"L'éveil au Cercle" - "Awakening to the Circle"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 4, 2010 Message from William Commanda to Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed


I have been blessed by the guidance and strength of the Sacred Wampum Belts of our Anisninabe ancestors to assert their presence over the past forty years, and many, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have been awakened to our history, wisdom and relevance in these times of unprecedented global uncertainty and chaos. But in our traditional way of thinking, the individual is only a cornerstone of a community, and we must bring our individual strengths together to recreate the strong communities we developed in the past. I have often said that Indigenous Peoples are the only ones who have never gone elsewhere to make new homes, we are at home here; we maintain the sacred unbreakable connections with Mother Earth, and we have to assert this reality with even greater vigour and perseverance in these times of war and strife, climate change and environmental crisis. Without doubt, Mother Earth's voice is loud now, and she is calling urgently to draw us back to her. We have a crucial role to play in restoring balance on Earth, and our Earth based and cyclical ways of thinking have a vitally important role to play in human evolution and growth. We can all see the huge deficit and spiritually bankrupt legacy looming in the global landscape.

I have been fortunate to express and assert my relationship with the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed for many years, despite the fact that we have been separated by history, provincial and reserve boundaries, language, politics, and innumerable other devastatingly divisive factors that have been imposed on us, our ancestors and our children; and my life has been immeasurably enriched and strengthened by this experience with all my Algonquin brothers and sisters. I see in younger people of Algonquin ancestry unique strengths, skills, abilities and passions, which, when combined, will constitute a strong, wise and influential voice in the heart of the country. Still, our painful history of many centuries, of many generations, affects us all in various ways, and it has prevented us from unifying and finding our zones of common voice and purpose. It has also prevented the Algonquin Nation from occupying its rightful position in the national capital region, obliterated the real history of the region, as well as the contribution of our grand natural resources and labour, so crucial to the development of the entire country, from most minds. The capital city, which lies in the heart of our traditional territory, is only barely beginning to hear of us. Our history has also impacted the strength of other Aboriginal Peoples across the country, since it is us Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed who belong in the National Capital Region, and our invisibility here has been detrimental to the overall organic strengthening of the Aboriginal voice.

The challenges are great for all First Peoples; they are even greater and indeed more unique for Algonquins in this national capital region, who, having lost our common language, have been further separated by the English and French languages, hostilities and religious affiliations, both on and off reserve.

On June 4, 1613, our ancestors encountered Samuel de Champlain at our ancient meeting ground at Akikpautik, the Sacred Chaudière Falls, the pail rapids, that for centuries represented for us the womb of Mother Earth and the bowl of the pipe that took our prayers up to Kitchi Manitou; and they witnessed his arrival with prayer. Though recent history has removed us from this sacred site, Indigenous Peoples have nonetheless been drawn back there over the past forty decades to find strength to assert their voices. Despite the differences that continue to ravage the Algonquin Peoples, Algonquins from both sides of the Might Kitchisippi have expressed support for the vision for an Indigenous Centre of national and international potential at this sacred heartland.

This can be the starting place for us to find our common purpose, and in time, our restrengthened relationships will enable us to build bridges and understanding in the more contentious areas that divide us. But we need to make a start towards such healing now; the plight of our people - poverty, suicide, health, despair besiege us everywhere - is desperately urgent. It is said You make the road by walking it, and indeed, that the journey is the goal - we must embrace this idea and trust that new ideas and strengths for transforming old realities will present themselves to us again and again, if we give them a chance to emerge.
We need an Algonquin leadership group to focus energy into a common purpose that will serve not only the Algonquins of the Kicthisippi Watershed, but our relatives in the 84 Algonquin Nations beyond, Aboriginal Peoples across the country, Native Americans across the border, and all others who now occupy Turtle Island. We will not have to do all the work - but we must catalyze the energy for change and transformation as we are the peoples of this sacred heartland.

We can no longer let the differences that have been imposed upon us for years to continue to divide and oppress us - we must humble ourselves and in that process find true strength and transformation. That was the strength of our ancestors revealed in the sweat lodge fires dotting this valley when Champlain arrived; and though our spiritual heritage has been eroded, we can still reclaim its essential teachings. Indigenous Peoples are a miniscule number when compared with the thirty six million people who now occupy Canada; every voice returning to the source is essential for our journey forward.

When I look back over my almost one hundred years of life, I see much change; I see that despite near genocide, the authentic voice of our people is irrepressible. Today, younger people are seeking its strength in growing numbers, while the reality is also bleak for many others of our young people; once the door opens, more will move forward to reclaim their rightful heritage. I already see much strength reflected in our diverse voices - we have strong ceremonial people, Pipe Carriers and Sacred Fire Keepers and Elders who keep our spiritual heritage alive; high ranking bureaucrats who understand the workings of government; lawyers who know our rights and the legal system; traditional governance experts; academics, teachers and healers; environmental experts; historians who know our story; elders who keep our languages alive; chiefs who know the challenges our communities face; activists who push the edges; people with business and economic development expertise; we have expertise and passion in so many areas - but we need to regenerate a sense of community for these strengths to blossom, multiply and serve our people collectively.

It is time for the next steps forward.

As I have said, Algonquins of different backgrounds and from both Quebec and Ontario and beyond, see common purpose in supporting the vision for Asinabka National Indigenous Centre. We need a small group of Algonquins to initiate next steps to advance this work. Many non-Aboriginal peoples at grass roots and politically influential levels have been awakened and stand ready to assist and support. The larger Aboriginal community is also on alert. This central vision will in time give us an opportunity to find the wisdom to work together on other issues.
Beyond this, there is a tremendous need for Algonquin presence in key events and activities in the National Capital Region - for prayers, opening ceremonies, drumming and dancing, for visibility and influence. Since this is the capital city of a major globally important country, such activities are of national and international relevance. The demands could be overwhelming for one or a few; many of these opportunities are unfunded, and travel is not always easy; but a team of Algonquins could ensure our consistent,regular and visible presence here. The city of Ottawa is embarking on a cultural renewal program, but do not know where to go to find the genuine Aboriginal voice in the city, nor how to distinguish the Algonquin from the other urban Aboriginal voices. Communities are looking for Algonquin participation in their many activities, but don't know how to find this.

June 4, 2013 is four years away - this is when Canada will celebrate Champlain's four hundred year anniversary arrival in the Ottawa valley; in 2017, Canada celebrates its one hundred and fiftieth birthday. Many already know that the Sacred Chaudiere Site lies at the heart of these celebrations; and the vision of Ginawaydaganuc, We Are All Connected is indeed the message of the times for the nation and the world, its peoples and Mother Earth herself.
I pray that Algonquins come together to prepare for taking our rightful place in our sacred heartland. After all, 2013 is also the time of great transformation in Indigenous Prophecies, and our Sacred Wampum Belts, the ancient belt of the Seven Fires Prophecy, the Three Figure Welcoming and Sharing Belt, and the Border Crossing Belt, are preparing us for this moment. May we prepare ourselves now for the next stages of our unfolding destiny.

We need leadership to inspire and fire the next stages of our growth. On this June 4, 2010, may we light our individual and collective prayers in commemoration of the historic moment of 1613 and draw on the eternal strength of our ancestors to blaze a trail for our children.

I am looking for someone to organize a gathering of interested Algonquins to spark the next stages of our work in this uncharted area. The Gathering of Nations Pipe Ceremony on June 21 and the Circle of All Nations Spiritual Gathering August 6, 7 and 8 present as two opportunities to initiate such discussion. A gathering focused solely on Algonquin community building is also highly desirable - and this could be accommodated at my lodge or elsewhere during the summer.
I am anxious to hear from you before June 14, 2010.


William Commanda

Algonquin Elder

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