Book Review – The Manitous by Basil Johnston


From the strong oral culture of his own Ojibway Indian heritage, Basil Johnston presents the first collection by a Native American scholar of legends and tales depicting manitous, mystical beings who are divine and essential forces in the spiritual life of his people. These lively, sometimes earthy stories teach about manitous who lived in human form among the Ojibway in the early days, after Kitchi-Manitou (the Great Mystery) created all things and Muzzu-Kummik-Qua (Mother Earth) revealed the natural order of the world.


The Manitous is a collection of stories about the spiritual beings that inhabit the world of various Native North American tribes with a shared language, referred to within as the Anishinaubae people. Rather than simply cataloguing different examples of what the Manitous are, Johnston contextualizes what exactly a Manitou is, starting with the misunderstanding by European settlers and colonizers of what the Anishinaubae were referring to — the word “manitou” having many different connotations in their language. We come to understand the roles various Manitous played in the lives of the people, and the effect their ilk had on cultural development.Read More »