Like many parents, I want to guide my kids on a path to live the good life: spiritually connected and holistically healthy, connected to and respectful of all our relations. The Anishnaabe principles called the Seven Grandfather Teachings have become the foundation of my own daily parenting practices. Oral translations such as The Mishomis Book (by Ojibway educator Edward Benton-Banai), detail how the Creator, known as our collective grandfather, gave us our first mother, Mother Earth. That creator saw that humans needed morals to help one another and to remain respectful of our connection to, and reliance on all of creation, including our animal cousins. The animals woven into these lessons serve to remind us of our responsibilities as stewards of the environment and protectors of our first mother. And I share these lessons as stories and songs with my kids, as traditional practitioner and knowledge keeper Banakonda Kennedy Kish Bell has passed them onto me.
This series of guiding values are one of the most popular of Anishinaabe teachings, because they are relatable and encompass the kind of morals that all of humanity can aspire to sustain. And while expressions vary from nation to nation, the wisdom of these philosophies have spread across Turtle Island (North America), offering ways to enrich our lives and providing positive, playful examples of how to survive—and thrive—in this world, existing in peace and harmony with all of creation.
My kids are fascinated with how our relations extend through all of creation. They are endlessly curious about the world around them, as all children are. As they’ve grown, I’ve surrounded them with the knowledge that much like the animals in the Seven Grandfather Teachings, all animals are our four-legged friends and we are reliant on them to survive, much like the water, the trees, the bees and all other plant life and organisms. (Except maybe flies. The jury’s still out on that one, although they do think it’s pretty cool that they can turn into maggots.)
I often make each teaching a story or tap into them when tackling tough situations as they arise at school, with peers or in our family dynamic. There’s opportunity every day to teach through story, song, and all of our relations in creation.
Nbwaakaawin: The Beaver
To cultivate knowledge is to know wisdom, which helps us make decisions that honour our well-being. This is represented by the beaver, who patiently uses his impressive teeth and creative mind to build sustainable communities. Be humble in knowing where you excel and what your limits are, and collaborate with others who have expertise you may lack.