From May 24 through 27, 2012, Valerie Taliman and I attended the Gathering of Wisdom Keepers, organized by Anishnaabe spiritual leader Dave Courchene and the Turtle Lodge, which is located in Sagkeeng First Nation territory, in Manitoba, Canada. The gathering took place at the Sports Arena in Sagkeeng, and opened daily with a prayerful sunrise ceremony.
At one point in the gathering, Mr. Courchene spoke of the importance of “that spirit that comes from the heart.” He spoke of how the teachings and the sunrise ceremony remind us of “sacredness of the elements of life.
“It is absolutely important,” he said, “if we are going to find life, in the fullness of which it was given to us by the Great Spirit, that we need to experience the ceremonies…
“We consider ourselves as a ceremonial people, a people of ceremony, because ceremony helps us to connect with the Spirit itself, and it helps to invoke the Spirit within our presence.”
He continued: “Spirit always fills the emptiness that we may feel in our life. That’s what spirit does. It creates and brings a spirit of comfort to all of us.”
Mr. Courchene further said: “We are reminded in ceremony of the stories that are told that are passed on to us orally…. There was a time when our people had also forgotten this way of life. And there were instructions that our great Creator had given to us. The Spirit that had put us on the land [gave us those teachings] to help us, to remind us, to teach us, how important it is to walk the road that was given to us.”
Out of that Anishnaabe love for the land, for the ceremonies, and for the spirit—and from the profound messages delivered during the Gathering of Wisdom Keepers—A Declaration of Spirit emerged from the Turtle Lodge. It is presented below, with its call for a sacred offering of water to Mother Earth, an offering made with love and gratitude to her. Although the call for the water offering to Mother Earth is suggested for today, June 21, 2012, such a prayerful offering can be made on any day, and, indeed, every day. Enjoy.
A DECLARATION OF SPIRIT
Gathering of Indigenous Wisdom Keepers: Sending A Message to the World
Out of the lodges of our Peoples we are being told we have entered a time of great change and opportunity. The cougar, moose and eagles recently came into the community in the Sagkeeng Territory where the Gathering was to take place, and asked us to speak on their behalf about what is happening to the land. Supported by the Grandfather Drum, the Gathering of Indigenous Wisdom Keepers sends this urgent and prayerful message to the world.
We are the original free and independent Peoples of Turtle Island, extending back to the beginning of time in Spirit. In keeping with our Original Instructions given to us by the Creator we have a sacred responsibility to our ancestors and our future generations. We also have a ceremonial responsibility to the waters and to our traditional lands and territories, for the sake of Mother Earth and all living things.
Everything has a Spirit. Spirit is the life force of every human being and lasts forever. When we rise in the morning we acknowledge the sun as a way of honoring and celebrating the Spirit of Life itself. Our spirituality is our life. Our traditions contain the knowledge and wisdom accumulated by our ancestors and contained in our languages. It is one of our teachings that the beauty of nature is the face of the Creator, and results in our deep and abiding love for the land and water.
Water is Life. As humans, we are born through the water of our mother, and the women are responsible for the waters of Mother Earth. An acknowledgment of the sacred feminine is critical to the transformation needed at this time. It is one means of ending the epidemic of violence by men against women, and the neglect and abuse of children, which is destructive to our families, communities, and nations, and detrimental to our future generations.
These symptoms are the result of a human spiritual disconnection from the land and from the healing comfort and beauty of Mother Earth. Now is the time to come to the understanding that we cannot respect the future without respecting what makes the future, and what makes the future possible, specifically, our women and children.
Our healing wisdom and traditions continue to live on, carried and taught by our Elders, who are precious to us. Without the kindness and compassion of our Elders we would not be able to carry on our Spiritual Way of Life and our ceremonies, through which body, mind, spirit, and heart are more fully connected.
Through our songs and ceremonies, sacred fires, our prayers and prayer bundles, and the Original Instructions of our Sacred Laws, we are continually reminded that all Life is interconnected, and that all the colors of the human family and all forms of life are relatives.
As a result of the suppression of the cultures of our ancestors, the modern world has been prevented from understanding the wisdom to be gained from our ceremonial-based cultures and our Earth-centered traditions.
Our children need to be returned to the center of our families, communities and nations. By mentoring our children, supporting rites of passage for young men and women, we affirm our sacred balance, health and well being. Because of the thousands of years of experience with Spirit, the First Nations and Peoples of Turtle Island have unique gifts to share with the world for healing what has been wounding the human spirit.
The answer that every human being is looking for is within the Spirit in each and every one of us. We have always acknowledged that Spirit is a very significant element of our life. Spirit defines who we are. We are all bound by spiritual and natural laws.
How can we collectively connect with Spirit? Acknowledge Spirit and show our gratitude. Join us on June 21, 2012 to fulfill our responsibility to honor all Spirit and Life. We invite people throughout the world to join us on that day by making an offering of water to Mother Earth with thoughts of love and thankfulness. This sacred act will invoke the Spirit to guide us to a good life, and will let Mother Earth know we have not abandoned her.