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Elders discarded as symptoms of savagery


Guest Editorial by Everett Lambert







Page 6

Slowly but surely, I want to get all those thoughts I feel are important to me, down on paper. Maybe because it's Sunday or maybe because my roommate started me off on the whole thing, but recently I got to thinking a lot about God, or that Somebody we at times call the "Great Spirit".

I thought about how she/he relates to Native people. All in all, I have agreed within myself that Native traditional religion was a good religion(s). Before Christianity was "endowed upon us," I don't think we all went to hell. So, we must have been doing something right. Indeed, when Native traditional religion was suppressed, this in a very great way took away the self and public esteem of Native people.

There was a time when we revered, loved and cherished our Native Elders. We held them in the same esteem as you would hold your Pope or Mother Theresa. We were so very proud of our Elders.

Then Christianity was "endowed" upon us. We learned about "savagery." We had to be Christianized. We had to be taught how to love and respect our fellow man and in the only way ? the Christian way. Our traditional beliefs, our religions, our Elders were discarded as symptoms of savagery.

We looked up to the Roman Catholic priests and the Jesuit missionaries as our new superhumans, as our new saviors, as our elders. Our own Elders were reduced to symptoms of savagery, dinosaurs nearing extinction. WE lost a great deal of pride in them. We even became embarrassed when one appeared with a silly pipe, or a useless medicine bundle. I have encountered many Natives who feel that Native sacred ceremonies were rubbish.

One of the worse things about the whole process though, was that we lost pride in our very selves. Our Elders are a part of us. Now I know what they mean when they say Native people have a holistic view of life and the things around them. When we look down on our Elders we look down on ourselves.

Native people in Canada today are struggling to regain their identity and a sense of well-being. Violence, high death rates, and alcohol and drug abuse run rampant among our people. I know.

A friend of mine once told me something, and I have to say he captured in words what I feel is the cure to most of our problems. He said, "what Native people need to experience is a great wave of spiritualism."

We have to start looking up to our Elders and ourselves. It's kind of an unprofessional way to put it, but I doubt like hell, that all Native people all went to hell. Honestly. Andy you think about it. Our religions must have been effecting something right. I mean how different is it to burn sweetgrass than it is to kneel down before, sitting down on the church bench. A lot of people think our old religions were silly simply because we communicated to the spirits in a different fashion.

Love yourselves: love your Elders.