3 Young men humble themselves for a vision for the people

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Earlier this week, three young men answered the call made by Elders from six Manitoba First Nations. Their mission – to fast for four days at the sacred site of Manitou Api to seek direction on a way forward, on behalf of the people, from the Spirit and the land. This mission also represented the beginning of their training to become true guardians of the Earth. This act of seeking vision from the spirit and the land was part of the fulfilment of a prophecy of the First Peoples, that a small group of people would retrace the steps of their ancestors to seek knowledge and understanding of a good and peaceful way of life. As they embarked on this spiritual journey, many people from across the country made efforts to support them. Many prayed for them. There were Chiefs and leaders who sent messages of support, and some sent donations that could help with their Feast. After preparation through the sweat lodge and being counselled by the Elders, the young men went into the sacred site, where they built a sacred fire, and each constructed his fasting lodge made up of eight willow poles. The lodges looked a little bit like sweat lodges. When the three young men – Cody Courchene (Sagkeeng), Roy Ettawacappo (Norway House), Scott Paupanekis (Norway House) – had completed their mission, they came back into the sweat lodge for cleansing, thanksgiving and purification. They were then welcomed and honoured at the Turtle Lodge by the Elders, families, friends and supporters. They were given the opportunity to share their experience. They shared visions and dreams they had received, visions that belong to the people, to all of us. The Elders have begun to help interpret these visions.   WORKING TOGETHER Each of them recalled what the Elders had said to them before they began – that this was not going to be easy; that this was going to be one of the hardest things they would ever do, as they would be giving of themselves on behalf of all people. They each acknowledged how hard this had been for them – there were times they felt so weak that they thought they would not have the strength to make it. By relying on each others’ strengths they were able to encourage each other and make it through till the end. Through this experience the young men learned how to work together, to take care of the fire, to encourage each other, and to share what they were each going through. Then they shared their dreams and experiences, what they had seen…   A DREAM OF PEOPLE GATHERING One shared that he had a dream of many people gathering: they were getting ready to go somewhere; they were packing their bags, and he kept asking, “Where are you going? Why is everybody packing?” The young man heard the reply from one of the people that had gathered: “We are going back. We are going back to the sacred site.” And then the dream ended. The young man understood this to mean that was the direction that was coming from the Spirit: that the ancestors wanted the people to go back to their way of life, and go back to the sacred site. They understood that the sacred site called Manitou Api – ‘Where the Creator Sat’ – held the knowledge of a way of life. According to the Creation story it was where the Great Spirit had given the teachings and the original instructions to the Original People of Turtle Island.   A VISION OF THE ANCESTORS Another young man saw an ancestor, a Grandfather, sitting there at the sacred fire, watching them. At first he thought it was one of the other fasters, and he began speaking to the figure as he put wood on the fire, but when he turned around, the person had disappeared. The ancestor appeared to be watching over them. A little while later, in the mist in the fog in the east, two Grandmothers appeared. Once again, he was seeing again in vision the presence of the ancestors. All of that represented the clear evidence of the presence of the ancestors at the sacred site.   A VISION OF LIFE IN THE LAND One of the fasters said he saw the land like he had never seen it before.  All three of the young men expressed that they felt like they had become a part of the land, and that they were fully accepted by the animals and all of nature as being a part of the land.   A VISION OF A GRANDMOTHER GIVING THEM WATER IN COPPER CUPS One young man shared that he saw there were three copper cups laying in front of them, and all he could see was the wrinkled hand of an ancient Grandmother handing them those three copper cups filled with water. He could see the water glistening and dripping out of those copper cups. Spiritually they were being given water in their time of thirst; somehow the Grandmothers came to give them water to quench their thirst. The Elders are telling them they need to each get a copper cup to bring to ceremony each time there is a water ceremony for the Grandmothers to give them water that has been lifted for blessing in ceremony. This direction also applies to all of us – that everyone should get a copper cup to drink water that has been blessed by the women.   BECOMING PART OF THE LAND… THE APPEARANCE OF A BEAVER, DEER, EAGLES, WHITE BUTTERFLY AND MOSQUITOES The young men had just finished smoking their Pipes, when suddenly a large muscular beaver appeared and walked right in front of them as if he didn’t notice them. They could feel the strength of that beaver as he walked amongst them. Then these deer appeared, not afraid of their presence as humans, even though the young men were moving around. This is when they truly felt that they were a part of the land; the animal world was showing them they were not afraid of them but accepted them fully. A white butterfly sat on the nose of one of the young men. Another young man was startled out of his sleep hearing a voice coming from a mosquito, that was physically buzzing by his ear. The voice said, “The fire is almost out!” Sure enough, there were only a couple of coals smouldering and he quickly put wood on the fire. The first day three bald eagles appeared as if to acknowledge their arrival, and to encourage them. “There’s us!” said one young man to the other two. “That’s going to be us when we get out of here! We’re going to feel really great,” he said. “They’re trying to show us we can be free like them, if we live our way of life.” On the final day eight eagles appeared in the sky. The Elders said that those eagles represented the eight paths, or eight tipis of life, found on the symbol of the eight-pointed star. When they saw those eagles, they felt they were being told, “You are now going to be free, free to live!”   A DREAM OF A DRUNK MAN AND A SOBER MAN One young man had a dream of a drunk man and a sober man. The drunk man was fighting the sober man, accusing him of many things, while it was the drunk man who was producing many children, but not taking care of them. The message was clear – that alcohol and drugs destroy and attack the people, and make them turn against each other. In the dream, the sober man did not budge or get angry, even when the drunk man was yelling at him. That message was also clear – to take the higher road even when one is being criticized or unfairly persecuted; that higher road is one of peace and following the sacred laws of the people.   A DREAM OF A DARK TUNNEL Another dream a young man was being led into a dark tunnel; it scared him in his dream. He was doing everything he could in the tunnel to wake up, and he understood deeply that the people who were not walking that good way of life were living in the darkness. He felt the meaning of the Anishinabe word, Ohnishkak… “we all need to wake up”.   KIIZHAY MANITOU, KINANAKOMIN!  These words, “Kiizhay Manitou, Kinanakomin!” kept coming into the mind of one of the young men. They are translated from Anishinabemowin as “Great Spirit, the Greatest Being of Kindness, I feel the greatest fullness of appreciation for you!” It was a message that kept coming, a reminder to all of us to live in gratitude.  

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE…

MIITOOSH ZINI GAYWIN

“THE WAY OF THE POPLAR TREE… DANCING TO THE TREE OF LIFE IN CELEBRATION OF LIFE”  There were many other visions and dreams the young men experienced, which they shared with the Elders. The Elders tried to piece them together to bring a direction of action for the people. It was felt that the instructions came to go back to the sacred site of their people – that would be how the people would get out of that darkness. It was then decided that through their journey, the visions, the dreams, the presence of the animals and the coming of the ancestors, that there had to be something that had to be done to support the call that was being made to the people to come back to the sacred site. It was agreed together with the ones who had gone to seek the vision and the Elders who had supported them, that a special dance be called to celebrate life. The Elder named the dance that will be done “Miitoosh zini gaywin” – which means “The way of the poplar tree – dancing to the tree of life in celebration of life” in the Ininimowin (Cree) language. The young men will help lead the gathering with the help of the Elders. They will call upon the many different dancers that participate in ceremony. A call will be made to the Sundancers, the Warrior Dancers, the Ghost Dancers, Grass Dancers, Jingle Dress Dancers, Traditional Dancers, the Windigokon Dancers, and other dancers who dance in ceremony. The time that was selected was around the Full Moon in late September (September 22-25) in acknowledgement of the late Robin Greene telling the people that autumn is a time of thanksgiving and appreciation, the time that the ancestors are best able to support the people, and also a time for the people to dance in honour of the ancestors. The people have to celebrate and dance for life. All those dancers are there to reflect a way of life that has many beautiful colours, like the leaves of autumn – the Ghost Dance where we honour the ancestors, the Sundance where we to honour the Creator through the sun, the Warrior Dance where we learn to become true leaders of the people, and the other Dances that will be explained at the gathering. All that will be shared but the call is being made. The people will begin by dancing at the Turtle Lodge – Miitoosh zini gaywin – the way of the poplar tree – dancing to the tree of life, preparing for their journey to the sacred site by dancing at the Lodge. The dancers will be prepared to go and fulfill the dream of the young people to go back to the land. We will celebrate by bringing back the sacredness of the Dances the people were given. After our preparation at the Turtle Lodge, we will take a full day to make a journey of a caravan to the sacred site of Manitou Api, where we will dance and feast the ancestors, confirming our return to our place of beginning.   HONOURING THE YOUNG MEN AS WARRIORS The Elders have always had a way to honour those that have sacrificed themselves for the people. Each of the young men who had fasted was given a Warrior Staff, representing their leadership as they came forward to answer the call to sacrifice of themselves for the people. The Elders told them, “This is the beginning of your training to become spiritual leaders of the people.” The Elders felt their spirit as young men being humble in asking for a vision. One of them had prayed for the language to be brought back to the people. The Elders knew that the sacred site holds the memory of the original language. The young men were honoured with blankets, and ribbon shirts were given to them, in acknowledgement of their identity. They were also gifted with knives that would address physical survival, such as being able to skin a rabbit, moose, deer, and other animals needed for our survival. They were given painted shields, which represented the spiritual protection that they would receive from the Grandfathers. They were told those shields would only work when they reflected kindness for all of life. The shields would not work if they were angry or used force. It would be their acts of kindness and humbleness that would activate those shields to protect them. Through a ceremony done by the Elders, they also received the knowledge of the Warrior that they are – Roy Ettawacappo became a Brown Buffalo Warrior, Scott Paupanekis a Black Bear Warrior and Cody Courchene a White Spotted Horse Warrior. They will come dressed like those Warriors at the dance that they will help lead in September with the help of the Elders. The first thing they ate at their Feast on July 1 was a special soup prepared from the moose heart and the moose tongue. They would become like the spirit of the moose on the land by eating this medicine, shared the Elders. The moose would recognize them as their brothers. They must teach the people how to show respect for the animals that give their life to the people. Finally the Elders asked the three young men to come to a special national gathering of Elders and Knowledge Keepers called Zuguswediwin – A Lifting of the Pipe – taking place July 19-22 at the Turtle Lodge – to share with the people what they were told. They all agreed that they would be there. And so it begins with the next generation taking up their responsibilities of our beautiful way of life. Kiizhay Manitou, Kinanakomin!
4 Comments for : 3 Young men humble themselves for a vision for the people
    • Joie Bourisseau
    • July 4, 2018
    Reply

    While reading through the great sharings from these young men, my heart swelled larger and larger with each successive story. Their interactions with The People, and with our Ancient Ones, deeply touched my expanding heart. In this well presented description and interpretations, I felt the powerful interrelationships that restored vitality to some of the roots, trunk and branches on the sacred tree of life. Most significantly, for me, was my own visitation by an Ancient One during this same period. I am deeply humbled to realize that what I had thought was a profound personal experience in its own accord, appears to be extending through the web of life, connecting the immense energies and consciousness of reUnion. I deeply bow to the Great Mystery that connects us all.

    • Grandmother Dona
    • July 4, 2018
    Reply

    Whenibecame aware of this sacrifice these brave young men were making for the future of all the planet, I went into silent prayer for two days. I prayed for their safty and that clear visions would come. Tears come as I read of their vision journey. It was the loud clap of thunder with the lightning that confirmed to me that their mission was complete here where I was in Ohio. As it was I the beginning is now a ever shall be world without end. Thoroughout this vision quest I was deeply touched by the bravery of these young men and wanted them to know that on the behalf of Earth Mother and humanity we are truly grateful.

    • Frances
    • July 4, 2018
    Reply

    Deeply moved and emotional as I read the story of the young men. It provides us with hope and faith for our way of being. Thank you for sharing and I hope I can be at the celebration.

    • Eliza Wolf
    • July 6, 2018
    Reply

    I am honored that their journey has been shared with me and many others blessings to each of these young men I hope to be there in September to stand proudly in honor of these young men

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