We as Anishinaabe people know exactly how kind we can be. Whether it’s individual kindness or our collective goodwill, kindness is one of those qualities that are inherent in all of us.
This may not be apparent on a day-to-day basis. Some might have to dig a little further down than others to show that kindness. But when emergency situations arise, especially those involving our people, inherent kindness is so flippin apparent, ‘init?
Case in point, the past two weeks and the forest fire situation in northwestern Ontario. Over 2000 of our fellow Anishinaabeg have been evacuated to communities further south, including Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Ottawa, Mississauga, Smith’s Falls and Belleville.
Those of us who pray have been in active emergency tobacco mode since the first evacuation from Deer Lake over two weeks ago. But once evacuations were announced, and we found out evacuees were coming to our south-central Ontario hometowns, the social media chatter was almost deafening.
The Toronto Aboriginal community kicked into high gear with volunteers greeting Anishinaabeg evacuees at the airport. Almost immediately, donations were being sent to Nishnawbe-Aski Nation. Responses for volunteers in and around Rama was overwhelming whether or not evacuees actually made it there. Either way, Rama First Nation was ready and willing to receive people in need.
Our First Nations leadership have also been responsive. Communites almost a thousand kilometres away in southwestern Ontario were ready to take in children, families, Elders and even their pets. They were motivated with nothing more than kindness. The response has been overwhelming.
Even if only ten percent of the social media chatter was acted upon, those kind words, thoughtful prayer, legitimate concern and action are enough to make us all proud.
I feel that part of that inherent kindness is almost genetic. When our Anishinaabe-kwewag see others in need their materal instincts kick-in. For us ininwag, it’s that overwhelming urge to protect, give and serve.
Much of this stems from our original instructions given to us at the beginning of time by the Creator, G’zhemnidoo. Although many of our families and communities have long forgotten about those teachings and the Creation Story, these strong urges, as well as our communal and clan-based nature are instinctivly rooted in thousands of years of history and way of life.
Although some community members are being repatriated home, there is still danger. Our thoughts continue to be with the Anishinaabe people who are away from their homes while their homelands are ravaged by wildfire. Our prayers and kindness will continue to be with you.