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The spiritual side of Idle No More (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The spiritual side of Idle No More (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Faith Exchange

The spiritual side of Idle No More Add to ...

Wanda Nanibush: We need to move away from thinking of ourselves as consumers, or at least question what we consume and why. I remember when water became a commodity. I was deeply disturbed at the idea of bottling and selling water. Instead of asking ourselves why the water coming out of the tap was not good enough anymore, we shifted slowly to seeing water as something to buy and sell. If we had instead held our ground and demanded to know what was happening with our waterways and systems such that buying water from somewhere else became necessary, I think people would have become more invested in cleaning up the water and questioning economic development projects that damaged our access to fresh and clean water.

I think of Bolivia and the privitization of their water and how water became too expensive for many people. Can you imagine that happening here? People must consider whether that is the right way to go. The other side of the consumption debate is the use of water for corporations and for pollution like tailing ponds. It is a poor use of a non-renewable resource that is 90 per cent of life itself. Anishnawbe ceremonies around water make central the fact that is an essential aspect of life. I think when people experience a water ceremony, they are fundamentally changed and can no longer see it as a commodity.

Stan Beardy: It is definitely a wake-up call to all mankind. This is not only a first nations issue. We all inhabit the same planet, share the same elements that we need to survive.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are a set of teachings on human conduct toward others. There is a story behind how these teachings came to be. They have been passed on from generation to generation through storytelling and legends. They are:

  • Wisdom – given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people
  • Love – to know it is to know peace. It must be unconditional
  • Respect – to honour all creation is to have respect
  • Bravery – to face a foe with integrity
  • Honesty – to be honest in word and deed
  • Humility – to know yourself as a sacred part of creation and that you are equal to others, but you are not better
  • Truth – to know all these things and to not deceive yourself or others

Mark MacDonald: Lorna, economic development is important – God has chosen to care for us through the land – but if it is the only consideration, life is distorted and the creature is put before the Creator. Sustainability must be a broad topic that includes both economic sustainability and long-term environmental sustainability. This would include moral, cultural and spiritual sustainability.

Stan Beardy: First nations are not against resource development. Through treaty-making, we agreed to share the land with the settlers, understanding that they need land to create wealth. Because of our two pillars, the holistic approach to sustainability has to be balanced. There has to be adequate environmental protection through environmental assessment and there must be free, prior and informed consent. Through treaty-making, again, there was an understanding that when consent is given, we are to benefit as well through jobs, business opportunities and share of the profits received by government.

Wanda Nanibush: If you look at all the lakes and rivers are that have become unprotected under Bill C-45, they are connected to economic development projects – the biggest examples being the tar sands and the Northern Gateway project. In the Anishnawbe way of thinking, one always has to look seven generations into the future. You have to care about the lives of your children’s children’s children and so on.

Under this philosophy, the current government leadership is shortsighted. To destroy a major resource for short-term financial gain is just not smart leadership. and to pass those decisions without proper debate and discussion is also anti-democratic and contrary to our governance practices, which value the imput and debate of all citizens. A leader is chosen based on his or her ability to listen as much as speak and for his or her ability to think of others before themselves and their ability to share with all so no one is left out.

Our ways speak of stewardship and sustainable development – long-term thinking that benefits all.

Lorna Dueck: Dreams and visions are useful revelations in first nations spiritualities. A dynamic occurs when multiple people have the same dream that could be a reason for change. Are you hearing of any evidence of dreams and visions being part of the activism evidenced in Idle No More?

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