Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Lake Teachings Held at Red Lake College

Elders/Cultural Teachers Speak about Ceremony and the Sacred Lake

"You know... we've got to quit telling our people what to do and start telling them who they are." ~Gichi-Ma'iingan (Big Wolf) ROAD TO PONEMAH: The Teachings of Larry Stillday

On Monday, January 8, 2018, from 11 am to 1pm elders, First Speakers, Council members, Chiefs, youth and community members of all ages met at Red Lake Nation College. They gathered to speak and to learn about Manaaji'iwewin or Respect, Respect for people, Respect for the Teachings, and Respect for the Sacred Lake.

After an invitation was sent out via flyer to all communities by Cherilyn Spears, Special Projects Manager, and Sharon James, (both with Economic Development and Planning) an excellent turnout of 150 people attended the meeting at the College with only three days notice.

The impetus for the meeting at the college was spurred in part by a recent meeting of fishermen and others with the tribal council to discuss reopening the lake, which was closed after two fishermen, went missing back in November and who have not yet returned. Some were concerned about the spiritual/cultural aspects of the lake reopening.

More than 60 members attended the special meeting of the Red Lake Tribal Council on Wednesday, January 3. Red Lake law enforcement, fisheries staff, fishermen, DNR, Red Lake members, family members of the lost fishermen, and spiritual/cultural advisors weighed in on whether the lake should be reopened for fishing.

Cultural/spiritual advisors and elders urged respect and caution, as tradition and Ojibwe spirituality holds the lake sacred and alive, and must be paid the utmost respect by the people to whom the lake has fed for centuries.

Spiritual leader and Hereditary Chief Greeting Spears opened the Teaching with a prayer. "We will speak for what we were always taught, we must offer tobacco, we must have ceremony in honor of the spirits of the lake. This is who we are, it is important to know that this is who we are."

Next Nathaniel "Nate" Taylor of the Ojibwe Language Immersion School did a pipe ceremony, which was followed by the Immersion School Drum who offered four songs, according to an interview with Taylor.

A panel of elders and First Speakers, mostly from the Ojibwe Immersion program and the Elders Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee, many who are involved in both, sat at the front of the room and passed the mic to share the teachings and tradition of our ancestors. Most opened their talk speaking in their first language Ojibwemowin before switching to English. Red Lake Tribal Council member Gary Martin of Ponemah also sat on panel.

They spoke of Lake Teachings, which is about respect in the broadest sense, a respect that we have always had. "It was elaborate somehow," said Taylor. "It was so cool. The youth in the audience were quiet giving full attention to their elders as they spoke of cultural and spiritual aspects of being Red Lake Ojibwe."

"Before the big break, before the lake was fished out, the lake was treated different," said Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird, (a grandmother to one of the missing fishermen). "We had the utmost respect. Respect, there was no debate about respect. Overall as a Nation we should always carry that respect. The lake has taken care of the people. It is sacred. We must take care of it as it has taken care of us. Respect includes Bagijiigewewin (offering of gifts) and ceremony by the lake."

Elder Carol Barrett and member of the Elders Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee hushed the crowd as she described something often debated among members, including the current situation. What is the right way to hold a ceremony?

"Our way of life is mystery," said Barrett, "it is mysterious, sacred, and ceremonial. It is The Way of the Heart. Our spirituality is a tenacious, it has certain principles we must adhere to, but it is also flexible. We need to remember this when discussing ceremony with others. Our tradition provides a setting for teaching of the world view of the Ojibwa people." Other communities, and even other families have their ways to do ceremony. It may be different from what our family does, but it is not wrong...it's just different."

Several other elders, notably Frances Miller and members of the Tribal Council also addressed those gathered.

"Elders and the Council spoke," said Taylor. "There was a nice smooth flow to it, Young kids made tobacco offerings to the Drum, as Harvey Jourdain explained to the kids the significance of the offering."

Perhaps this teaching will lead to other cultural teachings. Liz Strong of Children and Family Services, says she'd like to have a meeting at the school to talk about legends in the High School culture room.

Some members of the Tribal Council did not know of the Elders Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee monthly meetings at Oshkiimaajitahdah. One council member suggested, "that when it comes to hard decisions regarding Red Lake culture and spirituality, perhaps we should seek their (the elders) counsel on such matters."

It was a good day, with good food served to all at the closing.

How Do We Live Right? (Larry Stillday)

"The teachings are not ancient, they never went away! So we ask, who moved? We need these Teachings now more than ever. Following the Teachings leads to well being and onto a good path in life. The Wisdom Keepers say, to heal the Nation we must first heal the individual, then family, and then community. And it's for anybody and everybody.

"The teachings are meant to work together, that's why they are in a Circle. If they were linear, they become a memory. When we break one heart, we break them all, as they are interconnected. If you don't have balance, you are part of the problem, because it's an interconnected system. The Teachings help us find that balance.

"The Spirits come out at certain times of the year, they look to the left and to the right. They are looking for ceremony. They come back to see if we are awake. We need the medicine of 'living right.' Manidoog (the Spirits) are looking for the ceremony by the Lake. When they see that, that's when the teaching comes." ~Gichi-Ma'iingan (Big Wolf) ROAD TO PONEMAH: The Teachings of Larry Stillday

 

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