Your very own Elder

I once made a comment where I referred to “My Elder taught me this.” And someone said, “Holy ever special, you got your own Elder?” Little did they know, that this specific Elder sat me down, and had some deep conversations with me, and said, “I’ve known you quite a long time now, I’d like to believe that you look up to me as your Elder…”

He taught me about the Poigan (Sacred Pipe), he taught me about the roles and responsibilities of men to our Nations, communities and people. He taught me, what it meant to “Serve the People”. He taught me about Humility, Love, Kindness, and Respect.

I’ve known this Elder ever since I sobered up. He’s seen me through 3 relapses of sobriety and has helped me through my recovery to this very day.

I once praised him for his work in helping me, but he dismissed it, and said, “I only showed you the door, you walked through it, the work that you’ve accomplished is yours.”

In my own sobriety, I have struggled, and I have struggled hard. I was homeless, penniless, and in many regards friendless, and without much family. (My drinking caused me to burn every single bridge I had).

However, I was put on the road to recovery, and that road of recovery is something that many of us term, “The Red Road”.

On this road, I have been to many ceremonies, that have shaped, and redirected my path of dysfunction back to normality. I owe my life, my sobriety, and everything that I am today to the “Red Road” and everyone on it.
I went on a speaking tour earlier this year and as I was being given a ride to the airport, my friend who volunteered to drive me said, “Remember that when you are out there in the west, you are accountable to people. You are accountable to the Lodge keepers of the lodges you go to. You will be representing, not only yourself, but people who have taught you along the way. Make sure you conduct yourself with Respect… everything you say and do will reflect back on to the ones who give you teachings.” (That is a close to verbatim that I can recall)

I’m really grateful that my friend told those words to me, because at that point I never really innerstood what accountability was.

When I had come back from my trip out west, I had met up with another Elder, and was seeking direction and guidance. We got on the topic of mens roles and responsibilities (probably because I was giving a talk later that night for Ryerson University on what they were, and I wanted to polish up on what I thought I knew).

Anyhow he told me something very basic, but altogether fundamental. He told me, “You have to first be responsible to yourself. If you are a man, and you want to father a child, how are you going to be a responsible father, if you can’t even be responsible for yourself? Bimaadziwin, ‘The Good Way of Life’, you have a responsibility to yourself, to live in that good kind way. Treat yourself with kindness, and goodness. That is your responsibility to yourself.”

I share these few anecdotes because a lot of discussion around these topics have surfaced in the last few months.

Who are people truly accountable to? Who do you have to answer to? If your answer is no one (Other than your employer), then I suppose maybe that’s the reason the world is the way that it is today. Lack of responsibility and accountability.

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