11/8/2018 13 Comments
I Am Only A Woman
In the Anishinaabe world it was from Creator’s Dream that all was created. During the First Order of Creation the four sacred elements of Water, Rock, Wind, and Fire were brought into existence; during the Second Order of Creation the plant nations were brought into existence; during the Third Order of Creation the animal nations were brought into existence. Once all else was here on our Mother Earth, doing all the things they do, and once everything was beautiful and in its place, Creator began to lower humans to the Earth. At this time, during the Fourth Order, humans were gifted with free will and the intelligence of the mind.
Within the Anishinaabe tradition it is valued that all the beings before humans are more intelligent. We value that Water, a member of the First Order, was born knowing what to do; and trees, although a little bit further from Creator and born in the Second Order, also hold a lot of Creator’s knowledge and wisdom, thus they know how to stand straight with integrity. We also value that although the Animal beings are born in the Third Order, who hold less knowledge than the tree nation yet more of Creator’s knowledge than humans do, are our teachers in the way they carefully and lovingly teach their young. And we value that humans born in the Fourth Order, despite the gift of our minds, require even more teachings than all the other beings. We value that we are only human and not as intelligent as all that came before. Within this understanding I know I am only a woman.
As many people know one of the main differences between Indigenous people and our knowledge philosophy and most, if not all, settler Canadians, is that Indigenous people value the Original Dream and Creator’s Laws. Another way to understand this difference is to value that Indigenous assumptions, beliefs, teachings, and rituals are intentionally and consciously designed around natural features on the Earth and the knowledge inherent. This serves to keep us rooted within Creator’s Law and the naturalistic tradition, also known as the naturalistic paradigm. The short story is that the naturalistic paradigm places natural law at its core whereas humans are placed after, but at the same time within, the broader context of all the other beings such as the four sacred elements.
The humanistic paradigm is different from the naturalistic paradigm. The humanistic paradigm places humans above the natural world and above all the other beings versus after all else and within it. This includes all human creations such as our governance and economic traditions and this includes brick and mortar structures. These entities are all situated above the natural world. They are not designed to work with Creation and natural law; rather they are designed to control and monopolize the natural world. While humans are smart and able to create amazing things with the gift of our minds; our egos, greed, selfishness, and arrogance are the barriers to respecting the importance of the natural world and all that came before our arrival. This unexamined default way of being is what is meant by the Anishinaabe saying, “humans are pitiful”.
As we are all beginning to learn the humanistic paradigm and all the inventions that emerge from it, is devastating our collective land and waterscapes, so much so that our water is polluted with multiple layers of different kinds of pollution: debris such as plastic and other forms of garbage; organic and inorganic chemical compounds such as dioxins, heavy metals, and pharmaceuticals; biological and sewage waste; and radioactive particles. Again, this is the result of human beings placing their needs and desires over and above all the beings within the natural world, which is a particular kind of arrogance over Creator’s Law. Creator, I think, must be sad to have gifted humans with a mind that so quickly defaults to all that is inherent in the Wendigo: Ego, greed, selfishness, and arrogance. I know I am and so are many of my friends.
The problem in coming to value our own complicity in the destruction of the natural world is that most people are suffering from “cognitive paradigm paralysis”. What I mean by this is that many humans are unable to think conceptually about the paradigm they live within, and thus unable to think critically about the limitations of that very paradigm ‒ again the humanistic paradigm ‒ and value that there is a better and more intelligent option waiting for them to shift into. The culprit is human cognition. The mind is not as smart as we think it is.
A telling example of people’s inability to understand that they are stuck within the limiting and irrational humanistic paradigm is the fact that when a brick and mortar Church, Mosque, or Synagogue is vandalized, people are disgusted and outraged and they quickly refer to it as a “hate crime”; yet when a natural sacred place that has a 5,000 year old history, such as Akikpautik and Akikodjiwan, located within the natural world of the land and waterscape of the Ottawa River is further desecrated, these same people are unable to shift conceptually and thus value that this too is indeed a hate crime. This inability to shift conceptually into the naturalistic paradigm and truly value Creation and all that came before humans, continues to harm all beings not just Indigenous nations and peoples.
Akikpautik and Akikodjiwan are the very land and waterscapes where Creator placed the First Sacred Pipe, the ultimate ritual and ceremony of reconciliation. The Spirit of the West Wind gifted his son Nanaboozo with the Sacred Pipe for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and citizens of all nations to assist in reconciliation. Sadly, Akikpautik and Akikodjiwan are now slated for further desecration through the construction of Windmill’s Zibi condominium and retail complex, a so-called One Planet Community (now under Theia Partners and Dream Unlimited Corporation). What is particularly bizarre is that this desecration is happening just upstream from Canada’s Parliament.
While I understand that I am only a woman brought to this Earth after all else and thus I am less intelligent, many know I have been on a long learning journey piecing together what Canada has done, and continues to do, to Indigenous nations and peoples. What I now know for sure is the most effective way to destroy a people is to destroy their sacred beliefs, stories, and places. It is a complete abomination that the further desecration of this sacred place of reconciliation is happening during the time of the Liberal government’s reconciliation and feminist platform.
Here are a few resources if you wish to learn more about the sacredness of Akikpautik and Akikodjiwan:
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Algonquin land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through, and see more of her work, at www.lynngehl.com
11/9/2018 01:27:50 am
Lynn, this is the most cogent, powerful and helpful piece of writing I have read by you. Thank you for writing and sharing it.
myna lee johnstone
11/9/2018 03:28:18 am
Thank You for this Wisdom..
11/9/2018 09:45:27 am
Thanks again Lynn for sharing your learning journey and speaking your truth. I agree with the naturalist paradigm approach to truly value Creation and all that came before us. I've come to know your journey and appreciate this blog. You are an enlightenment to those of us like me, who are ignorant of the historical truth. The onus is on us to learn the truth, I take responsibility for this. With humbling gratitude, I thank you for all you do to open my eyes!
11/10/2018 02:25:55 pm
Thank Lynn for sharing this knowledge.
11/13/2018 09:40:49 am
Beautifully expressed Lynn. Thank you for all you write and explain, from a feminist!
11/13/2018 02:54:23 pm
11/13/2018 05:16:24 pm
Miigwech. 🌹 I would very much like to share this. May I? And how?
11/14/2018 04:03:00 pm
Please do. I am not sure why people ask me this question. It is a public blog. Is there something I am missing?
11/14/2018 02:07:38 pm
Thank you for sharing your wisdom Lynn and helping me reflect on the importance of preserving (and honoring) the "sacred".
11/19/2018 04:34:43 pm
Wonderful piece of writing, Lynn. Miigwech. I particularly admire the way you have articulated the difference between humanistic and naturalistic paradigms, where people who follow the first imagine themselves as operating 'above' or 'outside' of nature, while those who accept the second know they live as part of nature and there is no escape.
3/9/2020 08:31:50 pm
Powerful and inspiring piece, Lynn. Gilakas'la and migwetch from the west side of the turtle.
9/23/2021 10:26:52 am
Miigwetch, am very grateful for your teachings.
9/23/2021 01:42:21 pm
I have no words, just tears fall . Your writing and understanding is beautiful. Hopefully many will learn from it and change will follow.
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