Just what is the highest honour you can do for someone? Is it naming your child after someone, or is it something else, some grand gesture? A lot of years ago I had a disagreement with a relative. He was the first cousin of my Mom. The gentleman was about 12 years older than I was. The disagreement was in how I saw his disrespect of my Dad. He and my Dad were on Council in our Reserve. My Dad at the time was still an active drinker while the cousin was not. So I can see his reluctance to work with my Dad. Still I think the cousin didn't do right by my Dad. When they were suppose to go to meetings out in the City, the cousin would tell my Dad, "I'll be by to pick you up." He didn't pick up my Dad and Dad would be waiting all day for his colleague to pick him up. Meanwhile the cousin would stop and pick up his friend who was not on Council and take him to the meetings rather than take my Dad. I guess maybe the cousin felt my Dad would drink while in the City. I am only guessing but I imagine that is why. I didn't know this about the cousin until I started working with him and my Mom warned me about him. So I went for a ride with the cousin and I asked him about it. I told him "I don't really like people disrespecting my Dad" and brought up his past conduct with my Dad. So the cousins response was this, "I don't know if you see this but I gave your Dad the highest respect, highest honour, I gave him Tobacco." For me this was just wrong. I know the meaning of Tobacco as the first medicine and the respect you give people when asking, gifting them. Still I felt this was hollow. Not that the cousin didn't honour the Tobacco, he was a man of great knowledge and Teachings. Maybe in his mind he did show respect to my Dad. For me I look at his other actions and didn't think he really showed respect. I think like all of us, he was just a Human Being capable of great things and also of wrong.
There are so many ways to show honour to someone and it is done everyday. There are streets being named in honour of an athlete; a day in honour of someone; a medal given to a singer by the government and statues that have been erected in honour of someone. How do we measure the highest form of honour, of respect? In the Native community Giving is part of their lives. Indians are always giving and honouring people. Reminds me of when we were kids playing minor hockey in the Reserve, we had a team called the Fort Alexander Jets. It was a kids team coached by the late Jimmy Fontaine and others. The City of Winnipeg had a professional hockey team called the Winnipeg Jets. I think this must have been in 1972 or so. The community lead by our Chief and others reached out to the Winnipeg Jets to have the kids meet the team. So a big event took place (in our eyes) at the Winnipeg Arena. The Fort Alexander Jets skated before the National anthem and stood at the blue line to shake hands with the professional hockey players. The kids gave each player a beautiful beaded medallion. The Winnipeg Jets gave a game day handout and a small patch. The Chief of our community gave the coaches and management Beaded Buckskin Jackets. You have to understand it was a very big deal for this group of Indians from a Reserve to be at the event. It was an honour for the kids to be skating (even though it was one time around the rink) and for the community to take part. So our Chief, our community honoured the Winnipeg Jets with gifts. I wonder if anyone of those hockey people involved with the Winnipeg Jets at the time remember the event. It was most likely just a blip on their hockey experience. I hope they do remember the day all those years ago.
It is part of the life of our people to Honour others. I really like that about Indigenous people. Honouring is not limited to Indigenous folks, I imagine all cultures honour people. Honouring is not limited to the deserving person. Nope, honouring is done for almost everyone. Just a little while ago, infamous rapist Harvey Weinstein had his Appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire stripped away by the Queen. Prior to his being jailed for being a raping monster, Weinstein was celebrated, was respected and feared for his power in the entertainment industry. Many folks were under his spell of power. There are many others honoured who should not be respected. Suspected rapist and known racist Donald Trump had reached the highest honour in the United States by being selected as their leader. Is that the highest honour, to be selected to lead people? It is an amazing show of respect I imagine. People believe in you so much they make you their voice, now that is honour.
There are so many examples of honouring in society; having a Day in your honour (Columbus Day), a month named in your honour (Black History Month), a vehicle named in your honour ( the Pontiac), a helicopter named in your honour (Apache), a US Military operations for assassination named after you (Geronimo), and naming a sports team after you (Washington Redskins). The honouring of someone can be subjective, I guess? There are more personal signs of giving the highest honour: naming the baby after someone. You ask someone to be the Godparent of your child. These Godparents will look after your child should some horrible event happens and you die an agonizing death. You decide to have your girl-boy friend's name forever imprinted on your arm by way of getting stabbed with a needle dipped in ink, the tattoo. There are so many ways in which honour is bestowed.
|Honour Song For Dad|
Indigenous people are always doing an honouring of someone or something. Go to any big Indian event and you will see someone being gifted. They could be getting a Blanket put on their shoulder. You will see someone being presented with an Indian name. Someone being honoured with a Song. Some Dancer at a Powwow will honour the Drum with a Whistle. It is part of who they are as a society, they honour lives. So there are many ways to give honour. Sure I give Tobacco as well and it is indeed a sign of Respect as Tobacco is Sacred. The act of passing Tobacco is an honourable practice and is done regularly in Indian country.
For me I think the highest honour you can give to someone is to be kind to them. To treat a person in a good way, caring for them is the highest honour anyone can do. It is super easy to be cheeky, to be sarcastic, to be rude, to be indifferent, to ignore someone, but being kind is showing them they are special, that they matter. Being kind, being good to someone, keeping your word to someone is the highest honour you can give.