Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Pay Money to a Medicine Man/Woman

There are groups of Native people out there that are working hard to protect the integrity of Native Culture. They watch out for and expose individuals that are misrepresenting Native identity/spirituality/arts and life. I wrote a little about this a while back.
But I am not going to cover that part today. I am going to talk about the commercial gain or aspect of being a Medicine Person. Remember a while back this "guru", James Arthur Ray got paid a lot of money to do some Medicine Man type stuff. He didn't claim to be Indian but he did appropriate stuff from Native culture (and other people as well). In the end what he did was sad; three people died because of him. There are people out there that will charge you money for some type of good feeling adventure. This was one of them. People paid huge, HUGE money, to this fellow. Had it not been for his greed, packing so much people into a big hot canvas and plastic covered structure, he most likely would be still doing his stuff today. He was a big name guru and no one questioned him. That is why there are people out there like:
The Plastic Medicine People Circle
. Native Religions and plastic medicine men.
Ward Churchill
I am not a mascot These people are out there watching for money gurus and other money hucksters.

However, what of the genuine Gurus?(I use this term jokingly and mean no offense to gifted people) I mean the Gifted Ones that are out there really helping people, the Elders, the Teachers, the Medicine people. Do we question them, their gifts, their integrity, if they are getting paid?

I know it is a slippery slope of contamination when the money factor is brought into the equation. People will turn it into another organized religious factory. That is the fear that people may have if money is brought into the mix. That the Traditions will be corrupted. Someone will ask if presenting tobacco is enough? Enough compensation? Tobacco is sacred medicine and that should be all the Gifted One needs to help. Right? People will tell you to stay away from someone who asks for a donation, a gift or money for their services. I get that. Commercialization of the Gift that the Creator gave someone (the one who can heal people). People don't want Traditional Medicine to become like a pharmacy/drugstore/Shoppers Drug Mart/Rexall.

For me that is not the thing I am talking about. I know that Tobacco is sacred and that presenting Tobacco is a time honoured act. The person who accepts the tobacco does his/her deed out of a tradition of honouring that tobacco gift. That is an awesome tradition and we should continue. But, lets put some context here. Way back when, there was no 7/11 or Macs store around the corner for you to walk in and drop your money and get tobacco. To acquire tobacco and other medicines, it took effort, real effort. So that tobacco had (along with it's Sacred worth) substance to it. Today, that effort is no longer there. Even some aspect of the sacredness is gone. I mean really, if you really respect tobacco would you be smoking a pack and day and just throwing the butts everywhere? It has become a commodity, like a pack of gum. Tobacco has always been a commodity for Native people, but it had more weight to its worth. Its value was not measured by how much a pack of cigarettes cost. it was a valuable trade good. So if you really want to honour someone with tobacco, put some weight behind it.

Traditional people will always accept tobacco for working the Creators will, that is because they are not working for the money. They are working for the Creator. But if you have something to offer them, do that as well.

I think the weight of what they do, should be worth something. If it offends you to pay for a Traditional Medicines' gifts, than don't pay them. But don't make a mockery of the Traditions by just giving a cigarette from your open pack.

In the end it comes down to the individual, How much do you feel an Elder/Teacher/Medicine person's efforts are worth? And what it is you are seeking from that Elder/Teacher and Medicine person. Is it worth it for you to offer something?

You know that in Canada, that non-insured benefits that Indians claim, will pay for travel to see a Medicine person. But the insurance will not cover the cost of the Medicine man. You know his/her Pay for services. It is not because the Medicine man/woman is not as good as a western doctor, but it has to do with liability. If the non-insurance pays for the services and something goes wrong than the non-insurance agent might be liable as well. At least that is what I think. Maybe I am wrong and they are just following Native tradition (but I doubt that the government follows Native traditions).

That is the thing I think people have it wrong, even our own people. There is the belief that there was no commerce way back when. When in fact that is not true. Commerce existed, as well other aspects that you would find in any society. We were not without trade/laws/family/laws/education/roles/responsibilities and other social networks and norms.

So I hope that the next time you seek out a Helper/Teacher/Medicine person that you are able to offer them some meaningful gift. It is just right to do that.

There are people who will always tell you anyway if someone is not doing right or proper. The Native community talks to each other.

Friday, January 20, 2012

8th Fire Dave Courchene Jr.

A video profile of Elder/Traditional Teacher/Visionary Dave Courchene Jr. of Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba Canada. I hope you can see the Wisdom he has to offer. The passion in his voice.

We need to hear, but more important need to listen.

Rites of Passage

David Courchene, Neeghani Aki Innini (Leading Earth Man) has travelled internationally, carrying a message of hope and peace, and sharing ancient indigenous knowledge that he believes can act as the foundation in supporting the New Life, that Mother Earth is now entering, and that the Elders have confirmed has arrived.

He has created a special place for sharing ancient indigenous knowledge – the Turtle Lodge – which was built based on a vision that he received many years ago. Indigenous people have always relied on visions and dreams to give guidance and direction in life. These processes for finding one’s life vision is a particular gift he has to offer young people at this time and believes that we would more quickly create a world of balance with such guidan

Guess What? I am going to CUBA,

Yeah that's right I am CUBA (sounds like ko-ba). Holy Heck. My wife is taking me. Holy heck I am thinking, Me in Cuba. What to wear, what to wear? Wife said no speedos. You know I heard her a few years ago talking about a trip she went on and the banana hammocks. Never knew what the heck a banana hammock was until not too long ago. Sheesh.

I am actually looking forward to the trip. It is the idea of meeting new people. I am not really that interested in meeting other travelers, but thats okay too. I want to make friends with Indigenous folk. Yeah that is what I think. But why would they want to make friends with tourists? In any case it will be interesting to go. My wife is such a good person. Always trying to make feel good and better. The other day we had Feast for My Boy, our boy. He would have been 27. Wow, time is going so fast, but time is standing still in some ways too. Oops going doing that route again, better change direction.

So, I have been reading the travel trip advisors and trip tips about Koba. Need to change money for pesos at the airport once we arrive and save 25 for the fee coming back. Most comments are about the rooms, the hotel and the service. Mix of reviews from great to "don't go".

My cousin went and he talked about the people. He says they are so friendly. Take baby clothes he told me. People are poor and need items. I don't really know too much about Cuba, except the U.S. does not like them. That's kind of weird. The States will do business and help all sorts of political regimes all over the world but this little country is a threat to them? Funny the U.S. (and Canada) still give foreign aide to China ( the new economic power house of the world) but maintains strict embargoes against this poor neighbour?

In any case, KOBA here I come.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So you want to be a Traditional Indian.

These are some of the things I have heard said around the Traditional Circles. Interesting. "You must go for a Fast". "If you cook for a Feast you must use wood utensils." "You must not be on your time if you want to cook for a Feast." "You shouldn't be thinking negative things while you are by the Fire". "Go into the bush and find Juniper". People will tell what they think you should do or how you should behave in any situation. In this instance I am using Traditional people examples. I could have easily used Christianity as an example as well: "you have to go to church", "you have to give money to the church", "say your Rosary", "never go to bed mad", "don't swear". With any lifestyle or way of life, we expect that there are certain 'rules' that we must follow. Not sure if that is true, but we all have some ideas as to how a person behaves if they are following a certain lifestyle (don't bug out about me calling a way of life, a lifestyle-I know they are not really the same thing)

There are many people saying many things when it comes to being a Traditional Person. For those that don't know, being Traditional refers to following an Indian Way of Life, specifically Native Ancestral Teachings. One of the things that many people don't realize that being "Traditional" is a very demanding lifestyle. It is demanding if you truly wish to live Traditional. Not the aspect of living traditional in the sense of reversing time, (you know living in a tipi and traveling by canoe or horse) but being Traditional in following the Spirit and Intent (stealing a phrase here) of what it means to be a Traditional Believer.

Today on the CBC television news there was a story about this person who is using an "Aboriginal Parole Hearing". The Person is Haitian born and not a Canadian Indian. The man killed a fifteen year old girl; raping and stabbing her 51 times. The father of young girl is upset that the Aboriginal Parole is being used by someone that is not of Indian Heritage. That is not his first objection. He would believe that the killer was sincere if he was immersed in the "Red Road" (the Dad used these words) and not just using it to gain some advantage. The Dad also feels that it is an insult to the people and Elders that worked so hard to get Aboriginal content into the Parole system. The reason I mention this story is that many people are wrong when they think Healing Circles or Aboriginal Parole Hearings are suppose to be an easy way out. People are mistaken.

A number of years ago, the Justice system in Canada brought in Traditional Healing Circles for Aboriginal Offenders. It was an attempt to have a "holistic" approach to the Justice system; like in handing out sentences, or penalties. People must know that in the Circles it was still the Judge that handed out the sentences of penalties. The Circles were a corrupted version of Traditional Native Justice. It is okay because many Indians have this skewed vision of what Native lifestyle was before the colonization and corruption of cultural beliefs by Christianity. People believe it was all harmony. You must remember that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished. In a sustenance culture (people who live off the Land) cohesive life is a necessity. Live well with others and the whole community lives well. A bunch of selfish bastards would not survive. So there is truth in the whole harmony, or as I was told - to have Balance in the old way of life. Today we have forgotten the whole balance concept. Even some of our own people think that Traditional is all about Respect (like in the Seven Teachings). But people forget Traditional life is about Sacrifice. It is about living a certain way that makes the Whole Community benefit. You cannot have a healthy community with just people going one way.

So with some people it is only one way. Like the whole being kind thing. If you are kind you are weak. Not true, some of the kindest decisions that you make are some of the hardest things to do. Like in our Reserve. There are gangsters and drug dealers; woman beaters, deadbeat dads, abusing parents, and other bad actors. What would a balanced community do? You want to be kind to the community? Traditional Healing circles in the Reserve. Does that mean community hug? No it does not. If Traditional values and attitudes are adhered to, then some men would be castrated, people would be banished and some would be killed. At least this is what I was told on numerous occasions. But we don't live in that world, so that is just not going to happen. So now what? Communities could still follow the spirit and intent of what a balanced community should be and how it should behave. So for the people to be kind to themselves and others, than they would have to banish people that are doing harm in the community. Or at the least get them to correct their behaviour. Some modern ways to do that would be to deny them any services from the community. If the community did nothing and let the drug dealers, gangsters continue, then the community would not be being kind to itself. The hard decision to be kind would mean punishment for the bad people doing bad deeds. Get it?

You know in some communities the whole idea of restorative justice still means making amends. Fixing things. To make whole. It can never be but the balance comes in the Continued attempt to fix things. You can never bring back the life a little girl that you killed while driving drunk. But you Continue to make amends for your life time. Some make-amends attempts are symbolic, like having yearly Give-Aways. The family of the girl may never ever accept the gifts, but you keep up the attempts. It is not meant to quantify the life of the child in terms of gifts, but there is the public display of acknowledgement that the child was killed at your hands and you must atone for that deed. Whether or not the family accepts is their choice to make. But regardless you continue to atone throughout our life. That is all you can do.

A Teacher of mine asked Her Teacher (a very well known Elder) about all the sexual abuse that went on in the Residential schools. What would happen if that happened in the community. The Elder said it wouldn't happen. But she insisted, if it did happen, what would happen. The Elder again said it wouldn't happen. He said the person would be killed. Traditionalist must always remember that there has to be balance. To ensure that harmony was practiced in the community there also had to be an incentive to keep it going. You share because it means the whole community benefits. You don't steal because if you do, only you benefit and someone loses out. Not a good way to live in a small community. You also did your share to make sure the community benefited.

Traditional life is just not about smudging and going to the Sweat and prayer. It is about embracing the values of the Ancestors. That includes the concept of the whole. Right now there is a breakdown of the whole and we are becoming more and more about the individual. A truly Traditional Indian, will sacrifice for the whole. That means going out and working for the whole. If a Woman needs wood chopped you go and do it. If you can't you hire someone to do it. If you go to a Sweatlodge, you bring something for the people to eat. You chip in to help. You bring something to share. Tobacco is great and Sacred but there is more to embracing the life than sharing Tobacco. You want to be Traditional, talk out against violence in your community. Give heck to a youth smashing someone else property. Help a Mom with her groceries. Talk to the Old ones. Talk to the young ones. Work up a good sweat by doing some labour in the community. Get off your fat arse and walk for a cause. Share your food.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping Ojibway language alive one person at a time.

Indigenous Languages are dying all over the world (as we speak). It is not just a situation that is damaging to Aboriginal people in Canada and the U.S. but to other Indigenous people around the world. Is there a chance to reverse the trend of language loss? Who knows? I just know that with new technologies and interest from young people, maybe Indigenous languages will survive.

I know when I was a kid my parents wanted it (the world) to be easier on us, so they spoke English to us growing up. We heard them speaking Ojibway to their peers but not to us. That is a shame.

Funny thing when you don't really speak to good in your language you will learn the inappropriate sayings first. Like many would say "ah keenag(k)" to each other. It refers to male organ, the penis. It would like saying "ah your prick". Used as a put down, an insult or in some cases that it's nothing.

I think religious pressures have skewed the meanings of our words as well. When we were kids, you would say something like "ah ki-too-pagun". Like "ah your vagina. When Pagun = does not even mean the vagina. Pagun is actually the Pipe. How it became perverse (not that the woman part is perverse, but how the word was used) is something that I can only speculate. I won't go into a Pipe Teaching, but if you know what the Pipe (bowl & stem) represents than maybe there is some link to why the word had become miss-used and bastardized in our community. Our community had/has a heavy heavy religious footprint there. We know that some of that influence has changed the meaning of some words, like Michimimatou. To mean the Devil. But come on really? The devil? We know that Devil's Lake in North Dakota is really Spirit Lake, but someone else thought it was the Devil, and we know who that is, don't we?

In any case there is increased pressure on indigenous languages today because of the language of trade. English being the big trade language (although some would argue that Mandarin is the biggest trade language; it does have the most speakers). I think with people like this young woman and many others like her around the Indigenous world, our languages might have a chance to survive.

Just had to add this recent video of Tim speaks Ojibwe. I could not run off sentences like that. Shame on me, but good on him. As you will see this young man is not Ojibway, nor does he have a Teacher. He is teaching himself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wab Kinew: Soap Box.

Wab Kinew is a young Ojibway man that works in Television, and is a multi-talented artist. Wab Kinew is also the host of 8th Fire a new show on CBC.

He has a lot going on and is very proud of where he comes from. His Dad, Peter Kinew (Tobasonakwut) is an Elder, who is very knowledgeable in the Teachings of Anishinaabe.

Here is Wab Kinew

Friday, January 6, 2012

Racist Arizona Girls: Are you really that stupid?

Are you really really that stupid? These young white girls made a video about their views regarding Mexicans.

Can you imagine what their lives are going to be like? Can you say pariah? In some cases these two girls will be heroes.

Interesting that these two stupid girls will end up crying on some tv show about how they made a mistake and how they are really not racist and how the world hates them and how they are afraid for their lives. That is what will happen. Poor girls.

It is quite interesting because people do stupid stuff all the time. No excuse for the behaviour of these two Ivy leaguers. Mensa candidates for sure. They have technical skills, artistic skills. They took the time to set up the shooting frame. Film In 3D and post in HD. We are talking talent here. The way they moved their little bums without the assistance of music or stand here cues (X marks the spot). The arrangement of lights and the whole production, it stands out. The writing, like it was a period piece of the old deep south era. These girls have vision and have captured what the true racist mind thinks. But you would have thought, being the brains they are, that they would have offered a qualifier to their film. You know put it context? Like, this is what we would say if we were indeed racist. :D Just kidding, these girls really are that stupid. So stupid they give a bad name to books for dummies.

There are lots, I mean lots of people out there that share the same view. Just look at Hank Williams Jr., Toby Keith, Bill O'Reilly, Rick Santorums, Ron Paul and the infamous, Ann Coulter. Only thing is these people have the power of money and also get paid for their racist (or "free speech")tirades. I am not sure what the future holds for these girls but they could be the poster child's for the Republicans or for the Governor of Arizona.

Everyone has an opinion. Even if it is really really dumb. Poor kids. (Sardonic attempt) You can see these girls being head of a corporation like Disney.

In any case I don't know what the heck these two silly girls were thinking???

But seriously, I can't imagine how ugly these girls are inside. The hatred. Just ugly. It's there, the racism, the hate, the ugliness.

This girl is so smart funny. Good stuff. She hit it spot on. :D

Now for some more stupidity.... :D

This is the only stupidity that I normally watch.

Knowledge Keeper and Knowledge Giver

There are many beautiful things in the world. Of those beautiful things are youth. How beautiful everything and everyone is when they are yo...