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My Waganakising Odawa Heart

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  • My Waganakising Odawa Heart

    Posted by Biidassige

    My Sovereign Waganakising Odawa Heart
    By Biidassige


    It has been a long time since we first arrived on these shores. We journeyed from the area now called Quebec through the Manitoulin Islands until we reached this destination. It should be no wonder that part of our village would be called Good Heart expressing how our relatives felt about this place. Our hearts remember this tranquil, peaceful time when we were the only people dwelling in this place and giving thanks to Grandfather for all that we were and all the gifts He had provided us. Our village rang with the songs of our women preparing meals mixed with the children’s laughter. It was a joyous time. We know it because we are our great grandfather’s and grandmother’s grandchildren. What they experienced is in us. We traveled the lakes and streams in our jiimaans (canoes) and visited all of our relatives along the waters.
    Now, our life is hard. It was not as hard a life before the Europeans arrived, as it is now. There are many different kind of influences that have entered our lives and consciousness. At one time it was enough to just be Waganakising Odawa. In that understanding was all the definition for our existence and conduct. There were no distractions from being this way and we lived it every day. We loved and gave and lived with a pure conscience because everything we were or did was with the consciousness of our relationship with life and all life-giving things. The Creator was the center of our universe and we were the recipients of His blessings.
    Now, we are struggling to recover and restore many of those beliefs because of an invasion of that consciousness. Our struggle is hard because we have many influences among us that are foreign and alien to all that once was. Now,we are republicans or democrats. We are loyal to the marines, army or navy. We are protestants, catholics or agnostics. We are “tranditional” and “non-traditional.” We are chevy or ford people. All of these influences exist in our midst and it is hard to really understand what it means to be sovereign.
    We are having a difficult time being a “tribe.” Many of us have adopted beliefs and values that remain foreign and cloud our ability to interpret what is important and what is not.
    Many of us have been educated in a system that does not endorse our values or our way of life. When it is time for us to make decisions and create our efforts are expended trying to “mimic” what we have been taught as acceptable. At one time these influences were enforced in the boarding schools, but now are prevalent in every public education program. If we are to grow and progress in our efforts to become a “tribe” we need to eliminate these foreign influences in our decision making process.
    My teachers taught me to go out among the white men and learn what I can and bring those things back to our people. I was warned to be wary that the white man did not convert me to his western civilization religion. I had to study the “signs” to determine my course. In this effort I learned that my heart would not lie to me and I tried to be sensitive to its urgings. I went through their gauntlet of “public” education. I studied in their seminaries. I worked in their prison systems. I served in their armed forces. I lived in their communities. I attended their churches. I tried to learn everything I could. I experienced their prejudice and preferential treatment because I was not like them in appearance or mannerisms. I realize at this juncture of my life all of this struggle was necessary making me wiser in my analytical processing of understanding what it means to remain conscious of my Waganakising Odawa Nation. Some of our own people tell me that we can not think live or conduct our lives that way anymore, but I know they say that only because they have lost that original memory. Western civilization has captured their mind and they have adopted its philosophies. I hope the day comes when they will realize that the Creator gave us one way to live and mankind has attempted to create another way. The way of man will not guide us to our destination and will do everything to substitute false teachings and values to replace those original things. We should never forget that our Ancestors gave their lives attempting to preserve life for us. They are watching us as we negotiate with the western world and determine our course in this present world. If we abandon those beliefs and values we will have determined the date for the end of our existence.
    We do not exist because of the benevolence of a western government or any conqueror. We must remember that men can take lives, but they cannot imprison a man’s soul. We exist because the Creator has willed it to be so, yet it appears at times that we are groveling before federal agencies or making decisions pandering to some sense of their dominance over us as though we had to earn their approval. We must remember that our course through this life was determined long before western civilization existed when all of the world’s peoples were members of tribes. In those days our songs were the same. We loved Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon. The Drum was the center of the village and its sounding brought us together to give thanks and celebrate our lives.
    Once we were only “Anishinaabeg” living on this Turtle Island surrounded by the bounty the Creator had placed in our lives. We need to remember these things while we fight this fight. I say “fight” because there are forces out there trying to diminish our sovereignty and delegate us to historical pictures in dusty libraries. If we do not continue to affirm where we come from, how we got here, and where we are going the path we are to journey will grow over and our children will never be able to find their way.
    This world reels under the influence of western civilization. Western civilization has left it’s “tracks” every where evidenced by the pollution we endure every day in the air we breath, the water we drink, and the earth we stand on. Even as I write this there are those in that western system working to find a way to abrogate the contracts (treaties) we have with its government and force us to become invisible. Those pollutants are in us and in every living thing. The greatest contaminant we struggle with is in our innermost being. If we do not, as individuals, gather the evidence and make the right decisions based on that evidence, than western civilization will have succeeded in eliminating us as a tribe and our grandchildren will become its prisoners and parishioners.
    I believe we can be "Tribal" and travel through this world. I believe we can use the “tools” we harvest from our experiences with western civilization and use them to protect, preserve, and promote our world. I believe we can perform in the western world and glean what we need to conduct our daily existence. I don’t believe we can adopt their philosophies and their religious, economic and political influences and remain sovereign. I have watched some of our young people who have come back from their colleges “educated.” They have supplanted whatever traditional beliefs and origins with the values and performance expected of them by their captors. While they identify their tribal origins genealogically, therefore claiming traditional origins, but in reality they have become like their captors because they defend the very system intent on determining the end of the Anishinaabeg Nations.
    We know where we come from and the memories and records of our Way are still in our midst. We know who are grandfathers and grandmothers are. We know our ceremonies and traditions. We understand our relationship with all living things and we know about the need for harmony and balance in our daily living. We see ourselves as only a part of the greater Circle of Life. The spiritual borders of our Red hearts are limitless and sovereign because we hold these things to be sacred. We are aware of our Creator-given rights and who determined real sovereignty in the beginning of things.
    The Creator placed us on this Turtle Island. Our Grandfathers and Grandmothers bones are buried here. We are the oldest inhabitants of this place and were once the only inhabitants. This land we occupy is still ours. We still have the spiritual sovereignty given to us by the Creator.
    The Creator has put no one else on this Mother Earth like us. We have Elder’s. We have Clan Mothers. We have Men’s and Women’s Circles. We, Anishinaabeg, have spiritual leaders and counselors among us. It is time to seek them out and listen to what they have to say to us. We have the poagun, our sacred medicines and the sweat lodge. We have our Ghost Suppers. The drums are here and our songs. We have our regalias.
    We are born sovereign. The Creator has told us that this Odawak Way is how He wants us to be.

    Biidassige, Waganakising Odawa
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