7/17/2012 7 Comments
For several years now I have been listening to comments such as “I am not being political”. Even when attending so-called treaty gatherings they say “I am here for the culture not the politics”. They continue, “Supporting the AOO (Algonquins of Ontario) political agenda is not my intent”. I have always found these statements peculiar and as such have thought a lot about them.
In the western world it was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) who first offered that human consciousness, and thus our thoughts, represents only the tip of the iceberg of who we are as human beings. Like all icebergs, most of who we are resides beneath the surface, meaning our subconscious self is so much larger than what we think.
While in the western world it may have been Freud who developed this understanding and model of who humans are, the Anishinaabeg have always known that knowledge runs much deeper than simply what our conscious minds and thoughts have to offer. Rather, the Anishinaabeg know that knowledge is a mind and body entity that is best not delineated by adults into its smaller parts. Further, knowledge as both mind and body is precisely what is meant by the statement that knowledge is wholistic.
Having said this, and while wholism is the ideal state of adult being, the Anishinaabeg are also of the perspective that knowledge located in practice, and thus embodied, is a powerful way of shaping who we are. Knowledge embodied through practice includes processes such as ritual, prayer, dance, feasting, and song. It is precisely for this reason that extended family members work hard to teach children their clan responsibilities and associated practices, their clan dances, and their clan songs long before they have a conscious understanding of who they are. After this socialization process as children age they more easily walk into understanding consciously who they wholistically are: mind and body. Practices become who a person is, and they serve to provide a strong foundation of identity that they can then rely on in times of need such as joy and grief. Once a person knows who they are in a wholistic embodied sense, they are then destined to mino-pimadiziwin (the good life).
Beginning in the late eighteen hundreds, it is precisely this powerful way of wholistic knowing that the Canadian government criminalized. They knew how powerful our practices are and thus wanted to eliminate them so that the state could then better assimilate Indigenous people into the Canadian mosaic and take our land and resources.
What Anishinaabeg do in practice is who they are. When Algonquin Anishinaabeg argue, “I was not at that event in a political capacity, nor do I support the agenda”, regardless of their thoughts and intent, through practice they are supporting the agenda. Again, if you are participating in political events taking out your drum and pipe you are indeed supporting the political agenda.
While I value that you may be needful to be around fellow Algonquin Anishinaabeg, and needful to engage in ceremony and all the practices inherent, if you do not support the AOO political agenda, you really need to find a better venue than one that is intended to deny us our land, resources, and right to mino-pimadiziwin.
Knowledge as practice is Anishinaabeg law.
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