Anishinaabe Elder Dave Courchene, founder of the Turtle Lodge, has long said that the 8th Fire has been lit, the one that foretold the drawing together of all peoples and the revelation of their interconnectedness with one another and the environment.
Last month Courchene, or Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man), of the Eagle Clan, issued the following statement after an Elders Ceremony in Ottawa. In it, the 2012 National Aboriginal Achievement (Indspire) Award winner for heritage and spirituality speaks of the spiritual awakening he sees taking place and exhorts all to recognize that we are bound together by the land. While he didn't allude directly to Idle No More, the grassroots movement that is sweeping Turtle Island and beyond in a call for change, the parallels are clear.
Now, Métis musician Shy-Anne has come out with a new song based on the words below. Filled with imagery of unity through the ages, “The Awakening” takes us on a journey backed by the words, “Demanding change for peace, for Mother Earth, spirit and the force of nature will show us what it’s worth.”
Shy-Anne is no stranger to taking on up-to-the-moment topics. One of the six Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards she won last year was “Too Young, Too Late,” about the dangers of texting and driving, which won Best Music Video. She won all six categories she was nominated in.
Here is Courchene’s January 8 statement, and below it is Shy-Anne’s powerful musical interpretation.
SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY TO RESTORE A RELATIONSHIP
We are witnessing an awakening that is being influenced by the Spirit and by Nature itself.
Nature has been waiting for this moment, for us to come together and become unified, in our unique and distinctive ways, which represent the whole of the human family. When we put ourselves in order, then the universe and the Earth will naturally set things in order.
The people are demanding a change. We must seize on this great opportunity for change and for peace, which will be supported by the Spirit and the forces of Nature working in alliance with us.
We must first of all recognize and acknowledge that it is the Land that binds and connects us all. The Land is the foundation for all life, and we all owe our existence to the Earth. The Land is what sustains us all. Just as important are the other elements that sustain us. Water is the passage for all life that must be taken care of. The Air reminds us of our sacred responsibility in taking care of the plant life. In our ceremonies, the Sacred Fire is lit to create an entrance for the Spirit.
This awakening that we are seeing around the world is the people's demand for change. And this change begins by changing the way we have treated the Earth, and changing how we have been living not following the Natural Laws that reflect true sharing and respect for life.
As a spiritual people, we have resisted many attempts to remove us from the closeness and love that we have for the Land. The Land has always offered our people the definition of our duties and responsibilities as human beings.
We are a people filled with Ceremony. Ceremony has always guided us. Through Ceremony we have been able to invoke our ancestors and the spiritual beings that are helping bring back the memory of what helped us to survive as a people for thousands and thousands of years.
It is the Spirit that will ensure that the truth will be revealed.
During the signing of the Treaties, our forefathers brought with them the gifts that reflected the uniqueness of our distinctiveness as a people - the Sacred Pipe, the Drum, the Rattle, our Ceremonies, and a Knowledge that has helped us stay connected to the Land in a sacred way.
One of the most sacred gifts, which the Treaty relationship was founded upon, was the Land, which our ancestors agreed to share with everyone.
When the Treaties were signed a foundation of partnership was laid. We must seize on this opportunity to restore that relationship, accepting love and nonjudgmental forgiveness, and exercising unconditional kindness for all people without exception. To move forward we must return back to the foundation that was set during the signing of the Treaties. To do anything less would be a serious mistake.
The only foundation for a healthy humanity is to have peace with Mother Earth.
All along, the Elders of our Nations have carried and understood the true spirit and intent of the relationship established through the Treaties. The relationship was directly tied, connected and bound to the Land itself. The Elders’ understanding has been a spiritual understanding, based on values and principles, which has recognized and appreciated the real meaning of giving and sharing.
An immediate body should be set up to address and restore this relationship, represented by the Treaties. Allow the Elders to have a significant role in ensuring that the spirit of respect and kindness be maintained in the discussions. In these discussions let us move together as equal partners, as the Treaties signify that we are to be equal partners in taking care of the Land. Taking care of the Land also includes taking care of the other elements of Nature – the precious Waters, the Air and the Fire that we rely on to support us, sustain us, teach us and give us Life.
I encourage our Elders to gather across the country. I encourage the leadership to go back to our communities and help restore our spirit, our traditions and our way of life.
I encourage the leadership to support the Elders to meet in their respective regions across the country to give guidance and direction toward the movement of restoring our spiritual and cultural identity – the richness of who we are as the Original People of this Land. There are Elders in every community who have maintained the knowledge of our Ceremonies and the Teachings of who we are as a people.
In our discussions together we must ensure we create a foundation for the future for all of our children. The Land has always spoken to the people, offering guidance towards peace and harmony. We must seize on this great opportunity for change to ensure our very survival and the future of all children. We cannot continue to deal only with the symptoms of a broken relationship, and assimilation is not an option. We will never resolve the present impasse until we are prepared to return to the foundation laid by the original signatories of the Treaty relationship.
Our concern is not merely a political or economic one. Rather it is a spiritual, moral and ethical issue where we have been separated and divided in the human family. This is an issue of supporting the evolution of the human spirit to greater understanding of how we can survive as a human race, living together, sharing and caring for one another, bound together by a common relationship of sacred connection to the Land.
As the Original People of this Land, we want to contribute with a knowledge that can lay a foundation supporting a New Life for the sake of all our children.
It is only when we find true partnership with the original independent Nations of this Land, that the true destiny of America —Turtle Island—will be reached.
Let us work together towards the New Life, following in the footsteps of our ancestors.