Giving Thanks for the Good Life

This is the weekend that Canadians, or those of us who live in Canada, give thanks for all that we have in life.  It’s an occasion for families to get together.  When students come back from school.  Where were can sleep away our turkey-induced coma following a massive, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s more a secular kind of thanks, though.  For Anishinaabe people, and many other practitioners of middle-eastern and eastern religions – giving thanks happens each and every day.

We give thanks for life.  In Anishinaabemowin, we say: miigwetch mno-bimaadiziwin.  “Thank you for this good life”.

Mno-bimaadiziwin is more than just a phrase, or general philosophy.  It can be said that mno-bimaadiziwin in the thesis for all for Anishinaabe people.  Western culture likes to debate “the meaning of life”.  For the Anishinaabeg, mno-bimaadiziwin IS the meaning of life.

Long before the colonization of our lands, before our people were exposed to assimilation, Christianity, and european education – our children were taught the ways of the Anishinaabe.  One of the most basic teachings was that of balance.  The responsibility that human beings were given to look after our friends, family, Mother Earth and ourselves in a balanced way.

The most basic of these teachings is the path of life.

Many Anishinaabe people have heard of the Seven Grandfather teachings.  However, before you are to learn of those gifts, our children are taught that there are seven opposites and how to recognize those divergent paths and how they will take you of the sacred “path of life”.  This path is called mno-bimaadiziwin.

Once you learn the basics of mno-bimaadiziwin, you can spend a lifetime learning and living the values of Love, Respect, Honesty, Bravery, Truth, Humility and Wisdom.

The word used most loosely in Indian country is the word “teachings”.  Teachings are more than a list of seven words.  Teachings are more than the words of your wise local Elder.  True Anishinaabe teachings have significant substance to them in the form of (1) specific narrative in the language, (2) history, (3) instruction from sacred law, (4) context, (5) songs and (6) ceremonial rites; and (7) action and following through with what you’ve learned.

Even Eddie Benton-Banai, who first translated the Seven Grandfather teachings in the English language (The Mishomis Book, 1979) would be the first to say that these seven teachings offer much more the significant chapter he dedicated in his book.

What Bawdwaywidun offered was a simplified, English pre-amble to the most significant teachings in the Midewiwin society.  In reality, the narrative of the Little Boy and the Lodge of the Seven Grandfathers, and each of the seven teachings was something that lasted twenty-one years for the Little Boy.

Sadly, much of that detail has been lost to history – but the Three Fires Lodge and other Midewiwin lodges across the territory continue to carry much of those specific teachings to this day.
To learn them, or just to hear them, requires commitment, preparedness, faith, an open heart and an open mind.  They are open to anyone to learn.  All you need to do is bring your tobacco to the Lodge.

But they can’t be found in any Masters program or new age retreat.  Nor can they can’t be found next to the taco stand at your annual pow-wow, or in any one-hour teaching wigwam prior to Grand Entry.
As Bawdwaywidun has been known to say:  “Come to the Lodge”.

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