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COLUMN: Real honesty can foster enlightenment, elder says

'Being honest to self helps to lift burdens from tired shoulders,' says columnist, who urges people to participate in local series focused on reconciliation
jeff monague sacred fire
Elder Jeff Monague kept a Sacred Fire burning for four days and four nights after the bodies of 215 Indigenous children were found in an unmarked grave in Kamloops, B.C.

I enjoy my time in nature. Especially now, as new life emerges from incubated pods beneath the soil and spring leaves unfurl like a thousand open hands enticing the sunlight. All manner of green is represented here as Mother Nature paints from a pallet prepared and sent from the spirit world.

I have a favourite place where I like to go and sit on Aki (Ah-kih), the earth, where it is quiet and I can commune with the spirits of the forest and creation. I go at random times to conduct ceremony because Aki knows and loves our ceremonies.

I lower my bundle on the ground which holds my smudge kit and I fill my smudge bowl with sage, one of the four sacred medicines granted us by the creator. As I light my sage and the smoke begins to curl skyward like a mystical pathway to the spirit world, the sweet aroma fills my senses and activates my connection to spirit.

I gently sweep my eagle feather to and fro and awash my soul with the goodness of all my relations. Now, and forever.

It is here where I live the teaching of honesty. It is here that I am most honest with myself. Honesty occupies that space. Being honest to self helps to lift burdens from tired shoulders. It lifts fear and guilt and sweeps them aloft along with my prayers and I can watch as those things dissipate beyond the hindrance of time, space and our physical world.

This is how I began my teaching on honesty as I address the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Gathering and online Community Learning and Dialogue Series that explores the seven sacred life teachings.

The dialogue is a continuation of the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation RoundTable organized by Senator Gwen Boniface that invites Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to participate. The series began on Tuesday, May 3 and will continue every Tuesday evening until June 14, 2022.

On this evening I am joined by Elders Lorraine McRae of Rama and John Rice of Wasauksing First Nation and a seemingly infinite number of guests on Zoom who are here to discuss this evening’s teaching. We are in the care of two gentle hosts, Erin Dixon and Rosanne Irving, who provide a safe space for sharing dialogue by all participants.

After my short teaching about honesty, each guest was asked to share their opinion on what had just been shared. And they were each encouraged to add their own personal stories. The eclectic circle kneaded and shaped the understanding of what honesty meant to them. They also questioned what that meant in their own lives.

What we ended up with was a kaleidoscope of knowledge woven together to form a mystical strand of connection to one another. An enlightened view of one another as human beings.

I came away thinking that if we had all tried to understand one another when the Europeans arrived on our shores, we would most likely be in a much different place than we are today. We would have had connection. There would most likely not have been a need for dialogue on reconciliation. But, it is necessary.

See you this Tuesday at our next session. You can find out more about this series or register by clicking here.

Jeff Monague is a former Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, former Treaty Research Director with the Anishnabek (Union of Ontario Indians), and veteran of the Canadian Forces. Monague, who taught the Ojibwe language with the Simcoe County District School Board and Georgian College, is currently the Superintendent of Springwater Provincial Park. His column appears every other Monday.