I have been blessed with knowing many great teachers and Elders over the years. Truth is, I would not be the person I am today without the direction and leadership I sought from the Elders.
I have not been the kindest person throughout my life. As a matter of fact, the torment I endured led me to be anything but kind. I grew up resentful, hateful, and pissed off. I was mainly pissed off at all the terrible things that had happened to me. I had a “hate on”, for the world. During this period of my great sickness; I would deliberately mess with people’s lives because I thought they deserved it. All of this was, and is, directly related to settler colonialism.
We are kind people.
The very fact we did not outright kill every European that washed up on our shore is a testament to this. Actually, when they washed up on our shores, they were sick, diseased and dying of scurvy. Our medicine people and healers knew how to heal them and because we are a kind people, we treated their illnesses.
Without consciously being aware of it, I now act out of kindness. I do many many things out of kindness. I give of myself, do service work for the people, all without expecting anything. I have wondered if is this a learned behavior, or is this something that is inherent to Anishinabek/Onkwehon:we people. Allow me to share a quick anecdote.
I grew up with my father; who drank heavily and often. He grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and did not have a nurturing childhood. The eras of my father’s childhood were redolent with blatant racist attitudes and actions. As a result, he grew up hating non-natives. He would scold me if I made white friends or helped white people. Much to his dismay, I did it anyway. I recall a particular time; for it is the first time I had an awareness of my showing kindness and feeling good about it.
There was a restaurant at Bloor and Spadina on the Northeast corner. (Where the current Pizza Pizza is). My Dad drank there, along with many other Indians. In this restaurant, there was a blind man of a foreign nation. I’m guessing, but I would say this man was of Middle Eastern or Asian descent. Every time, and I mean every time that I saw this man come in, I would watch him eat his food. I would see that he had difficulty finding his cutlery. I would often think, “How does he know what food he is eating?” So one day, I went over to him and asked if I could sit with him. He was obliging. I asked if I could help him by cutting up his food, and feeding it to him. The first few times my dad saw this, he told me not to do it. I think some of my aunties and uncles, told him to just let me be. So I would do this. I would cut up his steaks and pour gravy on his potatoes, butter his bread, pour his water, etc. I did this because I saw something that needed to be done.
My father grew up learning to be hateful and resentful, but he wasn’t always that way. My father has since passed on. The people who knew him best tell me what a great man he was when he was sober.
How does this relate to today’s day and age? Well, I am a firm believer that our ancestral teachings are inherent in our blood and DNA. No matter how horrible the environment is that we grow up in, our ancestors are alive in us.
With the connectedness of social media in the world, the Kardashians, the music telling youth to hurt themselves, the Soap Operas where everyone is cheating on their partners, etc.; it is very easy to fall prey to the oppressor’s traps. Easy for us to be everything they want us to be.
But if we can remain true to ourselves, recognize our 7 Grandfather teachings are as real in us as the blood that flows through our veins than we will remember we are kind. Be kind cuzzins, that is who we are.