By Brittney Pastion of CFWE-FM
Kisewatisiwin is a grandmother’s unconditional love.
“It’s all love, kindness, humility… the way you look, the way you treat, the way you behave. It’s in a kind, gentle, loving way,” said Elder Elsie Paul, president and founder of the Kohkom Kisewatisiwin Society.
She spoke with Brittney Pastion of CFWE-FM about a new calendar that’s being launched today, in partnership with the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights in Edmonton.
2018 Stories from the Kohkom calendar is released in conjunction with the John Humphry centre mural unveiling.
This year’s calendar is recommended for schools in particular wanting to Indigenize in order to provide Indigenous awareness to the students and greater community. It contains teachings and the history of Aboriginal women.
The society is made up of Indigenous grandmothers who engage with the community through storytelling, sharing life wisdom, and personal experiences.
Paul (Cree/Métis) found herself retired and sitting around, not appreciating retirement. She thought about the language and her role as a grandmother.
“There isn’t even a word that I know in Cree that means retirement. So I thought, ‘We’re not here to vegetate.’ Traditionally, grandmothers continued working. There’s no retirement for grandmothers.”
They were the overseers of the community and the family a long time ago, she said. What the Kokum society does is to reclaim those traditional roles, lost to such disruption as colonization, assimilation and residential schools, and the banning of languages and ceremonies.
“We ended up losing our roles as grandmothers.” Even men lost their roles.
The society is made up of grandmothers from Treaty 6 primarily, but is open to all. In the past, Indigenous people developed relationships with other tribes.
“We got together in ceremony or else in the summer time, celebration, powwows, and everything.”
Part of the teachings is to develop relationships with other people in the community, and with the visitors, the non-Aboriginal.
The stories collected for this year’s calendar and a previous calendar called Stories from the Bush will go into a book and school curriculum materials in the future, providing a showcase for authentic Kohkom knowledge. You can see and order the calendars at http://http://www.circleteachings.ca.