Nii Gaani Aki Inini Presentation: “Strengthening the Spirit of Nationhood” – Turtle Lodge, October 17, 2016

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Dave Courchene 


Presentation by Nii Gaani Aki Inini – Leading Earth Man (Dave Courchene)

Shared at the Strengthening the Spirit of Nationhood Gathering

Turtle Lodge, October 17, 2016


In today’s reality, we strive to bring back a way of life our ancestors enjoyed before the arrival of the newcomers. Within a short period of time, the colonizer has managed to usurp our ancestral way of life. Now it seems as if it’s only a memory. We do have a genetic memory that reaches as far back as our Creation, and how we have found ourselves to be in our homeland. From the beginning of our Creation as a unique and distinctive people, we have evolved as a people with a full way of life, that defined our humanness. It was the Great Binding Law of the Creator that gave us understanding of our being as human beings. This memory is strong in our lodges. In today’s world, we struggle to live the ways of our ancestors. We struggle to find our identity, and we struggle to break away from the colonial system of imposition and domination. We try to resolve this through political endeavours – trying to convince the powers that be we have rights, and through the courts, hoping they will rule in our favour when it comes to aboriginal rights, land rights, etc. We can claim nationhood, we can claim sovereignty, and that is all it is, rhetoric. We continue to find ourselves locked in this environment of dependency, this environment of poverty, this poverty that brings the symptoms of addiction, lateral violence, the worst health conditions, and a crisis of suicide amongst our young people. Just claiming our nationhood is not good enough. We have to live it in our personal and daily lives, and hopefully enough will create a movement towards our freedom as a people. Our nationhood defines who we are. Are we really being true to ourselves by continuing to except and live by the colonizer? Who is an Anishinabe? What duties and responsibilities that are great creator give us to live the living spirit of being an Anishinabe? This is not a political question we face, nor will we resolve it in a political sense. It is a spiritual question that each of us has to answer. If we are ever to find ourselves again as a people, it begins with Spirit, and we must return to the beginning. To many of the true grandmothers, their understanding of the beginning was the sweat lodge and all the other lodges that followed from this beginning. The sweat lodge represents the womb of woman. All of this makes so much sense, going back into the womb to trigger the memory of our own Creation. This is where we begin in living our nationhood, and that is in ceremony. And remembering my own personal journey, the Grandmothers recognized I was angry and fully operating from the limits of my own mind. I lacked the spiritual connection. In her great wisdom, a Grandmother said, “You cannot live your life in anger, otherwise you will darken your heart, and poison your blood. You will hurt yourself and you will hurt others too, in your anger.” I found myself for the first time in the sweat lodge. There are no words to describe what I felt. It was nothing less then feeling I was being born again. I was given another chance to lift my spirit. The Grandmother and other Elders continued to guide me and teach me on my path of my own self-discovery. It was and continues to be nothing less than a spiritual journey. A journey that has led me to understand what we search for is already inside each of us. It is held in the spirit, and in our own hearts. It is in our ceremonies and in our being close to the land that we have the best chance of finding ourselves. It is the best chance we have in our healing. We have to heal in order to move forward. Talking and complaining is useless; what is required is personal action, making a personal choice towards our own healing. As we go through our healing, our dreams will return, visions will also return; it is the connection to the Spirit we need the most. It is the Spirit that can guide and help direct us towards the proper path our Great Creator gave us. This journey requires the help from the Knowledge Keepers who know the protocols to be followed in helping someone find themselves. It is our Knowledge Keepers, and our traditional Grandmothers, who will help in our spirit of return. As each individual follows its spirit with the help of Elders and the ceremonies, it will lead to others who have embarked on a similar spiritual journey. They will reach a collective understanding and join to advance the position of our nationhood. This will all be done without confrontation or seeking validation from any human influence. It will be done following the Spirit, staying connected to the ceremonies. As we develop a strong connection with the Spirit, we quickly realize that what is most important is having an alliance with the Spirit and the land itself, the true source of power, a power that can only be accessed with a spirit that reflects kindness, humbleness and respect for all life. Our return to the ancestral ways will not be realized by political rhetoric, blaming, playing the victim, or writing a constitution defined by what we feel are our own Indigenous laws. No, it can only happen by living the spirit with the ancestors. And in order to do this one has to learn about that way of life, experience the teachings first hand that are best experienced in the lodges of our nations. Language also becomes important in living our nationhood. We continue to talk about what is not working.   But what about what can work for us, what can help our children to be strong? The rites of passage for our youth is living and supporting our nationhood. All it requires is our efforts as parents to support our youth to become strong adults and parents. Today we are in discussion on how we will collectively take care of the sacred site called Manito Api. Will we again approach this, hoping we can resolve this politically, dealing with the province who say they have sole jurisdictional control over the land? Do we go into their environment and argue our case? How do we practice our nationhood when it comes to taking care of this most sacred site? If we approach it from the spirit of true nationhood, then we ourselves must make proper use of the site – take maximum benefit of what the sacred site has to offer. If we want to formalize our efforts, then let us organize and unite as one people, establishing ourselves as the true caretakers of the sacred site. Let us as a group teach everyone about how we should take care of the land together. When we take care of the land, we take the lead in a spiritual way, not in a political way. Our leadership will always, always rely on our connection to the Spirit, the connection to our ancestors on the sacred site. We have to get out of the mindset that we need approval and validation from the colonizer to legitimize who we are as a people, and to legitimize our true leadership in our homeland. The spirit of our ancestors have always been watching over us, and they continue to be there to offer us all the help we will need to live our true destiny in our homeland. It is a matter for each of us to reconnect to the Spirit and depend on the land for our healing. It has to start from somewhere, from those that are truly connected and having full faith in the Spirit, and our way of life. We have to find within ourselves those who will make a commitment to taking care of the land, and also how we will use it for the benefit of our children and our people. Let us get united amongst ourselves. Let the Elders and Knowledge Keepers be the ones who will help us to ensure we stay on the path; that we stay connected to the Spirit as we embrace our way of life. Nii Gaani Aki Inini – Leading Earth Man (Dave Courchene), Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan is the Founder of Turtle Lodge.  
nov27final On October 17 and 18, 2016, Elder and Youth representatives from many First Nation communities met at the Turtle Lodge to discuss how to strengthen nationhood at the Strengthening the Spirit of Nationhood Gathering.  The communities came together over the issue of protecting and bringing out leadership protocols for the sacred site of Manitou Api. The communities decided to build the spirit of unity and nationhood by initiating monthly gatherings to share teachings, hosted by a different community each time, around each new moon, in their local lodges and community centres. With the help of Knowledge Holders, who shared the very old language,  the communities named this process Mide Aniicinabe Akiing (pronounced Mi-day Anee-ci-na-bay A-keeng), which means “Kind-Hearted People of the Land”. The first Mide Aniicinabe Aki Gathering will take place at Turtle Lodge on November 27, from 10 am to 6 pm.  All are welcome!  Youth are encouraged to attend and participate!  Please bring a dish to share.

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