Are we throwing away our “Onkwe’hon:we Knowledge”?

Under the guise of such excuses as…”well I wasn’t raised with the culture”; or “I don’t know anyone who knows about that”; or “I don’t have the time to visit people”; or “I don’t really like that person because they said (something) to my third cousin twice removed twenty years ago”, or “well the Aztecs in Mexico believe…” etc. our people are moving away from our own nation specific Onkwe’hon:we ways of maintaining, transmitting and growing our unique Onkwe’hon:we knowledge.

Every Onkwe’hon:we person has something to offer, something we can learn from them about our own people’s knowledge. This knowledge changes, grows and is passed down from generation to generation. Every one of us carries something of this whether we are conscious of it or not. Some of us know how to make taps for maple trees out of sumac, how to sing bear dance, how to make a snowsnake track, how to have your own mind and make decisions for your self, how to hunt or fish etc. etc. Our own people with Onkwe’hon:we knowledge don’t have websites, business cards, or an annual conference. We see each other everywhere in the community and the opportunities are always there to reach out and try to learn from one another. However, this is often not what happens.

Because of such terms as ‘spiritual’, ‘holistic’ and ‘healing’ our own people deem our own people to be ‘not spiritual enough’ because we don’t match up with the romanticised projection of the noble, spiritual, ‘one with the earth’ mystical Indian that only exists in Hollywood movies and Victorian romance novels. We internalize the image of the ‘mystical’ ‘magical’ Indian and discount our own people because they do not match the picture we have in our heads of the sort of romanticized ‘elders’, ‘healers’ and ‘spiritually connected people’ that mass media and popular culture tell us we should be learning from.

The guy that drinks on the weekends, builds houses during the week and goes to Bush League every Thursday night still knows how to sing Ohstowa’ko:wa’ like you wouldn’t believe. He may not match the picture of what many have in their minds of a ‘great elder’, but he definitely carries some of our knowledge, and if you were to ask him to teach your son(s), I’m sure he would.

As Kanyen’keha:ka we don’t have one all knowing elder who knows everything, has a great cane, a long beard, a long braid with a feather in it who lives way off the road in a hut in the middle of the bush who you have to go on a great, difficult, struggle-filled journey to visit who lives totally off grid, dresses in hemp clothes and only eats that which he has grown himself and who lives in a green, bio-dynamic, bio-degradable tree house.

The idea that one has to ‘struggle’ to acquire Onkwe’hon:we knowledge is a myth propogated by those who seek to profit from your struggle. Jesus died for the sins of the Christian, who must struggle daily to follow the tenets of what Christ set down. We the Onkwe’hon:we, merely need to give thanks because the creator and the earth provide everything that we need.

It seems much easier to get on the internet and take the course, or take the weekend long workshop, to read the book and become an instant certified expert in whatever technique that one wishes to know about…than it is to go search, find, establish a relationship with, spend time with, experience, work and learn from your own people who have our own peoples knowledge.

I guess it’s not flashy enough, it’s not the latest trend, you can’t tell people you’re a certified “fill in the blank”. You would only have your own peoples ‘traditional’ knowledge, and would apply it in your life without fanfare, pomp, a website, a scheme to buy into or any other form of mass exploitation. There would be no bookings for speaking engagements, no promotional trailers, CD’s or DVD’s, no handbook and no long string of conference presentations.

Only relationship building, real experiences and meaningful work with whoever you find who is going to pass on and grow their Onkwe’honwe knowledge to and with you. This happens everywhere in our community, in our homes and out on the land: the very places our knowledge comes from.

I implore everyone, please try to learn what we know about how to be a human being in the world first before jumping into the latest trends in the mainstream. You want to know about ‘energy work’ and ‘light body work’? We have that. You want to know about ‘healing’? We have that. You want to know about gardening? We have that. You want to know about ‘herbology’? We really have that. I’m not saying we can’t learn from what other people in the world have to offer, merely that we carry so much knowledge amongst our own people in all areas that we should be using, living and valuing what we know.

When we do this we make it alive, real and available to others. Please take the time to show respect to your grandparents of old times, who really had to fight to maintain our knowledge so that we could have it today by trying to learn what it is that we know. Tohsa yonkwa:ti’ onkwe’hon:weneha tahnon tsi niyonkwariho:ten’s (don’t throw away our knowledge, language and ways of doing things.

By Jeremy Green

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