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.
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 “whiskey 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.
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.