My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Traditional native elders -a revival of our sacred resources Posted By ERNIE SANDY Posted 1 day ago Someone once said that our elders are the walking-talking libraries of indigenous culture, language, legends, knowledge of the environment, restorative justice, governance, childcare, education and skills development needed for survival on the land, spirituality, hunting and fishing, and pride. So true, but what if those proverbial libraries were during the last hundred years or so? Whatever traditional knowledge that used to be passed down from one generation to the next would have come to a stop. Using the analogy of lost or forgotten resources, that is exactly what has been happening to my people for about five generations in terms of losing our way of life, but that has changed recently. Since the early 1960s, many First Nation communities, both on the rez as well in major cities in Canada and the United States, have witnessed a very interesting and welcoming turn of events. We are seeing our elders and seniors waking up from a long sleep of neglect, fear and shame. Neglect by not practising the thousands-of-year-old traditions and ceremonies. It came from fear of being arrested and jailed. The Canadian government outlawed all of the native traditions in the late 1800s as a means of trying to "civilize" or moulding a society of a proud, gentle and kind people into European likeness. Through the partnership of the colonial government and different churches, there was an assertive attempt to de-Indianize the original peoples of North America, or what we call Turtle Island. The shame came from my ancestors being told over and over again that the native traditions were barbaric and heathen.
It was pounded in our head that our way of life was useless and should be forgotten and abandoned. It is only by going underground that native spirituality survived the onslaught of government sanctioned genocide and assimilation policies.
One of other ways it survived was that ceremonies and other teachings were handed down through the native language and practised. Nothing was written for fear of discovery by the church or government official. One older gentleman once told me that they used to practise the ceremonies in the early 1940s and 1950s by erecting a sweat lodge or camp site deep in the woods so that the minister, priest or Indian agent could not find them. Today is a different story. We are no longer silent. We walk proud as indigenous nations as we take up the drum, songs, dances and ceremonies.
The spirit of the many First Nations has been awakened from a century and a half of slumber and is welcoming the teachings of the elders and the ceremonies. This is happening through personal healing and wellness programs. Special events are started with a ceremony such as smudge. This is a process of purifying the mind and spirit with tobacco or sage. Native powwows are becoming a regular events in dozens of First Nations every weekend during the spring and summer. Continued After Advertisement Below Advertisement In establishing an identity as an Anishnaabe, children and adults are seeking traditional names. Getting married by native custom is becoming a trend; funerals are being conducted in the way they were done prior to the arrival of Europeans. In addition, there are elders conferences in major cities throughout the year and talking circles are happening in First Nation communities. As an extension of pride, some communities are going back to their old names. For example, Cape Croker, the birth place of my grandparents and mother, is called Neyaashiinigmiing (pronounced neeyosheeng- g' meeng). I am glad to see in my generation, some of our elders and seniors taking their rightful place in our communities as moral leaders. Assimilation and forgotten lessons did not happen overnight, nor will the revitalization of culture and language happen at the snap of a finger. In the mean time, we need the knowledge and wisdom of the elders so we can pass it onto our children and their children's children, if they choose to learn about it. With respect to who is recognized as an elder, it should be understood that this distinction and honour is not simply a matter of chronological age or gender, but other qualities such as the following. He or she cannot be judgmental. It is necessary to have the respect of the community. The ability and comfort in working with children and youth is a critical factor. Being a role model in voice and action leads to credibility as a leader. Walking the talk of the Seven Grandfather Teachings or philosophy, namely, respect, humility, wisdom, courage, unconditional love, truth and honesty gives distinction. Above all else, he or must be free of drug and alcohol abuse. While fluency in the language would be an asset, it is not an absolute necessity. Those were only some characteristics of what constitutes a traditional native elder. About 25 years ago, I asked an elder, "How does someone become an elder?" I was still in my infancy of discovering my culture then. He replied, "Real elders do not have to tell anyone who they are. They are recognized and accepted by the community." As a Christian and a follower of the traditional way of life, I have the highest regard and respect for both. Neither is above or below the other. The lessons I learn from the "book" and the elders go hand in hand.
Ernie Sandy is a member of the United Church, and the Elders Council at the Canadian Native Centre in Toronto as a Traditional Teacher. Article ID# 1214429

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.