Thursday, October 24, 2019

Anishinaabe Creation Story

The Anicinabe creation story is a long story. Elders and storytellers talk about the story, by talking about bits and pieces of the story. It takes a long time to hear the whole story because of the many teachings within it. This is a simplified story. It is a ceremonial story, the little boy teachings which are told in the sweat ceremony. This is being shared because it is sacred knowledge that belongs to the people. It is every community member’s right to hear this story. This is how the storyteller heard it. In the beginning, before creation, there was nothing. There was darkness: no universe, no planets. In the dark and emptiness, the Creator made space with the use of His she-she-gun (rattle). The Creator shook His rattle once very lightly and it barely made a sound because it was so faint. He paused, which was a great, great length of time. Then He shook it again, and this time it was a little bit louder. Again, He paused for a great amount of time. Then He shook His rattle again and this time it was a little bit louder. NA KA CHI-TOOK KE DO DA MANG 12 Again, an unimaginable amount of time passed before He shook it for the fourth time, which made a tremendous sound, an unimaginable sound. The sound was like millions and millions of multiplied rattles, it was so loud. From that time on, Creators’ rattle sparked lightening and issued forth the stars in the sky; filling the universe with the night sky, the moon, stars and planets. He sent forth the sacred fire, the sun. This was Creator’s way of setting the stage for existence. In order for life to exist in space, the Creator made thought, memory and knowledge to set the stage for existence. This is the Creator’s knowledge, kind loving being, giving, sharing, and a pure honest being. It is the Creator’s knowledge that gives us a way of existence. Creator’s knowledge is like the unfolding of a piece of paper. In the unfolding, there is duality of existence. The first opening created the positive and negative existence of life, which transcends to all fields of education. The paper was unfolded again and more and more of the Creator’s creations began. This went on for a tremendous amount of time. It is thought that the Creator’s knowledge is still unfolding to support and make life. He placed all His sacred rocks (planets) before Him. He looked upon His rocks and noticed Aki (Mother Earth). He took His tobacco and sent it to Mother Earth to ask her if He could place life upon her. Mother Earth was still very young and it took her time to accept the tobacco. Once she did, life started to grow upon her. Therefore, tobacco was the first plant to take root. It took a long time for the process of growth to become a full green garden upon Mother Earth. All the other plants descended from the stars and began to grow upon her and finally she was green and full of life. Then He began to place animal beings upon her, the great ancestors of the animals we know today. He went on to place penais-she-ok (birds) upon Mother Earth, and water to sustain all the plants, animals and birds. He finished creating all the animal beings and they prospered. Many nations of birds now lived upon Mother Earth. Again, this took a long time. One day, the Creator was sitting, admiring the beauty of Mother Earth and the life that she supports. He looked at the animals, plants and birds and how harmonious they were. He decided to make somebody to experience what he was looking at and to take care of His creation, Atum Anicinabe (first man). To set the stage and prepare the earth for the coming of Anicinabe, He sent down Nanaboozho (great teacher and messenger), to inform the beings and to ask them if they would help Anicinabe because he would be pitiful and much smaller than them. Nanaboozho, the bird and animal beings had a big meeting and sharing circle to find helpers for Anicinabe to survive, “Who among you will stand up for Anicinabe and help him live life? Who among you are willing to adjust your size so, Anicinabe can co-exist with you?” All the being presents spoke in the circle, with a willingness to adjust their enormous size for Anicinabe, they became smaller. Nanaboozho learned that most of the earth beings were willing to feed, give knowledge and support Anicinabe. He also learned that some of the beings had nothing to offer, by their enormous size and nature however, they agreed to leave so, Anicinabe could survive. All this took place close by here, where petro-forms are found. It took place to set the stage for the creation of Atum Anicinabe. Our Anicinabe Nation was created when the Creator took Aki (earth/mud) and divided it into four parts in the palm of His hand. He shaped a person, with a body, legs, arms and a head. In the center of the 13 being He placed a sacred ceremonial object, a megis (shell) and closed His hand. We were not called Anicinabe yet. He blew His breath into the palm of His hand. He blew it four times and He said, “A-ni-sha-nabe, I will lower Anicinabe to Aki, the garden”. The Anicinabe was lowered from the star world, where the Creator sits. On the way down, Anicinabe had to stop, because there were other creations above Aki. He had to get to know who the others were. On his way down, he stopped four times before he came upon Mother Earth. As he was being lowered, he could see a beautiful creation, Mother Earth. He stretched out his foot to try to reach the ground and finally he was able to touch it. He was set upon a plain of sweet-grass where Creator had placed him. He was Na-tum Anicinabe, the very first human. The Creator spoke to Anicinabe, “Go out and experience all the directions. Go out and touch, smell, feel and look at all of what I have created.” So Atum Anicinabe (first man), was given his first direction, to experience the world. Atum Anicinabe went great distances to the east, north, west and south observing, touching, smelling and experiencing the world. Atum Anicinabe was not empty but his knowledge of the world was very limited. As he travelled, he soaked up life and all the knowledge that had already been there for years. He travelled and he became more aware and bolder about life. Many of the beings that were on Mother Earth welcomed him and fed him knowledge and life. When Atum Anicinabe came back from his travels, he came to mountain ranges that were yellow, blue white and red in colour. He had finished this great journey. He had returned to where the Creator had placed him. The Creator asked him, “Do you like what I have created for you?” Atum Anicinabe said, “Yes, this is a truly beautiful place you have created for me. As I travelled, I noticed all the animals, plants, trees, and bird nations have partners and make more of their own kind. And, there is nobody like me, I’m the only one of my kind here.” The Creator made a partner for Anicinabe, and that partner was not yet male or female but still a spiritual being. The Creator told them, “Go out and experience.” So, they ventured out and learned great experiences on a sacred land where there was more of the Creator’s bundle. As they travelled, they learned that the Creator has an opposite being, a trickster. Trickster talked to the two while on the sacred land, “When you eat some of these berries and fruits on this sacred land, you will be like the Creator and you too will create wonderful beings.” Trickster continued to coax them to take from the sacred land. The Creator came to see Atum Anicinabek (more than one person) and told them not to take from the sacred land. Eventually, the trickster talked them into taking the berries and fruits from the sacred land. One of the sacred beings had a berry in the mouth and the other was holding a piece of fruit. The Creator came down and scolded the two for taking the berries and fruits. The Creator explained, “I asked you not to take these berries and fruits and for this, life is going to change for the both of you.” He said to one who swallowed the berry, “From this moment on, you will have the power to create.” That NA KA CHI-TOOK KE DO DA MANG 14 was the birth of woman. It is woman who is given the power to bring life, to create life. The other, became a scha-be (helper), a man to support life. From that moment on they became shy of one another. Anicinabek, began to cover themselves, to conceal their differences, for they were ashamed. They left the sacred land to live and discover one another upon Mother Earth. They settled and made camp. They had 10 children (five boys and five girls) and their roles changed. They had become the first parents. Anicinabek were sustained by the knowledge given to them by spirit, plants, trees, birds and animals; that knowledge carried them forward, supported them and their children. They brought up their children to live mino pamatiziwin (a good life). They were innocent and everything was innocent. The first parents groomed and clothed their children well, because of their shame. Time went by and the children grew up and became young adults and began to notice each other. The children were no longer playmates. Their parents observed that their children were looking at each other as possible partners. Atum Anicinabe (the first parents) became heavy-hearted by what they were noticing. There was nobody in the world for their children to partner with. They knew it would be wrong if their children became partners with each other, for this was not happening in the natural world. The Creator came down again and spoke to the first parents. “I see that something is troubling you, I will send your children a clan, a family. A bloodline for each of your children’s families. The bloodline will change and your children will be safe from this moment on.” It was then that the Creator placed the clans. The first four clans descended were pure white spiritual beings: bear, wolf, crane and turtle. Some of these beings were in the world and, some came from the stars. The beings made connections with the first children and had especially gifted and spiritual children, because they inherited a part of their spiritual parents. Examples of gifts and spirituality are noticeable in the crane’s incredible vision and ability to see far, not physical far but spiritually far. The wolf clan carries the gifts of humility and incredible honour within the family clan. The clan family’s gifts go on and on. Upon the descent of the clans, life for Anicinabe became tremendously spiritual and the people were gifted. Life was good and flourishing. The people were still spiritual beings, meaning they could communicate with the animal, bird, and plant beings. They grew into humans, nations and our clans. The clan law did more for the families - it formed our governments. The Creator called it a clan law. From the first Anicinabe, he said, “The passage of clan will follow the father. No clan can partner with the same clan because it makes us sisters and brothers. The clan will keep you safe as long as you stay within the law.” The clan system is a natural law and prevails for our people. “Always know your clan before you partner with someone. Do not partner within your clan family: your sister or your brother. You must know your clan teachings, your colours, how to honour, feast and make offerings to your clan; for you are feasting your ancestors, the first parents and the spirituality they gave to you.” 15 For Anicinabe-speaking Nations across Turtle Island, the Creator lowered 10 original clans for families to live. In our area, including Sagkeeng, Anicinabek were given 7 clans for life. The Creator stopped after he lowered 44 clans for the world. He looked upon the people and knew they would be safe from the original problem of interbreeding. He had stopped that from happening. The Creator’s law is not just for the past. It is still talked about today. It is valid and current.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

No One Is Perfect

You make a really bad mistake so your friend says to you, "it's okay no one is perfect." You cheat on your spouse and when they confront you for your indiscretion, you say "no one is perfect." I guess it is true no one is perfect. Based on many beliefs throughout the world there is only one who is perfect, God, the Creator.  So if there can be no perfection in people, why don't we just accept it? Why try to be as good and perfect as we can be? We are destined or doomed to fail, right? Still we try and do the best we can in most cases. We try to be "our Brother's keeper, the good neighbour," despite our shortcomings.

Trouble is the "I'm not perfect" answer is more of an excuse rather than truth; the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card. There is no doubt we make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes or perhaps it is not a mistake. There are some decisions and actions we do knowing full well the impact it has and will have. There are some mistakes we make with no thought of how it affects others or how it will affect us as well.

The Prime Minister of Canada has been found to be a fan of Black Face (and Brown Face). In his youth, he dressed up with full Black Face, and also as an ethnic character. The act is a very disrespectful act, no question. The discussion now focuses on the mistake; is it long time ago and didn't know better, or is still relevant to today? Many voices are saying it was long ago and we all make mistakes and now we know better. The Prime Minister gave an apology and many have accepted his apology. I think an apology is a good place for a start in any situation. Still there are those who feel hurt and even betrayed by the actions.

There are some "mistakes" that may not seem big but still the consequences are felt somewhere and by someone: The Priest who betrays the trust of the community, the Traditional Elder who falls short on living with The Teachings, the Teacher who hits the child, the Organizer who steals funds, the friend who no longer keeps your secret. The aftermath of a mistake can be an irritant or it can be agonizing.

There is the thing, when do we accept if it was mistake and enough time has past that we can move forward (what ever moving forward means)?  There are some actions which may seem unforgivable;  a 16 year old boy killed himself over the bullying actions of his school friends.  Some mistakes have horrible consequences while some mistakes may not be as tragic. In England there was a mistake so ugly and horrible it shocked the world. In 1993 two young boys murdered a small child in a horrific manner. It was the case of 10 year olds who took a 2 year old and tortured him to death.  The story is beyond tragic and the aftermath unimaginable.  The 10 year old boys were sentenced and served 8 years where they were released with new identities after serving the time.  There are many instances where the actions can not be labeled as mistakes.

Not being perfect is a truth we live with, but it is not an open door to being a jerk, an arsehole or a monster. Much of the mistakes we encounter are the small kind. Not the horrors we read about or see on the television. Nope, it's your friend who takes your kindness for granted. The person who says I'll meet up with you but stands you up. It's forgetting your spouse's birthday and not feeling bad over it. It is spanking your child in a fit of frustration but yet have no words of apology for the spanking. It the friend who doesn't have the courtesy to answer your texts to visit and has no care of how it makes you feel.  It is the daily little hurts we inflict on others.

So yes, we all make mistakes and no one is perfect. Still we can never use it as an excuse to abandon thoughtfulness.  There is a price to pay for what we do wrong. We may lose a friend for our lack of kindness and thoughtfulness. So what do we do to accept we are not perfect but not an arsehole? We can try and live the next day better than when we made the mistake. If we kill someone, (maybe by accident) we live a better life making sure to atone. If we still act the same way and live the same way after we have made a mistake or made a choice which done harm, then we truly are the Arsehole.  I like to think we are better than that, we are capable of being mindful and thoughtfulness.

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...