Healing Supersedes Punishment

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Even when we are born, with just our cry we know the breath of life is a sacred gift from our Great Creator/Great Mystery, Great Spirit. That first cry brings us into life, it gives us that sacred fire and that sacred breath as a part of the four winds that move Creation all about, even sometimes in the form of a hurricane that is part of the Great Mystery. Our old elders teach us that Great Creator put a piece of his sacred fire into each and everyone of us. We all work for the Creator because he is so great.

Started getting up at four am every morning so I can get to my work in the correctional system, my job is to run Sacred Ceremonies/counselling and discussions pertaining to healing and drugs and alcohol. After seven months I can feel the strength of the Brotherhood growing in those who have worked with me in our Sacred Circles, giving Thanksgiving to Mother Earth and passing the Sacred Eagle Wing from hand to hand until everyone has given thanksgiving in their own way to Mother Earth and prayed for healing and the protection of their loved ones outside. The amount of positive energy and respect being created from the Sacred Ceremonies in my classroom is overwhelming by the feedback I get from my students now! There is a sense of respect coming from the correctional officers as well; I can feel it whenever I see them or talk in the workplace and I am proud to be working with the youth and adults who want to change their life. I have never seen or worked with such a respectful and professional staff and Social Workers concerned for giving guidance to people who are trying to find a way to be positive and healthy! When I arrived at my workplace, it was already a healing place: it just got better with the energy from our teachers that I carry and share. I am honored to be a part of a work that brings native culture to people who want to learn sacred teachings of the people who care for environmental protection and peace, justice, harmony and respect.

When I talk to our elders, chiefs and clan mothers back home, there is always news of ups and downs, environmental struggles, elders crossing over, ceremonies coming up and Sacred Conferences that will bring people together for healing and cultural justice for all people and Mother Earth! Our elders always have something positive to share or talk about and our old elders have their stories about how things went in the old days how things went in the ceremonies and who was around in the old days. Alice and Lehman Gibson are featured in my film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers; also in my films are our spiritual leaders Tom Porter, Judy Swamp and Harriet Jock speaking about respect and native values. These elders in the film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers I also bring into my classroom because I feel my own teachings and understanding are not enough for my students. Now I am bringing in my teachers and my friends whom in the past I filmed because I knew they would not be here forever and their wisdom was too important not to document. Sometimes I will tell our students our old elders cannot be replaced; in fact, I have said that all summer long, now fall has passed and winter is here. What we say now is that every people is a spiritual people. In our ceremonies we give thanks to the spirit of the four races of people, the four seasons and the four directions and I say why four then: four races of people in the spirit world are watching over us and we don’t know what spirit decides to help us. My wife Alicja, she is white, she was Polish and she’s the best Indian I ever met; Nelson Mandela is black, we cannot choose who is helping us. When we are praying it just happens.

Things happen in our life we cannot explain, we can only try. When we watch the film Unmistaken Child, on the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama’s brother, we find a lot of information that can help guide us all to better know that the great mystery is powerful and we need to learn more about life and the spirit world. When my students are with me, I say: “When you are here with me, you are free because you are now out of the drug culture, you are out of the gun culture and you are clean and sober and we need to look at our minds like they are a Sacred Garden”. When I was young, our old elders filled us up with love and healing because they knew we had to know how to take care of ourselves and how to take care of our woman and families, but most of all our old elders taught us how to talk to Mother Earth, how to give thanks to Creation and life and to honor the Great Mystery, Our Great Creator! My uncle Robertjohn says: “When you were on the street, you would not listen, but now you are in here and you have to listen”. If my students were still on the street, they might be murdered or killing someone from the drug and gang culture.

Tom Porter and uncle Robertjohn worked in the prison system 20 or 30 years and were community leaders; so was Cree Elder Vern Harper, who is now I believe spiritual leader of Toronto. All these things I say out of truth and love of life and my teachers! The last time I spoke in the Sacred Circle I said: “You need to know how to see things in a spiritual way; that’s why drugs and alcohol kill our mind, body and spirit. It stops us from seeing and drugs and alcohol disconnect us from being guided by spirit world. Chief Richard Maracle, Aussie Staats Norm Jacobs, Ann Jock Leon Shenandoah, Alice and Lehman Gibson were my friends and teachers when they walked on Mother Earth. Now they crossed over. They are Mohawk ancestors and our spirit helpers, maybe they help me every day?

When we are clean and sober, we can see things and feel things that are sacred and real. When we are stoned out, we are in the ultimate fantasy world and we need to come back to the real world: our people need us, all the people need us, Mother Earth needs us. The greatest thing in the world is the work we do for ourselves and others and all of life. Every time we step into the community to talk, work, eat or do ceremony we energize ourselves. Tom Porter says ceremonies energize us. We all need to energize ourselves through our Traditional culture or books and films and art or through all forms of the arts pertaining to healing and protecting Mother Earth. It’s all simple, but because we get hurt in our youth, it becomes trauma and when we see things when we are young, it stays with us till we are adults or adolescents and we copy it and act out because it was too painful to see or hear or feel violence. So I always ask my students if they ever saw their parents fighting when they were young. I always ask my students: “Did you ever see your parents drinking alcohol or doing drugs when you were young or did your parents break up when you were young?”, because these situations are devastating for young people to feel. Our prisons are full of people who imitate and copy what they saw and heard and felt when they were young and some never had ceremonies, medicine or love to heal with!

Our prisons are filled with our youth who became wounded men and women who need help and healing in today’s world. Doctors, social workers, caregivers, therapists and psychologists are on the front lines doing everything they can to create harmony and balance, but indigenous ceremonies, medicine, songs and way of life create respect. Our prisons need programs and farms and gardens and farming, for healing and restoration of the spirit, mind and body. Healing should supersede punishment! Our Sacred Ceremonies are full of healing, respect, love, balance, wisdom and harmony. That is why the Sacred Circle is so important to the prison system.

Alice Gibson Speaks out in the film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers:

“Long ago when I was a child we were more family-orientated because we had our grandmother and grandfather. My grandparents lived behind us. Every time you spoke to my grandmother you only needed to speak Indian. If you spoke English she wouldn’t talk to you. I used to get mad at her and I didn’t speak to her for a long time. Then I’d start again in Indian because I don’t know if she knew it but that was her rule: if you spoke English at all she wouldn’t speak to you. Now I am glad she did that. We were always at my grandparents home because they always had time for us kids.My cousins too we all were always at our grandparents’ place down the hill. Me and my sister were kind of bad, we used to tease our cousin Robert. If my grandmother or grandfather saw Robert raise a hand or even smart mouth me they’d just be all over him or make him go to work or else they’d send him home. We always got tired of playing with him and he bugged us; then my grandparents would send him out to bring in wood. They had no hydro and I always wondered how they lived because they wouldn’t apply for old age pension for the longest time. I know my dad and mom helped them. It was a nice place to visit growing up. In those days it was very strange growing up with all the things that happened.                            

We used to go to a one-room schoolhouse. When I first started school I was only five years old and we had to walk a mile everyday. In those days we were taught not to use our own language and I know my older sisters when they’d only speak in Indian because that is the way we were raised. It was my generation I believe that started using more English at home than Indian. I blame that on us. Because English was surrounding us more and more. We would get a strapping at school if we spoke Indian. Our language was really frowned upon in school. So we tried to use more and more English: that’s how it all got started. I think the kids were nicer back then. They weren’t mean. There’s violence now in the classroom that I find with the young people. Now I don’t  know if every old person says this, but there’s no respect any more for old or young or for each other. We’re losing respect for each other as people. In our days you just dare hit anyone, especially your brother or sister, and your hand would burn. They always told us your hand was burning up because it was a sin to hit anyone. Nowadays you go into the classroom and bang bang bang. There is no respect for each other, older people or younger. I find that really sad. But you talk of respect, there’s two sides of that. It’s the same with the adults today: they show no respect to the little kids and little kids deserve as much respect. You give what you dish out. I think respect is lost also from adults to the little kids. It’s just completely lost altogether, which is causing turmoil in the homes and around the world. Now there is no respect for other people, small or big. To me that’s one of the most important things. It really bothers me today about Six Nations and around the world, around me. It really bothers me and I said I am now a teacher. I’m in the classroom a lot of the times and you can see it in the kids. It’s the neglect; some kids are so like, not looked after. They’re abused, physically and mentally. Some of them will go hungry. It bothers me. What’s the most important thing in the world? I’ll tell you: before anything The Creator. He cares for the small babies and little children and the the old people. We stand in between. We’re the ones who have to carry the caring for both. That’s our future and there are so many people now that seem to have no love or caring for their children. This really bothers me, not only among us Indians; it’s in the papers every day. I wish this would change in the world!”