Posts tagged ‘Anishinaabe’

Healing: The Full Spectrum of Traditional, Medical & the Spirit

makayla_sault

The Late Makayla Sault and her family. CP Photo

The ongoing debate concerning traditional healing versus western medicine seems solely to be about one side versus the other. I guess for some people, it’s either red or it’s white.

But when it comes to healing, consideration should be less about making an exclusionary choice and more about making choices across the full spectrum of traditional and medical options that will lead to healing. Above all, reliance on medicine and treatment alone won’t always lead to healing. It also takes a whole lot of strength, faith and Spirit.

First a few definitions. The Self, for all intents and purposes, from an Anishinaabe perspective refers to the body (physical), the mind (mental), the feeling (emotional) and the spirit (spiritual). Treatment usually refers to either a specific or variable program of medical, surgical or pharmacological intervention that will repair the body, occasionally the mind, and rarely the emotional self. Healing refers to care, restoration, balance and well-being of the physical, mental, emotional and the spiritual self.

When considering a course of treatment and healing, the key here is choice. When undertaking any type of medical regime or treatment program, whether it’s traditional or western, it requires considerable (albeit sometimes quick), informative decision-making. For many of us, that decision-making is based on determining what is best for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing.

Learn all that you can about the proposed or recommended course of treatment. Ask other healers. Ask other doctors. Read, “Google” and do your research. If one embarks on a course of traditional healing, knowledge and preparation may come in the form of changing one’s lifestyle and a specific diet. Same goes for medical treatment. Even the process of preparation and learning about these treatments is a part of the healing journey.

But beware anyone providing dissuasive advice.

During this whole debate about either The Late Makayla Sault or “J.J.”, the little girl from Six Nations diagnosed with leukemia, we’ve heard both sides of the story. There are some that say: “western medicine and science won’t heal you – it’ll just make you sicker”. Others might say: “don’t listen to that hooga-booga traditional healing rubbish… that’s just make-believe”.

Truth be told that any true and good doctor or healer would never dissuade anyone in need from exploring the full spectrum of treatment options. A good traditional healer or medical doctor will be open to exploring and integrating complementary treatment methodologies. Those confident in their abilities and will not be threatened by considering all options. Those that attempt such dissuasion are really not working in the best interests of the one needing help.

Making informed decisions is ultimately about finding the truth. It’s important not to rely on gossip, hearsay or gut reaction. This subject is an emotional one for many people, indigenous or otherwise. The internet and social media is littered with bad information and unreliable data. There are many who disguise their opinions and ideologies as fact. Sadly, there are far more of the weak-minded that will regurgitate and defend their wasteland. (“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”)

Rely on factual data. There may be data that indicates that a course of treatment, whether it’s traditional or medical, will improve your condition. There may also be data that indicates that if you don’t take a certain course of treatment, your condition may worsen. Based on the facts, they may be making a choice to live or to die.

The reality is that medical science has a whole lot of truth and a whole lot of verifiable data. Western medical treatment may be cold, sterile, uncomfortable and downright painful. If a certain treatment will keep you alive and make you better, it contributes to that individual’s healing. Note the emphasis on treatment, leading to healing.

Here’s where I’m going to go out on a limb. My friends, there is Spirit in western medicine too. The Great Spirit (no matter how you see or know it… Jesus, Allah, YHWH, or G’zhemnidoo) and the Spirit World is working through that hospital, the Doctors, nurses, technicians, and even in the often vilified chemical and synthetic medicines. The Spirit works in strange and fascinating ways. The good people who do this life-saving work, who care for others day-in and day-out, who have developed the medicines and treatment programs – they all do so for the benefit of humankind. Love, caring and kindness is indeed shooting through their veins like a strong dose of chemotherepy.

That being said, that doesn’t mean that traditional medicine doesn’t have it’s own truth. There may not be the same mass of quantifiable studies, but there has been plenty of work on the subject for years. Many of today’s most effective medicines have been borne out of traditional and natural products and formulations. I feel that Indigenous traditional knowledge, and traditional healing is the basis for all modern medical treatment.

Among the most important benefits that come from traditional healing is the ever important role in fostering the necessary strength, hope, faith and Spirit that is needed for healing.

More and more, western medicine and society on the whole is accepting the integration of traditional healing into the broader course of treatment for indigenous patients. Our people draw considerable strength from our healing practices and our own ways. Traditional healing doesn’t just act upon the physical – it works in tandem providing healing energy to the mental, emotional and Spiritual aspects of the self.

Healing energy is indeed the power of Spirit. The power of faith, hope and belief. It comes from the physical medicines (herbs, roots, leaves, fungus, animal parts, teas, compounds, salves, elixirs, vapours), but it also comes from the emotional, mental and Spiritual medicine.

Tobacco, for example, long known as the whipping boy of adverse health, is an important part of prayer and Spiritual medicine for the Anishinaabe. When you offer prayer with tobacco, offer your thoughts and words to the Creator, the greater your faith and belief in healing. With faith and belief comes energy. With healing energy comes strength. Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; And Jacob begat Joseph and so on.

In other words, the greater the production of healing energy, the greater the strength will be in the patient. The greater the healing energy on the individual affected systems, the greater the strength that will be generated in those systems, cells and functions. Thus, you get improved cellular regeneration as well as systemic and metabolic function. Traditional healing is medical healing.

Preventing someone from making their own choices, denies them from obtaining the full spectrum of treatments available to them. It also denies them the impacts that strength, faith and Spirit brings to their healing journey. It may also deny them the ability to make the necessary consideration to choose life.

Ultimately, it’s not our choice. Whatever choice is made by an individual seeking healing, is made for very personal reasons based on their own needs, truth, reasoning and guidance by the Spirit.

For whatever reason, some may choose the wait for a miracle. Sadly, others may make a choice that will lead to an unsatisfactory ending. But whatever the choice, it needs to be based on informative decision-making of their own freewill.

Boundary Claim Vote Tomorrow

Get Out & Vote

This is my last opportunity to reach out to Nbisiing Anishinaabeg to reiterate the importance of getting out to vote.

Your vote is your power.

  • If you like the settlement and want to see the community benefit from a significant infusion of new funds…  Vote Yes.
  • By all means, if you don’t like the settlement and don’t want to resolve this long-standing dispute with the government…  Vote No.
  • If you want to make use of the settlement funds and establish a new, more comprehensive Community Trust.  Vote Yes to the Trust.
  • Also, if you don’t like the direction Council is taking us by resolving the boundary dispute, you can vote for new leadership in 2015.
  • Finally, if you don’t want this Chief, Deputy Chief and Councillor on the Community Trust, you can vote for new candidates in 2015.

Please get out and vote tomorrow, Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Polls open at 9 a.m. in Duchesnay and Garden Village.

Mistrust

Sadly, many of our people are still clouded by mistrust.  And because of how we continue to be treated by the government, it’s not getting any better.  We’re all so mistrustful of government, Prime Minister Harper, the Department, and even our own Band Council and staff.  We want to stand up and fight and make things right by our own actions.  We want to call upon that near-dormant Ogitchidaa spirit in all of us.

To be vocal empowers us.  To rise-up empowers us.  To stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the front lines of political idealism and civil disobedience empowers us.

At the same time mistrust clouds us.  Anger clouds us.  Frustration clouds us.

This is not our way.  We shouldn’t be jaded by those that seek to hurt us.  We only serve to hurt ourselves.  We need to be living by the way that was given to us by the Creator, Gzhemnidoo.  It was through that kindness, gentleness and intellect that we as Anishinaabe are able to see things clearly and make good decisions for the benefit of seventh generation.

The only way we can ascend from this despair is through Unity and Nationhood.  We will also need our own lands, our own economy and means of sustainability.  Ultimately, this settlement will mean purchasing more reserve lands, funding to establish our own constitutional governance structures, funding to support community health, culture and youth programs.

What if I vote “no”?

It’s great to say “Idle No More” and turn around and vote “no”.  It’s quite empowering.  Sure, you will have stuck it to Council. You’ve stuck it to the government.  You’ve stuck it to the man!  You get to go home with your head held high.

But sure as the sun rises, you’ll wake up the next morning to the same lack of opportunity, mistrust and lack of outlook that you’re living with now.

Intellectual Empowerment

The Anishinaabe, particularly the Nbisiing Anishinaabeg, have chosen intellectual empowerment over aggression.  Our history talks of how our ancestors used our strategic relationships, the Confederacy, traditional knowledge and spiritual power to overcome challenges to our sovereignty.  We have always used negotiation to defend our interests and benefit our community.  Even during the 1850 Robinson Treaty, only the Nbisiing and Okikendawt head-men stood up to the Treaty Commissioner and said what was offered wasn’t enough.  As a result, our two First Nations received additional benefits that is written directly into the Treaty.

Our Chief and headmen also journeyed to Ottawa to support their fellow Chiefs long before there was a road through our territory.

Even after we were massacred and driven from our homelands, it was our skills as diplomats and allies that led us back to our homelands.  Other nations, were driven from their homelands forever.

Sometimes, negotiation and settlement provides us more benefit than mistrust and opposition.  In this case, the opportunity and intellectual empowerment, once again, significantly benefits the Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  Benefit and opportunity that we will see for generations to come.

The Eighth Fire

Wab Kinew host of CBC's 8th Fire.

The Anishinaabe were guided in history by stories and teachings known as the Seven Fire prophecies.  Long ago, certain individuals (prophets) had visions of the future which came in the form of chapters or “Fires”.

In these seven prophecies, which came long before the first arrival of European settlers, the Anishinaabe were told of the coming of the “light-skinned race”.  The prophecies also stated that the Anishinaabe ways would be lost.  One eerie line from the prophecy states: “The rivers shall run with poison and the fish would become unfit to eat.”  The prophecies speak about a great migration of the Anishinaabe, how their original spiritual way, the Midewiwin, would be depleted, and how they would find their homeland in the Great Lakes region.  It also speaks about the struggles the First Nations would have stating: “The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.”

In the last prophecy, the Seventh Fire, the story speaks of the renewal of the Anishinaabe people.  Many contend that the current generation are the people of the Seventh Fire.  It speaks of a great peace and reconciliation between the First Nations and the settlers.  It speaks directly of a re-kindling of old flames.  If these good choices are made, this will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood.

Beginning tomorrow at 9 p.m. on CBC, Manitoba Anishinaabe Wab Kinew will present a four-part mini-series entitled “8th Fire”. The documentary will examine the ongoing relationship, current issues, stereotypes and Aboriginal history.  As a First Nations rapper and filmmaker, he will be sure to present these subjects in an interesting and humorous way.  As the Anishnaabe prophecy goes, this Seventh Generation now has the opportunity to reconcile with the “settler” community and together build the “8th Fire” of peace, justice and harmony.

8th FIRE
A Four Part Mini-series
Beginning this Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 9 p.m.
on CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire/index.html

The Four Roots

It occurs to me that very few people have a true frame of reference of what it means to be Anishinaabe.

Certainly, I don’t.  For me, I was born in a small French-Canadian town.  Sure I lived on the reserve, but only a five minute drive from town.  We weren’t taught our ways of life or our language, despite both my parents being able to speak Anishinaabemowin.  I didn’t grow up thinking or living as an Anishinaabe inini.  Being Anishinaabe, for me took work, study and proactive choices.  Today, I’m proud to be Anishinaabe-inini.

Our brothers and sisters who live in the far north are a little closer to their roots.  Many still speak their language and practice their way of life.  However, their cultural and spiritual sense of identity has been obscured by Christianity.  Poverty and isolation also work against them.  As a result, addictions now run rampant in most small communities.

We may know what the problems are.  But why can’t we move beyond these challenges?

The answer is complex, but to me, it can be traced back to what I call the “Four Roots”.

Picture, if you will, a large noxious weed in your backyard.  It’s ugly, thorny and it gives off a bad odor.  You had some success getting rid of it last year but it keeps growing back.  You cut one, two, even three roots from the plant – but it continues to take hold generation-after-generation.

The Four Roots:

  • Multi-generation trauma; from systemic racism and residential schools.
  • Isolation from Canadian society;  Not just physical isolation, but social, cultural and economic as well.
  • Dependancy; mostly on the Crown
  • Most fundamentally, a serious Lack of Identity.  Many of our people struggle with having brown skin and a chronic inferiority complex.

Today, Deborah and I watched a film called The Life You Want.  It featured a young woman from Eebametoong First Nation battling her addition to prescription drugs.  Like many, she knew what the problem was.  She knew what she needed to do to overcome that problem.  She needed to take action.

Along the way she learned how to ask for help.

We have to ask ourselves some tough questions.  How can we move from trauma to healing?  How can I move from dependence to independence?  What does it mean for me to be Anishinaabe?

But we can’t wait for our Chiefs to answer these questions for us.  Nor can we wait for the government to do this for us.  We have to take action as individuals and as families.  Over time, the answers to these questions will enrich our Spirits and make us better people.  The answers may rescue some from additions.  The answers may even provide us with unknown opportunity.  Most of all, it will move us from victims to self-assured Anishinaabeg again.

In short, with a little faith in the Spirit, that’s what it means to be Anishinaabe.

Water Walk sets out from Machiasport for Wisconsin

Joan Dana (left) of Indian Township, and Josephine Mandamin (center) of Ontario, carry a copper bucket filled with water from the Machias Bay as they prepare for a ceremony at Bad Little Falls in Machias on Saturday, May 7, 2011. Dana, of the Passamaquoddy tribe, and Mandamin, of the Ojibwe tribe, are among the dozens of participants in the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, which brings together Native Americans from across the continent to raise awareness concerning the importance of clean water. At far right is Donald Soctomah, also of Indian Township. Kate Collins Photo

By Sharon Kiley
Bangor Daily News

MACHIASPORT, Maine — Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibway Indian from Thunder Bay, Ontario, stooped under the weight of the water in the copper bucket she carried from the sea, across the rocks and a field, to the roadway. Beside her was her sister Melvina Mandamin and her grandson Josh Metansinine, who carried a staff adorned with an eagle’s head.

Walking behind them, a band of flowing skirts, tribal headdresses and leather fringe, were Indians from Passamaquoddy, Cherokee, Blackfeet, Penobscot, Micmac and other Maine and Canadian tribes. Among them was Joan Dana of Indian Township, who at age 74 led five generations of her family. They walked from Picture Rock, an ancient petroglyph site where they gathered the water from the Atlantic Ocean, on through Machiasport, every so often switching water carriers and staff bearers.

This was the Eastern Direction of the Mother Earth Water Walk that will culminate at Lake Superior in Wisconsin in June. The walk symbolizes the need to care for water to ensure clean water for future generations. Women, many of them tribal elders from the four directions of North America, are carrying water in identical copper buckets from the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and Hudson Bay. In mid-June, the waters will be reunited as the walkers reach Lake Superior.

As the bucket was dipped into the Atlantic Ocean around 4 a.m. Saturday, Donald Soctomah of Indian Township said, an eagle flew overhead and a seal watched from the sea.

“This is why we walk,” he said. “It is for them — the creatures — too.”

Soctomah said, “This is the very essence of who we are as native people and human beings. Without clean water, we have nothing.”

From the petroglyphs, the walkers carried the water to Machias where 100 people had gathered for a ceremony at Bad Little Falls to officially kick off the Eastern Direction of the walk. As they walked, they sang.

“Every step is a prayer,” Soctomah explained.

Three days earlier, Soctomah and other Passamaquoddy Indians had built a sweat lodge on the sacred petroglyph site to allow natives to purify themselves before the walk.

After lunch and rest, provided by the Beehive Collective of artists at the historic Grange in Machias, they headed through Whitneyville, Jonesboro, Harrington and on into Milbridge, where the group took shelter Saturday night. On Sunday they continued along Route 1 toward Ellsworth, making for Bangor. From there they will walk along Route 2 to Skowhegan then make their way through western Maine to cross the border into Canada at Coburn Gore by the middle of next week. There can be anywhere from two to about 15 walkers in the group at any given time.

Every time the walkers passed water on the side of the road, a spiritual offering of tobacco was made, and as they walked, they sang songs of praise and hope. Native women are the carriers and protectors of water so the pail cannot be carried by a man. An Ojibway man asked Faye Bauman of Machias, a Blackfeet woman, how it felt to carry the pail.

“Powerful,” she answered.

East Coast organizer Madeline Hjunter of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, said she was holding back and letting the Passamaquoddy tribal members take the lead on the first leg of their journey. Soctomah said he would join the walkers off and on along the way.

Maureen Robichaud and Wendy Langille, non-natives, drove from Hampton, New Brunswick, to Machias to experience the beginning of the walk.

“It is really true that we don’t appreciate water as we should,” Robichaud said.

The women held a drumming circle at their Canadian home to help raise money for the walkers.

“This is so important, we just wanted to be here to send them off,” she said.

“Whatever we do to the water will impact the children of future generations,” Hjunter said. “People need to start looking at how we live and the importance of clean water.”

The Mother Earth Water Walk began in 2003, according to the project’s website, as “a prayer for the water, for Mother Earth, for the animals, the birds, the insects, the trees and for us, all two leggeds. Together the walks were one prayer for life.” This is the first year that water will be carried from the four corners of North America, and non-natives are encouraged to join the walkers.

The Western and Southern legs of the walk have already begun, although Soctomah said the Southern contingent was forced to stop for a while because of tornadoes in their path.

Hjunter said people along Routes 1 and 2 in Maine can assist the walkers by placing signs along the way asking trucks and other traffic to slow down and take care when near the walkers.

Kehben Grier of the Beehive Collective is still seeking rest stops for the walkers along Routes 1 and 2 in Maine. Those who want to open their doors to the walkers or provide a place to rest may contact her at kehbenbee@gmail.com.


 

SUPPORT THE MOTHER EARTH WATER WALK

E-mail Money Transfers (Can & U.S.): waterwalk2011@gmail.com

Cheques may be made out to:  Mother Earth Water Walk and mailed to:

Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig
Attn: Joanne Robertson, WW Coordinator
1550 Queen Street E
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
P6A 2G3

Direct Deposit:  Northern Credit Union
Acct#: 14492 828 0161405641

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Day 24: Supporting the Mother Earth Water Walk

Josephine Mandamin in a scene from a documentary called Waterlife. John Minh Tran Photo

I’m feeling kind of helpless today as I see the various Facebook updates  from the Water Walkers.  They’ve been humbly calling for assistance as they make their way from the Pacific Ocean, ascending through the Rocky Mountains, en route to Anishinaabeg territory in the Great Lakes.

The least I can do is send them some much needed money and write them a blog post of support.

For those of you who don’t know, the Mother Earth Water Walk has begun a journey from each of the four directions, raising awareness of the state of water and the need to protect and speak up for the most precious natural resource on the planet.  Led by Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, the walk began its first and longest leg, from the Pacific Ocean, culminating in early June at Lake Superior.  The Mother Earth Water Walk began in 2003 with a 36-day walk around Lake Superior.  Since then, almost every spring, the water walkers have walked around each of the Great Lakes and down the entire length of the St. Lawrence River.

Unfortunately, the environment is not being seen as a priority issue in this election campaign.  But for Anishinaabe people, nothing can be more important.  People of all nations, backgrounds, and political stripes need to be aware of the state of the water and the environment.  We all need to make positive decisions with respect to the health of our environment and fresh water sources.  Unsustainable development and recklessness cannot continue without appropriate consideration of these factors.

Government needs to play a central role in holding industry and consumers accountable.  Officials ought to work with First Nations and factor in our tremendous traditional knowledge when making decisions that affect water.

The Liberal Party of Canada has committed to an innovative Canadian Freshwater Strategy that will do just that.  It will be the first national strategy on water in the past 20 years.  The goal of the strategy is to preserve Canada’s freshwater for the generations to come.

That’s why Josephine and these women are doing this walk.  With the support of men, Anishinaabe-kwe have committed to walking across Turtle Island (North America), carrying a copper pail full of water.  The water from each leg of the walk, the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Hudson’s Bay and Gulf of Mexico will be intermingled together with the Great Lakes water when they reach their final destination.

In our culture, the water is considered our life-blood.  It not only flows through our bodies and provides us nourishment, it is said to flow directly from the Spirit World in a beautiful river that flows forever.  As Anishinaabe people, we should do everything we can to honour this deep spiritual connection.

We may not be able to join our Grandmother Josephine and the other Midewiwin women on the walk.  But we can be a part of the broader message, send our prayers, donations and support as they climb through the difficult mountain passes in Washington state.

SUPPORT THE MOTHER EARTH WATER WALK

 
E-mail Money Transfers (Can & U.S.): waterwalk2011@gmail.com

Cheques may be made out to:  Mother Earth Water Walk and mailed to:

Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig
Attn: Joanne Robertson, WW Coordinator
1550 Queen Street E
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
P6A 2G3

Direct Deposit:  Northern Credit Union
Acct#: 14492 828 0161405641

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Day 22: First Nation’s Families and Elders

Today, I’m writing from my home in Nipissing First Nation surrounded by my partner, her girls and my boys.  We spent the morning at Weight Watchers, having breakfast, shopping for books and renting a couple of moviesToday is also the day of the Great Village Scavenger Hunt, as our family scours Garden Village in search of creative clues, Easter eggs and their Easter treats.

As we go through our weekend routine, I’ve been thinking about the importance of family to the Anishinaabe people.

Our Elders are among our most important members of our community.  We go to them for their wisdom, experience and counsel.  They carry our community history and traditional knowledge.  Many carry our traditional teachings and are our Spiritual leaders.  When they fall sick, it’s one of our most important values to look after them.

More than ever, we are having to take care of sick, infirm and elderly Loved ones.  Often, we have to use our vacation time, extended unpaid leaves of absence or quit our jobs in order to do this important work.

As part of their election platform, the Liberal party has committed to creating a new Family Care plan where you would be able to take a paid leave of absence to look after our Elders.  It would be just like taking parental leave, with similar benefits and qualifying provisions.  Just like our parents took care of us when we were babies, a Liberal government would allow us the opportunity to take care of our parents when the time comes.  This is truly in keeping with our First Nation’s values.

There are many of us dealing with family members living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.  My mom is living with early symptoms and requires ongoing care by my brother Junior and his partner Kat.  It’s been a time of great concern for us in the past five years.

The Liberals have committed to developing a Canadian Brain Health Strategy, which includes exploring new income security measures to ensure that families are not pushed into poverty as they deal with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

There’s no better investment than ensuring the health and well-being of families and our Elders.  This far ourweighs the need for billions of dollars for jet fighters and American-style mega-prisons.

Day 20: Protecting Mother Earth a Priority

I’ve used my blog to talk about First Nations poverty during the election, but haven’t spoken much about environmental issues.

An important issue in this election is Canada’s place in the world.  Unfortunately, in the last five years or so, Canada has not stepped up to the plate when it comes to issues of foreign policy, advocating for human rights, and most importantly, protecting the environment.

For Anishinaabe people, there is nothing more important than protecting Shkaakamik-kwe, our Mother Earth.  From the time of Creation, Gzhemnidoo gave the responsibility to the Anishinaabeg to be stewards of the earth.  Our Anishinaabe-kwe (women) were given the responsibility to look after and speak to the water.  More and more, Anishinabe people are taking those instructions and sacred duty very seriously.

However, we all need to speak up in ensuring Canada takes their role as global environmentalists seriously.

It wasn’t long ago that Canada played a leadership role in developing the Kyoto Accord.  We were serious in putting a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and introduce a carbon tax.

However, under the Harper government, all that environmental progress has been lost in favour of big business, oil pipelines, oil sands development and corporate tax cuts.  Harper has bowed to American interests, rather than do what needs to be done.  The Conservative government wasn’t a signifcant factor in either the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009 nor the Cancun climate conference in 2010.

The Liberal Party has provided a platform that First Nations people can be proud of.  They continue to assert their position and commitment to a long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  In the meantime, a Liberal government will work with domestic and international partners on practical, but meaningful medium-term goals.

More significantly for us Anishinaabe living in our Great Lakes territory, the Liberals have promised to develop the first ever Canadian Freshwater Strategy.  As in the past, I’m certain that the LPC will be working with First Nations in ensuring our traditional territories and cultural perspectives are an important consideration in this important initiative.

The freshwater strategy also includes a ban on the exporting of freshwater, something many environmentalists and First Nations have been calling for.  I know I will be working to ensure this ban includes eliminating the loophole that allows the exporting of containers 20 litres or less (i.e. bottled water).

Finally, it’s always nice to get an endorsement from leading environmentalists.

“We applaud the Liberal party’s funding allocation for restoration of the Great Lakes, clean up of Lake Winnipeg and strategies to address invasive species,” said the Council of Canadians.

Day 16: First Nation’s Priorities, Culture Should Be Supported

For Anishinaabe people, there are important cultural considerations to keep in mind during the federal election campaign.

I’d take you back to better days.  When government was far more open to First Nation’s priorities.  When we were seen as partners, not just stakeholders or a thorn in the back side.  The budget was balanced and the government could make good fiscal decisions to support the economy, Canadian families, and First Nation communities.

The Liberal government with Jean Chretien in the driver’s seat and Paul Martin at the financial controls had a plan to support the development of indigenous languages in Canada.  A national task force was formed and a $179 million budget was set-aside. Fast-forward a couple of years, and Stephen Harper unilaterally clawed it all back.  The vision of Paul Martin, including the $5 billion Kelowna Accord, were sent for permanent Conservative recycling to make room for mega-jails, jet fighters and the G20 debacle.

Sure, Anishinaabemowin may not be important to Jim Flaherty.  Knowing Aboriginal history, teachings and our songs many not be important to John Baird.  And without a doubt, our role as stewards of Mother Earth and our women’s role as caretakers of the water as not important to Peter Kent.

But it’s important to us!

For us, that means some kind of baseline funding for First Nations language and culture.  Perhaps this can begin by restoring the $170 million commitment to indigenous languages and the national task force.

This also means supporting the Aboriginal Healing Foundation whose sole purpose is to address the multigenerational impacts of the residential schools.  Surprise, surprise, Mr. Harper is putting an end to that too.

Fundamentally, we need a government that can see benefit from investment in language, culture and healing.  Just think, what would it meant to restore our cultural identity?  Perhaps our young people would develop a strong pride in themselves and their nation.  Graduation rates might just rise, while incarceration and additions may decline.  More and more of our youth would be getting degrees, raising their children in a healthy way and making real change in Canadian society.

We need a federal government that supports First Nation’s priorities.  We need a Prime Minister and a Minister of Indian Affairs that see us as partners in addressing, not only our difficult issues, but things that mean so much to us – like language, culture and healing.

Barring a significant change in their thinking, that’s just not possible under the Conservative government.

Day 13: A First Nation Vision of Canada

Karen Mock (Liberal, Thornhill), Jack Heath, Deputy Mayor of Markham and Bob Goulais at the opening of the "Taking Back Thornhill" campaign office.

Those of you who know me well, know I have a great affinity for world religions.  I am a tremendous supporter of Israel and am fascinated with Judaism especially.

During my election campaign work, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of Canada’s finest Jewish citizens – all dedicated to the cause of anti-racism, combating discrimination and antisemitism.  Those same people are also dedicated to ending racism and discrimination against First Nations people as well and will fight tooth-and-nail alongside our people.

This week, I had the pleasure of doing a welcome song for the opening of Karen Mock’s (Liberal, Thornhill) election campaign.  I’ve had the same pleasure for Anthony Rota (Liberal, Nipissing-Timiscaming) and The Right Hon. Paul Martin in 2004.

Karen respectfully and discretely presented me with a tobacco tie, as is our Anishinaabe custom.  I was happy to speak in support of Karen, the Liberal aboriginal platform and provide a song for the group of about 150 people.

The day also featured a number of multi-cultural blessings.  Shortly after the opening song, my new friend Rabbi Meir Gitlin, placed the mezzuzah on the doorpost of the campaign office.  This little scroll is a reminder of God’s presence as well as keeping God in our minds and in our hearts.

The day also welcomed a blessing from the Muslim faith and a blessing song from a supportive, local Hindu leader.

Rabbi Gitlin placing the mezzuzah.

Really, that’s my vision of Canada.  A tolerant, supportive multicultural community with equal opportunity and hope for all people.

Now why on earth would I have a “vision of Canada”?  After all… I’m NOT Canadian.

First and foremost, I am Anishinaabe.  Not necessarily “Canadian” – but a citizen of another nation within Canada.  When our ancestors signed the treaties, they did indeed state we would be a part of Canada and remain loyal to the Crown.  As recent as the Constitutional talks of the 1980s, our Anishinabek leaders affirmed that “we wish to remain within Canada, but within a revised constitutional framework.”

I choose to respect my ancestors and be loyal to the Crown.  As such, I choose to be a part of a multicultural Canada and I choose to fight for my vision of Canada.  That’s why I’m involved in the election campaign and why I volunteer each and every time.

Still many First Nations take the position that they are not a part of Canada.  Some feel we should vote or participate in another nation’s election.

We must remember that many of our ancestors and relatives fought long and hard for our right to become citizens of Canada and for our right to vote.  We shouldn’t besmirch their good work by staying home and not getting involved.

I’ll give you one more reason to vote on May 2.  We all know the consequences of a Harper majority on First Nations rights.