This story was told one late-summer evening by Duncan Pegahmagabow. He had been discussing the benefits of traditional medicines and the history of ceremonial societies at Wasauksing. The visit was coming to an end when Duncan suddenly relayed this story as a means of demonstrating the power of belief when using plant medicine. It was also meant to address the long-standing question of whether Francis was actually able to go unseen during the war, as he was often rumoured to have done. Surviving four years on the front lines was a rare feat indeed. Francis himself claimed he was able to sneak across enemy lines and virtually rub shoulders with opposing forces. His success in the field was often attributed to an unusual ability to escape the notice of others.
Many Indian soldiers came to Francis for guidance before serving their terms overseas. As one of the first Indian soldiers to cross the ocean and return safely, he was well regarded by others who wished to do the same. This story is about one such soldier who came to see Francis and the advice he was given about how to remain safe in times of danger.
Listen to a recording of the story in Anishinaabemowin.
Nshke gwa iihow.
Now take note of this.
Ga-wiindmoon maanda bezhig.
I will tell you about one more thing.
Mii iw aabdeg ji-debwewendman Nishnaabe-bmaadziwin giishpin debwewendziwan kaa daa-nakiimgasinoon.
You have to really believe in the Nishnaabe way of life, for if you don’t have faith then this will not work.
Mii-sh gaa-zhiwebzid maabam yahaa maabam ndedem gii-o-miigaazod odi gchi-gaamiing.
This is about what happened to my father when he went to fight overseas.
He returned home safely.
Chi-zhimaagnish aawi mii gnimaa gii-goojninid niw yahaan biiwaabkoon gaa-bkinaaged—zhoon’yaa-waabkoon gaa-bkinaagejig.
He was a great soldier and was decorated with those medals he won—those silver medals that soldiers earned for their deeds in war.
Mii dash maabam bezhig Nishnaabe aazhgo gewiin gii-nendaagzi ji-zhimaagnishiiwid aansh gaa-shkwaamiigaadiing go naa mii-sh miinwaa wedi bezhig gii-miigaadiing iihow.
There was this one Nishnaabe man who was now expected to go and fight in the war, for another war was now taking place.
Mii dash maabam gii-zhaad odi gii-zhimaagnishiiwid.
Francis had gone overseas and served as a soldier during the first one.
Miish go maaba besho aazhgo wii-takamiid zegzi wii-zhaad odi wenji-miigaading.
It was now getting close to the time when this man would have to go overseas, but he was afraid to go to war.
Mii-sh pii gii-mkwenmaagwen niw ya’aan Francis Pegahmagabow. “Aa nga-wi-waabmaa ow,” kidowidag sa.
He remembered meeting Francis Pegahmagabow. “I will go and see him,” he must have said.
“Manj gaa-zhichgegwen iihow gii-bipskaabiid?”
“What must he have done in order to have come back home safely?”
Mii-sh gii-waabmaagwen miish giiwenh egod iihow.
And so he went to see Francis to hear about this.
Gii-wiindmawaadgenan sa iw, “Mii aazhgo wiimaajaayaan.”
He told Francis, “It is now time for me to leave.”
Odinaadagenan iw, “Ngotaaj dash gnimaa odi ngoji indaaaabsikooz.”
And he also said to him, “I am so afraid, for I will likely be shot and killed somewhere there.”
“Aansh giin gaa-zhichgeyin iihow gii-bipskaabiiyin?”
“What was it that you did in order to make it back safely?”
Mii-sh giiwenh egod iihow, “Ahaaw,” digoon sa giiwenh, “giishpine aazhgo enendman iihow gegoo wii-zhiwebziyin.”
So this is what he must have been told, “Well, then, if you are already thinking this way, then something will surely happen to you.”
“Gnimaa ge gegoo aazhgo gtaajiyin aazhgo wii-nsigooyin baatiinwag gow zhimaagnishag engotaajiyin wii-nsigooyin.”
“If you are already afraid of being killed when you are among all of those soldiers, then your fear will just get you killed.”
“Mii ge-zhi-ayaayin, bookwaakbidoon yaa tkwaans ebaateg ow tkwaans mii-sh ji-zhaashaagwandaman iihow.”
“So when you are there, break apart a branch, a dry dead branch, and then chew on it a while.”
“Kaa-sh ga-gondaziin iw egonendman iihow.”
“You are not to swallow this, but keep it in your mouth.”
“Mii go ji-zhaabwiiyin.”
“You will then be able to pass through the lines.”
Mii sa giiwenh gaa-zhichged iihow aazhgo zegzid aazhgo gii-waabndang go naa.
So this is what he did, this man who had been so afraid, now that he had seen what to do.
“Gnabaj e-nsigoowaambaanen ninamdab,” gii-mikwenmaad niw gaa-igwad iihow ji-bookbidood iw tkwaans ebaatenig.
“I’m likely going to get killed sitting here,” he thought one day during the war, and he remembered Francis telling him to break apart a dry dead branch.
Gii-zhaashaagndang giiwenh gii-gonendang iw mii giiwenh go gii-zhaabwiid.
He chewed on this and was able to pass through the enemy lines unseen.
Kaa gii-baashksigaazii gii-zhaabwiid gwa.
He did not get shot and passed right through.
Mii-sh gegoo gii-zhaabwiid iihow gii-bipskaabiid.
He was able to pass through those enemy lines and made it back safely.
Mii dash giiwenh enenimawzid gesnaa gchi-nenmaadag.
He was blessed in this way and was truly grateful for Francis.
“Mii sa enenmag maabam Nishnaabe,” kidod, “maabam Francis.”
“It was because I thought of this man,” he said, “this one known as Francis.”
“Kaa ngii-nsastazii iihow manj gaa-nji-zhigwen iihow,” mii giiwenh enaad niw.
“I didn’t fully understand all you said to me,” he must have later said to Francis.
“Aaniish gaa-nji-zhiiyin iihow geniin ngii-bipskaabii.”
“What the meaning behind those words was, but I too was able to return safely.”
“Aanii dash gaa-nji-zhiiyin iihow ji-agonemag ow e-baasod ow mtigoons?”
“So what was the exact meaning behind the dried branch you told me to keep in my mouth?”
“Kaa go niinaa ga-waabandaziin iihow gaa-nibomgak,” wdigoon giiwenh.
“You cannot see a dead thing,” he said to him.
Mii maanda Nishnaabewaadziwin.
This is the Nishnaabe way of life and spirituality.
He took its state, his body did, and the soldiers could not see him.
Miinwaa ge ow wii-daapnaman iiyoo mshkiki, aabdeg gdebwewendaan iihow—giishpine debwewendziwan kaa daa-nokiimgasinoon.
You have to believe in this—for if you do not believe, then this would not work.