Tuesday, January 6, 2009
"The Old Ways" Another Native story it is long but a great read!
THE OLD WAYS
We've all heard of the "old ways". When life wasn't so complicated. When everyone spoke their native language. When our creation stories were told during the cold winter months. What was daily life like? Just what exactly are the "old ways"? How did they become lost? Do we still need the "old ways"? If so, how do we learn the "old ways"?.
At risk of over-simplifying our way of life, I will attempt to share some thoughts on this topic about the "old ways".
The "old ways" refer to the way our ancestors lived on a daily basis. The way they thought. The way they behaved. The way they believed. The way they worshipped.
In the "old ways" everything related to all things: the winged, the four-legged, the swimmers, the crawlers, the two legged. We were related to trees, the water, the sun, the moon and the stars. The sky, the wind, the rain, and the air were all a part of us. The stone nation spoke to us in a sweat lodge ceremony. Our grandmothers and grandfathers guided us in our daily lives through the smoke of our sacred pipe. Our bodies were sacred. Our children were sacred. Our language, the very words we spoke, were sacred. Even our thoughts were sacred. Our elders taught us, "always keep good thoughts". In the "old ways", we helped each other. We respected each other. But most of all, we accepted each other. When we sat in council, everybody had a voice. All decisions were supported despite the many differences of opinion.
We understood we were "human", imperfect, pitiful. We warred with other tribes over food and resources, but only out of the need for survival. We offered tobacco whenever we took from Mother Earth. We took only what we needed. When we ate, we remembered our ancestors by sharing our food with them.
We acknowledged the spirit in all things, the fire, the drum, the sacred pipe, the songs. We purified our spirits through ceremony. We found our medicines and herbs in nature and we were thankful.
In the "old ways" we called it....
"Bimaadadiziiwin", (bi-ma-dah-di-zee-win), the "Good life". The kind of life that included all living things. Plants, animals, Mother Earth, and Father Sky. It was a simple life. It was a blessed life. It was ALL LIFE.
Today, without the "old ways", we think only of ourselves. We disrespect Mother Earth by polluting her and taking all her resources with out giving back. We dishonor our bodies, we dishonor our spirits with alcohol and drugs, food, sex or material wealth. We dishonor our gifts by not using the sacred pipe, the drum, the ceremonies; our language. We dishonor our ancestors who suffered and died, all the while, preserving the teachings of our culture for us. And worse yet, we scoff at and make fun of those who continue to believe in and teach the "old ways".
We have forgotten we are "Anishinabe" the "original people", the care-takers of Mother Earth.
Through assimilation we've forgotten about humaneness. We've learned shame. We've learned separateness. We have put ourselves above the animals, the enviroment, and the people of color. We have traded our ceremonies for peronal prestige; our children for less responsibility and more freedom; our elders for scientific and synthetic medicines.
We have accepted the blessings from the Creator but fool ourselves in the belief there is no longer a need for the "old ways".
We have become lost! We have lost the belief in "all life". We have become disrespectful to "all life". We have forgotten "we are all related". We have assimilated. We have bought into the ways of the dominant society. We found easier, quicker ways.
But is it really? It is easier to gamble? Smoke marijuana? Drink and drive? Are our children flourishing? Are we helping one another? Sharing? Are we treating others like we would to be treated? How domestic abuse? Homocide? Suicide? Is life really any easier without our "old ways"?
I think not! I believe our "old ways" are calling to us! I believe we have survived for a reason! Our "ways" have survived for a reason! Despite the broken promises! Despite the boarding schools! Despite the policy of termination! Our "old ways" are still here!
Our elders have retained this knowledge; our language; our relationship with nature; our medicines; our ceremonies. All those things the Creator gave us, the "the red nation", are carried in the hearts and minds of our grandmothers and grandfathers. They are waiting. They want to pass it on to you, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Our elders want you to know it is not just the "old ways", but that it is the Creator's way. The Creator made us Indian people a good way to live; He gave us a way of life. This is truly what we call the "old ways"