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We are all Anishanabe.

Dear Editor:

Hello, I read your paper with great interest every chance I get. Your writers are well articulated, thoughtful and educated. Regardless of my praise, I just wanted to submit a response and challenge to one of your letters to the editor from N. Katawasisiw (Buffalo Spirit, March 2004 edition) who talked about selling in a non-Native way sweetgrass and other spiritual items of Aboriginal people, and it being wrong.

There is no one traditional way of our people. It isn't written in stone. There are only paths that are more proper and respectful. This, however, does not limit any of the paths each man can take in his life.

As our medicine wheel is divided into the four colors, meaning the four major paths of man, so we are entitled to our different views and ways to look at the world, with all those in between the four major paths. Some of these paths are at odds with others, but the Creator, in the words of our Elders from the 1600s, did this for "curiosity's sake."

The fact that you said we, "... should make sweetgrass available only to Aboriginal people ..." shows that you have a limited view about what traditional means. My example follows.

The word Anishanabe to one culture (the Ojibwe, so named now) means human being. The Ojibwe used to call each other Anishanabe or "human beings" and they also used to call white people anishanabe as well. What is so weird is that now Anishanabe, and the later progression of the word "Nish," refers to only Natives, and does not include whites anymore. So now one culture, in general, has seemingly forgotten ancient ways and meanings. We all used to be human beings in the eyes of our ancients.

It is the same with your limited view of what you are allowed and not allowed to do with sacred Native medicine, objects, etc. It is the purpose of one who is wise in the Creator's ways to teach those in ignorance, not to stop their progress on their path. And it is a problem today with our beliefs for more than just one tribal culture that someone has defined what exactly is the traditional way or path. We may hate the fact that another culture is insulting ours by selling our sacred objects, but it never was the way of our people to define and narrow the definition of what you are allowed or not allowed to do. This is unfortunately the exact thing that happened when we were invaded.

However, it is the job of Natives to become the new peoples showing a new way, while not shoving it on other Anishanabe. And the test of whether or not you know the old way truly is to ask yourself if you are a traditional practitioner. "Do I think I am right and someone is wrong?"

The Anishanabe people never had a word for evil in the original tongue, so good versus evil did not exist, just as right versus wrong did not exist. There was and is only shades of gray.

If life is a circular path, that at its ending starts again with its beginning, then all we can do is live in as respectful and curious a way as possible while remembering that the Creator put secret gifts in us to find.

Although conflict will always have its place in life, there is one adage that sums up most of the many proper ways to live and spoken by a famous Anishanabe.

"A life not lived for others is a life not worth living."

Albert Einstein

Yours truly, James Anthony McGuire

[talk it up]

Call us at 1-800-661-5469 and leave a message outlining your concerns on whatever topic you'd like. Or e-mail us at or write to the editor at 13245-146 St.

Edmonton, AB T5L 4S8
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Title Annotation:Rants and Raves
Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Previous Article:Fear and loathing in toon town.
Next Article:Story has two sides.

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