Indigenous Education For Future Healing

Simon Paul Dene shares his Life and Wisdom

by Danny Beaton Mohawk

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to talk to you. In our langue we say Be Still. Every morning we wake up we have to learn to be still. In that moment we learn to open up slowly with your mind and slowly with your heart, we learn to communicate with the one who lives up there, the Creator of Mother Earth and we learn to be still with Mother Earth from a very early age. This comes in handy later on: once we become hunters or you become a seeker, you have to learn to be still. You learn to look around using your senses, you learn to touch each of your senses. What you hear, what you see, everything is motion, everything is in motion.

What you hear from other people when they talk to you. You learn to discern  what is good and what is bad for the intake of your mind and onto your heart. That is why we say be still and then you go and see what it is that needs to be done today. It has all been done for you. The Creator means ahead of time what you’re gonna say, what you’re gonna do, where you’re gonna go. That is what is called being a Human Being, what you need to be a Human Being. To be a Human Being you need to learn to dance, to dance the day. Be Still, Be Still and then you learn how to sing, how to sing songs, to sing joyful songs for yourself and for others. So you share that. Our circle of languages is all about sharing. So what you get is what you take. It’s give and take.That is the way things roll for us all the time. We learn to share in our language, hopefully the original language that we have stored in our heart and our mind. Hopefully, we can release it and release it to the Creator, ask for forgiveness.

In this world that we are living in now it seems to be unbalanced so much so that we all begin to neglect how to be still. You learn to look around, you learn to look around, you make a mistake, you hold back, you be still and then you learn from that mistake, you learn from mistakes. Take it easy. I want to take the opportunity to thank you, for talking to you from my heart. I am seventy-four. Revolutions are on Mother Earth now and I am very thankful. I am very thankful for everything, I am very thankful that I even hurt. I am very thankful for everything, every which way. Thank you, Danny, for the opportunity, but I have a sore shoulder that prevents me from saying too much.

You know, I was born on a reservation. They call it a reservation, I guess, and our land up in northern Saskatchewan, in a place called Knee Lake. It was my grandfather’s trap line and he lived there among other relatives as well. So I lived there till around the age of seven years old. Then I was taken to the Indian residential school in Beauval in Northern Saskatchewan. I remember the first time my father led me up the hill up to that brick building, took me by the hand to go up that hill. I was only seven years old. I didn’t know what I was getting into. He let me go with a bunch of nuns from around that place. They looked like a bunch of penguins, they were pretty weird dressed in black and white. Seven years old and I’m looking at all this black and white. Later on during that day I thought what in the world did I get myself into. So I cried a little and I wanted to see my sister and my sister was only next door. She was five years older than me and she had already been there in Beauval, so they let me see my sister and it was a relief to see my relative and later on I got used to going to school. They teach you how to speak English by way of Dick and Jane, but it was funny learning English ah oh ah ah oh stuttering our way through English. Anyway, I was there for nine years in that Indian Residential School. After grade eight they put me in Saint Thomas College in Northern Saskatchewan for two years, two years in the seminary going to church five o’clock in the morning and being on my knees in the evening before bedtime, but they were focused on education with the priests. I lasted two years but I couldn’t take it any more. Then I decided to live with my brother in Ontario at a place called Pick River Indian Day School. That was the first time I was ever left in the open; man, it was really different from being in a Residential School and Boarding School, seeing all these open rivers and streams. Here we were free, not locked up or boarded up in Residential School. First time in my life I ever felt so free. I lasted one year there in grade eleven, then I went to Saskatoon. There I joined the military and spent a couple of tours in West Germany. That was my first time out of the country, to go and see something that I never have experienced, Germany. When I sit back now and think about how my life has changed by my Indigenous roots to where my mind is now, what a phase I went through! I am spiritually inclined with what I have been through. I say wow, amazing.

When I arrived back home from Germany, there was a Uranium Company  called  Amok around 1977 from France that came up to Northern Saskatchewan. They were looking at our territory, we didn’t know at that time. Finally, it became known that they would open a Uranium Mine in Cluck Lake, Saskatchewan. I was the editor of a local newspaper called Natotawin, which means “Listen To Me” in Cree. I started giving people in Norther Saskatchewan information about the Uranium mining operations and what it does to people and I did that for two years. Then all of a sudden the government shut me down: no more paper and I realized these people want me out of there. Around that time I met some people from The American Indian Movement and my life changed again for the better, because what they offered was the Sacred Teachings of The Sweatlodge and The Pipe and John Trudell. John Trudell traveled with me to meetings and we informed the people of the danger of Uranium Mining. Afterwards the whole world learned about it and I came to Toronto because I was blackballed from Saskatchewan for my activism. I took some classes in social work and began working for native organizations, Street Patrol and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. After that, I took up a paint brush and started my art work for our Indian people and native crafts beading to offer all these nice things to people and make a living by trading and selling them. To this day I still have some paintings that I’m working on.

We are all on this long journey, Danny, and we hope we are helping each other. One thing for sure: we need education to learn how we survived after all these years of colonization and genocide, because we are still strong and we all need to learn from the past. We need to be as gentle as we can, because we all make mistakes and we are all different. We need our Traditional Education because we need to know who we are as Indigenous People and where we come form physically, mentally, spiritually and culturally.

Something that is important about education is  to learn that our people returned from the war in Europe fighting for a country that turned around on them and mistreated our warriors once they came home. Our soldiers need to be respected for standing up for Canada and not forgotten, because we are Indians living on our own territories. Our warriors need to encourage one another to stand tall and that is what our life is about. We all need to learn how to defend ourselves, so we can defend our families and our own nations too. Don’t think of yourself first; think about our people and the nation. That’s how we need to move forward, always the people first. In the Sun Dance they always say the people first. We Sun Dance For The People; in Lakota they say: OyaTay. We need to attend traditional ceremonies to be really educated. Our ceremonies have been with us for centuries. We all need to see and be face to face with the Creator. The way to do that is To Be Still. The American Indian Movement was my first real education, Danny. Going into the Sweatlodge during the winter time in Northern Saskatchewan was really really cool out there back in the seventies. Now when I look back  at our life everything has changed.