Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seven Gifts-MANAADJITOWAAWIN (Respect)

The third Grandfather offered the gift of MANAADJITOWAAWIN (Respect), so that he would give respect to everyone, all human beings and all things created.

The term “Respect” is used liberally in “Indian Country.” From early on we are taught to respect our elders, respect the earth, respect our parents….but what does it mean to have respect?

Is it positional? You have to respect me because I am important!

Is it earned? Because of an act of bravery, kindness etc. we respect someone for what they have done.

Is it relational? We respect another person because we know and like them.

Is it unconditional? We respect another because we all need to coexistence on Mother Earth.

While we “talk the talk” about respect, do we really “walk the talk” when it comes to respect? Too often we pick and choose who or what we will respect, placing conditions on this gift handed to us by the Grandfathers so that we could live in peace and harmony.

Respect begins with me. I need to respect myself first! I cannot show respect to others if I do not respect myself. Just as we care for Mother Earth, we need to care for these vessels that carry our spirit. That means balancing mind, body, spirit and emotion. When we respect ourselves, then respecting all human beings and all things created become second nature.

One final thought-if you need to go around and demand respect, you have neither earned it nor deserve it.

This week make a conscious effort to respect the world we live in by doing something as simple as picking up litter, respect our elders by visiting a shut in and listening to their stories and respect other people by showing kindness instead of malice.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seven Gifts - ZAAGIDWIN (Love)

Throughout existence, man has fueled his anger and rage with hate.  Hate for this world, hate for their neighbor, hate for those different from themselves and yes, even hate of themselves.  The Grandfathers gave us the gift of love but what does that mean?  I was taught that there are four colors in our medicine wheel-each color representing one of the four races of man.  I was also taught that we are all related. The opposite of love is hate. If we are commanded to love one another, why is there so much hate and discord?  I think the underlying cause of hate is fear.  We fear what we do not know, we fear displacement, we fear losing our status…

It is not easy loving other people, especially those that we deem unlovable. But the Grandfathers taught us that we are to love one other. In order to love another person, we need to see them as equals to us.  That takes both respect and humility on our part.

If you are having trouble loving someone that the Creator has put in your life, pray that the Creator would not only give you a love for that person but that he would also bless them.  It may not happen overnight but the more you pray for another person, the more your heart softens andthat hate melts away.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seven Gifts-Wisdom

The Gifts

A long, long time ago, the Grandfathers gave the Anishinaabe people seven gifts or teachings in which we were to live our lives by. Those seven gifts were NIBWAAKAAWIN (Wisdom), ZAAGIDWIN (Love), MANAADJITOWAAWIN (Respect), AAKODEWIN (Bravery), GWEKOWAADIZIWIN (Honesty), DIBAADENDIZOWIN (Humility) and DEBWEWIN (Truth). Each of these gifts are interconnected and if we follow these teachings, we are well on our way to living a balanced and holistic life.

Each morning I pray to the Creator, give me the wisdom to know right from wrong and the courage to do what is right. If we possess wisdom, we will make good decisions.

There was a time, when I was much younger, in which I thought I knew more than I did. Through trial and error, I soon learnt that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. While I would have liked to have made better decisions, those experiences have shaped who I am and what I know today.

Sadly some people never learn from their mistakes but instead, wallow in their own foolishness. They continue to do the things that got them in trouble in the first place and the end result is often dismal, if not tragic.

Mark Twain warns, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.” While humorous, there is some truth to what Twain says. We learn wisdom through experience but we can also learn by listening and observing others. If we keep our mouth shut and our ears open, we can learn wisdom.

While wisdom can be learned, it was also a gift given to us by the Grandfathers. Therefore, if you lack wisdom, pray that the Creator will give you that gift. It is ours for the asking but not for our own edification, but for the people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sikh Temple Candle Light Vigil “Uplift & Heal”

Last year, my nephew Sammy Rangel developed a relationship with the Sikh community in southeastern Wisconsin after the horrific shooting which claimed six lives. One year later, he played a role in bringing the Native American community to the temple to honor the memory of those who were slain.

I know many in the Sikh community and have often driven past the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin but I have never stopped.  Last night was different.  Sammy invited me to participate in the vigil which was planned, so after work I headed for the temple, not knowing what to expect.

As I pulled into the driveway, I wasn’t prepared for the surge of emotion I would feel as I walked across the parking lot.  Tears welled up in my eyes and I fought back the urge to weep.  This ground was as hallowed as Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Sandy Lake and the Trail of Tears.  Blood had been needlessly and recklessly shed and I felt the grief that had hung over this place in the aftermath of these shootings.

I needed a few minutes to compose myself and I knew that I needed to put some asema down on that ground to honor those whose blood was shed.  I took a little, went over to the picture memorial, and placed it in front.  I said my prayers, gathered my thoughts and joined my friends.

Sammy had asked his Uncle’s drum group, Seven Springs, to sing at the memorial.  His Uncle Gary allowed me to sit with them and I was honored to be included.  I did not know the magnitude of the event going into it and it was larger than I ever thought.  Survivors and family members from other mass shootings spoke, a letter was read from the President and the faith community came together to support the Sikh community.

The most touching part of the memorial service was hearing from the families of those who had died.  We were filled with a range of emotions, from sorrow to joy but the one emotion that missing was anger.  Forgiveness and peace filled the air.  Yes there were some that still grieved but they would not allow that grief to turn to hate.

When the program was over, I thanked the organizers for allowing me the honor of sharing in their memorial.  They invited the community and the community showed up.  As I was walking out, I overheard two young men talking.

“What if…,” one young man said to the other but his friend looked at him and said, “If it did not happen, we would never have met all these people.”  Mitakuye oyasin! We are all related.