ANNE TAYLOR – According to ALL First Nations on Turtle Island, ALL LAND IS SACRED. We do not consider that places are more sacred than others. All land must be treated with the greatest respect and honour. First Nations work with proponents every day to protect burials, ceremonial sites, petroglyphs and rock paintings. We are also obligated by who we are as a people to protect the land that we all share.
The Anishinaabeg paradigm suggests that the earth is a spiritual being and so should be accorded respect. As beings blessed enough to receive the abundance of the earth, we are expected to care for our Mother, the earth, in a good way. This means working together in unity, in reconciliation if you like, to care for not just the gifts we receive, but care also for the other beings that we share the land and water with. This way we care for each other, for ourselves, for those yet to come, and perhaps most importantly, we care for those who came before us and have left us this knowledge to share with each other. When we do this, our Ancestors smile upon us.
The land and all it contains must be cared for in a sustainable fashion, with great respect, kindness and gentleness. We must understand our place in creation and the responsibility that brings. We must always remember to care for the earth, and for those yet to be born. Keeping those ones in our minds and hearts, we are compelled to care for our Mother in a good and gentle way, knowing that someday it will be our turn to pass on the knowledge we have gleaned from our existence.
The Anishinaabeg (all First Nations) of Turtle Island know this land better than anyone. Our Ancestors lived and travelled on the land and the waterways, always leaving the lightest footprint possible. Living so closely to the land and water, we are aware that what we did to the land and water directly affected our existence. This is still evident in our languages, our ceremonies and how we relate to the earth. Our language is full of sounds that relate directly back to the land, some sounds even mimicking nature. Our ceremonies always honour the earth and teach us to show respect to each other and the surrounding world. We harvest from the land and the land continues to take care of us.
As women, we follow the flow of the earth. Grandmother Josephine Mandamin-ban said this is evident in the spring when our Mother releases water in the form of spring runoff from the ice and snow. This is the first sign that the earth is about to give birth to new life in the form of budding trees, plants and such. Trees follow this very same line when the sap starts to run in the spring, bringing nourishment to the new buds and leaflets. So too, women release water when we are about to bring forth new life. Do you see and understand how closely we are connected to the earth? All land is sacred.
All First Nations have been stewards of the land from time immemorial. The land is a spiritual being in our cultures and languages. Our fundamental connection to the earth in all we do, say and think is something we all have in common. Our legends and stories tell us of this.
“Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the Earth is our Mother. The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst and feed our children. The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath. And what is man without the beasts? If all beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.” Sealth (Chief Seattle) spoke this admonition to all at the tribal assembly of 1854 just prior to the signing of a treaty.
Anne Taylor learned about traditions and culture from her grandparents and great-grandmother. She attended Fleming College and Trent University, and is “a lifelong student of the land and our teachings.” This article originally appeared in Heritage Matters, Autumn 2018. The Greenzine is grateful for the author’s permission to use it.