Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Boy! You look white, you should get back to the rez.

Was visiting out in the Reserve the other day. Visited with my Dad for a bit. After that I went to visit with a couple of Elders over at the Health Centre. Ken Courchene sat with me for about 2 hours. We had a very good visit. He was telling me about the art of visiting. Wishing more people visited in the old way. He also gave me some good Teachings. I need to learn Ojibway real good. You miss so much when the Elders have to go back and translate into English. My friend and Elder Fabian Morrisseau is always fun to visit with. I was wearing a Fedora hat and he said "Boy? You're looking like a whiteman, you got to come to the Rez". He was laughing. I like him alot he really knows how to cheer you up.

Ken and I spoke about the initiative of some Elders in Winnipeg that would like to see some type of "system" to validate Elders. A very controversial concept. You are moving into a certification area and that is a no-no. There are people that are concerned over the false medicine men/women and Elders. In the Traditional world Elder is bestowed on the Learned Ones and the Gifted. Age brings a validation but not all old people are titled with Traditional Elder. It is subjective of course and there in lies the issue. Who is an Elder and what constitutes an Elder? At the same time Elders are concerned of government attempts to determine who is an Elder. They are afraid that the mistakes of a few individuals will harm the reputation of Elders. That is a concern and they (Winnipeg group) want to ensure there is some accountability.

I ran into another Elder in the Reserve and we got to visiting for a short time. He works in Winnipeg and is concerned about Elders that crop up. He said we have "Elders that grew up in the city and have never been to the Reserve but have Elder status, they should go and spend some time in the Bush". That was his opinion. I am not sure how we got on that topic, but it was timely.

I have ideas like all people. But Ken was very right in his telling of some Teachings. I won't repeat the Teachings as I have to digest and learn, but one thing I can share is the aspect of 'freedom'. He said people are free to choose who they see. Some people won't go to some Elders and will go to other Elders. It is not about flash/style but of comfort and substance. People will go with what comforts them. So to try and regulate who people can see is a difficult concept and idea.

However, I do think having a list of people that are Elders/Teachers/Advisors/Medicine people can only be a good thing. Say you want to see someone for medicine and you don't know who to contact. Well a list can be helpful. After all you can't go into the yellowpages and look under Elder or Medicine man for a phone number. :D

You know, that is one thing about my Reserve, there are a lot of Traditional people there. It is great because it could be have been the other way. After all we had a very busy trade route; large Religious footprint (both Catholic and Anglican) in the community. The amount of pressure to abandon all forms of Traditionalism would have been tremendous. But yet there are many gifted and knowledgeable Elders in our Reserve. That is an awesome thing.


  1. Oh Steve this hits home so much !
    I've issue with the whole acreddited thing because I see it too letting people who are not come and claim to be .
    I have an Ojibwe eledr now helping me and connecting with so many beautiful people , my son Dacotah has begun attending sweats etc.
    I work alot with the medicines in the bush etc.
    I was curious so I looked up shaman online .
    what came up was risidulous ! all these courses if people want to be shaman !
    it scares me . the move from a calling to wanting to be are so very different . I saw it happen in midwifery too . there are women now in the midwifery program who should not ever be allowed near a baby ! it is looked upon as cool , a good way to make money etc. to many people entering it . I see the same thing with the elder or shaman thing etc.
    yet I guess all generations will have had their false people , those who are not who they claim to be .
    I also struggle with the whole image thing , so what if someone has an accredited card , and the outer image appears good they could still be a child abuser etc.
    and what is with charging money . to me it is just wrong . even wanting oodles of tabacco is being greedy , just an offering is what is important . I mean why would someone charge money for what was given them was free and meant to be shared .
    I still wonder to this day who destroyed all those cedar trees in the bog just to get the cedar leaves . was it careless people from the city then going to sell for medicine ? It is scarey to think someone would cut 150 year old trees just to do that and then to leave the trees not to use the wood . it was very very sad I cried when we came upon it .

    I may only help a few people but all my teachers are true teachers sharing freely , the community loves them and what I learn and then know I can pass on . and in the end it is not about self .
    I am so happy I did not follow that ego boosted priest with returning to spirit . I saw it for what it was and what it was going to turn into and it did .
    I am terrible at languages by the way but I am a very silent person anyway not meant to speak much
    of course that has nothing to do with writing lol
    I am sorry not to visit more here but when I do it is always a really good experience .
    Thank You ♥

  2. … very interesting topic. Thank You for sharing Your thoughts.People from my clan believe that Elders are the greatest wealth of a community.My grandparents were always telling people that the most difficult « commandment »is :Do what you think is right.I think that too often we go to our Elders to « skip » the decision making. Sometimes people come to « ask for something »but in reality they just need this special warmth-the Elders emanate Creator. No plant, no animal, no sunrise is accidental on our path, we are being guided directly by the Life Giver and we just need to let it be and learn. The Creator gives us tough choices because we need to make them and everyone has a task destined for himself/herself. The Elders won’t make « the job »for us, they’ll smile and say: Do what you think is right. What they give is what all people are craving: the unconditional love and the calm wisdom .I learned from the Ancient ones to see the Elders for the real reason: to be next to them, to tell them I care, to tell them they matter .If we go to Elders to give, not to take, then we receive what we really came for.

  3. OMG.... this article is so right on.... yes 'Elder' is a title not an entitlement.... there are many old people but not many 'Elders'....