Cannabis is not Anishinaabe medicine. In fact, it’s contrary to our way of life.

I’ve got something important to share. It may not be popular but I have to say it. So here goes.

Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include the use of cannabis.

The use of cannabis, either recreationally or medicinally, is contrary to Anishinaabe teachings and sacred law.

These are absolute, undeniable facts. As Anishinaabe people, sacred law tells us that using anything that alters our spirit in any way, is a big no-no. I learned this long ago in in the Midewiwin Lodge and from many true Anishnaabe leaders, teachers and healers over the years. It’s the one reason why I personally chose not to use alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.

I’ve seen several mind-altering herbs, roots, vines and leaves, all natural products, make their way into our communities from outside Indigenous healers. This includes anything from peyote to ayahuasca. Such potent hallucinogens and their purveyors have also left a lot of pain in their wake.  I’ve even heard some Anishinaabeg speak about a “whisky ceremony” where a shot is passed around while telling stories. Forget what you’ve been told – this is not the case.

Yes, cannabis is natural. It might not lead to issues of hardcore dependence and overdose that we are seeing from opioids in our communities. And sure, it is somebody’s medicine. But it is definitely not Anishinaabe medicine.

In our Creation Story, Msko-Gaabwid, the red-standing one, was placed on Earth with all the things he needed. Tobacco, the very first medicine, is a medicine that is almost entirely spiritual in nature because that very first human being was very much spirit rather than physical. However, as the world evolved, our eldest ancestor began to become more and more physical. As such, Anishinaabe, as he was to be known, had more physical needs including the need for food and medicine. It is said that medicinal plants gives themselves to us. Food plants give themselves to us too.

Anishinaabe and all his descendants are to keep all Creation in balance including our own physical vessel. More than that, we are to keep our body, mind and spirit pure and unaltered. We are told of these types of substances in our Creation Story. Our medicine people knew of these things. But plainly and clearly, we are told not to ingest anything that disrupts that balance, or may disrupt our interrelationships with all those in Creation.

When we take cannabis, alcohol and narcotics and use it in such a way that it makes us “high”, we disrupt the balance within us and around us. We hurt the balance between the body and the spirit. Our Spirit is disrupted. Dependence on these substances will ultimately affect our emotional and mental balance as well. Eventually, no matter how gentle the effect is, long-term use of these substances will also take a physical toll.

This kind of hurt my heart a bit. Ode’imin, the pure and beautiful strawberry, a chief medicine food, has become a cannabis edible.

Many of our Grandmothers and Grandfathers are concerned over the impacts that cannabis will have on our youth.  Evidence shows that using cannabis increases the risk in the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses. Also, there is evidence of the risk and repercussions associated of chronic and problem cannabis use, increased risk of depressive disorders, social anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Today, I’m seeing a lot of nonchalance about the use of “medicinal” cannabis for any number of remedies. Even more disturbing, there is a lot of indifference to the legalization of “recreational” cannabis.  We should be concerned over our already high incidence of addictions, mental illness, chronic disease and inter-generational trauma among Anishinaabe people. Making cannabis more accessible, through community-based dispensaries or even from the LCBO in town is so concerning to those who live by our traditional ways.

The use of cannabis has been discussed in our traditional societies and Lodges over the years. No matter how many time it’s raised, (“Well, it’s going to be legal soon.” “Many people use it for medicinal purposes.” “It’s not really going to hurt anybody.” “My auntie needs it for her eczema.”), the discussion is never a long one.

Again, with emphasis added: Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include use of cannabis. Period. It just doesn’t get any clearer from an Anishinaabe point of view.

That’s bad news for some Chiefs and leaders, pot-activists, cannabis enthusiasts, clever businesspeople, medical dispensaries and corner drug dealers.

I might be out of touch, unhip or too beholden to our Anishinaabe beliefs – but I thought I’d put it out there. They are our beliefs and there are many of us that stand by them.

EPILOGUE:  

One of the greatest gifts given to us by Gzhemnidoo is the gift of freewill. And the first teaching we are given when we hear the Creation Story is that “all Creation stories are true”. Meaning, we are all entitled to our beliefs and we can all choose our own paths that are right for us.
 
The purpose of the blog was to share our beliefs and perspectives from Anishinaabe teachings. No one is expecting everyone to live by them to the letter, or that they cannot evolve. However, this perspective regarding spirit-altering medicines hadn’t been shared and I felt strongly that it needed to be put on the record.
 
Taking medicines in a responsible way that honours them, honours our bodies and honours Creation around us is well within our ways. As some wise people point out, there are ways to use cannabis without getting high, disrupting our spirit or abusing the medicine.
 
As I acknowledged in the blog, this is somebody’s medicine. If they find relief and comfort in that, by all means. But it’s important to hear all aspects of the discussion, including those perspectives given to us in our Creation Story and original instructions as Anishinaabeg. Miigwetch.

So Long Brave, it’s Time for Change

The retirement of the Northern Secondary School Braves logo isn’t about individuals feeling offended.  It’s about a cultural change that is needed in society as a whole.  Agreed, the logo, designed by Terry Dokis and the term Brave is fairly mild on a spectrum of caricatures and indignity. Even the design was meant to instill pride in ourselves and honour our people.  I am thankful for that.  But it is also part of a multigenerational litanny of dehumanizing Anishinaabeg and all Indigenous people.  Chief Wahoo, the Indians, Redskins, Fighting Sioux, Blackhawks face, the Noble Savage, Lakota pain ointment, Wild Bill’s Wild West Show, Tonto, the Indian in the Cupboard, the CHIPPEWA RAIDERS, Seminoles, etc, etc. A hundred years of constant bombardment that Anishinaabeg are not real people, but an image on a t-shirt, a logo on leather jacket, or a styrofoam hatchet at the ball game, war paint on a mascot or a headdress at a music festival. No wonder that governments have felt that residential schools, the Trail of Tears, the Indian Act or the Wounded Knee massacre were acceptable. It’s no wonder that you can find overt, stinging and hurtful racism everyday on the internet.  Just read the comments section at the bottom of any article pertaining to our people.  The very same reason why individuals from the majority feel privledged enough to say they are reverse-offended, “it never bothered anyone before”, or “it doesn’t hurt anyone” or just “get over it”.  Or point to Tim, Keith or Scott and say, “See, they are fine with it.”

That reason or rationale: “Hey, come on, Chief.  It’s okay.”

Well, my friends, it’s not okay.

Although Northern Secondary has always made me/us Anishinaabeg welcome, the school once referred to their students as Ojibway, Cree, and Huron.  This always made me uncomfortable.  How many offended First Nations people does it take to make it legit in the eyes of everyone else? 1? 10? 1500?  How many would it take to make us understand that things need to change?  

Northern took a small step in retiring a logo.  They truly do honour us by voluntarily taking this action. I encourage you all to be a part of that change, to take your own action towards Reconciliation.  Every little bit helps. Aho. Miigwetch.  Thanks for your time, my friends.

Facts about expired Status Cards. You’re right. #WeDoNotExpire.

I’m casually supportive of those who are signing the online petition calling to remove the expiry dates on the Certificate of Indian Status.  I know first hand what a pain in the behind it is to renewed.  Last Fall, Deborah and I took officials from Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office through the rigorous process, only to be turned away at the door because of one thing or another.

But before you sign that petition (or alternatively, send a letter to the Department asking to be removed from the Indian Register and that you don’t need a Status Card to prove you’re Anishinaabe), here are a few facts:

  • You’re absolutely right, online activist, #WeDoNotExpire.  It’s only your Status Card that expires.  Whether you have a card of not, you’ll continue to be on the Indian Register in Ottawa, if that’s your thing.  You’ll also continue to be on your Band’s membership rolls.
  • The Indian Registry and the Certificate of Indian Status are colonial instruments of the Indian Act.  It says right on the card:  “This is to certify that the holder is an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act, chapter 27, Statutes of Canada (1985).”  Like, really??  Demean and racist much?  I’d much rather see a revival of the Anishinabek Nation Passport and a Nbisiing Anishinaabe Citizenship Card.  Hoo ah!
  • Right on the back of the card, in teeny-tiny print, it says “Property of INAC”.  It’s not even your card.
  • Prior to the requirement for expiry dates and up-to-date photos, there was a whole lot of Status Card fraud. Unscrupulous individuals used fake cards to illegally assume Indian status and obtain our rights.  This kind of fraud cost millions of dollars and was a considerable threat to our rights. Now with the additional protections that Ottawa has adopted (and unfortunately, the inconvenience to us law-abiding citizens), the unscrupulous simply cannot obtain or renew an authentic Status Card.  This is one of the main reasons that the Secured Status Card requires renewal and requires taking a new photo.
  • We can use the Secured Certificate of Indian Status to cross the border.  Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, secured Status Cards can be used for this purpose. Unfortunately, this meant Canada and First Nations giving in to the US requirements that a card be renewed just like a passport.  If we fly to the United Status, we can’t even use a Status Card.  We must carry a Canadian passport.  The passport has to be renewed at least every 10 years for an adult.
  • That being said, we shouldn’t need anything to cross the colonial border.  It is Indigenous territory on both sides.
  • The Secured Certificate of Indian Status contains biometric data.  The little, transparent photo can be used to identify you using facial recognition technology.  Sleep well.
  • As part of the Western Hemisphere Security Initiative, Canada shares Indian Register data with the United States.  To me, the privacy implications are far more concerning than an expiry date.  I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theory nut, but the US government means the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and Internal Revenue Service.
  • The biggest barrier with the new secured Status Card is that it can only be applied for, and renewed, at an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada office.  Although your Band Office can help you with the application, it must be processed and sent out by Ottawa.  Long gone are the days were you can get your Status Card from the Band membership clerk.  This is particularly a barrier for remote and rural First Nations.  A mistake on an application form, can result in months of processing delays.

Three Fires Summer Ceremonies August 16-20, 2017

NFN Sacred Fire on First Nations Suicides on July 9, 2017 (sunrise-sunset)

“Let us put our minds together to see what life we will make for our children.”

– Sitting Bull

The Sacred Fire has become a source and symbol of strength and divine connection to the Creator. The sacred fires that help us govern our community gatherings, ceremonies and prayerful expressions as Indigenous Peoples, continues to be a way for our struggles to be refocused into clear understanding and clear direction about where we take challenges and painful issues facing our community.

Nipissing First Nation will be hosting a community sacred fire in support and prayers in the wake of rising social tragedy and turmoil of First Nations suicides. Just this week, four young people in remote Northern Ontario First Nations have taken their lives.

WHAT:  NFN Sacred Fire on First Nation Suicides

 

WHEN:  Sunday, July 9, 2017 beginning at 5:15 a.m. to sundown.  Sacred Fire will stay lit from sunrise to sunset

WHERE:  Nipissing First Nation Cultural Centre, 36 Semo Road, Garden Village, ON near the Tipi

WHO:  All community members, Elders, Youth, Traditional People, Chief and Council, supporters and friends

 


TENTATIVE ACTIVITIES (to be confirmed)

MORNING AGENDA

 

5:15 a.m.        Firelighting

5:36 a.m.        Sunrise

5:40 a.m.        Morning Ceremony

Conducted by Perry McLeod-Shabogesic

Water Conducted TBA

Pipe, Tobacco and Water Offering

Ceremonial and Drum Songs

 

AFTERNOON AGENDA

 

12 noon          Mid-Day Ceremony

Pipe, Tobacco and Water Offering

Ceremonial and Drum Songs

Spirit Plate Offering

Mid-Day Potluck Feast

In the spirit of community, we are call on all volunteers, community members and descendants of the Homemakers Club and great cooks, please bring your favourite dish.

3:00 p.m.       Community Sharing Circle

Led by Nipissing First Nation Youth. Everyone is welcome to bring their thoughts, prayers and ideas to share in a safe environment.

Theme/Facilitated Questions:

  • How can our First Nation and our citizens help our northern brothers and sisters struggling with youth suicide?
  • How can we support one another that will help strengthen our own community in dealing with youth suicide? 

EVENING AGENDA

 

6:00 p.m.        Drum and Round Dance Circle (to be confirmed…)

Looking for singers, drums, round dance singers and dancers to take part in a evening Drum and Round Dance Circle to sing and dance in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the north facing this suicide crisis and to honour of those we have lost to suicide.  Dancers bring your regalia.

Singers and Drums, if you are able to attend please contact Corey Goulais on Facebook or call (705) 358-7064.

——————————————-

Calling all Fire Keepers and Volunteers

In order to keep the fire going for a full day, we are seeking young men to help keep fire and volunteers of all ages to assist with the day’s events. If you wish to volunteer, contact Corey Goulais on Facebook or call (705) 358-7064.

 

Why I used to fly the Canada Flag on my a$$

Truth be told, I’ve been protesting Canada Day for a long, long time. In fact, a few of you might remember that I used to wear a Canada Flag on my derriere every July 1. Strangely, I used to look forward to the odd looks and controversy. Yes, the noble maple leaf, the unmistakeable symbol of Canada, pinned firmly to my a$$.

Anyone who asked about or noticed my anti-patriotic statement would be peppered with factoids of Canada’s historical mistreatment of First Nations and the racism that I’ve faced. I was known to quote John Trudell who said that flying a flag upside down is a sign of distress. Long before the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, the apology, or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I offered a fiery explanation of the residential school experience, the abuses suffered by our children and the burden of inter-generational trauma.

All the while, sitting on, and blowing wind through, the ole’ red and white.

That was a long time ago. I don’t do that anymore.

Sure it was a juvenile and classless. But as a teenager, I was typically juvenile and classless anyhow. But I later came to the realization that it was a barrier to understanding and sharing such an important message. More importantly, it was an affront to the most basic Anishinaabe teaching of respect.

Many Indigenous people are frustrated and feel they are getting the short end of the stick. Many First Nation families are living in poverty and face unacceptable conditions everyday. (For god’s sake, it’s 2017 and Pikangikum First Nation still doesn’t have running water!)

We’re frustrated by the slow pace of change. Prime Minister Trudeau and his government has said a lot of the right things including a commitment to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and establishing an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. But the results just aren’t visible to us. The pace of bureaucracy is stifling and isn’t matching our expectations. Just what the heck is going on???

So, for historic and personal reasons, many First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, including myself, are refusing to celebrate Canada 150. For my non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, you truly have to understand the narrative, the perspective as well as the facts. Canada has not been kind to Indigenous people. The past 150 years has been deplorable, and frankly, should be embarrassing to each and every Canadian.

That being said, as Indigenous advocates, we still have to realize that there are many, many Canadians who do not know about Indigenous issues or their true history as a country. Many open-minded Canadians might get their backs up, or noses out-of-joint when we challenge their perception of their country and patriotism.

Just this week, I spoke to a volunteer at a local Indigenous event. She was a young, well-educated, middle-class woman working for one of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada. She had no idea what residential schools were and how they have affected our people. She had no idea what the Indian Act was and how it controlled almost every aspect of our lives. She honestly had no clue.

The reality is that there are thousands more, at public events and kitchen tables across Canada that have yet to meet a First Nations person, much less understand our frustrations, complex issues or grasp the need for reconciliation.

How do we influence understanding? How do we bring Canadians along with us, so that they might take personal action on reconciliation? How do we encourage them to share their new found knowledge with their families sitting down at the dinner table? How do we begin to influence their workplace and the corporate environment?

We certainly can’t do that with anger. I realized that I couldn’t win people over when I desecrated the proud symbol of their freedom. It can only be done with patience, kindness and respect.

Forget the trolls and the racists. You’re not going to win them over anyway. Focus on those who may want to listen for they are going to be our future advocates.

I am going to respect those that want to celebrate Canada Day and their nation’s sesquicentennial. I may not Canadian but I know a lot of them. I’m not going to call anyone down who may want to enjoy themselves under the fireworks, an airshow or want to see a giant rubber duck float by.

In turn, I hope that Canadians will respect why we don’t want to celebrate this day and learn more about the true history of Canada, and why change and reconciliation is necessary.

I’ve taken the flag off my a$$ and hope to fly it one day with pride, as true and equal treaty partners.

Things are looking up for this Matthews and Gretzky fan

I’ve been enjoying a lot of hockey lately.  I’m excited to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, assuming the Leafs can clinch a berth.

One of the most exciting things to see is the turn-around of my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, mainly due to the historic and unbelievable season performances of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.  Nazeem Kadri is having a pretty amazing year as well.

Last night, I bought my first NHL jersey in 29 years.  I picked up a Auston Matthews #34 jersey at the Leafs/Lightning game.  It’s a pretty exciting thing to see this young man, in his first year, score so many goals, night after night.  I’m looking forward to cheering him on throughout his career.

I did have a wool, knit Leafs jersey when I was six years-old.

It got me to reminiscing about my favorite hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky.  During my childhood, I watched as many Oilers and Kings games as I could on satellite TV and read the NHL Scoring Leaders section of The Nugget everyday.  A few weekends after he was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, I bought the Gretzky # 99, white home jersey, marked with the captain’s ‘C’.  To this day, my favorite NHL teams are Toronto, Edmonton and LA.

I was Youtube-ing some of Gretzky’s highlights and I came upon the night he broke Gordie Howe’s record.  I remember that night very well, October 15, 1990, because many of us Gretzky fans had been following and awaiting the feat where our hero would surpass Gordie Howe to become the highest scoring NHL player of all time.

Classic Gretzky…  late in the 3rd period, the Kings goalie is pulled…  he comes out from behind the net, parks to the open side of the Oilers net and pounces on a backhand into a wide open net.  It was historic.  The league actually stopped the game in the 3rd period, with a 2-2 tie, to honour Gretzky.  Gretzky addressed the cheering crowd in Edmonton.  He was classy.  The Oilers were classy.  And the fans were classy.  You can see the genuine smiles and congratulations offered by Oilers captain Mark Messier and teammates on both sides.  By the way, a few minutes after the ceremony, Gretzky scored the game winner.  Amazing.

Of course, Gretzky had many a career moments like that.  Dozens of NHL records and milestones.  Plenty of memories for a hockey fan.  I was fortunate enough to see Wayne Gretzky play in Toronto in 1998.  It was the only time I seen him in-person.

The Leafs may never lift the Stanley Cup anytime soon and Austin Matthews isn’t likely score 92 goals in a season.  But things are certainly looking up for Leafs fans in Hogtown.

Griffin signs with the Varsity Blues

Griffin Assance-Goulais signs a letter of intent with Greg Gary, head coach and manager of football operations for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team.
TORONTO – Today, North Bay football prospect, Griffin Assance-Goulais donned an exclusive Blues Football cap and signed a Letter of Intent to play for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
Following a number of conversations with the recruiting coordinator, coaching staff and eventually Varisty Blues head coach Greg Gary, Griffin made the decision to couple his academic career by playing varsity football in the fall.
“This has been an amazing experience and a dream come true. This is everything I wanted football to lead up to,” said Assance-Goulais, a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall.  Griffin is eager to credit hard work, his local coaches, his parents and his brother for his journey to U of T.
The U of T coaching staff, who have been in discussions with him for a number of weeks, are expecting to develop Assance-Goulais into a tight end or fullback.  He will be attending the training camp at Varsity Stadium in August.  The Varsity Blues are organizing their first exhibition game in Montreal.
In addition to keeping up his academic standing, Griffin will be following the strict U of T training regimen over the next four months.
“I am anticipating more hard work.  Not only am I ready to contribute to the team, I have to make it in one of the most prestigious universities in Canada. I feel like I’m up to the challenge,” said Assance-Goulais.
Also on Saturday, Griffin participated in a Varsity Blues Football Academy, a workout with the strength and conditioning coach and an exclusive tour of the varsity locker room.
An Anishinaabe of Beausoleil First Nation and Nipissing First Nation, Griffin will be playing with the Nipissing Wild during the upcoming summer football season.
– 30 –

Our families are our most important priority

I wanted to send out a little note to let my friends and family know that I’ll be leaving the Assembly of First Nations in order to spend more time with my family at home.  Our families are our most important priority.  For me, this difficult decision was guided by my values as a Midewiwin Anishinaabe man, a husband and father.

Chi-miigwetch to National Chief Perry Bellegarde, CEO Judy White and the talented and dedicated staff at the AFN. I only wish I could have spent more time with you.

On a personal note, Deborah and I, like many other families, struggle having a child of mental illness. Some days are harder than others.  Support, Love and understanding are an absolute necessity to cope with this lifelong journey. But so are much needed supports and investments in First Nations youth, both on-reserve and in the cities.

We sincerely appreciate all your kind thoughts, prayers and support.

 

All I want for Christmas… from your hard-working, loyal civil servant

bob_parliamenthillPublic servants are among the most hard working people in the world. We’re up early – usually in the office before the sun peaks over the horizon. Sometimes we forgo our lunch just to catch up on things. Breaks… what’s that? Very often we work late into the evening without overtime pay or any other reward.

Our bosses – our Chiefs, Ministers or even leaders a little further up the telephone directory hierarchy, are equally hard working and dedicated.

Many of us are not in it for the reward, the power or the limelight. We do this work for the people at home, our children, our grandchildren, our families, our communities and our Nation. I Love what I do because I know it will lead to positive changes for First Nations and improve the lives of Anishinaabeg everywhere.

…And then we read social media.

We hear from people who describe themselves as warriors – as righteous defenders of our Nations – whose only weapon is negativity and not-so-coherent verbosity. Arm-chair critics, without any facts, spewing their vitriol at the world claiming it’s for the greater good. There are those that post the profane one-liners. There are others that see themselves as activists, who make use of blogs, skewed media sources, shoddy research and speculation to make their case to the world. Keep in mind that 90 per cent of the content on the internet is either someone’s opinion, it’s inaccurate, out-of-context or just plain fiction. (To make the point even further, I freely admit I made up that statistic. I bolded it, just to emphasize my point. Now you’re going back to re-read the sentence. Now you’re working it out in your head. This is not a Jedi mind trick.)

I digress.

We need government. We need leadership. We need a public service, both First Nations and mainstream, to do the work of the people. We need people to provide sound public policy research, analysis and options and a second and third look at legislation, regulations and policies. We’re not simply spinning our wheels and collecting a paycheque.

Instead of clicking and clacking, join a committee, attend a seminar, read real research. Provide some informed public comment that just might contribute to constructive dialogue on important public policy matters. Ask questions, provide your feedback, ask for an update, provide a suggestion. Our work is not secret. In fact, we’re always seeking new ways to communicate our work to our constituency.

All I want for Christmas is goodwill toward men and women, including your public service.