How do communities build after generations of oppression?
In John Borrows paper entitled Seven Generations, Seven Teachings, the premise is the need to abolish Canada’s Indian Act – under which First Nations have been living for seven generations.
Within the conversation to support his discussion were many gems of wisdom that I thought about in terms of all persons and all places. One was the building of communities based on principles rather than wholesale change that was dependent on legislation. “Legislation” he said “is the shell – spirituality, morality and ethical teachings are the core of any healthy community.” How many communities can you name based on these foundational pieces?
Certainly, many communities were founded around religion which may or may not be described today as spirituality but there was indeed a common shared belief and a desire to raise families within a moral and ethical framework. Many homes and communities still enjoy celebrating their culture and beliefs wherever they reside. Not so for First Nations in Canada – as the Indian Act did and still determines community in the legal areas that matter.
How then can community be built, when for generations this powerful Act has dictated life for First Nations persons? It was in Borrows answer of the practice of seven gifts that would be used towards the abolishment of the Act that I found credence, for the principles are universal in application.
The gift of wisdom resonated with me. For wisdom is not only listening to those who have the knowledge and experience but also in being curious and courageous enough to travel, to ask and to consider the multiple dynamics that brought that person or that community to that space.
Having courage or bravery was also a gift highlighted by Borrows. It takes nerve to accept our own failings and courage do something about it. This morning as I wrote this blog I was thinking of the amazing people in my life and the courageous ways that they handled the ebb and flow of living, leading me to base my day on this thought “I am inspired by this world.”
That gift of humility was also identified as a principle and while humility is a quiet word – it does not reflect silence or lack of intelligence. It does however still us to recognize that we are human and part of the whole. It is the humble acceptance of how we are woven and formed by those around us and the experiences enjoyed or endured.
Respect is a strong leadership trait and is a gift according the Seven Generations author. Deep and meaningful respect comes from a place of acceptance – that concept of walking beside the other. When beautiful things happen such as youth engage with the elderly – respect becomes the medium where old wisdom is shared with youthful honesty.
Honesty is a not a given in family, community, culture and governance as power tends to override this wonderful aptitude and leave those without this gift saddened and mistrusting. And trust, the sixth gift, can only be built when there is authenticity and honesty. The crown of values – trust is not without her heartaches but nurtures us to also listen to our inner wisdom. All of these gifts intersect with the seventh one which is love.
Speaking of universal love often makes folks uncomfortable but love is a shared human need. Love for our land, love for our fellow person, love for our day, love for our self, love for our culture, love for our lives and our Higher Power and of course love for those closest to us. The enlightenment comes when there is an understanding and acceptance that love cannot exist without respect or wisdom nor be employed without courage, honesty and truth or be deployed without humility. It is all of these values that we need in our lives and in our communities.
What Borrows was proposing in Seven Generations was a grounded way of approaching the abolition of the Indian Act through the principles or gifts of love, wisdom, respect, humility, bravery, honesty and truth. These are also foundational to all communities, who must be more than jurisdictions.
Decisions today should, by design, also last for seven future generations. I am inspired by this world and embrace a future based on foundational values such as these seven gifts, honoring the path of others and remaining hopeful and supportive of Canada’s First Nations.
For in these gifts – all things are possible.