By Glenn C. Zaring
In looking through the various tribal media, quite a bit of space over the years has been devoted to recapping or correcting history regarding the ‘wrongs’ inflicted on our tribal people. The Trail of Tears, Indian Boarding Schools, Missions, forced re-education to erase our identity and poisoned blankets have been talked about and cried about extensively.
Media coverage has spotlighted our heroes such as Tecumseh, Crazy Horse and Chief Pontiac, but the overriding focus has been about our pain.
When our younger generation goes out into the world away from the reservation, they are going with a historical burden that hinders their future, sometimes to the point that they cannot succeed. This weighs them down, and they become susceptible to the abuses of alcohol and drugs, which can afflictdepression, despair and suicide.
We have failed them because we are sending them out into the world without teaching them a sense of positive purpose.
A few years ago, Tom St. Dennis wrote a book “The Heart of a Native,” which is available on Amazon. It explores the story of a young native man’s life experience in the outside world, and how he ultimately found fulfillment by returning to his tribal roots. He was unfulfilled working on the outside and finally found peace by returning to his philosophical/religious roots. His foundation was reinforced by his culture.
Think about that for a moment: “His foundation was reinforced by his culture.”
All the beautiful elements of his culture helped to center him, helped to balance him and gave him a basis from which to live.
The challenge before us today is how do we turn this around and support our younger generation with a culture that prepares them for success?
In a recent discussion with a respected tribal elder and Ottawa Council member, the subject was, “How do we help our people to have a good future life?” The typical answers offered are, “more money, opportunity, education, training etc., etc.” Forgive a “politically incorrect” answer, but we agreed that those are white answers to Indian questions and they only convey non-tribal outcomes. That is not to denigrate them, but our answer must be more effective if we are to continue our identity as Indians and not just be subjects for documentaries on the History channel.
What if we imbued our younger gerneration with the wisdom of the Seven Grandfathers for a start? What if we gave them thorough exposure on how to be a part of the Talking Circle, and thus learn how to interact with people in a positive way? What if we made sure that they understood why they must respect their elders, protect their women and honor their warriors? Think about this and think about the strong person that would emerge from their hogan to take their place in the world with this wisdom as part of their character.
Honor your history, but go forth with the strength of your culture.
Read these words of the Seven Grandfathers and take a moment to think about them:
Love – Zaagidewin
Honesty – Gwekwaadeziwin
Bravery – Aakidehewin
Respect – Mnaadendmowin
Humility – Dbaadendiziwin
Truth – Debwewin
Wisdom – Nbwaakaawin
Picture, if you can, the young tribal member going out into the world with these strengths in his/her soul. Not a chip on their shoulder, but the qualities that the whole world needs and, which is sorely lacking today. Add in this skill set of education and you will have people who will make a positive difference, not just for our tribal nations but the whole world.
From the beginning, perhaps we should help our young mothers and fathers start teaching their children. HostFamily Talking Circles each week, discussions about each of the teachings, our own elementary schools designed with a curriculum that includes the Red Road and above all actually practicing what it means to be Indian.
This is something that we can offer the world. Indeed, it is our purpose since the rest of the world seems to have forgotten the lessons that we have in our very culture. We offer a better way…
Miinawaa baamaapii gwaabimin
See you later my friends! ♦