Letter to the Seventh Generation

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My friends,

Having finally put into words my thoughts, notes and memories of the beautiful words spoken at the American Indian Millennium conference. I offer you this: to honor those who stood with me, and those who have gone before me. To respect the words that I have shared and those that were shared with me. See if you find yourself in here. If you do, then know how I honor all that you have shared with me. And for those of you who were not there, I extend this friendship, hoping to share with you a small piece of this incredible event. This is a letter to my future great-great-great grandchildren.

Nokomis, Grandmother, Speaks

Message to the Seventh Generation,

My grandson, for so long I have awaited this day. For this opportunity to sit with you, eye to eye, heart to heart and breath to breath. I have longed to see your face, to touch your cheek and to smell the sweetness of your breath. I have longed to hold you in my lap, to know how your head would feel nestled against my breast as I sang to you.

Grandson, take my hand, walk with me and listen to my story. Let me tell you who I was, so that you can remember who you are.

We are of this land, bur nur wurb skek, the place where the white rocks come out of the water. We are of these people, the Wabanaki, the people of the dawn. You were born Awesus nuga' Kakagoose, bear and crow, medicine clans. The land that you place your feet upon contains my footprints; the air that you breathe contains my breath. In your blood, your DNA, you carry the wisdom of seven mothers' daughters and seven fathers' sons. You ARE the seventh generation. The circle ends and is renewed within each cell of your body. KNOW THIS. For just as I was responsible for carrying the seeds of your being within me, so too are you responsible for carrying the seeds of the seventh generation yet to come.

The blood that runs through you has nourished the soil beneath your feet. Millions have died to ensure that you would live. The road that you walk upon has been paved with the blood of your ancestors; do not dishonor them. Walk this red road with your head held high. Place your feet with certainty, knowing that the answers you seek lie within you. You are never alone. You carry a piece of us all in the matrix of your spirit.

The time that I live in is one of crises. As the caretakers of this Earth our people have been charged with a heavy burden. Many have lost their way. Blinded by generational wounds that have been ingrained into the public psyche. Deafened by the sounds of justifiable homicide, and historical references of a people "destined to be conquered."

Warriors of today do not wear leathers, feathers or war bonnets. Warriors of today wear business suits; they battle in the courtroom, boardroom and before Congress. They are in our schools, our clinics and our banks. They secure our future by preserving the past. They teach the truth of our history and inspire us to remember who we are in accordance to ancient kinship roles. They protect traditional lands, repatriate the bones of our ancestors and secure funding for the health and well being of our children.

Warriors of today carry the seeds for sustainable agriculture; they harvest medicinal plants and teach our young people how to survive with honor and respect for the Earth. They do not kill their grandchildren to feed their children. The warrior of today may look different from those listed in the history books, but their mission remains intact: To serve and protect their people and to ensure the survival of generations yet to come. It is this mission, this responsibility that you must never forget.

My grandson, for so long I have wanted to stand beside you, to walk upon the banks of this river that has sustained our people for generations. To fish the waters that my grandfather taught me to fish, to navigate these islands that have provided us with shelter, and to tell you the stories of our legends and our myths. I have wished to sing you the songs of our people, as you drifted off to sleep. To share the beauty of our language, to describe to you the magic of this world in a tongue that is ancient and true.

I have longed to share with you the threads of indigenous knowledge, sacred knowledge, passed down from generation to generation. To impart to you truths that stand the test of time, of honor, integrity and a life-way filled with respect. It is this sacred knowledge that teaches us of our connectivity to all things. It trains our ears to hear the voices of our children beckoning to be born, to hear the song upon the wind that calms our fears, and the whisper in the trees that guides us along our path. It is the reassurance of the land, as we place our feet along our journey. And the lull of the waters as they carry us off into the dream-time. Sacred knowledge teaches us of our place in creation, as children of our people, children of the Earth and co-creators of this universe. It teaches us of grandmother Moon and grandfather Sun, of light and darkness, of hard work and rest. Sacred knowledge holds us in balance through the ever changing tides of our existence, keeping us connected to each other and to all of creation.

My grandson, if you forget all else that I have shared with you today, I ask that you remember this. The gift that you have been granted, through the seeds of sacred knowledge, contains all of the wisdom of our collective past and the guidance needed to lead us to our place in the future. This gift will teach you all you need to know of who I was and will lead you to where you need to be for the seventh generation yet to come. My grandson, the time has come for me to leave you. Remember my words and know that each time you place your foot upon this land, or in these waters, that I will be with you, standing beside my grandfather and all those who have come before you.

Sherri L. Mitchell, Penobscot, was a participant at the American Indian Millennium conference at Cornell University in November, 2001. Indian Country Today invites other tribal and community leaders, American Indian professionals, scholars, students, business leaders and culture-bearing people, to send us their message to the Seventh Generation. These letters will be published occasionally over the next several years as part of Indian Country Today's Millennium Series, a documentary process at the beginning of the 21st century.