knowing in our gut

So I asked my mentor, “What do you mean white people don’t believe the Bible?”

He said, “Well, you don’t know those stories. You always have to check the book. They don’t live in your gut. I am Gix’an.* Stories that are important to me and to my people, we know them in our gut. We can take them with us anywhere. They inform the way we live. After you read one of your stories, you close the book and leave it on a shelf. The stories don’t touch your life at all.”

I began to slowly learn how we could let the stories of the Bible decolonize our community.

– Jodi Spargur, from “Decolonizing the Gospel” in Geez

*The Gix’an  (or Gitxsan) people are an Indigenous people that live in the interior of BC.

words of truth and reconciliation

[We’ve had some important insights here at SSU through the first public lectures in our First Nations Voices and Themes series. We’ve also been challenged to make ourselves aware of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action.” Here is one section relevant for us:]

We call upon leaders of the church parties to the
Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in
collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders,
Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other
religious training centres, to develop and teach
curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and
staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need
to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the
history and legacy of residential schools and the roles
of the church parties in that system, the history and
legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and
communities, and the responsibility that churches have
to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.

TRC’s “Calls to Action” – article 60

an indigenous word for truth

Our word for truth or correctness or any of its synonyms is w’dae’b’wae, meaning, ‘he or she is telling the truth, is right, is correct, is accurate.’ From its composition – the prefix dae, which means ‘as far as, inasmuch as, and according to’ and the root wae, a contraction of wae wae referring to sound – emerges the second meaning, which gives the sense of a person casting his or her knowledge as far as he or she can. By implication, the person whom is said to be dae’b’wae is acknowledged to be telling what he or she knows only insofar as he or she has perceived what he or she is reporting, and only according to his or her command of the language. In other words, the speaker is exercising the highest degree of accuracy possible given what he or she knows. In the third sense, the term conveys the philosophic notion that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

– Basil Johnson, quoted in Leanne Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back

an indigenous view on sustainability

One of the stories I tell in my book is of working with an elder who’s passed on now, Robin Greene from Shoal Lake in Winnipeg, in an environmental education program with First Nations youth. And we were talking about sustainable development, and I was explaining that term from the Western perspective to the students. And I asked him if there was a similar concept in Anishinaabeg philosophy that would be the same as sustainable development. And he thought for a very long time. And he said no. And I was sort of shocked at the “no” because I was expecting there to be something similar. And he said the concept is backwards. You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that?

The purpose of life is this continuous rebirth, it’s to promote more life.

If I look at how my ancestors even 200 years ago, they didn’t spend a lot of time banking capital, they didn’t rely on material wealth for their well-being and economic stability. They put energy into meaningful and authentic relationships. So their food security and economic security was based on how good and how resilient their relationships were—their relationships with clans that lived nearby, with communities that lived nearby, so that in hard times they would rely on people, not the money they saved in the bank. I think that extended to how they found meaning in life. It was the quality of those relationships—not how much they had, not how much they consumed—that was the basis of their happiness. So I think that that’s very oppositional to colonial society and settler society and how we’re taught to live in that.

– Leanne Simpson in an interview with Naomi Klein