The Birth of a New Life
A Dream and Teachings Shared by Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini
Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Dr. Dave Courchene) discusses that we are living in a time in need of a vision of hope based on values and teachings that can set the foundation for a change of heart and the birth of a new life for Mother Earth and Humankind. Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini shares ancient teachings of the Seven Sacred Laws, and how these Laws can set a foundation for us to live by as they emanate from having the spirit of kindness.
Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini is a respected Elder and Knowledge Keeper of the Anishinaabe Nation, the Founder of the Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness and Chair of the National Turtle Lodge Council of Knowledge Keepers.
I had a dream one night. I was speaking to this man and telling him what I was told by the Grandfather. I told him, “The Grandfather spoke to me and said:
‘You were told many years ago that there would be great changes coming to the Earth. As you were told, we prepared you with the spiritual teachings of your ancestors.’
‘We were preparing you so you could live on the land. To live on the land you have to live from the spirit.’”
The Grandfather went on to say,
“Well, that time is very close and there is no time to waste. Get the things you will need to survive on the land. Get axes, and the other things and tools you know you will need to live the most simple life, away from the technology that is destroying the water and the land.”
I woke up somewhat shaken up.
I wondered: How close is close in the understanding of the Grandfathers?
I see many changes happening already, and I wondered how severe these changes are going to be in relation to the current lifestyle we are living. I realize that the current path we are on is not one that treats all life in sacredness. The Earth continues to feel the brunt of our selfishness and greed.
I even wondered: What did the Grandfathers mean, “the change is very close now” and “there was no time to waste”?
I knew that it had to be something natural. Was it the weather? Was it the elements of life – fire, wind, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, etc.? Will the economy crash? Would it be something similar to the Depression in the 1930s but more severe?
When we reflect on the current world conditions, there is no doubt of a need for a major change – the need to change our current attitudes, to values that support life. A change is needed to be more kind, more compassionate, more giving and sharing.
The question is: Is the prophecy of our visionaries and past prophets about to be fulfilled?
We were told of a time that is coming where the Earth would give birth to a New Life. The Earth would go through pains of labour while the vision of the New Life, brought by the Great Spirit, was growing in her womb. The Earth would have to be cleansed before that New Life arrived.
We were told long before the arrival of the newcomers in our homeland that there would be people coming from the many different lands of the Earth. There was a greater purpose to their arrival. They were brought here by the Great Spirit to come and learn and be reminded of their true spiritual identity and purpose as human beings, which is to love and take care of each other and the Earth.
All human beings were given original instructions, complete with values, duties and responsibilities that we are supposed to fulfill. There are those amongst our Nations as the Original People who have stayed faithful and true to our original instructions. It would be these few who would be propelled into the forefront of a movement, offering a leadership of sharing that knowledge.
The Seven Sacred Laws
In the Anishinaabe world, and others, the Seven Sacred Laws have acted as the foundation of our way of life and connection to the Spirit and the land.
The Seven Sacred Laws are represented by seven animals that ensure our close relationship with Nature. Each animal offers a special gift and understanding of how we as people should live our lives on Mother Earth.
We are living in a time that we need a vision of hope based on values and teachings that can set the foundation for a change of heart. The Seven Sacred Laws are the foundation we are to live by. These Laws emanate from having the spirit of kindness.
It is the spirit of these seven animals that we call upon to teach and remind us of the Seven Sacred Laws, beginning with the law of Respect – Represented by the Buffalo.
Respect is 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 Eagle – is about loving the Great Spirit, loving the land, loving ourselves in the way we were created, and loving each other in the highest way, as the eagle brings vision that is always based on love. The essence of love is understanding, with empathy and compassion. Through the unconditional love of the Great Spirit, we have all been given the ability to have vision, and to make our visions come true.
Courage – Represented by the Bear – is living from the heart, and having the courage to be ourselves. It takes 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 cub.
Honesty – Represented by the Sabé or Bigfoot – is being honest with ourselves, speaking and living our truth from the heart. Honesty is refusing to lie or engage in gossip about others. Honesty is being true to our words. Honesty is never judging or condemning others, but to speak well of others, honouring their uniqueness within the human family.
Wisdom – Represented by the Beaver – is about using the gift the Great Spirit gave each of us to serve, and to build a strong family, community and Nation. Our gifts do not belong to us as individuals, but belong to all the people, to serve the good of the Nation. If the beaver did not use his gift to build, his teeth would grow long, and he would die. Similarly, if we do not use our gifts in a good way for the benefit of the Earth and the brothers and sisters of our nations, we too would die spiritually.
Humility – Represented by the Wolf – is about showing gratitude for life received, never overstepping the natural laws of Mother Earth. Humility is to know that not one of us is ever above or below our fellow human beings. We are all equal in the eyes of the Great Spirit. There is so much we can learn from the wolf. The teaching of humility is especially important for the leaders of our Nations.
The teaching of Truth is represented by the Turtle. Our motherland is referred to as Turtle Island. To know and live truth is to walk and live all the Seven Sacred Laws. Living truth means living in the spirit of Respect, Love, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility and Truth. It is when we live truth that we will know peace and find the truth of our humanity. Our spiritual constitution is written on the turtle. The turtle lives in the water and on the land to remind the whole world of the truth we should be living by.
The animals that represent the seven sacred laws ensure that we have a close relationship with the land – an alliance with nature. The animal world are our brothers. They live with each other in harmony and bring us teachings.
When one is able to walk the spirit of these Seven Sacred Laws is when one becomes truly free, it is then that one receives the full support of the universe, and the forces of the Earth itself.
A Time of Reckoning
This is a time of reckoning.
Every time we stay away from the Original Law, and continue down this path of greed, a day of reckoning is inevitable. Nature is the one that decides that for each of us. We cannot hide from the earth. As long as we receive this breath of life, she can feel us draw this life from her.
If we abuse the Original Law, reckoning is the law, and it is self-enforcing.
Two wrongs will never make a right a wrong must be corrected, and pain reminds us of that. Nature’s way of teaching all of us – we need to reflect on ourselves.
The root of our dilemma, which has created these symptoms, is a belief system that humanity ought to dominate Nature. This attitude has led to a severing of our relationship with our source of life, the Earth.
When we lose touch with the Earth, we lose connection to our true spiritual identity, and a true understanding of our uniqueness, our purpose as humanity, our original instructions, and our duties and responsibilities. We have accelerated climate change because we have broken natural law. As much as there have been advancements in science and technology, we have not evolved morally and ethically. This is the crisis of our time.
Stop, look, and see what we have done to the land. It has been a deliberate attack on Mother Earth. The worst crime of man. Attack the woman, possess her, control her, and take whatever you want from her. Those who think and act this way have become nothing but fools. No, we must depend on those who have avoided this foolishness of the mind. This insanity. It is now up to the people of the heart who will guide the mind properly. Listen to your heart, follow how your heart guides you. Wake up. Begin by offering a word of gratitude. The breath of life is passing through. You are alive.
The Earth’s resources are limited, and our wants are unlimited, which makes her resources so scarce. Time is the most important and valuable treasure because you cannot take it back.
There is another way to live. Many live with the assumption that you can live both ways – that money economy supports life. Every issue that touches the pocketbook will bring a strong reaction of resistance. We are of the assumption that:
“Without a money economy, I will not have a job. How would I survive? Who is going to pay my mortgage, bills, car insurance, transportation, health care, education for my children? How will I pay for my flights to travel?”
We have all become victimized by a culture dominated by money. Money is an economic unit – it has been adopted as a medium of exchange. The father of modern economics was Adam Smith, an 18th century Scottish economist, philosopher, and author.
Before there was money, there was barter and trade. But there was a lot more to it than that. Our way of life was about helping each other. We worked together to ensure our mutual survival. Our way of life was about giving and sharing. Our goal was not to make money. Our goal was minopimatiziwin, a good and peaceful way of life. The way we would achieve a good life was by following the natural law. Giving and sharing was the way to have a good life, because whatever we put into our circle would return to us in some way. We were governed by the self-enforcing natural law.
The Knowledge Keepers of our Nations have been issuing warnings for a long time that what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. Yet we still refuse to accept these warnings. The Knowledge Keepers in their patience continue to appeal to humankind. We need a change of heart or we will not survive. Phenomena like the virus and extreme heat warnings are really just messages from nature. Still, some refuse to accept the reality of climate change. Money and wealth will not buy humanity out of the coming changes.
The cost of our current lifestyle is rising more and more each day. People with a fixed income can buy less and less. Social problems are increasing, the population is growing, and poverty is becoming more and more visible. The Earth is running out of resources to support our ever-increasing needs and wants as the human population. We have to exploit more and more to keep what we are enjoying.
The Earth is under a lot of strain. How much more can we expect from the Earth before the harm to her is too great? Do you take from someone who is sick, who was giving so much life that they got sick? I think not. The present older generation took too much, and now someone must pay for this – it is the youth of today who will bear the brunt of this mistreatment.
Nature holds the final cure to prevent further damage of the Earth. She will teach us how to live within our limited means. She will decide our future, which we have unsuccessfully tried to decide for ourselves. She is just showing her force to teach us we will not be allowed to continue with this selfish attitude.
We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of what is yet to come. We continue choosing the road of denial because it is much easier to live in denial than to make changes. We live with false hopes that our world will return to normal like before.
But we have locked ourselves into an environment of dependency. We do not use our common sense. We are all followers, and in truth we all need to become leaders of our own lives. This means taking responsibility.
We have lost our own spirit that guides each of us to become leaders of ourselves. It is the spirit that gives us our identity with complete instructions and responsibilities.
A New Life
Nature is unleashing her natural forces that man cannot control. Mother Earth began thawing the icebergs in Greenland to turn into water. This water can be viewed as the entrance for a new life, where cleansing will follow.
There are cycles of time where life evolves and comes to a place where it renews again. There is first a time of purification and then a time of renewal. We are now in this time, the time of purification. Through the natural forces of nature, Mother Earth will lead this purification because we have forgotten the Original Instructions of how to live on Earth.
If we aren’t spiritually connected to the Earth, understanding spiritual reality and how to live on Earth, it is likely we will not make it. We will not survive. An alliance with nature and her laws is what is required.
We cannot exist without a healthy planet. The amount of damage we have done to the Earth is now beginning to show in the imbalance we have caused. The recent extremely hot temperatures and severe drought in the west are something of great concern. It is obvious we have not prepared for the sudden extreme changes we are facing around the world. Today, much of our planning should consider preparing for these changes that are inevitable. That is our first challenge. Then, laying down a foundation for the future in becoming better stewards of the land.
The cure for all these symptoms we face as a human family is reconnecting to the land. Working in alliance with nature and her natural laws is the key to ensuring our survival. We take the children to the land to find their identity and to learn the ancestral ways of stewardship. The Earth teaches us what love and kindness really looks like.
Everything the Creator made was good and spiritual – all living beings have a spirit. We are here on Earth for a short time, and then we return to the Spirit World. The Spirit World is everything. Our DNA is made from the same DNA as a tree. The tree breathes what we exhale. When the tree exhales, we need what the tree exhales. So, we share a common destiny with the tree. We are all from the Earth and when the Earth, Water, and atmosphere is corrupted, then it will create its own reaction. Mother Earth is reacting.
This is not a negative thing, it is evolution. When you look at it as evolution, it’s time, nothing stays the same. One of the first things we should do is plant something. That’s the first physical and spiritual connection. We should treat all things as spirit, realizing we are one family. Oneness is what we all need to understand. What happens in another part of the world is destined to happen in our area.
It’s never something like “the end”. It’s life; there is no end of life. Spirit lasts forever. You can’t kill spirit.
At this moment in time, we are being shown something by the first woman. It’s about life. Where does life come from? It comes from Woman, Mother Earth. Take the guns out of your hands, men…
We must stop defending the corporate world that is destroying life. Drop the weapons of war and wrap your arms around a tree, a symbol of community and life itself.
Back in July 2009, I made a trip to Greenland, where the ice was melting. This journey left me with a lot of insights that helped reveal what I need to do today. Plant our obelisk, our tribute to the highest symbol of the Creator, the sun, the Poplar Tree, which is the Sun Dance Tree, at our Sacred Sites. The Youth must plant that tree. Some children should be present, with youth taking over the responsibility of leadership, founded on the Seven Sacred Laws.
The Tree represents the breath of life. It is a symbol of coming together in unity. The tree will act as a live obelisk to connect with the ancestors and the power of the cosmos, the sun, the stars, the moon, the other planets, and other forces from the universe. The ancestors will be the first to come through with a message.
The Perseid Meteor Shower is an annual meteor shower, sending hundreds of meteors falling to Earth every summer. The best view of the Meteor Shower is after midnight. What are the Meteors bringing to the Earth from the Sky? 100 per hour is quite a message. What do the Meteors and shooting starts represent? Our ancestors are bringing us a message to wake up.
The most important thing that we can do today is to teach our children about leadership. We need to change the values from power and authority to responsibility, serving the community, not the corporate world, or government policies of control and domination.
In today’s world, the corporations are the driving forces of decision making. They are not concerned with human rights. There is no concern for human life. They are not even concerned with providing a proper living wage for the people that are working for them.
What kind of decisions are going to be made on our behalf by these economic powers?
Our world is driven by economics; it’s not driven by common sense. Common sense is spiritual. All humans are born with common sense. Everyone should be their own leader. Do you think for yourself?
Dreams, visions, Ceremony, and listening to the messages that Nature provides are very important. Whenever we hear a dream, the heart recognizes it as the truth. Dreams and visions will help guide us in how we need to move forward. It is through Ceremony and with the help of the Elders that we will be able to interpret our dreams.
Nature’s Laws are self-enforcing. What we put into our circle always returns to our web of life. Nature is always giving us signs to bring us messages, through the winds, the weather, and the animals: the four-legged, the crawlers, the finned, and the winged. It is the responsibility of the Elders to teach the children to depend on their dreams, and to read and listen to the messages and instructions that Nature provides.
If everybody followed the Spiritual and Natural Laws of the universe, these laws would grow and become endless. But if you challenge these laws, and think you can change the law, or that you are above the law, then you are bound to fail. That failure will bring a lot of pain because the law has no mercy. It’s only the law.
Following the natural laws and working together, as brothers and sisters from all colours, faiths, religions, and traditions of the human family, will ensure a better future for our Children and the next generations. This is what our Elders and Knowledge Keepers tell us. Every act of kindness sets off a chain reaction with the powers of nature that are in support of life. Natural laws and forces of nature are self-enforcing, more powerful than any human laws we could possibly create.
The Earth is all powerful. Man has no power to ever defeat the power of the Earth. We can be knocked off the Earth, like a dog wagging its tail to throw off the fleas.
We are coming down to the final stretch, racing toward the finish line, and there is a stone wall. We are not stopping; in fact, we are accelerating. That’s the way Indigenous Knowledge Keepers see the misuse of the Earth’s resources. We are using Earth’s resources faster than she is producing. We are heading towards disaster.
We face a moral crisis. If you don’t have a moral question in your governing process, then you don’t have a process that’s going to survive. That’s the governing law – the moral question. We must have a moral society, or we will have no society at all.
Every single day we don’t do what is right is a day we have lost an option. We are losing our options every day.
Our Great Creator has always sent messengers. It’s unfortunate that they were all killed by the very people they wanted to help. Today’s messengers are the Indigenous Knowledge Keepers who remember the Original Instructions we were given to live on Earth. We are in the midst of an ending and a beginning of the Old Way. This is the ending of the “new world” of economics.
The Young People
As the First Peoples it is most important to embrace our identity if we are going to be of any help in providing leadership and a foundation for our survival as humanity. All Peoples were given Original Instructions on how to be a human being, which describe our true identity as humans. It is the spirit in each of us that carries the memory of our Original Instructions and each of our specific identities, like nature itself.
We should begin with Young People of all cultures, preparing them and teaching them based on our traditions, how to have a sacred relationship with the Earth. Mentorship by the Elders and Knowledge Keepers can support our Children in knowing their identity and feeling the land. Knowledge Keepers can lead by creating Earth-centred education approaches, including rites of passage and ancient approaches of connecting to the land.
In their rite of passage to adulthood, Youth become connected to the land, the original Mother and teacher for us all. They find their own identity and purpose by going into ancient ceremonies, guided and led by the Grandmothers and Elders.
A boy becomes a man, giving of himself by fasting for four days, seeking a vision or dream on the land, that will give him his purpose and meaning in life. It is true that all men must be initiated by Woman to understand life’s sacredness. A Young man must seek a vision for himself on a Vision Quest and be initiated by Mother Earth.
The Young girls who have just begun to bleed for the first time are brought to the Grandmothers, who provide sacred ceremony and instruction for them on their responsibilities as sacred life givers and water carriers, and how to honour and take care of themselves as women.
No human being can ever tell another what their identity should be. Each person needs to make their journey to the land, to feel their own spirit, and find their own identity. Only once that journey has been made will one love themselves as they are in how they identify.
Change is paramount now – we cannot wait anymore. We must find this spirit of working together within the diversity of the human family. Collectively, there is the necessary knowledge available that can enable change in our relationships with each other and our relationship with the land.
The Knowledge Keepers bring a message of respect for all life, and thanksgiving for life and all living things. It is nothing less than a message of peace. It comes from the land, Mother Earth. The woman carries life. She is fundamentally important, without her there is no life.
Life comes from two – the female and the male. Everything you see on Earth is in twos. Nothing is by itself. Nothing can move by itself. We have to work together as one.
We each have a responsibility to ensure our children have a spiritual foundation and are provided opportunities to find their identity and connect to our original Mother, the Earth. We need to provide more opportunities for our children to receive their Spiritual Names, and participate in Rites of Passage Ceremonies, where they themselves learn to seek the spiritual direction of their purpose in life.
The Elders remind us that we each have a beautiful gift to share and an identity, complete with original instructions on how to take care of each other and our home, Mother Earth.
It is our Ancestral way of life, our Ceremonies, our Drums, our Pipes, and Rattles, our Sacred Lodges and the comfort offered by Mother Earth herself, that hold the key to healing and moving forward.
Our Children and Young People must be supported and empowered, to know they have everything they need within themselves. We can support them in connecting to their spirit, finding their identity and nurturing their spiritual gifts in our Ceremonies, in our Sacred Lodges and on the land.
Our Sacred Sites
We must move towards independence to help our Nations find healing, unity and peace, and to rekindle our identity as kind, strong, proud and vibrant Original Nations and Peoples, deeply connected to the Spirit and the land.
Indigenous Knowledge Keepers have offered guidance on supportive acts they feel would help our Nations rebuild and heal from the devastating effects of domination that have taken place over the last 500 years in our homeland.
Through the legislation of the Indian Act for many years Indigenous Peoples were denied access to our Sacred Sites in our Homeland. It has only been in recent times that our People have begun to make our way back, to begin at our places of beginning. The first step in establishing our independence and autonomy is by reactivating our Sacred Sites in all our Nations, across the country.
Since Creation, our beginning, our Nations have gathered on our Sacred Sites. They gathered to share knowledge, medicines, ceremonies, and prophecies. For the Original People, making a journey to our Sacred Sites helps us to reconnect to the Great Spirit in our lives, in the same way people of other cultures make pilgrimages to their sacred places. For us, the land and a journey to our Sacred Sites is a living manifestation of the divine. In making the journey back to our Sacred Sites, we can begin our real healing and receive the fullness of our spiritual connection and our connection to the land.
If there is to be a full spirit of reconciliation, our Sacred Sites must be returned back into our care. Apologies and money are one step in providing some comfort but can only go so far. The reclaiming of our Sacred Sites is an act of great significance. As the First Peoples, we must articulate our full autonomy of our Sacred Sites. This will be the foundation of our rebirth and resurgence as a People in our arrival back to the spiritual ways of our Ancestors.
Establishing the autonomy of our Sacred Sites will allow us to position the Children at the centre of our lives. We must support our Children by providing opportunities for connecting to their spirit, finding their identity and nurturing their spiritual gifts in our Ceremonies, in our Sacred Lodges and on the land, beginning at our Sacred Sites.
Sacred Sites play an important role in our health and well-being. They are culturally and ecologically important places for our future generations. Returning to our Sacred Sites, to spiritually care for and connect to the land and our Ancestors, will provide healing and improve the spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental wellness of our children and the next generations.
Prophecy foretold that this land would be returned to us, and it is our responsibility to lead in the stewardship of the land. This will not happen until we fully embrace our identity as the Original People. We have to follow the spiritual ways of our Ancestors. Through natural law, the land will respond to the expression of our identity.
Sacred Sites provide the physical foundation for our Nations’ Creation Stories. The Sacred Sites are the golden thread that connects each generation to our Ancestors and knits us into the fabric of our culture and identity.
The Sacred Sites will ground us in our identity and bring us our dreams and visions. At the Sacred Site, we can build places of education – Sacred Teaching and Healing Lodges led by the First Peoples – to learn about the ways of our Ancestors and find our way again. We call on our brothers and sisters of all colours – our allies in our homeland – to help support the reclaiming of our Sacred Sites and the building of these Sacred Lodges, which will stand as beacons to guide us home.
All people are welcome to contribute to the return of our Sacred Sites and building of these Sacred Lodges. Each of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, has a shared responsibility to restore the memory, teachings, and ancestral practices of our way of life.
We need to fully support and establish our own fully autonomous places of higher learning, led by the Knowledge Keepers of our Nations. There needs to be an investment in Indigenous infrastructures where we create the environment for the Knowledge Keepers who are fluent in the language and rooted in the ceremonies of our people to do their work with Young People: gathering, seeking direction in a ceremonial context, and offering vision and frameworks for climate solutions.
Ancestral Sacred Lodges, places of learning and healing, should be supported. They can offer an Indigenous perspective on having a sacred relationship with the land.
We have an existing model that came through a vision called the Turtle Lodge – Debwegamik – a place of healing, learning, truth, spiritual law, natural law – a place of the heart. It is a place today that Elders from many Nations refer to as our Central House of Knowledge.
The Turtle Lodge is an example of living our autonomy and ensuring we always follow a ceremonial context in most everything we do. When the original vision of the Turtle Lodge was received in dream and in Ceremony, part of that vision showed that the first Grandmother Turtle Lodge would give birth to other Turtle Lodges.
The Elders are calling to extend this model of the Turtle Lodge, beginning by building a Turtle Lodge at the Sacred Site of Manitou Api at the geographical centre in the heartland of Turtle Island, that would act as the Centre to the individual Sacred Lodges in different Nations across the country. This would be a place to unify our Nations at a central location at the Manitou Api Sacred Site, where we can gather and connect to our Ancestors.
The Turtle Lodge is a model that can exist in any part of our homeland and around the world for those who want to share and learn the original teachings that reflect the spiritual identity of their Nation. The vision of these Turtle Lodges is to create an experience of spirit, connected to the land. It is really up to the people whether they wish to be a part of the original spiritual vision received and to take advantage of this model of the Turtle Lodge – honouring the free choice of the people.
We have arrived in a time when we need to build on values that support life, values that stem from the heart – being kind, humble, showing respect, loving all of creation. Our memory of these values and our original instructions as the Original Peoples will be kindled and awakened as we make our journey back into our Sacred Sites.
We all have a responsibility to become a voice of Spirit, a voice of the land. Nature shows us it is the principle of working together with diverse approaches, based on sacred values and natural laws that keep the balance. Let the land, which is full of the spirit of life, be our connection and the foundation of our new world.