Opening Remarks by Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man) – Dave Courchene, July 27, 2017
Nii Gaani Aki Inini offered a prayer and made Opening Remarks at the Canada Games Welcome Reception at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on July 27, 2017. He began his remarks by introducing himself and offering a prayer in the Anishinabe language.
“As Knowledge Keepers from the Turtle Lodge, we were invited by the Canada Games Host Society to offer an Indigenous perspective to the 50th Anniversary Canada Games. We commend the Canada Games Host Society for taking a leadership role in respecting territorial and cultural protocols when holding an event in our territory. The Canada Games has provided us an opportunity to share who we are as a People, leaving a legacy around Indigenous leadership and teachings to set an example moving forward.
We are excited to share our Indigenous contribution that will hopefully capture the hearts and minds of all Youth at the Canada Games!
As Knowledge Keepers, we want to leave an Indigenous legacy of sacred values and deep connection to the Earth that we have lived here in our homeland. Our values are known to our people as the Great Binding Law and the Seven Sacred Teachings of Respect, Love, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth. We believe these values, which provide us with our laws of conduct – instructions on how to treat each other and the Earth, will contribute to the long-term development of Youth across this country!
Guided by the ceremonies and traditions of our people, we came to agreement with the Canada Games to partner in bringing you these Games, and we are eager to infuse these Games with a spirit of unity and sharing, unique to this territory.
We have attempted to share a small part of our uniqueness as the First People. We are an oral people. Our way of life is meant to be lived and experienced through our ceremonies, songs, teachings, and in our closeness to Mother Earth, as is expressed in our ancestral languages. Our words are meant to inspire and guide our fellow human beings to follow the path of the heart.
We chose fire and water to highlight the importance of the elements of life. Fire acts as a doorway to spirit and helps bring messages from the spirit. We lit the sacred fire, a fire of prayer, at our sacred site at Manitou Api on June 21, and the torch of these Canada Games comes from that fire. We will be lighting our sacred fires across the country from east to west at 9 am locally everywhere on August 6 for a National Day of Prayer and Mindfulness that we have called nation-wide, and we make invitation to anyone who may wish to participate, to pray in your own way, wherever you are. The National Day of Prayer is meant to focus on the help that is brought by the Spirit, to meet the current challenges we face, and there are many. It is said amongst our nation that we must never overstep the spirit as we seek to find solutions to our hardships we face today.
The water is an element that is a passage to all life. Water brings us together. Water brings purification and cleansing. When you send your gratitude to the water, its quality improves. It is the women of our nations who have been given the responsibility as water carriers, for speaking and seeking blessing for the water.
Sport is very important in our lives as Indigenous people, and all people. Sport can help build the character of a young person, as he or she challenges himself or herself to excel. Developing the character also requires the nurturing of the spirit, by learning and living values that show kindness and respect for all life. Our values are learned by being close to the land, which nurtures the spirit the way a mother loves and nurtures her child.
It is my hope that our participation as Indigenous Knowledge Keepers in these Games will provide a legacy, a model, and a stepping stone for future Canada Games and other sporting experiences, to move toward an even more expanded participation that we are prepared to offer as a People, to share our positive values and connection with the land that can enhance the experience and lives of everyone attending.”
Nii Gaani Aki Inini – Leading Earth Man (Dave Courchene) is the founder of the Turtle Lodge.