DAVE COURCHENE – NII GAANI BENEHSI-NII GAANI AKI ININI (LEADING THUNDERBIRD-LEADING EARTH MAN) OPENING PRESENTATION
MARY MAYTWAYASHING – ZOONGI GABAWI OZAWA KINEW IKWE (STRONG STANDING GOLDEN EAGLE WOMAN)
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF CHIEFS OF POLICE
Moving Forward, Safer Futures National Conference
May 30, 2016As Indigenous Peoples, we have had to endure many attempts to destroy our identity as a People – this has had tragic consequences. We live in a world today where, in spite of all the technological advancements, we find ourselves in some very difficult times. Our Knowledge Keepers have been watching, with increasing concern, the social unrest, the youth demanding change, the increase in violence, and the climate change that has affected the environment to the level of great concern for our own survival as a species. Your role as law enforcement officers, to keep things in order, and to enforce the laws of man, is very challenging. You are in the front line of having to deal with the unfortunate members of our society who have lost their way in life. I am sure you must feel overwhelmed, burdened with a task that calls you to address problems that are not of your making. When it comes to working with Indigenous People, there is an added challenge. The challenge is to know, to understand, and to have compassion for a People who have had to endure cultural genocide –who continue to be marginalized, live in unrelenting poverty, our children twice as likely to live in poverty than the rest of the society in our homeland. Many of our youth do not see you as protectors, but rather someone to fear. There are so many stories of profiling, of abuse, of racism. Even if only some police officers are engaging in this type of behaviour, it has been enough to create the fear and disrespect for the police shared by many Indigenous People. Profiling and stereotyping of the police has happened on our side too. How do we change all of that? It is not only about creating changes within the police in our society, rather it is about all of us collectively working together to set a new narrative towards positive change. This change must be created within our communities. It must be a People’s movement. It is a simple issue of finding and living peace. As a People, we have a knowledge and understanding that are rooted in values that can help support this movement towards peace and harmony. We have always derived our identity from our strong connection to the spirit and the land. It is our connection that has given our People the understanding and genetic memory of how sacred life is. In our understanding, everyone and everything is held together and governed by Spiritual Laws and Natural Laws – laws that are woven into the fabric of Creation and written upon the Earth. We refer to this as Okichitibakonikaywin – The Great Binding Law. This spiritual relationship with the Spirit and the land has been lived by following laws that act as a foundation to our humanity. The Seven Sacred Laws are represented by the Animal world and have reflected a clear understanding of our connection to the natural world. It has always been recognized that the Animals keep us rooted to Mother Earth. The Natural world gives guidance and direction to the Human world. It was with close connection with Nature and the Animal world that the People have been able to receive signs and teachings. As a People, we see ourselves as participants in a great natural order of life, related in some fundamental manner to every other living species. It is believed that each species has a particular knowledge of the Universe and specific skills for living in it. These are our Seven Sacred Laws:
Respect – Represented by the BuffaloThe First Law is about Respect – to continue to be a giving and sharing People, first and foremost, following the example of the buffalo who gave its whole being for the life of the People.
Love – Represented by the EagleThe Second Law is all about Love – loving the Great Spirit, loving Mother Earth, loving ourselves in the way we were created, loving each other in the highest way, as the eagle brings vision that is always based on love.
Courage – Represented by the BearThe Third Law is about Courage – the courage to live from the heart, the courage to be ourselves, and the courage to do the right thing for the sake of the children, the way a mother bear would die before seeing harm come to her child.
Honesty – Represented by the Sabé (Bigfoot)The Fourth Law is about Honesty – being honest with ourselves and speaking and living our truth from the heart, and refusing to lie or engage in gossip about others – simply, to be true to our words.
Wisdom – Represented by the BeaverThe Fifth Law is about Wisdom, using the gift the Great Spirit gave each of us to serve, and build a strong family, community and Nation the way a beaver uses his gift of sharp teeth to build his dam. If the beaver did not use his gift, his teeth would grow long and he would die. The same goes for us. If we did not use our unique gift, we would also die in a way that there would be suffering. Our gifts do not belong to us as individuals, but belong to all the People, to serve the good of the Nation.
Humility – Represented by the WolfThe Sixth Law is about Humility, showing gratitude for life received from the Great Spirit and the Earth, never overstepping the gifts that keep us connected to the spiritual realm, knowing that we are all equal in the eyes of the Great Spirit. There is so much we could learn from the wolf, who bows his head when encountering a human being. The teaching of humility was especially important for the leaders of the Nation.
Truth – Represented by the TurtleThe Seventh Law is living the Truth, by having the Seven Laws as the foundation. Truth means living in the spirit of all the Seven Laws together – Respect, Love, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth. The turtle embodies the truth of natural and spiritual laws as the shell of the turtle represents the body of real events, teachings and origins of the human being. On the back of the turtle are thirteen sections which represent the truth of one cycle of thirteen moons in the Earth’s yearly rotation around the sun. Thirteen also represents the four seasons in the Earth’s cycle around the sun, plus the nine months it takes for the gestation of a human child in the mother’s womb. It is within our sacred lodges that the Seven Laws are lived and modeled, and these Laws can be practised in our daily lives, no matter where we find ourselves. It has been the Grandmothers of our nations who have exemplified these laws of spirit and nature. They have been the ones who have traditionally helped restore those who had strayed from the path, to invite them back and create understanding of what caused them to become lost. Do you punish those who have become lost? Where is the compassion within the system? The Grandmothers have compassion. The Grandmothers have such power. They have great kindness. We have been misunderstood. We have been misrepresented. We have been marginalized in our homeland. We have been colonized. We are judged and condemned for a world we are living today that we also did not create. We are in a time of great change and great opportunity, to go beyond what has separated us as the human family. It is not a question of who was at fault historically. What can we learn from history to move forward in a positive way today, together, to create a true civilized society, based on moral justice? We must see the diversity and uniqueness in the human family as a strength, and join forces in our uniqueness to find the gifts that can help bring us together, to a collective vision of peace. Prophecy foretold of these times we have entered into. Prophecy encourages us to fulfil the truth of our destiny as the human species. That destiny is living the duties and responsibilities of reflecting kindness to all of life. To have over half our children in a state of poverty is unconscionable. There is nothing more important that any of us can do today than exercise and support our duties and responsibilities. There is no greater duty that any of us can act out in our lives than to support the best interests and rights of the child. Every child is born with the right to have good parents. A child is born with the right to have the food, water and medicines from the land. A child is born with the right to be told the truth, and they have not been told about their own history as a People, and what has been done to their ancestors in an attempt to destroy our identity and to displace us. A child is born with the right to speak their language, the right to know their culture and the values of their ancestors, and the right to be nurtured in their identity. A child is born with the right to be connected to the land and to the spirit. Recently there was a young boy in Point Douglas, who went to the local corner store to buy a loaf of bread. A police officer came in, saw the little boy, and bought the loaf of bread for him. The boy’s father, when he heard what had happened, was overwhelmed. He phoned in to the local radio station to publicly express his gratitude to the police officer. As he shared his story, the radio announcer was so moved and offered him and his son free tickets to the Red River Ex. But it didn’t end there. Listeners began to call in, one offering $100 to the father and son to buy some corn dogs at the Ex, and another offering free tickets to a WWE event. To this day, this good-hearted police officer has remained unnamed. To live is to give. This is a perfect example of unconditional love. People were inspired and the act of giving became contagious. This was a true example of unconditional giving, filled with compassion and kindness. If everyone gave, we could change the world. The world is in need of more giving and more compassion. This is what gives us hope for the future. This is what will change the world. It is the act of unconditional giving that grows to more giving. It has a power that propels us into a higher level of living into being. We cannot give without being connected to Spirit. Somehow one feels the spirit to give and then we act on it. Our brother was an example of that spirit of unconditional giving. One act of giving will be felt by others, who naturally want to repeat that gesture of giving. We all have that same opportunity to become a part of that giving. Giving compassion, giving kindness, giving respect. We must become the People of the heart if we are going to survive. This is the real hope for humankind. We must become an example of what we can be, through our compassion, kindness and gentleness. Every act of giving inspires others. We find these examples from the natural laws of land, from the Original Mother who gives unconditionally in love for all life. To those of you who are in the forefront of witnessing the reaction of some People who have lost their way into destruction, anger and addiction, we ask for your understanding and for your compassion for those who have lost their way. Help us to help them find their way back. They will not find their way back through adversarial approaches – they will need love and compassion. Let us begin by setting an example. We invite you to come to our sacred lodges – our places of higher learning that hold the truth of our real identity. There you will find a richness of knowledge filled with values that have sustained us as a People, and begin to have a fuller appreciation of who we are as a People. When you come within our environments you will see the real connection and real People, the real spirit of the People and our kindness and generosity. Take the time to get to know us. Come to our land and our lodges and listen to the Knowledge Keepers of our Nations. Then perhaps we can move beyond our current world of separation. It is only then that we can truly begin to work together. We can sit together in an environment of respect, and discuss how we can make things better for everyone. The strength and uniting force of our relationship must be the child. The child for us has always been central. The child is a gift. How we respect and treat that gift of all children is the most important part of our duties and responsibilities as a Nation, no matter what walk of life we find ourselves in. Indigenous children have added challenges and we must all share in our collective efforts to love the child. We need your support to rebuild and strengthen our own places of knowledge and healing, to return to our natural and spiritual ways of correcting our young People, not incarcerating them into already overflowing institutions. We have to create hope. We have to support identity. Working together in this effort, with the positive contributions of Indigenous People, we can create a new national identity based on care for each other and the land that is the true healer. Let us find the courage to walk together into the future in the footsteps of our ancestors, who walked on this land in respect for all life, and who felt the close and loving connection to the Earth with her profound wisdom. Can we meet that challenge?