Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"I Gave Him Tobacco, the Highest Honour You Can Give."

 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. 


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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Why Wish For Bad Thing To Happen So You Can React?

 "I wish they would have tried that on me." I was watching the news (again) and some young Asian woman was attacked. In another news segment a Muslim Woman had her Hijab pulled off her head. Every day there is ugly happening to people who don't deserve it (who deserves what I don't know).  We watch these events and think what we would have done if we were there. We say things like "If I was there, I wouldn't let them get away with that." We believe we would act either as a hero in an ugly situation or as vengeance where it is needed. We even envision our daughters getting hurt, raped or killed and we say "if anyone hurt my kids, my wife I would kill them." Why do we think like this? It is like we are tempting or daring something to happen. Something terrible to happen to someone we love just so we can show that we would do violence to someone. Now the is some messed up way of thinking. The truth is we really don't know how we would react in some situations. Sure we want to believe we would be the morality in an ugly happening. We would want to be the person who stands up to wrong. I wish I knew how I would react as well. 

A friend of mine says we all have a certain number of wishes and we tend to waste some of them. Like when we are wishing for a matchstick so we can light our cigarette; "Man I wish I had a lighter. Geez I wish I had a dollar."  He says why wish for the little things, you could be using all your wishes? Same thing, why wish for bad stuff when you could be wishing for good things? Why wish to be there when a Woman is being attacked by her jealous insecure husband in the bingo hall? Or what about when a monster was stabbing a young  man on the GreyHound Bus? In this situation there was no intervention of the monster. Lot of criticism took place and many not at the scene decried the people on the bus for not stopping the assault. A series of papers were written on the actions taken and not taken in situations  - Bystander Apathy.  We can never tell what people will do when a bad thing happens. 

What is it that we want to prove? Do we want to be the person who runs into a burning house, rescuing the baby from being burnt up? My cousin lost her baby in a fire. The fire was set on purpose at a daycare by a daycare worker. She wanted to be seen as a hero. She ended up killing a little two year old baby. The daycare worker got off and was not found guilty of setting the fire but everyone knows. So this person wished for bad things to happen so they could react. Instead of just wishing they went and did the bad thing. 

So I have no visions of being hero for some unforeseen bad thing. Bad things happen all the time, no need to wish for them. If you really want to be a hero, do something. There are hundreds of things to do; donate blood. Can you imagine the life you literally save when you donate blood? Donate food at a food bank. You could be saving someone from going hungry, most likely a child. Volunteer to help out somewhere. Become friends at the local New Comers agency. Make friends with an Indian. They would like to meet new people I am pretty sure. No need to wish for bad things to happen just to show you can do bad back. We all believe we are capable of doing justice (what ever that means) to injustice. 

There is a belief in our community/culture that we all have power. Who knows you could have the power to make things happen. So when you say to your child "don't play on the counter you are going fall and break your leg." We say "don't say it like that because you might have the power to make it happen." Your child will end up falling and breaking their leg. I bet some of you have felt that you had the power of foresight, haven't you? You were thinking of a song, a movie and next thing you know, it's there on the tv, on the radio. You do have power. So use your power. Just use it for good things to happen. Like a cool tune on the radio. A good wish for your friend to visit. Wish for your Mom to win bingo if she is a bingo player. There are many good things to wish for rather than bad and sad things. So here's hoping you don't waste all your wishes on bad stuff or using your power on bad stuff. 

Just a post script to the last notion of having the power to make things happen. I had an operation when I was about 36 or 37. It was one of those "snip snip" operations, a vasectomy.  I told colleagues about my decision. This one fellow, an Elder told me I shouldn't do it. He said "what would happen if your son died, not to replace him or anything, but there is the possibility." Turned out my Son did die, he of course killed himself. So not sure if the fellow foretold it. Still what he said was not a good thing to say. I know in our community, the Indian community there are some things which are not spoken about, but I don't know what they are. I do know but usually it's after I am told.  So I say again, why wish for bad things to happen? If you are going to wish, let it be good things. 

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

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