Miigwetch Phil. It is so heartening to know that our most intrinsic values can have such an impact on you and many others in this way. These are not just seven words – but a commitment to a life journey. If we all work to abide my these ideals, so that they become commonplace in our lives, we indeed learn to live our whole lives by these guiding Grandfather teachings.
From: Phil G.
Sent: Saturday, May 24, 2008 1:47 PM
To: Goulais, Bob
Subject: Seven Teachings of the Anishinawbe
It was nearly seven years ago when I attended the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. It was also the first time I had been exposed to the American Indian culture. The day I toured the museum intrigued by all the beautiful artifacts, something caught my eye and at first glance I passed it by, then I returned to read the words more carefully that said, “The Seven Teachings of the Anishinawbe.” The seven teachings said, “honesty, integrity, love, humility, respect, kindness, and wisdom.” I wrote it down on a piece of paper from my wallet.
At that time, and I will be honest, my eyes were just beginning to open to my own biases and misunderstandings I had about the American Indian culture. I say respectfully that I grew up in a place and time when the only insight I had to the Indian culture came from Hollywood movies and local folklore. I wouldn’t have attended the ceremony except a new found friend of mine who is Indian invited me to go with him. We spent the entire week there, and by the time it was over I was awakening to a whole new reality that I have since embraced which completely change the course of my life.
My message to you is to say that I adopted as my creed those seven teachings and over time I soon found myself in the midst of Native people from many different tribes out here in the west. I was invited to participate in many of their sacred ceremonies. I had the honor of learning from elders, and recently I was awarded an Eagle feather ceremonially for being a friend to the Native people.
Today I happened to stumble upon your website, and I just couldn’t help but send you this e-mail to share my story with you. And how those seven words I wrote down on a piece of paper and stuffed in my wallet that day have changed my life. Of coarse anyone would say well those words are found in any number of religions around the world, and they would be correct. Then why, you may ask, would those words have more meaning to me coming from the Anishinawbe? I have often thought about this, because to me the question was an important one to find an answer to. You see, and again I say this with the deepest respect and honesty, as I stated earlier I had a biased understanding of the Native people because of the environment that shaped my perspective. Words such as “savage,” and worse, were common place in my world. So narrow was my understanding at the time, I simply didn’t know the other side of the story. So that day at the museum when I saw those words I was stunned. I know this may seem absurd and strange to you, and as I look back I see myself as a person who was very ignorant, arrogant, and I have to add I was a product of a racist society.
Referring back to the question why would the Seven Teachings of the Anishinawbe have such meaning to me, I wondered if those teachings had found their way to the Native people from the Christians. A “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of question. The answer to these questions didn’t come quickly, it took a few years of living among, and learning from Native people before I began to see that those teachings are as old as time itself among them. And it doesn’t matter if I am talking to the Shoshone, the Ute, Dine’, Washoe, Yakima, Klamath, Hopi; where ever I go I see those teachings expressed in every tribe. But I always have, and always will refer to the Seven Teachings of the Anishinawbe as such, because that day at the museum raised a question which set me on a path that forever changed my life, in a good way.
I feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to learn from the Native people. I am now teaching my people in my community where I grew up, and I see their eyes opening as did mine. Our public school system has much to do with our lack of understanding. History tends to ignore the humanity and altruistic ideology of the American Indian and instead focuses on the clichés’ and stereotypes, as I am sure you know far better than I. Having said this, as members of the human race we should also understand that regardless of our background we all are victims in some way of a greater force that has distorted our understanding of one-another. Sadly, and because of this, our education, or lack of, has and continues to be the source of much anger, resentment, and hate between our cultures.
If everyone would follow those seven teachings there is no doubt the world would be a much more peaceful place to live in.
My prayers and gratitude, as always, go out to your people, that you may always be surrounded in beauty and light.