There are many principles inherent in the Anishinaabe Clan System of Governance, one of which is the need to learn from the animal beings as they are our older siblings and teachers. More rooted in natural law as they are, it is said animal beings can teach us how to be better humans to one another and to the earth.
The Barn Owl is an interesting creature in its skilled ability to hear and move through the dark. It listens and it learns where its sustenance is, and once it has determined where it needs to go, it silently swoops in without making a sound. This is the gift of the Barn Owl. It teaches us to listen and act without making a sound.
In terms of an Indigenous governance tradition, the Barn Owl teaches us that when people talk with us in times of harm and hurt it is most important that we at the very very least listen to what they are saying. Listening without talking and judgement is the essence of what it means to be a human being. Listening and being human means we look at other people and listen when they need to be seen and heard. Listening means, that while we may not want to talk, we must still listen while remaining silent. Actually, to listen does not require talking.
Humans are not silos; humans are not individuals; rather, humans are in fact a self in relation to other humans. Humans are social mirrors of one another. This is what it means to be a human; we are only a self in relationship with others. When you deny a person their need to be listened to, simply because you do not want to talk about something, or someone for that matter, you are a failed human being. And you fail to see the other person as human.
The Barn Owl teaches us the governance boundaries of listening without talking and judgement. The Barn Owl teaches us that listening means not talking, and that not talking does not mean not listening. Establish listening boundaries rather than teach someone that you, and they, are not human beings.
This video of the Barn Owl may be interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ofpb9_-6iIw
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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.