Elders across North and South America ceremonially ratify Zuguswediwin “Lifting the Pipe” Declaration of Commitment of the Original Nations and Peoples of Great Turtle Island, and select Turtle Lodge as their “House of Knowledge”
July 26, 2018
TURTLE LODGE, Sagkeeng First Nation, Anishinabe Territory – Respected Traditional Elders from Nations across Great Turtle Island (North America) and Abya Yala (Mexico, and Central and South America) came together in the centre of the North American continent in Manitoba last week, having traveled from their respective territories East, West, North, and from the South all the way to the Inca.
The Elders formally acknowledged that they have selected the Turtle Lodge as their house of knowledge, and their central place of governance as Knowledge Keepers and traditional leaders of their Nations and Peoples, which honours and connects the network of Elders and regions across the territories, and from where their voice can be shared with all Peoples.
The Elders, most of whom are fluent in their original languages and knowledgeable in the ceremonies and teachings of their Nations and Peoples, were called together at the Zuguswediwin (“Lifting the Sacred Pipe”) National Elders Gathering, based on a dream received by Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini – Leading Earth Man (Dave Courchene) of the Anishinabe Nation. Courchene is the caretaker of Turtle Lodge, a sacred lodge he dreamed of over 30 years ago, that was built by volunteers, mainly young people, using donated materials, in 2002.
In the dream he received while recovering from a major illness this year, Courchene explained that Grandmothers from different Nations were crossing a turtle-embroidered yellow blanket carrying medicines and a document – a declaration of commitment – to an Elder carrying a sacred Pipe, for blessing, witnessed by the People.
At the Zuguswediwin gathering last week, Elders convened to discuss how to implement their nationhood and restore balance and wellness to their Nations and Peoples, using their traditional ways. Young people and Grandmothers from the Giigewigamig First Nation Health Authority provided the inspiration, arriving at the gathering after walking 185 km for four days through the communities of Bloodvein, Hollow Water, Black River and Sagkeeng, walking in reverence for their ancestral way of life based on close connection to land, air, water and fire. Other youth shared dreams and visions they had received through fasting on the land.
Delegates from national research bodies including SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR were welcomed and permitted to present questions to the Elders on how to work together to provide a framework for respectful engagement of Indigenous communities, a question that was met with firm responses by the Elders that they need to lead and spearhead their own processes of sharing knowledge, setting agendas that are based on Indigenous values and priorities, determined through a ceremonial context, and based within their own house of knowledge – the Turtle Lodge.Together the Elders developed and ceremonially ratified the Zuguswediwin “Lifting the Pipe” Declaration of Commitment of the Original Nations and Peoples of Great Turtle Island, a spiritual commitment to act in accordance with their ancestral laws and traditions. The declaration both begins and ends in the Anishinabe language, and is intended to be further translated into all the respective languages of the Elders who signed it, after Grandmothers carried it with medicines across the yellow turtle blanket in a powerful ceremony, passing it over to the Pipe carriers at Turtle Lodge, on July 21.
On July 22, the Elders and witnesses took the Zuguswediwin Declaration to Manitou Api – “Where the Creator Sat”, an ancient sacred site in the centre of the continent, to be blessed by a Sacred Pipe that was commissioned by a national group of Elders representing the four directions in Ottawa in 2016. At Manitou Api, the group also honoured their ancestors and placed the document in the water, for its message to be symbolically and spiritually carried around the world.
One of the Elders, Allan White from Whitefish Bay Anishinabe Nation, came forward with the instruction that he had received in the ceremony, that the Grandmothers and Elders will dream, and to gather at the Turtle Lodge at the same time next year, bringing those dreams for the people to understand the full meaning and power of the vision that comes from dreams.
The Zuguswediwin Declaration is being engraved onto the hide of a buffalo, and will soon be available for all to see at the Turtle Lodge.