Anishinaabe Language Project


An Elder’s Vision, Sam Zimmerman


Welcome to the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op! The front door is just a few steps away from Lake Superior, on the East Bay of the Grand Marais Harbor. The North Shore of Lake Superior is recognized as part of the traditional homelands of the Lake Superior Anishinaabe—the first people of the North Shore. This part of the Minnesota Arrowhead was ceded to the U.S. Government by the Grand Portage Band of Anishinaabe as part of the Treaty of 1854. This is where the Lake Superior Anishinaabe Bands continue to hunt, fish and gather food within the boundaries of ceded territory, as part of the Treaty agreement. Anishinaabe people have lived all around Lake Superior for centuries, including throughout what is now downtown Grand Marais. The Anishinaabe name for Grand Marais is Kitchibitobig, which literally translated means, “a place of duplicate water or double bays.” The multi-cultural knowledge of our area includes a rich history of foods, herbal medicines and sustainable harvesting methods that have been passed along for many generations by Anishinaabe people who subsisted on seasonal, local food long before the first European settlers arrived in the mid-1800’s. These living and treasured traditions have helped sustain the people of the North Shore for 1,000 years or more, and continue to provide for current and future generations of residents and visitors, alike.

The Anishinaabe word for grocery store is: wiisiniwin-adawewigamig. That literally means a store that sells food—it’s what the Co-op does! The Anishinaabe belief is that once you name things, you bring them into the world. For this reason, the Cook County Co-op is proud to honor the historic and cultural contributions of our Anishinaabe community members by incorporating Anishinaabe names into many item tags and in-store display items. For nearly every item you will find on the shelves of the Co-op, there is also a word in the Anishinaabe language that describes what the item is, or what it’s called in Anishinaabe culture. A very literal and descriptive language, the Anishinaabe words for things are often going to be much longer than the English word, because in many cases the name for something includes a description of the item. For example, the word for bread or bannock is bakwezhigan, which literally means, “it rises up.” Bannock is a fried, baking powder bread that is as much a part of the North Shore tradition as donuts are. Yeast bread, baked in an oven is called gibozigan. Because bread rises up as it cooks, it’s considered to be animate, or part of the living world of foods, according to the Anishinaabe world view. As you shop, you are welcome and encouraged to say the words out loud, as a fun way to learn more about local history and the items on your grocery list.

As a community grocery store, the Cook County Co-op embraces the multi-cultural history of our region and wants to reflect our local community in the work that we do. As part of this work, we recognize that it is only because of the long-standing cultural contributions of Anishinaabe people that the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op can provide grocery staples like wild rice (manoomin), maple syrup (zhiiwaagamizigan), fresh Herring (odoonibiins) and Lake Trout (namegos), which are harvested in the waters off shore in very small boats, just as the Grand Portage Anishinaabeg have done for centuries.

Miigwech for visiting the Co-op today. In Anishinaabe instead of goodbye we say, gigawabamin, or “I’ll see you.”
So, until then, gigawabamininim minawa, we’ll see you again.