Posts tagged ‘seven grandfather teachings’

Love, Respect, Kindness are integral to eradicating Racism

bob_ceremony

“We are all brothers and sisters in Creation.” – Bob Goulais

 

Opening Remarks to the first Public Meeting of the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate held in Toronto, Ontario on July 15, 2016.

I want to offer some words to start off this important gathering in a good way.

As indigenous people we look to the guidance from the Spirit World and from our great and kind Creator, G’zhemnidoo, to provide us with direction in times of difficulty.

When our lives are burdened and our spirits are hurt through our collective and respective experiences with racism.

That numbing and gnawing grief we feel when we see our brothers and sisters torn down as a result of that racism.

And this is a particularly difficult time for many of our brothers and sisters facing such adversity and who are working hard to get across the message that Black lives matter.

We need to support and reinforce the message of those who are experiencing the worst that racism, discrimination, hate and intolerance brings.  We need to support our brothers and sisters and stand by them during their time of need.

We also have to look to the teachings of humanity – those original instructions and sacred law that were given to us all at the time of Creation.

Our eldest ancestors were put on Mother Earth together, at the same time, and in a very real way as brothers and sisters. We can all trace our ancestors back to our Creation Story – back to our respective creation stories.

The very first thing that we’re told when we learn our Creation Story is that “all creation stories are true“. That meaning, we must respect and believe in each other’s creation mythology and origin stories. To Love and appreciate one another’s culture, history and Spiritual ways of life.

For the Anishinaabe, when humankind was first put on the Earth, we were lowered down in a gentle, kind way from the Spirit Realm. Our feet touched the Earth for the first time in a physical way.

We’re told that there were four original brothers, the Yellow, Red, Black and White. At that time, we were all given original instructions and sacred law from the Creator.

We were given two very important gifts that were not given to any other living being on the face of the Earth. Those gifts where the gift of intelligence – to be able to think and reason; and the gift of freewill, to make choices based on what is needed for ourselves and those around us.

Sometime later, in a time of great need, the Anishinaabe people were given seven sacred teachings to show us how we are to interact and relate to one another, and the world around us. These Seven Grandfather Teachings don’t solely belong to Anishinaabeg people. These teachings were given to all of humanity, for us as Anishinaabe to share, teach and reinforce to all God’s creatures.

Those seven teachings are the teachings of Love – to know Love is to know peace. Respect – to honour all of Creation is to know respect. Humility – to know that we are just a small part of Creation.

The teachings of Bravery, Honesty, Truth and Wisdom were given to us to to reinforce our instructions to be the best people we can be. To live a good life – a philosophy we call Mno Bimaadiziwin.

To live a life of hate, to live a life of hurt, to treat each other without that Love and Respect is painful to us all. It’s contradictory to our original instructions. It’s contradictory to Sacred Law.

How do we begin eradicate racism, discrimination, hate and intolerance?

It takes a lot for us to get out of our heads. We tend to want to overthink things, to analyze the issues and risk factors and come up with a good public policy response.

But when it comes to emotional and the spiritual, we have to get out of out heads and into our hearts.

We need to bring back ourselves to those original teachings that we are all brothers and sisters in Creation.

We are expected to Love, Respect and Honour each other. We need to offer each other kindness and gentleness.

That’s what I’m going to ask for during this prayer. That’s why I smudged this room with our sacred medicines prior to our meeting this evening. I asked the Spirit to provide us with a place where we can have a progressive, sensible and respectful dialogue. Where we need not succumb to anger or frustration.

Every one of us in this room, are advocates for change and believe in this a world without racism, discrimination, hate and intolerance.

We, in this room, are all going to be part of the solution.

And I’m a firm believer that Canada, and the vast majority of people that make up this beautiful multicultural mosaic, truly embody the Seven Grandfather teachings.


 

With much credit and Love to our teacher, Bawdwaywidun Binaise. Gchi-miigwetch, gchi-gimaa ni ge’kinoomaaged.

Racism on the TTC

“Circle the wagons.  The Injuns are comin’.”

Those seven words set off a cascade of feelings like a row of neatly placed dominos, toppled one after another.

My experience yesterday took place on the TTC.  The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has to be one of the most diverse environments in the city.  From TTC employees to TTC riders – an Anishinaabe can get lost among the beautiful brown faces.  It’s certainly not the place where one would expect to encounter an overtly racist comment – from a TTC employee no less.

But there I was – rushing to get to work and running a little late.  I bound down the stairs at Yonge-Bloor Station just missing the southbound subway.  I have about a minute before the next train arrives so I walk down to the end of the platform.

I stroll briskly down the platform thinking about the Billy Joel interview I had just heard on the Howard Stern Show.  Needless to say, I’m in a great mood.

As I cross the half-way mark down the platform, I hear two things.  First, I hear the train nearing the station behind me.  Second, I hear the laughter and carrying on from two uniformed TTC platform monitors.  These are the guys in the big burgundy TTC coats and the reflective safety singlet.  They are responsible for my safety and well-being.

Then I hear those seven words, from the white guy to his buddy, in a faux-southern drawl of a cowboy:

“Circle the wagons.  The Injuns are comin’.”  Then some laughter from the two men.

My immediate reaction was to smile and keep walking.  Then I make the realization of what I experienced.  Racism.

As I make the realization – I have to make the choice.  Do I shrug it off and keep walking?  Or do I stop, cause a scene and make a complaint?  I am already late for work.  So I decide to shrug if off.  After all – he was just trying to be funny.  We are subject to racial humour everyday – on TV, film even the aforementioned Howard Stern Show.  Besides, he was carrying on with his TTC buddy – who is laughing in hysterics.

I get on the train.

As the subway door closes, it immediately starts gnawing at me.  I regret my decision.  I’m riding the train looking at all those around me.  All those beautiful brown faces – who probably didn’t hear what I heard.  I’m thinking they are probably subject to their own forms of racism and everyday comments.  As I pass station-to-station, those thoughts and feelings fill my chest.

I should have said something.

But isn’t that always the case?  I’ve experienced similar situations and comments in the past.  Sometimes I choose to address it and correct it. Other times, I’m consumed by my own conflict and fear.  Sometimes I’m just not brave enough to say something.  Sometimes I’m more concerned about the offenders… getting them in trouble, or fired and what-not.

Later that morning, I arrive at Queen’s Park for the Louis Riel Day commemoration.  Ironically, the ceremony takes place in front of an official monument commemorating Ontario’s participation in the Northwest Rebellion and the various battles against the Métis resistance.  Speaker after speaker talk about racism, stereotypes and inequality.  A young Métis woman speaks about the shame that is still harboured in her family for being Aboriginal.  I’m so moved by her words, I blurt it out my experience to my friend Saga and then to her colleague Tamar.

At first there is laughter.  But then the stark realization of what it is.  They are mortified over the incident.  The fact that it was a TTC employee demands that it should be reported.  Unfortunately, I chose to leave hurt, beaten, regretful, angry… a victim among a sea of victims.

Those seven words, uttered for comedic affect, have such a profound effect.  Quite different from the seven words that we should all be living by:  Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Truth, Wisdom.  These are those gifts provided to us by the Seven Grandfathers.

Racism is alive and well.  Those of us in the minority are well aware of it.  Even in a multi-cultural environment of the great city of Toronto.  Deep in the bowels of the TTC – is an ugly monster that so many choose to ignore.

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