Mark MacDonald: Actually, I have heard quite a few claims regarding Idle No More and the larger spiritual awakening of the people that this is a part of the dreams of the elders, going back a long time.
Stan Beardy: The prophecy of the seven generations and the lighting of the eighth fire is a dream that’s part of the activism evidenced in Idle No More globally. This prophecy represents key spiritual teaching and says that different colours and faiths of mankind can come together on a basis of respect. The critical moment of decision (when the eighth fire is lit) is when humankind decides that materialism is equal to environmental catastrophe for everyone. The eighth fire will be lit when a path of respect, wisdom and spirituality is chosen – spiritual illumination will unfold. Many in Idle No More believe this, as do I.
Lorna Dueck: The point you make – that materialism equals environmental catastrophe for everyone – has not yet dawned on many Canadians. Are there practices in your spiritualities that would help us come together on our shared interest in avoiding environmental risk?
Mark MacDonald: The understanding of sharing and lack of hard concepts of ownership is critical. The idea that these gifts of God are owned by God, shared by all should be universal. All life is responsible to the rest of life. This is the plan of the Creator.
Stan Beardy: The Seven Grandfather Teachings advocate a principled and balanced approach to wealth creation and responsibilities to the current and future generations. Viewing creation as being sacred and being honourable by respecting that creation is one of the practices in our spirituality – this goes for all faiths.
Our teaching is that you only take from the land what you need, and if you are lucky enough to have more than you need, you share it with others. Equitable distribution of wealth will begin to address poverty. There is too much imbalance. When our people are poor, we do not have a voice to hold the governments or corporations accountable and to be responsible corporate citizens.
Wanda Nanibush: We had treaty-making practices long before contact, often involving wampum, which tells both what is agreed to and how that relationship between the parties will be conducted. Again, we conduct our affairs as if the person is not just a mind but a spirit and heart too. Treaties were often about conducting relationships based on truth, honesty, respect and integrity for the purpose of peace and friendship. This meant sharing across nations but without interfering in each others’ affairs.
The concept of non-interference is important because we believe in the self-determination of everyone. The individual is not a selfish entity protecting itself – it is an vulnerable entity connected to all living things for survival and finds peace when in balance internally, in the house, in the community and finally within the nation. Both sides of a treaty should benefit from that treaty and both should be left to govern their own affairs. Why would someone sign a treaty that makes them wards of the state, children of another nation, that denies them access to their territories, children, ways of life, governance, ceremonies and freedom? This has been our experience of Canadian (and British) interference in our affairs. This is not the treaty we signed.
Lorna Dueck: Panelists, can you give any examples of how you saw the seven grandfather teachings shaping Idle No More and the recent struggle for a meeting with the Crown and Prime Minister Stephen Harper?
Wanda Nanibush: January is the spirit moon and when the grandmothers’ council takes place, as far as I understand it. I think this is why this movement is led largely by women. Women have a special relationship with the moon and the water. We learn mothering from Mother Earth – the first mother. How the Earth takes care of us is how we are to care for our children. We learn ceremonies, songs and so on that teach us and enact our kinship with all of creation. Women still lead from their hearts and spirits. Our notion of the person is one where the heart, mind, body and spirit are not separate but are to be integrated and balanced. The Idle No More movement, led by women, proposes actions that unite and balance all the parts of our selves through song, dance, ceremony and unity – this engages the heart and spirit. People walk away hugging, laughing, crying, moved and transformed. This is a Nish way for real change.