidoo gdakowaabmigonaan.
We are always being watched over by the Spirit, he is watching us.
Gzaagigonaan maa naa.
He loves us, he truly loves all of us.
Kina go wegwenshidog go eyaagwen gzaagigonaan.
No matter who or what, he loves us all.
Gnoonad kaa wiikaa “ndoonmitaa” gdaa-gwasii.
If you speak to him, he will never say to you, “I am too busy.”
Ga-bzindaag gwa gnoonad.
He will listen to you when you speak to him.
Gaa wiikaa “Baamaa pii maa bi-zhaakan” gdaa-gosii.
He will never say to you, “Come back here another time.”
“Come on in,” he will say to you.