By Odette Auger, Windspeaker Buffalo Spirit Reporter
Grandmother Isabelle Measawige pours herself a cup of tea, admiring the golden brown colour. Her nation, Serpent River in Ontario, had shared an advisory for the older ones to stay indoors during the severe cold spell.
As an Elder, she conducts rites of passage ceremonies for the women, girls and youth. These offerings come as birth lodge ceremonies, womb cleansing, and other women’s rituals embedded with the Moon’s teachings and governing principles given by Gitche-Manitou (the Great Spirit, Creator) to shape the lives of Anishinaabe people.
“Moon teachings actually goes back to our creation story,” she says. “Before anybody was around, it was kind of like everything was in darkness, not a sound to be heard, nothing going on.”
“Then so what happened in that darkness? There was sound. The rumbling of thunder. And then there was a flash of lightning.” She explains that this knowledge was given to her by old storytellers.
“In that flash of light there stood this holy one that we call the maker of all things. For a long time just standing there. Maybe he stood there for 10,000 years or so, because when you get into that kind of a world, time is nothing,” Grandmother Isabelle says.
“He started to think about some things, and he thought about a circle, and that circle became something holy. It's something that the Anishinaabe use, even in these days, and we have all kinds of protocols with regard to that,” she explains.
“That circle is about wholeness, and how all things are interrelated. Everything in the universe is a part of a single whole. Everything is connected in some way to everything else. So, it is therefore possible to understand something only if we can understand how it is connected to everything else.”
There are Seven Fires of Ojibwe creation, Grandmother Isabelle says. It was during the second fire that the circle was created.
“That sacred circle is an essential and important teaching of the Anishinaabe people and tells the story of that wholeness. It is how the Anishinaabe view themselves, how they view their communities and how they view their actions.”
She said it's like the circle of spring, summer, fall, winter, and then back to spring. “And it was also how Creator was able to hear his thoughts come back to him while he was thinking, and caused a link into the mind, the body, the spirit, and the heart.”
“Gitche-Manitou thought that he could make someone that he could always, always go to. So he made Mother Earth, and she was beautiful and he loves her with all his heart.”
“And so the creation of Earth was the sixth fire. That Great Spirit, he was very, very wise in the creation of the Earth. He made that one female. That's who she was. And then he gave her instructions, governance and the power to give birth.”
So, at the beginning of time, explains Grandmother Isabelle, woman was such a sacred and holy being, revered as first Mother of all, and she was first teacher.
“So that holy one, he did not want that first Mother to be lonely. Then he decided to create another woman, and he called her Nookmis (Grandmother), she who hangs in night sky. And he told her, straight to her face, you will have the duty and the responsibility to regulate life and to maintain the order in those communities. So, he gave her governance.”
This is how the Moon is not just a celestial body, but a sacred entity intertwined with Anishinaabe cultural values and governance principles.
“And that's where female governance comes from, is that old woman who hangs in that night sky.”
The Moon’s teachings are embedded in 13 sacred laws that guide us through life, Grandmother Isabelle explains.
For example, “Integrity is another sacred law of she who hangs up in the night sky,” says Grandmother Isabelle. “You're coming at it from your best possible way.”
“And I don't think you have to lessen your shine so that somebody else can shine brighter than you. You have to shine as hard as you can, because the world needs it. Sometimes we dim our own lights. We do that often as women.”
The 13 Grandmother laws encompass concepts of reciprocity, grace, cooperation, generosity, self-awareness, communication, forgiveness, impeccability, discernment, nurturing, compassion, gratefulness, and collaboration.
- Reciprocity emphasizes balance in giving and receiving, acknowledging the Earth's generosity while teaching respect and gratitude.
- Grace encourages treating others with kindness and respect, avoiding lateral violence that disrupts community harmony.
- Cooperation highlights the necessity of working together for the collective good.
- Generosity underscores the importance of sharing with others from the heart, recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings.
- Communication places significance on words and their power to uplift or wound.
- Forgiveness acknowledges human imperfections and the need for forgiveness for healing and maintaining harmony.
- Impeccability (Walks Tall Woman) underscores the significance of integrity, honesty, and keeping one's word.
- Discernment encourages the ability to see beyond surface appearances and discern true intentions.
- Integrity is being in balance and whole in body, mind, emotions and spirit. Makes for ethical decisions in all that we do.
- Nurturing reflects the role of grandmothers and women in nurturing and supporting their families and communities, especially during challenging times.
- Compassion emphasizes the importance of caring for others as an expression of humanity.
- Gratefulness highlights the value of gratitude, even in difficult circumstances, as a source of strength.
- Collaboration underscores the importance of working together, pooling resources and talents to strengthen community.
These laws, along with the Seven Grandfather teachings, guide our interactions with each other and the natural world.
On Jan. 8, a business venture in the United States launched a spacecraft to transport human DNA and the cremated remains of loved ones to the Moon. The Navajo Nation and several other Native American tribes voiced their objections, deeming the commercial initiative to be disrespectful to Elders, spiritual teachings and was just another broken promise of the U.S. government made to Native Americans. The U.S. had promised to consult with Nations when such activity was being contemplated.
The idea of sending the remains of loved ones to the Moon seems odd to Grandmother Isabelle. “I wouldn't like to be sent to the Moon. Just keep me here. Connected to the Mother,” she said.
“I'm living here in the Indian world, and we have a whole set of values and a whole set of beliefs, and they're not always the same as the white people. We're different. We've always been different, and we don't think the same.”
“The laws that govern us are different. And we have the clan system talking about governance. We have the Grandmother Moon teachings. We’ve got the seven Grandfather teachings. We have all that. And most of us know where we come from and who we are and what our reason for being here at this time is.”
Grandmother Isabelle recalls a powerful teaching shared by the women of Bear Island, emphasizing that “The Moon is the boss, the governing force of all life.” Those words carry the weight of generations of wisdom, says Grandmother Isabelle.
In a world of diverse beliefs and practices, for the Anishinaabe, the Moon remains a sacred entity and source of guidance.
Top Photo: Grandmother Isabelle Meawasige, Bear Clan, Serpent River First Nation.
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