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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Teaching Stories, part 17

"Finding Back the Road to Wisdom"

- Updated April 27, 2019


Midewiwin wedding rings Unieke Trouwringen


Aaniin, boozhoo

Some time ago (how time flies!), my friend Simone wrote the following words on her Facebook wall and I thought I wanted to share them with you.
Simone said this:
“During a time when I was living under a cloud of confusion, I found that I walked around questioning every little thing in life. Why this? Why that? How this? How that? It is by always asking questions that we create confusion in our spirits. One night I had a dream in which I was given opportunity to ask a question. I know I thought about it for hours and hours and finally I said...
“I ask that I do not need to know the answers to all of the questions that I have

New Age thinking

“To immerse oneself in our traditional spirituality,” Simone continues, “is a beautiful thing. It is who we are. You cannot improve on this. For a "new age" thinker to feel the need to make this better and stronger and more spiritually uplifting is as insulting as if I walked into a church and told them what I really think of those bibles. I will be tolerant for only so long before I correct this situation. I do embrace all communities and people and I love it when others share their own traditions from other countries. I also commend the 98% of them who respectfully look at who I am with intrigue as opposed to 'fixing' who my People are. I now ask that you accept what I do and what I paint without being disrespectful for I can see it even when it is disguised as curiosity, besides you can learn more by sitting silent and learning than asking questions...”

A Good Way of Living

As I was reading Simone’s words I realized that the message she wanted to get across is deeply rooted in the ways of our ancestors.
Mide path wedding rings unieke trouwringen
The Seven Teachings have long been part of our Native cultures and language. The Great Mystery gave us a behavioral system, called bimaadiziwinA Good Way of Living, with seven guidelines showing us how to think and live and seven digressions or lines leading from life’s main trail showing where we as human beings can go wrong (see the stylized Mide Path rings in the image to the left). 

The gete-ayaa'ag, the Old Ones, taught us that everything in life is interconnected, interrelated and interdependent on one another. This is called inawendiwin. Orienting oneself to leading a long, productive, and healthy life in respectful coexistence and collaboration with all peoples, animals, plants, natural phenomena, ancestors, and the beings of the spirit world is called bimaadiziwin. It is important to understand that what we as individuals, in “real” life but also on social media like Facebook, say and do affects this interrelated system of inawendiwin and bimaadiziwin; the hurt of one is the hurt of allAs we learn of these things, we, like the Sleeping Medicine People in Simone’s paintings who wake up to voices from the past, must wake up to a new realization of inawendi/bimaadiziwin and learn to live again according to the responsibilities that the Old Ones instilled in us.


Simone McLeod Anishinaabe painter This Is Your Journey


The value of observational learning

Sometimes we are on Facebook or another social medium and we hear or read something, and that something gives us a déjà vu, an “aha!” moment, and we tend to believe, in the blatant outward expression that characterizes our modern ways and time, that this something, this something that invokes vague echoes of truths that live deep inside of us, requires an instant explanation - in fact, we even believe we are ENTITLED to it. 
I full-heartedly agree with Simone that we should start realizing that all we know is that we don’t know, and that observational learning is a far better way to find answers than asking direct, or even impertinent, questions. It is today's structural lack of emotional sobriety, coupled with a tendency to always ask questions, that creates confusion in our spirits and minds. As soon as we stop automatically replying to, or resounding what's being said, but start listening instead, then, and only then, we begin to truly communicate...only then we can begin true understanding of the knowledge and wisdom that our ancestors passed on to us. 


Midewiwin Life Road
The road of life, an ancient Anishinaabe diagram of the Midewiwin depicting four hills (life stages from birth to old age); the  road has seven digressions leading from man's life trail symbolizing human vices like idleness, vanity, inmoderation and gluttony, dishonesty, and hysteric behavior.


So, when we realize that all we know for sure is that we DON'T know, and that asking direct questions will not bring us closer to the answers we seek, we are saying in effect, “I'm open to the message.This is the road of Finding Wisdom Through Silent Learning that our ancestors walked. They called it: gikinawaabiwin bizindamowin gaye, Learning from, and by, Observation and Listening.

This road of gikinawaabiwin/bizindamowin, like all of our traditions that patiently lay hidden in the very ground we walk on to be rediscovered, has not lost its merit or worth. 

Let us start walking this road from today and now.

Miigwech, thank you.

> Read the next episode in the Teaching Stories: “That Which Is Given to Us (A Native Perspective on the Notion of Wealth).


Jewelry and photography by ZhaawanArt Fisher Star Creations. 

Acrylic canvas “This Is Your Journey” by Simone McLeod. © 2015 Simone McLeod.

To view details of the wedding rings shown on this page, please go to our website Fisher Star Creations. Or see the Dutch wedding rings webste: Unieke Trouwringen


Aki-egwaniizid miinawaa Zhaawano Giizhik/Wenoondaagoziwid Webaashi


About the authors/artists:

Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is an Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) . Simone feels a special tie with her mother's People, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg ("#16" Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba. Simone descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in Amsterdam. the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist, a writer, and a designer of  jewelry and wedding rings, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists. He has done several art projects with Simone and hopes to continue to do so in the future.


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