National Reconciliation Gathering – Opening Remarks by Nii Gaani Aki Inini, March 11, 2016

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Waneek Horn Miller and Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man – Dave Courchene).  Photo Courtesy: Joseph Peace, Reconciliation Canada

NATIONAL RECONCILIATION GATHERING

UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA

OPENING REMARKS

DAVE COURCHENE – NII GAANI AKI ININI (LEADING EARTH MAN) - ANISHINABE NATION, EAGLE CLAN

FRIDAY MARCH 11, 2016

Boozhoo… Dinay Maginitook… As the Original Peoples of our homeland, we can offer a leadership that carries the strong memory of our ancestral ways that reflected a love of spirit and a love for the land. As a People we come forward with a vision that transcends our recent experience over these past 500 years, a gift that can help all children, all People, find our way back to the heart – living a way of peace. The Pope recently acknowledged Indigenous Peoples when he spoke in Mexico. He stated: “Your peoples…know how to interact harmoniously with nature. And yet, on many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society. Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them. How sad this is.” Our current reality is that we continue to face overwhelming challenges. One of those challenges is the epidemic of suicide in our youth. We must return to the beginning – and the beginning is the spirit and a return to the land – to find direction, healing and comfort. When we connect to the spirit and the land, we reconnect to the internal compass that is within all of us, through which we are guided by the Great Spirit – Kiizhay Manito. The greatest tools that we bring to reconciliation are the Spirit and the land. Through the Laws of Spirit and the land, we are guided to make better choices for ourselves and our children. The spirit and the land bring us the values that can steer us in the right direction. They give us an understanding of our individual responsibilities, our responsibilities to each other, to our families, our communities, our Nations, and our responsibilities to the Earth herself. We were created as social beings and as human beings we are searching for connection – searching for love. We all want to belong to something and be a part of something greater. Our People have understood that making that first connection with the spirit and the land is what opens our hearts to a deeper connection with each other – to truly feeling that essence of love and peace. The relationship to the spirit and the land was what addressed our need for belonging to something that was full of life. 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 Ogichitibakonikaywin – The Great Binding Law. In finding reconciliation we must reconcile with the Earth herself, who is a Mother to us all, and who will initiate us all back into the ways of the heart. Our family includes not just our human family, but just as much the animals, the birds, the fish, the plants and the trees, the sun, the water the air and the land – which all form part of the great interdependent web of life. It is the land we live on that truly defines our identities, sustains our families and communities, and provides us with the knowledge of how to live. Earlier this week the world celebrated International Women’s Day. For us as the Original Peoples we honour our life-givers, our mothers, and our grandmothers, who are our leaders and knowledge keepers. We extend our gratitude to the Original Woman herself – Mother Earth, who initiates and leads us all. What is our vision for the future, our collective purpose? Reconciliation is about returning to an understanding of our real purpose as human beings – which is to bring love and peace to the world, reflected in our stewardship of the Earth and our care for each other. All children should be central in our efforts towards reconciliation. The strength and uniting force for all of us is 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 Peoples. Climate change is an issue we can all rally around, to help us find true reconciliation. Climate change is the result of living in ignorance of nature's laws, essentially disconnected. When we are disconnected from the land, it breeds values of greed, values of selfishness, and takes us away from each other in the human family. We develop an attitude that we never have enough and we lose sight of our true purpose. Losing sight, we can see no vision that can help bring peace. Somewhere on this planet we call Mother, there must be individuals of all colours who become the seeds of a new life. I believe that it is here in our homeland, that the seed must be planted. We have all the uniqueness of the human family that have arrived. I believe this is our destiny as a people to unite, to lead in planting the seed of peace in the land, with the inclusion of those who have arrived in on our homeland. We all have a collective responsibility in taking care of the Earth. Climate change has raised the bar of concern. We seize on these opportunities to share our concern, to share our willingness to participate collectively and face the challenges that climate change brings. As we engage in discussions, let us invoke the Spirit to come within our presence to offer us inspiration to help awaken each of us to live the truth of our humanity, to build and create peace in our world. Let us open our hearts to receive visions that help guide us to do the right things that will support all children to take care of the land so they can have a good future. We need to engage in defined actions for reconciliation, for the children. Now is the time to educate all children on the means of survival. Where do we begin? We must maximize the opportunities for our children to be on the land with Mother Earth, making an annual journey to the sacred sites to restore and strengthen our spirit as human beings. A key tool of reconciliation are our rites of passage for youth entering adulthood. The rites of passage are paramount in helping our young people reach adulthood as they learn and accept their duties and responsibilities. The girls need to be brought to their rites of passage to womanhood, led by the Grandmothers, to be taught by the Grandmothers about their sacredness as women.  All young girls deserve the right to be told the truth of their sacred power as women. The boys need to be brought to the land to seek their vision, which will bring purpose and meaning to their lives. We have to find common ground in our approach to taking care of the Earth and our children. We need to create a new economy that becomes our legacy for our young people, based on spiritual values, focusing on stewardship and restoration of the land, and the wellness of our children. The hope for our future as humanity rests within ourselves, within our own ability to change. Our task is to allow the heart to be our inspiration and our redemption. We want to be free from all that separates us, from hatred and intolerance. It is only when we serve the Spirit that we can become free, never overstepping the laws of nature. Real and true spirit always wants to be free, not enslaved by man-made laws and institutions. True reconciliation can only come when we have made peace with the Great Mystery and with the spirit of Mother Earth. As humanity we are at a crossroads and we have to make some choices. Technology has given us great comfort but at great cost to the environment. At some point we will have to give up and surrender this overindulgent way of life. Nature will help bring us back to balance. Climate change and reconciliation are about changing ourselves. We change ourselves by being true to our own spirit – our own uniqueness – each of us has a unique gift that identifies our purpose. When we are able to show respect for each other as diverse peoples, this will allow everyone the opportunity to come forward in finding resolve to our crisis. Our prophecies tell us we have arrived in a time of great change and great opportunity. The prophecies encourage us to establish a new leadership, a leadership that guides us to the way we want to see the world. A true leadership brings about a vision of a world that does not yet exist, and inspires us to move in that direction. All that is required now is the courage to support that vision and fulfill the prophecy that was left to us by our ancestors! IMG_3914 Dave Thorne, Deputy Chief of Winnipeg Police Service - left, and Anishinabe Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man - Dave Courchene) - right.  Photo Courtesy: Joseph Peace, Reconciliation Canada

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