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Issue # 1

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Editorial

Indians in Cyberspace
by Mike MacDonald

Who is artinjun.ca?
by Cheryl L'Hirondelle

First Nations in Cyberspace
by Mike Patterson

Image Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech E. Churchwell University of Wisconsin

Feature:

First Nations in Cyberspace: Two Worlds and Tricksters - Where the Forest meets the Highway

by Mike Patterson

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3.2 The Seven Generations Prophecy

Mohawk chief Oren Lyons speaks of how we must look seven generations hence in all our actions as "when we walk upon Mother Earth we plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground" (in Wall and Arden 1990: 68). This prophecy says that "the world will eventually come to Indigenous Peoples to learn or relearn how to live in harmony with the Earth. Today, we call this sustainable development" (Brascoupé 1993: 3).

The Seventh Generation prophecy also says that seven generations after contact with the Europeans, the Onkwehonwe would witness catastrophes: The elm trees would die, the birds would fall from the sky, the rivers and air would burn, deformed animals would be born, and the weather would change, creating "winter without snow and a season without growth" The prophecy says that seven generations after contact, the Onkwehonwe will rise to demand restoration of their stewardship of the earth, and people will turn to the Onkwehonwe ("and particularly to the eastern door of the great Iroquois Confederacy") for guidance (Blanchard 1980: 478‑482).

Anishnabe/Mohawk elder Simon Brascoupé writes that "The West will have to learn from Aboriginal Peoples about respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth... Society must learn, not only to respect the Earth, but to love Mother Earth, as a loving parent loves their children. We have accepted a second rate system based on cynicism and mistrust for people." But "caring for each other is our highest calling" and a "short-cut to spirituality," and "spirituality is about our personal and direct relationship with the environment and the community" (Brascoupé 1993: 5).

The message of the Seventh Fire and Seven Generations relates to the land. Concerns of the land and environment are on peoples' minds. The industrialization of North America has meant that most Native lands have been lost to development, which makes it nearly impossible for Natives to raise their children with traditional cultural values - as those values are tied to the land.

The future of the planet itself is in question. We are affected by disasters in the Amazonian rainforests, by carbon dioxide emissions in all the industrialized countries, by damage to the ocean and depletion of fish stocks. The turtle, sacred animal to the Iroquois and others, and symbolic of our life on North America, has "assumed the new role of harbinger of death by pollution" at Akwesasne, where turtles are found to have record amounts of mercury in their bodies, and where, by 1990, "the state was warning residents not to eat any fish at all" (Johansen 1993: 12-14). This is the result of pollution, foretold in the Seven Generations prophecy; destruction of the land is also central to events of protest and violence that occurred in Akwesasne and Oka from 1988 to 1991 (Johansen 1993: xxxi), and will be central to incidents to come.

Natives here have taken responsibility for trying to control this environmental damage. One example is the Protectors of Mother Earth Day, observed by Natives across Canada with prayers, protests to governments, and gatherings. POME was celebrated on Feb. 19, 1992, and this declaration, from Andrew Big Smoke of Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan, was published in the Odawa Native Friendship Centre newsletter, and is typical of dozens of other gatherings that have occurred over the last ten years:

I have discussed the matter of Protectors of Mother Earth Day with the elders of POME. We are now into seven months of the blockade at Wiggins Bay to protest the clear cutting of the trees. The effect it has on Mother Earth is an outright crime, not only to the people of the territory but to the world as a whole. For the trees are one of the protectors of the people who are on Mother Earth. For this reason, it not only concerns the people but the world also.

We the Red Nation of the Four Colours were given the instruction of caretakers of the Earth. We would be given knowledge of plants, grass, medicine, trees and the power that is in this plant life. We would be in harmony with the earth and all life that is from our source of life Mother Earth.

We the Red Nation are in the sacred time of the 7th Generation Fire. We will go back to our teachings of all life and harmony. We will be a people that will become as an all powerful people, unity prayers and knowledge our responsibility as caretakers of Mother Earth. This is the reason why now in the short pass that people have come to say: "No more of this destroying our way of life and our beautiful Turtle Island, the Earth." Blockades have been set up throughout Canada, from the west coast peoples to the east coast peoples of the Red Peoples. This is why we must come to acknowledge the duty we are doing. For there will be a day of prayer, knowledge, feast, dancing, sharing and caring that will make up this day. And we will call it Protectors of Mother Earth Day.

World leaders, such as those at the United Nations and at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janiero in 1992, are asking for Native input.[12] The West is finally beginning to realize that traditional Native teachings about sharing and respect for the land[13] are valuable and that Natives must be heeded if global disintegration is to stop.[14]

Canada's Maurice Strong was Chairman of the Rio summit. He acknowledged the need for the West to listen to all Aboriginal peoples, and stated that the first world must transfer power to the third (and fourth) and must start on a new track.[15] Former Supreme Court judge Bertha Wilson has said that Canada must be part of the world wide movement to bring respect to Native people and their teachings, and that it must come up with a national policy of reconciliation[16] and regeneration.

Mordecai Richler points out that the "wasting tribal quarrel between the English and the French" will eventually be laid to rest, but perhaps not by the parties involved. Within 20 or 30 years, the majority of Canadians will be of neither extraction (Richler 1992: 101). The majority of new Canadians will represent the world; many have come here as a last island of escape. The Native people who continue to meet them will try to remind them of their link to the earth and to each other:

Think about where you are. See yourself for a moment from the perspective of outer space looking back at the Earth. Slowly, slowly, slowly approach closer and closer to the surface of the atmosphere, through the sky and way below you see yourself. You are part of a large biosphere of interlocking, interdependent life-forms sharing the air, the water, the Earth and many living resources of the web of life. When we take things for granted part of our consciousness is split off. Through acknowledgement and Thanksgiving, one recognizes the importance of everything, thus creating a larger consciousness, a continuous memory of what we have on the planet. Thoughts precede action. Unfortunately the systems of life are not in most people's thoughts. Thus the consequences of their actions on the rest of Creation are not perceived and seemingly the (environmental) problems do not exist (Callen 1995: 91).

This reminding is part of the new Native presence in cyberspace; hopefully this will help to correct the indifference that still exists towards Natives, and their knowledge about our responsibilities to the land, found in these prophecies.


Next: 3.3 Missing the Mainstream

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Notes

[12] "Throughout the years, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has found common cause with indigenous peoples from the Arctic to the Amazon, from Australia to Argentina." It has "responded to a specific appeal made by the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy to assist in the exploration of environmental hazards in their territories with the intent of forming a strategy for the restoration of native lands" Johnson, Brown and Stephens 1995: 68).

[13] One way of teaching respect comes from Albert Snow from Kahnawake who promotes the study of "Ethno-Science," rooted in Navajo culture and tradition, as a way of promoting traditional stories and songs (about plants, for instance) to foster that direct relationship while showing new ways of looking at the teaching of subjects like science and agriculture in the classroom, among Native and non-Native students. See 1972, 1977.

[14] "The West will have to learn from Aboriginal Peoples about respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth... Society must learn, not only to respect the Earth, but to love Mother Earth, as a loving parent love their children. We have accepted a second rate system based on cynicism and mistrust for people." But "caring for each other is our highest calling" and a "short-cut to spirituality," and "spirituality is about our personal and direct relationship with the environment and the community" (Brascoupé 1993: 5).

[15] "It is now generally acknowledged by the international development community that Western development models have collapsed because they were not sustainable," and "consumption mentality results in increased consumption of resources, and further exploitation and pollution of the environment." Indigenous peoples around the world are calling for sustainable economy and development in keeping with traditional values. When elders from the Yukon were asked to define economic development, they called it 'spirituality,' when asked again they said 'respect' ("a development model based on exploitation has little use for respect"), asked again they mentioned 'sharing,' but "many believe that sharing has been rendered meaningless by industrialization (and mass production)" (Brascoupé 1992: 8).

[16] "Western science and Indigenous knowledge are, in reality, complimentary. By sharing and cooperatively making informed choices and usage (Natives and non-Natives may be able to realize) worldwide sustainable development. Indigenous knowledge can, through its spirituality, fulfill the ever-enlarging spiritual void created by Western rationalism and alienation with the natural world... In order to understand Indigenous knowledge and spirituality, the West must enter into a partnership with Indigenous peoples based on respect" (Brascoupé 1992: 12).

 
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