How I Use Indigenous Teachings to Help My Kids Respect the Earth
By Selena Mills
Illustration by Selena Mills
Apr 20, 2018
As a mom, one of the powerful teaching tools I have is rooted in harvesting concepts found within Indigenous traditions. In fact, sharing stories of cultural belief systems and traditions has proven to enrich our lives.
As an Indigenous parent, I envisage the faces of those born and unborn — the future of the next Seven Generations — when making decisions and taking action based on those decisions. One of those decisions is teaching my family to care for and protect the earth, something that is constantly on my radar, in our hearts and included in our day-to-day teachings. It's something that can be taught to children, even if they are little.
Related Reading: Exploring My Indigenous Culture Now That I'm a Mom
Historically, Indigenous governing systems, traditions and teachings have been passed down orally from generation to generation through stories and ceremonies. Today, those who carry the knowledge of such things — they vary from nation to nation, as do the seven sacred teachings — are in tune with the morals, values, insights, concepts and spiritual beliefs of each group.
Our family has found The Seven Grandfather Teachings very powerful. This set of guiding values honour Anishinaabe morals, which uphold love, wisdom, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth as the core values necessary to our well-being, how we conduct ourselves in our relationships and exist in peace and harmony with all of creation.
The creation part is key here. Without the earth and the animals, we would not be able to survive. So, in order to uphold any of the Anishinaabe morals, a solid foundation is required, and that's why giving attention to why and how to respect our earth is where we start.
This might feel complicated to do, because the reality as I see it is that more attention is paid to how to respect fellow humans over the earth and its animals. That said, I'm not a pessimist, so I still draw positive real-world comparisons where I can.
I find the Seven Grandfather Teachings most accessible because they include ideologies and codes that people across Turtle Island — and beyond — can appreciate and relate to, regardless of race, colour or creed. For that reason, it feels like a way in which we might join forces as parents to begin the difficult work of honouring our first mother and teaching our kids to do the same. And there's no better time to start than today.
Related Reading: How We're Teaching Indigenous History to Our Kids
Applying the Seven Grandfather Teachings to Respect for the Earth
Love one another (and ourselves, and future generations) enough to listen to differences of opinion and consider other people’s (and cultures) perspectives and knowledge when it comes to our responsibility to care for the earth and how we might be endangering her.
Listen to the wisdom of our elders, scientists, water walkers and the voices of our children, and consider the devastating impact of how the continued extraction and pollution of Mother Earth’s natural sources will affect the quality of life for future generations.
Be brave enough to lead and direct conversations about alternative investments versus corporate interests within your own communities, families and neighbourhoods.
Embrace honesty as a powerful tool to help decide the kind of stories you share with children in your care. Allow this honesty to detemine what you have the power to do to create change. What this looks like can take many forms, from recycling properly at home, to composting and conserving energy, to bigger picture efforts such as volunteering together as a family to clean up a local park.
Know that humility is a an excellent tool for embracing change and listening to perspectives that might differ from our own.
Truth is to know that all of these philosophies are an integral part of character development and building emotional intelligence, no matter what our age might be.
Respect the power of shared knowledge within communities, as this can help with human development and to determine ways in which we can care for one another and the earth.
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