“We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.”
I don’t like to write anything pessimistic. When you start off your column with “I don’t like” you know it’s going to be one of those days.
This morning I was trolling through Facebook, eating my veggie omelette and drinking my decaf coffee. I offered congratulations to my friend Nanaia Mahuta, MP from the Waikato River region of New Zealand. Nanaia became the first Maori MP to wear the moko mauae, the traditional Maori chin tattoo. She said: “I wear my kauae tehe (moko) proudly… to bring the most positive aspects of what we have as a Māori culture, our mātauranga (knowledge) Māori, our world view, into New Zealand.”
It’s so good to see that Indigenous people from around the world, including many Anishinaabe, who are taking steps to make our language and culture a priority.
A good day, so far.
I scroll further down my Facebook feed only to get a punch in the gut. I put my omelette down.
According to Keith Montreuil:
“In 1996: 36000 people identified as first language speakers (mother tongue) half of which were using the language everyday in the home. 65% of those speakers are over the age of 60 (in 1996). Fast forward ten years and we see the amount of first language speakers has dropped to 19000 (a drop of nearly half) and this is ten years later.. So that group of 60 year olds are now a group of 70 year olds. It’s predicted that the amount of first language speakers (mother tongue) will drop to less than 10000 by this year, 2016. “
These are stark and troubling statistics. It makes me so sad, almost hopeless.
I scroll down a little further and up pops an ignorant photo posted by Janet Gretzky, the wife of my hockey hero.
Fuming, I started to share and write a call to action. But it occurred to me that this isn’t supposed to happen this way. We were to be the children of the 8th Fire.
The Anishinaabe, through our 8th Fire Prophecy, were predicted to thrive. We were to become equals, to come together with our other brothers and sisters in our territory and contribute towards becoming one great nation. Our language and culture would be sought after. The colonizers would realize the folly of assimilation, value our ways of life, and seek out our advice and traditional knowledge for the betterment of society and Mother Earth.
We are not the children of 8th fire. We are far from it. That’s as pessimistic as it gets.
It’s time to turn it around.
We have to realize that a prophecy isn’t just going to magically happen on it’s own. It isn’t karma, destiny, fate or the will of God. The Midewiwin certainly can’t influence midichlorians, as the Jedi do, to impose our goodwill over the Earth. There will be missteps and setbacks along the way.
We must learn from our Anishinaabe prophecies. We must act to avoid those missteps within the prophecies. For example: The prophecies tell us that “the rivers will run with poison and the fish will become unfit to eat”. That’s precisely why Anishinaabeg women are standing up for the water. We must learn and adapt in order to take ourselves, our families, our nation in the right direction to ensure we lead the Anishinaabeg into that eighth and final fire of glory.
We must continue to take action. This action must be personal action.
- Only I (only you), can work towards learning Anishinaabemowin.
- Only I (only you), can take political action that makes our language a governmental priority for our First Nations governments, political leaders and our federal and provincial government by demanding programs, funding and support to our priorities.
- Only I (only you), can stand up to those who act inappropriately by furthering negative stereotypes and trivializing our culture and it’s sacredness.
- Only I (only you), can say something when you see an act of racism or someone who is treated disrespectfully.
- Only I (only you), can contribute personally towards the goals of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The 8th Fire is coming. We all need to be ready for it whether it’s this generation or the next. We have to learn today what it takes to be better tomorrow.
Never give up. Never succumb to statistics and social media pessimism (even if it is mine).