11/22/2013 4 Comments
Prior to the European invasion, the Anishinaabeg held a lifeway and knowledge tradition that was very sophisticated. While change has occurred, many of these ways of knowing continue to exist.
One such way of knowing is Debwewin Journey, a wholistic way of knowing and being that involves one’s heart and mind working together (Gehl, Debwewin Journey). This way of knowing is recorded in ancient Midewiwin scroll knowledge and is best described as two connecting circles: a circle of heart knowledge and a circle of mind knowledge. While the top circle represents mind knowledge, the bottom circle represents heart knowledge.
In the Anishinaabeg tradition, knowledge is not considered a truth unless both heart and mind knowledge are working together. Heart knowledge void of mind knowledge, or mind knowledge void of heart knowledge, is left incomplete and is potentially dangerous knowledge. It is interesting to note here that this is the same symbol that the Métis have adopted as their national flag, adding a 90 degree turn to the symbol.
Through processes of colonization, many Anishinaabeg today are struggling with embodied heart knowledge (the circle of heart knowledge), void of an intellectual understanding (the circle of mind knowledge) of what they feel. In the event that this happens to an individual, it is suggested that instead of reaching for drugs or alcohol, or some other pitiful alternative, that they go on a Debwewin Journey.
Through Debwewin Journey, individuals travel far on a personal knowledge-seeking adventure where it is their responsibility to learn the history of colonization, such as the criminalization of our culture and the history of the oppressive and sexist Indian Act, for example. In learning the circle of mind knowledge and in connecting it to the circle of heart knowledge, an individual is able to come to a wholistic understanding of who they are and still the undercurrents that flow beneath their feet.
This is chapter 7 from my book "Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts". For a longer version of this story see: Reference: Gehl, Lynn. "Debwewin Journey: A Methodology and Model of Knowing." AlterNative 8.1 (2012): 53-65.
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Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. 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, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She has three books: Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, and Mkadengwe: Sharing Canada's Colonial Process through Black Face Methodology. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.
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