Taking Care of Mother Earth: Spiritual Leader’s Parting Words Before Walking On
Author’s Note: What follows is, what is believed to be, the last "public" teaching of Chi-Ma'iingan. While Larry Stillday left us on May 20, 2014, Gichi-Ma'iingan—"Gaa-izhinikaanid"—lives on in the hearts and minds of not only the Red Lake people, but also all of the four colors of the Medicine Wheel who heard or read his words.
He often said of his teachings, "It's not about Indians, it's about people! The other colors will come to us and we must share, all the life forces must come into alignment! The Prophesies tell us that we are now in the time of great healing. It says the four Colors of the human family are once again given an opportunity to bring each Color's gifts together and create a mighty nation."
To those of us benefited by his teachings, he left many a message. This is one I like. At the end of one of Larry's several Wellness Lodges held at "Obaashiing University," he said, “Gigaagiigidotamaagoom, maada'ooyok gaa-miinigooyeg.” (You are speakers for us now, share what you have learned.)
With a heavy heart, I submit.
"Taking care of Mother Earth comes from the fact that we were given the responsibility as caretaker of the earth. Since we are of the earth—to take care of Mother Earth—we do that by taking care of ourselves. It's an interconnected, interdependent and interrelated system. Since we have become separated from the Earth, we are separated within ourselves too." ~Chi-Ma'iingan, Obaashiing (Notes from a Healing Lodge)
The Teaching was held, appropriately, in the Culture Room of the Red Lake Middle School. The teacher, Midewinini Gichi-Ma'iingan, would speak of symbols in a room full of symbols. It was Thursday, April 10, 2014. The air outside was cool, due to a tardy spring, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
But a certain warmth and calmness claims all those who enter the circular, colorful, and rustic room. A variety of seating is available…log and half-log furniture, tables, benches and chairs. Pipes, hand drums, paintings, birch bark, and other Ojibwe crafts dot the circular wall. Eagle staffs, along with U.S. and Red Lake Nation flags, are bordered by Minnesota and MIA banners. They all stand to the left of Migizi.
High on the walls seated on platforms are sculptures depicting Red Lake's seven major clans. Below each symbol was the name of the clan written in Ojibwemowin; Makwa (Bear) Mikinaak (Turtle), Awazisii (Bullhead), Waabizheshi (Marten), Migizi (Eagle), Ojiig (Fisher), and Ogiishkimanisii (Kingfisher).
As people trickle into the room after enjoying a light supper in the high school cafeteria, they are greeted by a cheerful middle school principle (Susan Ninham) before taking a seat facing a screen.
The image on the screen is familiar to some as a photo taken in the woods near Obaashiing, the site of "Obaashiing University" and the many Wellness Camps hosted by Larry and Violet Stillday. A sweat lodge and large Medicine Wheel are prominent. (The next Wellness Camp had been slated for June 10.) The PowerPoint presentation, "Taking Care of Mother Earth," is operated by Violet, the wife of the evening's tutor. To the right of the screen stood her husband, spiritual advisor and teacher, Chi-Ma'iingan (Larry Stillday), who commented on how appropriate it was to have this teaching in a circular room surrounded by clan symbols.
"My how we have become detached from ourselves! We are spirits having a human experience, not humans trying to be spiritual. We are here to complete that human experience," ~Gichi-Ma'iingan.
"Our culture and are language are still here because our land is still here. This is where the Creator put it, on the land. Our ancestors are waiting for us," ~Gichi-Ma'iingan.
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