According to the Algonquin Anishinaabeg tradition and view of the world, the universe was created in four orders. The first order of Creation involved the emergence of the four sacred elements: fire, rock, water, and wind. It is during the first order of Creation that the entire universe, including the sun, the earth, and the moon were created and where what is now called the “Canadian Shield” first emerged from the great sea.
The second order of Creation involved the creation of trees, plants, vegetables, and fruits. This order brought to the earth all the members of the Tree Nation such as the maple, birch, and butternut. It also brought medicines found in the hemlock tree, the strawberry as well as other berries, and cat tails for example.
The third order of Creation brought to the Earth the four legged, the winged, and the swimmers such as the bear, the owl and eagle, and the salmon and pike. It is these animal beings that taught humans the knowledge about medicines and how to use them in a good way. According to Algonquin Anishinaabeg tradition it is said that these three orders of Creation thrived and lived together for a very long time before the fourth order was brought into existence.
The fourth order of Creation occurred where humans were lowered to Turtle Island. Our stories tell us that although humans are born with the wonderful gift and ability to dream and imagine we are also the most pitiful. Humans are pitiful in that we are the most dependent on the other three orders of Creation. While the plants and animals lived here on Turtle Island for a very long time without us, and thus can continue to live without us, humans cannot live without them, as it is these other three orders of Creation that provide us with the protection and subsistence we need. In addition, we are also pitiful in that our ability to dream and imagine is also our biggest burden and responsibility. This ability left unchecked and un-moderated through a moral code – that is a moral code that is broad and ensures the wellness of all other beings of Creation – puts our very own existence at risk. It is in this way that our ability to create through dream and imagination is indeed a paradox. Respecting this paradox, is a fundamental Algonquin Anishinaabeg teaching.
Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process, and recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts. Her next book, titled The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims process, will be out in March of 2014. You can reach her at email@example.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com
Deanna Wright is a nature enthusiast and photographer residing in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She enjoys getting out into nature and capturing moments of beauty, peace, and tranquility in the natural world. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.DeannaWrightPhotography.com
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