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Indigenous wisdom

Bill Fox

Bill Fox

By Bill Fox/Columnist

With all the recent news about the residential schools and children being separated from their parents, I try to reason about why supposedly well-intentioned people decided to open residential schools to separate kids from their own culture, etc. Did we forget that the Indigenous peoples had their own wisdom that we have overlooked over the years? Here are some examples;

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore, we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.” – Lame Deer

“When you spit on the ground, you spit on yourself”… as it was explained later “The Earth is our mother; whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”- Chief Seattle

From Tecumseh, these quotes:

“From my tribe I take nothing, I am the maker of my own fortune.”
“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living, if you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.”

“Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.”
“We do not own the land! Land is like air and water. No one owns it.”

“Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.” – Vine Deloria Jr.

“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome.  Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving. The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have—to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.” – Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

“Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself.” – Ben Mikaelsen

“Respect for the environment, and respect for what was naturally occurring in nature: that was the bedrock of all original peoples. Harmony, coexistence, not conquest and conquer.” – L.A. Banks, Bad Blood

“No kingdom on Earth can surpass the great outdoors.” – Tamanend

“[My grandmother Mamie] used to say, ‘Marion, if you don’t feel right, if you don’t feel good, just go outside. Take care of your flower bed and forget about everything else. If it’s wintertime, go dig yourself a path in the snow whether you need it or not. You don’t have to think too much to plant anything or scoop snow, and your mind can go back and figure out what’s wrong.’ I still take her advice to this day. – Marion “Strong Medicine” Gould
“The reality is that every time we manipulate nature’s rhythms, we create unintended consequences that then require us to make still further changes.”- Glenn Aparicio Parry”

Finally I will close with this favourite quote, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” – Cherokee Proverb

I’m at, thinking that we need to educate ourselves more on the traditions and wisdom that was in our land before we settled here.