This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Living Treaties Summit at the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation in Michigan. Yesterday, Three Fires Midewiwin Grand Chief Bawdwaywidun (Eddie Benton-Banai) provided a keynote address on the subject of the Anishinaabe Creation Story.
As always, his rendition in the Anishinaabemowin language was heartfelt and moving. It was moving to see those in attendance repeating his affirmations, verses from the Story and standing in respect while he sang “Aande, Aande abiigwen Manidoo” – which is the first of 65 Creation Songs. Obviously, the songs and the story were not told in completion. It was really amazing to see those moved by the actual Creation Story, however abbreviated. The Midewiwin are indeed the carriers of Anishinaabe knowledge, the songs, the stories and the actual word-by-word teachings. In unison, we were actually reciting the words with Bawywaywidun.
His stories and delivery were also quite entertaining.
According to Eddie, at the time of the “Miracle of Loaves and Fishes, Jesus was feeding a thousand people with only three pickeral. (Referring to the local catch). Waynaboozhoo, who is original Anishinaabe, comes up to Jesus. Jesus greets him.
Jesus: “Hey Wayne”!!
Waynaboozhoo: “Hey ‘J’. Have you seen Moe lately”. (Referring to Moses.)
Waynaboozhoo: “By the way, where’s the tartar sauce? And where’s the Frybread?”
Jesus: “Sorry, we only have bagels today.” (Referring to Jesus’ Jewish heritage.)
In his entertaining way, Eddie spoke that Waynaboozhoo and Jesus are in fact, brothers. As is Mohammed and the Buddah. Each of these holy men, are decendants of the Creator himself, placed on the Earth to walk amongst us and provide spiritual enlightenment. In that way, we are all brothers under one Great Spirit.
Bawdwaywidun asked who is really a Christian? Are Christians the people who taught us to be ashamed of who we are? Are Christians the people who abused our people in residential schools. Are Christians the people who believe their way is the only way and we’re damned to hell if we don’t accept Jesus? Are Christians the people who said we were workship the Devil and spoke the Devil’s language? He pointed out that the Anishinaabe had no concept of evil, sin or the Devil until they all got off the boat at the same time.
He spoke highly of a Reverend who set down his bible and came into Wounded Knee to support the Anishinaabeg during that occupation in the 1970s. “He prayed with us, lifted the pipe with us – all without judgement.” The same Reverend “once again set down his bible and marched with us to Washington, DC. And he called us “Brother”. Looked upon us as equals. Showed us Love and Respect. Isn’t that what Jesus taught? That’s what it’s like to be like Jesus. That is Christ-like.”
Eddie further elaborated: “If Jesus was to walk in here, he wouldn’t be with those on Parliament Hill. He wouldn’t be with the war-mongers that call themselves Republicans in Washington, DC. HE WOULD SET DOWN HIS BIBLE AND WOULD WALK WITH US!! – the Anishinaabe.”
He would come right into this tent and ask: “Where is Wayne?”
In telling of the Creation Story, he spoke on a number of the early themes in the teaching:
“All Creation Stories are true.”
“There is but one Creator.”
“Everything comes from Spirit. We all come from the Spirit World.”
We were all formed by Spirit – by the joining of Spiritual elements. The physical Earth was formed from those same spiritual elements. Those same spiritual elements formed our physical body and all those around us: human-life, insect-life, fish-life, bird-life, the animal-life, the plant-life. The Creator blew life, from his breath through the sacred Miigis, into all of Creation.
Four brothers, the ancestors of all humankind – were lowered to the Earth. They all set out in each of the four directions. Misko-gaabwid, the first to be lowered was a Spirit man and was more like a child. He didn’t want to leave the Creator’s side. He returned four times – each time lifting his arms up to his Grandfather and each time he took him back with great kindness.
G’zhemnidoo is not the name of the Creator, but describes the Creator’s Spirit and the relationship we have with the Creator. It is translated into Great Kind Spirit. The Spirit that Loves us without condition and continues to take us back. He Loves us as we are.
When our life is over and we leave this physical Earth, G’zhemnidoo will take our Spirit back as he did in the beginning. Our body will go back into the Earthly elements as well. Our body will repay the Earth for all we took from her. All the berries. All the food. That’s why our bodies should be buried as we are rather than being cremated or buried in cement mausoleums.