Day 3: Our “Take Aways” May 27

Wow. What a Day! by Beth McLean Wiest

As I reflect on it now, our day with Marcel was also a circle divided into quadrants- it was like, through his teaching, we experienced the “Life Stages Circle”. I had no idea what we were experiencing then, however, now I see the sheer brilliance of Marcel’s approach…

We began with “The Basics of Anishinabe Philosophy” (akin to the “Mental – Physical” stage of the Life Circle): we were more or less completely uninformed and Marcel gave us facts that connected us to the Anishinabe through our own physical experiences.

Our following session was “Canadian History” (Physical – Emotional): what were missing aboriginal parts of our history, the impact of residential schools and the Indian Act. Next came “Spiritual Worldview” (Emotional – Spiritual): we were experiencing many emotions and our empathy was leading us to explore another worldview. And finally, “Our Response” (Spiritual – Mental): how would we respond to Marcel’s invitation to continue to learn and the challenge to be part of the solution.

We concluded our day with a Q & A and then with each of us sharing our “take away” of the day.

Q: Considering what you have inherited in terms of pain and loss, when you look at me as a white guy, what do you feel towards me or us, and what would it be like to imagine us going down the same river without interference?

A: I have never hated any of that. Instead I have tried to find ways that make systems work for community. Somewhere down the line the pain and loss becomes secondary and the system becomes primary.

Necessity unites us.

Q: How do we convince government and corporations to respect the 7 Laws?

A: It goes back to the Treaty. We are both a part of the treaty. From the Anishinabe perspective, treaty was always about sharing the wealth of the land. The spirit and intent of those treaties was about the pipe (honesty, faith, prayer). We feel that the treaties need to be honored. Royalties should have been paid.

Our own people have become administrators of the treaties.  The administrator of the Treaty is part of the Indian Act and the department of Indian Affairs and that person is part of the government. The Indian Act is not fair.

If the agreement is mutual then there is mutual power. If there isn’t equal power, then the power is in the interpreter of the agreement.

Prior to the treaties / Indian Act, chief plus council that was our created system.

Q: Why bother with Treaty?

A: There is a belief that this Philosophy and this Anishinabe teaching will prevail.

Get back to the heart of what the treaty was for. Not exactly the treaty as is.

If the earth matters and sacred, then the Anishinabe are “in the way of progress” but they are right.

  • What does it mean to be Christian citizens of this country?
  • How we spend our time?
  • Are we committed to learning?
  • Are we committed to hearing?
  • Are we voting with our pocketbooks?

This will challenge every aspect of your living. How you spend your time, resources, how you relate to other people.

The good thing about the reserve allowed the people to remain together. Aboriginal people in the city come together for pow-wows, bingo, gambling, at the pub… but for real interaction there are few that do it (allow people to remain together). On the reserve or near by there are traditional sacred gathering places.

Q: Do you ever feel that the reserves are Canada’s Apartheid?

A: Yes. Hollow Water Reserve is 4000 square km by the government. But to the people the land area is much larger and includes 9 nations. The point of the residential schools was to assimilate just like in apartheid- to eliminate our culture, our language, our ways.

I was raised with a focus on 4 of the 7 laws: Respect, Humility, Kindness and Sharing.

Q: That means NOT Truth, Wisdom, Courage correct?

I didn’t go to a residential school but I was raised in the aftermath. Residential schools intentionally worked to destroy courage, truth, wisdom. Assimilation is easy if you have eliminated courage and truth and the oral tradition of sharing wisdom. In the residential schools, you learned how to work, how to read and write, but forgot how to show affection. Taking the children away- even siblings were not allowed to show affection to one another. There were families who were told of a child who died but never saw their remains. They are stuck in the loss that was never complete, they are stuck in addiction.

Q: How does a culture regain courage, truth and wisdom?

A by Steve Bell: That is our responsibility: to address the injustice of our forefathers and their sin, with courage, truth, wisdom.

The root word of Kindness is KIN. A deeply internalized sense of kinship. Kin is a strong word.

Satan is the dissector, the one who breaks connections.

Religion: means re-ligament, reconnect, repair. There is no need for religion if things are re-ligamented. When the ligaments are disconnected there is chaos.

We are to be the”re-ligament-ers”


Here are the “take aways” each of us shared as feedback on our day…

David: The most shocking thing for me was that I always thought that the Aboriginal philosophy was evil and that this was illegal 20 years ago is mind boggling to me. Three years ago I would have said this has nothing to do with what I believe and now I see this is exactly what I believe. The fact that this is not readily available elsewhere is astounding. Being here is such a privilege. This has to be told to everybody it is urgent that this be public knowledge. I am appalled that this has been taken away from us and from their culture.

Jon F: It is a real eye opening experience to start to understand what the other side of this issue looks like. Especially when you took out the drum and started to tell us what the song is about, it was like learning to read. I can see what you are doing in those songs, I can see how it correlates to this foundation, to see the transparencies of how I have grown up and how they overlay and how we can work together.

Ben: A lot of this isn’t new, some of it is. At one point my father had basically walked away from the church and the only thing that brought him back was spending a lot of time on the water and learning the native ways and relating to the water and the sky and stories about coyote and wolf. It is so neat to learn from someone who actually knows and not from a book or my grandfather or my father and to hear the truth from someone I can truly trust.

Shaun: I took a couple of things away here, I tried to get it all down. You can not divorce the spiritual from the physical. And the impact on the environment. I like the disconnect concept and the importance of re-ligament. Particularly about the government and the dealings, what makes me froth at the mouth was the abuse of power. I took some anger away from this.

Christina: I have 4 pages of notes, I won’t read them all. I believe we all know what I took away from Steve’s story about how you can take one way of looking at things and apply it to your own filter of looking at things. The one thing that really hit my heart was that drumming often makes us weep because it takes us back to the womb and our mother’s heart. Connecting through music.

Kaite: When I am looking at an issue, I need to hear about an issue I need to see both sides of the issue and then I need to research both sides of the issue. And then I form my own opinion. I grew up in the states and it is often hard for me to not see that I am right. I will be researching and processing for awhile. Even though you are the most treasured, you are the most dependent. Steve when you were singing the song “Good Friend”, I was looking at the lyrics and that was great. “Tend to these wounds. Honor God who formed our home.” You have to tend to these wounds. What are we going to do to fix this.

Comment from Steve: Fix and Tend are two different words. Tend is be tender. Being tender towards one another is likely a far closer way of learning to be together.

Kelly: It was helpful for my emotional, mental, spiritual self to make the connection to my physical self. Seeing it all put on one plane was really helpful in giving me a language to connect my physical self with the rest of myself and how I perceive myself as a physical being. I don’t always perceive myself as a physical creation. And my relationship with my creator. On a vocation level this has helped me have some language on how to talk to younger people about it. Really helpful in giving me language in how to break down these mental barriers that we have.

Peter: It was an incredibly informative day so thank you. The image I have is that of wealthy folks having speed boats at their cottage and your people not being able to fish because people want to go on their jet skis. Highlights the unfairness of it completely. The two arguments I took was the royalties argument. I can put it into place very easily.

Steve, your comment on re-ligament is what religion means.

Comment from Steve: Brian McLaren book of religion

John: For me, a bit take away was the descriptions of the Anishinabe clans and how each clan has a different role and function in the community. I am fascinated by personality types and how we fit into community. Both of you talked about systems that work against reconciliation at work. Systems being separate from people. I am different from the system. I choose to buy into it.

Comment from Steve: biblical language would be powers and principalities.

Vicki: Thank you for the truth that you shared over the course of the day. I think for me I felt very humbled by the very concept of how individualistic our mentality is. When you hear it and see “woah that is totally me” and what could our response be. God existing in community and us as his Church, what could that look like? We are so busy trying to get ahead instead of slowing down and doing it together. We all have a role to play and a part to play. You were made to exist in a community that cares for each other. I liked the idea of kids being raised in the home and taught that in the school. Often that isn’t the case. How will I shape my own home about who they are and their identity? How do I say it enough from me that the other sources don’t pull them away from their identity? When I think about my future kids, do I really want to raise them in this? Is there hope? To fight and step up to it to do it together.

Alanna: One thing that really struck home to me was the simplicity of it all. If we are really wanting these things, we need to value ourselves, our environment and others and the sacredness of those. We don’t need to make it complex. If we are living out those 7 laws, we can have wholeness in the communities and with God. I feel really encouraged to live out my faith in an authentic way.

Sebastian: It was really interesting to hear the basic philosophy especially the 7 words. If we started living and embracing those 7 words we would start living in harmony with each other and the earth and that translates into change.

Torri: The idea that there is no sacred and profane. Relationships are sacred. The earth isn’t quantity based. And the poetry.

Becky: All the information was great. Some of it was new, some of it was affirmation of what I knew already. As you were both talking I was thinking of the people I know. I have two cousins who are first nations who were adopted. The whole time I am thinking of them and wondering what would it have been different for them if they had been taught this and if they knew it. It is an in process thought. Applying this to the people I know and what could this mean. Thank you for challenging the thoughts.

Reid: There is so much congruency. Erwin McManus sermon series: “ The Truth Between Us”. There is likely a lot more that we have in common than what divides us. We tend to focus on what divides us rather than what brings us together. There is something about discovering the truth between us that re-informs our worldview, expands it in a more whole way. Today was a great example of that for me. One of the big take aways is that we need to reclaim this philosophy with our people because it has been lost / stolen/ taken away and it needs to be recovered.

My question is: What does that look like in the life of your community or in your life?

A: Marcel: Individuals, families, community are at different stages of healing. In the 1980s there was a vibe to help understand wholeness. Even in the 90s, government they allocated funds to help with healing $350 million for 5 years to undo the effects of colonization, Indian Act and Residential schools. Within the community with the new challenges, we’re probably worst off than they were in the 70s. Addictions: pills, gossip, internet… What suffers in the emotional connection with people. They can have a conversation for 30 minutes on facebook but can’t have a face-to-face conversation.

We are at various stages of healing and recovery. We were strongest when we had support- from government, justice department, Royal Commission report.

We need Restorative Justice. Healing through Justice. Wellness through Justice. Teaching in the community but then it stopped. Stopped because of the overwhelming challenges of turf wars. And how powerful the Indian Act is in creating division in the community.

If Chief and Council support what healthy people want in the community, they won’t get support from the dealers in the community. Democracy works if the majority are healthy, if the majority are unhealthy, you need a different system.

Beth: I really appreciate even before today started, both of your openness to making a connection and helping us to learn (Steve introducing us to Marcel and Marcel to drive 2.5hrs to share his philosophy with us) I hope that we have the heart capacity to do that for others who want to learn. For me personally, it is amazing to hear all the responses and know that it just scratches the surface of what is going on.

In 2009 we would not have been ready for this discussion. You have opened our eyes in a new way, looking at Canada, but it could be a critical moment in the HtH journey. A point we look back on and see that this was a “crucible moment” for us as a community and as individuals. Thank you for the challenge that both of you gave us today.

Steve had that same kind of moment when he visited Calcutta, he said “I don’t think I will ever be the same” and his friend said, “It is scary how quickly you do go back to the same”. So we only change if we water it…

Steve’s suggested books:

“Neither Wolf nor Dog”

“Aboriginal Handbook”

“Waiting for God” Simone Weil


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